Trump’s ini­tial pri­or­i­ties leave out bor­der wall, NAFTA and Mus­lim ban

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By NOAH BIER­MAN AND TRACY WILKIN­SON

— Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump spent more than a year promis­ing to build a wall, re­peal Oba­macare and re­scind Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s de­por­ta­tion pro­tec­tions for some im­mi­grants in the U.S. il­le­gally.

But on Mon­day, in his first ex­ten­sive public com­ments since win­ning the elec­tion, Trump men­tioned none of those is­sues. Nor did he talk about with­draw­ing from the North American Free Trade Agree­ment, ban­ning Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try or end­ing the Syr­ian refugee pro­gram, some of his other stock cam­paign pledges.

Trump in­stead made five more modest prom­ises for his first day in of­fice dur­ing a nearly three-minute video. It ap­peared to be an ef­fort to soften Trump’s mes­sage while he es­tab­lishes an in­ner cir­cle of hard-lin­ers, in­clud­ing Steve Ban­non, a top ad­viser who ran a web­site that has pro­moted white na­tion­al­ist ide­ol­ogy.

In the video, Trump promised to with­draw from the mas­sive Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal, “a po­ten­tial dis­as­ter for our coun­try,” and in­stead pur­sue bi­lat­eral agree­ments with some of the coun­tries in­volved. He also pledged to lift re­stric­tions on en­ergy pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing shale and coal, to im­ple­ment a rule that any new govern­ment reg­u­la­tion must be ac­com­pa­nied by re­mov­ing two on the books and to in­struct his Joint Chiefs of Staff to de­velop a new cy­ber­se­cu­rity plan.

His only dis­cus­sion of im­mi­gra­tion in­volved the le­gal kind — a crack­down on visa fraud.

“My agenda will be based on a sim­ple core prin­ci­ple: putting Amer­ica first,” he said. “Whether it’s pro­duc­ing steel­build­ing cars or cur­ing disease, I want the next gen­er­a­tion of pro­duc­tion and in­no­va­tion to hap­pen right here on our great home­land — Amer­ica.”

Trump also said his pre­vi­ously an­nounced ethics rules — bar­ring those who work in his ad­min­is­tra­tion from lob­by­ing for five years af­ter they leave the govern­ment and from lob­by­ing for for­eign gov­ern­ments for life — would take ef­fect as soon as he is in­au­gu­rated.

Trump vowed in the video to re­lease more plans in the days ahead.

“These are some of our day-one ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions,” spokesman Ja­son Miller said in an email. “By no means is it ev­ery­thing he’ll work on day one or af­ter that — many ad­di­tional good things to come.”

Trump’s first in­stall­ment, though, seemed espe­cially tai­lored to the vot­ers in the for­mer in­dus­trial belt who helped

WASH­ING­TON

Tribune Wash­ing­ton Bu­reau Trump win his sur­prise vic­tory.

His fo­cus on le­gal im­mi­gra­tion was par­tic­u­larly strik­ing and in line with the views of Alabama Repub­li­can Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, his pick for at­tor­ney gen­eral and one of Trump’s ear­li­est sup­port­ers in Wash­ing­ton. Ses­sions has been a critic of the visa sys­tem, ar­gu­ing that work visas, in par­tic­u­lar, al­low for­eign work­ers to dis­place Amer­i­cans. He has also spon­sored a bill that would end the visa lot­tery that grants tens of thou­sands of green cards a year.

Trump did not dis­cuss plans to de­port mil­lions of im­mi­grants as he has fre­quently done on the trail. But the omis­sions were far from a dec­la­ra­tion of a new agenda and left open the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump may be rec­og­niz­ing the dif­fi­culty of achiev­ing all of his am­bi­tions im­me­di­ately and try­ing to de­lay some of his most di­vi­sive pro­pos­als.

“There’s noth­ing he can re­ally do about the wall on day one,” said Jack Pit­ney, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Clare­mont McKenna Col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia. “He’s prob­a­bly fo­cus­ing on nar­row, achiev­able goals that won’t cause too much con­tro­versy be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. There will be plenty of trou­ble down the line.”

