The Kremlin so often discredits its opponents that there is a Russian word for “compromising materials” that are released for political benefit of the government -- kompromat.
As a recent article by the AP news agency notes, the Kremlin has a long history of releasing kompromat.
In February 2014, at the height of pro-EU protests in Ukraine, a leaked phone conversation between U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was released to the public in what appeared to be a bid to discredit both the United States and the European Union. Moscow was implicated since it had claimed the protesters in Ukraine were being directed by foreign agents.
In 2015, on the eve of a protest he was organizing, a leaked audio recording of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov insulting other opposition leaders was released, perhaps in an effort to divide the opposition. Nemtsov was murdered on a bridge right outside the Kremlin walls not long after the incident.
Other incidents share more in common with these new allegations against Donald Trump since they involve disclosure of embarrassing private information. Putin’s first prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and Boris Yeltsin’s prosecutor-general Yuri Skuratov were both discredited with the release of sex tapes that were recorded without their knowledge. In fact, Skuratov’s removal was instrumental in the rise of Vladimir Putin.
In April 2010, a month after Viktor Shenderovich published an article entitled “Putin Must Go,” a video emerged appearing to show the Russian satirist having sex with an infamous Kremlin “honeytrap.” The video was released two days before his daughter’s wedding.
In April 2016, a video emerged of the leader of the Russian Parnas opposition party, Mikhail Kasyanov, apparently having sex with fellow Parnas party member Natalya Pelevina. Within a short period of time, Pelevina was the victim of hacking attacks and Kasyanov was threatened by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Soon after the Kasyanov leak, and for a variety of reasons, the besieged Russian opposition became disunited and was ultimately defeated in September’s parliamentary elections.
Furthermore, there is much evidence to suggest that the Russian government is behind the hacking of entities and individuals involved in the recent U.S. presidential election, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC).
As early as July 2016, technology and cyber security experts analyzed evidence of the hacking attacks against the DNC and found strong evidence that two Russian intelligence agencies, the FSB and GRU, were behind those attacks. Furthermore, the cover story -- that a single Romanian hacker named Guccifer 2.0 -- fell apart when the hacker could not communicate in Romanian. A new report released by the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike in December also concluded that there was strong evidence linking the Russian GRU to the hacking of the DNC.
In early December, U.S. intelligence agencies released their own report that they have “high confidence” that the Russian government worked to interfere in the U.S. election (), and the beneficiary of that attack, Trump, admitted on January 11 that he too believed Russia was behind the attacks.