Live Updates: New Allegations Emerge That Russia Is Blackmailing Donald Trump

January 12, 2017

LIVE UPDATES BELOW: New unverified documents allege that President Elect Donald Trump is being blackmailed by the Russian government and has colluded with the Kremlin.

Below is our live coverage and rolling analysis of this developing story which began on January 11, 2017.


The FBI Is Under Investigation For Its Handling Of Clinton Email Scandal; New Questions Emerge About FBI Investigations

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz is investigating “broad allegations of misconduct ” concerning how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email scandal. 

The Associated Press reports:

Inspector General Michael Horowitz says the investigation will look at whether department or FBI policies were followed in relation to Comey’s actions in the case, whether the FBI deputy director should have been recused from the investigation, and allegations that department officials improperly disclosed nonpublic information to the Clinton campaign.

The Washington Post adds more detail:

The FBI’s probe into whether Clinton mishandled classified information by using a private email server when she was secretary of state has long been controversial and politically charged.

Perhaps most notably, Comey on Oct. 28 — after previously announcing publicly that he was recommending no charges in the case — sent a letter to congressional leaders telling them that agents had resumed the Clinton probe after finding potentially relevant information in an unrelated case.

The day before, senior Justice Department leaders had warned Comey not to send the letter, because it violated two long-standing department policies — discussing an ongoing investigation and taking any overt action on an investigation so close to an election. At the time, it was less than two weeks before the election, and early voting had already begun.

Comey sent a second letter to Congress, just days before the election, saying that the investigation was complete and he was not changing the decision he had made in July to bring no charges against Clinton. But the damage — in the minds of Clinton supporters, at least — had been done. Clinton has blamed the renewed FBI inquiry for blunting her momentum in the last weeks of the presidential election.

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Justice Department Inspector General to investigate pre-election actions by department and FBI

The Department of Justice Inspector General will review broad allegations of misconduct involving the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's email practices and the bureau's controversial decision shortly before the election to announce the probe had resumed, the Inspector General announced Thursday.

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Jan 13, 2017 01:13 (GMT)

A good overview of what this investigation may entail:

The Russian government’s hack of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta are relevant to all of this because the hacking attacks kept the Clinton email scandal in the news throughout the summer and fall. Once FBI Director James Comey made his various controversial announcements, they fueled the fire that was already raging due to the ongoing conversations surrounding what was revealed by those hacking attacks.

As we reported last night, new and serious questions have come to light about whether the FBI botched its investigations of alleged ties between members of Donald Trump’s staff and the Russian government.  Did the FBI fail to investigate these allegations before the election, and if Trump’s staff was communicating or meeting with Russian officials, could the FBI have stopped them in time? New questions have also been raised as to whether or not the FBI adequately pursued the reports given to them by various Congressional leaders on both sides of the isle. 

James Miller
Intelligence Experts Believe Author Of Trump Dossier Is Highly Credible

On the evening of January 10, CNN published an article saying that President Barack Obama and President-Elect Donald Trump had been briefed by US intelligence agencies about the existence of a document that contains unverified allegations that Trump was being blackmailed by the Russian government and Trump and his team were collaborating with the Russians. CNN noted that the briefing was based off of a 35 page dossier that was compiled by a former British intelligence operative. The source, according to US officials who spoke to CNN, was considered “credible.”

We now know that the source of this dossier is a man named Christopher Steele, director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., who runs the firm with the other director, Christopher Burrows.

Steele has “gone to ground,” leaving his home to escape the publicity — and possible retribution — for compiling the document. 

The Telegraph reports:

Christopher Steele, 52, fled from his home in Surrey on Wednesday morning after realising it was only a matter of time until his name became public knowledge.

A source close to Mr Steele said on Wednesday night that he now fears a prompt and potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow. 

Mr Steele, the co-founder of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd, prepared a 35-page document that alleges the Kremlin colluded with Mr Trump’s presidential campaign and that the Russian security services have material that could be used to blackmail him, including an allegation that he paid prostitutes to defile a bed that had been slept in by Barack and Michelle Obama.

His research was initially funded by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats. 

Steele’s peers have told various news outlets that they have a high opinion of Steele and his work.

The New York Times reports:

He is known in British intelligence circles for his knowledge of the intricate web of Kremlin-tied companies and associates that control Russia.

Mr. Steele, as a known former MI6 agent, was thought not to have gone to Russia in his investigations but to have used contacts inside and outside the country to prepare the dossier, which United States intelligence agencies have said they cannot substantiate. But the file was used to prepare a two-page appendix to the intelligence presentation American officials gave to Mr. Trump last Friday.


John Sipher, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2014 after 28 years with the agency, described Mr. Steele as having a good reputation and “some credibility.” Mr. Sipher was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s, and then ran the C.I.A.’s Russia program for three years, according to an interview he gave to PBS NewsHour. He now works at CrossLead, a Washington-based technology company.

The Guardian also interviewed intelligence and security experts who agreed that Steele has a good reputation:

Former colleagues of Steele describe him as “very credible” – a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable track record. 

That report went on to describe Steele’s resume, and to evaluate how Steele would have compiled such a document in order to present it to his client, ” Fusion GPS, a Washington-based political research firm.”

The foreign office official who spoke to the Guardian on Thursday acknowledged that the Steele dossier isn’t perfect. But he pointed out that intelligence reports always come with “gradations of veracity” and include phrases such as “a high degree of probability”. “You aren’t dealing with a binary world where you can say this is true and this isn’t,” the official said.

He added: “The strongest reason for giving this report credence is that intelligence professionals in the US take it seriously. They were sufficiently persuaded by the author’s track record to find the contents worth passing to the president and president-elect.”

The CIA and FBI will have taken various factors into consideration before deciding it had credibility. They include Trump’s public comments during the campaign, when he urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. The agencies may also have classified intercept material provided by the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ.

They must, equally, have considered whether some of the claims in the report might have been part of an elaborate Russian disinformation exercise.

“This is unlikely. The dossier is multi-dimensional, involving many different people, and many moving parts,” the official suggested.

