Trump fabricates conversation with director of national intelligence

No, James Clapper didn’t say that an explosive report about Russian intelligence is false.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper listens while testifying on Capitol Hill on January 10 before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Intelligence Activities. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
National Intelligence Director James Clapper listens while testifying on Capitol Hill on January 10 before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian Intelligence Activities. CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

On Thursday morning, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called him “to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated” about Russia being in possession of compromising information about him.

But Trump was actually spreading a falsehood of its own. In a statement about the call, Clapper said, “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”

What Clapper didn’t say is that the report is false.

The information in the report — which includes allegations Russian officials possess videos of sexual acts involving Trump and prostitutes filmed in Russia — hasn’t been independently confirmed and could be false. But on Wednesday, BBC Washington correspondent Paul Wood reported that the former British intelligence operative who put together the report about the “kompromat” isn’t the only person who has concluded Russia has compromising information about Trump.

“I saw the report, compiled by the former British intelligence officer, back in October. He is not, and this is the crucial thing, the only source for this,” Wood said during a BBC radio broadcast. USA Today national security correspondent Marc Ambinder also reports that the intelligence community’s information about Russia’s efforts to compromise Trump goes beyond the unverified dossier.

Wood said that at least one intelligence agency in eastern Europe was aware “that the Russians had kompromat or compromising material on Mr. Trump.” He said he personally heard from the CIA, via an intermediary, that “there was allegedly more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

As Wood himself noted, the fact more than one operative has heard about the kompromat doesn’t mean it actually exists. He also warned that “nobody should believe something just because an intelligence agent says it.”

But Trump put words in Clapper’s mouth when he said the director of national intelligence called the report “false and fictitious.” On the contrary, the FBI reportedly deemed the report credible enough to include a summary of it in the background material for a briefing both Trump and President Obama received last week.