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Trump Denies Allegations Of Collusion Between His Campaign And Russia


At his news conference today, President-elect Trump could not avoid questions about the intelligence briefing he got last week about Russia. It contains details about allegations that Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government and that Russian intelligence officials have potentially embarrassing information about Trump. He says this is all nonsense.

Joining us now is NPR's Tom Gjelten. And Tom, we should first point out the president-elect, Trump, is now saying he thinks Russia did hack the Democratic Party during the presidential campaign. He hasn't said that before, right?

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: No, he hadn't. Now he has, but he was about the last guy in Washington to acknowledge it. Yesterday, we had the four top intelligence officials in the country briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee on this hacking operation, and not a single Republican questioned their finding that Russia was in fact responsible.

MCEVERS: It appears he hasn't entirely made peace with those intelligence agencies, right?

GJELTEN: Actually, he has a new beef with them. We've reported that those intelligence officials told Trump last week about this dossier that's been circulating alleging that Russian operatives shared information with Trump campaign officials and also that they have personal information on him that could compromise him as president.

For his part, Trump today talked only about what he has heard about these allegations outside that briefing, so I guess there's some question about what he was told when. Also, none of those allegations have been substantiated or...


GJELTEN: ...Corroborated. And of course Trump is angry that the news of this briefing came out. At this press conference today, he suggested that his own intelligence agencies or the U.S. intelligence agencies may have been responsible for this leak. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP: 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, and that's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.

GJELTEN: So we have the president-elect of the United States, Kelly, comparing what he faces right now with what people in Nazi Germany faced. Now, as for the allegations themselves, among them - that there is video evidence of him engaged in scandalous behavior at a Moscow hotel, Trump said he always assumes there are cameras in those places, and he tells his people to keep that in mind.

MCEVERS: Given that Trump now does acknowledge that Russia was responsible for the campaign hacking, did he talk about what he thinks should be done in response?

GJELTEN: Well, interestingly, he seems to be OK with the sanctions that President Obama announced, but he doesn't seem all that angry about this himself. In fact, even now, he almost seems appreciative of what the Russians contributed by leaking internal emails from the Clinton campaign operation.


TRUMP: Hacking's bad, and it shouldn't be done. But look at the things that were hacked. Look at what was learned from that hacking - that Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn't report it. That's a horrible thing.

MCEVERS: U.S. intelligence officials have not only blamed this hack on Russia. They've said the Russians deliberately intended to help the Trump campaign and hurt Hillary Clinton. Does Trump now accept that part of it?

GJELTEN: Not really. He said The Russians tried to hack the Republican National Committee but couldn't break in because the RNC had better computer defenses. That goes beyond what the intelligence agencies found. They did say the Russians got more information from the Democrats than from the Republicans. But whether it's because the RNC had better cybersecurity or because the Russians weren't targeting the RNC they couldn't say.

One other point Mr. Trump emphasized over and over today - that the Russians aren't the only ones responsible for hacking. China was apparently behind a big hack of the Office of Personnel Management. Mr. Trump says he's ordered a major report on hacking to be delivered to him in 90 days.

But he engaged in a little bit of hyperbole there, saying, we're run by people who don't know what they're doing; we have no defense against hacking. I'm wondering what all the cybersecurity folks in the U.S. government think about that.

MCEVERS: NPR's Tom Gjelten, thank you very much.

GJELTEN: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF YEASAYER SONG, "AMBLING ALP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.