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Intelligence sources vouch for credibility of Russia dossier author

His denials – at least some of them – were emphatic, even by the standards that Donald Trump has come to be judged by. The dossier, he said, was a confection of lies; he compared it to Nazi propaganda; it was fake news spread by sick people.

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Jan 13, 2017 00:34 (GMT)

We know that the US intelligence community did take the dossier seriously. Though they have not yet confirmed all of the details, they considered Steele credible enough to present the information to Obama and Trump.

It’s clear that such a raw document was never designed for wide release. The dossier does not site its sources or provide proof, nor does it assess the credibility of all of the claims made within. What the document does do, however, is provide a long list of allegations which should be investigated by both journalists and law enforcement.

James Miller

Trump’s Misleading And Explosive Allegations Against The Intelligence Community And The Media Meet Pushback

Yesterday at his press conference in his eponymous tower, US President Elect Donald Trump said that he believed that the “intelligence community” planted the “fake” news alleging that he was being blackmailed by the Russian government and his team was coordinating with the Kremlin. He threw insults at “the media,” particularly CNN which broke the news that such allegations exist and Buzzfeed which published the unverified allegations in their entirety.

Those allegations are conflating multiple issues, and Trump’s claims yesterday featured multiple inconsistencies mixed with some truth and some misinformation.

For instance, we noted that there was no evidence that US government intelligence agencies leaked this information to the press.

Also it’s worth noting that what CNN and Buzzfeed did was two very different things. CNN published a report that Trump and President Obama had been given a two-page synopsis and were briefed about these allegations. That was true. In fact we are not aware of any aspect of CNN’s reporting which has been debunked. Buzzfeed published the entire 35 page dossier which was summarized in the brief that CNN reported. Buzzfeed also noted that the documents were unverified, and there was reason to doubt certain aspects of the story, but they were publishing the information so that Americans and the world could make their own decisions.

The investigations into the story has cast doubt on certain claims made within those documents, the entirety of the documents have not been debunked, nor have they been verified. Certainly, many questions remain as to both the connections between Trump and his campaign and the Russian government, as well as surrounding the evidence that Russia interfered with the US election. 

Last night, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), James Clapper, clarified several points in an official statement

This evening, I had the opportunity to speak with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss recent media reports about our briefing last Friday. I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.

We also discussed the private security company document, which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff even before the IC became aware of it. I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC. The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.

President-elect Trump again affirmed his appreciation for all the men and women serving in the Intelligence Community, and I assured him that the IC stands ready to serve his Administration and the American people.   

James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence 

A quick analysis of that statement: 

Clapper believes that publishing uncorroborated raw intelligence is “damaging to our national security.” This lines up with the opinion of many experts that Trump and Obama were briefed about the allegations in order to inform them of a possible narrative that might emerge.

Clapper is also clarifying that the US intelligence agencies have not yet concluded whether the evidence in these documents is real or not. This is important because Trump’s claim that these documents are “fake news” is just as unverified as the claims that these allegations are true. At the moment, Clapper doesn’t know if these allegations are true or not, and neither does the public.

Clapper is also clearly pushing back on Trump’s unfounded allegations that the US intelligence community deliberately leaked this information to the press. As we reported yesterday, none of the news agencies that have admitted that they had access to these documents ever said that the intelligence community was the source of the 35 page dossier.

None of this, however, has stopped Donald Trump from spinning his meeting with Clapper:  

First, nothing in Clapper’s readout suggests that these allegations are “false and fictitious” or “phony facts.” Furthermore, since the documents were compiled by a private citizen who runs a private intelligence organization, and Clapper was in fact confirming that he does not believe the documents were “leaked” by the government, so what crime was committed?

More importantly, though, is Trump threatening the media by saying that it was “illegal” to “circulate” these documents?  

This morning, Trump continues to attack the media organizations that were involved in this story: 

According to CNN’s Jake Tapper, CNN’s ratings spiked last night:
Tapper also commented on Trump’s allegations and Clapper’s statement: 
James Miller
Did The FBI Drop The Ball In Investigating Trump’s Ties To Russia?

As we have been reporting, NPR and other news agencies have confirmed that Republican Senator John McCain was briefed on possible connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and in December he forwarded his information to the FBI. ABC News has confirmed that the FBI opened an investigation into this unverified piece of intelligence. 

John McCain has confirmed this report in an official statement published on his website:

“Late last year, I received sensitive information that has since been made public. Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the Director of the FBI. That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.” 

Multiple news agencies, including The Guardian, have also reported that the FBI sought a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant to gather intelligence on four members of Trump’s staff over the summer. But those applications were denied because they were too vague, and it took the FBI months to get them approved. Once they were approved, in October, it’s not clear that the FBI had time to investigate Trump’s team before the November 8 election.

The Guardian reported on the connections between Trump’s campaign staffers and Russia. Many of the incidents described also appear to have taken place between the time the FBI’s FISA request was rejected and the time their request was ultimately granted:

A month after Trump’s surprise election victory, [Carter Page] was back in Moscow saying he was meeting with “business leaders and thought leaders”, dismissing the FBI investigation as a “witch-hunt” and suggesting the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party alleged by US intelligence agencies, could be a false flag operation to incriminate Moscow.

Another of the reports compiled by the former western counter-intelligence official in July said that members of Trump’s team, which was led by campaign manager Paul Manafort (a former consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine), had knowledge of the DNC hacking operation, and in return “had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/Nato defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine”.

A few days later, Trump raised the possibility that his administration might recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea and openly called on Moscow to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In August, officials from the Trump campaign intervened in the drafting of the Republican party platform, specifically to remove a call for lethal assistance to Ukraine for its battle against Moscow-backed eastern rebels.

All of the incidents above took place before the FBI was granted a FISA warrant, except for Carter Page’s visit to Moscow, but by that time he had already been disavowed by the Trump campaign.

In other words, the FBI may have lost their chance to investigate these connections. 

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John McCain passes dossier alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts to FBI

Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself. The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump's relationship with Moscow.

