Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable event, Sept. 27, 2016, in Miami.
Photo by John Locher/AP

Political world jolted by unverified Trump, Russia allegations

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/10/17, 10:54 PM ET

Unverified Trump, Russia blackmail allegations roil US politics

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about a report that Donald Trump and President Obama were briefed on unverified claims that Russia has compromised Trump with a cache of incriminating or scandalous material.
U.S. intelligence officials presented President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week with a briefing on the available information about one of the nation’s most pressing scandals: Russia’s alleged intervention in the American presidential campaign. According to a CNN report, the briefing included a potentially stunning twist.
Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.
The same report noted that last week’s briefing also “included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” This has long been a point of contention in the broader story.

BuzzFeed, meanwhile, published a copy of the salacious-but-unverified materials put together by the aforementioned former British intelligence operative, though we don’t know if any of it is true.

Rumors about all of this have circulated for months – many have tried to figure out Trump’s unusual affection for Russia’s Vladimir Putin – but at this point, the story is a series of questions without concrete answers. As Rachel noted on the air last night that the amount of information on this that’s been verified by U.S. intelligence agencies or NBC News is “very thin.”

Rachel added that we’re talking about “alleged dirt that the Russians allegedly say they allegedly have” about the incoming American president – information Russia “allegedly used to allegedly cultivate” Trump as basically an asset for Putin’s government.

The president-elect and Moscow are both denying the accuracy of the reports, and we don’t know if U.S. intelligence agencies themselves believe the allegations.

As for why this is coming to the fore now, NBC News’ Richard Engel said something interesting on the air last night:
“I was told by a senior intelligence source that the reason they did it is the intelligence community is angry. The intelligence community effectively wants to put [Trump] on notice, saying, ‘Look, you’re saying all these things about Russia. Be careful. There are all these allegations out there.’

“I was told, ‘We can’t help you, Mr. Trump, unless you tell us more. We need more input from you.’”
Watch this space.

Donald Trump, Russia, Scandals and Vladimir Putin

Political world jolted by unverified Trump, Russia allegations