Obama: What only Trump can fix
President Barack Obama, elected eight year ago as the “hope and change” candidate, tried his best Monday to put a hopeful cast on the change that President-elect Donald Trump will bring to the White House.
“I don’t think he is ideological, I think ultimately he is pragmatic in that way and that can serve him well as long as he has got good people around him and he has a good sense of direction,” Obama said at his first news conference since the election and his meeting with Trump last Thursday.
But Obama — who during the campaign called Trump “woefully unprepared for the job” — acknowledged, “Do I have concerns? Absolutely.” There are “certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well, unless he recognizes them and corrects” them, Obama said.
The president warned: “This office has a way of waking you up. Those aspects of his positions or his predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick because reality has a way of asserting itself.” (Full video of news conference here.)
Alt right cheers Bannon
Trump’s team pushed back against the notion that naming Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor puts a promoter of the alt-right movement — riddled with racists and anti-Semites — a door-knock away from the Oval Office.
Kellyanne Conway said she was as “personally offended” by the suggestion that “I would manage a campaign where that would be one of the going philosophies.”
But leaders on the far-right’s white nationalist extremes, including David Duke, praised the pick of the former Breitbart News boss in interviews with CNN.
Matt Parrott, a spokesman for the Traditionalist Worker Party, had a quibble. He called Bannon is a “civic nationalist” — someone who sees an American identity not based on race — rather than “a white nationalist.” But Parrott added “that’s much better than what was in Washington before.”
The take-away: Ins and outs
Those who are headed out and those who are headed in are trading perspectives on a host of questions Among them: the expansion in the Obama years of executive power. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
The top contenders for Treasury secretary are former Goldman Sachs banker Steve Mnuchin, who ran Trump’s campaign fundraising, and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, Politico reports.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton are leading candidates to be the next secretary of state, The Wall Street Journal [pay site] said.
Reports added overnight that Giuliani is now the number-one pick, indicating the degree to which personal loyalty would trump other considerations.
Giuliani also said at a Journal forum Monday night that he won’t be attorney general, suggesting it could be Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is also in the running for defense secretary.
Several reports said Richard Grenell is under consideration to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The openly gay Grenell was driven out of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign in the face of opposition from social conservatives.
Trump family’s top secrets
Trump’s team has asked the White House to explore the possibility of getting his children top-secret security clearances, CBS News reports.
Logistically, the children would need to be designated by the current White House as national security advisers to their father to get the clearances. Once Trump becomes president, he would be able to put in the request himself.
While nepotism rules prevent the president-elect from hiring his kids to work in the White House, they do not need to be government officials to receive the clearances.
Vlad to hear it
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Trump to offer his congratulations, and the president-elect said “that he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the People of Russia,” Trump’s office said,
Both Trump and Putin agreed the current state of relations between Washington and Moscow is “unsatisfactory,” the Kremlin said.
Obama, at his news conference, said Trump had in their meeting last week “’expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships,” including “strong and robust NATO” partnerships.
What else is happening:
- Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theorist radio host and website operator, said Trump called him to thank him for his support. Trump’s team did not respond to requests for comment about the call, Politico reported.
- Meaninglessly symbolic though it might be, there has been buzz over Trump allegedly upsetting British and German leaders by first taking a call from Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Rep. Peter King orchestrated it, says the Irish Times.
- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would resist any Trump administration pressure to increase the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics. “They can threaten to take away money, but they cannot tell us how to police our streets,” de Blasio said on Hot 97 radio.
- Other "sanctuary city" mayors are saying the same as de Blasio about deportations.
- Seventeen protesters were arrested for staging a sit-in at Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office. They called upon him to step aside and let Sen. Bernie Sanders become the next leader of Senate Democrats to confront Trump’s agenda.
- Mary Jo White will step down early from her post heading the Securities Exchange Commission.
- Tensions remain within the Republican Party despite the Trump victory.
- Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, told The New York Post she would like he ex to appoint her as ambassador to the Czech Republic, her native country.
- Six days after the election, The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of New Hampshire and its 4 electoral votes, raising her total to 232, to 290 for Trump, with Michigan and its 16 electoral votes still not called.
- A Gallup poll finds a majority of Americans confident that Trump will improve the economy but less hopeful he will improve race relations or even the country out of war.
- George Soros and other wealthy Democratic donors will meet in Washington for three days starting Sunday to strategize for to fight Trump’s agenda and lay groundwork for the next elections, Politico reports.