President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday held his first full news conference since winning the 2016 presidential election, speaking kindly of Russian president Vladimir Putin and saying “the hacking’s bad . . . but look at what was learned from that hacking.”
“I think it was Russia, but I also think we get hacked by other countries and other people,” Trump said of the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails that were leaked to the public in a move the U.S. intelligence community said was designed to influence the presidential race. “We have much hacking going on.”
Trump also said “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, No. 1, tricky.”
Within 90 days, Trump said his administration will generate a report that will address the issue of hacking in general. Asked if Putin ordered the hacking, Trump replied, “He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. . . .
“Russia will respect our country more” once Trump is inaugurated as president, the president-elect said. He also said China, Japan and Mexico “will respect us far more than they do under past administrations.”
In the wide-ranging press conference, the president-elect also vowed to live up to his promise to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, saying the health insurance law will be “repealed and replaced . . . very complicated stuff. . . . We’re going to have a healthcare that is far less expensive and far better.”
And, he insisted, “we’re going to build a wall” between the U.S. and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants from flowing in to the U.S. “I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half,” Trump said.
Also, he said, “Mexico will reimburse us” for the wall, without going into specifics. “Mexico has been so nice. . . . I love the people of Mexico. . . . I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart.”
It was also announced that 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.
Trump will put his business assets in a trust and take other steps to isolate himself from his company, according to lawyer Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, which worked with the Trump Organization on the plan.
In his opening remarks in New York, Trump said he’ll be the “greatest jobs producer that god ever created. I’m very proud of what we’ve done, and we haven’t even gotten there yet,” referring to his upcoming inauguration on Jan. 20.
“We have a movement. It’s a movement like the world has never seen before. It was a beautiful scene on Nov. 8 as those states started to pour in,” Trump said of the electoral college results. “Those states are going to have a lot of jobs and a lot of security.”
Shortly before Trump took the stage, his incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters that news reports that surfaced Tuesday night about Russia potentially spying on the president-elect were “outrageous and highly irresponsible . . . shameful and disgraceful.”
Various news outlets reported late Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials briefed Trump last week on unverified and potentially “comprimising” information that Russia was said to have on him.
Vice-president elect Mike Pence took to the podium to call those reports “fake news” before introducing Trump.
Trump himself said: “I read the information, It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. It was a group of opponents that got together. Sick people. They put that crap together.”
He also said of the Russian hacking scandal: “The Democratic National Committee was open to be hacked. They could have had hacking defense. . . . Had they [the hackers] broken into the Republican National Committee, they would have released it.”
The last time Trump held a news conference, he was plunging into a heated general election campaign with Hillary Clinton and suggested Russia could help dig up some of his rival’s emails.
Nearly six months and a presidential campaign victory later, Trump finally stepped before reporters again Wednesday to face questions about what role he believes Russia played in the election year hacking — interference the intelligence community has said was intended to help the Republican defeat Clinton.
Trump since Tuesday night has been criticizing U.S. intelligence agencies over the leak of an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information on him.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that “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?” The tweet was part of an early Wednesday Trump firestorm denouncing the reports, in which he said he has “nothing” to do with Russia.
Trump insisted that the media reports were “very unfair” and payback for defeating other Republican presidential hopefuls and Clinton.
“I win an election easily, a great “movement” is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!”
The Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee says he received sensitive information last year and turned it over to the FBI, an apparent reference to news that Trump was told by intelligence officials about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said in a statement Wednesday that he examined the contents of the material, was unable to make a judgment about the accuracy and delivered the information to the director of the FBI, James Comey.
McCain said: “That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.”
The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee says allegations that Russia has collected damaging personal and financial information on Donald Trump “shakes our democracy to its very core” and should be investigated by Congress.
In a brief interview, New York Rep. Eliot Engel said if the unsubstantiated charges that the Russians have compromising material on the president-elect are true, “It’s a scary thing to have Putin in the driver’s seat.”
Trump and a spokesman for Putin have denied the allegations.
Engel says Trump needs to “come clean.” He says simply denying the charges is insufficient and says Trump must “tell us everything he knows.”
Contributing: Associated Press