At Trump Tower in New York, Donald Trump held his first press conference since becoming the president-elect. Here are some initial thoughts on what we witnessed today:
Yes, Trump remains committed to a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But when it comes to a wall between Trump and his business interests, the arrangement he announced Wednesday doesn’t come close to what ethics experts have recommended. Putting his sons in charge of his empire won’t provide meaningful financial separation between the president and the businesses he helped build, said Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush. Trump even bragged during the press conference about turning down a $2 billion deal in Dubai that he said he could have accepted, saying, “I could actually run my business and run government at the same time.” He isn’t quite doing that, but there’s nothing in this arrangement that could stop the perception or the reality of that happening, other than the honor system.
Notably, Trump said he now accepts that Russia was most likely behind the cyberattacks during the campaign that intelligence officials say were intended to help his candidacy. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to say bad things about Russian President Vladimir Putin or to even question his motives. “If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability,” Trump said. He continued to blame the Democratic National Committee for not having adequate cyberdefenses. Asked directly what his message to Putin is regarding hacking, Trump responded, “He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it.” Trump’s hope is that projecting U.S. strength will change the relationship with Russia. But he’s still handling the bear with kid gloves.