Trump has yet to give a post-elec­tion news con­fer­ence lay­ing out his agenda or an­swer­ing ques­tions about his tran­si­tion, which gives added weight to the video. He also ad­dressed crit­i­cisms about the dis­or­ga­nized na­ture of the tran­si­tion, in­sist­ing it has gone “very smoothly, ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively.”

The video came amid news re­ports that fu­eled more un­cer­tainty over how Trump will avoid con­flicts of in­ter­est re­lated to his world­wide busi­ness ties, with new ques­tions aris­ing Mon­day over a con­ver­sa­tion Trump had last week with Ar­gen­tine Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri.

Dur­ing the con­grat­u­la­tory call, Trump asked for help with per­mit­ting a con­struc­tion project he is build­ing in Buenos Aires, an Ar­gen­tine jour­nal­ist said.

Trump’s tran­si­tion staff and the Ar­gen­tine govern­ment both de­nied the project was dis­cussed. How­ever, Macri’s spokesman, Ivan Pavlovsky, said in a state­ment that the two men “briefly men­tioned the per­sonal re­la­tion­ship they have had for years,” al­lud­ing to their busi­ness ties, which date back to the 1980s.

Trump’s tran­si­tion team did not re­spond to a re­quest for a tran­script or sum­mary of the phone call and have de­nied that Trump’s busi­nesses have cre­ated even a per­cep­tion of po­ten­tial con­flict.

But Trump’s on­go­ing in­volve­ment in his com­pa­nies raises the specter that he will use his po­si­tion to fur­ther his fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests. And the prob­lem will not go away un­less Trump puts a stronger fire­wall be­tween his fam­ily and his busi­ness dur­ing his pres­i­dency, ethics spe­cial­ists say.

Even if Trump does not ask for it, for­eign lead­ers may be­lieve they are win­ning in­flu­ence with Trump by grant­ing busi­ness fa­vors to him or his chil­dren, who Trump says will con­trol his busi­nesses while he is pres­i­dent.

“Pri­vate in­ter­est cur­ry­ing fa­vor and buy­ing in­flu­ence with lead­ers of coun­tries by deal­ing with their chil­dren is a time-hon­ored tra­di­tion in the world,” said Fred Wertheimer, pres­i­dent of Democ­racy 21, a non­par­ti­san group that ad­vo­cates for tighter con­trols on con­flicts of in­ter­est in govern­ment.

Wertheimer called Trump “a mas­sive walk­ing con­flict of in­ter­est” and said ques­tions sur­round­ing his re­la­tion­ship with Macri would oc­cur reg­u­larly un­less Trump di­vests his busi­ness em­pire com­pletely and cre­ates a truly blind trust that does not in­volve his chil­dren, who are also key po­lit­i­cal advisers.

The is­sue dogged Trump be­fore he was elected. Trump ran largely on an ethics plat­form, crit­i­ciz­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton and her hus­band for en­rich­ing them­selves from govern­ment ser­vice and ex­chang­ing ac­cess at the State Depart­ment for cash. Trump has also promised to “drain the swamp,” elim­i­nat­ing out­side in­flu­ence in Wash­ing­ton.

Trump ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way scoffed when re­porters asked on Mon­day how long Trump would con­tinue con­duct­ing busi­ness dur­ing the tran­si­tion.

“Do you ask peo­ple how long they will play golf and do the tran­si­tion?” she said, an im­plicit dig at Obama, whose rounds of golf are a fre­quent tar­get of con­ser­va­tive crit­i­cism. “Are you sug­gest­ing he is do­ing some­thing il­le­gal? I al­ready said he is not. But the pre­sump­tion is that he is.”

Con­way said Trump has con­sulted on ethics with lawyers, ac­coun­tants and advisers. She said that his role as a busi­ness­man in tran­si­tion to the high­est of­fice marks “un­prece­dented times.”

(Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Laura Till­man in Mex­ico City, and staff writer Chris Mege­rian con­trib­uted to this re­port.)

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS/TNS

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump promised to with­draw from the mas­sive Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal in his first days in of­fice.

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