Ex-spy behind Trump dossier fears backlash

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Trump: Russians Behind Hacks but Haven’t Compromised Him0:57

Donald Trump said for the first time that the Russians were behind the DNC hacks, but also shot down unsubstantiated reports that the country had information that could compromise him. Photo: Reuters

President-elect Donald Trump has held his first press conference since the election. Picture: AP

Mathew Murphy, Lena Bell in New York and wiresNews Corp Australia Network

A FORMER MI6 agent behind the dossier containing explosive allegations about Donald Trump is “terrified for his safety” after his identity was revealed.

Christopher Steele, 52, fled from his home in Surrey after realising his indentity was about to be made public, The Daily Telegraph in Londonreports.

Accroding to The Daily Telegraph, a source close to Mr Steele said he now fears a potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow.

The unsubstantiated dossier on Trump, which has been circulating in Washington for months, was compiled Steele of London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd.

The dossier was part of an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client who opposed Trump, and later funded by Democrats, according to Mother Jones, which published an article about the report in October and said the operative had turned over the report to the FBI.

The New York Times reported the operative had previously worked for British intelligence. Mr Steele is understood to have worked as an expert on Russia for 20 years during his time at MI6, and was sent to Moscow as a spy in 1990.

EXPLORE MORE: US intelligence agencies warn of ‘dark, difficult future’

US President-elect Donald Trump speaks during his first press conference in nearly six months. Picture: AFP

US President-elect Donald Trump speaks during his first press conference in nearly six months. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

CNN also reported that the dossier had been put together by a British former intelligence agent, and Mr Steele’s anonymity was fatally compromised.

Steven Hall, a retired chief of Russia operations at the CIA, said it was unlikely that intelligence agencies told Trump about the report as payback for his regular criticism.

“In my 30 years of briefing some pretty senior folks downtown in the national security structure, I’ve never seen politicisation like that where you use the threat of some sort of retaliation, or some sort of, ‘things are going to get very difficult for you in the future if you somehow mess with the intelligence community.’ I’ve never seen that,” Hall said.

Hall said senior intelligence officials were likely in a no-win situation. If they decided not to share the information with Trump, the details still would likely get out, and they would be accused of withholding evidence, he said.

Kellyanne Conway, advisor to President-elect Donald Trump, watches as he speaks at a news conference at Trump Tower. Picture: Getty

Kellyanne Conway, advisor to President-elect Donald Trump, watches as he speaks at a news conference at Trump Tower. Picture: GettySource:AFP

“If you do brief it, then you of course put the imprimatur of some sort of believability, some sort of veracity to it.” Trump’s attacks on the intelligence agencies have been “stinging” said former CIA counsel Jeffrey Smith.

“Most president-elects or presidential candidates are very suspicious to the CIA or hostile to it,” Smith said. “Once they become president and discover that it’s their CIA, the attitude changes.”

TRUMP ATTACKS ‘PHONY’ RUSSIAN DOSSIER

Since the report was released, Trump has gone on the attack, slamming unverified reports about his private and professional life as “fake news” and stepping up his bitter battle with his intelligence services, comparing them to Nazi Germany.

Trump slams ‘fake news’, intelligence leak2:15

US President-elect Donald Trump has slammed intelligence agencies, saying they may be behind media leaks.

At his first news conference since the election, Mr Trump also flatly denied “phony” explosive allegations about ties with Russia and lurid behaviour on a trip to Moscow.

“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out,” Mr Trump said about the dossier.

“It was a group of opponents that got together, sick people, and they put that crap together.”

He also attacked BuzzFeed and CNN, the media outlets that reported information about the dossier, calling them “fake news” and denying CNN from asking a follow-up question on the story.

He also argued with reporters during the media conference.

The billionaire also continued his attack on his own intelligence services after the press conference, in comparing them to Nazi Germany in a tweet.

It was one of several tweets the incoming President posted after the press conference expressing anger.

In the press conference, his first in six months, Mr Trump finally admitted that he believes Russia engaged in hacking during the US election. He also said it would be an “asset, not a liability” if he gets along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but admitted it was not a given that the pair would be allies.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia,” Mr Trump said. “I don’t know that I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there’s a good chance I won’t.”

President-elect Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Picture: AP.

President-elect Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Picture: AP.Source:AP

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I also think we’ve been hacked by other countries, other people,” he said.

Mr Trump also said:

— He would start talks with Mexico on a new border wall immediately after taking office and that Mexico will “reimburse” the US for the wall.

— He will nominate a new Supreme Court justice within two weeks of his inauguration.

— He will still not release his tax returns “because they are under audit.” Mr Trump said that the American people did not care about the documents anyway. “The only ones who care about my tax returns are the reporters.”

— Obamacare will be repealed and replaced “essentially simultaneously” once the new health secretary is approved.

— That the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder”, saying he would create new procedures for bidding on drugs and save “billions of dollars”.

— He was happy to take credit for car makers Ford and Fiat-Chrysler deciding to make investments in the US, and in the case for Ford, cancelling a $US1.6 billion ($2.1 billion) plant in Mexico.

DEALING WITH CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Nine days from his inauguration as the nation’s 45th president, Mr Trump also used the news conference to detail how he planned to avoid conflicts of interest related to his sprawling global business empire.

