- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Inauguration Day can’t come soon enough for the incoming Trump administration or the departing Obama team.

While President-elect Donald Trump was renewing the accusation Wednesday that the Obama administration “created” the Islamic State terrorist group and was calling Obamacare “a complete and total disaster,” the White House was slamming Mr. Trump and his team for “secrecy” and sowing doubt about the president-elect’s alleged financial ties to Russia.

Responding to a CNN reporter’s question about Mr. Trump’s open warfare with CNN over a story on his alleged Russian connections, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president-elect has brought the problems on himself by shielding his tax returns and other financial information from the public.

“They’ve not been transparent,” he said of the Trump team. “Many of the questions that have been raised have been about potential financial entanglements of the president-elect and his family and business in Russia. There’s ample evidence they could marshal to make public to refute those accusations that they say are baseless. But they refuse to do so. That kind of secrecy only serves to sow public doubt.”

Mr. Trump said he has “no dealings with Russia.”

“I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia,” he said.

But Mr. Obama’s spokesman took issue with Mr. Trump’s assertion, saying the scant evidence available “doesn’t actually substantiate” Mr. Trump’s claims.

“I know at least one member of the Trump family was quoted on the record in the not-too-distant past saying that the family and the Trump organization had extensive financial ties to Russia,” Mr. Earnest said.

Indeed, The Washington Post published an article in June quoting Donald Trump Jr. telling a real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The comment was originally published on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication.

As for his relationship with Russia, Mr. Trump delivered another criticism of Mr. Obama’s leadership, saying “Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I’m leading it.”

And on Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was telling lawmakers that Mr. Obama was “weak” in his response to Russian-backed forces invading Crimea in 2014.

The president’s spokesman said Mr. Trump not only has decided to ignore “the bare standard of transparency, but to fall way short of it and to refuse to meet that same standard that many previous presidents have met by releasing those tax returns.”

Mr. Trump said again Wednesday that he isn’t releasing his tax returns because they are “under audit.”

“The only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters,” he said. As for voters, “I don’t think they care at all.”

It was Mr. Trump’s first press conference since winning the election, and the room contained staff and supporters who sometimes applauded. The scene prompted Mr. Earnest to poke fun at Mr. Trump’s team for bringing its own “cheering section” to the event.

“I don’t know if that means they’re gonna install one of those flashing ‘applause’ signs in the White House briefing room,” Mr. Earnest deadpanned.

When Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama met at the White House two days after the election, they expressed mutual admiration and pledged a smooth transition. But that was at least two intelligence reports ago.

Mr. Trump was angered this week by reports by CNN and BuzzFeed about allegations contained in an intelligence dossier that Russia had certain compromising information about him.

“I think it was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake” to get out, Mr. Trump said Wednesday. “That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

The White House said such a comparison to the Nazis was “deeply misguided.”

“As President Obama has said many times, the men and women of our intelligence community are patriots,” Mr. Earnest said.

The White House said it doesn’t know how the information was leaked, but that leaks do, unfortunately, happen.

Mr. Earnest also compared Mr. Trump’s “secrecy” about his financial records with Mr. Obama’s handling of the “birther” accusations that he was not a U.S. citizen, allegations that were fanned by Mr. Trump.

“This president has been in a situation in which he has been criticized in an utterly false, baseless way,” Mr. Earnest said. “When faced with that situation, President Obama made a decision. He dispatched an attorney to fly all the way to Hawaii” to retrieve his long-form birth certificate.

The White House then released the document to the media to prove his citizenship.

“I point all of this out … to underscore that the incoming administration has chosen a different approach,” Mr. Earnest said. “You’ll recall during the campaign, as the president-elect was refusing to release his tax returns, people saying ‘What’s he hiding?’ People are asking that question again.”

He said the incoming administration “is going to have to make some decisions about what approach they want to take.”

“The incoming administration has relied on secrecy, and I think rather than to refute the claims, it has continued to sow doubt in the minds of the public and apparently in the minds of some media organizations,” he said.

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