Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Thursday that he and President Obama were briefed on the unverified collection of memos published earlier this week claiming President-elect Donald Trump colluded with the Kremlin before and during the election.
Biden told the AP and other outlets at the White House that he and Obama were briefed about the dossier because intelligence officials were worried that the the information might be leaked.
“It’s something that obviously the agency thinks they have to track down,” Biden said, noting that he was surprised the dossier “made it to the point where the agency, the FBI thought they had to pursue it.”
“As a matter of fact, the president was like, ‘What does this have anything to do with anything?'” Biden said, according to the Associated Press.
Intelligence officials responded by saying “Well, we feel obliged to tell you, Mr. President, because you may hear about it. We’re going to tell him,” referring to Trump.
Trump, during a press conference on Wednesday, would neither confirm nor deny that he was presented with the information by intelligence officials during his briefing on Russian hacking last Friday. His top adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said Trump was not presented with information about the dossier during his briefing.
“He has said that he is not aware of that,” Conway said in an appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
Biden told reporters on Thursday that intelligence officials said they couldn’t verify the information contained in the report. He added that neither he nor Obama asked for more details.
The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said in a statement on Wednesday night that, while the intelligence community “has not made any judgment” that the information in the dossier document is reliable, “
part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
Former CIA operatives and analysts who spoke to Business Insider on Wednesday said that the CIA and the FBI would not have briefed the president and the president-elect on the dossier if they did not take the allegations seriously.
“The agency only brings information to the president or president-elect that they believe is highly relevant and that has some level of credibility,” said Evan McMullin, a former CIA operations officer who ran as an independent during the 2016 presidential election. “So they knew the information they had was relevant.”
The intelligence community gleaned the information from a former British intelligence operative who reports said provided the FBI with a series of memos in August 2016 detailing how Russia has tried to cultivate Trump for at least five years.
The unverified information contained in Steele’s dossier began circulating among journalists and government officials as early as the summer of 2015. Intelligence officials only presented Trump with a two-page summary of the dossier, CNN reported.
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