The Kremlin has denied claims that Russia gathered compromising information on US president-elect, Donald Trump, calling them fake and aimed at damaging Moscow’s relations with Washington.
“The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Wednesday, calling the claims a “total fake” and “obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations”.
Top intelligence officials last week told Trump about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him, a US official said.
The official, who was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter, spoke to media on the condition of anonymity. The briefing about the document was first reported by CNN on Tuesday.
Shortly after news reports were published about the briefing, Trump took to Twitter, saying; FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!
Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week.
The unverified dossier on Trump was compiled by a former Western intelligence operative as part of an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client who opposed Trump, and later funded by Democrats, according to Mother Jones, which published an article about the report in October and said the operative had turned over the report to the FBI.
The New York Times reported that the operative had previously worked for British intelligence.
Bill Schneider, public policy professor at George Mason University, emphasised that the information, by the acknowledgement of the intelligence services, had not been verified.
“We don’t know exactly what’s in it, we don’t know the details,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Russia is not above doing that sort of thing, using that sort of information to its own advantage, but a lot of Americans regard it as interesting because they are puzzled by the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin; why is it so close, why does Vladimir Putin seem to have a hold over Mr Trump, and why was he so influential in this election,” Schneider said.
It is unclear why the intelligence officials decided to brief the president and Trump on the uncorroborated information at this time, but politicians and others have repeatedly noted that Russia collects intelligence on both Democrats and Republicans.
“The Russians also hacked systems associated with the Republicans. They just chose not to release that material yet,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said on Tuesday.
“There’s nothing that prevents them from doing so at a time of their choosing in the future.”
The report had been circulating in Washington for months. In October, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to the FBI, asking the bureau to publicly disclose what it knew about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.