President-elect Donald Trump has called it “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”, but the internet is on fire after news website BuzzFeed released “unverified and potentially unverifiable” information of Trump’s alleged connections to Russia and other claims of a more private nature. The documents also allege that Russian intelligence has enough compromising information to blackmail the president-elect. BuzzFeed published the documents on Wednesday (11 January), but referred to the information as unsubstantiated. A spokesman for the Russian president Vladimir Putin dismissed the news and denied that Russia has any information on Trump. Only 9 days before Trump’s inauguration (20 January), and just before he is about to hold his first press conference, the news of his alleged connection to Russia will definitely shape, or even change the political horizon. Already NBC news has published ten questions that Trump needs to answer during his conference.

Credibility of the material

According to the Guardian, an official of the US administration who spoke to the newspaper described the writer of the report as “consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with a reputation for having extensive Russian contacts.” In addition, some of the reports proved to be correct since they predicted events that occurred after they were published. However, there are some errors in the document in terms of misspellings or inaccuracies, but, inconsistencies such as this do not necessarily cancel out the weight or possible verity of the information. The Guardian has also found out that the FBI applied for a warrant to monitor four members of the Trump team who are suspected of having contacts with Russian officials. WikiLeaks dismissed the material as “clearly bogus”, but let’s not forget that last month CIA investigation found that it was people with Russian connections who gave WikiLeaks the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign.

Circulation and preparation of the material

The material was prepared by a former British counter-intelligence official and was commissioned as a research material for the opposition during the presidential campaign. However, the writer came across alarming information and sent a copy to the FBI. The documents circulated for months “and acquired a kind of legendary status among journalists, lawmakers, and intelligence officials who have seen them,” Buzzfeed reported. On 30 October, former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid referred to them and wrote a letter to the FBI director James Comey. He accused Comey of holding back “explosive” information about Trump’s close ties to Russia and violating the Hatch Act (it prohibits any activity by executive branch employees that will affect successfully or negatively a candidate). On 31 October, the news website Mother Jones published an article titled A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump. On 9 December, Senator John McCain gave a copy of the documents to FBI director James Comey to investigate further. On 10 January, four intelligence chiefs gave Barack Obama and Trump a summary of the material.

Allegations

The dossier claims that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years and that it has gained compromising material about him. The report claims that: "Former top Russian intelligence officer claims FSB [Russian federal security service] has compromised TRUMP through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him. According to several knowledgeable sources, his conduct in Moscow has included perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB." It specifically states that Kremlin “had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, for several years.” The report also refers to further evidence of “extensive conspiracy between Trump’s campaign team and Kremlin, sanctioned at highest levels and involving Russian diplomatic staff based in the US.” It refers to an exchange of information between Trump’s team and Kremlin, with Trump’s team using moles within DNC and hackers in the US and in Russia. Other allegations include that Trump’s foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, met in July 2016 with Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft (Russia’s state owned oil company) and that Page was warned that Moscow held compromising material on Trump. In terms of Trump’s minimal investment in Russia, the report explains that despite his efforts to explore the real estate sector in St. Petersburg and Moscow, in the end Trump had to settle “for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success.” The material remains under investigation, but the alarming nature of the information and Buzzfeed’s decision to publish it has taken the media by storm. The president-elect might have denied the allegations by tweeting in caps lock, but, unfortunately, this one, might be a bit difficult to shrug off.