Trump stands by Muslim ban
President-elect Donald Trump did not appear to waver from his earlier calls to establish a Muslim registry and to enact a temporary ban on admitting Muslim immigrants when asked by reporters if he was reconsidering those proposals in the wake of Monday’s deadly acts in Turkey and Berlin.
“You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right, 100 percent correct. What’s happening is disgraceful,” Trump told reporters outside his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
The Islamic State terrorist group has claimed credit for the attack that killed 12 people at a Berlin Christmas market when a truck plowed through pedestrians. German authorities have pegged the attack to a Tunisian man with ties to Islamic extremists.
The lone gunman in Turkey shouted about the war in Syria as he fatally shot the Russian ambassador to Turkey at an Ankara art gallery.
Trump said the pair of events were “terrible, terrible,” while also using them to defend his controversial plans, which were heavily criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike during the campaign.
During the campaign, Trump’s surrogates sought to soften his stance, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence reframing the proposal as a ban on immigration from countries that had been “compromised by terrorism.”
Trump did not elaborate on his exact plans during his brief appearance before reporters. His campaign website continues to display a December 2015 statement that calls for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Retain the swamp?
Trump, who pledged on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp,” appears to be dropping the mantra that was a mainstay at his campaign rallies.
“I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a vice chairman of Trump’s transition team, in an interview with NPR News.
Trump’s transition spokesman Jason Miller said the president-elect remains committed to reducing the influence of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. — his comments came as two former Trump campaign advisers announced the opening of their political consulting firm just a block away from the White House.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, and Barry Bennett, an adviser to the campaign, have set up shop in the same building where Trump’s D.C. transition office is located, and as the firm searches for new clients, its website touts the duo’s close ties to the incoming administration.
In announcing the firm, Lewandowski said he had considered “multiple” roles in the Trump administration, but opted for the private sector to help push Trump’s agenda from the “outside.”
“My goal is to make sure the priorities of the Trump administration become reality,” Lewandowski said.
Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at the government reform group Issue One, told The Associated Press that the firm’s proximity to Trump could be perceived by some as “the kind of insider access and influence that many Americans thought they were voting against.”
The take-away: Trump’s Long Island
Two vastly different Long Island enclaves grabbed Trump’s attention during the transition.
First, on the evening of Dec. 3, his motorcade rolled up to a Head of the Harbor mansion for a lavish costume party hosted by Robert Mercer, hedge-fund heavyweight and one of his top political donors.
Brentwood attracted Trump’s notice too, in a front-page article in Newsday on Nov. 28. Speaking to a Time magazine reporter in his Trump Tower apartment, the president-elect pointed to the story, which tied an extremely violent faction of the MS-13 street gang, which hails from Central America, to as many as six recent killings in the area.
Newsday’s Dan Janison eyes other Trump-Long Island links.
Trump’s doc: If something happens...
The president-elect’s longtime physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, in an interview with Statnews.com, said he wasn’t concerned about Trump serving as the nation’s oldest president — there is, after all, a line of succession should anything happen to the 70-year-old while in office.
“If something happens to him, then it happens to him,” Bornstein said. “It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”
Bornstein, who during the election drew criticism from the medical community after signing off on a terse health summary that asserted Trump “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” told the health news website he hadn’t spoken to Trump since the election, and so far has not been asked to continue providing care for his patient of more than 30 years.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Peter Navarro, an economic and public policy professor who helped Trump devise his campaign’s trade policies, were tapped for high-profile economic posts.
Icahn, whose net worth is $21.6 billion according to Forbes magazine, will serve as a special adviser for regulatory reform, according to Trump’s transition team.
Navarro, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, will lead the newly formed National Trade Council, which Trump’s team said will “advise the President on innovative strategies in trade negotiations, coordinate with other agencies to assess U.S. manufacturing capabilities and the defense industrial base, and help match unemployed American workers with new opportunities in the skilled manufacturing sector.”
What else is happening
- Incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told ABC News Trump’s major infrastructure plan “sounds good” to him, as long as it meets certain Democratic criteria.
- Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes, according to the certified vote count made available Wednesday, maintained on Twitter he could have won the popular vote too, if he “wanted to.”
- The Trump Organization reached separate agreements with labor unions at the Trump International hotels in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. The move reduces the likelihood that the National Labor Relations Board will have to intervene in labor disputes at the president-elect’s hotels while he is in office, reports The Associated Press.
- Senate Democrats have started devising their plans to grill secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobile exec’s confirmation hearings kick off on Jan. 11, reports The Washington Post.
- Rudy Giuliani may not have gotten the coveted role of secretary of state he angled for, but he assured Fox News that Trump “did not forget” about him and another early backer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, despite omitting them from his cabinet.