NEW YORK: Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to forge ahead with plans for a wall on the southern US border after taking office, and said Mexico would reimburse the United States for the cost.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEOS
“I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which we’ll start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait,” Trump told a news conference.
“We’re going to start building,” he said. “Mexico in some form — and there are many different forms — will reimburse us.”
“That will happen. Whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment.”
FULL PRESSER VIDEO
US media reported last Friday that Trump’s transition team and Republicans in Congress were considering a plan to fund the wall in April, but Trump later tweeted that Mexico would end up paying for it.
The Republican billionaire, who takes office on January 20, has threatened to fund the wall by tapping into the billions of dollars in remittances that Mexican migrants send back home.
The cost of building a border wall — which might end up being more fence than wall, analysts say — has been estimated at up to $25 billion.
‘Phony Russia Dossier’
Trump called the dossier that makes salacious claims about him “fake news” and “phony stuff.” “I think it’s a disgrace … That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done,” the Republican said.
Trump acknowledged for the first time that Russia likely hacked the Democratic National Committee and the emails of other top Democrats during the 2016 presidential election. “I think it was Russia,” he said.
TRUMP’s SHOUTING MATCH WITH CNN REPORTER
But the New York businessman said other countries were also hacking the United States and defended his goal of better ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability,” Trump told about 250 reporters jammed into the lobby at his New York offices.
The president-elect has long said he hopes to improve ties with Moscow but his plans have come under intense scrutiny after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia used cyber attacks and other tactics to try to tilt the election in his favor over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s comments are likely to intensify tensions between U.S. intelligence agencies and the president-elect, who initially disparaged their conclusion that a Russian government hacking campaign was aimed at boosting his candidacy.
Asked whether he had a message for Putin about hacking, Trump said many countries were hacking the United States and added that he thought Moscow would have greater respect for his administration.
“He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it,” Trump said.
The Russia dossier that emerged late on Tuesday was first reported by CNN. BuzzFeed published the full document.
Two US officials said the allegations, 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 Obama.
“As far as BuzzFeed, which is failing pile of garbage, writing it… I think they are going to suffer the consequences”
In the news conference, Trump declined to answer whether anyone connected to him or his campaign had contact with Moscow during the presidential campaign.
— Brian Fraser (@bfraser747) January 11, 2017
The event was a freewheeling affair, with Trump aides cheering from the sidelines at one point and the president-elect angrily refusing to take questions from a CNN reporter.
Trump’s comments on Russia were softer than those by Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, who was grilled on the issue by senators at his confirmation hearing.
Tillerson, the former chairman of Exxon Mobil who received an “Order of Friendship” award from Putin in 2012, said Moscow should be held accountable for its actions during the U.S. election, although he declined to say whether he would support upholding President Barack Obama’s executive order imposing sanctions for cyber-hacking.
Trump described how he will separate himself from his global business operations to avoid conflicts of interest once he takes office.
He also talked about how he plans to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas plants, slamming drug companies for “getting away with murder” on pricing.
U.S. stocks slipped to session lows, before recovering ground, as healthcare stocks took a beating following Trump’s comments on drug pricing in his first formal news conference since his Nov. 8 election victory.