Here’s What’s Happening
- President-elect Donald Trump said the allegations contained in an unverified dossier — published by BuzzFeed News and alleging Russia has compromising information on the president-elect — “didn’t happen” and are “a disgrace.”
- Trump didn’t answer whether he or anyone on his team had communications with Russian officials during the campaign.
- When asked about specific allegations in the dossier concerning a Moscow hotel room, Trump said that he is always cautious when he travels overseas and added, “I’m also very much of a germophobe.”
- Trump, Mike Pence, and a spokesman strongly criticized BuzzFeed News for publishing the dossier. Trump congratulated other news outlets for not running it, and said it would be a “tremendous blot” on intelligence agencies if they leaked it.
- Here’s what you need to know about the dossier. The author was reportedly revealed on Wednesday.
- The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced an inquiry into “concerns related to Russia and the 2016 US election.”
- A lawyer for Trump, Sheri A. Dillon, said he would put his business assets in a trust, but not divest. His company, now run by his sons, will still go after deals in the US — but not abroad — while he is president.
- Also, the lawyer said, Trump will “donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury.”
- The head of the US Office of Government Ethics, however, said Trump’s plan “doesn’t meet the standards” that every president in the past four decades has met.
- Here is what will happen to Trump’s businesses once he’s president.
Putin says dossier is an Obama administration attempt to undermine Trump
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the outgoing Obama administration of trying to undermine President-elect Donald Trump, saying that allegations in the dossier published last week are fake.
Speaking after a meeting with the president of Moldavia, Putin said the dossier was part of an attempt by the Obama administration to undermine the Trump’s “legitimacy,” the AP reported.
When asked about Trump’s alleged sexual activities with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel, Putin said the allegations were “fake.”
He later pointed out that Trump worked for years on Miss Universe, so why would he be interested in Russia’s prostitutes, although Putin added that they are the best in the world, according to the Kremlin pool journalist.
Spy agencies around the world are digging into Trump’s Moscow ties
The dossier alleging that the Russian government has compromised President-elect Donald Trump has not only been circulating at the highest levels of the the US government, but also among the intelligence agencies of other countries, two Israeli intelligence officers told BuzzFeed News.
And while the dossier’s claims haven’t been verified, the officers said that intelligence services from other countries have been doing their own digging into Trump’s connections to Moscow.
“You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia,” one of the intelligence officers said.
Read more here.
Republican Senator says Committee on Intelligence will look at possible Russian links to Trump campaign
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will look into Russian involvement in the presidential election, including possible links to individuals in Donald Trump’s campaign, the chairman of the committee announced Friday in what is a reversal of his earlier position.
“We believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said in a joint statement.
The announcement came one day after Burr told reporters that the issue did not fall under the committee’s scope.
“We don’t have anything to do with political campaigns,” Burr said Thursday, according to Politico.
The inquiry will look at the intelligence collected by various agencies regarding Russian activities during the presidential election and any possible links “between Russian and individuals associated with political campaigns.”
“The Committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads,” including interviewing members of both the incoming and outgoing administrations, according to the statement.
According to the announcement, the scope of inquiry will include:
- A review of the intelligence that informed the Intelligence Community Assessment “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”
- Counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns
- Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” directed against the U.S., both as it regards the 2016 election and more broadly.
In December, Burr’s office stated the committee planned to review cyber activity conducted by the Russian government and aimed at the presidential election, as well as “other specific aspects of Russian behavior.”
This new review, however, will also include possible links between the campaigns and the Kremlin.
FBI Director James Comey was the one who briefed Trump on Russian report
FBI Director James Comey was the one who briefed Donald Trump about a report alleging Russia had damaging personal and financial information about the incoming president, CNN and ABC News reported Thursday.
Trying to push back against the allegations made in the report, Trump did not say during a news conference Wednesday whether he was briefed on the allegations included in an intelligence synopsis, stating only that he read about them outside the meeting.
His former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, also said on Late Night With Seth Meyers the president-elect was not aware of the report and, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, avoided the question altogether.
But on Thursday, CNN and ABC News reported the head of the FBI had a one-on-one with Trump last week to discuss the allegations made in the dossier.
BuzzFeed News published the 35-page document that the briefing was based on.
CNN reported that the heads of the US intelligence agencies decided Comey should be the one to brief the incoming president about the incendiary allegations compiled by a private security company.
