Trump Outlines Agenda Amid Business Scrutiny, Press Tension

Trump's Transition: A Video Briefing After Media Meeting
  • President-elect vows to cancel two rules for each created
  • Business dealings, media relations draw increased scrutiny

President-elect Donald Trump vowed to start the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, institute a five-year ban on federal officials lobbying after leaving government, and cancel “job-killing” regulations on energy production within his first 100 days in office.

Trump detailed executive actions he can take “on day one” -- as soon as he is sworn in as president in January -- in a video released Monday. He included a proposal that “for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.”

President-Elect Trump in a video released on Nov. 21.
President-Elect Trump in a video released on Nov. 21.
Source: Transition 2017

Absent from the list were some of his most controversial plans, such as building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, repealing Obamacare, and undoing the nuclear deal with Iran.

He directed his message at the American people amid transition planning that he said is going “very smoothly efficiently and effectively,” despite reports of infighting, increased scrutiny of his business dealings, and media organizations’ transparency concerns.

“My agenda will be based on a simple core principle: putting America first,” he said, whether it is “producing steel, building cars or curing disease.”

‘Potential Disaster’

As he said on the campaign trail before the Nov. 8 election, Trump called the TPP trade deal was “a potential disaster for our country.”

He also vowed to cancel regulations restricting shale oil production, clean coal and other energy sources, develop a plan to secure vital infrastructure from cyber-attacks, and investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.

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Trump said he would also take action designed to “drain the swamp,” or fight political corruption in Washington. In addition to the five-year ban, he said he’d seek a lifetime ban on former administration officials lobbying for foreign governments.

The video was released as Trump packed another day full of meetings with potential administration picks and those offering counsel. Trump on Tuesday said on Twitter that more meetings were scheduled at his namesake Manhattan tower. He’s expected to travel to Florida for Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

A top adviser said there is no rush to fill the top ranks of his White House and cabinet.

“His appointments will come out when he’s ready and not a moment sooner because these are big decisions and they shouldn’t be rushed,” Kellyanne Conway, who served as Trump’s campaign manager, told reporters Monday in New York. She said the Trump team already is “weeks and weeks and weeks ahead” of previous presidential transitions.

Job Interviews

On Trump’s schedule in New York on Monday were onetime primary rival Rick Perry, the former Texas governor; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump loyalist; Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, who’s been mentioned as a potential secretary of the Department of the Interior; former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; and former Senator Scott Brown, a possible candidate for Veterans Affairs.

Elaine Chao
Elaine Chao
Photographer: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP via Getty Images

Also meeting with Trump was Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who broke with much of her party’s establishment to back Senator Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton during the Democratic nomination race.

Along with potential administration officials, Trump met Monday with anchors and executives from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and CNN for an off-the-record discussion. During his campaign, Trump had lashed out at all of the networks at some point for how they covered his run.

Conway called the session “very cordial, very productive, genial, but it was also very candid and very honest.”

Times Meeting

Trump was set to meet with New York Times journalists on Tuesday, then issued a string of tweets in the morning saying he canceled the meeting because the newspaper sought to change the terms of the gathering at the last minute, and complaining about its coverage of him.

The newspaper said it was Trump’s team that had sought to change the ground rules to keep the entire meeting off the record, while the Times had agreed to a meeting that was partly off the record and partly on.

Later Tuesday, spokeswomen for Trump and the Times said the meeting was back on. Trump would meet with the newspaper’s publisher off the record, then meet on the record with journalists and columnists, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.

Conflicts of Interest

In an interview Monday on Bloomberg Television’s “With All Due Respect” program, Conway dismissed questions about how Trump will deal with potential conflicts of interest involving his business empire. She said Trump has a team of legal advisers who will “make sure he complies with the law” regarding his financial affairs. Management of his businesses will be turned over to the control of his adult children, she said. 

“He will have no authority whatsoever over his business,” Conway said.

“Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world,” Trump said on Twitter on Monday night, seeking to suggest ordinary Americans don’t share concerns about whether he is mixing business and the presidency. “Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”

Treasury Candidates

Trump returned to New York after spending the weekend receiving a parade of visitors at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, including at least three potential Treasury secretary candidates with deep Wall Street experience: billionaire investor Wilbur Ross; Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate at Blackstone Group; and David McCormick, president of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.

Dune Capital Management CEO Steven Mnuchin, a member of the transition team’s executive committee and the Trump campaign’s national finance chairman, is thought to be the front-runner for the Treasury post, according to a person familiar with the hiring process.

Trump on Friday announced he’d selected former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser and would nominate Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, an early supporter, as attorney general and Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo as Central Intelligence Agency director.

Landing Teams

The transition team also announced more so-called landing teams that will begin meeting with top officials at federal agencies to begin the process of handing over the keys to a Trump administration. There are some 4,000 executive branch jobs that the new administration will be filling with political appointees.

Among those named to the landing teams were Charter Holdings Chief Executive Officer Ray Washburne, a Republican financier, to liaise with the Department of Commerce. Washburne also may be under consideration for interior secretary, CNBC reported, citing sources it didn’t identify.

For leader of the Department of Homeland Security, the Washington Post reported Monday that Trump is considering retired Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, who was head of the U.S. Southern Command, and Francis Townsend, who was President George W. Bush’s adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism.

Defense Secretary

James Mattis may have the inside track to run the Pentagon after Trump gave the retired Marine Corps general a big thumbs-up, while 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a former Trump critic who met with the president-elect on Saturday, is under consideration to be the nation’s top diplomat.

Among those also said to be in the mix to run the Pentagon or take another administration job is Perry, who served in the Air Force. Trump met with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who served on combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, on Nov. 18, also to talk about the defense position, said two people with knowledge of the meeting. Another of Trump’s meetings Sunday was with General Kelly, the former head of the Southern Command.

Besides Romney, Trump’s short list to become the nation’s top diplomat is said to include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina.

Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, said he was interested in the VA job. “I think the toughest job in the cabinet is to lead the VA because while it has so many angels working there, it has so many great problems as well,” he told reporters at Trump Tower after meeting with the president-elect. “The VA can’t do it all. We’re going to have to outsource some of those cases to private vendors, obviously.”

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