Trump denies, denounces reports on Russia ties: 'a disgrace'

The Associated Press comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 11, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in New York. The news conference was his first as President-elect.

©Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. AP Photo by Seth Wenig

NEW YORK - Opening his first news conference since the election, President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday 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 phoney stuff, it didn't happen. It was gotten by opponents of ours,” Trump declared in his first news conference since late July.

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 organizations that showed restraint.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press Tuesday night that intelligence officials had informed 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.

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, 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 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 co-ordination between Trump's inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

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

ALSO:

Trump business will pursue US deals, but not foreign ones

By Bernard Condon And Jonathan Lemire

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK - Donald Trump's business will continue to pursue deals in the United States, though not abroad, while he is president, and he will relinquish control of the company, according to a lawyer who worked with the Trump Organization on the plan.

Trump will put his business assets in a trust and take other steps to isolate himself from his company, said the lawyer, who spoke to reporters before Trump's first news conference since his election Nov. 8. The lawyer requested anonymity to discuss details of the plan.

The move appears to contradict a previous pledge by Trump, who pledged in a tweet last month to do “no new deals” while in office.

To help allay concerns about conflicts of interest, Trump will hand managerial control of his company to his two adult sons and a longtime business executive. The lawyer who advised Trump also said that the Trump Organization will appoint an ethics adviser to its management team who must approve deals that could raise concerns about conflicts.

The plan falls short of what some government ethics experts have been urging Trump to do: sell his assets and put the cash in a blind trust overseen by an independent managers, as many recent presidents have done.

Others have said that is impractical given his that selling real estate takes time and the sprawling nature of his business.

Trump has stakes in 500 companies in about 20 countries.