Classified documents which US intelligence chiefs presented last week to President-elect Donald Trump included claims that Russian agents have compromising information about him, two US officials said Tuesday evening (10 January).
They told Reuters the claims, which one called “unsubstantiated,” were contained in a two-page memo appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that US intelligence officials presented to Trump and President Barack Obama last week.
Trump responded on Tuesday evening in a tweet calling the reports: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. One of the officials, both of whom requested anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other US agencies are continuing to investigate the credibility and accuracy of the claims.
They are included in opposition research reports made available last year to Democrats and US officials by a former British intelligence official, most of whose past work US officials consider credible.
The official said investigators so far have been unable to confirm the material about Trump financial and personal entanglements with Russian businessmen and others whom US intelligence analysts have concluded are Russian intelligence officers or working on behalf of Russian intelligence. Some material in the reports produced by the former British intelligence officer has proved to be erroneous, the official said.
The FBI declined comment.
Surfaced last year
The charges that Russia attempted to use “kompromats” against New York real estate businessman Trump were presented to the FBI and other US government officials last summer and have been circulating for months.
The FBI initially took the material seriously, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, which was first reported by CNN.
However, the FBI failed to act on the material, and the former British intelligence officer broke off contact about three weeks before the November election, they said.
The warning of information about Russia’s compromising claims follows growing US intelligence and law enforcement concerns about what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has called “multifaceted” Russian influence and espionage operations in Europe and the United States.
A European Commission official has said that Russian propaganda was now powerful in all EU member states – but in some of them Moscow barely needed to make the effort, as local politicians were delivering its messages.
In addition to hacking computer networks and spreading propaganda and fake news, it includes efforts to cultivate business and political leaders and find compromising personal, financial and other information on persons of interest, US intelligence officials said.
The ultimate aim of the Russian disinformation machine is to destabilise the West, Liz Wahl, a former Russia Today (RT) news presenter, told EurActiv Poland.
The classified briefings last week were presented to Obama and Trump by Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.
US intelligence chiefs included a classified summary of the material to make Trump aware that it is circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress, government officials and others, one of the officials said.
An unclassified intelligence report released on Friday concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to help Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Outgoing US President Barack Obama warned European NATO allies yesterday (8 January) of an “accelerating” threat of Russian interference in their elections.
The report said US intelligence agencies have concluded that as part of the effort Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, used intermediaries such as WikiLeaks and others to release emails it hacked from the Democratic National Committee and top Democrats.
Kremlin: ‘This is pulp fiction’
The Kremlin said today (11 January) it was “total nonsense” that Russian officials had assembled a file of compromising information on Trump.
Addressing reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the dossier containing the claims was a hoax which had been dreamt up to further harm U.S.-Russia relations, which are already at their lowest level since the Cold War.
“It is an attempt to damage our bilateral relations. It is pulp fiction,” said Peskov, who also roundly dismissed as false assertions in the dossier that he himself was heavily involved in running a Russian campaign to undermine defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“You have to react to this with a certain humor, but there’s also a sad side to this. Hysteria is being whipped up to maintain a political witch hunt.”
Peskov said the Kremlin did not engage in compiling compromising dossiers on anyone and was focused on building relations with Russia’s foreign partners instead.