Friday Jan 13, 2017
An explosive – but unsubstantiated – dossier containing lurid details on purported intelligence gathered by Russia about Donald Trump has taken the US media by storm, as the President-elect denies the controversial allegations a week before he enters the White House.
American media and politicians have been in possession of versions of the 35-page report for months but, unable to corroborate its claims, had until now declined to publish it.
Earlier this week, after several US media outlets reported that Trump had been briefed on the allegations circulating about him, BuzzFeed news took the controversial step of publishing the dossier in full – while admitting it was "unverified."
Trump has accused US spies of leaking the report, a dossier prepared for US politicians by a British private consultant, to the media to sabotage him, calling it a "disgraceful" act worthy of Germany's Nazi regime.
The outburst prompted a late night call from National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who told the president-elect he did not believe the leak came from the intelligence agencies.
"I emphasized that this document is not a US Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC," Clapper said in a statement.
The dossier and Trump's allegations have opened up a new chapter in US politics, in which a president-elect has picked a high-risk fight with the all-important US intelligence community.
One week before he is inaugurated as US president, Trump has been rocked by the dossier, which a former British MI6 intelligence agent prepared originally as opposition research for other US politicians.
The 35-page report alleges longstanding communications between Russian officials and Trump's Republican campaign, and that Russian intelligence holds salacious videos involving Trump and prostitutes in Russia.
None of the allegations have been substantiated, but they were considered serious enough for US intelligence to investigate them and include its own conclusions in a top secret briefing to Trump last Friday on Russia´s meddling in the US election, including the hacking of Democratic Party computers.
Trump exploded after media reported Tuesday that some of the dossier´s allegations were included in the briefing, which was presented by Clapper with the heads of the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.
That lent the dossier some credibility, and it was then published online by BuzzFeed, adding to the president-elect´s outrage.
"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ´leak´ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" Trump tweeted early Wednesday.
He repeated the accusation hours later in a press conference.
"I think 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 I say that – and I say that, and that's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do."
His blasts against the intelligence community came after his repeated rejections of their conclusion that Russia had interfered with last year´s election, a position he appeared to reverse on Wednesday.
Clapper, whose office coordinates 16 other spy agencies, did not comment in his statement on the specifics of the dossier or on Friday's Trump briefing.
But analysts say the four spy chiefs would not have raised the dossier in their briefing for Trump if they saw it as entirely unfounded.
"Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security," Clapper said.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the person who wrote reports containing details of compromising material Russia allegedly collected on US President-elect Donald Trump has not worked for the British government for years.
"It is absolutely clear that the individual who produced this dossier has not worked for the UK government for years," May said at a news conference on Friday.
The author of the dossier has been named as Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer who once worked under diplomatic cover in Russia.
Steele has so far not commented.