- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team delivered a pointed rebuttal Wednesday to accusations that the campaign had contacts with Russian officials, and blasted two American media outlets for publishing the reports, saying they were unsubstantiated.

Mr. Trump, at his first press conference in nearly six months, said those news organizations that didn’t delve into the reports went up in his estimation.

“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen,” he said.

He also said that if it turns out U.S. intelligence officials leaked it to the media, it would be “a tremendous blot” on their record.

His chief spokesman, Sean Spicer, delivered a far more ferocious attack on CNN and BuzzFeed, the outlets that did publish on purported intelligence reports that there were possible Russian contacts with the Trump campaign and that Russian intelligence believed it had compromising information on Mr. Trump himself.

“It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible,” Mr. Spicer said.

Mr. Trump said he stopped giving press conferences last summer because he was so fed up with inaccurate reporting.

Despite questions about the authenticity of the reports, the information is believed to have made the rounds among lawmakers and intelligence officials.

Sen. John McCain, the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that late last year he “received sensitive information that has since been made public” and passed it along to FBI Director James B. Comey.

While Mr. McCain did not specify the nature of the information, the Arizona Republican made the statement in regard to “recent news reports.”

“Upon examination of the contents, and unable to make a judgment about their accuracy, I delivered the information to the director of the FBI,” Mr. McCain said. “That has been the extent of my contact with the FBI or any other government agency regarding this issue.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Comey was asked by lawmakers about any investigations the FBI has undertaken regarding Mr. Trump or his close associates and ties to Russia.

“Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships and if so, what are the agency’s findings?” said Sen. Ron Wyden during a Senate intelligence committee hearing.

Mr. Comey said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any such investigation.

“I would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not, in an open forum like this,” he said.

Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI, declined to comment on the allegations raised in the report as he spoke during a Wednesday news conference at the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch likewise declined to discuss the briefing that law enforcement and intelligence officials provided Mr. Trump.

“We don’t comment on ongoing matters,” she said.

Talking more generally about how authorities decide that information about investigations should be released to the public, she said it was “impossible to give you a blanket policy.”

“We try to see the public informed as it is warranted,” Ms. Lynch said.

Mr. Wyden on Tuesday pressed Mr. Comey to provide an unclassified response to the public before Mr. Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20.

“I think the American people have a right to know this and if there is delay in declassifying this information and releasing it to the American people and it doesn’t happen before January 20, I’m not sure its going to happen,” the Oregon Democrat said.

Andrea Noble contributed to this story.

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