President-elect Donald Trump has responded to reports that Russia collected compromising information on him that they planned to use as blackmail and that Trump was briefed on this last week.
Several hours after the story broke, Trump took to Twitter to angrily dismiss this as fake news and a political witch hunt. He did not offer any further details or clarify what aspects of the story are untrue, but these questions will likely be answered at the president-elect’s Wednesday morning press conference.
The 32-page unverified dossier was authored by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, the Wall Street Journal reports. Steele, who has a solid reputation in the intelligence world, now runs a London-based intelligence firm.
Trump also retweeted a post by his lawyer, Michael Cohen, refuting the report that Cohen secretly met with Kremlin officials in Prague last year. Cohen says that he has never been to Prague for any reason. On Wednesday morning, CNN reported that it was actually a different Michael Cohen who went to Prague in 2016.
Trump then posted a link to an article criticizing BuzzFeed and using the hashtag #FakeNews.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence tweeted out this same article.
Moments after the news broke, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway taped an appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers and was asked about the story. She seemed unfamiliar with some of the details of CNN’s report but just said that nothing had been proven.
“They’re all unnamed, unspoken sources in the story,” Conway said.
Conway also seemed to suggest that Trump had not actually been briefed on any of this, which would contradict what CNN is reporting.
On Wednesday morning, Trump again took to Twitter to offer a more detailed response, during which he compared the situation to Nazi Germany.
Late in the afternoon on Tuesday, CNN reported that President-elect Trump was presented with classified documents last week saying that Russian operatives claim to have damaging personal and financial information on Trump.
The allegations are in part based on the memos of a former British intelligence operative, Chris Steele, and they were compiled as opposition research, first for anti-Trump Republicans and then for Democrats, CNN reports. Shortly after CNN published its story, BuzzFeed released what they say is the full document in question. It goes into graphic detail about what Russia reportedly has on Trump, and the memo also claims that Russia has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for five years.
It’s important to stress that these allegations are completely unverified, and the FBI is reportedly in the process of investigating their veracity. The documents in question had been circulating for several months but had not been previously reported by the news media because the allegations are unsubstantiated.
Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer criticized BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the report on Tuesday and called them ‘pathetic.’
Trump is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, January 11th. The press conference was scheduled a week before these allegations came to light, but now this will likely be the only topic discussed.