With just nine days to go until his inauguration as President of the United States, Donald Trump has again found himself at the centre of a scandal involving alleged links to the Russian state.
A classified briefing on Russian hacking, given to both President Barack Obama and the President-elect, included allegations that Mr Trump or his surrogates had direct contact with the Kremlin before and during the 2016 election campaign.
And the report also details "perverted sexual acts" involving prostitutes alleged to have taken place in a hotel room in Moscow. The suggestion is that the claims could have been used by Russia to compromise the incoming US President.
Mr Trump has strenuously denied the unverified allegations, which came in a two-page synopsis attached to a classified intelligence report into Russian interference in the US election. A declassified version was distributed publicly last week.
Intelligence officials said they could not independently verify the embarrassing claims, compiled by a former British spy who was hired by Mr Trump’s political opponents.
The Kremlin dismissed the report as "fake" and "total bluff" in a statement on Wednesday morning, saying it had no "compromising information" on either Mr Trump or his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday night, Mr Trump's political advisor Kellyanne Conway also dismissed the claims as coming from "unnamed, unspoken sources".
The allegations have been circulating among intelligence agencies for some months and were in part reported upon before the election, but they have now been presented to the President and President-elect in greater detail because officials have performed checks on the former British spy and his sources and found them largely credible, CNN reported.
While stressing that the sexual claims remain unverified, BuzzFeed News published the classified two-page synopsis in full online. The site says it published the unsubstantiated allegations so Americans could make up their own minds.
The potentially compromising allegations emerged on the same night as Mr Obama gave his final presidential address, and ahead of a scheduled news conference on Wednesday afternoon in which Mr Trump was supposed to discuss his business empire and potential conflicts of interest. That conference was, as of Wednesday morning, still going ahead.
Dozens of memos have been compiled by the former British operative, beginning as opposition research by Mr Trump’s rivals for the Republican candidacy, unnamed security sources told CNN.
The former MI6 agent reportedly served in Russia during the 1990s. His investigation into the New York businessman started during the GOP primaries, and was then taken up by liberal groups and donors once Mr Trump became the presidential nominee.
Much like the declassified report released on Friday, the two-page synopsis of the memos did not include details about sources or methods.
The documents have apparently circulated for months among top senators and intelligence officials. Journalists who obtained the documents had for weeks been unable to corroborate the contents.
The unverified, scanned memo alleges that Russia had "cultivated" Mr Trump to be a presidential candidate over the past five years; that he was allegedly bribed with various lucrative real estate deals in Russia, although he had turned them down; plus the sexual claims that could compromise him personally.
Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid alluded to the memos in a fiery letter to FBI director James Comey at the end of October last year, following his unusual announcement about a further Clinton email probe 11 days before the election.
"In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government," Mr Reid wrote at the time. "The public has a right to know this information."
Last month, President Obama ordered the intelligence community to deliver a full report into Russia's role in the hacking of Democratic institutions.
The declassified report released last week concluded that: "[Vladimir] Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
Prior to his briefing with intelligence chiefs, Mr Trump had tried to fervently discredit the assessment that Russian operatives – directed by Mr Putin – had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in a widespread campaign to help him win the election.
"While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses, and organisations including the Democratic National Committee," Mr Trump said in a statement, "there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."
Intelligence officials maintained that, while Russian hackers did not tamper with vote tallies or machines, they could not gauge the influence the email leak and disinformation campaign had on voters' ultimate decisions.
The report stated: "We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election."
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