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Senior advisor says Trump is open to listening on climate, Medicare

November 22, 2016 at 6:40 PM EST
Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to the Trump Transition Team, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what’s ahead, the president-elect’s views on Hillary Clinton and the Paris climate accord, as well as his plan for Obamacare, comments on the alt-right and more.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump transition team is in its second week of work preparing to take over the White House and begin the next administration.

To discuss what’s ahead, we turn to Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager and senior adviser to president-elect Trump’s transition team. She joins me from New York.

Welcome, Kellyanne Conway.

I want to ask you first about the president-elect, what he said during the campaign. He repeatedly called his opponent “Crooked Hillary,” said she should be in jail, and his crowds yelled “Lock her up.”

Now he says he doesn’t want to see the Clintons hurt. If that’s the way he felt, why so much focus on putting her in jail?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, Senior Advisor, Trump Transition Team: Judy, it doesn’t change the fact that a majority of the country finds Hillary Clinton to be neither honest nor trustworthy. She does have that veracity problem with the people. That was very clear.

I think it’s one of the reasons she wasn’t elected president and he was. But he also, as president-elect, has made very clear, including today in an on-the-record meeting with The New York Times that I attended, he made very clear that he thinks that Hillary Clinton has suffered enough and that he’s looking toward the future and not the past.

So at this moment, he’s saying he has no interest in pursuing these allegations or these charges. And I think that, you know, for those who are also asking for him to be the president of all Americans, to help heal a divided nation, they ought to be happy to hear what his words are today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Something else Mr. Trump was emphatic about during the campaign was undoing the Paris climate change accord. And to The New York Times today, it’s reported that he said he’s open now to what decision to make on that.

But isn’t it the case that, with that accord, you either sign it or you don’t, that there’s no compromise?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, he also said today — I was sitting right there, Judy — he said: I’m going to take a look at it.

And he will when he’s president. He will take a look at it and he will make his decision. He’s well aware of the Paris climate accords and what it means if you agree or you don’t agree to it. It’s pretty unequivocal, as you note.

But there was a longer conversation about climate change. There was a longer conversation about the many different issues, frankly. But he said, I will take a look at it. That’s what a responsible leader does. They assume office, consult with their experts and make decisions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We learned, Kellyanne Conway, the president-elect has had two phone calls, I think he said, with President Obama since he met with him the week of the election. Can you tell us how long those calls lasted and what they talked about?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, they weren’t as long as the 90-minute meeting that President Obama and President-elect Trump had in the Oval Office when he visited recently, Judy.

But they have had a couple of follow-up conversations. I think the country should be happy about that. They both have a vested interest in a peaceful transition in our great democracy.

And president-elect Trump said today again on the record that President Obama has been very gracious to him, very helpful. They had a conversation or two about specific issues. And, in fact, in the case of one issue which sounded like it had global implications, Mr. Trump refused to elaborate.

It basically was a conversation among presidents. And I think we as a people, we as the voters and citizens, have to respect that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a couple of — several questions for you, Kellyanne Conway. I want to call them quick-answer questions, because there is so much to talk about.

But starting with the Affordable Care Act, there have been a number of prominent Republican members of Congress in the last few days who’ve said that they — now that they have looked at it, they think that this should be done over several years, the repeal of it, the change of it, because they don’t want to disrupt insurance markets.

Is the president open to that, president-elect open to that?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: The — president-elect Trump has made very clear that he intends to repeal and replace Obamacare, and replace it with what, Judy?

He said that you can actually purchase health insurance across state lines, much the way you would auto insurance, for example, and many foods and services. You’re not restricted to one state. I think, in a free market, patient-centered health care system, you would want that to happen.

Second, we would block-grant Medicaid to the states, so those that are closest to the people who would receive Medicaid are those making the decisions about that.

Third, health savings accounts for all Americans, so that you control more of that spending. It rolls over and it may, in fact, accrue interest.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: But you’re more personally, intimately in charge of the spending for these personal, intimate health care decisions.

