Trump says Rus­sia may have hacked Democrats

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eileen Sul­li­van and Deb Riechmann

WASHINGTON >> Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump spec­u­lated Wed­nes­day that U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies might have leaked de­tails about a clas­si­fied brief­ing with him that in­cluded un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions that Rus­sia had col­lected com­pro­mis­ing sex­ual and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion about him.

He said any such in­for­ma­tion was not true: “It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t hap­pen.”

“I think it’s pretty sad when in­tel­li­gence re­ports get leaked out to the press,” Trump said.

His com­ments marked his lat­est round of in­sults thrown at U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, the same agen­cies he will have to rely on to help him make ma­jor na­tional se­cu­rity di­rec­tions once he takes the White House next week.

Trump was re­fer­ring to a dossier that con­tained un­proven in­for­ma­tion about close co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Trump’s in­ner cir­cle and Rus­sians, in­clud­ing

de­tails about Rus­sian hack­ing into Demo­cratic ac­counts as well as un­sub- stan­ti­ated claims about un­usual sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties by Trump, at­trib­uted to anony­mous sources. The As­so­ci­ated Press has not au­then­ti­cated any of the claims.

On Tues­day, FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey re­fused to say whether the FBI was in­ves­ti­gat­ing any pos­si­ble ties be­tween Rus­sia and Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, cit­ing a pol­icy not to com­ment on what the FBI might or might not be do­ing.

There is noth­ing to sug­gest the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies told news out­lets that a sum­mary of the dossier was in­cluded in Trump’s clas­si­fied brief­ing last week about Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was also briefed on the dossier last Thurs­day.

A sum­mary of the al­le­ga­tions was in­cluded as an add-on to a clas­si­fied as­sess­ment of Rus­sia’s sus­pected elec­tion- in­ter­fer­ence ef­forts. That clas­si­fied re­port tied Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin to the hack­ing of email ac­counts of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and in­di­vid­ual Democrats, in­clud­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man, John Podesta.

Trump ac­knowl­edged

Wed­nes­day, for the first time, that he be­lieved Rus­sia was re­spon­si­ble for the hack­ing.

“As far as hack­ing, I think it was Rus­sia,” Trump said. “But I think we also get hacked by other coun­tries and other peo­ple.”

Trump con­demned what he said was “maybe” leaks by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.

It would be a “tremen­dous blot on their record if they in fact did that. A tremen­dous blot, be­cause a thing like that should have never been writ­ten, it should never have been had and it should cer­tainly never been re­leased,” Trump said at a news con­fer­ence.

He likened the re­lease to Nazi Ger­many, say­ing it is “dis­grace­ful that the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies al­lowed any in­for­ma­tion — that turned out to be so false and fake — out.”

The CIA and the of­fice of the di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence de­clined to com­ment. Al­though they had not been able to ver­ify de­tails in the dossier, the be­lief in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity was that it needed to be shared with Trump, given how many me­dia out­lets were al­ready aware of the file.

The brief­ing about the sep­a­rate dossier was first re­ported Tues­day by CNN.

Shortly after news re­ports were pub­lished about the dossier, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS — A TO­TAL PO­LIT­I­CAL WITCH HUNT!”

Be­fore he was even briefed on the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ find­ings last week, Trump called the fo­cus on the Rus­sian hack­ing a po­lit­i­cal witch hunt, as well.

Sim­i­lar de­nun­ci­a­tions came from Moscow. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dis­missed the dossier as a “com­plete fabrication and utter nonsense.” He in­sisted that the Krem­lin “does not en­gage in col­lect­ing com­pro­mis­ing ma­te­rial.”

Col­lect­ing such ma­te­rial — known as kom­pro­mat in Rus­sia — is stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure for the Krem­lin.

“Kom­pro­mat is the life blood — one of the many life blood tac­tics of Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agents,” said Laura Galante, a Rus­sia ex­pert and di­rec­tor of in­tel­li­gence anal­y­sis at cyber­se­cu­rity firm FireEye Inc. “Need­less to say, the Rus­sians are not go­ing to say that they have com­pro­mis­ing in­for­ma­tion about Don­ald Trump.”

The un­sub­stan­ti­ated dossier on Trump, which has been cir­cu­lat­ing in Washington for months, was com­piled by a for­mer West­ern in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tive, iden­ti­fied Wed­nes­day by The Wall Street Jour­nal as Christo­pher Steele of Lon­don-based Or­bis Busi­ness In­tel­li­gence Ltd. Ef­forts to reach him or the com­pany for com­ment were not im­me­di­ately suc­cess­ful.

The dossier was 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.

Steven Hall, a re­tired chief of Rus­sia op­er­a­tions at the CIA, said it was un­likely that in­tel­li­gence agen­cies told Trump about the re­port as pay­back for his reg­u­lar crit­i­cism.

“In my 30 years of brief­ing some pretty se­nior folks down­town in the na­tional se­cu­rity struc­ture, I’ve never seen politi­ciza­tion like that where you use the threat of some sort of re­tal­i­a­tion, or some sort of, ‘things are go­ing to get very dif­fi­cult for you in the fu­ture if you some­how mess with the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.’ I’ve never seen that,” Hall said.

Hall said se­nior in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials were likely in a no-win sit­u­a­tion.

If they de­cided not to share the in­for­ma­tion with Trump, the de­tails still would likely get out, and they would be ac­cused of with­hold­ing ev­i­dence, he said. “If you do brief it, then you of course put the im­pri­matur of some sort of be­liev­abil­ity, some sort of ve­rac­ity to it.”

Trump’s at­tacks on the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have been “sting­ing” said for­mer CIA coun­sel Jef­frey Smith.

“Most pres­i­dent-elects or pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are very sus­pi­cious to the CIA or hos­tile to it,” Smith said. “Once they be­come pres­i­dent and dis­cover that it’s their CIA, the at­ti­tude changes.”

“Most pres­i­dent-elects or pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are very sus­pi­cious to the CIA or hos­tile to it. Once they be­come pres­i­dent and dis­cover that it’s their CIA, the at­ti­tude changes.” — For­mer CIA coun­sel Jef­frey Smith

EVAN VUCCI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump lis­tens to a ques­tion Mon­day at Trump Tower in New York.

CLIFF OWEN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey tes­ti­fies on Capi­tol Hill in Washington on Tues­day be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing on Rus­sian In­tel­li­gence Ac­tiv­i­ties.

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