President-elect Donald Trump gave his first hour-long press conference as the president-elect on Wednesday morning, the first formal conference with reporters since winning the presidency in November 8 election – in Trump’s words, a “general news conference”. Trump faced questions about his bid to warm US relations with Moscow and responded to questions regarding his ties to Russia, his plans for his businesses and how he would pay for the Mexico border wall.
There was an unsure element to the news conference, was held at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York, given Trump’s repeated criticism of the US news media and his belief that many media organisations preferred Democrat Hillary Clinton during last year’s presidential adventure.
We had a great News Conference at Trump Tower today. A couple of FAKE NEWS organizations were there but the people truly get what's going on
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
The press-conference itself was relatively short and didn’t thoroughly provide many tangible answers about conflicts of interest, which was outwardly what the main topic was. However, it did lay the framework for how Trump’s news conferences will go once he is formally in office and gave us an indicator of what to expect.
What did we learn from the experience? The following are some initial thoughts/highlights from US President-elect Donald Trump’s news conference in New York on Wednesday.
Calling Buzzfeed News a “failing pile of garbage”
1. Trump has long had a polemical relationship with the news media, which he frequently refers to as the “dishonest media.” And Trump lashed out against CNN and BuzzFeed, the organizations who first reported on the Russian allegations.
While continuing to speak on the leaked dossier, the president-elect took aim at Buzzfeed News for its decision to publish the leaked dossier online despite that it contained unsubstantiated information, also called the media outlet (BuzzFeed) a “failing pile of garbage.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Trump believes Russia was behind the hacks
2. Trump acknowledged that Russia was most likely behind the cyberattacks during the campaign that intelligence officials say were intended to help his candidacy (the 2016 presidential election).
Although he said other countries might also hold responsibility. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said. “But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
“Maybe the intelligence agencies” leaked the dossier
3. The president-elect imposed fierce reproach on the intelligence community after BuzzFeed’s decision to release an unverified document claiming Russia had compromising evidence against Mr. Trump.
He added that, “nonsense” reports released by some media may have been leaked by a U.S. intelligence agency, which would be a tremendous blot on their credibility.
Refusing to take questions from CNN’s Jim Acosta
4. For reporting on the dossier, the president-elect engaged in a shouting match with a CNN reporter.
Trump refused to take questions from CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, saying “No, no, not you. Your organization is terrible” and “you are fake news” as the reporter attempted to pose a question regarding the Russian hacking scandal.
Building the wall
5. On a question about his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Mr. Trump said Mexico will “reimburse the cost” the U.S. for the wall because he doesn’t want to wait to construct it until negotiations (a direct payment or some type of taxation) are made before with Mexico.
“I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get into office; but I don’t want to wait,” he said.
New Veterans Affairs secretary
6. Trump announced the name of Dr. David Shulkin, MD, as his choice for the head secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Shuklin is the current Veteran’s Affairs Under Secretary for health and was originally appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the VA department in 2015.
“We’re going to straighten out the VA for our veterans. I have been promising that for a long time … We interviewed at least 100 people (for VA head), some good, some not so good … Our veterans have been treated horribly,” Trump said.
Trump called on Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously
7. Asked to discuss his administration’s plan for dealing with the Affordable Care Act, Trump said that he would encourage Congressional leaders and his Republican colleagues to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “essentially simultaneously.”
Under Obamacare, premiums and deductibles have increased, but more than 6.4 million individuals signed up for the service during 2016’s open enrollment phase. Some of the premium increases are offset by federal subsidies.
“You’re going to be very, very proud not only as the media and reporters about what we put forth,” Trump said. “Obamacare is a complete and total disaster.”
TRUMP’S BUSINESS/CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
8. Donald Trump said he has handed over his entire business empire to his two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and a long time business executive, but will not sell it. Mr. Trump introduced Sherri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, a lawyer who has been working on the plan for the Trump business empire.
Sherri Dillon said Mr. Trump’s investments and business holdings will be put in a trust before Inauguration Day to be overseen by two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, along with Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, would take over his businesses while he’s president. Ivanka Trump, will resign from the business, her husband Jared Kushner will become a senior adviser to the Trump White House, will have “no further management” role in the company.
There will be “no new foreign deals” made during the duration of Mr. Trump’s presidency, Dillon added, and domestic deals will be subject to “severe restrictions.”
He wants to reform the drug industry
9. Trump said that the pharmaceutical industry has too much lobbying power and drugs are too expensive. Some drugs are patented or have no competition because similar therapies are not available. The President-elect also claimed that most of the drugs are not manufactured here. Regardless, all drugs have to meet Food and Drug Administration standards.
We need to “create new bidding procedures for the drug industry, because they’re getting away with murder,” he added.
After the press conference, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders expressed, “Pharma does get away with murder. Literally murder. People die because they can’t get the prescription drugs they need.”
Supreme Court nominee
10. Asked about filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump said he plans to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court for the late Justice Antonin Scalia (died in February) within two weeks of his inauguration. The president-elect has previously floated a list (approved by conservative think-tank the Federalist Society) of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees, which included Don Willett, William Pryor and Sen. Ted Cruz.
“That will be probably within two weeks of the 20th,” he said. “So within about two weeks, probably the second week.”
11. The President-elect as a greatest job producer, Mr. Trump highlighted the new jobs he has been able to bring back to the country through private firms.
“We’re going to create jobs. I said that I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created. And I mean that, I’m going to work very hard on that,” Trump told reporters at his first news conference in six months.