After weeks of denying substantiated reports by various U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had hacked and meddled with the presidential election, President-elect Donald Trump conceded the fact on Jan. 11. Trump then commented on allegations that Putin tried to sway the election to favor the GOP candidate.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” Trump began, notes The Huffington Post. "If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset and not a liability.”
During Trump's Jan. 11 press conference, his first since June, he was asked directly if he or his campaign staff had any contact with the Russian government before the election as a recently published -- but unverified -- intelligence memo alleges.
“He shouldn’t be doing it, he won’t be doing it,” Trump instead responded. “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it, I don’t believe he’ll be doing it more. Now, we have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia.”
Trump then responded to claims from the same published intelligence memo that the Russian government has information on Trump it can use to blackmail him.
“I’ll be honest," Trump said. "I think if they 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, they would have released it, just like they did about [Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton] and all of the horrible things her people like [campaign manager John] Podesta said about her.”
As Trump held his press conference, Rex Tillerson, Trump's secretary of state appointee, began his Senate confirmation hearing, notes BBC.
In the hearing, Tillerson cautioned that the U.S. should be "clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia."
Tillerson has a long business relationship with Russia and Putin.
"Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests," Tillerson continued. "It has invaded Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea, and supported Syrian forces that brutally violate the laws of war ... Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia ... But it was in the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent."