President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday denied and denounced an unsubstantiated report that said Russia had compromising information about him, calling it an “absolute disgrace” during the first news conference he has hosted in about six months.
Trump faced reporters at Trump Tower hours after attempting in a series of tweets to dispel a possibly damning and unverified report about Russia having personal and financial leverage over him.
“It’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff,” he said.
Trump blamed the report on intelligence agencies and a few news organizations. News of the report was first broken by CNN Tuesday and Buzzfeed later released the report itself.
“I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that. A thing like that should never have been written. It should never have been released.”
He denied that Russia had compromising information or videos that could be used to blackmail him, saying he’s “extremely careful” when visiting other countries or staying in hotels.
“[I]n those [hotel] rooms you have cameras in the strangest places,” Trump said. “You can’t see them and you won’t know. You better be careful or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly television. I tell this to people all the time. I was in Russia years ago with the Miss Universe contest … and I told many people, ‘Be careful because you don’t want to see yourself on television.’ Cameras all over the place. Not just Russia, but all over. Does anybody really believe that story? I’m also very much a germaphobe. Believe me.”
Trump also addressed reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the hack of the Democratic National Committee in order to help the businessman win the presidency.
“I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries,” Trump said. “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability,” he later added. “Russia can help us fight ISIS. I don’t know that I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do, but there’s a good chance I won’t. And if I don’t, do you honestly believe Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Give me a break.”
Trump also said, “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it. You will see that.”
Before the news conference, the incoming president blamed his “crooked opponents” for the now widely circulated report, which he called “fake news” and a “total political witch hunt” Wednesday morning, while again distancing himself from having ties to Russia.
“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” he wrote on Twitter. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
At the press conference, Trump defended the Nazi Germany comparison.
“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information, that turned out to be so false and fake, out,” he said. “I think it’s a disgrace and I say that … and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. Information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public, as far as Buzzfeed—which is a failing pile of garbage—writing it, I think they are going to suffer the consequences. They already are.”
Moments after slamming Buzzfeed and CNN, Trump shut down CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who was trying to ask him a question. “Not you. Not you. Your organization is terrible,” Trump told Acosta, who was sitting in the crowd among other journalists. “Quiet,” Trump continued, repeatedly telling Acosta not to “be rude.” “I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump added.
Trump also said he has relinquished control of his business empire to his two sons and has moved all assets into a trust to avoid having potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, outlined dozens of steps Trump has taken to “reinforce” the “wall that we are building” between the incoming president and the Trump Organization.
The president-elect also reiterated his plan to expedite building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and having Mexico initially foot the bill for it. “I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year and a half,” Trump said, calling the current border an “open sieve.” “Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed,” he said. “That will happen.”
Trump announced last Tuesday that he would hold the “general” news conference in New York City, before the latest allegations involving Russia surfaced in the public. He will be sworn in as the next U.S. president in nine days.