Biden says he and Obama were briefed about unsubstantiated claims over concerns they might leak
Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday intelligence officials briefed him and President Obama about the unverified claims made about Donald Trump out of concern the information may leak, the Associated Press reported.
Biden told the AP he was initially surprised officials felt the need to brief him over unsubstantiated claims, adding that “it’s something that obviously the agency thinks they have to track down.”
The vice president added that he and Obama did not request additional details.
“As a matter of fact, the president was like, ‘What does this have anything to do with anything?’” Biden said. Intelligence leaders responded, “Well, we feel obliged to tell you, Mr. President, because you may hear about it. We’re going to tell him,” referring to Trump.
Biden also took issue with Trump’s public denouncement of US intelligence officials and his comparison Wednesday of US spy agencies to Nazi Germany.
“The one thing you never want to invoke is Nazi Germany, no matter what the circumstances,” Biden said. “It’s an overwhelming diversion from the point you’re trying to make.”
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Director of National Intelligence told Trump that no judgment has been made on whether document is reliable
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday night that he is dismayed by leaks to the press, and that intelligence agencies have not made any judgment as to whether the documents published by BuzzFeed News are “reliable.”
At a news conference earlier in the day, Trump suggested the leak of the document might have been made by the intelligence community.
Clapper, however, addressed that concern to the president-elect.
“I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC,” Clapper said in a statement referring to the intelligence community. “We both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”
Clapper also stated that while intelligence agencies have “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable,” it was included “to ensure policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matter that might affect national security.”
Director of US Office of Government Ethics says Trump’s plan “doesn’t meet the standards” of past presidencies
Walter Shaub, the director of the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE), criticized the president-elect’s plan to place his business interests in a trust, saying it “doesn’t meet the standards” that previous presidents have met over the past 40 years.
“The idea of setting up a trust to hold his operating businesses adds nothing to the equation,” Shaub said at the Brookings Institution Wednesday. “This is not a blind trust — it’s not even close.”
Shaub, who has been calling for Trump to divest himself from his financial interests, said Trump’s proposed plan doesn’t even meet the standards some of his cabinet picks are meeting, pointing specifically to secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson’s actions to remove himself from his financial interests at ExxonMobil mean he “is also forfeiting bonus payments worth millions. As a result of OGE’s work, he’s now free of financial interests.”
Trump’s plan to have his children lead the trust, however, does not meet the same goals, Shaub said.
Trump will continue to be personally aware of his companies and buildings, as well as his financial interests.
“That’s not how a blind trust works,” Shaub said.
He asked for the president-elect to continue to work with his office, and to remove himself from his financial interests.
“The signals a president sends set the tone for ethics across the executive branch,” he said.
Though doing so could be deemed a “sacrifice,” Shaub said it’s no more significant than the sacrifice others make to serve their country.
“He’s going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world,” Shaub said in his prepared remarks. “So, no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America.
BBC reporter says other intelligence agents knew about compromising Trump tapes
The dossier of allegations that Donald Trump was compromised by Russia has been circulating among journalists and politicians for months, but on Wednesday, BBC reporter Paul Wood said he had heard similar allegations from other sources.
Wood said a member of the US intelligence community told him of compromising material against Trump via a report from an Eastern European intelligence agency. Wood also said a contact with connections to the CIA had told him that Russia had multiple video and audio tapes of Trump in compromising positions.
Wood’s report was among the first corroboration of the inflammatory dossier, which was put together by a former British intelligence agent. BuzzFeed News and other media have been unable to verify it.
“Having said all that, nobody’s seen this tape,” Wood said. “We’re talking about intelligence here, and nobody should believe something just because an intelligence agent says it, still less an anonymous intelligence agent.”
But, Wood noted, the intelligence was deemed credible enough by the CIA for it to be passed on to President Obama, as well as Trump and congressional leaders.
Listen to his report here:
Trump supporters reacted to the dossier allegations outside the press conference
Several Trump supporters gathered outside Trump Tower in Manhattan on Wednesday — many of them tourists — as the president-elect was holding a press conference addressing the allegations contained in a dossier saying he has deep ties to Russia.
Mary Kelley, who was visiting New York from San Francisco, said she didn’t have an opinion yet on the president-elect’s reported deep ties to Russia: “I think it’s probably fake news, we’ll see.”
