US President-elect Donald Trump has suggested American intelligence agencies may be responsible for releasing an explosive dossier containing allegations that Russia holds compromising information about him.
In a dramatic press conference in New York, the billionaire tycoon branded the unverified dossier fake news and said it would be a tremendous blot on the agencies’ reputations if they were shown to have leaked it.
He clashed with a correspondent from TV news channel CNN, which thrust the document into the heart of political debate by reporting on Tuesday that intelligence officers had briefed both Mr Trump and President Barack Obama on its contents.
Repeatedly refusing to take a question from the CNN reporter, he branded the channel fake news and lambasted news website Buzzfeed as a failing pile of garbage which would suffer the consequences of publishing the contents of the dossier in full.
In an often rowdy conference lasting just over an hour, Mr Trump announced plans to:
Hand over control of the Trump Organisation to sons Donald Jr and Eric to avoid perceived conflicts of interest while he is in the White House;
Remove daughter Ivanka whose husband Jared Kushner is a key aide from all positions with the company;
Donate any profits from foreign governments using his hotels to the US Treasury.
He said he was taking the measures voluntarily, as the law did not require presidents to avoid conflicts of interest.
And he brushed off demands for the publication of his tax returns, saying he was unable to release them as they were under audit and that anyway, voters had demonstrated that they don’t care about the issue when they elected him president.
President-elect Donald Trump takes questions during a news conference (Seth Wenig/AP) He confirmed plans to repeal and replace his predecessor’s Obamacare health system and to build a wall along the border with Mexico, with the costs to be reimbursed by Mexico.
But the long-awaited conference was dominated by allegations about the dossier, which had been circulating in Washington for some time as media organisations, uncertain of its credibility, held back from publication.
In the hours before his appearance, Mr Trump issued a series of tweets it which he denounced the document supposedly compiled by a British former intelligence agent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were complete fabrication and utter nonsense and said the Russian government does not engage in collecting compromising material.
Standing in front of a row of US flags, Mr Trump blamed the creation of the dossier on his political opponents who he said had got together sick people and they put that crap together.
Some of the more lurid details of the allegations were highly improbable because he was a germophobe who hated uncleanliness, he said.
He thanked media organisations which declined to publish the phoney stuff, saying: They looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies who knows but maybe the intelligence agencies which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot.
A thing like that should never have been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never have been released.
Donald Trump stands with Vice President-elect Mike Pence
Mr Trump insisted Moscow had no leverage over him as he had no deals, no loans, no nothing with Russia.
He said he accepted Mr Putin’s assurance that it had not been gathering information on him and hoped to enjoy good relations with Russia.