U.S. President-elect Donald Trump held his first press conference in five months on Wednesday in New York, where he harshly criticized the American intelligence community as well as American media and his political opponents.
- Trump briefed on 'compromising information' Russia has on him
- Trump attacks U.S. intel agencies over 'leaked' dirt file: 'Are we living in Nazi Germany?'
- Controversial dossier on Trump alleges that Russia targets Jewish-American businessmen
From the stage of the Trump Tower, Trump denounced the reports published on Tuesday evening about the possibility that Russia was holding compromising information about him as "fake news" and "a disgrace." Russia also issued a denial.
Trump added that if the source of these reports were leaks from within the American intelligence community that would be "a tremendous blot on their records."
The conference began with a short statement from incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who specifically called out two news outlets – CNN and BuzzFeed News – for publishing reports on the Trump-Russia allegations.
Trump opened his remarks by saying: “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 that the dossier reported on by BuzzFeed prepared by the former MI6 agent, had been handed to some of his rivals in the Republican party during the fight for the party's presidential nomination last year.
CNN broke the story on Tuesday that senior intelligence officials had briefed Trump and President Barack Obama about documents from a private intelligence company that included details of embarrassing and compromising information about Trump held by the Russians.
Buzzfeed News later published a 35-page dossier, which it said was the basis for the intelligence assessment presented to Obama and Trump.
The dossier has turned out to include wrong and unsubstantiated details.
"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" Trump said.
Hours before the press conference, Trump wrote on his Twitter account: "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?"
When asked during his press conference why he chose to compare the event to Nazi Germany, the President Elect replied:
"I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and a disgrace," adding that "that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do."
Some U.S. analysts said it was unprecedented for an American president to use such language about his country's own intelligence agencies.
Trump's comments were the first time he acknowledged in his own voice that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, a conclusion reached last year by the U.S. intelligence community but previously rejected by the president elect.
"I think it was Russia," Trump said when asked about the hacking. However, later in his remarks, Trump said "it could have been others." Trump also said that if Russian president Vladimir Putin "likes Trump," then "I consider that an asset."
One heated moment arose when CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, but was refused by Trump.
"Mr. President Elect, that's not appropriate," Acosta yelled from his seat, while supporters of Mr. Trump cheered and clapped at his rejection of the CNN journalist. "I'm not going to give you a question, you're fake news" Trump declared.
Before Trump spoke, Vice President Elect Mike Pence also criticized the press.
"I've always been a supporter of free press and always will be," Pence said, "but with freedom comes responsibility."
Pence said the reports on the Russia allegations were proof of bias against Trump in large parts of "the mainstream media," which are "seeking to delegitimize the president elect."
"The American people are sick and tired of it," Pence said.
Sheri Dillon, an attorney with Morgan Lewis, who worked on an arrangement for the president elect's business interests, said the Trump Organization would continue to pursue deals in the United States while Trump is president, but that Trump himself will relinquish control of the company to his sons and put his business assets in a trust.
She said that Trump "should not be expected to destroy the company he built."
Norm Eisen, a former White House Ethics Czar for the Obama administration, said on MSNBC that this arrangement could not be considered a blind trust, and that it will "precipitate an ethics and constitutional crisis from the day he's sworn in"