Want some free money? Just find a US intelligence operative and promise to give him or her salacious, bogus information on President Trump consorting with Russians. It doesn’t matter that the information is totally false. If it is anywhere near believable and will generate public outrage, it is worth a fortune.

US intelligence officials, otherwise known as spies, paid $100,000 to a Russian scumbag with a shady history that included money laundering and ties to known criminals.

In return, the Russian provided a video of a man in a hotel room with two women. That’s it. The man in the video was apparently not President Trump as those who viewed it called it “the stuff of tabloid gossip pages.” We the People just got ripped off for $100,000 because certain people in and out of our government are desperate to find any connection they can between President Trump and Russia.

From The New York Times

BERLIN — After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials.

The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. 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 American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. Instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.

The United States intelligence officials said they cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian operation to create discord inside the American government. They were also fearful of political fallout in Washington if they were seen to be buying scurrilous information on the president.

The Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the negotiations with the Russian seller. The N.S.A., which produced the bulk of the hacking tools that the Americans sought to recover, said only that “all N.S.A. employees have a lifetime obligation to protect classified information.”

The negotiations in Europe last year were described by American and European intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a clandestine operation, and the Russian. The United States officials worked through an intermediary — an American businessman based in Germany — to preserve deniability. There were meetings in provincial German towns where John le Carré set his early spy novels, and data handoffs in five-star Berlin hotels. American intelligence agencies spent months tracking the Russian’s flights to Berlin, his rendezvous with a mistress in Vienna and his trips home to St. Petersburg, the officials said.

The N.S.A. even used its official Twitter account to send coded messages to the Russian nearly a dozen times.

The episode ended this year with American spies chasing the Russian out of Western Europe, warning him not to return if he valued his freedom, the American businessman said. The Trump material was left with the American, who has secured it in Europe.

The Russian claimed to have access to a staggering collection of secrets that included everything from the computer code for the cyberweapons stolen from the N.S.A. and C.I.A. to what he said was a video of Mr. Trump consorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, according to American and European officials and the Russian, who agreed to be interviewed in Germany on the condition of anonymity. There remains no evidence that such a video exists.

The Russian was known to American and European officials for his ties to Russian intelligence and cybercriminals — two groups suspected in the theft of the N.S.A. and C.I.A. hacking tools.

But his apparent eagerness to sell the Trump “kompromat” — a Russian term for information used to gain leverage over someone — to American spies raised suspicions among officials that he was part of an operation to feed the information to United States intelligence agencies and pit them against Mr. Trump. Early in the negotiations, for instance, he dropped his asking price from about $10 million to just over $1 million. Then, a few months later, he showed the American businessman a 15-second clip of a video showing a man in a room talking to two women.

No audio could be heard on the video, and there was no way to verify if the man was Mr. Trump, as the Russian claimed. But the choice of venue for showing the clip heightened American suspicions of a Russian operation: The viewing took place at the Russian Embassy in Berlin, the businessman said.

There were other questions about the Russian’s reliability. He had a history of money laundering and a thin legitimate cover business — a nearly bankrupt company that sold portable grills for streetside sausage salesmen, according to British incorporation papers.

“The distinction between an organized criminal and a Russian intelligence officer and a Russian who knows some Russian intel guys — it all blurs together,” said Steven L. Hall, the former chief of Russia operations at the C.I.A. “This is the difficulty of trying to understand how Russia and Russians operate from the Western viewpoint.”

American intelligence officials were also wary of the purported kompromat the Russian wanted to sell. They saw the information, especially the video, as the stuff of tabloid gossip pages, not intelligence collection, American officials said.