Classified documents that the heads of four U.S. intelligence agencies presented last week to President-elect Donald Trump included claims that Russian intelligence operatives have compromising information about him, two U.S. officials said Tuesday evening.
They told Reuters the claims, which one called "unsubstantiated," were contained in a two-page memo appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that U.S. intelligence officials presented to Trump and President Barack Obama last week.
Trump responded on Tuesday evening in a tweet calling the reports: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!" The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. One of the officials, both of whom requested anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other U.S. agencies are continuing to investigate the credibility and accuracy of the claims.
They are included in opposition research reports made available last year to Democrats and U.S. officials by a former British intelligence official, most of whose past work U.S. officials consider credible.
The official said investigators so far have been unable to confirm the material about Trump financial and personal entanglements with Russian businessmen and others whom U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded are Russian intelligence officers or working on behalf of Russian intelligence. Some material in the reports produced by the former British intelligence officer has proved to be erroneous, the official said.
The FBI declined comment.
SURFACED LAST YEAR
The charges that Russia attempted to compromise New York real estate businessman Trump were presented to the FBI and other U.S. government officials last summer and have been circulating for months.
The FBI initially took the material seriously, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, which was first reported by CNN.
However, the FBI failed to act on the material, and the former British intelligence officer broke off contact about three weeks before the November election, they said.
The warning of information about Russia's compromising claims follows growing U.S. intelligence and law enforcement concerns about what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has called "multifaceted" Russian influence and espionage operations in Europe and the United States.
In addition to hacking computer networks and spreading propaganda and fake news, it includes efforts to cultivate business and political leaders and find compromising personal, financial and other information on persons of interest, U.S. intelligence officials said.