Trump slams 'political witch hunt' amid reports that Russia has dirt on him

US President-elect Donald Trump reacting to questions from reporters in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York, on Jan 9, 2017.
US President-elect Donald Trump reacting to questions from reporters in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York, on Jan 9, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President-elect Donald Trump has denied explosive claims that Russia possesses deeply compromising personal and financial information about him, calling news reports about the unverified claims a "political witch hunt".

CNN reported on Wednesday (Jan 11) that United States spy chiefs gave him and President Barack Obama a two-page synopsis of the explosive claims during last week's intelligence briefing on Russian meddling in the US presidential election.

Mr Trump tweeted his response to the news report: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"

The FBI is investigating the claims, which come 10 days before Mr Trump's inauguration.

Several US media outlets, including BuzzFeed, have published - without corroborating the contents - the 35-page dossier of memos on which the synopsis is based.

 

The dossier, which has been circulating in Washington circles for months, describes sex parties involving Mr Trump and prostitutes at a luxury hotel in Moscow in 2013.

The dossier also suggests that Russian officials proposed lucrative business deals in order to win influence over the real estate magnate but Mr Trump did not take up the deals.

The dossier also alleges that Moscow and the Trump campaign had secret contacts and that Mr Trump's team had received Russian intelligence on his Democratic and other political rivals.

Senator John McCain is reported to have given the documents to Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey.

CNN said the memos contained in the dossier were compiled by a former British MI-6 intelligence operative hired by other US presidential contenders to do political "opposition research" on Mr Trump in the middle of last year.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on CNN: "If these allegations are true, allegations of coordination between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence officials, and allegations that the Russians have compromised President-elect Trump's independence, that would be truly shocking."

The FBI had been given the information in August, more than two months before the Nov 8 election, according to CNN. Since then, CNN reported, US intelligence agencies have checked out the former British intelligence operative and his network, and found him credible enough to include some of the information in the presentation to Mr Trump.

The existence of compromising information on Mr Trump in Russian hands had been rumoured since before the election.

The rumours gained support when then Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said in a letter to Mr Comey a week before the vote: "It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government - a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information."

Mr Comey was one of four top officials who briefed Mr Trump on Friday, along with the heads of the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

Asked at a Senate hearing on Tuesday about the allegations of sustained contacts between Russia and the Trump team, Mr Comey refused to confirm or deny that his agency was investigating such links.

US intelligence has already made the virtually unprecedented accusation that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to tip the electoral scales in Mr Trump's favour by ordering a hack of Democratic Party e-mail servers.

Mr Trump has repeatedly dismissed the conclusion that Moscow influenced the election while calling for a push to mend bilateral relations deeply strained during the Obama presidency.

After the intelligence briefing last week, Mr Trump's top advisers said that he no longer denies that Russia orchestrated a cyber attack against Mrs Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and her party.