The explosive and unverified dossier alleging Donald Trump’s close ties to Russia made quite the journey before it landed in the hands of top U.S. intelligence officials.
At the center of this tale is outspoken Trump critic Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
The Guardian tells the story:
In mid-November, the documents took another route into Washington that ultimately led to them being mentioned in the joint intelligence report on Russian interference that was delivered to President Obama and President-elect Trump. On 18 November, the annual Halifax International Security Forum opened in the Canadian city, bringing together serving and former security and foreign policy officials from around the world.
Senator John McCain, a hawkish Republican, was there and was introduced to a former senior western diplomat who had seen the documents, knew their source and thought him highly reliable. McCain decided the implications were sufficiently alarming to dispatch a trusted emissary, a former US official, to meet the source and find out more.
The emissary hastily arranged a transatlantic flight and met the source at the airport as arranged. (The Guardian has agreed not to specify the city or country where the meeting took place.) The meeting had a certain cold war tradecraft to it, as he was told to look for a man with a copy of the Financial Times. Having found each other, the retired counter-intelligence officer drove the emissary to his house, where they discussed the documents and their background.
The emissary flew back within 24 hours and showed McCain the documents, saying it was hard to impossible to verify them without a proper investigation. McCain said he was reluctant to get involved, lest it be perceived as payback for insulting remarks Trump had made about him during his rambunctious campaign.
Roughly a month after the election, on December 9, McCain reportedly met one-on-one with Comey and provided him with the documents. The documents ended up leaking to top media and U.S. officials.
Another month later, BuzzFeed published the unverified documents and CNN reported that President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump had been briefed on the controversial dossier.
In the aftermath, Trump has openly criticized the intelligence community for “allowing” such a major leak to occur. Meanwhile, Trump supporters have lambasted both BuzzFeed and CNN for pushing so-called “fake news,” which the president-elect is also encouraging with his own fiery rhetoric targeting the media.
During a Wednesday press conference, Trump even refused to take a question from “fake news” outlet CNN.