‘If Putin likes Donald Trump, it is an asset not a liability. I hope I do get along with Putin, there’s good chance I won’t,’ the President-elect said.
United States President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday night dismissed as ‘nonsense’ the media claims that Russia has compromising information on him, saying the allegations may have been leaked by US intelligence agencies and it would be 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,” Trump told reporters in his first formal press conference in six months.
Referring to a dossier with allegations that Russia has compromising material on him, the President-elect said, “It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen.”
He, however, acknowledged that Russia and some other countries were behind the hacking of Democratic Party computers.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I also think we’ve been hacked by other countries, other people,” he said addressing the crowded press conference nine days from his inauguration as the 45th president of the United States.
“The DNC (Democratic National Convention) was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job,” he said, adding that attempts to hack the Republican National Committee were unsuccessful and ‘they were unable to break through’.
A visibly composed Trump said his team is going to put ‘some of the greatest computer minds’ together and put up a defence against hacking by foreign entities.
The press conference came amid media reports that chiefs of American intelligence agencies had last week presented President Barack Obama and Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Trump.
“Sick people, group of opponents have put them together. It shouldn’t have entered paper, it’s an absolute disgrace,” he said, referring to the allegations.
Alluding to Moscow’s response on the leak of intelligence information, Trump said Putin and Russia said this was fake news.
“I respected the fact that he said that. If they had broken into RNC (Republican National Convention) they would have released it,” he said.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, it is an asset not a liability. I hope I do get along with Putin, there’s good chance I won’t,” he said.
Trump said his administration will come out with a major report on hacking within 90 days.
Spat with CNN reporter
Trump also got into a shouting match with a CNN reporter during his press conference and slammed the news network as ‘fake news’.
Trump engaged in a war of words with the CNN reporter over the release of the dossier by BuzzFeed, which he termed as ‘failing piece of garbage’.
With Trump looking to call on other reporters, CNN journalist Jim Acosta yelled out, “Since you are attacking us, can you give us a question?”
“Not you,” Trump said, adding that, “Your organisation is terrible!”
The reporter pressed on saying, “You are attacking our news organisation, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir?” Trump countered by telling him ‘don’t be rude’.
“I’m not going to give you a question,” Trump responded.
“I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!” the President-elect asserted.
“The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks,” he said.
‘Greatest job producer God ever created’
Asserting that he would be the ‘greatest jobs producer that God ever created’, Trump highlighted the new jobs he has been able to bring back to the country through private firms.
“We’re going to create jobs. I said that I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created. And I mean that, I’m going to work very hard on that,” Trump said.
“We need certain amounts of other things, including a little bit of luck, but I think we’re going to do a real job. And I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” he said.
Trump said a lot of car companies are going to be moving in.
“We have other companies — big news is going to be announced over the next couple of weeks about companies that are getting building in the Midwest,” he said.
A day earlier, Fiat Chrysler announced to build another factory in the US as opposed to another country, he said.
Ford just announced that they stopped plans for a billion dollar plant in Mexico and they are going to be moving into Michigan and expanding, very substantially, an existing plant, Trump said.
“I appreciate that from Ford. I appreciate it very much from Fiat Chrysler. I hope that General Motors will be following and I think they will be. I think a lot of people will be following. I think a lot of industries are going to be coming back,” Trump claimed.
The President-elect also emphasised on getting the drug industry back.
Pharma, Trump said, has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there is very little bidding on drugs.
“We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and we’re going to save billions of dollars over a period of time,” he said.
Trump claimed that his administration is working with other industries as well.
On his business and ‘conflict of interest’
The President-elect said he had formally handed over ‘complete’ control of his business empire to his two sons and they won’t discuss its operations with him, in a move to avoid conflicts of interest once he assumes the office.
“My two sons — Donald Jr and Eric — are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss with me its operations,” Trump, surrounded by his sons, daughter and son-in-law, said.
“I have signed documents turning over complete and total control to my sons,” he said, before handing the stage to his lawyer Sheri Dillon.
Dillon said Trump’s assets will be transferred to a trust under the control of his sons before his inauguration and he will step down from his role as an executive at his company. His commercial real estate assets and licensing businesses will be placed into the trust, along with his cash holdings.
She said Trump’s business empire will undertake no foreign deals while he is US president, but underlined that he ‘should not be expected to destroy the company he built’.
“The trust agreement as directed by President Trump imposes severe restrictions on new deals. No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of Trump’s presidency,” she said, adding that the group has terminated more than 30 pending deals in recent weeks.
Trump said his organisation’s business will continue to pursue deals in the US.
He disclosed that over the weekend he was offered ‘$2 billion’ (Rs 13,400 crore) to do a ‘number of deals’ in Dubai ‘from an amazing man, a friend of mine’ but he turned it down even though he was not required to do so.
“I turned it down. I didn’t have to turn it down. I could actually run my business and government at the same time. I don’t like the way it looks. But I don’t want to do that,” he said.
‘We will build that wall’
He also said his administration will soon build a massive border wall with Mexico to keep out illegal migrants and claimed that the cost of constructing the controversial structure would be reimbursed by the southern neighbour.
“I don’t feel like waiting a year or a-year-and-a-half to start building. Mexico in some form, in their many different forms, will reimburse us,” Trump said.
“They will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen. Whether it’s a tax or if it’s a payment. Probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen,” Trump said.
He continued, “I want to get the wall started.”
Trump said he will not blame Mexican government for ‘taking advantage’ of the US in the past. However, he said under his watch, things will change.
The press conference comes nine days before Trump is set to be sworn in as the 45th president of the US and nearly a month after Trump canceled his last scheduled news conference.
With nine days left before Trump’s swearing-in, key members appointed by him to his cabinet are facing nomination hearings.
There is intense scrutiny about how Trump will distance himself from his global business empire and avoid conflict of interests as leader of the most powerful country in the world.