President-elect Donald Trump escalated a fight with U.S. spy agencies on Wednesday, nine days before he takes over their command as president, and accused them of practices reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
The Republican said leaks from the intelligence community led to some U.S. media outlets reporting unsubstantiated claims that he was caught in a compromising position in Russia.
“I think it was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that … that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do,” Trump told a news conference in New York.
For the first time, Trump acknowledged that Russia likely hacked the Democratic National Committee and the emails of other top Democrats during the 2016 presidential election.
But he said other countries were also hacking the United States and defended his goal of better ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump called a dossier that makes salacious claims about him in Russia “fake news” and “phony stuff.”
Trump’s comments are likely to intensify tensions between U.S. intelligence agencies and the president-elect, who initially disparaged their conclusion that a Russian government hacking campaign was aimed at boosting his candidacy against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Two U.S. officials said the allegations about Trump, which one called “unsubstantiated,” were contained in a two-page memo appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that was presented last week to Trump and to Obama.
CNN reported on Tuesday about the existence of the memo and BuzzFeed published a fuller 35-page document outlining the allegations.
One U.S. official said investigators had so far been unable to confirm material about Trump’s financial and personal entanglements with Russian businessmen and others whom U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded are Russian intelligence officers or working on behalf of Russian intelligence.
In the news conference, Trump declined to answer whether anyone connected to him or the campaign had contact with Moscow during the presidential campaign, and said he had no loans or business deals with Russia.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, David Alexander, Jonathan Landay, Yara Bayoumy, Warren Strobel, Dustin Volz and John Walcott in Washington and Jonathan Allen and Melissa Fares in New York; Writing by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Alistair Bell)