WASHINGTON -- President-elect Donald Trump amplified his already heated war with the intelligence community Wednesday, accusing agents of leaking an ugly and unsubstantiated report about him while comparing the tactic to Nazis.
The showdown threatens to further undermine trust between the next commander in chief and America's spies amid heightened threats to national security from terrorist groups and adversaries around the world with powerful new cyberweapons.
Trump, for the first time, acknowledged intelligence findings that Russia hacked Democratic files in an effort to interfere with the election, but he denied that Moscow tried to help him win, while praising President Vladimir Putin and even suggesting that the hack ultimately helped American voters.
"Hacking's bad and it shouldn't be done," he told reporters. "But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking."
The claim was one of several bizarre moments at a wide-ranging news conference, Trump's first since July, that also touched on his business conflicts, his biggest campaign promises and another of his main foils, the media.
The event went off with a typical level of theatrics: Trump stood in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York next to stacks of file folders, ostensibly containing documents detailing the handover of his businesses to his older sons, though they were acknowledged only as an afterthought. Several other speakers took turns at the lectern, including a tax lawyer, a spokesman and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Trump briefly argued with a CNN correspondent, refusing to take his question.
Trump was asked to rule out the possibility of contacts between his associates and Russian intelligence agents during the campaign and would not do so. But he lashed out against media organizations that published unverified allegations Tuesday from a report that claimed that Russians had gathered blackmail material against him and that people in his orbit had met with Russian agents during the campaign.
The unsubstantiated information was contained in a 35-page file released Tuesday by BuzzFeed, which said it was publishing the material in the interest of "transparency." No news organization has been able to verify any of the material in the report, which CNN reported was prepared by an outside source. Media reports conflict about whether it was disclosed to Trump and President Barack Obama in intelligence briefings last week.
Trump said it was "sick people" who "put that crap together," including unproven assertions that he encountered prostitutes at a Russian hotel.
"I'm also very much of a germophobe, by the way," he said. "Believe me."