A shady, unnamed Russian operative bilked American spies out of $100,000 after promising to return stolen "National Security Agency tools" to US intelligence and provide the agency with compromising pictures of President Trump cavorting with hookers.
The Russian received the USA taxpayer cash in a Berlin hotel room in September as the first installment on the $1 million price tag set for what he claimed would be compromising material on the US president and a collection of NSA and Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools stolen in 2016.
Shortly after the story was covered on The Intercept, The New York Times provided its own report on a mysterious Russian who claimed that he would deliver stolen NSA hacking tools and compromising material on the USA president in exchange for $100,000.
Several US intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals.
The spies gave the Russian 10 percent of a $1 million deal, but instead of the cyberweapons, all they got was a blurry 15-second video of a (naked?) man in a hotel room talking to two women and more "unverified" and "possibly fabricated" (by Sidney Blumenthal?) nonsense about Trump and others.
USA intelligence officials say Russian Federation interfered with the 2016 election to help elect Trump, and continues to use disinformation to sow confusion in the American political system.
The New York Times and The Intercept have both reported that the National Security Agency used Twitter to send coded messages to a Russian contact "nearly a dozen times".
The information about Trump, the Times reported, is now in the hands of the American intermediary in Europe.
The Russian, who had a history of money laundering and ties to a almost bankrupt company that sold portable grills for streetside sausage peddlers - not to mention a mistress in Vienna - showed USA intelligence a 15-second video clip of a man in a hotel room talking to two women. The episode ended this year with USA spies chasing the Russian out of Western Europe, warning him not to return if he valued his freedom, the American businessman said.
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He said the franchise bus company would pay $10,000 to each injured person and family of the deceased. The injured passenger told the paper: "It was much faster than I normally felt in a bus".
There was no sound in the video clip or evidence that the man was Trump. But the choice of venue for showing the clip heightened USA suspicions of a Russian operation: The viewing took place at the Russian Embassy in Berlin, the businessman said.
The shadowy Russian reportedly asked for $10 million for the cyber-weapons, which were stolen by the group "Shadow Brokers", and for purported explosive revelations about Trump, but later dropped the price to $1 million.
A Russian, who has allegedly been acting as a middleman for the Russians and the Americans, sought payment for information he was offering.
President Trump has said publicly that there is a bias against him within the United States government.
Trump has also said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he denies Russian interference in the election.
There are multiple ongoing investigations looking into whether Trump associates had ties to the Russians during the election.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russian Federation. Carter Page, the former campaign adviser who has been the focus of FBI investigators, features in one; Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire Republican donors, in another.
In addition to the cyberweapons, however, the Russian promised "compromising" information that could damage President Donald Trump - information that the American spies say they told him they did not want.