Americas

Trump denies, denounces reports on Russia ties

Trump denies, denounces reports on Russia ties
US President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York on Jan 11, 2017 (Jan 12, SGT). Photo: Reuters
Published: 1:05 AM, January 12, 2017
Updated: 1:21 PM, January 12, 2017

NEW YORK — Opening his first news conference since the election, President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday (Jan 12, SGT) responded to suggestions that U.S. intelligence agencies leaked unsubstantiated reports to the media about his relationship with Russia, calling it a “tremendous blot on their record if they did that”.

“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen. It was gotten by opponents of ours,” Mr Trump declared in his first news conference since late July.

Mr Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer were defiant as they denounced reports that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about the incoming president. Trump said the report never should have been released and thanked news organisations that showed restraint.

A US official told The Associated Press Tuesday night that intelligence officials had informed Mr Trump last week about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.

Mr Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week, the official said.

Nine days from his inauguration as the nation’s 45th president, Mr Trump used the previously planned news conference to detail how he planned to avoid conflicts of interest related to his sprawling global business empire.

He also announced that he would nominate David Shulkin to lead Department of Veterans Affairs, elevating him from his current role as VA undersecretary.

As for the intelligence story, media outlets reported on the document late Tuesday and Mr Trump denounced it on Twitter before his news conference. He suggested he was being persecuted for defeating other GOP presidential hopefuls and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.

The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Mr Trump’s inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Mr Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

Mr Spicer denounced the report at the start of the news conference, calling it “totally unsubstantiated”. Mr Pence said the decision to publish the reports could “only be attributed to media bias” and an attempt to “demean” Mr Trump. AP