It felt like President-elect Donald Trump had readied himself for war the minute he stepped out to give his first news conference since being elected.
He did say that he felt Russia did have a hand in hacking the DNC and Hillary Clinton‘s campaign manager but was quick to say that it was their fault for not having better security. Trump also let it be known that he will not be releasing his tax returns as he felt that American’s didn’t care about that.
One big moment was when he was on full attack against CNN and would not answer a question from their reporter and insisted on calling the news organization ‘fake new.’ This only showed that he will run his White House as a bully pulpit and only those that fall in line with his words and ego will get their questions answered.
It was technically a news conference, but it felt more like Donald Trump showing his power and letting those know if they disagree with him or question his words, there will be consequences. The full transcript is here.
A defiant President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday adamantly denied reports that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the record of the intelligence community if material with any such allegations had been released.
The incoming president, in his first news conference since late July, firmly chided news organizations for publishing the material late Tuesday night. After weeks of scoffing at reports that Russians had interfered in the election, he conceded publicly for the first time that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said and quickly added that the United States is hacked by other countries as well, including China.
Trump’s extraordinary defense against the unsubstantiated intelligence report, just nine days before his inauguration, dominated a highly-anticipated press conference in which he also announced a new Cabinet member, detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his sprawling global business empire, gave his outlook on the future of the “Obamacare” health care law and said he would soon nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said in a news conference that saw him repeatedly joust with reporters. “It was gotten by opponents of ours.”
Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump boasted that it is an improvement over what he called America’s current “horrible relationship with Russia” and did not criticize the Russian leader for any interference in the election.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that’s called an asset not a liability. I don’t know if I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin – I hope I do – but there’s a good chance I won’t.”
Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also denounced the report about Russia’s influence on Trump, and the incoming president said it never should have been released. He thanked some news organizations for showing restraint.
A U.S. official told media outlets on Tuesday night that intelligence officials had informed Trump last week about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.
Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week, the official said.
Media outlets reported on the document late Tuesday and Trump denounced it on Twitter before his news conference as “fake news,” suggesting he was being persecuted for defeating other GOP presidential hopefuls and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.
The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump’s inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources.
Only days from his inauguration as the nation’s 45th president, Trump announced that he would nominate David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, elevating him from his current role as VA undersecretary.
He promised that a replacement for the health care overhaul would be offered “essentially simultaneously” with the repeal of Obama’s signature health law – something that would be virtually impossible to quickly pass given the complexity of the policy changes. Republicans agree on repealing the law but nearly seven years after its passage have failed to reach agreement on its replacement.
Trump has repeatedly said that repealing and replacing “Obamacare” was a top priority, but has never fully explained how he plans to do it. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the House would seek to take both steps “concurrently.”
Turning to his plans to build a border wall along the southern border, Trump said he would immediately begin negotiations with Mexico on funding his promised wall after he takes office. He again vowed that “Mexico will pay for the wall but it will be reimbursed.” Trump recommitted to his plans to impose a border tax on manufacturers who shut plants and move production abroad. While the tax policy could retain jobs, it would also carry the risk of increasing prices for consumers.
Trump also said he would probably name his choice to fill the vacancy left by the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in about two weeks after the inauguration.
And he announced his plans for the future of the Trump Organization, bringing to the podium attorney Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, who worked with the Trump Organization on the arrangement.
Dillon said the Trump Organization would continue to pursue deals in the U.S., though Trump will relinquish control of the company to his sons and an executive, put his business assets in a trust and take other steps to isolate himself from his business. She said Trump “should not be expected to destroy the company he built.”
The move appears to contradict a previous pledge by the president-elect. In a tweet last month, Trump vowed to do “no new deals” while in office.
The lawyer said Trump would donate all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the U.S. treasury.
And pushing back against some ethics experts, Dillon said the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to foreign payments to Trump’s company. While some ethics officials have said that foreign leaders who pay for rooms and services at his various hotels would run afoul of the constitutional ban on foreign gifts or payments to the president, Dillon referred to it as a “fair-value exchange.”
Main Highlights from Donald Trump News Conference:
Russian hacking, and reports of Russia holding “compromising information” on him
Mr. Trump said he’s not allowed to discuss information that was presented during his intelligence briefing — but confirmed that outside the briefing, he did, in fact, see the memo in question on compromising information, calling it a “disgrace.”
“I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news — it’s phony 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.”
