US president-elect Donald Trump admitted Wednesday that he thought the hacking of Democratic Party officials during the presidential election campaign was committed by Russia.
“I think it was Russia, but think we also get hacked by other countries,” he said.
Trump made the admission during his first press conference since winning the November 8 election, after months of questioning US intelligence that pinned the hacking on the Russian government.
The president-elect’s appearance before reporters was to have focused primarily on how he would separate himself from his business interests, but came amid a growing controversy over his ties with the Kremlin.
Trump and his lawyer outlined plans to hand over his business interests to his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, and remove himself completely from the operations.
Trump told reporters unsubstantiated allegations concerning his ties to Russia “should never have been published.”
The release of the information is a “disgrace” and was carried out by “sick people,” he said.
A synopsis of the allegations was attached to the end of a report by US intelligence agencies on Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, broadcaster CNN reported late Tuesday.
The intelligence memo is reportedly based on a separate report generated by political operatives looking into Trump’s background, but intelligence officials felt they needed to make Trump aware of the charges.
The longer report contains unverified charges allegedly including details about Trump’s sexual activities in Russia and his financial activities, as well as claims that Trump officials met with the Russians during the campaign.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer discounted charges about the meetings with Russians, while Trump claimed he had always been “careful” about his personal dealings, especially while abroad.
US media outlets have stressed they have been unable to verify the claims and that the report contains some incorrect information.
Trump thanked US media outlets that expressed scepticism about the opposition report, published online by website BuzzFeed.
He also addressed diplomatic ties with Russia, saying he was unsure whether he will have good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he takes office.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia,” Trump said.
More than 300 journalists gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York hours before the event was set to begin at 11 am (1600 GMT) amid heightened security at the Manhattan skyscraper, where sidewalks were blocked and businesses were closed.
Trump’s first news conference since his victory in the November 8 election had originally been scheduled for December 15 before being cancelled and rescheduled. He has not held a press conference since July.
More than half of Americans are concerned about Trump’s transparency in outlining his plans and 57 per cent express concern about potential conflicts of interest in his administration, a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found.
The press conference conflicts with a confirmation hearing for Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and transportation secretary nominee Elaine Chao.