Trump slams Russia leaks ahead of news conference
US President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday furiously denied explosive claims that Russian intelligence has gathered compromising personal and professional information on him, hours before he faces the media for the first time since his election win.
Intelligence chiefs last week presented America's incoming 45th president, as well as current President Barack Obama, with a two-page synopsis on the potentially embarrassing but unsubstantiated allegations, according to CNN and The New York Times, who cited multiple unnamed US officials with knowledge of the meeting.
The Kremlin has dismissed the dossier -- drawn up by a former British intelligence agent hired to do "opposition research" on Trump during the presidential campaign and published by US media outlet BuzzFeed -- as a "total fake" aimed at damaging bilateral ties.
Trump called it more evidence of a political witch hunt to delegitimize his November victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, with nine days to go before the 70-year-old billionaire takes office.
"Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!" he said on Twitter.
"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"
Trump called the situation "a sorry state."
"I win an election easily, a great 'movement' is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS," he said.
His early morning tweets came ahead of an 11:00 am (1600 GMT) news conference at Trump Tower, his first in nearly six months.
Even before the allegations surfaced widely in US media on Tuesday, reporters had been expected to grill Trump over his ties to Russia after the US intelligence community concluded Moscow interfered in the November election in a bid to tip the race in Trump's favor.
- The dossier -
Without corroborating its contents, BuzzFeed published a 35-page dossier of memos on which the synopsis presented to Trump is based.
The memos, which had been circulating in Washington for months, describe sex videos involving prostitutes filmed during a 2013 visit by Trump to a luxury Moscow hotel, supposedly as a potential means for blackmail.
They also suggest Russian officials proposed lucrative deals in order to win influence over the real estate magnate.
Trump was reportedly informed of the existence of the dossier -- and its salacious details -- last Friday when he received a briefing from US intelligence chiefs on alleged Russian interference in the presidential election.
The classified two-page synopsis reportedly included allegations that there was a regular flow of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and Russian government intermediaries, which a Trump aide denied.
"The Kremlin does not have compromising information on Trump," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling journalists.
The Kremlin spokesman called the dossier a "total fake" and "an obvious attempt to harm our bilateral relations."
- No more rule book -
No other US president-elect in modern times has waited so long to go formally before the media, considered important to shore up public accountability, yet Trump has reveled in ripping up the rule book.
The New York billionaire, never previously elected to office, has preferred to make off-the-cuff statements, punch out incendiary tweets and call out anyone who dares cross him -- from Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep to an Indiana union leader.
While he has conducted one-on-one interviews with select media and taken questions from reporters in informal settings, his performance at the press conference will be scrutinized, as polls show his already bleak approval ratings deteriorate further as the clock ticks down to inauguration day on January 20.
Washington's feud with Russia will be scrutinized even further at the Senate confirmation hearing -- also on Wednesday -- of former ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson as Trump's pick for secretary of state.
Although the Texan embodies Trump's ideal of a globetrotting deal-maker, he has come under suspicion from the president-elect's opponents for close ties to Putin.