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Top intelligence officials last week told President-elect Donald Trump about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him, a US official says.
The briefing about the document was first reported by CNN. A summary of the allegations was separate from a classified assessment of Russia's suspected attempts to meddle in the US presidential election. Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community's findings last week.
Shortly after news reports were published about the briefing, Trump tweeted: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"
Trump was expected to hold a previously scheduled news conference on Wednesday to discuss his future plans regarding his role with the Trump Organization. The official who discussed the briefing by intelligence figures spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.
The unsubstantiated dossier on Trump was compiled by a former Western intelligence operative as part of an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client who opposed Trump, and later funded by Democrats, according to Mother Jones, which published an article about the report in October and said the operative had turned over the report to the FBI.
The New York Times reported the operative had previously worked for British intelligence. The Associated Press has not been able to substantiate the information in the dossier, which misspelled the name of Russia's largest bank.
It's unclear why the intelligence officials decided to brief the president and Trump on the uncorroborated information at this time, but politicians and others have repeatedly noted that Russia collects intelligence on both Democrats and Republicans.
"The Russians also hacked systems associated with the Republicans. They just chose not to release that material yet," Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said on Tuesday. "There's nothing that prevents them from doing so at a time of their choosing in the future."
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview Tuesday on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers that "nobody has sourced it. They're all unnamed, unspoken sources in the story."
She said it may have originated with a Russian investigator or groups that wanted Hillary Clinton to win the White House.
The report had been circulating in Washington for months. In October, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote the FBI asking the bureau to publicly disclose what it knew about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Reid was aware of the dossier before he wrote the letter, according to a person knowledgeable about the subject who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorised to speak publicly about the matter.
FBI Director James Comey refused earlier on Tuesday to say whether the FBI was investigating any possible ties between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign, citing policy not to comment on what the FBI might or might not be doing.
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