As president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take charge, he has signalled growing flexibility on some of his most contentious poll promises. He now has an “open mind”, for instance, on pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord.
And, repeating himself with more certainty now, Trump has said he will not prosecute his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, which was an emotive issue among his supporters, some of whom responded angrily by talking of a “broken promise”.
Trump has displayed similar flexibility in selecting his team — he named harsh critic Nikki Haley as his nominee for US ambassador for the UN, and appeared to be favouring Mitt Romney, who once called him a conman, for secretary of state.
Trump has also offered the portfolio of secretary of housing to one-time rival Ben Carson, who, if he accepts, will become the first African American named by the president-elect to his team.
Trump has yet to announce other big-ticket portfolios such as secretary of defence, for which he is said to be considering retired Marine general James Mattis, and the secretaries of treasury, homeland security, environment and veteran affairs.
While he has signalled a softening of tone on the prosecution of Clinton before, Trump ruled it out completely in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, conducted at the head office of the publication he has routinely called ‘failing”.
“I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” Trump told the Times. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways, and I am not looking to hurt them at all. The campaign was vicious.”
But it was his position on climate that came as a surprise, as he had left no doubt about what he felt about the Paris accord and as he has resolved to remove environment-related restrictions from energy production, as recently as earlier this week.
“I’m looking at it very closely,” Trump said when asked about the Paris accord, which India has signed and ratified as has most of the word, including the US. “I have an open mind to it” and clean air and “crystal clear water” were vitally important, he said.
Trump also said he no longer supported the use of torture as an interrogation tool, attributing the change to conversations with Mattis, who has convinced him, saying, “‘I’ve never found it to be useful’.”
He also told NYT reporters and editors he doesn’t support white supremacists, whom he went on to denounce, but defended his chief strategist Steven Bannon by saying he was not racist.
Trump also conceded, to his own surprise, that he has grown to like President Barack Obama, with whom he has shared a prickly relationship going back several years. “I really liked him a lot, and I am a little bit surprised that I am telling you that I really liked him a lot,” he said.