A gentler Trump?

This article is more than 12 months old

In first TV interview since his victory, US President-elect Trump adopts gentler tone but promises to push conservative agenda

I will build that wall.

I will deport 3 million undocumented immigrants.

And I will consider appointing anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court.

US President-elect Donald Trump did not stray far from some of his conservative right-wing campaign promises in an interview with US network CBS' 60 Minutes.

The programme was taped on Friday and aired on Sunday(Nov 13).

On a positive note, though, he kept to the sharply conservative agenda that shook his country, but did not use the caustic words that cleaved it, reported AFP.

Mr Trump, 70, put aside his campaign's strident tone and assumed a gentler manner in his first television interview since his shock election victory, saying he was "saddened" by reports of harassment of Muslims and Hispanics, and telling the perpetrators: "Stop it."

The interview offered Mr Trump an opportunity to reintroduce himself after an ugly, name-calling campaign and surprise victory that sparked protests in cities across the country.

"I just don't think they know me," he said at one point, referring to the thousands of protesters who had gathered in the streets below his Trump Tower headquarters.

When told that many Americans were scared of his presidency, Mr Trump said: "Don't be afraid. We are going to bring our country back."


On the issues, however, Mr Trump made it clear that he intends to aggressively push a right-wing agenda, pledging to name justices to the Supreme Court who are against abortion and for gun rights.

"The judges will be pro-life," Mr Trump told CBS.

"In terms of the whole gun situation," he added, "they're going to be very pro-Second Amendment."

He will have an immediate opportunity to fill a vacancy left by the death of conservative judge Antonin Scalia. President Barack Obama's attempt to fill the seat was blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate.


On immigration, Mr Trump reaffirmed his signature campaign pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico, although he conceded that parts of it may be just a fence.

And he said that as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records would be deported or jailed."What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers," he said.

"We have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate them."

He left the door open, however, on the fate of the millions of other immigrants who are in the country illegally.

"After the border is secured and after everything gets normalised, we're going to make a determination on the people that you're talking about who are terrific people," he said.


Immigration, he said, was one of top three legislative priorities he had discussed with House Speaker Paul Ryan, the others being action to undo Mr Obama's signature healthcare reform and a bill to cut taxes and simplify the tax code.

Mr Trump had previously indicated he would keep some aspects of Obamacare, including a ban on insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.


He also signalled that he would not seek to overturn the legalisation on same-sex marriage.

"It's law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it's done," Mr Trump said when asked if he supports marriage equality.

"And I'm - I'm fine with that," he added.

He also confirmed he would forgo the US$400,000 (S$570,000) annual salary that comes with the office of US president.

"I'm not going to take the salary. I'm not taking it," he said.

"I think I have to by law take US$1, so I'll take US$1 a year."


Earlier on Sunday, Mr Trump named anti-establishment firebrand Steve Bannon as his top strategist and senior Republican Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff, blending pragmatism with a rabble-rousing edge in the first appointments of his new administration.

While Mr Trump has veered on some pledges, his choice of Mr Bannon suggests that he intends to preserve his populist edge.

Mr Bannon, who was campaign chairman in the final months of the Trump push, is CEO of the right-wing, conspiracy-mongering Breitbart News website known for withering attacks on the Republican elite.

It has railed against everything from Muslim immigrants to women, once telling females facing online harassment to go away and stop "screwing up the Internet for men".

Mr Priebus, meanwhile, is a seasoned political operative and head of the Republican National Committee, with close ties to Mr Ryan.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Mr Trump made no promises to tone down his rhetoric as president.

"I don't want to be just a little nice monotone character," he said.

Mr Trump was joined by his wife and adult children, including daughter Ivanka who was named as part of his transition team, although she has ruled out joining his administration.

House Speaker: Priority is to secure border

On Sunday morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan (above) said Mr Donald Trump's priority would not be the mass deportation of millions of undocumented migrants, CNN reported.

"I think we should put people's minds at ease, that is not what our focus is.

"That is not what we're focused on. We're focused on securing the border.

"We think that's first and foremost, before we get into any other immigration issue, we've got to know who's coming and going into the country - we've got to secure the border," he said.

Mr Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Democratic leader Harry Reid, sharply criticised the appointment of Mr Steve Bannon as top strategist in a statement.

"It is easy to see why the KKK views Mr Trump as their champion when Mr Trump appoints one of the foremost peddlers of white supremacist themes and rhetoric as his top aide," he said, referring to white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan, Reuters reported.


Xi stresses 'cooperation' in call to Trump

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told US President-elect Donald Trump that cooperation is the only choice for relations between the world's two largest economies, with Mr Trump saying the two had established a "clear sense of mutual respect".

There has been intense speculation over the impact of Mr Trump's election victory last week on issues facing the two countries, from global trade and climate change to the security balance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Trump lambasted China throughout his campaign, drumming up headlines with his pledge to slap a 45 per cent tariff on imported Chinese goods, and labelling the country a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

His win has injected uncertainty into relations at a time when Beijing hopes for stability as it faces daunting reform challenges at home, slowing growth and a leadership reshuffle of its own that will put a new party elite around Mr Xi late next year.


In their first interaction since the Nov 8 US election, Chinese state media said Mr Xi told Mr Trump in a telephone call yesterday that as the world's largest developing and developed economies, there were many areas where China and the US could cooperate.

"The facts prove that cooperation is the only correct choice for China and the US," China Central Television (CCTV) cited Mr Xi as saying.

Mr Xi's remarks were a reiteration of phrasing typically used by Beijing to describe bilateral relations.

The two sides must "promote the two countries' economic development and global economic growth" and "push for better development going forward in China-US relations", Mr Xi said.

"During the call, the leaders established a clear sense of mutual respect for one another, and President-elect Trump stated that he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward," a statement from Mr Trump's presidential transition office said.

The two agreed to maintain close communications and meet soon, CCTV said.


Mr Xi  (above) had congratulated Mr Trump in a message delivered shortly after his surprise election victory.

- Reuters

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