US spies reportedly warned their Israeli counterparts that Russia may have “levers of pressure” over Donald Trump and told them to be careful about sharing intelligence with the White House in case it was passed on to the Kremlin.
The American intelligence officials reportedly told the Israelis not to share sensitive information with Mr Trump’s aides until the incoming president’s relationship with Russia had been fully investigated.
The claim was made in the Israeli newspaper ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’.
A spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond to a request for comment, and the CIA also declined to comment.
But if true, it underscores the extraordinary state of relations between Mr Trump and US intelligence, with American spies openly warning foreign allies that the president-elect may be compromised by Russia.
The ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’ story, written by the investigative journalist Ronen Bergman, claimed to have details about a recent meeting between American and Israeli intelligence officials.
“Israeli officials who attended that meeting said that their American counterparts spoke despairingly about the election of Trump, who has repeatedly lashed out at the American intelligence community,” Mr Bergman wrote.
He continued: “The American officials went on to say that they believed that Putin has ‘levers of pressure’ over Trump – but refrained from going into any detail. ”
The potential leverage referred to is believed to be a dossier of unverified but potentially explosive allegations against Mr Trump which was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent. The dossier was known to US intelligence for months before it became public this week.
Mr Trump has strongly denied that Russia has any leverage over him.
Yesterday, he tweeted that the “phony allegations against me were put together by my political opponents and a failed spy afraid of being sued”.
While relations between the US and Israeli governments have often been tense during the Obama administration, their spy agencies have worked closely together.
The two sides collaborated on Operation Olympic Games, a covert campaign of cyber warfare designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israel is alleged to have also assassinated four Iranian nuclear scientists as part of its effort to disrupt Iranian nuclear development.
While Israel has cordial relations with Russia, Israeli intelligence would be afraid that any secrets which reached Moscow might be passed on to Tehran. Russia and Iran are known to share some intelligence.
“The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia and is not vulnerable to extortion,” the ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’ story said.
Meanwhile, Andrew Wood, Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, has admitted briefing a US senator on the so-called “dirty dossier”, further entwining Britain in the international controversy.
Moscow has accused the UK of “briefing both ways” against Russia and Trump after it emerged that the dossier on Mr Trump was compiled by Mr Steele.
Mr Wood, a friend of Mr Steele, said he had been sought out by John McCain, an anti-Trump Republican senator, at a convention in Canada last November, after Mr Trump had won the presidential election.
The former ambassador to Moscow from 1995-2000 told the BBC: “I know Chris Steele and the report had already been seen by quite a lot of people in Washington, but not by Senator McCain. I told him I was aware of what was in the report, that it might be true, it might be untrue. ”
Mr Wood denied he had given Mr McCain a copy of the 35-page dossier, saying: “He … made his own arrangements to get hold of a copy of the report. ”
He described Mr Steele as “a very competent professional operator. I do not think he would make things up”.
“I do not necessarily think he would always draw correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing at all. ” (© Daily Telegraph, London)