Trump's meeting with Times reporters and editors was live-tweeted
He backed away from the idea of prosecuting Hillary Clinton
President-elect Donald Trump brushed aside his campaign promises to jail Hillary Clinton, batted away questions about conflicts of interest over his business empire and denounced the neo-Nazi movement that is celebrating his victory.
Answering questions for just the second time since his election, Trump met for 75 minutes on Tuesday with reporters, editors and columnists from The New York Times.
It wasn’t broadcast live, but some Times reporters tweeted Trump’s remarks in real time. And, since Trump has not held a news conference since his upset win two weeks ago, the entire political world was glued to Twitter through it all.
Here are six takeaways from Trump’s meeting with the Times:
The grudges Trump is still holding
In transition: President-elect Trump
The President-elect was downright magnanimous toward his longtime Democratic foes.
About his campaign promise to jail Hillary Clinton, Trump said he doesn’t want to “hurt the Clintons” and that doing so would be “very, very divisive for the country.”
He heaped praise on President Barack Obama, saying he appreciated Obama’s handling of the transition of power and liked him personally. “I didn’t know if I’d like him. I probably thought that maybe I wouldn’t, but I did. I really enjoyed him a lot,” Trump said.
And of New York’s Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Democratic leader: “I’ve liked Chuck Schumer for a long time.”
So it’s not the opposition that still gets under Trump’s skin.
It’s his fellow Republicans – particularly those who ran away from him in the general election.
Trump bragged that he “helped numerous senators” win, and took a shot New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who narrowly lost after distancing herself from Trump. “No, thank you,” he said he told Ayotte about a post in Trump’s Cabinet.
He also mocked Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican who lost his Senate race after similarly staying far away from Trump. Heck, he said, fell “like a lead balloon.”
Trump was also cautious about the Republican congressional leaders – House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Right now they’re in love with me,” Trump said. “Four weeks ago, they weren’t in love with me.”
A Nixonian conflict-of-interest view
Trump brushed aside questions about how his actions in the White House could benefit his businesses with a startling declaration.
“The law’s totally on my side. The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” Trump said.
It was reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s comment to journalist David Frost that by definition, a president’s actions don’t violate the law. “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal,” Nixon said.
Trump acknowledged his businesses will benefit from his victory, saying his new hotel in Washington is “probably a more valuable asset than it was before” and that its brand is “hotter.”
But he said he’s no longer interested in his businesses and will be passing them on to his children.
“I don’t care about having anything to do” with anything outside the United States’ best interests, he said. “I don’t want to influence anything.”
A new view on climate change?
On the campaign trail, Trump had pledged to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords – a move that would upend global efforts to address global warming.
Tuesday, he wasn’t as specific.
“I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it,” he said.
It was part of a broader change for the President-elect on the topic of climate science. He had previously rejected scientists’ conclusion that humans have played a role in the earth’s warming. But on Tuesday, Trump said that “I think there is some connectivity” between humans and climate change, although he declined to elaborate.