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11 January 2017

Donald Trump and Russian hacking: How will the latest twist affect the presidency?

CNN reports that Russian snooping extends to Donald Trump. But what does that mean for the President-Elect? 

By Stephen Bush

Today’s big story? That Russia’s hacking didn’t just extend to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, but that Russian operatives have compiled compromising personal and financial information on Donald Trump, the President-Elect, according to CNN. The President-Elect, for his part, has denied the story, decrying it as “fake news” on his Twitter account.

Here’s what you need to know:

Although the report has been with American intelligence agencies since the autumn – before Trump’s election as President – it is the work not of US spooks but a retired British spy, now working on a consultancy basis, who compiled the dossier for a client then backing an opponent of Trump’s in the Republican primaries.

That the information comes from outside the intelligence services will raise the spectre of “Curveball”, the Iraqi informant whose dubious testimony helped build the case for the Second Gulf War.

Does it matter?

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That the result was so close – just 35,000 votes needed to switch to flip the Electoral College – means that, essentially, anything that hurt Clinton among voters, be that her own unpopularity, errors by her campaign, or, in this case, the fallout from successful hacking of her ally John Podesta and the DNC’s emails all mattered.

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But the election is over, the Electoral College has confirmed Trump and he will be the President. The person whose job is under threat may be Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, who Vladimir Putin gave a medal to. The allegations may embolden Republican Russia hawks in the Senate to join with Democrats in voting down Tillerson’s nomination.