What CNN’s Report on Trump and Russia Does and Doesn’t Say

CNN says:

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats …  The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.

That doesn’t mean the claim that Russian agents possessed the information was necessarily true. The origin of the claim, in fact, is decidedly partisan. A major source for the report delivered to Trump was a set of memos prepared by a former British intelligence operative, who gathered the information while working as an opposition researcher for both anti-Trump Republicans and later for Democrats.

Some of the former operative’s allegations were first reported by Mother Jones’ David Corn in the final 10 days of the campaign. CNN also says they were what then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was referring to when he sent FBI Director James Comey a letter stating, “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.”

CNN says it is not reporting the details of the memos because it has not verified them. It adds that while the information was circulating for months, the intelligence community has now “checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough” to use the information in briefings. However, intelligence officials also found the information sensitive enough to only provide it to Trump, President Obama, and the eight chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, CNN says. Again, there’s no indication so far as to whether the intelligence community believes the British operative’s reports to be accurate. Even if the operative’s sources are genuine, for example, they might be trying to sow misinformation, which the unclassified version of the report on alleged Russian hacking noted was a favorite Kremlin tactic.

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