A Russian who offered US intelligence officials stolen cyberweapons and compromising material on Donald Trump took $100,000 (£72,000) but failed to provide any of the promised goods, according to a New York Times report.
The payment, delivered to a Berlin hotel room in September last year, was intended as the first instalment in a $1m deal, which has now been broken off, the paper said.
Several US intelligence officials told the newspaper they were most interested in retrieving National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools that were stolen in 2015 and had since been used to infect millions of computers around the world.
The Russian claimed to have access to a computer code for the stolen cyberweapons as well as information that would link Mr Trump and his associates to Russia, according to the paper.
The video was first rumoured to exist in a dossier compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele and published last January, but its existence has never been verified.
According to the report, several US intelligence officials made clear that they did not want any Trump material from the individual, who was suspected of having “murky ties” to Russian intelligence and cybercriminals in Eastern Europe.
But after several months of coded messages and secret meetings between the Russian and an intermediary – an American businessman based in Germany – the contact produced a set of unverified and potentially fabricated documents about Mr Trump and others, and none of the hacking tools, the paper said.
Some of the documents – obtained by The New York Times – seemed drawn mostly from news reports, rather than secret intelligence, the report said.
Responding to the story on Twitter, Mr Trump suggested he was unhappy with the actions of the intelligence agencies involved.
“I hope people are now seeing & understanding what is going on here,” he wrote. “It is all now starting to come out – DRAIN THE SWAMP!”
The newspaper reported that the deal was broken off and the contact has now returned to Russia, having been warned not to return.
Neither the CIA nor the NSA could be reached for comment by The Independent.
According to the report, the seller involved in this case is one of several Russians who claim to have “kompromat” – compromising information – on Mr Trump.
Allegations of misconduct on both Russian and US sides have been rife since the presidential election campaign of 2016.
The US Congress and FBI are continuing to investigate contact between Russian officials and Mr Trump’s campaign team in a bid to identify if there was any collusion.
The New York Times report comes just two days after a US official said Russia targeted and “successfully penetrated” 21 states during the 2016 election.
The FBI is also said to be assessing a report compiled by political activist and former journalist Cody Shearer that independently sets out similar allegations to some of those made in Mr Steele’s dossier last year.