Discusses Russian hacking, conflicts of interest, Obamacare
PRESIDENT-elect Donald Trump discussed reports of Russian cyber-espionage, possible conflicts of interest stemming from his private business ventures, and other concerns with reporters at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday, January 11.
Trump also announced his choice of David Shulkin to head the Department of Veteran Affairs during his first press conference since his victory in the 2016 presidential election. He went on to reiterate his campaign promises to promote job growth, build a wall along America’s southern border at the Mexican government’s expense, and eliminate the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re going to be submitting — as soon as our secretary’s approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan,” Trump said of his alternative to the ACA on Wednesday. “It’ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously.”
The president-elect said dismantling the Obama administration’s signature health insurance law would be the first priority of his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, if the Senate affirms his appointment.
Trump added that he believed public support for Obamacare would have evaporated on its own as weakness in the legislation came to light during its implementation. He called the measure a political liability for democrats and said he was doing them a favor by avoiding public discontent resulting from attempts to overhaul the complicated law.
This year, Trump’s administration also plans on moving quickly to secure the United States’ border with Mexico, which he called an “open sieve.”
“I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which we’ll start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait,” Trump said.
Trump said that he planned to have the Mexican government reimburse the U.S. for the cost of the wall’s construction.
Trump had publicly cast doubt on allegations of covert foreign meddling in American politics before receiving a private briefing from the CIA on Friday, January 6.
However, on Wednesday, Trump conceded that hackers acting on behalf of the Russian government were likely responsible for the leak of terabytes of private e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 presidential election.
“I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
Trump added that he believed the DNC had been lax in its cybersecurity efforts, leaving it vulnerable to data breaches.
During a congressional hearing on Tuesday, January 10, FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the same operatives who had penetrated DNC servers had also managed to access private information from Republican organizations at the state-level as well as a defunct Republican National Committee email domain.
“Information was harvested from there, but it was old stuff,” Comey told Congress on Tuesday, according to various sources. “None of that was released.”
He went on to publicly confirm the intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government was working to assist Trump’s presidential campaign.
On Wednesday, Trump dismissed related reports stating that officials in Moscow had attempted to obtain his personal and financial information, which they could possibly use as leverage against him in the future. He went on to stress the importance of enhancing the federal government’s “hacking defense” to avoid any attacks.
Addressing conflicts of interest
Prior to him taking the stage on Wednesday, his attorney Sheri Dillon announced that the president-elect will hand over management of the Trump Organization to his two sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. His daughter Ivanka will resign from her roles to avoid any conflicts.
Dillion also said that Trump would not divest from his business or set up a blind trust.
“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” Dillon said. “This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people.”
She went on to say that the organization will not engage in new deals in foreign countries while in office and that an ethics adviser will review future transactions made domestically. Any profits to the Trump Hotel made from foreign governments will be donated to the U.S. Treasury.
Though the president is exempt from conflict of interest laws, Dillion said, “he’s voluntarily taken this on.”
“So I could actually run my business, I could actually run my business and run government at the same time,” Trump said. “I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to.”
Trump will formally assume office next week on Friday, January 20.