A senior U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of the preparation for the meeting with Trump told NBC News that the president-elect was not briefed on the so-called two-page addendum to the dossier originally generated as part of anti-Trump Republican opposition research.
Multiple officials say that the summary was included in the material prepared for the briefers, but the senior official told NBC News that the briefing was oral and no actual documents were handed to the Trump team.
“Intel and law enforcement officials agree that none of the investigations have found any conclusive or direct link between Trump and the Russian government period,” the senior official said.
According to the official, the two-page summary about the unsubstantiated material made available to the briefers was to provide context, should they need it, to draw the distinction for Trump between analyzed intelligence and unvetted “disinformation.”
They prepared the two-page annex as an example of information that isn’t credible? Not only does that blast the BuzzFeed memos to smithereens, it’s a dagger at CNN’s story. Remember, CNN tried to take the high road by not reporting on the contents of the annex or the underlying memos. But clearly they thought there must be something to the allegations: The British agent and his network of sources had been checked out and seemed credible, CNN said, and the heads of U.S. intelligence had allegedly deemed the material to be worth bringing to Obama and Trump. Except, if NBC is right, they didn’t bring it to Trump — and even if they had, they were planning to use it as an example of garbage intelligence, presumably to try to show Trump why it’s important to trust U.S. government intel instead of his own “private” sources who’ve been telling him that Russia is innocent in the hackings. A private source could make up any ol’ thing; why, just look at what they’ve made up about Trump. CNN’s story may be true insofar as an annex about Russian compromise efforts was prepared, but the crucial context — that the annex was designed as an illustration of how thin intelligence can be — was missing. Good lord. We’ll see what CNN has to say in reply to NBC.
Relatedly, one of the most explosive allegations in the BuzzFeed memos was that Michael Cohen, Trump’s corporate lawyer, went to Prague in August of last year to meet with Kremlin officials. CNN itself has now moved to debunk that. According to them, a “Michael Cohen” was in Prague at the time — but it wasn’t the Michael Cohen who works for Trump. Watch this:
Government source confirms different Michael Cohen was in Prague https://t.co/B4cwmL1Ek3
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 11, 2017
If you were all-in on believing the memos, you could have reasoned that there wouldn’t necessarily be proof if the Michael Cohen was in Prague. Visitors to the EU can travel freely between countries; he could have flown to Germany and taken a car to Prague from there. Cohen, however, is adamant that he’s never been to Prague and was in fact in LA for a week last August, checking out the USC campus with his college-aged son. A source at USC confirmed that for Rosie Gray at the Atlantic. And a quickie analysis of Cohen’s “geotagging” habits suggests that he was in Manhattan for most of the rest of the month. In all likelihood he’s telling the truth about never having been to Prague. In fact, unnamed officials told the Wall Street Journal that the FBI had discovered no evidence that Cohen had ever been to Prague. That, apparently, is why U.S. intelligence had these memos ready for Trump in the first place — to show him how easy it would be to accuse someone like Cohen despite available evidence to the contrary.
Update: One footnote about “fake news” in response to “fake news.” People, including Drudge, are having fun with the idea that the memos were actually some sort of 4Chan prank that anti-Trump consultant Rick Wilson fell for, leading him to take the information to the FBI. There’s as little evidence that that’s true as there is that the memos are accurate. Wilson himself denies it and has publicly freed BuzzFeed and every other outlet writing on this story to out him as their source if in fact he’s the source. None have. Also, one of the few things that multiple news outlets seem to agree on in this sh*tshow is that the memos were compiled by a former British intelligence agent. That’s what CNN reported, that’s what WaPo’s sources say, and Mother Jones also pointed to a former intel agent from a western country in its own story about this back in October as the source. The agent was tasked with compiling oppo research by Trump’s electoral opponents, not cooking something up for lulz on a message board. The “4Chan did it!” thing seems like a bit of gaslighting by Trump fans to undermine the already shaky credibility of the BuzzFeed memos.
Update: David French anticipates the next four years: “Are there ‘officials’ who hate Trump so much that they’re willing to leak information that they know will lead to widespread public fear that the president-elect is compromised by a hostile foreign power? If so, that’s extraordinary. Or, just as extraordinary, are there officials who are so concerned by Trump’s potential ties to Russia that they’re willing to risk a public firestorm to jump-start an investigation? And yes, there are members of the media who hate Trump so much that they’re willing to print the wildest possible rumors, repeat them across the web, and then mock him relentlessly based on claims that can likely never be properly investigated, much less proven.”