United States President-elect Donald Trump has for the first time acknowledged that Russia could have been involved in Democratic Party email hackings before the presidential elections. At the first press conference he had given in nearly six months, he said, “I think it was Russia,” when asked who was responsible for the email leaks during his campaign. “But we also get hacked by other countries and other people... The Democratic National Convention was totally open to be hacked. They did a totally poor job.” He added that he believed Russia would have released damaging information about him had they obtained such information.

Till Wednesday’s press conference, Trump had consistently denied intelligence reports suggesting Russian interference in the elections.

His meeting with the media came after reports had said that American intelligence agencies claimed that Russia had compromising information on him. The president-elect started off his conference by saying that he has “great respect” for the news and freedom of speech but that it had been irresponsible of a few news organisations to run “false reports”. Trump thanked the agencies that did not publish these reports on Russian operatives that allegedly had such information on him, though he said the “nonsense” was released by “maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, maybe the intelligence agencies”.

The president-elect also said he had no dealings in Russia. “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what folks, that’s called an asset, not a liability… Do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody really believe that?” Trump is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s opponent for the presidential post Hillary Clinton had often brought up the point during her campaign and in debates.

The businessman-turned-president also said he has not released his income tax returns as “you know, they are under audit”. In October 2016, a report had said the multi-millionaire could have avoided paying taxes for up to 18 years. One of his lawyers also addressed the press conference, claiming that the Republican politician will be “completely isolated from management of his company” The Trump Organization. “The conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president and the vice president,” she said. The company will also not sign any foreign deals during Trump’s presidency.

Earlier, intelligence had claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to help Republican candidate Donald Trump win the presidential elections. The report, prepared by Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to “undermine public faith” in democracy and disparage Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton so that voters would see her as the poorer choice.

Other points Trump made at the conference:

  • He spoke about the wall he had announced will be built along the US-Mexico border and said its construction will soon start. “I don’t wanna wait. Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approval...Mexico in some form will reimburse us...that will happen.”
  • “Obamacare is a complete and total disaster. We will submit a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as health secretary is approved.”
  • He said that other countries will “respect us far more, far more than they did under past administrations.”
  • “Within 90 days we will be coming up with a major report on hacking defence, how do we stop this new phenomenon.”