In his first press conference since the election, President-elect Trump slammed as “nonsense” a leaked dossier alleging Russia possesses various compromising information that can be used against him.
CNN, with Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein on the byline, reported Tuesday that intelligence briefers who spoke with the president-elect last week told Trump that Russia had compromising financial and personal information about the real-estate magnate.
A dossier prepared by a former British intelligence operative and posted online by BuzzFeed was reportedly only part of a synopsis summarizing potential compromising information. That dossier, which has been quietly circulating in intelligence and media circles for months, reportedly was commissioned by Republicans opposed to Trump during the primary cycle. After a copy was received by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last year, he turned it over to the FBI.
The Guardian also reported Tuesday that the FBI applied to the foreign intelligence surveillance court during the campaign to “monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.” The current status of any warrant is unclear.
FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee in open session on Tuesday that he could not confirm or deny whether his agency is probing Trump and his team’s Russia ties. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov said through the state-run Interfax news agency just after the U.S. election that they had contacts with the Trump team during the campaign stage and “a number of them maintained contacts with Russian officials.”
Trump went on a tweetstorm against the dossier, which alleges that one of the potential blackmail items against the president-elect was a Russian tape of Trump paying prostitutes to urinate on each other in the presidential suite of a Moscow hotel.
“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?” Trump tweeted this morning.
At his press conference today in New York, Trump called it “nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies… which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they did that.”
Asked if intelligence community leaders provided Trump with a two-page summary on the alleged existence of compromising information, as reported by CNN, Trump said “these meetings are confidential … but we had many witnesses in that meeting,” then added that the dossier was a “disgrace.”
“It’s all phony stuff,” he said. “…Sick people, they put that crap together.”
He defended his tweet comparing intelligence agencies to Nazis, saying leaks are “something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”
On media outlets that broke the stories: “I think they’re going to suffer the consequences.” He said CNN, which did not publish the dossier, “ought to apologize to start with.” When CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, Trump called the organization “fake news” and refused to let him speak.
CNN’s Jake Tapper pushed back after the press conference on Trump’s accusation against the news organization, stressing that the story was on intelligence officials presenting to the president-elect the report from sources intel officials consider credible on Russia possession of compromising information. “No one has disputed that that two-page synopsis was in the presentation,” Tapper said.
Tapper then slammed BuzzFeed as “irresponsible” for their call “to put uncorroborated information on the internet,” saying that shouldn’t discredit “legitimate responsible attempts” to report on the incoming administration.
On the lurid allegation in the dossier, Trump said he always tells his team to be “extremely careful” about hidden cameras in hotel rooms when they travel. On the lurid details: “I’m very much of a germaphobe. Believe me.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today that “the Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump.”
“It is an attempt to damage our bilateral relations, it is pulp fiction,” Peskov said. “You have to react to this with a certain humor, but there’s also a sad side to this. Hysteria is being whipped up to maintain a political witch hunt.”
“I respected the fact that he said that,” Trump said at his news conference.
Questioned on whether he agrees with the intelligence community assessment that Putin ordered the hacking, Trump replied, “I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
“They didn’t make a big deal out of that,” he said of the Office of Personnel Management hacking, for which the director of the department lost her job last year.
“Hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done, but look at the things that were learned from that hack,” Trump said, relaying some of the details about Hillary Clinton dumped by Wikileaks. On Putin: “He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect when I’m leading it than when other people are leading it.”
On the intelligence assessment that the Kremlin operation aimed to help the Trump campaign, the president-elect said, “If Putin likes Donald Trump I consider that an asset, not a liability.”
“Do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Give me a break.”
Trump reiterated a morning tweet regarding allegations of potential conflicts of interest in the country. “I have no dealings with Russia, I have no deals in Russia, I have no deals that could happen in Russia … I have no loans with Russia.”
“As you know, I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president,” he added, noting that he turned down a $2 billion deal in Dubai over the weekend even though “I didn’t have to turn it down.”
Pressed on whether he would put questions to rest by releasing his tax returns, Trump said “the only one that cares about my tax returns is the press … I won, I don’t think [the people] care at all.”
Trump was asked if his team had any contact with Russian officials leading up to or during the campaign. He answered another question and ended the press conference.