“The fact that the President feels compelled to tweet about the news story here shows that what his fundamental focus is, is not the security of our forces, but whether he looks like he wasn’t paying attention. So he’s saying well nobody told me therefore you can’t blame me,” Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
The former official added that he believed Trump’s motivation for denying a briefing is “because it looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans and we’re not doing anything about it.”
“So what is the presidential reaction? It’s to say it’s not my responsibility, nobody told me about it,” Bolton said.
“It’s about his personal position,” he said of Trump, noting that if the intelligence reports are true, this “is one of the most serious matters … that has arisen in the Trump administration.”
The tweet went a step further than a Saturday statement from the White House, which did not deny the validity of the report, but instead said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were not briefed “on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence.”
CNN previously reported that Russian intelligence officers for the military intelligence GRU recently offered money to Taliban militants in Afghanistan as rewards if they killed US or UK troops there, according to that source. US intelligence concluded months ago that Russian military intelligence offered the bounties, amid peace talks, the Times said in its report.
Trump was briefed on the intelligence findings and the White House’s National Security Council held a meeting about it in late March, according to the Times, citing officials briefed on the matter.
This story has been updated with additional comments from John Bolton on “State of the Union.”
CNN’s Sarah Westwood contributed to this report.