The Washington Post and various other outlets are reporting that a classified document delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances.
According to the Post, U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated these allegations, which apparently are based on research done by an outside entity engaged in political consulting work and led by a former high-ranking British intelligence official. However, our intelligence agencies are said to consider the sources involved in the reporting credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.
Is that view justified? It’s impossible to say.
The report should be considered unsubstantiated; indeed, the New York Times labels it as such. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if Russia has collected “dirt” on Donald Trump. As Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says, “the Russians are always looking for dirt on any politician; that wouldn’t be news” — fake or real. (Of course, the “dirt” itself, if any, might well be news.)
There are also reports of allegations of secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The Guardian pushes that story. These allegations apparently are drawn up by the same consultants who allege that Russia has dirt on Trump.
Secret contacts between Trump and the Russians would be news. However, reports of these contacts may be fake news ( as Donald Trump says). At best, they are potential news.
Fake, real, or potential, reports of such news probably will get lots of play in the coming days. They should be greeted with skepticism, though not a closed mind.
UPDATE: Here is the “Intelligence Report” that has created the stir. By linking to it, I’m not vouching for it.
Here is Lawfare’s take, written by Ben Wittes and others. I found it interesting and helpful. The authors sagely advise us to take a deep breath.
Jonah Goldberg has this to say.