President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMan sentenced to nearly four years for running scam Trump, Biden PACs Meadows says Trump's blood oxygen level was dangerously low when he had COVID-19 Trump endorses David Perdue in Georgia's governor race MORE on Wednesday suggested intelligence officials were behind the leak of an unverified dossier full of damaging allegations about him, invoking Nazi Germany.
“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake” to get out, Trump said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”
The charge echoed an earlier complaint by Trump on Wednesday morning, when he tweeted: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
The condemnation threw gasoline onto an already-fraught relationship between senior intelligence officials and the president-elect.
Trump has been an outspoken critic of a joint conclusion from several U.S. security agencies that Russia conducted a widespread influence campaign aimed at helping him win the presidency, calling the furor over the issue “a political witch hunt.”
Senior intelligence community officials have expressed concern that Trump’s public criticism of the career professionals’ findings will have a chilling effect on the CIA and other agencies’ ability to do their job.
"I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.
The White House immediately pushed back on the remarks, saying that it is “deeply misguided” for Trump to criticize U.S. intelligence agencies.
“I think it is deeply misguided for anybody at any level to question the integrity and motives of the patriots who serve in our intelligence community,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “Doesn’t mean they’re always right. But questioning their motives is another thing altogether.”
House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) denied that Trump’s overall attitude towards the IC is damaging to the morale of rank and file analysts and operatives.
“The people that are tied closely to this administration and thought they were going to work for Secretary Clinton — yeah, there’s a morale problem with them. But everyone else is happy. We’re hearing from our sources within the agencies, they’re excited about the new leadership,” Nunes told The Hill, adding that reports of damaged morale in the IC are “not true.”
CNN first reported Tuesday that Trump was briefed last week on unconfirmed allegations contained in an unverified, 35-page dossier that the Russian government has collected damaging personal and financial information on the incoming president.
The document — which is riddled with inaccuracies and has not been confirmed — has circulated Capitol Hill for months. Numerous reporters say they passed on publishing the explosive contents because they could not confirm the details.
BuzzFeed, following the CNN report, published the entirety of the document.
It’s far from clear the the IC is behind the original leak of the dossier, which is a not U.S. government product.
“We don’t know where [the leaks] are coming from,” Nunes said Wednesday.
The document is made up of memos reportedly compiled by a former British intelligence operative who was compiling opposition research for both Republican and Democratic groups.
Capitol Hill lawmakers say they have known about the document for months.
“Late last year, I received sensitive information that has since been made public. Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the Director of the FBI,” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Bob Dole: A great leader of the 'Greatest Generation' The bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns MORE (R-Ariz.) said in a statement.
House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told The Hill he had “never seen that document” but noted, “I’ve heard about it for months.”
The publication of the dossier has already drawn some criticism not only from Trump but also from other journalists who previously passed on the story over concerns that it couldn’t be substantiated.
“If the Trump dossier does prove to be full of inaccuracies, it will resurface in debate every time a credible and supported allegation about Trump emerges,” Atlantic staff writer David Graham wrote.
“It's irresponsible to put uncorroborated information on the internet. I can understand why ... Trump would be upset,” CNN reporter Jake Tapper said on-air Wednesday.
Tapper drew a distinction between CNN’s original report that Trump had been briefed on the allegations and BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the original 35-page document in its entirety.
- Updated at 2:44 p.m.