The explosive but unproven allegations about President-elect Donald Trump and his purported ties to Russia originated with the work of a respected former British spy who was hired by Democratic operatives and who began sharing his findings last August, federal officials confirmed to ABC News.
One of those who eventually received a copy of the spy’s secret report was Republican Sen. John McCain, who confirmed Wednesday he gave copies to the FBI director after receiving them last month.
“I did what any citizen should do,” McCain said in an interview. “I received sensitive information and then I handed it over to the proper agency of government and had nothing else to do with the issue. I don’t know if it’s credible or not. But the information, I thought, deserved to be delivered to the FBI, the appropriate agency of government.”
The allegations were incendiary –- that Trump had been secretly filmed in a luxury Moscow hotel and was compromised by the Russian government, and that aides to Trump on at least two occasions over the summer of 2016 held secret meetings with Russian government agents. The details became grist for a top secret security briefing to both President Obama and Trump last week. A senior intelligence official told ABC News the briefers walked through the allegations with Trump.
The man who gathered the information had a serious pedigree in intelligence circles – a retired British spy who later helped found a private intelligence firm. He had been stationed in Russia for years.
Trump opened his first press conference in six months Wednesday by blasting the contents of the report.