President-elect Donald Trump said for the first time Wednesday he "thinks it was Russia" that hacked the Democrats before last November's election.
He added Russia is not the only nation that hacks organizations in the U.S., and insisted the Democrats were too easy to hack.
"I think it was Russia, but I also think we've been hacked by other countries, other people," Trump said. "And I can say that, you know, when we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn't make a big deal out of that. That was something that was extraordinary, that was probably China. We had much hacking going on."
Further, Trump said he wants want to have a relationship with Putin, and it could be a great thing if Putin liked Trump.
"If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability," Trump said. "Because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which by the way is, No. 1, tricky."
"Now, I don't know that I'm going to get along with Vladimir Putin; I hope I do," Trump added. "But there's a good chance I won't. And if I don't, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?"
Trump has previously indicated he did not believe Russia was behind the damaging hack of the Democratic National Committee that resulted in the release of numerous emails.
That position began softening Sunday, when Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, told "Fox News Sunday" the president-elect "accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia."
That was the first acknowledgment from a senior member of the Trump team he accepted intel Russia directed the hacking and subsequent disclosure of Democratic emails during the election. Spicer's comments came two days after Trump was briefed by leaders of the intelligence community, all of whom are unified in their findings Russia meddled.
Trump's remarks came at Trump Tower in New York during his first formal news conference since winning the presidency.
Trump also slammed BuzzFeed's publication of the unverified dossier of supposedly compromising information gathered by Russia to be used as leverage against him. He also blasted CNN for reporting on the claims.
"I think it's a disgrace that information would be let out," Trump said. "It's all fake news. It's phony stuff."
"It didn't happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it, and so did many of the other people, it was a group of opponents that got together, sick people, and they put that crap together.
"So, I will tell you that not within the meeting but outside of the meeting, somebody released it. It should never have been. No. 1 – it shouldn't have even entered the paper – but it shouldn't have been released. I've read what was released, and I think it's a disgrace. I think it's an absolute disgrace."
Trump also noted Russia denied the report published by Buzzfeed.
"President Putin and Russia put out a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news," Trump said. "They said it totally never happened. Somebody would say, 'Oh, of course he's going to say that.' I respected the fact that he said that. I'll be honest, I think if he did have something, they would have released it, they would have been glad to release it. I think, frankly, had they broken into the Republican National Committee, I think they would have released it."
Trump also refuted the CNN report Russia has compromising information — including financial — on him that could be used to blackmail him.
"I have no dealings with Russia," Trump said. "I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
"I have no loans with Russia at all. And I thought that was important to put out. I certified that. So, I have no deals. I have no loans. And I have no dealings. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to. I just don't want to, because I think that would be a conflict. So, I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals."
In his opening statement, Trump thanked the news organizations that did not publish the unsubstantiated dossier.
"I do have to say that, and I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today," Trump said. "Because they looked at that nonsense that was released – by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot – because a thing like that should have never been written, it should never been had, and it should certainly never have been released.
"But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations, for – some of whom have not treated me very well over the years, a couple in particular and they came out so strongly against that fake news, and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station. So, I just want to compliment many of the people in the room," Trump said before moving on.
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