Former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton during a meeting with Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko.
Yuri Oreshkin—BelTA/TASS/Getty Images
June 28, 2020 2:29 PM EDT

It’s “remarkable” that President Donald Trump is energetically denying that he knew of intelligence reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had put bounties on U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, former national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday.

Two days after a New York Times report on the alleged actions by Russian military intelligence — paying Taliban-linked militias to kill Americans — Trump tweeted that “nobody briefed or told me” of the issue.

“It is pretty remarkable the President’s going out of his way to say he hasn’t heard anything about it, one asks, why would he do something like that?” Bolton said.

“He can disown everything if no-one ever told him about it,” Bolton said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It looks like just another day in the office at the Trump White House.”

Bolton said he didn’t know the quality of the intelligence on the Russian bounty plan, or the extent of it. And not all information that flows through the many U.S. intelligence agencies is passed on to the commander in chief, Bolton noted.

“There needs to be a filter of intelligence for any president, especially for this president,” he said.

“Active Russian aggression like that against American servicemen is a very, very serious matter,” Bolton added.

Asked why Trump is often defensive of Russia’s Putin, Bolton said he didn’t read anything into it, necessarily. “ I just don’t know what to say other than if he likes dealing with strong authoritarian figures.”

Trump on Sunday also lashed out at Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who criticized the president over his handling of the Russian reports on Saturday.

Bolton is in the middle of a media blitz to promote his tell-all book depicting the president as consistently prioritizing his own re-election, even above national security. On NBC he repeated a contention that while he won’t vote for Trump in November, he won’t vote for Biden, either.

Bolton paints Trump in the book as ignorant, easily manipulated by foreign leaders and unfit for office. Trump has fired back, calling the book “lies” and tweeting that Bolton is “wacko” and a “disgruntled boring fool.”

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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