Donald Trump held his first press conference as president-elect on Wednesday. Given that he hadn’t held such an event since late-July, there was a lot of ground to cover.
Speaking to an estimated 250 reporters inside Trump Tower at the mid-morning event, Trump took questions on a wide array of subjects, including recent intelligence reports regarding Russia, the future of his business empire, and repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”
Here are the top highlights for those who missed it:
1. ‘I think it was Russia’
For the first time Wednesday, Trump said he believed Russia was behind the alleged hacking campaign to influence the outcome the the 2016 election. Trump’s concession came after he consistently cast doubt on intelligence reports, which found the Russian government acted to swing the campaign in his favor.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” Trump said Wednesday, adding that he has concerns about hacks from a multiple foreign actors, including China.”We have much hacking going.”
Trump blamed the Democratic National Committee for being “totally open” to the hack and gave credit to the Republican National Committee for not falling victim to the same fate.
Trump also dismissed recent reports that Russian operatives had obtained potentially compromising information on him and called the reporting by CNN and BuzzFeed, the outlets that broke news on the unsubstantiated claims Tuesday, “a disgrace.” Trump’s criticism led to a heated exchange during the press conference with CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
Trump said he is “extremely careful” when traveling abroad—including when he went to the 2013 Miss Universe contest in suburbs of Moscow—about protecting potentially compromising information.
“In your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you’re going to probably have cameras,” he said.
“I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way. Believe me,” he later added, appearing to allude to the unsubstantiated claims in the documents published by BuzzFeed.
2. Trump is not divesting from his business interests
In an effort to address potential conflicts of interest due to his vast real estate empire, Trump said he was transferring day-to-day management of the company to his two adult sons. However, he said he would not be selling or divesting himself from the business, since federal conflict of interest laws do not apply to the president they way the do for other government officials.
Midway through the press conference, Trump yielded the podium to his lawyer Sheri Dillon, who said his assets will be placed in a trust. In keeping with the trust, Dillon said Trump had terminated 30 pending deals, at a loss of “millions” for the family. She also said no new foreign deals would be made during the duration of Trump’s presidency. New domestic deals would still be allowed, but Trump will not be allowed direct involvement, Dillon said.
However, she also said Trump could not create a completely “blind trust” (as is customary for presidents) due to the name recognition of his brand.
“President Trump can’t un-know he owns Trump Tower,” she said.
Dillon also said that selling his businesses could create more conflicts of interest.
“The Trump brand is key to to the value of the Trump Organization’s assets,” she said. “If President-elect Trump sold his brand, he would be entitled to royalties for the use of it, and this would result in the trust retaining an interest in the brand without the ability to ensure that it does not exploit the office of the presidency.”
Dillon called the current trust deal a “suitable alternative.”
However, government ethics experts, including Norm Eisen and Zephyr Teachout, said following the press conference that the arrangement does not disentangle Trump from his business interests and would be unconstitutional.
Earlier in the press conference, when asked if he would release his tax returns in order to shed light on his extent of his business dealings, Trump declined.
“The only one who cares about my tex returns are the reporters,” Trump said, despite polls indicating 60 percent of the American public think he has a “responsibility” to release the returns.
“I won,” he said. “I became president. I don’t think they care at all.”
3. Repeal and replace Obamacare ‘essentially simultaneously’
Amid bipartisan concerns over repealing Obamacare without an immediate replacement—potentially dropping 20 million people from their current healthcare plans—Trump said he would like to repeal and replace the law “essentially simultaneously.”
“It will be various segments, you understand, but it will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but most likely the same day,” Trump said. “Could be the same hour. It will be repeal and replace—very complicated stuff.”
He did not immediately outline his plan to replace Obamacare, which he called “a complete and total disaster,” but said his administration would be submitting legislation to Congress.
Trump said Obamacare is currently the Democrats’ problem and that he is doing them a “tremendous service” by repealing it.
In a recent interview with Vox, President Barack Obama, for whom the landmark healthcare act was eponymously nicknamed, said the problems with Obamacare—higher than expected premiums, which Trump referred to Wednesday, among other things—was because the law didn’t go far enough. Obama suggested increased subsidies and a public option.
The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans, however, are unlikely to take that route.