US President-elect Donald Trump answers journalists questions during a press conference. (AFP Photo)
He also announced a plan to comprehensively separate himself from his businesses, which will be put under a trust to be run by his two sons, Don Trump Jr and Eric Trump, and a long time Trump Organization executive.
Significantly, with implications for the organization’s overseas interests, all pending foreign deals will be terminated forthwith, all 30 of them, which may include some in India. And the organization will not sign any new foreign deal.
According to the long-awaited separation plan, Trump will not discuss his business with his sons, nor see detailed reports about them. All new deals made by the organization, to be made only domestically, will be vetted by an ethics adviser.
Trump made these remarks and announcements at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York, which was dominated by reports US intelligence chiefs had told the president-elect about Russia possessing damaging information on him.
“It’s a disgrace,” Trump said when asked about the reports, which he had slammed in Tweets earlier in the day, and called them “fake news”, “phony stuff” and said some “sick people had put that crap together”.
And, he said in his typically Trumpian manner giving himself room to deny it later,, that “nonsense” may have been released or leaked by intelligence agencies, which he added, “would be a tremendous blot on their record if they did”.
The unsubstantiated information, which was contained in a two-page note given to him along with a report on Russian meddling in US elections last Friday, was gathered by a former British intelligence operative working for Trump’s political rivals.
They also informed him of exchanges between his surrogates and Russian intermediaries during the campaign. Both claims were made in a two-page note they gave him with a report on Russian meddling in the elections.
These claims came on a day Trump’s cabinet nominees began their confirmation hearings, with Jeff Sessions – for attorney general – going first, and a day before the President-elect is scheduled to hold a much-awaited news conference.
Trump had reacted angrily to the report, writing in all-caps on Twitter, his go-to social media platform, “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” His aides and sympathetic news outlets ran variations of the denial hash-tagged #FakeNews.
Continuing his twitter-tirade into Wednesday, Trump said, again very angry as the tweet using all-caps words suggested, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” And went on to cite the Russian government’s denials.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir, has called the report a “complete fabrication”, and said, “This is an evident attempt to harm our bilateral ties. The Kremlin does not engage in collecting compromising information.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign alums seemed angry too, but for a very different reason. Some of these allegations had been around for a while but media outlets that knew of them chose to ignore it for one reason or the other.
“Today has brought a gush of reporting that outlets knew about and sat on prior to November 8,” Brian Fallon, former Clinton campaign spokesman wrote on Twitter, adding in another post, “I repeat: certain media outlets were told this prior to November 8.”
No one published them, until Tuesday that is.
But no outlet reported details of the damaging information, saying they were unverified and unsubstantiated. The document itself was uploaded by a news publication that said it would let the American people make up their own minds.
CNN, which broke the tory Tuesday, said claims about Russia possessing compromising information on Trump were based on memos from a former British intelligence member whose past work was reportedly found credible by the US intelligence.
The claims, which the FBI was looking into, were apparently made made by Russian sources, who gave details about the compromising information, meetings of Trump surrogates and Russian intermediaries, and where.
Though it wasn’t clear, the report seemed to suggest that the two-page synopsis culled from some 35 pages of memos from the former British spy were part of opposition research — political dirt — first commissioned by Trump’s Republican rivals during the primaries, and then by Democrats after he won.
Intelligence sources told CNN they decided to append the two-page note to the report on poll meddling to demonstrate that while Russians had damaging information on both parties, they only released those pertaining to Democrats.
The American intelligence community has said that Russia, in its assessment, meddled in the elections on President Vladimir Putin’s instructions to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump win the presidency.
Trump has been openly derisive of the intelligence assessment partly because he views it as an attempt to delegitimise his election — he called it a “political witch-hunt” — and only tangentially acknowledged it after the intelligence briefing.
US lawmakers were briefed about Trump surrogates being in touch with Russian government intermediaries in classified briefings.