President-elect Donald Trump sharply criticized two American news organizations during a press conference Wednesday for publishing what he said were false allegations of attempted Russian political extortion.
“I saw the information. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen,” Trump said during a boisterous press conference in New York.
“And it was gotten by opponents of ours… It was a group of opponents that got together—sick people—and they put that crap together.”
CNN and BuzzFeed reported on a 35-page dossier containing charges that Russian operatives had obtained compromising personal and financial information on Trump.
The unverified allegations were said to have been produced by a former British MI6 intelligence officer now running a private intelligence firm.
CNN reported on a two-page summary of the dossier, while Buzzfeed published the 35-page document that contained lurid allegations the FSB intelligence service had recorded compromising sexual liaisons in a Moscow hotel.
In Moscow, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the government had gathered compromising data on Trump and called news reports a “complete fabrication and utter nonsense.”
“It is an attempt to damage our bilateral relations. It is pulp fiction,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The false accusations gained a measure of credibility after the information was provided to the FBI by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who clashed with Trump during the presidential campaign.
“Late last year, I received sensitive information that has since been made public,” McCain said in a statement. “Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the director of the FBI.”
Trump said the false information should not have been leaked and suggested it was made public by intelligence agencies. In a tweet, he compared the leak to activities by Nazi Germany.
“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake, out,” Trump said. “I think it’s a disgrace, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public.”
Trump described the liberal outlet Buzzfeed as “a failing pile of garbage.” He also criticized CNN.
CNN reporter Jim Acosta attempted to ask Trump a question about his comments but was ignored. “Your organization is terrible … you are fake news,” Trump said.
The president-elect praised Putin for issuing the statement debunking “fake news.”
“And I’ll be honest, I think if he did have something, they would’ve released it; they would’ve been glad to release it,” he said.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said of the Buzzfeed report that it was “outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat out false information on the Internet just days before he takes the oath of office.”
“The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks,” Spicer said.
On Russian election hacking, Trump said he believes Moscow conducted the wide-ranging cyber and influence operation targeting the 2016 election.
He warned Moscow that future attempts at meddling in U.S. politics would have consequences.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said.
Trump said Putin should stop conducting cyber and influence operations and promised the operations would end.
“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 than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe that he will be doing it more now,” Trump said.
Russia is not the sole hacking threat. China also compromised U.S. government data on 22 million federal workers, Trump said, referring to the hack against the Office of Personnel Management in 2015.
“And that’s because we have no defense. That’s because we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing,” Trump said.
“Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I’m leading it,” he added. “There’s no reset button. We’re either going to get along or we’re not. I hope we get along, but if we don’t, that’s possible too.”
Trump said he has tasked computer security experts to develop better defenses against cyber attacks.
As for the election hacking, Trump blamed the Democratic National Committee for failing to protect the security of its information. He noted that Republican National Committee servers were better protected, so the Russians “were unable to break through.”
On whether Putin favors him, Trump said he considers the Russian leader’s admiration an asset.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability,” Trump said.
Trump said he does not know if he will get along with Putin but hopes that he will.
“But there’s a good chance I won’t, and if I don’t, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break,” he said.
On repealing Obamacare, Trump vowed to produce a replacement health care system.
“Obamacare is a complete and total disaster,” he said, adding that the health care overhaul is imploding with skyrocketing premiums.
An alternative plan will be presented soon, he said.
“Obamacare is the Democrats’ problem,” Trump said. “We are gonna take the problem off the shelves for them. We’re doing them a tremendous service by doing it. We could sit back and let them hang with it. We are doing the Democrats a great service.”