The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) denies the report, alleging that the agency paid $100,000 in vain to a Russian source that eventually swindled the intelligence services and did not give out any information, CIA Media Spokesperson Nicole de Haay told Sputnik.
On February 9, The Intercept’s James Risen was first to report that the US intelligence community was engaged in a “top-secret operation” to retrieve stolen classified documents related to Donald Trump and alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections from “Russian operatives.” A Russian, who has allegedly been acting as a middleman for the Russians and the Americans, sought payment for information he was offering.
"It's a very complicated story," Risen said on CBSN on February 10. "First, the CIA and the NSA were trying to recover stolen NSA documents that allow people to do very sophisticated hacks, and they were worried that those documents would allow for really horrible hacks of American systems. So that was their main focus, was to try to buy back documents from the Russians on that. And in this process of conducting a secret channel with the Russians, some of the Russians began to offer documents related to Trump and to the 2016 campaign. And the Americans were very ambivalent about whether they wanted to get these documents, because they know how explosive this whole issue is."
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 US president in exchange for $100,000. The Times’ Matt Rosenberg reported that the cash was delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September 2017 via an indirect channel, but it was still government money.
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. After protracted negotiations, a US intelligence intermediary gave the Russian spy the first installment — $100,000 to check whether he was telling the truth.
The CIA was quick to respond and denounced the story as “fictional” on Saturday, saying that Risen and Rosenberg were the ones who were “swindled.”
"The people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg. The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false," the CIA said.
Rosenberg, for his part, has had a say in a tweet:
President Trump also reacted to the stories, which caused so much buzz around the globe, and not surprisingly took to his favorite Twitter to express his stance:
According to the @nytimes, a Russian sold phony secrets on “Trump” to the U.S. Asking price was $10 million, brought down to $1 million to be paid over time. I hope people are now seeing & understanding what is going on here. It is all now starting to come out — DRAIN THE SWAMP!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 10 февраля 2018 г.
US officials said the payment was intended to recover ostensible NSA data, and was abandoned after the Russian provided the US intelligence with unverified and “possibly fabricated” information on President Trump.