President-elect Donald Trump went on an early morning tweetstorm on Wednesday over an unverified report suggesting that Russia possesses compromising information on him. The full report was controversially published by BuzzFeed on Tuesday.
Trump emphatically denied the unverified report, calling it “fake news” and criticizing the intelligence community for allowing the report to leak.
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?” the president-elect tweeted.
A U.S. official told Reuters that the claims in the reports are still unsubstantiated. The material supposedly damaging to Trump is reportedly part of opposition research reports put together by a former British intelligence official.
The reports were reportedly presented to the FBI and U.S. official last year, but they didn’t find enough cause to act on it. The unnamed U.S. official told Reuters some of the material in the reports has proven to be false:
The official said investigators so far have been unable to confirm the material about Trump financial and personal entanglements with Russian businessmen and others whom U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded are Russian intelligence officers or working on behalf of Russian intelligence. Some material in the reports produced by the former British intelligence officer has proved to be erroneous, the official said.
The FBI initially took the material seriously, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, which was first reported by CNN.
However, the FBI failed to act on the material, and the former British intelligence officer broke off contact about three weeks before the November election, they said.
BuzzFeed found itself at the center of the controversy on Tuesday when it decided to publish the dossier containing the explosive claims about Trump without independently verification. In an email to employees, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith explained his rationale for breaking with standard journalistic practice:
As you have probably seen, this evening we published a secret dossier making explosive and unverified allegations about Donald Trump and Russia. I wanted to briefly explain to you how we made the decision to publish it.
We published the dossier, which Ken Bensinger obtained through his characteristically ferocious reporting, so that, as we wrote, “Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”
Trump's special counsel, Michael Cohen, also denied the report, which claimed he was “the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership."
Cohen said he was at the University of Southern California with his son when he was supposedly meeting with Russian officials in Prague.
A USC source backed up his story.
Trump is scheduled to have his first press conference in months on Wednesday, hours after controversy about his alleged ties to Russia erupted.