President-elect Donald Trump tweeted today that former CIA Director James Clapper had contacted him and denounced a salacious story that Trump himself has vehemently denied. Trump wrote: “James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts. Too bad!”
James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts.Too bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
Trump was referencing to a story that appeared on the Buzzfeed news site on January 10, and which CNN also noted in another article on the internet. Buzzfeed published a dossier of dubious claims about Trump’s relationship with Russia and that he had once hired prostitutes to perform a perverted sex act on a bed once used by President Barack Obama. On January 11, Trump’s press officer, Sean Spicer, said that the publication of the report was “frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible.” He added, “The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.”
CNN published a story about the dossier, but did not include any of its sordid details because they had not been independently corroborated. Also on January 11,
Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement confirming that he spoke with Trump to offer assurances that the intelligence community was not behind the leaks and that the document was not created by the intelligence community.
“We also discussed the private security company document, which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff even before the IC became aware of it,” Clapper’s statement reads. “I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC. The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
Media reaction has been varied.
At the January 11, Trump had an exchange with CNN reporter Jim Acosta, refusing to answer the latter’s questions after saying that CNN is “fake news.” CNN anchor Jake Tapper sought to differentiate CNN’s coverage from Buzzfeed’s story, but said he could “understand why President-elect Trump would be upset.” NBC News host Chuck Todd interviewed Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith to ask about the thinking behind publishing the dossier. "I know this was not your intent … but you just published fake news," Todd said on his show. Smith responded, “I think people love to throw the term 'fake news' around to diminish anything they don't like."