Trump again denies Russia leaks, calls Putin favor 'an asset'

President-elect Donald Trump, his first press conference in 168 days, emphatically denied an unverified report about his political and business ties with Russia and admitted he would continue to cultivate close ties with Moscow even if U.S. intelligence proved that Russian President Vladimir Putin swayed the 2016 election by orchestrating hacking efforts against Hillary Clinton.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump … that’s an asset not a liability,” Trump said when asked by reporter if he accepted that the Russian strongman had attempted to sway the race in the mogul’s favor as a joint intelligence report released this month by the CIA, FBI and NSA indicated.

“I don’t know that I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin, I hope I do,” Trump added. “And if I don’t, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?”

“Does anywhere in this room honestly believe that? Give me a break,” he said.

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Trump opened up the press conference, his first as President-elect, with an aggressive denial of a 35-page report filled with damning and conspiratorial accusations about his relationship with Russia.

“Does anyone really believe that story?” Trump said.

“I’m also very much of a germophobe by the way, believe me,” he added, referring to unverified allegations featured in the dossier that Trump hired prostitutes in Moscow for “perverted” sex acts.

The dossier, which was prepared for political opponents by a person said to be a former British intelligence agent, circulated among journalists and government officials for months.

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Donald Trump’s press conference Wednesday was his first as President-elect as well as his first in 168 days.

Donald Trump’s press conference Wednesday was his first as President-elect as well as his first in 168 days.

(Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump also spent the lengthy session with reporters, which took place in the marble lobby of Trump Tower in Midtown, addressing how he would remove himself from his sprawling business empire to avoid conflicts of interest.

Trump explained that he would put “complete control” of his company in the hands of his two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

“They’re going to be running it in a very professional manner, they’re not going to discuss it with me,” he said, before pointing to a stack of documents next to him on stage that he said he’d “signed” to effectuate the transition of power of his business empire to his kin.

He also called on an attorney to oversee efforts in avoiding those conflicts of interest to explain the details.

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Trump’s last press conference occurred on July 27, just days after he was officially nominated at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

He had initially planned to hold his first press conference as President-elect in mid-December — a session that had been expected to focus primarily on how he’d disentangle himself from his international real estate company — but his transition team postponed it.

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