Russia questions expected to dominate Trump's first news conference since election

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump will use his first news conference in nearly six months on Wednesday to lay out a plan to separate himself from his business empire to try to erase questions about potential conflicts of interest, but Russia is likely to take center stage.

In his first formal session with reporters since winning the Nov. 8 election, Trump will likely face questions about his bid to warm U.S. relations with Moscow after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia used cyber hacking to try to tilt the election in his favor.

There was an unpredictable element to the news conference, to be held at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York, given Trump's repeated criticism of the U.S. news media and his belief that many news organizations favored Democrat Hillary Clinton during last year's presidential campaign.

RELATED: Donald Trump's 'USA thank you' tour

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Donald Trump's 'USA thank you' tour
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Donald Trump's 'USA thank you' tour
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump throws a cap to the audience as he speaks during a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar 
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a USA Thank You Tour event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S., December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a USA Thank You Tour event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016" in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 . REUTERS/William Philpott
A protester walks out of the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence at a rally as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016" in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 . REUTERS/William Philpott
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence hold a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016". REUTERS/William Philpott
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, December 1, 2016 as part of their "USA Thank You Tour 2016". REUTERS/William Philpott
Supporters of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attend a USA Thank You Tour event at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 01: Guests listen as President-elect Donald Trump speaks at U.S. Bank Arena on December 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Trump took time off from selecting the cabinet for his incoming administration to celebrate his victory in the general election. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son speak to the press after meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Supporters cheer for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Republican presidential then nominee Donald Trump and Ben Carson walk to Carson's childhood home in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/ File photo
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump greets members of the press at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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The president-elect, who is to be sworn in on Jan. 20, has been under pressure to separate himself from his global business operations to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest once he moves into the White House.

After initially declaring there was no law that prohibited him from maintaining control of his business while serving as president, Trump switched gears in December and said legal documents were being crafted "which take me completely out of business operations."

Trump has said his two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, will manage his businesses and no new deals will be done during his time in office, but has offered few details.

He has not said he would divest from his companies, a step some critics say he should take. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced plans on Monday to divest much of his holdings in preparation for taking a senior advisory role in the Trump White House.

RUSSIA QUESTIONS

While North Korea, Syria, Iran, China, tax reform and border security could well come up at the news conference, questions about Russia are likely to dominate the session.

Trump has faced persistent questions about Russia throughout the past year given his reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin and his desire to improve U.S. relations with Moscow, including working together to defeat Islamic State militants.

His stance has rattled traditional U.S. allies such as NATO countries and many U.S. foreign policy experts who consider Russia a geopolitical adversary.

Trump has left open how he would respond to the Russian cyber hacking that U.S. intelligence agencies said was aimed at disrupting the presidential campaign.

U.S. intelligence chiefs briefed him on Russian involvement in the election last Friday and he has accepted the fact that it happened.

CNN reported on Tuesday that classified documents presented to Trump in that session included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising information about him.

The allegations were in a two-page synopsis appended to a report presented by U.S. intelligence officials to Trump and Obama on Russian interference in the 2016 election, CNN said, citing multiple U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the briefings.

In an apparent reference to the reports, Trump said in a Twitter posting on Tuesday night: FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT."

RELATED: Trump's official picks for cabinet and administration positions

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Trump's official picks for Cabinet and administration positions
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Trump's official picks for Cabinet and administration positions

Counselor to the President: Kellyanne Conway

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Veterans Affairs Secretary: David Shulkin

(Photo credit DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Transportation secretary: Elaine Chao

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Energy secretary: Rick Perry

(Photo credit KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

 REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

Secretary of Defense: Retired Marine General James Mattis

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Chief of staff: Reince Priebus

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Chief strategist: Steve Bannon

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General: Senator Jeff Sessions

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Director of the CIA: Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Deputy national security adviser: K.T. McFarland

(Photo by Michael Schwartz/Getty Images)

White House counsel: Donald McGahn

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ambassador to the United Nations: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

(Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Education secretary: Betsy DeVos

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Commerce secretary: Wilbur Ross

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Homeland security secretary: General John Kelly

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Housing and urban development secretary: Ben Carson

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Health and human services secretary: Tom Price

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Department of Homeland Security: Retired General John Kelly

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Secretary of agriculture: Sonny Perdue

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
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