Trump shifts on cam­paign vows

Pres­i­dent-elect steps back from Clin­ton, cli­mate change, tor­ture

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Karen Tu­multy

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump aban­doned some of his most ten­den­tious cam­paign prom­ises Tues­day, say­ing he does not plan to pros­e­cute Hil­lary Clin­ton for her use of a pri­vate email sys­tem or the deal­ings of her fam­ily foun­da­tion, has an “open mind” about a cli­mate change ac­cord from which he vowed to with­draw the United States and is no longer cer­tain that tor­tur­ing ter­ror­ism sus­pects is a good idea.

The bil­lion­aire real es­tate de­vel­oper also dis­missed any need to dis­en­tan­gle him­self from his fi­nan­cial hold­ings, de­spite ris­ing ques­tions about how his global busi­ness deal­ings might af­fect his de­ci­sion­mak­ing as the na­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“The law’s to­tally on my side. The pres­i­dent can’t have a con­flict of in­ter­est,” Trump told ed­i­tors and re­porters of The New York Times dur­ing an hour­long ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion. “In the­ory, I could run my busi­ness per­fectly and then run the coun­try per­fectly. There’s never been a case like this.”

Trump fur­ther sought to dis­tance him­self from a small, far-right move­ment known for its em­brace of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric that has cel­e­brated Trump’s elec­tion.

“I don’t want to en­er­gize the group, and I dis­avow the group,” Trump said of the alt-right.

The pres­i­dent-elect has a record of mak­ing state­ments that are inconsistent with his pre­vi­ous ones, which means it is un­cer­tain whether any of the po­si­tions he es­poused Tues­day will hold in the days go­ing for­ward.

His stance on Clin­ton, the for­mer sec­re­tary of state, was a pivot from the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, dur­ing which he called her “Crooked Hil­lary” and threat­ened dur­ing one of their de­bates to put his Demo­cratic op­po­nent in jail.

At his ral­lies and dur­ing the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion in Cleve­land, Trump’s sup­port­ers would reg­u­larly chant, “Lock her up!”

But on Tues­day, he said: “I don’t want to hurt the Clin­tons. I re­ally don’t. She went through a lot and suf­fered greatly in many dif­fer­ent ways.”

Asked whether that meant he had ruled out ap­point­ing a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, as he had said he would, Trump said: “It’s just not some­thing that I feel very strongly about.”

If Trump were to push or try to block a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the Oval Of­fice, it would mark an ex­tra­or­di­nary break with po­lit­i­cal and le­gal pro­to­col, which holds that the at­tor­ney gen­eral and FBI make de­ci­sions on whether to con­duct probes and file charges, free of pres­sure from the pres­i­dent.

The pres­i­dent- elect’s new po­si­tion may also have no ef­fect on the plans of other mem­bers of his party on Capi­tol Hill. Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump an­swers ques­tions dur­ing a meet­ing Tues­day at The New York Times in New York.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, RU­tah, who is fin­ish­ing his first term lead­ing the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, has vowed to con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate Clin­ton’s email server.

An at­tor­ney for Clin­ton, David Ken­dall, de­clined to com­ment.

Trump also shifted po­si­tion on cli­mate change, say­ing he be­lieves there is “some con­nec­tiv­ity” be­tween hu­man ac­tiv­ity and ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures.

In 2012, he had brushed off that idea as a Chi­nese hoax, tweet­ing: “The con­cept of global warm­ing was cre­ated by and for the Chi­nese in order to make U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing non-com­pet­i­tive.”

Asked whether he plans to with­draw the United States from the 2015 Paris cli­mate ac­cord, he said he is keep­ing “an open mind to it.”

The deal ne­go­ti­ated by nearly 200 coun­tries last year com­mits them to a global push to re­duce green­house gases.

Trump, how­ever, has re­peat­edly said the agree­ment is bad for U.S. busi­nesses.

Trump sig­naled an­other shift on the ques­tion of how to treat ter­ror­ism sus­pects.

Dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, he had said that he would re­in­state the use of wa­ter­board­ing and sim­i­lar in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques in the ques­tion­ing of sus­pected ter­ror­ists.

But Tues­day he suggested he might have changed his mind af­ter in­ter­view­ing a lead­ing can­di­date for sec­re­tary of de­fense, re­tired Marine Corps Gen. James Mat­tis, who headed the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand.

Mat­tis ar­gued that he had never found harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques “to be use­ful,” Trump said, adding that the re­tired gen­eral pre­ferred build­ing trust with “a pack of cig­a­rettes and a cou­ple of beers.”

“I was very im­pressed by that an­swer,” Trump said.

Trump spoke about the im­pli­ca­tions of an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion in which a busi­ness­man with global hold­ings will sit in the Oval Of­fice. That prospect has prompted crit­i­cism that there will be in­evitable con­flicts of in­ter­est.

While no statute re­quires di­vest­ment by the pres­i­dent, all of them in mod­ern his­tory have put their as­sets un­der in­de­pen­dent man­age­ment, gen­er­ally through a blind trust.

The con­cern is to avoid run­ning afoul — in ac­tu­al­ity or ap­pear­ance — of laws against bribery and other forms of cor­rup­tion.

Trump noted that he has turned the man­age­ment of his busi­nesses over to his chil­dren, but he protested: “If it were up to some peo­ple, I would never, ever see my daugh­ter Ivanka again.”

But his com­ments fu­eled more crit­i­cism.

“Don­ald Trump cam­paigned against a cul­ture of self-en­rich­ment in Wash­ing­ton and pledged to ‘drain the swamp,’ but made clear today that he doesn’t think the rules ap­ply to him,” Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Adam Hodge said in a state­ment. “He fully in­tends to use the Oval Of­fice to ex­pand his fam­ily’s wealth.”

HIROKO MASUIKE/THE NEW YORK TIMES/AP

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