Donald Trump has appeared to soften his stance on a range of sweeping campaign pledges, saying in his first interview since being elected US president that he might not repeal Obamacare and that prosecuting Hillary Clinton over confidential emails was not a priority.
The president-elect, who said he would “immediately repeal and replace” Obamacare after taking office, told the Wall Street Journal he might instead seek to reform the policy, keeping the ban on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
He said he would also look to retain the provision that allowed young adults to be insured on their parents’ policies, adding that he had been convinced of the virtues of the two points in his meeting with the outgoing president, Barack Obama, on Thursday.
Trump and his family also filmed an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes to be broadcast on Sunday. The president-elect said he would amend or repeal and replace Obamacare without any gaps in healthcare provision. “It will be just fine. It’s what I do: I do a good job and I know how to do this stuff,” he told Lesley Stahl.
Having called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” and “crooked” during the campaign, Trump struck a conciliatory tone towards his former opponent in both interviews. The Wall Street Journal asked about campaign promises to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against his Democratic rival over her use of a private email server to conduct official business as secretary of state.
“It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve healthcare, jobs, border control, tax reform,” Trump said. The statement is likely to anger the president-elect’s core supporters, many of whom chanted: “Lock her up, lock her up,” at rallies during the campaign.
He told 60 Minutes the call in which Clinton conceded the election was “lovely”, adding: “It was a tough call for her, I can imagine ... She couldn’t have been nicer. She just said, congratulations Donald, well done.”
He praised his former opponent: “She’s very strong and very smart.”
Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, had also called. “He couldn’t have been more gracious. He said it was an amazing run – one of the most amazing he had ever seen,” Trump said.
The Republican party’s shock victory has led to protests in some cities and on university campuses, as well as allegations of racist and Islamophobic attacks. Trump told the Wall Street Journal he wants to soothe the febrile public mood. “I want a country that loves each other,” he said Trump said. The best way to do this was by creating jobs, he said.
But asked whether the tone of his campaign had gone too far, he answered: “No. I won.”
The vice president-elect, Mike Pence, will play a key role in his administration, serving as a “liaison” with Congress, Trump said. On Friday Trump put Pence in charge of his transition team, while his daughter, Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and his sons Eric and Donald Jr joined the executive committee. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Stephen Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News who directed Trump’s campaign, are also on the committee.
On foreign policy, Trump described solving the Israel-Palestine conflict as “the ultimate deal”, adding: “As a dealmaker, I’d like to do … the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”
On Syria, Trump said his focus would be on fighting Islamic State rather than getting rid of Bashar al-Assad, the president. “Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria … Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are,” he said.
He said had received a “beautiful” letter from the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and would speak to him soon.
Meanwhile, protesters across the US have been preparing for a weekend of demonstrations over the election of Trump, as other activists began work on plans to disrupt his inauguration in Washington early next year.
Rowdy protests against Trump and a campaign that was widely criticised as divisive have spread to cities all over the country following his victory on Tuesday, leading to dozens of arrests and a complaint from Trump on Twitter about “professional protesters” in one of his first public remarks as president-elect.
More than 10,000 people have signed up to attend a march at noon on Saturday from New York’s Union Square to Trump Tower, the future president’s home and corporate headquarters, while several other actions are planned for other cities.
“Join us in the streets! Stop Trump and his bigoted agenda,” the organisers of the New York event said in a Facebook post.
The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan said on their website they would be holding a “victory parade” in North Carolina next month. The vote’s aftermath has seen reports of racist and other discriminatory attacks. The Southern Poverty Law Center has logged more than 200 such incidents since Wednesday. Richard Cohen, the organisation’s president, told the New York Times: “I don’t think there’s any question that there’s been an increase.”
In Europe, politicians expressed deep misgivings about the Republican’s victory and attacked Theresa May’s hopes the result would lead to a good trade deal for Britain as “delusional”.
Axel Schafer, a senior German politician, told the Times: “Even before Tuesday the chances [of a good US-UK trade deal] were rather low, now the hope for this kind of deal seems delusional ... With a more inward-looking Trump administration, it is in United Kingdom’s own interest to seek close cooperation with their EU partners in this field.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, said Trump needed to learn “what Europe is and how it works”, adding: “I think we will waste two years before Mr Trump tours the world he does not know.”
But Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has described the EU’s reaction as “whinge-o-rama” and the Foreign Office told the Times it is not yet decided whether he will attend a European “crisis” meeting to discuss the election result.
Former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers struck a more cautionary tone in an interview with World At One. “We’re getting back into a world which is quite dangerous,” he said, warning of the prospect of the US going to war with Russia or China.