Donald Trump angrily denied claims that Russia sought to cultivate and compromise him, after unverified allegations about his personal conduct and ties to Moscow spilled out into the open, just 10 days before his inauguration.
US media reported that intelligence agency officials shared a written synopsis of a dossier containing lurid but unsubstantiated personal claims about Mr Trump, allegedly compiled by Moscow, when they met the president-elect on Friday to brief him on their assessment that Russia interfered in the US election.
Mr Trump responded with a tweet in capital letters, writing: “FAKE NEWS — A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
He will face questions from journalists on Wednesday when he holds his first press conference since his election. In a flurry of tweets hours beforehand, he denounced the report, which was first published in full by BuzzFeed.
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” He tweeted.
“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”
Moscow also denied the claims. Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on Wednesday that Russia had no kompromat — a Russian secret services term for compromising material — on Mr Trump, as alleged in the unsourced report shared widely among the highest levels of US government.
“The information is not true and is nothing other than a total fabrication,” Mr Peskov said, according to Interfax. “It’s a complete fake, it’s a complete fabrication, it’s total nonsense.”
Intelligence agencies have not confirmed the veracity of the dossier, which has been circulating for months. The report in question contains memos written by a former UK intelligence officer whose work US officials have said they believed to be credible.
Attempts to collect compromising information on foreign business executives and politicians are common practice in Moscow. “Would they do that? Of course they would,” said one former FBI official. “That’s like Russia 101.”
The memos had been commissioned by Democratic and Republican political operatives as opposition research against Mr Trump during the 2016 election campaign, and had been shared with Washington politicians and media outlets, including the Financial Times.
A senior US administration official told the FT that the memos contained in the report had been shared with the FBI in August and September. The FT investigated some of the allegations contained in the report but was unable to confirm them.
The FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence and the National Security Council declined to comment.
Mr Trump also retweeted a tweet from Michael Cohen, his lawyer, denying a detail from the report.
BuzzFeed on Tuesday published the memos in their entirety, while noting that the information was unverified and contained several rudimentary errors, such as misspelling the name of a Russian bank referenced in the report and mischaracterising a Moscow neighbourhood.
Allegations of links between Russia and the Trump campaign have swirled since before the tycoon’s election victory in November. Ron Wyden, Democratic Senator, on Tuesday pressed James Comey, the FBI director, to disclose publicly any evidence of such ties before next week’s inauguration day.
“If there is a delay in declassifying this information and releasing this information to the American people, and it doesn’t happen before January 20, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Mr Wyden said.
In line with FBI policy, Mr Comey refused to indicate whether or not the agency was investigating the president-elect’s relationships with Russian figures.
Shortly after election day, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said “there were contacts” between Moscow and Mr Trump’s “immediate entourage” during the campaign. Russian officials later said those contacts included only other US politicians and Trump supporters — not top campaign aides — and the Trump campaign denied any links.
The US intelligence community last week released a declassified study depicting an unprecedented Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign. Using cyber attacks on Democratic party computers, disinformation and “fake news” reports, Russia — on the personal orders of President Vladimir Putin — sought to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the report concluded.
Hours before the report’s release, a trio of senior US intelligence officials briefed the president-elect personally on their findings. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Mr Comey, and John Brennan, CIA director, told Mr Trump that Russia’s actions were motivated by a “clear preference” for his election.
Mr Trump, who has derided previous intelligence community statements on Russia’s election meddling, called the meeting “constructive”.
Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Moscow