US intelligence officials have informed President-elect Donald Trump about unsubstantiated reports they’ve received that the Russian government had compiled potentially damaging personal and financial information on him, a person familiar with the situation said.
CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that as part of a briefing on Russian attempts to meddle in the presidential election, US spy chiefs included a two-page summary of memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative about alleged Kremlin operations to gather prejudicial information on Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The FBI hasn’t been able to verify the information in the documents, CNN said.
BuzzFeed later published the entire 35-page compilation of memos, which contain potentially damaging but uncorroborated information about Trump and his associates. The person confirmed that the document was the same as the material in the government’s possession.
The aim of the alleged Russian government intelligence-gathering was to leverage the information to shift US policy towards Russia, including by potentially blackmailing Trump, according to the memos. President Barack Obama also was briefed on the documents.
Trump denounced “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” on Twitter at about 8:20 pm in New York, without mentioning or linking to any of the reports. The Kremlin on Wednesday denied the allegations.
He also retweeted a Trump Organization official, Executive Vice President Michael Cohen, who tweeted that “I have never been to Prague in my life” with a picture of the front of his passport. One of the memos alleged that Cohen had met with “Kremlin officials” in Prague in August 2016.
Trump then tweeted an article by Lifezette, a website run by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, that was critical of the BuzzFeed report.
Representatives of Trump’s transition did not respond to requests for comment. FBI spokesman Andrew Ames declined to comment.
CNN reported that senior intelligence officials gave Trump a summary of the allegations to make him aware that the information had been circulating among some lawmakers, The reports emerged the night before Trump was scheduled to hold his first news conference since winning the election. The Senate is also scheduled to begin a confirmation hearing on Wednesday for Trump’s nominee as secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, whom Democrats have criticized for having close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Shortly before the election, FBI director James Comey had announced that his agency was re-opening an investigation of e-mails sent by Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of State—a disclosure she and her aides blame for contributing to her loss. Then-Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid wrote Comey and demanded that he disclose information in the FBI’s possession about Trump’s connections to Russia.
A former aide to Reid confirmed that the senator knew about the memos published on Tuesday before sending his letter to Comey. The issue arose again during a hearing Tuesday on the Russian hacking and extending sanctions.
Moscow denies having compromising information about president-elect
MOSCOW / AP
A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday denied allegations that the Kremlin has collected compromising information about US President-elect Donald Trump, deriding the claim as a “complete fabrication and utter nonsense.” “This is an evident attempt to harm our bilateral ties,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow. “The Kremlin does not engage in collecting compromising information.”
A US official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that intelligence officials had informed Trump about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.Peskov dismissed the report but commented that the allegations could be used to keep American politicians from wanting to improve ties with Russia.
“We should treat it with humor, but there is a sad side to it, too,” he said. “There are people who are whipping up this frenzy, who are doing their best to keep this witch hunt going.” Peskov described the report as part of efforts to “keep harming the relations, not allow anyone to think about whether this is in the interests of both countries, the interests of the global community and what can be done to move from a total confrontation to a more constructive approach.”