U.S. President Barack Obama particpates in a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., 14 November – REUTERS
Reuters: President-elect Donald Trump is in for a quick wake-up call and will have to adjust his temperament when he confronts the realities of his new job on Jan. 20, President Barack Obama said on Monday.
In a news conference at the White House, Obama said the freewheeling Trump could not be as outspoken as he was during the long and bitter campaign that ended last week with the Republican’s surprise win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Subdued and carefully choosing his words, Obama gave what appeared to be dispassionate advice to his successor free of much of the partisan rancour that marked the election campaign.
“This office has a way of waking you up,” Obama said. “Those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick because reality has a way of asserting itself.”
The two men met in the Oval Office last week to begin the transition of power. Obama said on Monday he believed Trump would be pragmatic in office and not approach the country’s problems from an ideological perspective.
“There are going to be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well, unless he recognises them and corrects them,” Obama said.
“Because when you’re a candidate and you say something that is inaccurate or controversial it has less impact than it does when you’re president of the United States. Everybody around the world is paying attention. Markets move,” he said.
Obama declined to wade into a controversy over Trump’s appointment of right-wing firebrand Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist, saying it would “not be appropriate” for him to comment on Trump’s appointments.
But Obama, who criticised Trump’s temperament during the campaign, said it was important for Trump to send signals of unity after the hard-fought campaign. He said the political gifts that allowed the Republican to upset Clinton would be put to good use in the White House.
“I’ve been encouraged by his statements on election night about the need for unity, his interest in being president for all people,” Obama said. “In an election like this that was so hotly contested and so divided, gestures matter.”
Anger over Bannon
The president-elect, a businessman who has never held public office, and his transition team are working on picking members of his Cabinet and the heads of federal agencies.
Trump’s team is also seeking to obtain security clearance for three of his children and his son-in-law, according to media reports.
Such clearance would allow Trump to discuss matters of national security with his daughter Ivanka, sons Eric and Donald Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Federal law prohibits him from hiring family members to serve in his administration, but all four played key advisory roles through the campaign.
Trump has insisted that to avoid conflicts of interest, his children would run his sprawling business operations once he assumed the presidency.
Democrats, civil rights groups and even some Republicans slammed Trump for choosing Bannon as a key aide, saying it would elevate the white nationalist movement into the top levels of the White House.
Making his first appointments since last week’s upset win, Trump picked Bannon as his chief strategist and counsellor, and Washington insider Reince Priebus as his chief of staff on Sunday, saying the two would share the task of steering his administration as “equal partners.”
The choice of Priebus was seen as a conciliatory signal of Trump’s willingness to work with Congress. But critics blasted the selection of Bannon, who spearheaded a shift of the Breitbart News website into a forum for the “alt-right,” a loose online group of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and anti-Semites.
“There should be no sugarcoating the truth here: Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who called on Trump to rescind the choice.
The Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said Bannon’s appointment sent “an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.”
Even some conservatives and Republicans voiced dismay on Bannon. Evan McMullin, who ran as a conservative independent presidential candidate, wondered on Twitter if any national Republican leaders would condemn the pick of “anti-Semite” Bannon.
John Weaver, a top strategist for Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, tweeted that the “racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office. Be very vigilant America.” Kasich was one of 16 Republican presidential hopefuls Trump defeated in the party primaries.
Priebus defended Bannon on Monday, calling him a wise and well-educated former naval officer and saying he had not encountered the sort of extremist or racist views that critics are assailing.
“He was a force for good on the campaign,” Priebus said on Fox News, adding they were in agreement on “almost everything” in terms of advising the president-elect.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager and a senior adviser, told reporters in New York she was offended by the reaction to Bannon, describing him as a “brilliant tactician.”
Police in New York on Monday were investigating two cases involving swastikas drawn or painted in public spaces, as civil rights activists said there had been a surge in hate crimes following last week’s election.
Local media reported hundreds of students walked out of a high school to protest Trump on Monday in Silver Spring, Maryland, and students gathered at the University of Washington in Seattle to protest Trump.
Among those reported to be under consideration for top posts in a Trump administration are former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, as a possible secretary of state or secretary of health and human services; Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser under President George W. Bush, as a possible defence secretary; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as attorney general; and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as interior secretary.
Snowden warns of increase in US domestic spying after Trump victory
Reuters: Donald Trump’s election as US president raises concern that Washington may increase the intrusiveness of domestic intelligence gathering, former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden said on Monday, warning that democratic checks and balances were losing ground to authoritarianism.
Snowden lives in Moscow under an asylum deal after he leaked classified information in 2013 that triggered an international furore over the reach of US spy operations. He spoke at a teleconference hosted by Buenos Aires University’s law school.
“We are starting to substitute open government for sheer authoritarianism, a government based not upon the principle of informed consent granted by people who understand its activities but rather a trust in personalities, a trust in claims, a trust in the hope that they will do the right thing,” Snowden said.
Washington pledged not to engage in indiscriminate espionage following Snowden’s 2013 disclosures. But Snowden questioned if that policy could be modified by new officials “who have a very different set of values and can govern in the dark.”
“If government does actually win our trust, because they go for some years and they do operate in a way that we should support, what happens when it changes?” he asked.
“This is kind of the challenge that we’re facing today in the United States with the result of the last election.”
Supporters see Snowden as a whistleblower who boldly exposed government excess. But the US government has filed espionage charges against him for leaking intelligence information.
Trump, who scored an upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton in last Tuesday’s election, broke with many in his own Republican Party during the campaign and emphasised his success as a businessman and reality TV show star. He promised sweeping security measures to deal with the threat of attacks on the United States.
His election was greeted with concern from the American Civil Liberties Union over statements he made during the campaign supporting increased surveillance of US Muslims, mass deportation of illegal immigrants, reauthorisation of waterboarding and changing libel laws to increase press restrictions.
Snowden, asked if he thought the election of Trump, who has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, might increase chances of him being pardoned by the US government, responded: “Who knows?”