President-elect Donald Trump took the podium at his first press conference since his upset victory in the November election and formally addressed the recent publication of an unsubstantiated dossier of reports about the 70-year-old’s dealings with Russia.
“I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here 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 did do that, a tremendous blot,” Trump said from Trump Tower on Wednesday. “Because a thing like that should have never been written – it should never have been had. It shouldn’t certainly have never been released.”
On Tuesday, Buzzfeed News published a 35-page document containing unsubstantiated claims about Trump’s alleged dealings with the Russian government, purported to be prepared by a former British intelligence officer, according to The New York Times.
According to CNN, U.S. intelligence officials briefed President Obama and Trump on Friday on a two-page summary of the allegations.
Trump said he’s not allowed to talk about what happened in his highly classified briefing. But, he added, “I think 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. It didn’t happen.”
He blamed “sick people and they put that crap together.”
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Later in the press conference, Trump answered when asked why, earlier in the day, he referenced Nazi Germany in a tweet about the potentially leaked intelligence report.
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?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and a disgrace … and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do,” he said.
Sean Spicer, Trump’s incoming White House press secretary, called it “frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible” journalism, and called Buzzfeed “a left-wing blog that was openly hostile” to Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 campaign.
“The fact that Buzzfeed and CNN made the decision to run …is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple.”
Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, who stepped to the mic just before Trump, called the published reports an effort to “delegitimize and demonize” the incoming president.
While Trump continued to chafe at U.S. intelligence findings that Russians were behind last year’s hacking of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign email accounts in order to influence the election in Trump’s favor, the president-elect finally acknowledged: “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia but I think we also get hacked by other countries, other people.”
The president-elect bristled at a question about conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was meant to favor Trump: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability. 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.”
He added, “And if I don’t, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Gimme a break.”
As for the long lag between his last press conference and this one, Trump said: “We stopped giving because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news.”
Trump’s opening praise for the news outlets that did not run the most recent reports is in stark contrast to statements the president-elect made in recent weeks.
“I just want to compliment many other people in the room: I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that,” he told the reporters on Wednesday.
However, just three days earlier he wrote on Twitter, “Media is fake!”