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Donald Trump’s news conference: what he said

The last time Donald J. Trump took questions from reporters in a formal news conference, in July, he called on Russia to hack his opponent's emails.

As he stepped to the microphone in Trump Tower on Wednesday, his inauguration just a week away, the topics at hand were not all that different. Besides the unsubstantiated intelligence report about supposed Russian blackmail, he was questioned about his opaque and complex finances, his cabinet nominees and his policy agenda for the first days in office.

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President-elect Donald Trump delivered his first formal press conference following the November presidential election in New York on Wednesday.

Here are the key moments:

  • Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, spoke first to address the publication of the salacious but unverified reports by BuzzFeed on Tuesday. Mr Spicer called the reports a "frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible" attack on Mr Trump. Calling the reports a "sad, pathetic attempt to get clicks," Mr Spicer said they were not an intelligence report and were categorically false.
  • Mr Spicer also criticised CNN, but that network did not publish the documents and reported only that Mr Trump had been briefed on them by intelligence officials.
  • Vice President-elect Mike Pence followed Mr Spicer and amplified his condemnation of news reports by BuzzFeed and other news outlets, which he said were "irresponsible" and aimed at discrediting Mr Trump's legitimate election victory.
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  • Mr Trump began by thanking news organisations that did not report what he called "the nonsense that was released." He said he has "great respect for freedom of the press, and all of that."
  • Mr Trump said that the document "was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, which would be a tremendous blot on their record."
  • Turning to the work that he said he had been doing during the transition, Mr Trump said he expected to announce "big news" in the next few weeks about companies that would build factories in the Midwest.
  • Mr Trump said he was looking forward to his inauguration. "It's going to be a beautiful event," he said. "We have great talent, tremendous talent." And, he added, "massive crowds" as well.
  • Mr Trump made some news: He said he had asked David J. Shulkin, a current under secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to lead the agency. Mr Trump said his team had interviewed "at least 100 people" in the search for a secretary.
  • Mr Trump said that after his briefing last Friday with American intelligence officials, he indeed thought Russia was behind the effort to hack his opponents. "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia," Mr Trump said.
  • He went on to cast blame on the Democratic National Committee for the hacking. He praised the Republican National Committee for having better defences and commended Reince Priebus, his incoming chief of staff, who was the committee chairman.
  • Mr Trump reiterated his description of the report printed by BuzzFeed as "fake news," saying he did not think President Vladimir V. Putin had compromising information about him or the Republican Party. "I'll be honest, if he did have something, he would have released it," he said.
  • Mr Trump said he was untroubled by the intelligence reports that said Russia preferred him over Hillary Clinton and that Mr Putin ordered the hacking during the election to benefit him. "If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks: That is called an asset, not a liability," he said. He added that a strong relationship could allow the two nations to work together on difficult international issues.
  • Mr Trump swatted away allegations included in the uncorroborated opposition research reports about the intelligence the Russians supposedly have on him. He said he instructs aides any time he goes abroad to ensure that there are no cameras spying on him. He also added, apparently referring to a detail in the report about supposed sex videos with prostitutes, "I'm also very much of a germophobe, believe me."
  • He denied that he has any business dealings in Russia: "I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. As a real estate developer, I have very, very little debt."
  • Turning to his businesses, Mr Trump said he had been offered $US2 billion worth of deals in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, "over the weekend" but had turned them down.
  • Asked about his tax returns, Mr Trump said he was still not releasing them "because they are under audit." He said that the American people did not care about the documents anyway. "The only ones who cares about my tax returns are the reporters," Mr Trump said.
  • He said he would not divest from his vast business holdings as he takes office. Instead, the president-elect will turn over the operations and control of those holdings to a trust controlled by his eldest sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
  • Sheri Dillon, a lawyer for Mr Trump, took the stage to describe the arrangement in greater detail. "President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubts in the mind of the American people that he is separating himself from his business interests," she said, adding that Mr Trump's sons will make all decisions for the company "without any involvement whatsoever" from Mr Trump. She said Mr Trump would resign from all positions he holds with the Trump Organization, as would his daughter Ivanka.
  • Ms Dillon said that no new foreign deals will be allowed during the presidency and new domestic deals would be subject to strict restrictions. "He will only know of a deal if he reads about it in the paper or sees it on TV," Ms Dillon said, referring to Mr Trump. She also said an ethics adviser would be appointed to the management team of the Trump Organisation.
  • Ms Dillon argued that selling Mr Trump's business would prove more difficult and create more ethical quandaries than the plan that the Trump Organisation had chosen. A totally blind trust, she said, would likewise be impossible under the circumstances. And, she added, "President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built."
  • Ms Dillon laid out what amounts to the Trump administration's interpretation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which prohibits government officials from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government. "No one would have thought when the Constitution was written, that paying your hotel bill was an emolument," she said. To avoid any appearances of violations, Ms Dillon said Mr Trump had pledged to donate to the United States government all profits made by his hotels from payments by foreign governments.
  • Asked to address criticism that his cabinet choices have presented an abundance of conflicts of interest, Mr Trump merely praised his appointments. "I think we have one of the great cabinets ever put together," he said.
  • Mr Trump expressed glee at being asked about his plans for the Affordable Care Act. "Finally, Obamacare, I thought it was never going to be asked!" He said that he had considered letting the law implode on its own and letting Democrats take the political hit he said would follow. But he said he had decided on a more forthright strategy: repeal and replace "almost simultaneously." Mr Trump was short on details, but clearer in his intention to try to keep Democrats responsible. "We don't want to own it politically," he said.
  • Mr Trump said Carrier's decision to keep jobs in Indiana sent a clear signal to other companies thinking of moving production overseas. "The word is now out," he said, reiterating a call for a "major border tax on these companies that are leaving."
  • About that wall: "I don't feel like waiting a year, a year and a half, I want to start building," he said. He reiterated that Mexico would reimburse the cost, but he added cryptically that it probably wouldn't be in the form of "a payment."
  • Turning to the Supreme Court, Mr Trump said he expects to announce a nominee to fill the court's vacant seat two weeks or so after he takes office.
  • Mr Trump returned to the topic of Russia. "I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies let any information that turned out to be so false and fake to get out," he said. Explaining his Twitter post comparing the United States to Nazi Germany, he said of the leaks: "That's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do." Mr Trump added that BuzzFeed is "a failing pile of garbage" that would suffer the consequences for publishing the uncorroborated report.
  • Mr Trump was asked how he would reform the news media he criticises frequently. "I don't recommend reforms," he said. "I recommend people that have some moral compass." He added: "I will tell you, some of the media outlets that I deal with are fake news, more so than anybody."

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting.

New York Times