Donald Trump engaged reporters in a combative and chaotic first press conference as US president-elect, admitting that Russia may have been behind election computer hacking and trashing the media and "sick" opponents for spreading "fake news" about his personal life.
Mr Trump’s first formal encounter with the media in 167 days – and his first since July when he encouraged Russian hackers to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails – was a stormy affair.
He answered questions on a range of topics, from the unsubstantiated allegations that his election team colluded with the Russians to win the election to his plans to separate himself from his business empire and potential conflicts of interest while in office.
There were belligerent exchanges, with Mr Trump at one point engaging in a shouting match with a reporter, signalling that the next president intends to handle the press as he did during his campaign: with bluster and insult.
After months of refusing to criticise the Russians, Mr Trump, who will take office on January 20th, said for the first time that the Kremlin was likely to have been responsible for cyberattacks on Democratic Party computer systems aimed at helping him win the presidential election.
“I think it was Russia,” he said, before later saying it could have been other countries as well.
Asked what he would say to Russian president Vladimir Putin, a man he admires and with whom he wants to rebuild relations, Mr Trump told reporters at Trump Tower in New York: "He shouldn't be doing it, he won't be doing it."
Mr Trump fiercely condemned the leaking of a 35-page dossier of unsubstantiated sexual and financial allegations – in private circulation for months – on the eve of his much-anticipated press conference.
He described the release of the information as "disgraceful", castigating online news outlet Buzzfeed – a "failing pile of garbage" – for publishing the dossier and US television network CNN for reporting on it.
“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen and it was gotten by opponents of ours,” he said. “It was a group of opponents that got together, sick people, and they put that crap together . . . It’s an absolute disgrace.”
He suggested the possible involvement of the US intelligence agencies, saying that it would be a "tremendous blot" on their reputations if they were responsible for leaking the information. "That's something that Nazi Germany would have done," he said.
At one stage, Mr Trump offered a novel defence to the unverified dossier, reportedly compiled by a former British intelligence operative – named by the Wall Street Journal last night as private investigator Christopher Steele of London firm Orbis Business Intelligence – that graphically detailed compromising secrets about Mr Trump's personal life, including a sex tape featuring the businessman.
“Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germophobe, by the way, believe me,” he said, referring to a salacious act detailed in the dossier.
Ireland may face a challenge to hold on to jobs in the critical drug and medtech sectors after Mr Trump said bringing pharma jobs back to the US was a priority.
“We’ve got to get our drug industry back,” Mr Trump said. “Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here, to a large extent.”
There are more than 50,000 people employed in the pharma and medtech sectors in Ireland, according to IDA Ireland, and US companies are the largest employers.
Mr Trump targeted pharma jobs after announcing his success in persuading several large car manufacturers to abandon plans to invest in new plants in Mexico and channel the money instead to new or existing US operations.
Providing long-awaited details of how he plans to separate himself from the Trump Organisation as president, Mr Trump said he would not divest himself from his vast corporate interests but would instead turn over all his business operations and golf courses, including his Co Clare golf resort at Doonbeg, to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and a long-time business associate.