- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has a slate of orders ready to sign in the days after his inauguration, promised to nominate a Supreme Court justice by early February and vowed to make good on his campaign promise to build a wall — not just a fence — on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Mr. Trump’s first press conference in nearly six months was dominated by questions about his approach to Moscow and his vehement denunciations of reports that Russian intelligence has compromising information about the next president.

“It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen,” he said, as he blasted news outlets that delved into the allegations, even as they admitted the reports were unsubstantiated.

Mr. Trump did say he now believes Russia was responsible for the hacks to Democratic operatives during the campaign, contradicting his previous assertions, and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to knock it off.

“He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe that he will be doing it more now,” the president-elect said.

Mr. Trump’s team said he is facing an unprecedented effort to delegitimize his presidency even before he takes office. Aides said voters have moved on and so will Mr. Trump, who continued to lay out his agenda for his first days in office.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump says Russia report is ‘fake,’ warns intel community against leaks

The president-elect said his Jan. 20 inauguration will be a day of celebration and the day after will be taken up by a prayer service. But his first full week in office will include “some pretty good signings” of executive actions, he said.

By early February, he said, he will name his pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat has been empty since his death in February.

Mr. Trump said he has assigned Vice President-elect Mike Pence to begin laying out plans for a border wall and that he wants to move quickly on it. He said taxpayers will pick up the tab but he will find a way to soak Mexico for the costs over the long run.

“Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed,” he said.

He said the border will have a wall, not a fence as many homeland security analysts have predicted. Mr. Trump even chided a reporter who called it a fence.

“It’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Kellyanne Conway: Donald Trump ‘very happy’ James Clapper agrees with him on leaks

Reprising other campaign promises, Mr. Trump said he intends to follow through on forcing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower bulk prices on prescription drugs. That could lower costs for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program for senior citizens that was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Mr. Trump said pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder” in their pricing and that the government could save billions of dollars by using its market share to negotiate better deals.

The president-elect also said he would have an Obamacare replacement plan ready to go as soon as senators confirm his health and human services secretary, and he expects Congress to pass the replacement “simultaneously” with the repeal.

That sets up an ambitious schedule on Capitol Hill, where some Republican lawmakers have talked about a repeal before an eventual replacement.

Democrats said congressional Republicans are sending mixed signals to health care markets and should drop the repeal push.

They are mounting a defense of the Affordable Care Act, saying it should be expanded with more taxpayer money to help people buy insurance. Democrats also want a government-run health care plan to compete in the Obamacare exchanges.

“Most of America wants us to keep the law and work to improve it,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

In his press conference, Mr. Trump said Mr. Schumer is carping from the sidelines.

“We could sit back and wait and watch and criticize, and we could be a Chuck Schumer and sit back and criticize it and people would come, they would come, begging to us please, we have to do something about Obamacare,” Mr. Trump told press members gathered at Trump Tower. “We don’t want to own it, we don’t want to own it politically. They own it right now.”

While Rep. Tom Price was awaiting a hearing on Capitol Hill to be confirmed as health and human services secretary, several other Cabinet nominees were undergoing scrutiny Wednesday morning.

Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, nominated to be secretary of state, was fending off questions about policy toward Russia in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Elaine L. Chao, who served in the Cabinet of President George W. Bush, was being road-tested as the next transportation secretary.

On Tuesday, senators grilled attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, demanding assurances that he would investigate Mr. Trump if it turns out campaign operatives had illicit contacts with Russian officials.

That accusation was one of several included in reports by CNN and BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed published an unsubstantiated dossier on Mr. Trump, and CNN reported that top U.S. intelligence officials presented the president-elect last week with a two-page summary of the dossier, arguing that Russian intelligence thought it had compromising information about the next U.S. leader.

Mr. Trump and his transition team issued a pointed denial Wednesday, and the president-elect said he was furious that U.S. intelligence officials may have leaked secret documents.

“A tremendous blot,” he said. “A thing like that should never have been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never have been released.”

He said that kind of leak was “something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do.”

Mr. Trump praised news outlets that shied away from covering the reports, saying that despite a contentious relationship with reporters at times, his estimation of some of them had “just gone up a notch.”

He said one reason he had gone nearly six months without a press conference was because he faced a flurry of “inaccurate news.”

The CNN and BuzzFeed reports have ignited a furor on Capitol Hill, where Democrats said they should spur an official investigation by Congress.

The attorney general and the deputy FBI director declined to comment Wednesday on the briefing last week to Mr. Trump.

“We don’t comment on ongoing matters,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said.

Andrea Noble contributed to this report.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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