Marc Smith, who said he was an Army veteran from Orlando, said he was unfazed by potentially heavy Russian involvement. “It has happened before,” Smith said. “I believe they dabbled in this election; they’ve been doing it.”
And a man who called himself “a proud Trump supporter,” John Costa, said: “I don’t react to would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, maybe, allegedly. I only react to facts.” He added: “I find the rumors that are currently circulating humorous.”
Costa also said that the hack of DNC emails, which officials said was done by Russia to benefit Trump, did not concern him. “Everyone engages in hacking. Israel does it. Japan does it. The CIA does it. The FBI does it and Russia does it.”
“It’s not an isolated incident,” he said. “I accept it as, you know, everyday business. It’s just the world we live in…someone is probably hacking your phone right now.”
White House press secretary says Trump hasn’t tried to disprove accusations
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president-elect has fallen short of meeting the “bare standard of transparency” in proving that accusations lodged against Trump are false.
Earnest went on to compare the current accusations to the “birther” conspiracy theory — stoked for years by Trump — that president Obama was not born in the United States.
“The conspiracy theories were propagated even in the face of significant, overwhelming, and convincing evidence,” Earnest said, referring to the president’s birth certificate.
He went on to say that Obama’s administration sought to disprove the claims by providing evidence against it, whereas Trump’s administration has taken a different approach.
“There’s ample evidence they could marshal to make public, to refute those claims, those accusation they say are baseless, but they refuse to do so,” Earnest said. “That kind of secrecy only serves to sow public doubt. If you recall, during the campaign as the president-elect was refusing to release his tax returns, people were asking what he’s hiding. People are asking that question again.”
Earnest concluded by saying that even though the Obama administration may not always agree with a news organization’s editorial decisions, “the administration deeply respects and will protect” them.
“We respect that independent news organizations should make decisions independent of any government interference.”
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Here’s what will happen to Donald Trump’s businesses once he is president
At his news conference Wednesday, Donald Trump and lawyer Sheri Dillon outlined how he will remove himself from day-to-day involvement in his businesses after assuming the presidency.
Trump’s vast network of business interests in the US and around the world have been cited as a major source of potential conflicts of interest for the president-elect.
Who will run the Trump Organization, or run it once he’s gone? What about deals with overseas partners?
For a rundown on what will happen to those business ventures as Trump moves into the White House, go here.
Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, has been identified as the author of the unverified dossier on Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported
Sources told the WSJ that Steele, now a director of a London-based private security and investigations firm, produced the dossier containing explosive allegations of Trump’s deep ties to Russia.
Steele, 52, is one of the two directors of the Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., which, according to its website, was founded in 2009 by former British intelligence professionals.
The firm describes itself as a “leading corporate intelligence consultancy” which provides “senior decision–makers with strategic insight, intelligence and investigative services” to “protect their interests worldwide.”
— Tasneem Nashrulla
Trump’s message to Putin on hacking: “He shouldn’t be doing it, he won’t be doing it”
Donald Trump said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not have orchestrated the hacking of DNC servers.
“He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe he will be doing it more now,” Trump told reporters.
“Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it,” Trump said. “We’re either going to get along or we’re not. I hope we get along, but if we don’t, that’s possible too.”
Trump criticizes BuzzFeed News as a “failing pile of garbage” after being asked about comparing dossier’s publication to “Nazi Germany” tactic
Trump called BuzzFeed News a “failing pile of garbage” for publishing the unverified dossier yesterday.
When asked to clarify his tweet that reads in part, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump said it was “disgraceful” that intelligence agencies “allowed any information that turned out to be false and fake out.”
“That’s something Nazi Germany would have done and did do,” he said.
Trump went on to say it’s “pretty sad when intelligence reports get leaked out to the press.”
“I think it’s pretty sad,” he said. “First of all, it’s illegal.”
He went on to say that BuzzFeed News should apologize for publishing the dossier and refused to take a follow-up question, telling a reporter, “Your organization is terrible.”
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Trump will donate all hotel profits paid by foreign governments to the US Treasury
In order to “do more than what the Constitution requires,” Trump’s lawyer, Sherri Dillon, said the president-elect will donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury.
“This way it is the American people who will profit,” Dillon said, adding that this step will accomplish Trump’s desire to be isolated from his business interests.
Dillon said that paying for a hotel room is not a conflict-of-interest gift that violates the Constitution, but Trump decided to donate the profits in order to “do more than what the Constitution requires.”
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
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