President-elect Donald Trump blasted bombshell Tuesday reports that said intelligence chiefs briefed him about Russian claims to have intelligence that could compromise him both personally and financially.
“FAKE NEWS,” he tweeted. “A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT.”
Trump was responding to a story first reported by CNN that said US intelligence officials told President Barack Obama and Trump in classified briefings last week that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information on the president-elect.
US intelligence gleaned the information from an ex-British foreign intelligence officer, who provided the FBI with memos in August detailing Russia’s attempted cultivation of Trump, stretching five years. The British spy had collected the intelligence based on conversations he engaged in with Russian sources.
The findings were summarized in a two-page synopsis that was appended to the report on the US intelligence community’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, but was not included in the declassified briefing to the public released Friday following Trump’s briefing.
The material was not corroborated by intelligence agencies and could not be immediately verified independently. Obama, Trump, and other top lawmakers were the only ones to receive the version of the report with a summary of the British operative’s memos.
The operative collected the information from Russian intelligence sources while he was doing opposition research for a project financed by anti-Trump Republicans. The information the operative collected indicated that Russia had compromising information both Trump and Clinton but chose to release information that was potentially damaging only to the Clinton campaign.
BuzzFeed, which reported that the memos have been circulating around Washington for months, published the full dossier on Tuesday night “so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”
It contained many salacious claims, including that Trump’s top lawyer, Michael Cohen, served as a liaison between Trump and the Kremlin, meeting with top Russian officials in Prague this past August.
Cohen responded to the claim on Twitter, posting that the story was “fake news,” and that he’d “never been to Prague in my life.”
He included a photo of the cover of his passport.
Mother Jones cited the dossier in a report on the alleged Trump-Russia connection in October. The author of that story, David Corn, said he chose not to publish the full dossier because he could not confirm the allegations.
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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