President Donald Trump pointed to former Secretary State Colin Powell's rebuke of Russia bounty claims as "hysterical" media hyperpole as justification for his own skepticism.
"I told you I've read about it, and have since then I've talked about it," Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing for Texas on Wednesday. "Colin Powell says that's not true; Colin Powell is not exactly someone I'm a big fan of. Colin Powell says it's not true. Other people say it's not true. If it were true, I would be very angry about it."
Trump added Russia "lost a fortune and a lot of people" during the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan decades ago.
"So I don't know why they'd be doing it, but if you tell me they're doing it, I will certainly take that under consideration," Trump continued, saying if he found credible reports of bounties on American troops, "I would repond appropriately.
"Nobody has been tougher on Russia."
The hysteria began from a report in The New York Times that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban for targeting and killing American troops. The report claimed Trump knew about the bounties and did nothing in response.
Trump, however, has long said he was not briefed on credible reports of Russia bounties.
Powell, who has endorsed Democrat Joe Biden in this November's election, called the media reporting of the bounty scandal "hysterical."
"What I know is that our military commanders on the ground did not think that it was as serious a problem as the newspapers were reporting and television was reporting," Powell told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "It got kind of out of control before we really had an understanding of what had happened. I'm not sure we fully understand now."
Trump, often declining to talk about what he brought up in calls with foreign leaders, revealed in an interview this week he did not talk about the bounty allegations on a recent call with Russia President Vladimir Putin.
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