Russian operatives claimed to have personal and financial information that would prove compromising to Donald Trump, according to a two-page summary included in an intelligence report presented to President Obama and the president-elect by top intelligence leaders during classified briefings last week, CNN reported Tuesday.
The allegations mostly were gleaned from Russian sources through what is considered a credible former British operative. The synopsis was made part of the briefings not only to keep Trump abreast of the allegations, but also to show that Russia had amassed potentially damning data on both presidential candidates but chose to release only that information that affected former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Among the contentions in the summary are claims that Trump surrogates and Russian intermediaries were in contact during the campaign, CNN cited two anonymous national security officials as saying.
The news outlet did not release details of 35 pages of memos, some of which began circulating last summer, that it has scrutinised and which formed the basis of the summary because the memos haven't been independently verified.
Allegations swirled in the fall that Trump's camp had ties to Russia and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Ariz.) pressed FBI Director James Comey in a letter about “explosive information” he might have regarding “close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.”
Comey faced tough questioning again on Tuesday by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats. “There is extensive press reporting on the relationship between the Russians and individuals associated with both the Trump campaign and the incoming administration,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told Comey, who declined to comment.
“I would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not, in an open forum like this,” Comey said, prompting an incredulous Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) to note “the irony of your making that statement here.”
Comey was widely skewered for revealing just days before the election that his agency was in the process of investigating a new trove of emails related to the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
With allegations proliferating that Russia interfered to influence the election in Trump's favour, the president-elect has tried to pin responsibility for hacks on poor security by the DNC and others, noting that Russia wasn't able to penetrate Republican interests. But when questioned by senators during Tuesday's hearing, Comey noted, “There was evidence that there was hacking directed at state-level organisations and the RNC, but old domains of the RNC, that is, email domains they were no longer using.” He referred to the information "harvested from there" as "old stuff" and said, "none of that was released.”