A murky private intelligence report, packed with compromising allegations about President-elect Donald Trump said to be held by Russian intelligence, was made public Tuesday, landing like a cannonball in the discussion over Trump’s relationship with Russia less than two weeks before his scheduled inauguration.
Allegedly written by a former British intelligence official, the dossier purports to describe a regular exchange of intelligence between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, a quid pro quo on matters of U.S. foreign policy, and a lurid sexual episode featuring Trump, prostitutes, and a Moscow Ritz Carlton suite.
Trump immediately denounced the report as “FAKE NEWS.”
FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
The report’s credibility is difficult to evaluate. The identity of the author is unknown, but is said to be a former agent of Britain’s external intelligence service, MI6, who was stationed in Moscow in the 1990s. It is a single source. Many media outlets have sought in vain to independently corroborate the allegations. It has misspellings and mistaken references. Most importantly, it appears to have begun as political opposition research.
Still, it claims to rely on multiple well-placed sources inside or close to the Kremlin, and was considered credible enough to be the basis for a memo included in last week’s briefing for President Barack Obama, Trump, and top lawmakers.
The report’s allegations will likely dominate Trump’s first press conference as president-elect, slated for Wednesday, in which he was expected to address how he will manage the potential conflicts of interest arising from his sprawling business empire. Further, it throws fuel on demands from lawmakers on Capitol Hill to investigate Russian meddling in the election.
Over 35 pages, the report presents the operation as a politically-motivated scheme at the highest levels of the Russian government with the aim of advancing Moscow’s interests, and squelching potential threats. It casts the Russian government as divided over the operation, with aides jockeying for influence at times, and panicking over the potential blow back at others.
In its most lurid allegation, the report alleges that Trump defiled a hotel suite in which the Obamas had stayed during a Moscow visit. Trump allegedly brought prostitutes to the Ritz Carlton suite, bugged by the FSB, the KGB’s successor. There, Trump allegedly ordered the prostitutes to perform “golden showers” in front of him.
The report also alleges that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Russian intelligence operatives in Prague in August or September of 2016 to coordinate campaign measures to be waged against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival for the presidency. Cohen allegedly discussed cash payments to the operatives involved, and contingency plans in the event of exposure.
“Somebody is having a lot of fun at your expense,” Cohen told the site Mic.
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) January 11, 2017
Echoing former President Richard Nixon’s recently-revealed forays into diplomacy with North Vietnam ahead of his own election, Trump lieutenants allegedly settled on a quid-pro-quo with the Kremlin. In exchange for abandoning Western support for Ukraine in the face of a Russian-sponsored uprising in the east — which the Trump camp insisted upon while drafting the Republican platform this summer — the Kremlin would leak DNC emails damaging to Clinton’s electoral chances, the dossier claims.
The report contains contradictions and suffers from misspellings and telling mistakes. It alleges on the one hand that Trump had tried and failed to break into the Russian real estate market; on the other, it claims that Trump was offered sweetheart real estate deals that he turned down for unclear reasons. The financial conglomerate Alfa Group is referred to as “Alpha Group.” Moscow neighborhoods are wrongly described.
The documents have been circulating for weeks among journalists, intelligence officials, and lawmakers. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reportedly delivered the document to FBI Director Jim Comey on Monday. The documents appear to have served as the basis of an October letter from then-majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to Comey asking the FBI chief to investigate Trump’s Russia ties.
In testimony before a Senate panel Tuesday, Comey flatly refused to answer whether his agency has investigated Trump’s ties to Russia. Comey said he “would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not.”
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