President-elect Trump silent on campaign promises
No mention of Muslim bans, China, walls or mass deportations in future leader’s video speech, but analysts say it’s unlikely to signal policy changes
President-elect Donald Trump spent more than a year promising to build a wall, repeal Obamacare and rescind the current president’s deportation protections for some illegal immigrants in the US.
He also threatened to take a hard line on China, which he has accused of stealing American jobs and manipulating the yuan.
But on Monday, in his first extensive public comments since winning the election, Trump mentioned none of those issues. Nor did he talk about withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement, banning certain Muslims from entering the country or ending the Syrian refugee programme, some of his other stock campaign pledges.
Trump instead made five more modest promises for his first day in office in a nearly three-minute video.
It appeared to be an effort to soften his message while he establishes an inner circle of hard-liners, including Steve Bannon, a top adviser who ran a website that has promoted white nationalist ideology.
In the video, he promised to withdraw from the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, “a potential disaster for our country”, and instead pursue bilateral agreements with some of the countries involved.
He also pledged to lift restrictions on energy production, including shale and coal, to implement a rule that any new government regulation must be accompanied by removing two on the books and to instruct his Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a new cybersecurity plan.
His only discussion of immigration involved the legal kind – a crackdown on visa fraud.
“My agenda will be based on a simple core principle: putting America first,” he said. “Whether it’s producing steel, building cars or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here on our great homeland – America.”
Trump also said his previously announced ethics rules – barring those who work in his administration from lobbying for five years after they leave the government and from lobbying for foreign governments for life – would take effect as soon as he is inaugurated. Trump vowed in the video to release more plans soon.
“These are some of our day one executive actions,” spokesman Jason Miller said. “By no means is it everything he’ll work on day one or after that – many additional good things to come.”
Trump’s first instalment, though, seemed tailored to voters in the industrial belt who helped him win the White House.
His focus on legal immigration was particularly striking and in line with the views of Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, his pick for attorney general and one of Trump’s earliest supporters in Washington. Sessions has been a critic of the visa system, arguing that work visas, in particular, allow foreigners to displace Americans. He has also sponsored a bill that would end the visa lottery that grants tens of thousands of green cards a year.
Trump did not discuss plans to deport millions of immigrants as he frequently did on the campaign trail. But the omissions were far from a declaration of a new agenda and left open the possibility that Trump may be recognising the difficulty of achieving all of his ambitions immediately and trying to delay some of his most divisive proposals.
“There’s nothing he can really do about the wall on day one,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in California. “He’s probably focusing on narrow, achievable goals that won’t cause too much controversy before Thanksgiving. There will be plenty of trouble down the line.” Trump has yet to give a post-election news conference laying out his agenda or answering questions about his transition, which gives added weight to the video. He also addressed criticisms about the disorganised nature of the transition, insisting it has gone “very smoothly, efficiently and effectively.”