President-elect Trump dials back harsh rhetoric against Clinton in first interview after election

Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump speaking as Democratic US presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University on Oct 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK - US president-elect Donald Trump appears to have had a change of heart about his vanquished rival Mrs Hillary Clinton in his first interview since winning the election, replacing his harsh rhetoric against the former first lady and her husband with words of praise.

In the interview with CBS News' Lesley Stahl on 60 minutes - which is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday (Nov 13) at 7pm [8am Singapore time on Monday (Nov 14)] - Mr Trump also indicated that he had rethought his opposition to President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Healthcare Act, saying that he was thinking of retaining some of its benefits under his presidency.


Lavishing praise on Mrs Clinton, Mr Trump said the woman he had described as "Crooked Hillary" and promised to throw into prison during his campaign was "very strong and very smart", while noting her grace.

Asked about the call he received from Mrs Clinton conceding the election, Mr Trump said, "It was a lovely call and it was a tough call for her. I can imagine. Tougher for her than it would have been for me. I mean, for me, it would have been very, very difficult. She couldn't have been nicer. She just said, 'Congratulations, Donald, well done.'"

He also received a call from Mrs Clinton's husband and former US president Bill Clinton on Thursday (Nov 10). "He couldn't have been more gracious," the president-elect said. "He said it was an amazing run. One of the most amazing he's ever seen."

"He was very, very, really, very nice," said Mr Trump, describing Mr Clinton as "a very talented guy" and indicating that he might seek out his advice in the future. "I mean, this is a very talented family. Certainly, I would certainly think about that," he said.


In the interview, Mr Trump also signalled that he was open to keeping the Affordable Healthcare Act - popularly known as Obamacare - in some form.

Mr Trump said that he was keen to keep some of the programme's protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, as well as a measure that allows parents to keep their children on their insurance policies until the age of 26.

"It happens to be one of the strongest assets," Mr Trump said about insuring people with pre-existing conditions. "It adds cost, but it's very much something we're gonna try and keep."

He said there would be no gap between the repeal of Mr Obama's law and its replacement by his version. "We're going to repeal it and replace it. And we're not going to have, like, a two-day period and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced."

"We're going to do it simultaneously," said Mr Trump. "It'll be just fine. That's what I do. I do a good job. You know, I mean, I know how to do this stuff."

"I mean, you'll know. And it'll be great healthcare for much less money," said Mr Trump.

Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that the rethink was partially motivated by his meeting with Mr Obama on Thursday at the White House.

"I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that," Mr Trump said.

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