Highlights from President Trump's interview with the Wall Street Journal
President Donald Trump sat down with reporters from the Wall Street Journal today, making headlines on everything from foreign policy to his own White House staff.
The president said that the U.S. is not "insisting" on removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, but also didn't rule out additional military action in response to Assad's barrel bombs in his country. On the home front, he threatened to withhold payments to insurers in order to get Democrats to negotiate on health care reform. And in his own White House, he said press secretary Sean Spicer "made a mistake" and called his chief strategist Steve Bannon "a guy who works for me."
He also shifted positions on four key issues, including the Export-Import Bank, whether Janet Yellin would remain chair of the Federal Reserve, whether China should be labeled a currency manipulator and the role of NATO in the world.
Here are the key takeaways from President Trump's interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Trump threatens to withhold payments to insurers
Aiming to bring congressional Democrats back to the table after the failure of the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Trump said he would consider withholding payments to insurers in order to gain leverage in the negotiations.
“I don’t want people to get hurt. ... What I think should happen -- and will happen -- is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating. That’s part of the reason that I may go the other way," Trump said. “The longer I’m behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it.”
Trump also said he would not signal his priorities on tax reform -- what many have pointed to as the next legislative priority after the recent health care flop -- to Congress until health care reform is finished. "I'm going to get health care done," Trump told the Journal.
Chinese are 'not currency manipulators,' Trump says now
Trump flipped on his campaign promise to label China a currency manipulator, saying "they're not currency manipulators."
On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised to label China a currency manipulator.
"On day one of a Trump administration, the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," Trump wrote in an op-ed for the Journal in November 2015.
U.S. not 'insisting' that Assad must go in Syria, Trump says
Trump said the U.S. won't demand that Assad leave power to end the civil war in the region.
“Are we insisting on it? No. But I do think it’s going to happen at a certain point,” Trump said, adding that it's not impossible for peace with Assad still in power. “I think it’s hard to imagine. I wouldn’t use the word impossible. I think the word impossible is not right. But it does seem like you certainly wouldn’t be off to a good start.”
Trump's U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had offered differing assessments on Assad's future in the region and any potential actions by the United States. Trump also didn't rule out the possibility of military retaliation for additional barrel bombs from Assad against his people in Syria.
Trump weighs in on White House staff drama
Trump also said that his press secretary Sean Spicer "made a mistake" during a briefing Tuesday in which he said that Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people was worse than the actions of Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust. Spicer apologized for the comments Tuesday afternoon and again this morning.
The president also referred to Bannon, his chief strategist, as "a guy who works for me" and made clear that he was his own "strategist." Trump added that reports of feuds between Bannon and his son-in-law Jared Kushner were "overblown."
The 'dollar is getting too strong' because of me, Trump says
“I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me. But that’s hurting -- that will hurt ultimately,” Trump told the Journal. “Look, there’s some very good things about a strong dollar, but usually speaking the best thing about it is that it sounds good.”
The U.S. dollar dropped sharply after Trump's comments.
United Airlines passenger incident called 'horrible' by Trump
Trump called videos of authorities dragging a man off a United Airlines flight in Chicago "horrible" in today's interview. He added the airline should have offered more money to passengers to persuade them to vacate their seats.
“You know, there’s a point at which I’m getting off the plane -- seriously,” said Trump. “They should have gone up higher. But to just randomly say, ‘You’re getting off the plane,’ that was terrible.”
United's CEO has apologized for the incident.
Trump leaves door open to Yellin remaining in Fed post
Just months after saying Yellin "should be ashamed of herself" and accusing her of keeping rates "artificially low" for political reasons in a CNBC interview in September, Trump declined to say he would not re-nominate Yellin to her post as chair of the Federal Reserve.
“I do like a low-interest rate policy, I must be honest with you,” Trump said.
He went on to say that Yellin was "not toast" at the end of her term. “I like her, I respect her,” Trump said. “It’s very early.”
Trump had previously said he would "most likely" not renominate her.
Trump says he 'realized it's not so easy' on North Korea-China relations
Trump said his view of North Korea-China relations has changed after meetings with the Chinese president last week.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy. ... I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power” over North Korea, Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “But it’s not what you would think.” The U.S. has long put pressure on China to tame North Korea in the volatile region.
Trump reverses position on the U.S. Export-Import Bank
Trump said he plans to fill two empty seats on the bank's five-member board.
“It turns out that, first of all, lots of small companies are really helped, the vendor companies,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “But also, maybe more important, other countries give [assistance]. When other countries give it we lose a tremendous amount of business.”
Trump had told Bloomberg in August that it was "unnecessary." "I don't like it because I don't think it's necessary. It's a one-way street also," he said. "It's sort of a featherbedding for politicians and others, and a few companies. And these are companies that can do very well without it. So I don't like it. ... I'd be against it."
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