Amid Russia reports, Trump set for questions at long-awaited news conference

NEW YORK - The morning after bombshell reports about alleged contacts with Russia, Donald Trump is scheduled to take questions at his first formal news conference since July.

The president-elect speaks less than a week after intelligence agencies briefed him on reports containing unverified allegations that Russia has blackmail information on him involving sexual and financial impropriety.

The president-elect, on Twitter, has denounced the reports as "fake news" being used in "a total political witch hunt."

Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer criticized Buzzfeed for posting the unverified documents about the president-elect on Tuesday night, tweeting: ".@BuzzFeed itself admits 'as we noted in our story there is serious reason to doubt the allegations'. Just pathetic."

Information in the documents was developed by a former intelligence operative first hired by political opponents of Trump; his information made its way to U.S.intelligence agencies.

The report includes claims that Russia has spent at least five years "cultivating, supporting, and assisting" Trump, and that it has compromising sexual and financial allegations against the president-elect. It also claims that Trump associates colluded with Kremlin officials during last year's election.

Russia denied having compromising information on Trump.

"An absolute fantasy," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters, also using the term "witch hunt."

Citing denials by Russian officials, Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet storm that "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

U.S. officials cited the allegations as they briefed Trump on Friday about another controversy involving Russia: Its role in the hackings of Democratic Party officials in a bid to undermine Hillary Clinton's candidacy and promote Trump's chances.

That is another likely topic at Wednesday's session between Trump and reporters.

The news conference at Trump Tower — the high-rise where Trump announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015 — is one rescheduled from December.

Trump initially set that December event to discuss what he plans to do with his various businesses during his time in the White House. Since then, he has said he will turn his business empire over to his sons.

Other possible news conference topics:

• Republican efforts to roll back President Obama's health care law.

• Criticism of some of Trump's Cabinet nominations and staff appointments, including the selection  of son-in-law Jared Kushner as a top White House adviser.

USA Today


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