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Jan 12, 2017 19:03 (GMT)

Even more worrying is the implication that John McCain and others alerted the FBI to the document that is being discussed today, but certain aspects of the document appear to have not been investigated at all. 

On page 34 of the 35 page dossier, in a section dated October 19, 2016, the report says that “a company called XBT/Webzilla and its affiliates had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct “altering operations” against the Democratic Party leadership. Entities linked to one Aleksei GUBAROV were involved and he and another hacking expert, both recruited under duress by the FSA, Seva KAPSUGOVICH, were significant players in the operation.”

The McClatchy news agency caught up with and interviewed Gubarev who said that not only had he played no part in the hacking efforts, but he also never spoke to any US officials about the allegations:

In a phone interview from Cyprus, where he said he’d lived since 2002, Gubarev said he was surprised to see his name in the report.

“I don’t know why I was there,” Gubarev said, adding that perhaps a competitor sought to discredit him. “I still don’t understand the true reason for this report.”


Gubarev said he operated 75,000 servers across the globe and got real-time information if there had been hacking or illicit activity tied to his businesses. There is no evidence of that, he said, adding that no one has contacted him.

“I have a physical office in Dallas. Nobody contacted me,” said Gubarev, adding that 40 percent of his business is handled over the servers it runs in Dallas and the United States accounts for about 27 percent of his global business.

How could the FBI or US intelligence agencies have properly investigated this case if no one interviewed Gubarev, who appears to have been eager to talk to the press and clear his name?

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Russian tech expert named in report says no one asked him about hacking accusations

A Russian venture capitalist and tech expert, Aleksej Gubarev, whose name and company, Webzilla, are mentioned in the now-notorious document alleging connections between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers, says no intelligence officers have ever contacted him about the accusations, which he says are false.

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Jan 12, 2017 05:45 (GMT)

FBI Director James Comey is also under attack for refusing to comment on an ongoing investigation — the Russian hacking case, and the allegations of Trump’s connections to Russia — while he was more than willing to comment on the Clinton case during an election season. He’s still under scrutiny for initially giving lawmakers the impression that the FBI disagreed with the CIA assessment that Russia interfered or had an impact on the US election. And he’s still getting heat, including in the form of statistical arguments, over the allegation that his behavior may have changed the outcome of the US election. 

So major questions remain unanswered. Did the FBI investigate Gubarev, and if so did they interview him, and if not why not? Did the FBI blow their application for a FISA warrant? What does the FBI know, when did the FBI know it, and when are they going to tell the American people? Most of all many want to know, while journalists are under attack by the soon-to-be-president for even discussing some of the details, whether the US government is doing its job to ensure that the Commander-In-Chief is not being blackmailed by a foreign power. 

James Miller

Wall Street Journal Reportedly Identifies Source Of New Trump Dossier

The 35-page dossier detailing allegations that Donald Trump is being blackmailed by the Russians was, according to the news agencies that broke the story, compiled by a former British intelligence officer whom US intelligence agencies believe is “credible.”

Now The Wall Street Journal has reportedly identified the author as Christopher Steele, director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., who runs the firm with the other director, Christopher Burrows.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Orbis Business Intelligence was formed in 2009 by former British intelligence professionals, it says on its website. U.K. corporate records say Orbis is owned by another company that in turn is jointly owned by Messrs. Steele and Burrows. It occupies offices in an ornate building overlooking Grosvenor Gardens in London’s high-end Belgravia neighborhood.

The firm relies on a “global network” of experts and business leaders, provides clients with strategic advice, mounts “intelligence-gathering operations” and conducts “complex, often cross-border investigations,” its website says. 


Speaking about corporate-intelligence work in general terms, Mr. Burrows said “the objective is to respond to the requirements set out by our clients. We have no political ax to grind.”

Christopher Steele, Ex-British intelligence Officer, Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump

A former British intelligence officer now working for a private security-and-investigations firm produced the dossier of unverified allegations about President-elect Donald Trump's activities and connections in Russia, people familiar with the matter say. Christopher Steele, a director of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., prepared the dossier, the people said.

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Jan 12, 2017 00:51 (GMT)

James Miller
The Strange Things We Found in the Trump Kompromat Memo

Photo: A mural in a Moscow pub. Photo by Aleksandr Zemlianichenko/Meduza 

UPDATED: Much has been written about a memo passed around intelligence and media circles purporting to contain kompromat about president-elect  — a Russian word that means “compromising material” held to blackmail an enemy or leak to the press to embarrass him.

As we reported, Trump himself has called the entire report “fake news” as part of a “witch hunt” and some of the key figures named have denied the implications in the report.

In its first story on the memo, The Guardian called out the English spelling of the word “Alpha” and the claim that the suburb of Barvikha was “reserved for elites” as tips that the memo was written by people who didn’t know facts about Russia and therefore could be fake.

These two points are trivial indeed compared to other strange aspects of the memo; many English speakers would anglicize the word “Alfa” to “Alpha” for the name of the bank; and dachas are indeed reserved in the Russian leadership’s system of perks, although oligarchs as well as some ordinary people do live in Barvikha, including those who work at the elite compounds.

The memo has clearly been cobbled together from various different reports, and if it is true that the reports originated in a firm owned by a former British MI6 agent, there are few Briticisms at all in the report, either in spelling or lexicon (“programmes” is on page 4, “organisation” on page 18). So it has been summarized and rewritten, perhaps with mistakes introduced along the way.

What we’d like to point out are some of the very curious claims about how the Russian intelligence system works, and recent facts of political life.

Many of the allegations about Trump have been known for months and were covered in The Interpreter’s four-part series for The Daily Beast. Of particular interest were Trump’s possible links to figures in Russia, some with ties to the Kremlin or organized crimes, to whom Trump may be indebted in some way. 

What this new memo recounts are claims of actual actions taken by individuals already known in the Trump story to blackmail the real estate mogul — and it is these allegations which will continue to hang over the Trump presidency regardless of his own dismissal or the failure of the press to find “smoking guns.”

Even so, we have to point out that certain episodes in this report do not seem consistent with what we know about Russia, and either they are bizarre enough to be true or evidence that it is false in part or in whole.

