In a new political development, the US intelligence community reportedly briefed the White House that Russian spies hacked not just the DNC, but the Republican party, too. Not only that, US intelligence told both President Obama and President-elect Trump that an unverified report has been circulating with claims that Russia may have compromising personal or financial information about Donald Trump, according to CNN.
The classified briefings were presented last week jointly by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, CNN's source say. The allegations that the Russians had compromising information on Trump were reportedly compiled by a former British MI6 intelligence operative who is considered credible by US intelligence.
However, US spy agencies have not verified any of the information in the report -- one purpose of the briefing was merely to inform the President and President-elect that it is circulating around intelligence agencies and senior Congress members. It should be noted that said operative now works for a private intelligence firm, which by definition, does not have the same resource pool as a national intelligence service. What's more, the full document, which Buzzfeed has obtained, contains a number of inconsistencies.
As Buzzfeed points out:
It is not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors. The report misspells the name of one company, "Alpha Group," throughout. It is Alfa Group. The report says the settlement of Barvikha, outside Moscow, is "reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates." It is not reserved for anyone, and is also populated by the very wealthy.
Nevertheless, US intelligence has reportedly spent the last few months vetting the veracity of the British operative's European network. The FBI has not confirmed whether it is currently investigating the charges.
The synopsis also alleges that Russian intermediaries and members of the Trump campaign colluded to share information throughout the election. According to the report, the disclosure of this classified information to congressional members prompted Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to write FBI Director Comey in October and insist that, "It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government -- a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States."
However, the document, which contains salacious details, has reportedly been circulating in the media for several months, as the NY Times notes. "Raise your hand if you too were approached with this story," freelance journalist Julia Ioffe wrote on Twitter. Reflecting the opinion of other sites like Lawfare that rejected the information, Ioffe said she never wrote about the story "because it was impossible to verify."
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The intelligence agencies released this synopsis as an addendum to the existing report detailing Russia's involvement with the 2016 election not only to call out the foreign power and note that its information leaks asymmetrically harmed the Democratic nominee, but also to alert Trump that such information is spreading through the US intelligence community.
Additionally, FBI Director James Comey announced on Tuesday that there was a "penetration on the Republican side of the aisle and old Republican National Committee domains." The RNC has already denied that the hack occurred. This announcement came during a Senate committee hearing regarding Russia's 2016 electoral involvement.
"There was evidence of hacking directed at state-level organizations, state-level campaigns, and the RNC, but old domains of the RNC, meaning old emails they weren't using. None of that was released," Comey said. He also noted that the Trump campaign itself was not attacked. Comey additionally testified that while both cyber-assaults used similar attack vectors, the intruders dug far deeper into the DNC than they did the Republicans.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also testified at that hearing and stated that the US intelligence community concluded with "high confidence" that Russia's involvement was done specifically to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign. "The Russians just believed, or came to the conclusion, that because the President-elect is a businessman, that he would be easier to make deals with than the Democrats," Clapper said.
Update: The original article said that "US intelligence has alleged that Russia may have compromising personal or financial information about Donald Trump, which could be used to blackmail the next President and directly influence his actions in office." However, according to the CNN report it's based on, US intelligence was not making any allegations, but rather just informing President Obama and President-elect Trump that such allegations were circulating in a private, unverified third-party report. The article has been updated to reflect that information.
Steve Dent contributed to this report.