U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has branded allegations that Russia has compromising material on him as “fake news, phoney stuff” put together by “sick people.”
He was replying to unproven allegations that member of Trump’s team colluded with Russia and Russia had salacious videos of his private life. The claims were considered important enough by the intelligence agencies that both President Obama and Mr. Trump were briefed about it last week.
This was the first time Trump said that Russia was behind the hacks. In the first news briefing as President-elect, Trump also confirmed the handling down of his business empire to his two sons.
Although the press conference was initially set up to provide details of Trump’s business affairs, it was dominated by allegations of compromising material.
Mr. Trump was furious whenever he talked about the allegations of compromising material. He said that “it should have never been released” and some “sick people put it together… it’s an absolute disgrace.”
He also appreciated the news organizations that chose not to run with the claims, although they had been circulating for months. Mr. Trump didn’t directly confirm whether he was briefed on the allegations.
Mr. Trump called Buzzfeed a “failing pile of garbage” and accused CNN of “going out of their way to build it up.” The 35-page dossier was published in full by Buzzfeed and CNN reported about the two-page synopsis intelligence agencies sent to Mr. Trump and President Obama.
Denying all the allegations, Trump said that as a high-profile person, he was extremely careful about what he did while traveling abroad. Russia has also denied the claims, and Trump said he “respected” Putin for putting out a statement.
It was also the first time Mr. Trump said “I think it was Russia” behind the U.S. election hacking, but also added at once that “we get hacked by other people.”
He suggested later in the briefing that the outcome was justified as “we learned that Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it.” He also added that “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability.”
Although Mr. Trump didn’t directly answer the question on whether his team communicated directly with Mr. Putin during the election campaign, he did say that “He [Mr. Putin] shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it.”
Other announcements by Mr. Trump included:
- Formally handling the control of his business empire to his two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric to avoid any conflict of interest.
- The introduction of a “major border tax” for companies moving from the U.S. to other nations.
- David Shulkin to head Veterans Affairs.
- A substitute plan to be submitted “essentially simultaneously” to both repeal and replace President Obama’s Affordable Health Care (Obamacare).
- The Mexican border wall promised during the campaign will be built as soon as possible with U.S. funding, but Trump added that “Mexico in some form… will reimburse us.”