The section that claims that Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Trump, met with a Russian operative says that the Russian is in a “parastate” agency and “under cover,” but works for Rossotrudnichestvo. That is a state agency that cultivates emigres and foreigners abroad and *is* a state agency which reports to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It functions like the Soviet Friendship Committee but has even more reach as it also sponsors cultural activities abroad. So it’s not very secret and would probably not be used for a covert meeting, although it is used to find agents of influence.

Cohen reportedly met Russian officials, including possibly Russian politician Konstantin Kosachev  in August in Prague. The dossier (page 18) claims that Kosachev as a “plausibly deniable” figure not in the executive but the Russian legislature had “facilitated” the contact and by implication, could have attended the meeting. 

Cohen denies he was in Prague during the dates indicated, although he does say he went to Italy in July. The drive to Czech republic from whatever town he visited in Italy would be between 650 and 1000+ miles — not a realistic trip to meet a Russian agent. Cohen also claims he was in New York In September.

As we reported, CNN’s Jake Tapper claims that the Michael Cohen in question was not in the Czech Republic, and the dossier references a different Michael Cohen.

Kosachev, former head of the State Duma’s Foreign Relations Committee, has issued a statement on his Facebook page denying the claims about him in the report or any involvement in the affair. Kosachev is currently the chair of the Committee on International Relations of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. He served in 2012 as the head of Rossotrudnichestvo, the Russian state agency for cooperation with emigres and foreigners.

First, Kosachev notes that he left the position of chair of the State Duma’s Foreign Relations Committee five years ago, although he is identified in the report as still holding that title in the Duma. Second, he says he does not know Michael Cohen “with all due respect.” And third, he says he has not been to Prague or any other Czech city in more than five years. We found him at a conference in Prague titled “Democracy in the Post-Soviet Space” — but in 2012. It seems unlikely that if he went to another conference more recently, there would be no press coverage.

— Carter Page, said now to be a former advisor to Trump and owner of Global Energy Capital, has close ties to Gazprom and allegedly met with high-ranking Russian officials on frequent travels to Russia. But as we reported last year, he denied he met Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin — and indeed, why would someone as important as Sechin meet with a former advisor to Trump? The issue isn’t just the difference in their levels; the issue is the political fall-out that could occur should Sechin’s meeting with Page be exposed.

But what’s most odd about the claims for that meeting are that Sechin allegedly offered Page/Trump the 19.5% of shares in Rosneft that eventually went to Qatar and Glencore. It just doesn’t make sense that Sechin would offer these shares to either a small American energy company or an American real estate mogul who do not have the cash for such a big investment  (it sold for more than $11 billion) and who are not even in the oil business. The Russian news service RBC was sued last year by Sechin for reporting that the government warned the British oil company BP, which already owns shares in Rosneft, not to get involved in this deal (so as not to obtain a controlling share), and the shares were frequently rumored to be shopped to “Asians” or proxies for Rosneft/Russia itself. It just doesn’t seem plausible that they could ever have been offered to Americans in any form, especially these Americans. And to get Trump on their side, the Russians wouldn’t need to force him to spend money he didn’t have on an oil company in Russia where he would stick out like a sore thumb.

 The weirdest part of the memo for Russia-watchers is the notion that Russian presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov was handed this very sensitive dossier of Trump kompromat [compromising material] to manage, and then supposedly overplayed his hand, and he and others suffered the consequences.

Peskov himself dubbed these claims “pulp fiction” today at a press briefing, Gazeta reported. 

First, it makes no sense to have the PR voice of the presidential administration handling a dossier of this nature — he wouldn’t have compiled it as part of his job description, and it would be handled by intelligence agencies, either the FSB (Federal Security Service] or SVR [Foreign Intelligence Service]. He might be an end user of parts of such a dossier, but he himself didn’t publicize them (unless he did so as part of his office’s job telling state media what and what no to write).

It is plausible that Sergei Ivanov, previously Putin’s chief of staff, as a trusted former KGB officer and long-time crony of Putin’s, might have had this job “outside the usual channels.” But the claim Ivanov was “backed by the SVR” then (not the FSB, which would have had to gather the kompromat inside Russia) doesn’t make sense — nor does the strange odyssey of this dossier “from the MFA to Ivanov/SVR to Peskov.” All of this is odd; given agency rivalries and chains of command and mandates, it does not make sense. Intelligence just doesn’t work that way.

Then there is the claim that Ivanov was removed from his job over this blowback. This is an interesting tidbit because the dismissal of this trusted aide was very sudden, and no one can really explain why he was removed; he himself may really have wanted to leave voluntarily. Ivanov did not fall from favor; Putin made him a special envoy on the environment, and he retains his seat in the National Security Council.

The Trump memo certainly provides an explanation, then, for his sudden departure, but it equally could be cited as evidence that the dossier is fake since the authors don’t realize how the Kremlin works. If Putin did not trust his own intelligence agencies to handle such a sensitive matter and wanted personal control over it, he would not likely give the job to Peskov or even Ivanov, but rather he might bring in Viktor Zubkov, his former body guard — former head of the Federal Protection Service which guards the leaders and the Kremlin grounds, and who is now head of the National Guard.

Perhaps this is a very garbled version of a story that does involve Ivanov in the links of people handling the Trump dossier. As we reported, even after he was fired, Ivanov was sent out to do spin control on the ‘Russia wants Trump as president’ story, walking it back. That was both evidence that Ivanov was still very much in favor in the Kremlin and that the Kremlin needed to downplay the story. But the wild bungling and overplaying of hands described in the account don’t square with the way the hacks and media coverage have been handled. They maintained plausible deniability, and needed only a slight nudge to be effective.

 The part that has the most attention is the least substantiated. Could it be that someone as important as Trump orders prostitutes for the presidential suite, and they all disappear and are silent after taking bribes? Really? This seems bizarre and meant as a red herring. Trump has always been careful to surround himself with aides and lawyers who keep scandal away. We’re to believe that he’d be indiscreet enough in Russia to hire prostitutes?

