- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top U.S. intelligence officials reportedly gave classified documents last week to President-elect Donald Trump that detailed accounts that Russian intelligence had damaging information on him.

The CNN report Tuesday afternoon cited “multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings” given to the president-elect and President Obama.

“Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump,” CNN reported.

A two-page document containing the intelligence reports was included as part of briefings given to Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama, CNN reported, though the network could not confirm whether Mr. Trump personally discussed it with his briefers.

To emphasize the gravity of the matter, CNN reported, Mr. Trump was briefed by the four most-senior U.S. intelligence officials — CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency.

CNN did not describe the specifics of the information Russia claims to have over Mr. Trump.

The network reported that the FBI is “investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations … but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.”

Mr. Trump took to Twitter to denounce the media in screaming all-capital-letters: “Fake news — a total political witch hunt!”

The origin of the accusations, CNN reported, is a British intelligence source whom it described as a “former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm.”

The two-page briefing paper was based on a 35-page compilation of the British source’s memos, which were seen by CNN.

BuzzFeed released that 35-page dossier on its website Tuesday, saying the document has been circulating at high levels of the U.S. government for months. But BuzzFeed admitted the report contained errors and the allegations were unverified.

BuzzFeed’s release drew the ire of both Mr. Trump, who called their story “unverifiable” and “fake news,” and of incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer.

“@BuzzFeed itself admits ‘as we noted in our story there is serious reason to doubt the allegations’. Just pathetic,” Mr. Spicer tweeted.

The chairman of Buzzfeed is Democratic fundraiser Kenneth Lerer.

The shorter paper reportedly presented to Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama contained the corroborating claim that surrogates for the Trump campaign were engaged in “a continuing exchange of information” with “intermediaries for the Russian government” during the 2016 presidential race.

CNN cited “two national-security officials” for that claim, though the network also noted as corroboration, the late-campaign behavior of then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

As the most senior Democrat in his chamber, Mr. Reid was part of the “Gang of 8” lawmakers (each party’s leader and ranking intelligence committee member in each chamber) who get the most-sensitive level of intelligence briefings.

Mr. Reid’s spokesman said Tuesday that it was those accusations the Nevada Democrat was talking about when he wrote a letter in late October to Mr. Comey complaining of a double standard between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.

“It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government,” Mr. Reid wrote at the time, accusing Mr. Comey of “partisan actions” that were staining the election.

On that point, the 35-page dossier specified that Michael Cohen, the Trump Organization executive vice president, had met with Kremlin surrogates in Prague during the campaign to coordinate strategy, a bombshell claim if true.

But, Mr. Cohen tweeted, along with a photo of his passport, that “I have never been to Prague in my life.”

And in an interview with Mic, he laughed the claim off as “so ridiculous on so many levels” and told the webzine that “somebody is having a lot of fun at your expense.”

Democrats jumped on the new CNN report, saying it fed suspicions about the election.

“These allegations raise important legal issues that need to be investigated quickly, thoroughly and impartially, without political interference,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, New York Democrat, adding that the Justice Department must appoint a special counsel.”

A close ally of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, also called Tuesday night for a congressional investigation of the alleged links between Mr. Trump and Russia.

“The intelligence dossier presents profoundly disturbing allegations; ones that should shake every American to the core,” said Neera Tanden, president of the liberal Center for American Progress. “They must be fully investigated.”

She said the accusations “call into question whether Trump can be trusted to defend America.”

Mr. Podesta’s hacked emails were leaked during the campaign, allegedly stolen by Russian operatives.

The CNN report came up Tuesday at the confirmation hearings for Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, who was asked by Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, what he’d do if the report were true.

Mr. Sessions parried, saying he hadn’t seen the story nor knew much about its underlying content based on the briefings he’s received and his noninvolvement with congressional intelligence panels.

Congressional Democrats are also pushing for a special committee on Capitol Hill to investigate the election, though those calls have been rejected by GOP leaders, who say the existing intelligence committees can handle the job.

• Dave Boyer, Stephen Dinan and Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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