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Top intelligence figures told US president-elect Donald Trump about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him, a source has said.
The briefing about the document was first reported by CNN and a summary of the allegations was separate from a classified assessment of Russia’s attempts to meddle in the US presidential election.
Mr Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week.
Shortly after news reports were published about the briefing, Mr Trump tweeted:
FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Mr Trump is expected to hold a previously scheduled news conference on Wednesday to discuss his future plans regarding his role with the Trump Organisation.
The unsubstantiated dossier on Mr Trump was compiled by a former Western intelligence operative as part of an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client who opposed Mr 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. It has not been possible to substantiate the information in the dossier, which misspelled the name of Russia’s largest bank.
It is unclear why the intelligence officials decided to brief the president and Mr Trump on the uncorroborated information at this time, but politicians and others have repeatedly noted that Russia collects intelligence on both Democrats and Republicans.
Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP)
“The Russians also hacked systems associated with the Republicans. They just chose not to release that material yet,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the most senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said.
“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.
Mr Reid was aware of the dossier before he wrote the letter, according to a person knowledgeable about the subject.
FBI Director James Comey
FBI director James Comey refused on Tuesday to say whether the FBI was investigating any possible ties between Russia and Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, citing policy not to comment on what the FBI might or might not be doing.
Mr Comey was pressed by Democrats on the committee about whether the FBI was conducting an investigation. There was no mention during the hearing about the summary of the dossier, which was attached to the classified hacking assessment.
“I would never comment on investigations - whether we have one or not - in an open forum like this so I can’t answer one way or another,” Mr Comey told the panel during his first public appearance before Congress since the election.