The most important aspect of this report is not whether it is true or flawed but the use to which it has been put — notably by the US intelligence community in confronting Trump and trying to get him to believe he could be compromised by the Russians. Obviously, it’s easier for the intelligence community to use a thing like this than its own real reports.

Of course, the entire memo could be yet another Russian disinformation operation of its own, as now total chaos has broken out in the media over it.

The report is based on the agents’ network of a figure close to British intelligence. That means it is likely available to UK intelligence which cooperates with US intelligence. The US may have its own sources or the same sources, and may have found it convenient to have the information get to Trump and the media this way — in other words, the copy given to the US intelligence by Senator John McCain may not have been their only copy..

The sources have very high access and that seems surprising, then, that they end up in a report that is shopped around widely like this because, with some digging, any of those involbed could be exposed. Who is that Russian emigre in the Trump camp? Is that Felix Satter or somebody else?

So far, the Russian-language state and independent media have reported on the Trump kompromat memo as an event, summarizing the BuzzFeed article and claiming that none of the allegations are verified. But Russian media has not provided a detailed critique of the allegations raised, such as the claim of Peskov’s or Ivanov’s involvement, and Ivanov’s dismissal and replacement by Anton Vaino, who was portrayed in the memo as “clean” in terms of having no involvement in the Trump campaign. Perhaps that’s because the Kremlin is as much of a black box for them as it is for us. has questioned a key element of the memo, that Trump was assigned the job of providing intelligence on what Russian oligarchs do abroad. We found that odd as well, as we were unable to find any actual ties between major oligarchs and Trump, although he became involved with second-tier wealthy Russian businessmen like Arif Agalarov in the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Russia. Gazeta said they didn’t think Trump would have anything to contribute that Russia’s own networks would not report.  They also expressed doubts about the sexual allegations.

To be sure, it is a classic feature of Russian intelligence tradecraft to hook in informants by giving them jobs to do like reporting on something, even if Russian intelligence knows it already. And dangling prostitutes to create kompromat situations is another classic move.

An earlier version of this post appeared at Minding Russia.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

What Trump Said About Russia In Today’s Press Conference

Trump dismissed the new allegations that his campaign was in collusion with the Russian government as unverified muckraking by liberal media outlets. 

Trump was specifically asked at his press conference whether he was given a briefing on the allegations. Trump was also asked whether he accepted the opinion of the heads of the US intelligence agencies that Vladimir Putin was responsible for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC), “and if you do, how will that color your attempts to build a relationship with a leader who has been accused of committing an act of espionage against the United States.”

Trump cut off the question and started by saying that the briefings he receives are “confidential and classified” so he would not discuss what went on in the meeting. He then slammed the release of the information which he says was manufactured by political operatives.

“As far as the hacking, I think it was Russian, but I also think we get hacked by other people.” He then went on a rambling stint about “22 million names, and all of that” that was “probably China.” His answer was incoherent, but it appears Trump was referencing the 2015 hacking of the database belonging to the Office of Personnel Management, which US officials have said was likely done by the Chinese government. He then suggested that a priority of his administration will be to combat hacking, generally. 

Trump went on to claim that the DNC was “open to be hacked” and “did a very poor job” of computer security.  

He made no reference to Russia, but was reminded of this point by the reporter who asked the question. 

Trump responded thusly:

“Well, you know, President Putin and Russia put out a statement a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news. It totally never happened. So somebody might say, ‘oh, of course he’s gonna say that,’ but I respected the fact that he said that. And, I’ll be honest, I think if they did have something they would have released it, they would have been glad to release it.” He then went on the slam the “horrible things” learned about Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta.

“Hacking is bad, but look at what was learned from that hacking.” 

A different reporter asked Trump about the part of the intelligence report that said that the hacking was specifically designed to help the Trump campaign.

Trump’s response: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability. Cause we have a horrible relationship with Russia.  Russia can help us fight ISIS which is, by the way, number 1, tricky.”

“I don’t know that I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin.  I hope I do, but I don’t know. But if I don’t… does anyone really believe that Hillary Clinton would have been tougher on Putin than me?”

Trump never answered whether he would roll back Obama’s new sanctions against Russia, nor did he ever answer whether the hacking attacks would “color” his relationship with Putin. 

No dealings, no deals in Russia

Trump insisted that the Russian government has nothing to hold over him because when he’s overseas he’s very aware that people are watching. 

“I have no dealings with Russia, I have no deals in Russia, I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away, and I have no loans with Russia.”

“We could make deals in Russia very easily, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict.” 

Trump dismissed, snarkily, the idea that he would release his tax returns to prove he has no ties to Russia.

“We’re living in Nazi Germany”

 Earlier Trump sent this tweet: 

He was asked about this tweet and he responded that “it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake, out. I think it’s a disgrace… and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

Trump then went on to attack Buzzfeed and CNN.

This represents a bit of a misconstrued narrative, however. The source of Buzzfeed’s information was, according to ABC News which also received the information, a democratic political operative, not someone from the intelligence community. CNN never mentioned how they received the information, and CNN never released the documents they possessed, CNN did confirm that unnamed US officials verified that Trump and Obama had been briefed on the allegations, however.

Sanctions, and Lindsey Graham

Trump was asked whether he thought Obama’s sanctions went too far (a question he refused to answer earlier). Trump casually said no, though did not elaborate.  

When asked whether he would work with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on new sanctions that might be coming up through the Senate, Trump laughed that Graham was a long-time adversary, insinuated that Graham may never make it into the “1%,” and then said Graham was supposedly a nice person.

He did not answer the question.  

Trump was asked what his message to Putin is right now.

“He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it.  Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it then when other people have led it.

James Miller

Fact-Checking Trump Spokesman’s Dismissal of Allegations Against Trump Staffers Michael Cohen, Carter Page, and Paul Manafort

At today’s press conference, Donald Trump, his Vice President Mike Pence, and Trump’s staffers have come out swinging at Buzzfeed and CNN for releasing the news of new allegations linking Trump to the Russian government. 

Donald Trump also insinuated that the intelligence community — which he has repeatedly attacked over the last several weeks over their suggestion that the Russian government interfered in the US election — may have been ultimately responsible for this leak. 

