Trump fends off questions on finances and turns fire on ‘fake news’
US president-elect clashes with CNN reporter over ‘phoney’ claims, rails against ‘agency leaks’
US president-elect Donald Trump has suggested American intelligence agencies may be responsible for releasing an explosive dossier containing allegations that Russia holds compromising information about him.
In an at times rowdy press conference in New York, the billionaire tycoon branded the unverified dossier “fake news” and said it would be a “tremendous blot” on the agencies’ reputations if they were shown to have leaked it.
He clashed with a correspondent from TV news channel CNN, which thrust the document into the heart of political debate by reporting on Tuesday that intelligence officers had briefed Mr Trump and President Barack Obama on its contents.
Repeatedly refusing to take a question from the CNN reporter, he branded the channel “fake news” and lambasted news website Buzzfeed as “a failing pile of garbage” which would “suffer the consequences” of publishing the contents of the dossier in full.
He angrily denounced as disgraceful the publishing of claims he had been caught in a compromising position in Russia and said he hoped for a good relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin but could not guarantee it.
“It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” said Trump of a dossier that makes salacious claims about him.
In a wide-ranging briefing to the press the president-elect also outlined his intentions concerning his business interests. He intends to leave his positions at the various companies of the Trump Organisation, but will not divest his ownership, raising questions about whether he has adequately addressed conflict-of-interest concerns.
“I could actually run my business and run government at the same time,” said Mr Trump, adding that he recently turned down an offer of $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai. “I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to.”
His businesses, which include more than 500 companies with $3.6 billion in assets and ties to more than 20 countries, will be placed into a trust.
Details of the dossier in which the claims against Mr Trump were made were first reported by CNN, having been presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on Russian hacking efforts during the election.
The memo claimed Mr Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin”.
Most explosively, it alleged Russian intelligence had “compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him”, referencing alleged sex videos arising from a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel.
The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times reported in advance of the press conference that it had not been able to confirm the claims.
He opened the press conference saying he wished to compliment those media organisations which had refrained from reporting on the document or which had cast doubt on it.
“I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press,” he said.
“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. It’s all fake news. It didn’t happen. It’s phoney stuff. It was a group of opponents who got together, sick people, who put that out.
“As far as hacking, I think it’s Russia. But we also get hacked by other countries and other people and I can say that,” he continued.
Dismissing the sex claims allegations, he added in a jocular fashion: “I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way”.
The following are key points during the news conference in New York, nine days before he takes the oath of office:
On Russia and the election
“They [some news organisations] looked at that nonsense [the document alleging Trump was compromised by Russia] that was released by, maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies . . . It should never have been written, it should never have been released.”
“I just want to compliment many of the people in the room [for not initially reporting on the document] . . . I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press.”
“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. It’s all fake news. It didn’t happen. It’s phony stuff. It was a group of opponents who got together, sick people, who put that out.”
“As far as hacking, I think it’s Russia. But we also get hacked by other countries and other people and I can say that.”
Asked whether he accepted that Russian president Vladimir Putin tried to help him win the presidential election, Trump replied: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability. I have no dealings with Russia. I have no dealings in Russia . . . I have no loans with Russia at all.”
On pharmaceutical companies
“We have to get our drug industry coming back,” he said, adding it had been “disastrous and leaving left and right”.
Trump also called for new bidding procedures for US drug companies, saying, “they’re getting away with murder [with drug prices] “There’s very little bidding for drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly. We’re going to start bidding and we’re going to start saving billions of dollars.”
On military aircraft programmes
“The admirals have been fantastic, the generals have been fantastic” He said the F-35’s costs were “billions of dollars way over budget. “We’re going to get those costs way down and we’re going to get some competition and it’s going to be a beautiful thing.“
“I said I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created, and I mean that.”
Trump announced the nomination of David Shulkin as secretary of Veteran Affairs. “We’re going to straighten out the VA for our veterans. I have been promising that for a long time . . . We interviewed at least 100 people [FOR VA HEAD], some good, some not so good . . . Our veterans have been treated very unfairly.”
On his taxes
“I’m not going to release tax returns because, as you know, they’re under audit” by the Internal Revenue Service.
On allegations that a “compromising” sex video had been recorded in a Moscow hotel room
“It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen… I am extremely careful. I’m surrounded by bodyguards ... I always tell them, be very careful, because... in those rooms you have cameras in the strangest places... You can’t see them and you won’t know. You better be careful or you will be watching yourself on nightly television.
“I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way.”
– (PA, Guardian)