JULIE PACE, LAURIE KELLMAN, AP
NEW YORK (AP) — Hours before his first news conference as president-elect, Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted U.S. intelligence agencies, blaming them for leaking unsubstantiated reports on his relationship with Russia and demanding, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday 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 quickly took to Twitter to denounce it as “fake news.” He suggested that he’s being persecuted for defeating other GOP presidential hopefuls and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.
“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 tweeted early Wednesday. “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?”
The topic appears certain to come up at the previously scheduled new conference Wednesday morning. The news conference had been designed for Trump to discuss whether and how he plans to avoid conflicts of interest with his global business empire.
Trump is certain to face questions about what role he believes Russia played in the election year hacking of Democratic groups — interference the intelligence community says was intended to help the Republican defeat Clinton.
A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, denied allegations that Russia has compromising material on Trump. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed news reports as a “complete fabrication and utter nonsense.” He insisted that the Kremlin “does not engage in collecting compromising material.”
Trump’s news conference is also expected to include questions about how he plans to disentangle himself from his family-owned international real estate development, property management and licensing business. Trump had originally planned to outline those steps at a mid-December news conference, but the event was delayed, in part because of the complexity of the matter.
Last week, Trump told The Associated Press that there was a “very simple solution” to his potential business conflicts. He’s said he will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization, but has not made clear whether he will retain a financial interest in the company.
Trump has sporadically taken questions during the transition, popping out of the gold-plated elevators at his eponymous Manhattan skyscraper to address reporters for a few minutes or greeting the media on the driveway of his South Florida club. But those encounters have all been brief, leaving many details of the president-elect’s policy positions unclear.
Trump has supplemented the short press sessions with a steady stream of 140-character tweets, weighing in on everything from the intelligence community’s track record to actress Meryl Streep’s critical remarks about him at the Golden Globes. The president-elect also used Twitter to stunningly suggest the U.S. should boost its nuclear capabilities, another one of the vague policy pronouncements that could come up Wednesday.
Less than two weeks from taking office, Trump is also confronting the reality of implementing his sweeping campaign promises, including building a wall along the nation’s southern border and having Mexico foot the bill. Trump’s team is considering relying on an existing law that authorizes fencing — and the U.S. taxpayer money to bankroll it — at the border. Trump still insists, however, that Mexico will eventually pay for any projects.
Trump and Republican lawmakers are also grappling with how to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, a long-sought GOP goal. Some Republicans have suggested delaying a replacement measure, though Trump told the New York Times Tuesday that he wants to take that step “very quickly or simultaneously” with the repeal.
The president-elect has not specified what he believes should be included in a new health care law.
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