Dominic Raab accused of ‘distracting’ from Russia report with claims about Brexit papers

Dominic Raab in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/House of Commons/UK Parliament.

Dominic Raab in the House of Commons. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/House of Commons/UK Parliament. - Credit: Archant

Dominic Raab has been accused of 'distracting' from the Russia report contents by claiming that Jeremy Corbyn 'amplified' papers released by 'Russian actors' at the last election.

The papers relating to UK and US trade talks were used by the then Labour leader to back his claims that the Conservatives were preparing to 'sell off' the NHS.

In a written Commons statement, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: 'On the basis of extensive analysis, the government has concluded that it is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 general election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents.

'Sensitive government documents relating to the UK-US free trade agreement were illicitly acquired before the 2019 general election and disseminated online via the social media platform Reddit.

'When these gained no traction, further attempts were made to promote the illicitly acquired material online in the run-up to the general election.'

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After Labour highlighted the documents at a press conference in November, Reddit - an online discussion site - said that its own investigation had linked the appearance of the documents to a previous Russian disinformation campaign.

The papers were believed to have appeared online some months earlier but attracted little attention until they were picked up by the Labour campaign.

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Raab said that there was an 'ongoing criminal investigation' into how the documents were obtained.

But critics have accused Raab of attempting to distract from the contents of the Russia report after the formation of the new parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

At it first meeting, the ISC agreed that it would publish a long-awaited report into Russian interference in UK politics drawn up by its predecessor committee before the last election before parliament breaks next week for the summer.

'Oh, what a surprise, a day after their man doesn't become chair of the intelligence select committee, Raab, on behalf of the government makes this statement,' tweeted Fi Punchard.

'Raab is only saying this because the report on Russian interference in 2016 is about to be finally released,' said Kris Naidoo.

'It's interesting all the stuff now coming out re-#TheRussiaReport, including Raab's own admission just now that the Russians tried to interfere in our elections. Makes me wonder if they're trying to get ahead of the curb so the report doesn't make as big of a splash when it lands,' wrote Ed Barnes.

Another wrote: 'The Tories are throwing a 'dead cat' on the table to try to distract the public from the wrong doings in the Tory government.'

A Downing Street spokesman dismissed as 'nonsense' suggestions that the timing of Raab's statement was aimed at pre-empting the publication of the report.

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