Yesterday was another mad day in Trumpland — or America, as it used to be called. The president-elect started the morning off by promising, somewhat mystically on Twitter, that 'Great meetings will take place today at Trump Tower concerning the formation of the people who will run our government for the next 8 years’. But the most fascinating event of his day —for us saps in the self-immolating media, at any rate —was his showdown conference with the New York Times. The meeting was nearly cancelled in the morning, after both parties failed to agree on its terms and conditions, and then put on again after a bit of confusing back and forth between the Trump team, NYT, and the Donald’s multi-personality Twitter account.
My favourite pet theory is that Trump is secretly and perversely determined to save the New York Times — the ‘failing New York Times’ as he always calls it — by giving it as much attention and controversy as any publication could wish for. When the press conference finally happened, he seems to have offered a truckload of massive global stories. Here, in brief, are just a few that might be of particular interest to Spectator readers:
- On the story that he had urged Nigel Farage and his gang of transatlantic Brexiteers to fight wind farms because they ruined the aesthetics of his golf courses in Scotland, he said ‘I might have brought it up'
- 'In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly,' he said, although he also said he would 'like to do something' about concerns over conflicts of interest between his commercial enterprises and his future government. 'The law’s totally on my side,' he said. 'The president can’t have a conflict of interest.'
- He repeated that he would not seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. 'I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t...She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.' He added that the Clinton Foundation might have done 'good work'.
- Asked about his controversial senior adviser and chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump said he is 'a decent guy’. 'If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him', he said. He defended Bannon's media site Breitbart by saying it was similar to the New York Times only 'much more conservative.'
- On the now notorious alt-right, which is often linked to Bannon and Breitbart, he said, 'I don’t want to energise the group, and I disavow the group...If they are energised, I want to look into it and find out why.'”
- He promised to ‘keep an open mind’ on climate change and said he thought there was 'connectivity' between human behaviour and the environment.
- Trump said he didn't think the US 'should be 'a nation builder' and that he had a different view on the Syrian civil war to everyone else.
- He also said he would 'would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians, that would be such a great achievement.’ He suggested his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who’s Jewish, would make be an ideal Middle East Peace Envoy and that there is no reason why charges of nepotism should stop Kushner serving the Trump administration. 'He knows the region,' he said of the 35 year old.
- He said he was ‘seriously considering' General James Mattis for Department of Defense, adding that Mattis had changed his mind about torture.
- Trump suggested lightly that he would not change America's liberal libel laws - for fear of being sued himself. ''You know, you might be sued a lot more'', Trump said someone told him about his earlier suggestion that he might reduce the freedoms of the press. 'I said, 'You know, I hadn’t thought of that''.