He said his business assets would be put in a trust and he would hand control of his company to his two adult sons and a longtime business executive to allay concerns about conflicts of interest.

He also said that he would hand over all profits when foreign dignitaries stay in Trump Hotels to the US treasury.

Donald Trump, accompanied by, from left, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump, Melania Trump, Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump, speaks during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel- Old Post Office, in Washington in October. Picture: AP

Donald Trump, accompanied by, from left, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump, Melania Trump, Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump, speaks during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel- Old Post Office, in Washington in October. Picture: APSource:AP

A lawyer who worked with the Trump Organisation on the plan says Mr Trump is planning to make the change by inauguration day, relinquish control over the Trump Organisation and isolate himself from the business.

The lawyer says the company will not do any foreign deals but can pursue domestic ones, and says that the Trump Organisation will appoint an ethics adviser to its management team who must approve deals that could raise concerns about conflicts.

JOHN MCCAIN SAYS ‘IT WAS ME’

The press conference came as Republican senator John McCain handed over an explosive dossier on Mr Trump’s alleged links to Russia to the FBI in December.

The Arizona senator issued a public statement amid mounting questions of his exact role in the affair — and how a document riddled with errors and unverifiable claims came to be published.

“Late last year, I received sensitive information that has since been made public,” he said.

“Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the Director of the FBI.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says he was the one who handed the Trump dossier to the FBI. Picture: AFP

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says he was the one who handed the Trump dossier to the FBI. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

“That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.”

Sen. McCain, who was branded as “not a war hero because he was captured” by Mr Trump, sent an emissary to meet the former MI6 agent to collect a copy of the dossier.

In an interview on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, one of Mr Trump’s leading aides Kellyanne Conway joined her boss in rubbishing the unverified claims contained in the document.

“Nobody has sourced it,” Conway said. “They’re all unnamed, unspoken sources. It says it was based on a Russian investigator to begin with.”

When Mr Meyers corrected her: “It was based on MI6 British investigators,”, Ms Conway replied: “Well, one of those”.

TILLERSON CALLS RUSSIA ‘A DANGER’

Meanwhie, Mr Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, adopted a tough new line on Russia, calling it a “danger” to the United States and saying he would have recommended a muscular response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. Both assertions appeared to contradict the views of the President-elect, who has repeatedly spoken of improving US-Russian ties.

Mr Tillerson, a friend of the Kremlin and foe of sanctions in his corporate life, said last week’s intelligence report that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election was troubling and that it was a “fair assumption” Russian President Vladimir Putin would have personally ordered the intervention.

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, US President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, waits for the beginning of his confirmation hearing. Picture: Getty

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, US President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, waits for the beginning of his confirmation hearing. Picture: GettySource:AFP

He wouldn’t call Putin a “war criminal” for Russian military actions in Syria, but said he’d consider such a designation if he saw evidence.

Faced with pointed questions from Democratic and Republican senators about his ties with Russia and relationship with Mr Putin, who awarded him the Order of Friendship in 2014, Mr Tillerson sought to allay fears that either he or Mr Trump would go easy on Moscow. But in a surprising revelation, he conceded that he hadn’t yet discussed details with Mr Trump about his ideas for a Russia policy.

On Russia’s Crimea actions, he said: “That was a taking of territory that was not theirs.”

He said he had been “caught by surprise” by the step, while criticising the Obama administration’s response through sanctions on Russia, which ended up costing Exxon hundreds of millions of dollars.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) speaking with ExxonMobil President and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson in 2011. Picture: AFP

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) speaking with ExxonMobil President and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson in 2011. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

Going beyond Mr Obama’s approach, however, Mr Tillerson said he would have responded to Russia’s actions against Ukraine by urging Kiev to send all available military units to its Russian border. He would have recommended US and allied support to Ukraine, through defensive weapons and air surveillance, to send a message to Moscow.

“That is the type of response that Russia expects,” he said in a response to questions from Senator Marco Rubio, who offered Mr Tillerson perhaps the toughest Republican questioning.

“If Russia acts with force … they require a proportional show of force to indicate to Russia that there will be no more taking of territory.”

Economic sanctions, which Mr Tillerson had questioned as chief of Exxon, “are a powerful tool and they are an important tool in terms of deterring additional action,” the oil man said. However, he said they could also send a “weak” message unless carefully crafted and applied on an international basis. As chief of Exxon, Mr Tillerson opposed penalties on Russia championed by both Democratic and Republican politicians.

Unlike Mr Trump, who has played down the intelligence community’s allegations of Russian malfeasance in the presidential campaign, Mr Tillerson said he had no reason to doubt those conclusions.

On the Asia-Pacific free-trade deal, Tillerson said he is not against it putting him at odds with the president-elect who has vowed to scrap it.

“I do not oppose TPP,” he said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by 12 nations including the United States and Japan, which would encompass some 40 per cent of the global economy.

“I share some of (Trump’s) views regarding whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America’s interests best,” he added during his lengthy confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

His brief comments on trade break with the position of his would-be boss. On the campaign trail last year Trump repeatedly vowed to tear up the TPP and other trade pacts on his first day in office on January 20.

In November, two weeks after his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump released a video in which he reiterated his pledge.

The likely demise of the TPP was welcomed in November by state media in China, where the deal had been criticised as a naked attempt to boost US influence in the region and contain the Asian giant.

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