Facing the nation: President-elect Donald Trump with son Eric Trump, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner ahead of a press conference on Wednesday. | Photo Credit:
Blasts U.S. intelligence agencies for reports that Russia has compromising information about him
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump slammed the country’s intelligence agencies for allegedly leaking uncorroborated information about his ties with Russia and the media for reporting what he called was “fake news”.
“It would be a tremendous blot on their record if they did that,” he said about the intelligence agencies that obtained reports prepared by a private political consultant that suggested Russian agencies had filmed Mr. Trump with prostitutes. Their reports also suggested Mr. Trump and his employees had secret contacts with Russian agents during the campaign.
“A thing like that should never have been written, it should never have been had and it certainly should have never been released,” Mr. Trump said, calling out CNN and BuzzFeed, platforms that carried the reports based on the intelligence dossiers that were submitted to President Barack Obama and Mr. Trump himself. “You are fake news,” he told the CNN reporter, in his first press conference after being elected President.
The interaction turned stormy as reporters sought a categorical answer on whether any official from the Trump organisation interacted with Russian agents during the election process. Mr. Trump called BuzzFeed “a failing pile of garbage” and refused to allow the CNN reporter a question.
Mr. Trump, however, admitted publicly for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party’s computer networks during the election campaign.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said, reversing his position that has always been sceptical of the intelligence report that accused Russia. “But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” he added.
Asked what would be his message to Russian President Vladmir Putin, Mr. Trump said: “He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it…. We have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia. Take a look at what’s happened. You don’t report it the same way. 22 million accounts were hacked in this country by China, and that’s because we have no defence. That’s because we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State-nominee Rex Tillerson, parried questions relating to his relationship with Russia and Mr. Putin at a Senate hearing for his confirmation. He refused to agree with Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s suggestion that Mr. Putin was a “war criminal”.
“I would not use that term,” Mr. Tillerson said. He also refused to state his position on recent sanctions announced by Mr. Obama against Russia for alleged interference in the U.S. election process. The incoming Secretary of State said he needed to examine the details of existing and proposed sanctions. “I think it is important that those be dealt with on a country-by-country basis.”
At his press conference Mr. Trump dismissed calls by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham for stronger sanctions against Russia. “Lindsay Graham has been competing with me for sometime. I hope he grows beyond the one per cent [support] level that he has,” Mr. Trump said, without directly responding to the demand for further sanctions.