Wednesday January 11, 2016 Donald Trump held his last-ever press conference as President-elect. From this point on, should he ever hold another (and that is by no means certain), it will either be as President or as an ex-President.
There are – or will soon be – five living ex-Presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
If they were watching, I’ll bet they each said at some point, “Damn. I wish I could have gotten away with that!” Or some variant on the theme.
President-elect Trump’s demeanor and showmanship were just about the same as Candidate Trump’s. You don’t have to love the act, but you’ve got to give credit – no matter how grudgingly – at the ease with which he answered, dissembled, didn’t answer, scolded, and scoffed – sometimes all in the same sequence.
When CNN’s Jim Acosta wanted to ask a question (CNN having been singled out for reporting on the opposition research report that alleged all manner of misbehavior between the Trump organization and the Russians) Trump said he couldn’t.
Acosta, who is a serious and well-respected journalist, lost it and kept shouting at Trump, but Trump didn’t fold, ending the engagement by pointed at Acosta and saying, “Don’t be rude.”
I know, it’s hard to believe that Trump would think to school someone else about common courtesy but that’s what happens when you’re going to be POTUS.
Trump refused to back down on having a better relationship with Putin “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset not a liability.” He then sort of brushed up against an admission that the Russkies might have been behind the campaign hacking after all but, “I think we also get hacked by other people. When we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, that was something extraordinary. That was probably China.”
When asked about the status of the fence between the U.S. and Mexico, Trump corrected the reporter “It’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You misreported it.” He went on to say he didn’t “feel like waiting for a year-and-a-half” to negotiate with Congress and with the Mexicans, but would start it now. And, he said, Mexico will pay for the wall “whether it’s a tax or a payment – probably less likely it’s a payment – but it will happen.”
He brought one of his lawyers on stage to explain that as President, Donald Trump doesn’t fall under the same ethics and conflict-of-interest rules as everyone else on the Federal payroll. She pointed to a huge collection of folders on a table next to the lectern and said they were the forms that Trump had signed turning over each of the hundreds of individual companies that make up the Trump Organization to his two grown sons, Eric and Don, Jr.
On Obamacare “repeal and replace,” Trump said a replacement bill would be introduced as soon as his nominee for HHS Secretary, U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga) and a physician, by the way, is sworn in.
“As soon as our Secretary is approved and gets into the office we’ll be filing a plan. We’re going to have health care that is far cheaper and far better.”
In the U.S. Congress the phrase of art is not to “file” a bill, but to “introduce” a bill, which led to a bit of humor late in the exercise when the subject of additional sanctions against his BFF Vladimir Putin was raised.
It seems that South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham is intent on increasing the pressure on Russia because of the hacking and is preparing legislation to do just that.
From the transcript:
Q: What do you think of Lindsey Graham’s plan to send you a bill for . . .
TRUMP: Plans to send me a bill for what?
Q: Tougher sanctions.
Signed documents or not, Donald Trump is still a businessman at heart and when he heard someone was sending him a bill, he wanted to know what he had bought and what was being charged for.
In summary, the press conference was exactly what you thought it would be. If you’re a pro-Trumper he put the media in its place. If you’re a never-Trumper it was total chaos. If you’re agnostic, it was interesting to watch and, in my case, fun to write about.