Last week, top intelligence officials briefed President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump on claims that Russian spies allegedly have compromising personal and financial information about Trump.
CNN said the FBI was investigating the credibility and accuracy of the report, compiled in memos by a former British intelligence officer and based primarily on information from Russian sources.
As it turns out, journalists and government officials had known about the presence of the classified dossier for weeks, but it remained concealed mainly because reporters could not verify it.
However, things changed once CNN not only reported the presence of such documents but also acknowledged that the allegations first surfaced before the presidential election. The network also noted that FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers had presented the said information to the president and his successor.
Although CNN did not discuss the compromising contents of the report, soon after it reported on the claims, BuzzFeed went ahead and did something no one else had: It released the entire dossier the two-page classified analysis was based on.
FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Mother Jones first reported about the presence of these memos back in October.
“Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump — and that the FBI requested more information from him,” wrote author David Corn.
The unidentified former MI6 officer reportedly said, “There was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”
Multiple media outlets investigated the claims — and so did the intelligence community, but as BuzzFeed noted, most of the information is potentially unverifiable.
2/ This document (and the info therein) has been floating in media & govt circles for MONTHS.— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) January 11, 2017
No one had been able to confirm the documents, but the fact that the FBI and CIA deemed it important enough to investigate, summarize and present it to the highest office attested to its importance.
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith had defended publishing the full 35-page-long unconfirmed explosive material, saying the website wanted to “share what we have with our readers.”
What It Alleges:
The dossier claims Russia has been allegedly “cultivating, supporting and assisting” the billionaire for five years and feeding him information about high-profile politicians in an attempt to split the “western alliance.” The Kremlin was also accumulating compromising material on Trump that could be used to blackmail him if need be.
The documents also highlighted how Russia reportedly arranged and monitored the incoming U.S. commander-in-chief engaging in “perverted sexual acts” — including an alleged instance in the Presidential Suite of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow where Trump had prostitutes urinate on the bed Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, supposedly slept on their visit to the Russian capital.
The sexual perversion was termed “Golden Shower” in the report, which soon inspired viral hashtag #GoldenShowers.
@realDonaldTrump first President whose voters have had to answer their kids asking "what's a golden shower?" after googling their president.— Luke Barnett (@LukeBarnett) January 11, 2017
How much urine can you get on you before you turn too orange? Asking for a friend. #GoldenShower— Luke Benson (@Mr_LukeBenson) January 11, 2017
Moreover, another “unorthodox” incident also left Trump open to blackmail, according to the report.
Russian spies reportedly snooped around former Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, as well. But all they got was evidence of situations and statements that contradicted her public positions.
They couldn’t get their hands on any blackmail-worthy inappropriate material.
Was It Ethical?
The publication of dossier has certainly raised some very valid questions about journalistic ethics.
The act of publishing the explosive content without any sort of confirmation and authentication is not what transparency is all about. But, it is a clever way to make sure the news continues to draw attention.
It seems the report had less to do with letting people decide things on their own and more with the fact that BuzzFeed wanted to make itself more relevant.
Not how journalism works: Here's a thing that might or might not be true, without supporting evidence; decide for yourself if it's legit.— Brad Heath (@bradheath) January 10, 2017
1. For those asking, I didn't publish the full memos from the intelligence operative because I could not confirm the allegations.— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 11, 2017
2. I believed it was fair & responsible to note that a credible source had provided FBI allegations of Moscow op to co-opt Trump.— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 11, 2017
3. I accurately characterized the memos-this is important stuff-but didn't publish details. Even Donald Trump deserves journalistic fairness— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 11, 2017
How, exactly, are Americans supposed to make up their own minds about allegations presented without verification or evidence? https://t.co/jhfEJj7pLj— Brad Heath (@bradheath) January 11, 2017
Meanwhile, although Obama was briefed on the matter, he didn’t mention it during his farewell address that took place just hours after BuzzFeed released the dossier.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters