Donald Trump thanks Vladimir Putin, lashes out over salacious Russia dossier report in first press conference


President-elect Donald Trump launched his first press conference since the summer of 2016 by blasting a scandalous and unverified report suggesting Russia had collected compromising information about him -- thanking Russia for denying the existence of the dossier and thanking the majority of news organizations for largely ignoring the report.

But the president-elect was not without criticism, blasting two news organizations for publishing the story -- presumably Buzzfeed and CNN who reported it initially on Tuesday, although he did not mention them by name.

The president also suggested that intelligence agencies would have a "tremendous blot on their record" if they were responsible for leaking the report.

Trump, who has had a notoriously tense relationship with intel agencies and has reportedly received only a handful of intelligence briefings since his election, also said he respects Russia for coming out with a full-throated denial of the report.

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The president-elect thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for squashing the allegations, saying he "respected" the decision. He suggested that the Russian government would have likely leaked any salacious information if they actually had it.

"I think if he did have something, they would've released it," he said.

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He also said that he would be tougher on Russia than his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton would have been, if she had been elected, and that he would have a positive relationship with Putin, working with him

"Do you honestly believe Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me?" he asked rhetorically. "Give me a break."

"If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability," he added.

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Asked to address the substance of the report, that he might have been filmed while staying at hotels in Russia in the midst of compromising acts, Trump said that he was very aware of the possible existence of such cameras.

"I'm also very much a germaphobe," he added.

Simultaneously, the president-elect's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, broke with Trump's platform as he fielded questions in Washington from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The former CEO of ExxonMobil testified on Wednesday that Russia "poses a danger" and must be held accountable for its actions regarding the 2016 presidential election. Tillerson also denounced Russian aggression in cyberspace and in Ukraine, saying Putin's invasion of Ukraine was an "illegal action."