President-elect Trump denounced as “fake news” Wednesday reports that Russia had compromising information about him before the election.
He also acknowledged for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee, although he seemed to couch it later in the news conference saying it “could have been others.”
In his first news conference since last summer, the president-elect additionally said he would be handing over control of his businesses to his sons Don. Jr, and Eric; refused once again to release his income tax returns; and said his administration would reveal its plan to replace the Affordable Care Act as soon as his nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, is confirmed by the Senate.
Trump said the unverified and unsubstantiated reports about the Russian intelligence was put together by political opponents, whom he called “sick people.” The reports, he said, were “a disgrace,” and he vehemently denounced BuzzFeed News, which published a 35-page memo purportedly outlining the Russian intelligence, as “a failing pile of garbage.”
He also denied a question from a CNN reporter, which first broke the story of an intelligence report, but did not publish the documents or the lewd details.
But Trump didn’t answer a question as to whether his presidential campaign had been in contact with the Russian government, which the report alleged.
Trump was also critical of U.S. intelligence agencies for “maybe” leaking the report to news organizations, charging that a meeting with he had recently with them immediately leaked out, even though he kept it secret from his closest staff.
Trump said, “I think it was Russia,” who hacked into the DNC’s servers, but added “it could have been others also.” U.S. intelligence publicly stated last October — and in congressional hearings and an unclassified report since — that the Russian government was to blame for the cyber attack. Trump called hacking “bad” and said he would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin “he shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe he will be doing it more.”
But he also said he would consider it “an asset, not a liability,” if Putin likes him. “I don’t know if I’ll get along” with the Russian leader, Trump said, “I hope I do.”
Trump also denied taking part in any salacious behavior in a Moscow hotel room, saying he always tells people to be very careful when he travels abroad, because “you have cameras in the strangest places. You’d better be careful or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly television.”
Plus, he added, “Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me.”
Trump held his news conference in the marble-lined lobby of Trump Tower in New York, and spoke alongside a table piled with manila file folders, which he said were the agreements he has signed giving over control of the Trump Organization to his oldest sons.