Trump holds first new conference of the year: Highlights

The last time Donald J. Trump took questions from reporters in a formal news conference, in July, he called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails.

As he steps to the microphone in Trump Tower on Wednesday, his inauguration just a week away, the topics at hand are not all that different. Besides the unsubstantiated intelligence report about supposed Russian blackmail, he will most likely be questioned about his opaque and complex finances, his cabinet nominees and his policy agenda for the first days in office.

Here are the highlights:

■ Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, spoke first to address the publication of the salacious but unverified reports by BuzzFeed on Tuesday. Mr. Spicer called the reports a “frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible” attack on Mr. Trump. Calling the reports a “sad, pathetic attempt to get clicks,” Mr. Spicer said they were not an intelligence report and were categorically false.

■ Mr. Spicer also criticized CNN, but that network did not publish the documents and reported only that Mr. Trump had been briefed on them by intelligence officials.

■ Vice President-elect Mike Pence followed Mr. Spicer and amplified his condemnation of news reports by BuzzFeed and other news outlets, which he said were “irresponsible” and aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s legitimate election victory.

■ Mr. Trump began by thanking news organizations that did not report what he called “the nonsense that was released.” He said he has “great respect for freedom of the press, and all of that.”

■ Mr. Trump said that the document “was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, which would be a tremendous blot on their record.”

■ Turning to the work that he said he had been doing during the transition, Mr. Trump said he expected to announce “big news” in the next few weeks about companies that would build factories in the Midwest.

■ Mr. Trump said he was looking forward to his inauguration. “It’s going to be a beautiful event,” he said. “We have great talent, tremendous talent.” And, he added, “massive crowds” as well.

■ Mr. Trump made some news: He said he had asked David J. Shulkin, a current under secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to lead the agency. Mr. Trump said his team had interviewed “at least 100 people” in the search for a secretary.

■ Mr. Trump said that after his briefing last Friday with American intelligence officials, he indeed thought Russia was behind the effort to hack his opponents. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” Mr. Trump said.

■ He went on to cast blame on the Democratic National Committee for the hacking. He praised the Republican National Committee for having better defenses and commended Reince Priebus, his incoming chief of staff, who was the committee chairman.

■ Mr. Trump reiterated his description of the report printed by BuzzFeed as “fake news,” saying he did not think President Vladimir V. Putin had compromising information about him or the Republican Party. “I’ll be honest, if he did have something, he would have released it,” he said.

■ Mr. Trump said he was untroubled by the intelligence reports that said Russia preferred him over Hillary Clinton and that Mr. Putin ordered the hacking during the election to benefit him. “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks: That is called an asset, not a liability,” he said. He added that a strong relationship could allow the two nations to work together on difficult international issues.

■ Mr. Trump swatted away allegations included in the uncorroborated opposition research reports about the intelligence the Russians supposedly have on him. He said he instructs aides any time he goes abroad to ensure that there are no cameras spying on him. He also added, apparently referring to a detail in the report about supposed sex videos with prostitutes, “I’m also very much of a germophobe, believe me.”

■ He denied that he has any business dealings in Russia: “I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. As a real estate developer, I have very, very little debt.”

■ Turning to his businesses, Mr. Trump said he had been offered $2 billion worth of deals in Dubai “over the weekend” but had turned them down.

■ Asked about his tax returns, Mr. Trump said he was still not releasing them “because they are under audit.” He said that the American people did not care about the documents anyway. “The only ones who cares about my tax returns are the reporters,” Mr. Trump said.

■ He said he would not divest from his vast business holdings as he takes office. Instead, the president-elect will turn over the operations and control of those holdings to a trust controlled by his eldest sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

(Source: NYT)