The U.S. intelligence community briefed both President Obama and President-elect Trump last week on information pertaining to Russian influence in the recent presidential election. According to officials familiar with the briefings, it is evident that Putin had called for an official Russian intervention on behalf of Trump, ordering cyberattacks on Democratic operatives and subsequently releasing sensitive and damning information to WikiLeaks and through online fronts disguised as independent hackers in order to mire the Hillary campaign. Not only did this smear campaign impact the presidential race, but it has also called into question the stability of one of this country’s most sacred institutions: free and fair elections.
Just days after both the outgoing and incoming administrations were briefed on that information, it has been revealed that the Russians not only acquired information to harm Democratic efforts but also retrieved compromising materials on Donald Trump and his closest allies, presumably in order to preserve leverage over his administration in coming years.
According to CNN, a two-page summary on this particular finding was attached to the report highlighting Russian involvement in the election. The short summary contained research memos compiled by a former British intelligence officer on behalf of a political and corporate research firm based in D.C.
It should be noted that while many of the claims are not yet entirely verified by intelligence sources, those engaged in producing the report believed the information credible and crucial enough to include. The New York Times reports that “the memos suggest that for many years, the Russian government of Mr. Putin has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump, who has traveled repeatedly to Moscow to investigate real estate deals or to oversee the Miss Universe competition, which he owned for several years. Mr. Trump never completed any major deals in Russia, though he discussed them for years.”
It then goes into detail on how the Russians gathered “kompromat,” which is simply compromising material, on Trump to hold over him in the future. Some of the more shocking memos describe sex tapes involving Trump and prostitutes in a Moscow hotel back in 2013. It is easy to see how these could be used as blackmail in the future, which then presents the obvious risk of influencing U.S. policy on a number of matters.
Additionally, the summary contains information on potential meetings between Trump campaign operatives and Russian officials, in which they deliberated over hacking the Democratic National Committee and Clinton allies. One Russian official reportedly acknowledged that all hacking and propaganda efforts were committed “with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.” In exchange for such help, “the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.” When asked yesterday whether Trump campaign operatives had been in contact with the Russian government throughout the election, FBI Director James Comey said he would not provide information on that at that time, raising eyebrows among those expecting an outright “no.”
Given the glowing endorsements Trump has offered to Vladimir Putin, it is clear that this speculation surrounding such a link is nothing short of warranted. The report that the Russians also have salacious material that could besmirch Trump and his closest team members serves to further such speculation.
For what it’s worth, Trump has already responded on Twitter, claiming that the information being circulated on the matter amounts to “fake news.”
Do you think the Russians have such materials? What should Trump’s response be?