Trump to face questions on Russia hacking, business ties

President-elect Donald Trump listens to a reporters question at Trump Tower in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

NEW YORK (AP) — The last time Donald Trump held a news conference, he was plunging into a heated general election campaign with Hillary Clinton and suggested Russia could help dig up some of his rival’s emails.

Nearly six months and a presidential campaign victory later, Trump will finally step before reporters again Wednesday to face questions about what role he believes Russia played in the election year hacking of Democratic groups — interference the intelligence community says was intended to help the Republican defeat Clinton. Trump has challenged that assessment and has yet to say whether a full briefing with intelligence officials last week did anything to sway him.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the intelligence officials informed Trump about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.

Shortly after news reports were published about the briefing, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin denied allegations Wednesday.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed news reports as a “complete fabrication and utter nonsense.” He insisted that the Kremlin “does not engage in collecting compromising material.”

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that intelligence officials had informed Trump about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising personal and financial information about him.

At a late morning news conference in the Trump Tower lobby, the president-elect is also expected to face questions about how he plans to disentangle himself from his family-owned international real estate development, property management and licensing business. Trump had originally planned to outline those steps at a mid-December news conference, but the event was delayed, in part because of the complexity of the matter.

Last week, Trump told The Associated Press that there was a “very simple solution” to his potential business conflicts. He’s said he will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization, but has not made clear whether he will retain a financial interest in the company.

Trump has sporadically taken questions during the transition, popping out of the gold-plated elevators at his eponymous Manhattan skyscraper to address reporters for a few minutes or greeting the media on the driveway of his South Florida club. But those encounters have all been brief, leaving many details of the president-elect’s policy positions unclear.

Trump has supplemented the short press sessions with a steady stream of 140-character tweets, weighing in on everything from the intelligence community’s track record to actress Meryl Streep’s critical remarks about him at the Golden Globes. The president-elect also used Twitter to stunningly suggest the U.S. should boost its nuclear capabilities, another one of the vague policy pronouncements that could come up Wednesday.

Less than two weeks from taking office, Trump is also confronting the reality of implementing his sweeping campaign promises, including building a wall along the nation’s southern border and having Mexico foot the bill. Trump’s team is considering relying on an existing law that authorizes fencing — and the U.S. taxpayer money to bankroll it — at the border. Trump still insists, however, that Mexico will eventually pay for any projects.

Trump and Republican lawmakers are also grappling with how to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, a long-sought GOP goal. Some Republicans have suggested delaying a replacement measure, though Trump told the New York Times Tuesday that he wants to take that step “very quickly or simultaneously” with the repeal.

The president-elect has not specified what he believes should be included in a new health care law.

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