Donald Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave the most details.

In particular, Spicer mentioned that the report raised questions about “three individuals associated with the campaign,” Paul Manafort,  Michael Cohen, and Carter Page.

“Carter Page is an individual whom the President Elect does not know, and was put on notice months ago by the campaign. 

“Paul Manafort has adamantly denied any of this involvement.

“And Michael Cohen, who was said to have visited Prague in August and September, did not leave or enter the United States during this time. We asked him to produce his passport to confirm his whereabouts in the dates in question, and there was no doubt that he was not in Prague. In fact, Mr. Cohen has never been in Prague. A new report actually suggests that Michael Cohen was at the University of Southern California with his son at a baseball game. One report suggests that apparently it’s another Michael Cohen.” 

Carter Page is an individual whom Donald Trump named in a speech as being one of his advisors. 

Page has deep ties to Gazprom, the Russian energy giant. As we explained in our investigation with The Daily Beast in November, the Trump campaign has had a shifting narrative about Page’s connections to the Trump campaign:

Trump’s campaign has had an interesting response to the allegations against Page. Despite telling the press that Page was a part of Trump’s “foreign-policy team” in March, Isikoff reports, by August the campaign was calling him an “informal foreign adviser”; by September, they said he had “no role” in the campaign and they were “not aware of any of his activities, past or present,” though campaign spokesperson Jason Miller did not answer questions as to why they called Page an adviser in the first place.

Paul Manafort is a character who has been extensively studied by journalists, including The Interpreter. In summary, Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, has disturbingly close ties to the ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and his pro-Russian and anti-NATO behavior is well documented.

For more details, see our exploration of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, published in The Daily Beast:

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Trump and Russia: All the Mogul's Men

Follow the Money This is the fourth and last in our series of articles laying out all you ever wanted to know about Trump and Russia, but were afraid to ask. Read parts one, two and three. Between the summer of 2015 and the GOP convention a year later, a great many pundits were surprised by the rise of Donald Trump.

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Jan 11, 2017 21:43 (GMT)

On Michael Cohen, CNN has confirmed that a different Michael Cohen did indeed travel to Prague: 
James Miller
Trump’s Secretary Of State Proposes Idea That Runs Counter To Trump Demand On Ukraine

While Donald Trump is giving a press conference and the media fury around the new allegations of Trump’s collusion with Russia rages, another piece of political theater is taking place in Washington, D.C.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, is having his confirmation hearing on Capital Hill.

Tillerson, the former oil executive, is widely considered to be pro-Russian, and had deep business ties with Russia through his work in the energy sector: 

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Donald Trump names pro-Russian ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson US secretary of state

President-elect Donald Trump announced ExxonMobil's Rex Tillerson as his choice for secretary of state on Tuesday, praising the business leader as a successful international deal-maker who has led a global operation. Tillerson's experience in diplomacy stems from making deals with foreign countries for the world's largest energy company, although questions have been raised about the oil executive's relations with Russia.

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Jan 11, 2017 21:13 (GMT)

In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin personally bestowed on Tillerson the “Russia’s Order of Friendship,” an award not given lightly: 

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What It Really Means to Be a 'Friend of Putin'

In June 2008, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson attended the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Russia's answer to Davos, its way of showing itself to the world as the kind of economic powerhouse that can attract executives like Rex Tillerson to its banquets. It was a key and very shaky moment for Russia.

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Jan 11, 2017 21:14 (GMT)

One interesting detail to emerge today from Tillerson’s hearing — he suggested that the US should have sent defensive weapons to Ukraine when Russia invaded the Donbass in 2014.
However, when the GOP was setting their platform this summer, the only issue that Trump’s team pressed to change was the removal of such a provision from the 66-page document: 
James Miller
Donald Trump Gives Press Conference
Donald Trump is about to begin a press conference which can be viewed live here:

No, 4Chan Almost Certainly Did Not Create Documents Incriminating Trump
As we’ve been reporting, the two foremost Kremlin English-language propaganda outlets, RT and Sputnik, have both carried claims that users on the Internet trolling website 4Chan created the claims found in the 35 page dossier which alleges that Donald Trump is being blackmailed by Russia. 

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4Chan Users Claim to be Source of Trump 'Golden Shower in Moscow' Hoax

An unsubstantiated, supposedly "confidential" 35-page UK intelligence dossier on Donald Trump, which was leaked to the media earlier this week, had its origins on the internet bulletin board 4Chan, its users have claimed. On Wednesday the US news network CNN reported that the report's contents were presented to Obama and President-elect Trump by US officials last week, and the news website BuzzFeed published the document in full.

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Jan 11, 2017 20:41 (GMT)

Gideon Resnick and Ben Collins have investigated this claim for The Daily Beast. They have determined that not only does 4Chan not have a smoking gun, they may not even have smoke. The 4Chan thread in question did not have specific claims that can be seen in the 35 page dossier, for instance. Also, the 4Chan thread was posted in November — after Senator Harry Reid was briefed on the topic in October, and after Rick Wilson, a Republican operative who was working for independent candidate Evan McMullin, had bragged about having access to the documents. 

In other words, there is no evidence that 4Chan created this post. Thus far, there is also no conclusive evidence that these new documents are a hoax, though they have yet to be verified. 

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4Chan Claims They Invented The Trump Golden Showers Story

STRANGE TIMES As news broke of an unverified document detailing supposed Russian dirt on president-elect Donald Trump -including sordid allegations involving urine and prostitutes in Russia-users on the subreddit r/the_donald and 4chan's /pol/ forum took a victory lap. Not because they found the story funny, but because they claim they planted it as a fake.

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Jan 11, 2017 20:45 (GMT)

James Miller
What The Kremlin’s State Operated Media Is Saying About Donald Trump

While RT, the TV station and website formerly known as Russia Today, may be familiar to many readers, the Russian government state-operated media apparatus is much larger than just RT. Besides RT there is Sputnik, another English-language outlet, and a large and growing number of Russian-language outlets.  In the last several years there has been a crackdown on independent media outlets, and state-owned operations, even some of which that formerly had a great deal of editorial autonomy, have become increasingly managed from the top down.

