Agents with the National Security Agency and CIA reportedly paid a Russian operative $100,000 for damaging intelligence on President Donald Trump after he took office in 2017.
The "Russian" was acting as an middle-man and initially demanded $10 million for the trove, but later slashed the price down to $1 million, the New York Times in a separate report on the "secret operation", citing unnamed American and European intelligence officials. American officials told the NYT that the "theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing".
Several US intelligence officials told the paper they said they did not want the Trump information from the Russian, who was suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence and Eastern European cybercriminals.
To keep the deal from ending, the Russian also said he had information on Trump associates. In exchange for it, the Russian provided unconfirmed and possibly fabricated data on Trump, as well as some information collected by Russian intelligence.
Intriguing as it is, but for fear of obtaining false information, which could potentially cause discord in the White House, the American operatives had to cut ties with the Russian and...let him go.
That intelligence, the New York Times reported Friday evening, included an unverified "15-second clip of a video showing a man in a room talking to two women", purported to be Trump with two prostitutes in Moscow in 2013. 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. According to the newspaper, the hacker thanked them for the offer and left. According to the NYT, the Trump-related material turned out to be "stuff of tabloid gossip pages, not intelligence collection".
The Russian was known to USA and European officials for his ties to Russian intelligence and cybercriminals - two groups suspected in the theft of the NSA and CIA hacking tools.
The CIA and NSA were engaged in secret negotiations with a "Russian intermediary" past year in a desperate effort to retrieve documents and hacking tools stolen by the mysterious Shadow Brokers collective, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter James Risen wrote in an for the Intercept, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Trump has also said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he denies Russian interference in the election.