‘It’s fake news,’ says Trump of Russia dossier
An explosive but unsubstantiated political research report on United States president-elect Donald Trump’s links to Russia claims that Moscow holds compromising information on the incoming US president.
American media and politicians have been in possession of versions of the 35-page report for months but, unable to corroborate its claims, had until now declined to publish it.
On Tuesday, after several media reported that Trump had been briefed on the allegations circulating about him, BuzzFeed news took the controversial step of publishing the dossier in full, admitting it is unverified.
Here is what is known.
The 35 pages consist of memos compiled before and after the November 8 election by a former British MI-6 intelligence agent who was paid to produce opposition research on the Trump campaign, first for a Republican rival of Trump and then later for Hillary Clinton’s Democratic campaign.
On Friday a week ago US intelligence chiefs, briefing Trump on allegations of Russian interference in the US election, also reportedly included a two-page summary of the most credible claims from the political research report.
That classified summary had been shown only to Trump, President Barack Obama and a group of senators from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The dossier published by BuzzFeed includes claims that the Russians possess videos involving sex workers, filmed during a 2013 visit Trump made to a luxury Moscow hotel for the Miss Universe contest, supposedly as potential evidence for blackmail.
It also alleges that Trump advisers, including his lawyer Michael Cohen, maintained regular contact with Russian officials and others linked to Russian intelligence during the election and have been exchanging information for “at least” eight years.
The former British spy behind the report, who had long experience in Russia, based it on what he heard from his contacts. It is not known whether any of the claims in the memos are true.
The FBI has been investigating the claims and Democrats are demanding an inquiry into allegations that Trump’s team met Russian officials during the campaign.
Trump has angrily dismissed the report as fabrication, with his spokesperson slamming BuzzFeed’s decision to publish it as “outrageous and highly irresponsible”.
Trump said he was the victim of fake news, and praised other US media that refrained from printing the report’s most lurid allegations.
“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know,” he told a press conference in New York.
Cohen, who was alleged to have met Russian operatives in the Czech capital in August, denied having ever visited Russia or Prague.
Trump reiterated at Wednesday’s news conference that he has “no loans, no dealings and no current pending deals” with Russia, when asked whether the country could have any leverage over him.
But several of Trump’s advisers have long-standing links to Russia.
Paul Manafort, his first campaign manager, was previously a consultant to the Moscow-backed former Ukraine prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, and also worked with Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Another Trump adviser, Carter Page, was previously a Moscow-based investment banker and visited Moscow in July and then in December after the US election for what he called private affairs.
Trump’s nominee for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was paid by Russian broadcaster RT to join a gala celebration in Moscow last year, where he sat at a banquet table with Putin.
The US president-elect himself has a long history of seeking closer links with Russia. He has sought since the 1990s to build a luxury apartment and hotel in Moscow but has never been able to seal a deal.
During his 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe contest, Trump said he hoped to build bonds with Putin. He did not meet the Russian strongman but did meet a top Putin aide.
Court documents also show that Russian investment helped to fund a major Trump-backed New York building, the 46-storey Trump Soho luxury apartments built in the mid-2000s. — AFP