The author of the explosive dossier dogging Donald Trump less than 10 days before his inauguration has been named as a former British intelligence officer—but the investigative firm he co-directs won't confirm or deny his involvement. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that the document was prepared by Christopher Steele, a former Russia expert in Britain's spy service who founded the Orbis Business Intelligence research firm in 2009. The New York Times, in a look at how the dossier came to light, reports that Steele was hired by Washington research firm Fusion GPS, which was hired by a wealthy GOP donor in the fall of 2015 to compile anti-Trump material. After Trump became the presumptive nominee, the GOP donor no longer needed the research firm's services, but wealthy Democratic donors stepped in, and Steele continued to send monthly memos detailing alleged Russian efforts to both compromise Trump and assist his campaign, per the Times' sources. In other coverage:
- The Guardian looks at John McCain's involvement, which apparently included clandestine efforts to obtain the dossier after hearing about it from a diplomat during a conference in Canada. "Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the director of the FBI," McCain said in a statement Wednesday.
- The AP reports that it has been unable to contact Steele. A neighbor of the former spy, who lives outside London, says Steele and his family are away and it's not clear when they will return.
- Intelligence chiefs are defending their decision to take the very unusual step of attaching a summary of the unverified dossier to last week's briefing on Russian hacking, the Washington Post reports. "Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday. He said he spoke with Trump and expressed dismay at the "extremely corrosive" leaks in the press.
- Early Thursday, Trump tweeted that Clapper had called him "to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated." He added: "Made up, phony facts.Too bad!"
- Politico looks at how Democrats are dealing with Trump's Russia troubles. So far, senators have been more restrained than House members, some of whom have started referring to Trump as "Moscow Donald."
- The New York Times reports that Trump is facing a backlash from Jewish groups for wondering if we "are living in Nazi Germany" when he was criticizing intelligence agencies' handling of what he called "fake news."
- At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald calls the dossier "farcical" and warns that this episode could backfire badly for Democratic operatives and others treating the dossier as gospel. He warns that if it is proved false, it will "forever discredit ... future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing."
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