President-elect Donald Trump opened his first press conference since the election by denying the report released by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the intelligence community if it had been released as part of an agenda against him. Trump also called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage” when asked to comment further on the published documents.
The president-elect suggested that the document had been leaked to the press “maybe by the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot if they did that… because it never should have been written and certainly never should have been released.”
Trump also thanked members of the media who criticized the publishing of the report, which was first reported by CNN and later published in full by BuzzFeed. The dossier, which was compiled by an individual claiming to be a British intelligence official and which has still not been verified, alleges that the Russian government is withholding damaging financial and personal information about the president-elect. New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet criticized BuzzFeed, saying NYT would not have released the “totally unsubstantiated” report.
“I just want to compliment many of the people in the room,” Trump said. “I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that, but I will tell you that there were some news organizations, with all that was just said, that were so professional, so incredibly professional, and I’ve just gone up a notch as to what I think of you.”
The press conference opened with a statement from incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said that it was “frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible” for the website to publish the report days before the inauguration. Spicer denied the report’s claim that major members of Trump’s camp, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, had been in contact with the Russian government.
Spicer also denied the claim that ex-Trump adviser Carter Page had ties to the Kremlin, saying that Page is “an individual who the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”
But Page was specifically named by Trump as a member of his foreign policy team, as relayed in a March interview with the Washington Post editorial board. Later, in September, Page told the Post that he was taking a leave of absence from his work with the Trump campaign after leading Democrats including Sen. Harry Reid accused him of meeting with “highly-sanctioned individuals” in Russian president Vladimir Putin’s administration.