Nation/World


Donald Trump cites Kremlin statement to deny reports of Russia ties, asks, ‘Are we living in Nazi Germany?’

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 11, 2017, 8:49 A.M.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on Wednesday in New York. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on Wednesday in New York. (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Donald Trump on Wednesday morning angrily denounced news reports about potentially compromising information Russia has allegedly gathered about him, citing denials from the Kremlin that it has any such intelligence.

The president-elect also charged via Twitter that his “crooked opponents” are trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in “one last shot at me,” saying, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

Trump’s comments follow the revelation Tuesday night that a classified report delivered to Trump and President Obama last week, according to U.S. officials, included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising information about Trump’s personal life and finances.

The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations but believed the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

Trump on Wednesday will hold his first news conference since July. He is certain to face questions about his relationship with Russia and the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Kremlin attempted to sway the outcome of the election in his favor, primarily through disseminating information obtained from the hack of Democratic email systems.

Trump has cast doubt on the veracity of this conclusion, and he and his aides have aggressively pushed back against the idea that it had any effect on the election, calling the story a “witch hunt” being carried out by his political enemies.

Earlier Wednesday, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin called the allegations that Russia has collected compromising information about Trump an “absolute fantasy.”

Soon after, Trump tweeted: “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.’ Very unfair!”

Most media organizations reported only on the existence of the report and that intelligence officials had included a summary of it in their briefings with Trump and Obama on Russia’s attempts to sway the election. But BuzzFeed News published a document supposedly created by a former British intelligence official. The information it contains has not been verified.

Trump and other officials appeared to focus on BuzzFeed’s publication of the report, denying that the document possesses any truth.

Trump said Wednesday morning that he had no relationship with Russia that could compromise him.

“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me,” he said. “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

He again emphasized his belief that his political opponents are trying to undermine his presidency.

“I win an election easily, a great ‘movement’ is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!” he said. “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?”

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday, Trump adviser Reince Priebus called the BuzzFeed report “phony baloney garbage.” He denied that Trump had engaged in compromising behavior in Russia and that Trump aide Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague to meet with Russian officials. Both allegations were contained in the document published by BuzzFeed.

“There was no craziness in Russia. There was no meeting in Prague,” Priebus said. “It is not an intelligence document. Cohen has never been in Prague. And all of this stuff isn’t even fit to print in the New York Times.”

In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday night, Obama said he had not seen the report and declined to comment on classified information.

Obama had ordered the intelligence community to produce the report on Russian attempts to interfere in the presidential election, and it was completed this month.

“My expectation and my hope is that this work will continue after I leave. That Congress, in possession of both the classified and unclassified reports, that the president elect and his administration, in possession of both the classified and unclassified reports, will take it seriously and now get to work reinforcing those mechanisms that we can use to protect our democracy,” he added.

Trump is scheduled to appear before hundreds of reporters at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. His turn at the lectern will signal how much hostility he still harbors toward the news media, whose coverage of his rallies and disruptions initially gave rise to his candidacy and which became one of his favorite punching bags.

He is expected to announce how he intends to disentangle himself from his businesses to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Trump has delayed his post-election news conference for weeks as he worked with his lawyers and advisers to restructure his businesses and separate them from his public duties, both to satisfy ethics experts and meet the expectations of voters. Asked about some of these matters Monday, Trump told reporters to stay tuned.

“We’ll talk about it on Wednesday,” he said. “All I can say is it’s very simple, very easy.”

Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said Trump plans to “lay out the case for how he’s going to resolve a lot of this” at Wednesday’s event.

“He’s going to lay out the steps that he’s taken to go above and beyond what’s required,” Spicer said. “Because he is going to be president, he doesn’t need to do this, but he’s going to do it.”

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, one of Trump’s most controversial Cabinet nominees – his pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who as ExxonMobil chief executive had extensive dealings with Russia and other adversarial countries – is among those who will face scrutiny during Senate confirmation hearings.

Tillerson is expected to emphasize the need for renewed American leadership around the world and warn of a “resurgent Russia.”

“Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” Tillerson is expected to say. “But it was in the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent.

”We did not recognize that Russia does not think like we do,“ Tillerson will say, according to prepared remarks.