What You Need To Know About The Secret Trump Dossier

An unverified memo alleges ties between Trump and Moscow. Trump strongly denies them. So does Russia. Facts, analysis, and more on this ongoing story.

Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

Here are the things you need to know about the fallout from the dossier, published yesterday by BuzzFeed News, alleging that Donald J. Trump has deep ties to the Russian government.

  • The dossier, which is believed to have been written by a member of the British intelligence community, contains unverified allegations that Russian operatives have been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years and have compromising information about him, and that Trump advisers met with high-level Russian officials in the months before the election. After CNN reported that President Obama and President-elect Trump were briefed on a two-page summary, BuzzFeed published the entire 35-page document, along with a warning that its contents were unverified.
  • Trump responded to the allegations with outrage. On Twitter he scolded intelligence officials for allowing the dossier to leak and asked: “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Over 13 hours, he tweeted seven times, denying the claims and calling their publication “FAKE NEWS.” Trump is supposed to conduct his first press conference in 167 days at 11 a.m. today.
  • Multiple Russian officials denied the country’s involvement with Trump or his advisers. A Kremlin spokesman called the dossier “pulp fiction” while the former director of the FSB, Russia’s security service, told the Interfax news service that the Obama administration “has pulled all efforts to compromise the winner of the presidential race.”
  • One of the key players, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen, denied any involvement with Russian officials. The dossier claims Cohen traveled to Prague and secretly met with Russian officials in August. Cohen has since said he never visited Prague, and told The Atlantic that the dossier is “totally fake, totally inaccurate.” The Washingtonian reported that officials at the University of Southern California confirmed that Cohen visited the Los Angeles campus on Aug. 23–29 — though the dossier does not specify the day on which Cohen is alleged to have visited Prague. CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that it was a different Michael Cohen who visited Prague. Meanwhile, the metadata on Cohen’s Twitter account indicates that he was in the U.S. for the majority of August. The longest period where his tweets are dark are two consecutive days, Aug. 15 and 16.
  • At least one top Democrat has called for an investigation of the allegation. Sen. Dick Durbin said that dossier merits a congressional inquiry or a special commission, with the power to issue subpoenas, led by “people of integrity like General Colin Powell or Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.” Durbin said in a statement that he reviewed both classified and unclassified intelligence reports last week, before the publication of the dossier. It was not immediately clear whether the allegations would surface during today’s confirmation hearing of Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is being considered for attorney general.
  • Trump supporters started a misinformation campaign about the dossier, circulating images on 4chan and Reddit that include passages not contained in the original document. They claim the entire dossier is made up and that it was sent to a Republican strategist, Rick Wilson, last year. Wilson denied being the source of the leak. He has been involved in a long-running battle with Internet trolls after he called Trump supporters “childless single men who masturbate to anime” last January.
  • Some journalists criticized BuzzFeed News’ decision to publish the dossier. Kelly McBride, an ethicist at the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies, wrote that the “act of publishing the dossier in its entirety isn’t journalism” and said BuzzFeed News could have done more to fully vet the document and explain to readers the steps it took to verify the claims. Trump linked to a story on lifezette.com, which is edited by Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host and Trump supporter, calling the publication of the dossier a “shocking breakdown of journalistic ethics.” Richard Tofel, the president of the nonprofit investigative site ProPublica, defended the decision and wrote on Twitter that “citizens should have evidence to consider for themselves.”

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Anthony Cormier is an investigative reporter/editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. While working for the Tampa Bay Times, Cormier won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact Anthony Cormier at anthony.cormier@buzzfeed.com.
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