Asked whether he accepts the intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia actively worked to influence the 2016 election, Mr. Trump said he believes Russia was responsible for the hacking — but stopped short of saying he believed they had an influence on the campaign.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russian,” he said. “But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people and I can say that when we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn’t make a big deal out of that, that was something that was extraordinary.”
Asked if he had a message for Putin about future hacking activities, Mr. Trump replied: “He shouldn’t be doing it, he won’t be doing it.”
“Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it,” he said. “You will see that.”
He said he considers Putin’s praise of him to be “an asset, not a liability,” though he doesn’t yet know whether he and Putin will “get along.”
“Now I don’t know that I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin,” he said. “I hope I do, but … do you honestly believe that Hillary [Clinton] will be tougher on Putin than me?”
Separation from business empire
Though Mr. Trump asserted that he would have been able to continue running his business from the White House if he wanted to, he said his two sons, Eric and Donald Jr., along with Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, would take over his businesses while he’s president.
“I could actually run my business … and run government at the same time,” he said. “I don’t like the way that looks but I’d be able to if I wanted to.”
The stacks of manila folders on the table next to Mr. Trump at the podium were, he said, “some of the many documents I’ve signed turning over complete and total control.”
Mr. Trump introduced Sherri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, a lawyer who has been working on the plan for the Trump business empire.
Dillon said Mr. Trump’s business holdings and investments will be put in a trust before Inauguration Day to be overseen by sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Mr. Trump also said that his two adult sons will run the company. Ivanka Trump, whose husband Jared Kushner is set to become a senior adviser to the Trump White House, will have “no further management” role in the company.
There will be “no new foreign deals” made during the duration of Mr. Trump’s presidency, Dillon added, and domestic deals will be subject to “severe restrictions.”
To people who suggest Mr. Trump should sell his business, Dillon said that would only “exacerbate” the possibility for conflicts.
Additionally, in order to ensure that “it is the American people who will profit” going forward, Mr. Trump has directed that all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels will be donated to the U.S. Treasury.”
At the start of the press conference, Mr. Trump thanked news organizations that did not run stories on Russia’s alleged compromising information about him.
“I want to thank a lot of the news organizations, some of whom have not treated me well over the years, a couple in particular, and they came out so strongly against that fake news,” he said. “I have great respect for the news, I have great respect for freedom of the press and all of that, but I will tell you there were some news organizations … that were so professional, so incredibly professional.”
Later on, he called BuzzFeed, which posted a document which it says is the dossier about the Russian information, “a failing pile of garbage,” and also criticized CNN for publicizing the reports on Tuesday.
CNN reporter Jim Acosta attempted to ask a follow-up question, but Mr. Trump repeatedly shut him down.
“No, not you, your organization is terrible. Quiet. Quiet,” he said. As Acosta continued trying to ask a question, talking over another reporter, Mr. Trump continued: “Don’t be rude. Don’t be rude. Don’t. Be. Rude. I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news.”
After the exchange, he called on CNN digital reporter Jeremy Diamond, CBS News’ Arden Farhi noted.
U.S.-Mexico border wall
On a question about his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Mr. Trump said Mexico will “reimburse” the U.S. for the wall because he doesn’t want to wait to build it until a deal can be made with Mexico.
“I want to get the wall started,” he said. “I don’t want to wait a year and a half until I make my deal with Mexico.”
As for the form that reimbursement will take, Mr. Trump said it’s more likely it will be through a “tax” than a “payment.”
“They will reimburse us for the cost of the wall, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment,” he said. “Probably less likely that it’s a payment.”
Supreme Court nominee
In response to a question from CBS News’ Major Garrett, Mr. Trump said he plans to announce his pick to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “within two weeks” of taking office.
“That will be probably within two weeks of the 20th,” he said. “So within about two weeks, probably the second week.”
Asked to discuss his administration’s plan for dealing with the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Trump declined to give any specifics but said, “We’re going to get health care taken care of in this country.”
He did say, however, that the ACA would be replaced “essentially simultaneously” with something “far less expensive and far better.” As soon as his health and human services secretary nominee, Rep. Tom Price, is confirmed, Mr. Trump told reporters “we’ll be submitting a plan” to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Obamacare is a complete and total disaster,” he said, citing increased premiums and high deductibles. “…Frankly, we could sit back — and it was a thought from a political standpoint — but it wouldn’t be fair to the people.”