Trump pulls back on hardline rhetoric

Mr Trump with top adviser Kellyanne Conway during the interview with The New York Times at the Times building in New York on Tuesday. The President- elect eased off on his comments on climate change and dropped the "lock her up" pledge against Mrs Hi
Mr Trump with top adviser Kellyanne Conway during the interview with The New York Times at the Times building in New York on Tuesday. The President- elect eased off on his comments on climate change and dropped the "lock her up" pledge against Mrs Hillary Clinton that became an election rallying cry, saying he was no longer interested in pursuing her.PHOTO: NYTIMES

But he draws flak from his supporters for change of heart during interview

NEW YORK • US President-elect Donald Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, struck a more cordial tone by dropping some of the hardline rhetoric of the campaign, but was quickly criticised by some of the very hardline groups he wooed.

In perhaps the most surprising comments during the 75-minute interview, Mr Trump eased off on his comments on climate change and said he had no intention of pressing for an investigation into Mrs Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server or the financial operations of her family's foundation.

He dropped the "lock her up" pledge that became an election rallying cry, saying he was no longer interested in pursuing Mrs Clinton.

"I don't want to hurt the Clintons, I really don't," Mr Trump said during the interview. "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."

The decision angered some his most fervent supporters, who immediately criticised his seeming change of heart.

"Broken Promise," blared the headline on Breitbart News, a conservative news site that has strongly backed Mr Trump.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, one of his staunchest supporters during the campaign, suggested on Twitter that Mr Trump was overstepping his role.

"Whoa! I thought we elected @realDonaldTrump president," she wrote. "Did we make him the FBI, & DOJ? His job is to pick those guys, not do their jobs."

During the interview, Mr Trump also distanced himself from the white nationalist alt-right movement.

Members of the alt-right community have openly praised Mr Trump's election victory with messages clearly inflected with neo-Nazi rhetoric. "Hail Trump," Mr Richard Spencer, a prominent member of that movement, said during a recent event to celebrate the election.

But during the interview, Mr Trump declared: "I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn."

Mr Trump, who prides himself as a consummate dealmaker, also said he would "love" to clinch a deal to end the intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"That would be such a great achievement," he told the paper.

A New York Times reporter tweeted that Mr Trump also suggested that his son-in-law, Mr Jared Kushner, could help broker the deal.

Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, is from an Orthodox Jewish family. The businessman and investor was a close adviser to Mr Trump during the election campaign.

Mr Trump had railed against The New York Times during the campaign, saying it treated him unfairly. That strained relationship took an odd path on Tuesday, when the planned interview was abruptly cancelled by Mr Trump and then quickly rescheduled.

After a morning of back- and-forth statements, Mr Trump met representatives at the paper's Manhattan headquarters.

At the end of the interview, he praised The New York Times as "a world jewel".

NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEE OPINION

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'Trump pulls back on hardline rhetoric'. Print Edition | Subscribe