Tuesday 10 December 2019

Fake news, hidden cameras and comparisons to Nazi Germany - Donald Trump's first news conference since election is predictably bullish

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, US (Photo: Reuters)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, US (Photo: Reuters)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump waits with his children before speaking during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan. (Photo: Reuters)

US President-elect Donald Trump has suggested at a New York press conference that intelligence agencies may be responsible for the release of a dossier containing allegations that Russia holds compromising information about him.

At his first press conference since winning November's presidential election, Mr Trump thanked media organisations which held back from publishing details from the dossier, which has reportedly been circulating in Washington for some time.

In the hours before the long-awaited event in New York, Mr Trump sent out a series of tweets alleging the publication of the unverified allegations amounted to a "political witch-hunt" and comparing the controversy to events in Nazi Germany.

Mr Trump said that if the intelligence agencies were shown to be responsible for releasing the document, it would be a "tremendous blot" on their reputation.

Reports of the dossier - said to have been drawn up by a former British intelligence officer with extensive experience of Russia - dominated the run-up to Mr Trump's press conference, which came nine days before his inauguration as the 45th US President.

US intelligence officers briefed the Republican president-elect and President Barack Obama about the contents of the document last week and reports emerged last night on CNN. Web-based news site Buzzfeed published the dossier in full.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were "complete fabrication and utter nonsense" and said the Russian government "does not engage in collecting compromising material".

Opening his press conference in front of a row of US flags, Mr Trump said: "I want to thank a lot of the news organisations here today, because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies - who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot.

"A thing like that should never have been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never have been released.

"I want to thank a lot of the news organisations, some of whom have not treated me very well over the years - a couple in particular - and they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station."

Mr Trump said that news organisations which decided not to publish the claims were "so incredibly professional that I've just gone up a notch as to what I think of you".

After Moscow dismissed the claims, the President-elect sent out a series of angry tweets.

"Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is 'A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.' Very unfair!" he wrote.

"Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!

"I win an election easily, a great 'movement' is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!

"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?"

Vice-president-elect Mike Pence attacked "irresponsible" media organisations who had carried details of the "false and unsubstantiated report".

At the start of the press conference, Mr Pence said: "The irresponsible decision of a few news organisations to run with a false and unsubstantiated report when most news organisations resisted the temptation to propagate this fake news can only be attributed to media bias and attempt to demean the president-elect and our incoming administration and the American people are sick and tired of it."

Mr Trump said it was a "disgrace" the way the information had been leaked.

"It is all fake news. It is phoney stuff. It didn't happen and it was gotten by opponents of ours," he said.

"It was a group of opponents who got together - sick people - and they put that crap together. Somebody released it. It shouldn't have even entered paper but it should never have even been released. I read what was released and I think it was a disgrace."

Mr Trump said he believed Russia's claim that it did not gather compromising information about him, claiming Moscow would have published whatever it held.

"President Putin and Russia put out a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news, they said it totally never happened," the controversial tycoon said.

"Somebody would say 'oh of course he's going to say that' - I respected the fact that he said that.

"And I'll be honest - I think if he did have something they would have released it, they would have been glad to release it."

Discussing the fake news, Trump later said that it is "something Nazi Germany would have done." He added that "as far as Buzzfeed which is a failing pile of garbage writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences, and they already are."

“Be quiet. I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump told CNN reporter Jim Acosta,

Mr Trump said that the United States is "being hacked by everybody including China and Russia."

The President-elect also indicated that he thought the hacking of his defeated Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton's emails had uncovered information that was in the public interest.

"Hacking is bad and it shouldn't be done but look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking - that Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn't report it, that's a horrible thing, that's a horrible thing," Mr Trump said.

"Can you imagine if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate?

"It would have been the biggest story in the history of stories and they would have said immediately 'you have to get out of the race' - nobody even talked about it, that's a very terrible thing."

Mr Trump said that while he believed Russia had been involved in cyber hacking against the US "other countries and other people" had also been involved.

He said the Democratic National Committee's computer - which was hacked during the election campaign - had been "totally open to be hacked".

"They did a very poor job. They could have had hacking defence which we had," he said.

"They tried to hack the Republican National Committee and they were unable to break through. We have to do that for our country. It is very important."

Referring to the allegations contained in the dossier, the President-elect told reporters he was a "germophobe".

"Does anyone really believe that story?" he said. "I'm also very much of a germophobe by the way, believe me."

He also discussed his relationship with President Putin, by stating: "If Putin likes Donald Trump, that's an asset!'", before saying there is no "reset button" for its relations, adding they will "either get on or they won't."

The Republican said he when he travels outside the US, he is "extremely careful".

"I'm surrounded by bodyguards, I'm surround by people and I always tell them ... if I am leaving this country, be very careful because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you are probably going to have cameras.

"I'm not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category.

"And, number one, I hope you are going to be good anyway but in those rooms you have cameras in the strangest places, cameras that are so small with modern technology you can't see them and you won't know.

"You'd better be careful or you will be watching yourself on nightly television."

During the conference, president-elect Trump warned of the possibilities of hacking, stating: "I am extremely careful. I always tell [my people] be very careful, because in those rooms you have cameras in the strangest places -you can’t see them and you won’t know," he said.

"You better be careful or you will be watching yourself on nightly television.

Trump also mentioned a $2b "deal" he turned downed in Dubai due to not wanting to create "a conflict."

During this press conference, he also promised to be "greatest job creator God ever created," calling out pharma companies and praising the work he has done with the motor industry.

Trump described the Pharma lobby as too powerful and stated that he is supporting allowing government to negotiate over drug prices.

President Trump added that he is handing over control of his business empire to his two sons.

Mr Trump said there was no requirement for him to give up the management of the Trump Organisation during his time in the White House, as presidents were exempted from conflict of interest rules.

He brushed aside calls for him to release his tax returns, insisting voters did not care about the payments he had made.

Facing questions on the returns - which he consistently refused to release during his election battle with Hillary Clinton - the Republican president-elect told reporters: "I won. I don't think they care at all."

Mr Trump also sought to alleviate concerns that he could violate the US constitution's "emoluments clause" - designed to keep the president free from outside influence - if foreign governments spend money at or on one of his business.

His tax lawyer Sheri Dillon told the press conference Mr Trump would therefore "donate" all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the US Treasury.

He maintained his promise to build a wall between US and Mexico on the border, saying "I don't feel like waiting a year and a half. Mexico in some form... will reimburse us for the wall," adding "I don't want to wait a year of a half."

He added that vice president Pence be "leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin".

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