In other words, in Russia it’s now very hard to hear voices that do not toe the Kremlin’s official line.

And the Kremlin’s domestic media is notoriously and increasingly anti-American. Or it was, at least, up to the point when Donald Trump became the nominee for the US Republican party. Did it change?

An analysis conducted by The Interpreter of the Russian media’s coverage of the US election found a clear pattern — it was not so much that the Kremlin media outlets were pro-Trump, but they were clearly anti-Clinton. 

The English-language outlets Sputnik and RT clearly demonstrated this pattern. As you can see from the graph below, while coverage of Trump was largely neutral, there was almost no positive coverage of Hillary Clinton:

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2017-01-11 14:57:43

From our investigation:

Coverage of Trump was roughly equivalent between the RT and Sputnik accounts, while Sputnik was somewhat more negative regarding Clinton than RT (48% negative tweets for RT compared with 65% for Sputnik). 2% of Sputnik’s tweets about Clinton were positive, while RT had 5%.

The bias here is more anti-Clinton than pro-Trump, but the difference in the treatment of the two candidates is dramatically clear.

Of course, the extent to which RT and Sputnik can influence the American election is debatable.

Read our full investigation here

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Russia's English-Language State Media Exhibit Clear Anti-Clinton Bias

While Donald Trump has spewed forth countless paeans to Vladimir Putin over the last decade, the Russian President himself has been rather more muted, evincing little public enthusiasm for the man who could win the election on Tuesday. Nor have Russian officials swayed from the official line of diplomatic neutrality.

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Jan 11, 2017 11:59 (GMT)

Russia’s domestic media also focused on slamming Clinton and praising Trump, but these outlets also advanced many false narratives and disinformation, while putting US election coverage side-by-side with distorted news stories about Russian and American foreign policy.

A selection from our report:

Russian state media managers have engaged in three types of propagandistic distortions: skewed selection and translation of US media; biased Russian investigation of US news stories; and outright fabrication of stories, sometimes loosely based on real US news stories. 

Yet even the more shrill state media has been careful to include, among the puff pieces for Trump or the take-downs of Clinton, some more balanced news stories that portray each news cycle’s developments more neutrally, perhaps mindful that a more sophisticated and increasingly Internet-connected Russian readership can get the news elsewhere.

Generally, coverage in the Russian online and print media in recent months has been skewed toward the positive portrayal of Trump and the negative portrayal of Clinton in about equal parts, with media outlets going out of their way to cover pro-Trump right-wing and alt-right press, and even fetch the more dubious stories from the US conspiracy sites. But in the last two weeks we’ve seen a hasty about-face as state media has dutifully recorded the distancing from Trump in duplicitous statements from President Vladimir Putin and senior Kremlin officials.

Nearly every media site has a separate section just on the US elections, alongside the rubrics on topics such as the war in Syria and the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine.

Read the entire report here

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How Russian State Media Covers the US Elections: From Bias to Disinformation

Russian state media managers have engaged in three types of propagandistic distortions: skewed selection and translation of US media; biased Russian investigation of US news stories; and outright fabrication of stories, sometimes loosely based on real US news stories.

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Jan 11, 2017 12:02 (GMT)

Russia’s line: Obama destroyed US-Russian relations, Trump will fix them

In general, since the election the Russian government, amplified by their media outlets, has been quick to slam the Obama administration as having destroyed the relationship between the US and Russia, while Trump may restore said relations.

The Levada Center, for instance, found that many Russians — people who are watching and reading Kremlin news outlets — were optimistic that Trump could improve US-Russia relations, a sentiment which was advanced by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

CNN reports:

A new poll by the Levada Center suggests more than half of Russians think relations with the US will improve under a Trump presidency.

Another Levada Center poll, published in the financial newspaper RBK, says the number of Russians who want better relations with the West is at its highest — 71% — since March 2000, the start of the Putin presidency, when 76% expressed that opinion.

That’s a big change from a year and a half ago; a July 2015 poll found only 50% of Russians wanted closer ties. Moscow, at that point, was struggling against economic sanctions imposed by the US and Europe in response to its annexation of Crimea.

One explanation for the improvement, according to Levada Center assistant director Alexey Grazhdankin, is the Russian media’s positive depiction of Donald Trump.

“People in television are savvy,” says Maria Lipman, editor-in-chief of Counterpoint Journal. “They know very well how to tune their instrument, which happens to be the Kremlin’s major political resource, how to tune it to further the Kremlin’s interests in the best possible ways.”

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Putin and Muscovites hope for friendly Trump

This week, Kiselev barely mentioned the US, although he did take a few digs at the "West" for its "boorishness" and "arrogance." Donald Trump's victory stunned Russia's state-controlled media. They had overwhelmingly supported Trump but, for months, insisted the American system was so "fixed," so corrupt, that an outsider simply had no chance of being elected.

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Jan 11, 2017 12:11 (GMT)

As you may be aware, last night major news broke of new allegations that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government. So far, the coverage of the issue in the Russian press has many similarities to how the Russian media has generally covered the hacking scandal — that these stories are designed to derail US-Russian relations which will soon be reset once Trump is sworn into office. 

In our first update today (below) we posted statements by Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Here is how the state-operated TASS reported today’s news: 

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Kremlin denies having compromising materials on Trump or Clinton

MOSCOW, January 11. /TASS/. The Kremlin has no compromising materials on US President-elect Donald Trump or his former rival at the presidential elections Hillary Clinton while reports to the contrary are absolute nonsense and pulp fiction, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

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Jan 11, 2017 12:14 (GMT)

RT opened their main story on the topic with the denial of the Kremlin, followed by Trump’s denials. Soon after RT launched into the most lurid details of the report:

The most appalling part of the dossier was the claim that Donald Trump has “personal obsessions and sexual perversion,” including graphic sex acts, and a report that the president-elect once had Russian prostitutes urinate on each other in a hotel bed that the Obamas previously shared.

Apart from sex orgies, the dossier also suggests Russian officials offered the Republican real estate magnate lucrative deals in order to win influence over him ahead of the election.

