Here’s a question President-elect Donald Trump likely did not expect to be asked Wednesday during his first post-election press conference: Have you been “cultivated” by Russian intelligence for half a decade?
What was shaping up as a question-and-answer session about his business dealings, Cabinet picks, potential conflicts of interest involving his family and senior aides and repealing the 2010 health care law got an added wrinkle Tuesday evening.
What is purported to be an appendix to a U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years,” adding the Kremlin’s efforts were “endorsed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin to “encourage splits and division in [the] western alliance.”
The document, which Roll Call has yet to confirm as authentic, notes that Trump has declined “various sweetener real estate business deals” offered by Russia to “further the Kremlin’s cultivation of him.” But it concludes that “he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.”
Trump responded Tuesday evening with this tweet: “FAKE NEWS — A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
The document bluntly states that a former senior Russian intelligence officer says Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, “has compromised TRUMP through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him.” Citing “knowledgeable sources,” it points to Trump’s conduct while visiting Moscow, including “perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB.”
It describes one example of “TRUMP’S engagement with the Russian authorities” that they believed “had borne fruit” in the form of “kompromat,” Russian for “compromising materials.” The account states that Trump rented out the presidential suite of Moscow’s Ritz Carlton Hotel “where he knew President and Mrs. OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia,” according to the document. U.S. intelligence officials stated Trump defiled the room’s bed by hiring prostitutes to perform a sexual act involving urination “in front of him.”
Trump’s behavior in Russia, where he has business ties, over a number of years “provided authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they wish,” according to the document, which was dated June 20.
It was posted online by Buzzfeed. CNN and other major outlets reported Tuesday evening that both Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed last Friday on its contents.
The Trump transition office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House and several congressional leadership offices, and those of lawmakers who head intelligence panels, declined comment despite multiple inquiries.
The documents’s contents seeped into two high-profile hearings on Capitol Hill.
“If it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious,” Franken said. As attorney general, Franken asked Sessions, “What will you do?”
The Alabama Republican said he didn’t have information about the document, and is not a member of committees that would have been briefed on its contents.
“I am not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions said. “I have been called a surrogate a time or two during the campaign and I did not have contact with the Russians, and I am unable to comment.”
During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian hacking efforts to influence the U.S. election, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked FBI Director James B. Comey if his agency had “investigated these reported relationships and, if so, what are its findings?”
Comey, the author of two memos on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server that her campaign contends help cost her the election, declined to comment and would not pledge to release information about any possible probes.
Wyden was not impressed.
“I think the American people have a right to know this,” he told Comey. “If there is delay in declassifying this information and releasing it to the American people before Jan. 20, I’m not sure it’s going to happen.”
Todd Ruger contributed to this report.