President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday angrily denounced unsubstantiated claims he had been caught in a compromising position in Russia and attacked US intelligence agencies over the leak of the information.
“I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out there,” Trump told a chaotic news conference only days before he takes office.
Trump called the dossier that makes salacious claims about him “fake news” and “phony stuff.” “I think it’s a disgrace … That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done,” the Republican said.
Trump acknowledged for the first time that Russia likely hacked the Democratic National Committee and the emails of other top Democrats during the 2016 presidential election. “I think it was Russia,” he said.
But the New York businessman said other countries were also hacking the United States and defended his goal of better ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability,” Trump told about 250 reporters jammed into the lobby at his New York offices.
The president-elect has long said he hopes to improve ties with Moscow but his plans have come under intense scrutiny after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cyber attacks and other tactics to try to tilt the election in his favor over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s comments are likely to intensify tensions between US intelligence agencies and the president-elect, who initially disparaged their conclusion that a Russian government hacking campaign was aimed at boosting his candidacy.
Asked whether he had a message for Putin about hacking, Trump said many countries were hacking the United States and added that he thought Moscow would have greater respect for his administration.
“He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it,” Trump said.
The Russia dossier that emerged late on Tuesday was first reported by CNN. BuzzFeed published the full document.
Two US officials said the allegations, which one called “unsubstantiated,” were contained in a two-page memo appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that was presented last week to Trump and to Obama.
In the news conference, Trump declined to answer whether anyone connected to him or his campaign had contact with Moscow during the presidential campaign.
The event was a freewheeling affair, with Trump aides cheering from the sidelines at one point and the president-elect angrily refusing to take questions from a CNN reporter.
Trump’s comments on Russia were softer than those by Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, who was grilled on the issue by senators at his confirmation hearing.
Tillerson, the former chairman of Exxon Mobil who received an “Order of Friendship” award from Putin in 2012, said Moscow should be held accountable for its actions during the US election, although he declined to say whether he would support upholding President Barack Obama’s executive order imposing sanctions for cyber-hacking.
Trump described how he will separate himself from his global business operations to avoid conflicts of interest once he takes office.
He also talked about how he plans to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas plants, slamming drug companies for “getting away with murder” on pricing.
US stocks slipped to session lows, before recovering ground, as healthcare stocks took a beating following Trump’s comments on drug pricing in his first formal news conference since his Nov. 8 election victory.