President-elect of the United States Donald Trump has denounced claims that Russian operatives have compromising information on him as being part of a “political witch hunt”.
This comes in response to media houses CNN and The New York Times reporting that intelligence officials had briefed him last week about the allegations that Russia had actually intervened in the US presidential elections held in November 2016. The report claimed that he had also been given a synopsis of the potentially damaging but unverified claims.
The two media houses claim that both the president-elect and incumbent president had been briefed, citing numerous US officials who they declined to name.
Outgoing president, Barack Obama, responded in an interview with NBC News late on Tuesday by saying that “as a matter of principle and national security I don’t comment on classified information.” He did express the hope that both the Trump administration and Congress would continue to search for answers to the hacking scandal that has entangled US politics of late.
Where CNN decided not to publish the full report, online media outlet Buzzfeed chose to publish the documents as is, without supporting information. Buzzfeed’s editor, Ben Smith, accepted that there was “serious reason to doubt the allegations”, but decided to publish anyway in the “interest of transparency”.
The dossier published by Buzzfeed was compiled by a a former British MI-6 intelligence operative who had been hired by potential presidential candidates to do political “opposition research” on Trump last year. The report contains accounts of lewd activities engaged in by President-elect Trump. It also contains accusations of Russian officials offering him lucrative deals in a bid to gain a hold over him, as well as a free flow of information between members of Trump’s team and Russian intermediaries.
There are also allegations that a copy of the report had been handed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) two months before the November election. A week before the election, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid wrote to the FBI’s director James Comey, saying that they were aware that the agency had information on the presidential candidate that was public importance, and questioned why the information had not been released.
In a Senate hearing held on Tuesday into the alleged contact between Donald Trump’s team and Russian officials, Comey refused to confirm or deny knowledge of any investigation.
And the man of the hour, President-elect Donald Trump, responded to the controversy with a tweet saying “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
He also called anyone who did not support improving ties with Russia “stupid”.