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Trump: If intel officials leaked report, 'blot' on record

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community's record would be seriously marred if it leaked a dossier containing unsubstantiated claims about contacts between his advisers and Russia as well as unflattering allegations about his personal life.

Trump said intelligence agencies will have a "tremendous blot on their record" if they released the report filled with unproven information that Russian officials had allegedly compiled on the president-elect.

"I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies let any information that turned out to be so false and fake to get out," Trump said at a news conference.

The CIA and the office of the director of national intelligence declined to comment.

Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer also called the dossier "outrageous" and "irresponsible."

The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump's inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

A U.S. official said top intelligence officials told Trump about the report last week. The official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

A summary of the allegations was separate from a classified assessment of Russia's suspected attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election. That classified report tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to the hacking of email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats like Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. It said there was no evidence the Russians tampered with vote tallies; the intelligence agencies said they couldn't assess if Russia succeeded in influencing Americans to vote for Trump.

The briefing about the separate dossier was first reported Tuesday by CNN.

Shortly after news reports were published about the dossier, Trump tweeted: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"

And in Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin denied the report. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday dismissed it as a "complete fabrication and utter nonsense." He insisted that the Kremlin "does not engage in collecting compromising material."

The unsubstantiated dossier on Trump was compiled by a former Western intelligence operative as part of an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client who opposed Trump, and later funded by Democrats, according to Mother Jones, which published an article about the report in October and said the operative had turned over the report to the FBI. The New York Times reported the operative had previously worked for British intelligence.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview Tuesday on NBC's "Late Night with Seth Meyers" that "nobody has sourced it. They're all unnamed, unspoken sources in the story." She said it may have originated with a Russian investigator or groups that wanted Hillary Clinton to win the White House.

The report had been circulating in Washington for months.

In October, former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote the FBI asking the bureau to publicly disclose what it knew about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Reid was aware of the dossier before he wrote the letter, according to a person knowledgeable about the subject who spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

FBI Director James Comey refused earlier Tuesday to say whether the FBI was investigating any possible ties between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign, citing policy not to comment on what the FBI might or might not be doing.

Comey was pressed by Democrats on the committee about whether the FBI was conducting an investigation. There was no mention during the hearing about the summary of the dossier, which was attached to the classified hacking assessment.

"I would never comment on investigations — whether we have one or not — in an open forum like this so I can't answer one way or another," Comey told the panel during his first public appearance before Congress since the election. In late October, Comey angered Democrats when he announced 11 days before the election that the FBI was looking at more emails as part of its investigation of Hillary Clinton.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said the American people had a right to know about whether there is an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.

An active FBI investigation of the next president for ties between his campaign and a nation accused of meddling in the presidential election could further stoke mistrust in the legitimacy of the democratic process. It could also put Trump's own FBI in the awkward position of examining the conduct of those closest to the commander in chief.

___

Associated Press writer Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

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