World, Americas

Trump slams Russian blackmail reports

President-elect holds first news conference in six months

Michael Hernandez,Övünç Kutlu   | 11.01.2017
Trump slams Russian blackmail reports

Washington DC

By Michael Hernandez and Ovunc Kutlu

WASHINGTON 

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out at "shameful and disgraceful” reports Russia has compromising information about him it could use to blackmail America's highest elected official.

"It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen," he said during an often confrontational gathering with the press -- his first news conference in six months. "It was a group of opponents that got together -- sick people -- and they put that crap together."

CNN and other news organizations reported that Trump was presented with information that showed Moscow had compromising information on him when he was briefed by America's intelligence leaders last Friday.

Trump dismissed suggestions he was vulnerable to potential Russian hacking aimed at gaining leverage against him.

"I'm a very high-profile person, would you say?,” he said. "I am extremely careful. I'm surrounded by bodyguards. I'm surrounded by people.”

High-ranking lawmaker John McCain, who has often been at odds with the president-elect, later confirmed that he passed the document in question to the FBI. 

"Late last year, I received sensitive information that has since been made public," McCain said in a statement. 

"Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the Director of the FBI. That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue," he added. 

On the intelligence community's findings that Moscow was responsible for a campaign aimed at influencing last year's presidential elections, Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time that he thought "it was Russia".

But he said his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is "an asset, not a liability" amid relations between the world powers that have reached lows not seen since the Cold War.

"Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, number one, tricky," he said. "I don't know that I'm gonna get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there's a good chance I won't."

Trump turned to his lawyer, Sheri Dillon, to outline how he would deal with his multibillion dollar organization once he assumes office Jan. 20.

Dillon said the Trump Organization would not pursue foreign deals, but will continue to seek new ventures domestically. Those will have to be vetted with an ethics advisor, Dillon said.

Trump will have no ties to his sprawling organization once he takes office. It will be instead be run by his sons, Don and Eric, and Trump executive Allen Weisselberg.

Any business assets Trump owns will be placed in a trust.

Still, Trump maintained he could simultaneously run his own business and the White House, but stressed he does not want to do that to assure the American people that he would be focused on his presidential responsibilities.

Referring to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson's appointment as Secretary of State in his Cabinet, the president-elect emphasized that he preferred bringing in individuals with business backgrounds to the new government in order to improve the U.S.'s international bargaining prowess.

"We need smart and successful people to make good trade deals. We don't make good deals any more. We lose hundreds and billions of dollars to China, Japan and Mexico," he said.

Trump reiterated his stance about bringing jobs, investment and manufacturing back to the U.S., and stressed that producers who relocate abroad would have to pay higher import tariffs to bring their goods to U.S. shores.

"You can move from South Carolina to Michigan. It is still competitive. I don't care as long as it is among the borders of the U.S.," he said.


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