A new dossier making salacious claims against President-elect Donald Trump was published online by BuzzFeed on Tuesday — even though the site’s editor admits he has “serious reason to doubt the allegations” in it.
The documents — compiled before the election by a former British intelligence agent at the behest of a group of anti-Trump Republicans — purport to detail sordid links between Trump and Russian agents.
In an introduction to its dossier report, BuzzFeed admits the claims are “unverified” — but its editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, explained in an e-mail to his reporters that he decided to publish them anyway because “this dossier reflects how we see the job of reporters in 2017.”
“As we noted in our story, there is serious reason to doubt the allegations,” Smith wrote in the email he shared on Twitter.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 11, 2017
“Publishing this document was not an easy call, and people of good will may disagree with our call.”
A few hours after the documents were published, Trump put out a tweet in all caps that said “FAKE NEWS — A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”
CNN reported that they had seen the 35-page dossier, but did not reveal the details of the contents.
The network also said that the documents had been presented to both Trump and President Obama. The materials had been circulating since the summer, and US intelligence agencies recently presented the documents’ findings to the president and the president-elect, according to the report.
However, the specific details and allegations were not confirmed by those intelligence agencies.
The New York Times reported that the British intelligence officer behind the report was later paid by allies of Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign against Trump.
Other media organizations claim they had seen the documents and decided not to publish them or reveal the details. Mother Jones in late October did a story that alluded to them and asked if the FBI was investigating.
On Tuesday night, in the wake of BuzzFeed’s report, Mother Jones said that it did not run the specific allegations because they “could not be confirmed.”
One intelligence official told The Huffington Post that the leak about the lurid allegations may have come in response to Trump’s recent public denigration of the spy agencies over their handling of claims that Russians hacked Democrats before last year’s election.
“My take is that this is the IC [intelligence community] trolling Trump,” the official told the site. “Because Trump stupidly picked a fight with the IC, they’re just releasing stuff to generate bad headlines.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen told the website Mic that the allegations were “absolutely silly.”
“It’s so ridiculous on so many levels,” Cohen told the site.
“Clearly the person who created this did so from their imagination or did so hoping that the liberal media would run with this fake story for whatever rationale they might have.”