After 167 days without a press conference, Donald Trump’s performance in Trump Tower didn’t disappoint. He abused journalists, denounced a string of media organisations and compared his own intelligence services with those of Nazi Germany.
Some of us wondered whether the latest scandal – allegations that Russian intelligence operatives had gathered compromising material or Kompromat on the President-elect – would force Trump to tread carefully, or even cancel his scheduled appointment with the assembled press corps at Trump Tower.
Of course that’s not his style. He was in full combat mode as he answered questions about what he gets up to in Moscow hotel rooms, lambasting the media that published the unverified document and throwing in a gag – ‘Does anyone really believe that story? I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me.’
He rounded on his own intelligence agencies. In blistering language he blamed them for the release of the document and reopening his running feud with the people he will need to work with next week when he is sworn in as president. ‘I think it’s a disgrace,’ he said. ‘And I say that is something that Nazi Germany would have done.’
Although his refusal to answer a Buzzfeed reporter’s question will anger liberals, there is a whole other world beyond New York that will nod their heads. How could a media organisation publish such salacious details without any verification? How could it put such salacious documents – gathered by a former intelligence officer on behalf of Trump’s opponents – online without knowing whether or not they were true? That offered Trump a very open goal. ‘It’s all fake news. It’s phoney stuff. It did not happen,’ was his response.
Yet there are other elements of the dossier that may prove less easily to deny and more problematic to Trump once the bluster has faded and we look again at the transcript of the press conference. The new dossier alleges a back-and-forth of information between Trump surrogates and intermediaries. And it spells out the apparent motives of Putin’s regime in targeting the property billionaire years before his political ambitions took him to the White House. ‘Its aim was to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself but more especially in the transatlantic alliance which was viewed as inimicable to Russian interests,’ said the dossier.
When Trump was asked specifically about whether any of his campaign team was in touch with Moscow he segued straight into an answer about alleged Russian hacking of the Democrat campaign. ‘He shouldn’t be doing it,’ he said about Putin. ‘He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leaving it then when other people have let it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more.’ When he was asked about contacts between his campaign team and Russia, a government that apparently attempted to interfere with the outcome of the election, he avoided the question. If there is a smoking gun, that’s where it lies.
And meanwhile, while the allegations swirl, while Trump fends off questions about Moscow hotel rooms and feuds with his own intelligence agencies, Putin must be growing more and more happy with his pick for US president.
Freddy Gray and Paul Wood discuss whether Donald Trump is an agent of Russian influence: