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Donald Trump was pressed on Russia early and often during a news conference Wednesday, asserting that Russia will no longer hack American institutions but again not clearly saying whether he blames Russia for election-related cyberattacks.
At the hour-long event in New York, which featured an ethics lawyer outlining plans for his business, Trump first said he thinks Russia directed cyberattacks on Democratic Party targets, but later made his view less clear. He said the hacking "could be others" and repeatedly deflected attention to attacks by China and other foreign countries and institutions.
He contended that Russia will no longer hack the U.S. when he is president but did not answer questions about whether he will uphold Obama administration sanctions in response to suspected interference in the 2016 election. The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed an effort to influence the election in Trump's favor and briefed Trump about its allegations.
"He shouldn't have done it. I don't believe he'll be doing it anymore," Trump said Wednesday, referring to Putin.
Asked if he felt that accepting the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia directed the cyberattacks on Democratic Party institutions would hurt his relationship with Putin, he contended that having a good standing with Putin is not a bad thing.
"If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset not a liability. Because we have a horrible relationship with Russia," he said.
Trump argued that he would be tougher on Russia than his presidential opponent Hillary Clinton would have been.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the intelligence community and claimed that the Russia allegations were designed to discredit his electoral win, prompting concerns about his relationship with agencies and its effect on national security. He blamed the intelligence community for leaking the recent Russia reporting, saying "that's something that Nazi Germany would have done."
When pressed on his views about the intelligence agencies, Trump said they "are vital and very, very important."
The president-elect last held a press conference in July as his presidential election contest with Clinton heated up. Trump has almost exclusively used Twitter and written statements to communicate since his election in November, waiting longer than recent president-elects to hold a press conference.
He also took questions related to reports that intelligence officials possessed briefing material with damaging accusations about ties to Moscow. He again denied that he had any ties to Russia and attacked Buzzfeed, which published a document with unverified allegations about Trump's relationship with Moscow.
In tweets earlier Wednesday, Trump claimed he has "nothing to do with Russia" and argued that he is the victim of political attacks after reports that intelligence officials possessed briefing material with damaging accusations about ties to Moscow. He called the reports "unfair" and said, "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me." Trump claimed that he has "no deals, no loans, no nothing" with Russia, an assertion that is difficult to verify because he has not released his tax returns, unlike every president since Jimmy Carter.
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