UPDATED (Jan. 11, 12:15 p.m.):
Donald Trump and his team vehemently denied during a press conference on Wednesday reports alleging that Russia’s intelligence agencies have gathered a dossier of compromising information about him.
“It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said, referencing recent reports from CNN and BuzzFeed about the allegations in the Russian dossier.
The dossier included allegations that Russia cultivated Trump as a presidential candidate for years, and that members of his team were in direct communication with Russian intelligence officials in the months leading up to the election. Asked point-blank about those accusations, Trump did not address the question, instead shifting his response to talk about how other countries will “respect” the U.S. more under his leadership.
Trump also declined to share information that he reportedly received about the dossier from U.S. intelligence officials, saying the meeting is classified, but said “it’s a disgrace that information would be let out.”
Addressing claims that he visited Moscow and was secretly filmed engaging in lewd sexual acts with Russian prostitutes, Trump said his high profile makes it impossible for him to travel internationally without being noticed, and said that even if he did travel to Russia, he would be careful for fear of being recorded without his knowledge.
Trump referenced cameras “that are so small with modern technology that you can’t see them and you won’t know — you better be careful or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly TV.” Trump mentioned his visit to Moscow for a Miss Universe pageant, and said he warned people then to be cautious about their behavior in case they were being recorded.
In an apparent reference to the report that Trump engaged in “golden showers” with Russian prostitutes, meaning urine was involved in the alleged sex act, Trump said, “I’m also very much of a germophobe, by the way. Believe me.”
Asked whether he now believes Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and selectively released information that would be beneficial to his campaign, Trump conceded, “I think it was Russia.”
“Remember this,” he added, “we talk about the hacking, hacking is bad and it shouldn’t be done, but look at the things that were hacked look at what was learned from hacking.” He went on to suggest that disclosures about Hillary Clinton were necessary.
Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, Trump spoke about himself in the third person.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks: That’s called an asset, not a liability,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll get along with Putin; there’s a chance I won’t.”
Donald Trump is about to hold his first formal news conference since July, and more than 250 journalists have gathered in the gilded lobby at Trump Tower in Manhattan to hear what the president-elect has to say. There’s a lot to talk about besides the original agenda.
Trump scheduled the press conference to discuss how he plans to avoid conflicts of interest with his business empire after he takes office, but with his top Cabinet picks facing Senate confirmation hearings and reports swirling about a scandalous dossier of compromising material that Russian intelligence agencies gathered about Trump, questions will undoubtedly go far beyond the designated topic.
Watch it live here:
The explosive Russia allegations
After BuzzFeed published a 35-page document containing “unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives,” Trump responded angrily on Twitter.
It will be interesting to see whether Trump can keep his cool when questioned about the report on Wednesday — and whether any reporter will ask about the salacious “golden shower” portion of the Russian dossier.
Conflicts of interest
As we’ve previously reported, Trump has more than 500 businesses, including hotels and golf courses, as well as licensing deals for the Trump brand in several countries. And despite widespread calls for transparency, Trump has refused to release his tax returns.
His plans to distance himself from the family business while running the country were supposed to be one of the day’s most important subjects, but it remains to be seen whether that will still be the primary focus. So far we know more about son-in-law Jared Kushner’s plans to separate himself from business conflicts as a special adviser in the White House than we do the eventual president of the United States.
Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, spent all day yesterday deflecting tough questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his record on civil rights, immigration, marijuana legalization, and LGBT equality. Rex Tillerson, the Exxon CEO tapped by Trump to be secretary of state, is getting grilled today about his connections to Russia and Vladimir Putin. Will Trump weigh in on the hearings?