Trump says Russia did not try to compromise him, assails spy agencies

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to the media at Trump Tower in New York on January 9, 2017. (AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
Updated 11 January 2017
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Trump says Russia did not try to compromise him, assails spy agencies

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday that Russia had never tried to sway his actions and furiously blamed US intelligence agencies for news reports that Moscow had compiled compromising information on him.
In a series of Twitter posts, Trump accused intelligence agencies of taking “one last shot” at him by leaking the information. “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he asked.
Trump slammed as “fake news” the reports that classified documents presented to him last week by the heads of four US intelligence agencies included claims that Russian intelligence operatives have compromising information about him.
“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” Trump wrote in one of the Twitter posts.
Two US officials said Tuesday evening that the allegations on the Russian dossier, which one called “unsubstantiated,” were contained in a two-page memo appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that was presented last week to Trump and to President Barack Obama.
Trump, due to hold his first news conference in nearly six months on Wednesday, pointed to the Kremlin’s denials of the reports on the dossier that emerged late on Tuesday, first reported by CNN.
“Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.’ Very unfair!” he wrote on Twitter.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday it was “total nonsense” that Russian officials had assembled a file of compromising information on Trump.
Reince Priebus, who will be Trump’s White House chief of staff, called the Russian dossier report “phoney baloney garbage.” He told NBC’s “Today” show he had raised the matter with Trump. “He said it was ‘total garbage and I’m keeping it clean,’” Priebus said.
Even before the reports, Russia had been likely to take center stage during Trump’s first formal session with reporters since he won the Nov. 8 presidential election. The news conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT) at his New York offices.
The Republican president-elect has long said he hopes to improve ties with Moscow, but this effort will come under intense scrutiny after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cybertattacks and other tactics to try to tilt the presidential election in his favor over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
At the same time in Washington, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, will likely be grilled at his Senate confirmation hearing over his long business relationship with Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin.
There was an unpredictable element to Trump’s news conference, given his repeated criticism of the US news media and his belief that many news organizations favored Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump, a New York real estate developer, has been under pressure to separate himself from his global business operations to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest once he succeeds Obama on Jan. 20.

Business operations
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 ethics experts say he should take. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced plans on Monday to divest much of his own business holdings in preparation for taking a senior advisory role in the White House.
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 Putin and his desire to improve US relations with Moscow, including working together to defeat Daesh militants.
His stance has rattled traditional US allies such as NATO countries and many US foreign policy experts who consider Russia a geopolitical adversary.
Trump has left open how he would respond to the Russian hacking that US intelligence agencies said was aimed at disrupting the presidential campaign.
US intelligence chiefs briefed him on Russian involvement in the election last Friday and he has accepted the fact that it happened.
Apparently referring to the Russian dossier on Trump, Republican US Senator John McCain said in a statement on Wednesday that he had received “sensitive information that has since been made public.” He said he could not make a judgment about its accuracy and had passed it to the FBI director.


North Korea pledges to destroy missile test engine site

Trump boasted at a Cabinet meeting Thursday that his administration has had “tremendous success” with North Korea, adding that denuclearization had already begun. (Reuters)
Updated 26 sec ago
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North Korea pledges to destroy missile test engine site

  • The testing site in question is in Ch’olsan County, North Pyongan province, and is sometimes is referred to as the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground,
  • North Korea conducted satellite launches into space from Sohae in 2012 and 2016, drawing international condemnation as the rocket technology used could be adapted for use with ballistic missiles

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Thursday identified the missile test engine site that it says North Korea has pledged to destroy, but the president’s latest comments about resolving the nuclear standoff have raised new questions about what concessions Pyongyang has made.
President Donald Trump had said on June 12 after his summit with Kim Jong Un that the North Korean leader was “already destroying” a missile site, in addition to committing to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.
The testing site in question is in Ch’olsan County, North Pyongan province, and is sometimes is referred to as the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, according to an administration official. The official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity, would not answer questions about whether the site was already being destroyed, but said that as negotiations moved forward, the administration would continue to monitor the area where North Korea tested liquid propellant engines for long-range ballistic missiles.
North Korea conducted satellite launches into space from Sohae in 2012 and 2016, drawing international condemnation as the rocket technology used could be adapted for use with ballistic missiles. There are also facilities there for testing missile engines. Commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae station from June 12 shows no apparent activity related to dismantlement of its rocket engine test stand, according to 38 North, a Washington-based website that tracks developments in the isolated nation’s weapons programs.
Trump boasted at a Cabinet meeting Thursday that his administration has had “tremendous success” with North Korea, adding that denuclearization had already begun.
The president’s comments, however, ran counter to remarks Defense Secretary James Mattis made the day before. Mattis told reporters Wednesday that he wasn’t aware that North Korea had taken any steps yet toward denuclearization. “I’m not aware of any. Obviously, we’re at the very front end of the process. Detailed negotiations have not begun,” he said.
Trump said Kim has stopped testing missiles, including ballistic missiles that could reach the United States, and is destroying the engine testing site — an apparent reference to Sohae. “They’re blowing it up,” he said.
Researchers are debating the significance of that promise.
It will depend on which facilities it destroyed at Sohae — one of several sites that have been used for the development of the North’s ballistic missiles, said Jenny Town, a research analyst on North Korea at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.
“If it’s just the engine test stand at Sohae that will be dismantled, diplomatically it has value but it doesn’t really change North Korea’s ability to test more engines if they chose to do so at a different facility,” Town said.
“If they were dismantling more facilities at Sohae, such as the launch pad itself, that would be a very big development, as Sohae is their main satellite launch facility. It could signal North Korea is willing to include a moratorium on satellite launches in addition to their missile and nuclear tests, which has been a point of contention in past agreements and derailed negotiations in the past. But this is obviously a big if.”
At the Cabinet meeting, Trump also referenced other concessions North Korea has supposedly made: “They’ve already blown up one of their big test sites. In fact, it was actually four of their big test sites,” he said.
Trump undoubtedly was referencing North Korea’s demolition in late May of a nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in a remote area in the northeastern part of the country. But it’s unclear what Trump meant when he went on to say “it was actually four of their big test sites.”
Punggye-ri was built with multiple tunnels suitable for nuclear testing. During the demolition, a group of journalists, including from The Associated Press, witnessed a series of huge explosions that centered on entrances to three tunnels. The explosions caused landslides near the tunnel entrances and sent up clouds of smoke and dust.