The story exploded on Twitter with the hashtag #GoldenShowers shooting up the trending charts.

And immediately following this they wrote about a now-discredited theory that the internet website 4Chan originally created the “Golden Showers” story.

Then RT offers a simple explanation:

Moscow considers the scandal a clear attempt to damage relations with Washington and the president-elect personally.

Sputnik chose to highlight statements by a Russian politicical figure, Alexei Zudin, a political scientist and a member of the expert council of the Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies, who blames the mainstream media’s hatred of Trump for the news story:

“Taking into account the political polarization of American society and the fact that Donald Trump won in spite of the US political establishment and practically all the leading mainstream media, there are serious grounds to suggest that it will go on after his inauguration,” Zudin further explained.

It is still too early, however, to see how the Kremlin media will respond. It’s also important to note that in the Russian-language media there is still a degree of skepticism about Trump and the United States.

It’s an oversimplification to say that the Russian media is simply pro-Trump as much as they are skeptical about the “establishment” that Trump says he is fighting against. A similar pattern was observable during the leadup to the Brexit vote last summer — the Russian media doubled down on its skepticism of the concept of the European Union. It is unlikely, however, that Russia or the Kremlin will suddenly become pro-UK now that Brexit has passed: 

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Putin's Media Are Pushing Britain For The Brexit

The Kremlin's English-language outlets are at it again: Just months after lobbying for Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader of the UK opposition, they are now backing the campaign to take the UK out of the European Union.

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Jan 11, 2017 12:32 (GMT)

James Miller
ABC News: FBI Conducting Investigation Into Allegations Trump Colluded With Russia

ABC News has two important pieces of news related to today’s developments.

The first is that the allegations that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government because they had compromising information about him is indeed being investigated by the FBI.

It was already known that Republican Senator John McCain gave the documents to FBI Director James Comey, but yesterday Comey refused to comment on whether there was an open investigation. ABC reports:

Comey was pressed during hearings on Capitol Hill Tuesday as to whether the FBI is investigating the allegations. He declined to answer, citing agency policy. But a senior official briefed on the case said the allegations were too serious to ignore.

The second piece of news is that, according to ABC, the documents were originally given to the FBI, and eventually to news outlets, including ABC News, “by democratic political operatives.”

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FBI Investigating Unconfirmed Claims That Trump Was Compromised by Russians During Election

Unsubstantiated allegations developed at the request of Democratic Party researchers that Donald Trump was compromised and in league with the Russians were presented to both President Obama and President-elect Trump in intelligence briefings last week. The FBI says it is investigating the…

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Jan 11, 2017 19:38 (GMT)

James Miller
What We Know About The Allegations That Donald Trump Coordinated With The Russian Government

Yesterday evening, January 10, CNN published an article saying that US President Barack Obama and President Elect Donald Trump had been briefed by the US intelligence community on allegations of Russian interference in the election. Two principal claims made in this new, classified, two page report were that the Russian government has incriminating or embarrassing information about Trump, and that Trump’s campaign had communicated or even cooperated with the Russian government.

CNN reports

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.

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Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible.

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Jan 11, 2017 16:24 (GMT)

CNN went on to claim that they had reviewed a “35-page compilation of the memos, from which the two-page synopsis was drawn,” but that they were not releasing the memos due to the fact that they had not been independently verified.

Soon after this story broke, BuzzFeed then published the 35-page memo, which can be read here.  

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These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia

A dossier making explosive – but unverified – allegations that the Russian government has been "cultivating, supporting and assisting" President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

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Jan 11, 2017 16:33 (GMT)

Here is what we know:

– The primary source of the 35-page dossier is a former British intelligence officer.

– CNN has confirmed that US officials briefed Trump on the allegations. “CNN has spoken to multiple high ranking intelligence, administration, congressional and law enforcement officials, as well as foreign officials and others in the private sector with direct knowledge of the memos.”

– CNN has confirmed that Congressional leaders were briefed on these allegations last year, prompting then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to send a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking for further information on Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

NPR has confirmed that Republican Senator John McCain was briefed on the allegations by US officials and forwarded this brief to FBI Director Comey on December 9. Furthermore, NPR says that they have “seen but not independently verified” the brief.

– NPR has also verified that Trump’s team was indeed briefed on the allegations:

“Once again these reports have no documentation,” Trump confidant Roger Stone told NPR. “So far we have ‘assessments’ and ‘briefings.’ The special report prepared for Trump even noted that no evidence was included and that ‘such documents are so top secret they must remain confidential.'”

– Trump and his team have denied the details in the 35 page dossier: 

– Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also denies these allegations. The Russian state-operated news agency TASS reports:

“No, the Kremlin has no compromising materials on Trump,” Peskov said.

The Kremlin spokesman also said the Russian leadership did not have any compromising information on Hillary Clinton either. 

“This is absolutely fake information, a fabrication and complete nonsense. The Kremlin does not engage in gathering compromising materials,” the presidential spokesman said.

“This is called pulp fiction,” the Kremlin spokesman said, characterizing the relevant report by the US intelligence.

In Peskov’s opinion, such publications “are an obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations.”

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Kremlin denies having compromising materials on Trump or Clinton

MOSCOW, January 11. /TASS/. The Kremlin has no compromising materials on US President-elect Donald Trump or his former rival at the presidential elections Hillary Clinton while reports to the contrary are absolute nonsense and pulp fiction, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

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Jan 11, 2017 17:01 (GMT)

All of the news reports from credible organizations have maintained that the 35 page dossier is still unverified and many claims therein have not been corroborated. But it also seems clear that the reports were credible enough for the President, the President-Elect, and several Congressional leaders to have been briefed. That these briefings occurred, however, is not definitive proof that the underlying documents are real. One purpose of briefings is to let leaders know possible threats, narratives, or information that they should be aware of, even if that information has not yet been corroborated. 

Though this new scandal is just a little more than 12 hours old, at this point there are more questions than answers. The Interpreter will continue to monitor today’s developments and will update this stream as the investigation moves forward.

— James Miller