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For the first time since July, President-elect Donald Trump held a press conference — nine days before he is set to be sworn in as the next leader of the free world.
Wednesday’s hourlong press conference came hours after news reports surfaced that both Trump and President Obama were briefed on Russia’s efforts to help Trump politically with the larger goal of creating instability inside the United States and potentially gathering blackmail material. None of the allegations have been verified, but apparently intelligence officials believed the information was credible enough to bring it to them.
Up to this point, Trump had not addressed how he will handle potential conflicts of interest in his business dealings around the world. He originally scheduled a press conference to address those issues in December, but it was postponed until now.
Here’s a quick rundown of what happened:
On developing Russia story, Trump played good cop
Give credit to the Trump team for not ignoring or sidestepping questions about the CNN and BuzzFeed reports that suggest the relationship between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign was much deeper than previously known. (Then again, it would have been impossible to avoid the subject.)
The press conference kicked off with incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer calling the reports a “sad attempt at getting clicks.” Vice President-elect Mike Pence reinforced this message with accusations of “media bias” that “the American people are sick and tired of it.”
Next, Trump began his remarks with praise for the news organizations that didn’t publish these reports, even those that “in the past didn’t treat me so well.”
He warned that if intelligence officials leaked the reports it was a “disgrace” and would be a “huge blot” on their credibility.
He (finally) announced his appointment for secretary of veterans affairs
Also in his opening remarks, Trump announced his pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will be Dr. David Shulkin. He is currently the under secretary of health for the VA. Trump said that he will also announce a partnership with leading hospitals like the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic to aid veterans.
Trump said he interviewed “about 100 people, some good, some not so good.” Among those he met with about the position was former US senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts (at least according to Brown).
Shulkin, so far, would be the most high-profile holdover from the Obama administration.
He referenced some $2 billion deal that wasn’t
In what appeared to be an off-the-cuff remark, Trump said he was offered a $2 billion deal in Dubai from a friend. He said he turned it down because “I don’t want to take advantage of anything.”
His attorney presented a plan for Trump’s business interests . . . sort of
Moments before the press conference began, Trump aides quickly stacked piles of papers on a table. Later, his attorney, Sheri Dillon, took to the lectern to explain these were documents that included Trump’s signature where he signed away his businesses to be run by this two sons.
Trump will put his money into a trust, but it is not a blind trust. “It is hard for Mr. Trump to un-know that he owns Trump Tower,” Dillon said. Instead, the trust has two parts: cash and his property holders, such as golf clubs and rental properties.
Inside the Trump Organization, an ethics manager will be installed to oversee new domestic deals. Dillon said there won’t be any foreign deals during a Trump presidency.
What’s important to note, however, is that Trump is not officially walking away from his businesses. He is not selling his business or giving it away to his sons. He retains ownership, but his attorney says he won’t know anything about what the business is doing unless he reads about it in the press.
He wants to donate foreign profits from his hotels to the US Treasury
Dillon also addressed the emoluments clause, which makes it unconstitutional for a president to benefit from foreign governments or entities. That’s an issue if foreign diplomats stay in Trump’s hotels.
While Dillon argued that these diplomats are paying for a hotel room and not paying Trump, she said that Trump will donate all profits from foreign customers to the US Treasury “so that the American people benefit.” (It’s not clear how this would exactly work.)
One thing NOT in those stacks of papers: his tax returns
Trump was asked whether he will release his tax returns, which he has so far refused to do. He said he wouldn’t and that only reporters care about releasing them.
“I won,” he said.
A CNN reporter was denied
An hour into the press conference, CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, but Trump waved him off, saying, “Not from you. Your organization is horrible.” Acosta persisted with his question after Trump repeated told him “no” and “don’t be rude.”
“I am not going to give you a question,” Trump said to the CNN reporter. “You are fake news.”
For first time, Trump said Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC
For months, Trump denied or questioned US intelligence agencies who said with “high confidence” that Russia tried to interfere with the presidential election.
Now Trump said Russia was behind the hacking. He said that China has also tried to hack the government and private organizations.
A reporter asked Trump if he had a message for Vladimir Putin on his attempts to interfere with domestic politics.
“He shouldn’t be doing it,” Trump responded. “He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country than will other people are leading it. We will have to work something out.”
He wants to nominate someone to the Supreme Court in the first two weeks of presidency
Trump enters the presidency with an open Supreme Court seat to fill. When asked about it, he made reference to the list of 20 potential court picks that he released during the campaign.
Trump said he will make a decision on his pick within the first two weeks.
“Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Trump was asked to explain what he meant in a tweet posted earlier in the day that referred to the Russia story — which he dismissed as “fake news” — and accused intelligence agencies of leaking the content.
What did he mean?
“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that was false and fake to get out,” Trump said. “It was something Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”