During a special briefing last Friday, leaders of the intelligence community gave President-elect Donald Trump a synopsis of unsubstantiated and salacious allegations that Russian operatives had obtained potentially compromising personal and financial information about the president-elect, a U.S. official confirmed Tuesday.
The official who is not authorized to comment publicly, said that the document was provided along with the intelligence community's assessment that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election.
The separate document presented to the president-elect represented a summary of a much larger 35-page compilation of documents prepared by a former foreign intelligence officer. The officer, the official said, is known to U.S. intelligence, but the contents of the specific contents of the document have not been verified.
Trump responded Tuesday evening by Twitter, calling the report "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"
The decision to present the information to Trump, first reported by CNN, was made after it was determined that the document — in many forms — had been circulated widely to political opposition researchers, U.S. lawmakers, journalists and others. CNN said it reviewed the compilation of the memos, described as originating as opposition research first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats. Buzzfeed has posted the intelligence documents.
In the end, U.S. authorities determined that Trump needed to know the information, if he didn’t know its existence already, the official said, adding that the contents remained the subject of investigation. The official declined to comment on Trump's reaction to the presentation. And the president-elect, who has scheduled his first news conference Wednesday, did not immediately comment on the revelations.
The summary document also includes allegations that information was exchanged over a long period of time between the Russian government and Trump representatives.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, accused of meeting with a Russian operative in Prague last year, said in a tweet that "I have never been to Prague in my life."
The news came on a day in which the Senate Intelligence Committee conducted hearings into the reported Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and emails provided to the website Wikileaks. Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said the panel will conduct an independent review of the intelligence community's report about Russian interference to help Trump.
FBI Director James Comey declined to answer questions from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about whether the FBI is investigating possible contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the presidential campaign.
"I think the American people have a right to know this," Wyden said. "And if there is a delay in declassifying this information and releasing it to the American people, and it doesn’t happen before Jan. 20 (Inauguration Day), I’m not sure it’s going to happen."
Wyden declined comment late Tuesday about the unsubstantiated reports that Russians have compromising information about Trump. The senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, also had no comment, said spokeswoman Rachel Cohen.
Then-Senate minority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., angry over FBI statements about the email investigation of Clinton, referenced these allegations in an October letter to the bureau. It said in part, "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."
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, D-N.Y., said late Tuesday that she finds the latest reports about Russia and Trump alarming and called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint a special counsel to continue investigating the allegations "until all facts have been unearthed."
"I find troubling these reports that Russian intelligence apparatuses sought compromising information on the Republican candidate, as well, but released only information related to Democrats," the congresswoman said. "However, particularly alarming are suggestions that surrogates for an American presidential campaign were actively exchanging information with Russian government intermediaries."
She said the allegations "raise important legal issues that need to be investigated quickly, thoroughly and impartially, without political interference."
Contributing: Erin Kelly