And I think also, through his tax reform plan, getting rid of that Obamacare, Affordable Care Act penalty, where you basically are forced between two bad choices, either buy the government-run health insurance or pay the penalty. So, he’s going to do some very specific things.

He has a Republican House and Senate that will help him do that. There are also some things within the system that he may want to preserve if they’re working, if he and his experts decide these are working and these are worth retaining.

He’s not here to hurt people. He’s here to make better on the promise that was never really fulfilled through this Affordable Care Act, which is to have affordable, accessible, quality, ridden with choices, and access and good access for all health insurance.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just ask you a few other short-answer questions.

One of the other things that the president-elect talked about in the campaign is no changes in entitlements, Social Security, Medicare and so forth. In the last few days, Speaker Paul Ryan, though, has talked about changing Medicare into a premium support system, partially privatizing it.

Is this something Mr. Trump would be open to doing?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: So, President-elect Trump has made very clear he wants to make good on the promises that we as a nation have made to the seniors who rely upon Medicare and certainly the lower-income Americans who rely upon Medicaid and other entitlements like Social Security, frankly, for those who receive that.

At the same time, he is open to hearing different solutions and better ways of doing things. He will, I’m sure, take a look at Speaker Ryan’s proposal and other proposals. He’s somebody I know well who is a great listener and learner and really does pull together a multitude of counselors and try to rely on best practices.

But he’s also a doer. He is not somebody who pushes paper or kicks the can down the road. He’s an accountable — he’s a businessman. He’s used to accountability, results, delivery, and performance. And I think in this case, he will go ahead and look at alternatives, Judy, as long as it doesn’t interfere with what he has said, his commitment to keep the promises to those currently relying on them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We also saw today in his talk with The New York Times that Mr. Trump distanced himself from the so-called alt-right.

But people look at the rhetoric during the campaign, the nationalist rhetoric, tough language about immigrants, about Muslims. This has resonated with nationalist groups like the alt-right.

Are there regrets on his part, on the part of the people around him about how heated the language got and extreme during the campaign?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Judy, he could not be more firm and more unequivocal in his disavowal of those elements.

He’s never asked them to be at his rallies to support him, to “endorse him” — quote, unquote. He has been very clear in disavowing them, and he did it again today again at The New York Times. He was asked two separate questions about that particular issue.

And I think assigning to him everything that’s ever been said or done by anybody who says they support him is truly unfair. I didn’t hear Hillary Clinton being asked again and again if she agreed with many people shouting out that those pigs should fry, let’s smell the bacon frying, referring to our honored men and women in blue, our law enforcement officers.

And so he cannot be more emphatic and unequivocal about distancing himself from and denouncing the rhetoric of and the policies of this element of society. So, I don’t know what else he can do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But I guess the question is, could he be more forceful right now in personally denouncing some of the hate crimes that are taking place, acts of violence, of disrespect toward people, toward minorities, Muslims, children, African-American, Hispanic children?

As you know, there’s been a rise in these incidents since the election. Couldn’t Mr. Trump say something to try to persuade the individuals responsible for this to stop?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: He has. And I assure you he feels that way in an ongoing fashion. So, you can assure yourself that he is denouncing it on a daily basis, on a constant basis.

He also told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” he told them to cut it out when he was asked a similar question about 10 days ago. So everybody should know where he stands on this.

The other thing is that, you know, I hope there’s a lot of coverage of the protesters against him. We were 20,000-strong right outside our door here in Trump Tower about 10 or 11 days ago, Judy, and it wasn’t a comfortable situation.

You had people — you have people wishing him harm. You have the threats towards him and his family and those of us around him on the rise. We just don’t talk about it.

And so I think everybody ought to take the temperature down a few notches and, frankly, take the example of Donald Trump and Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Mike Pence and so many others, who are saying, let this guy form his government, give him a chance, because #heisyourpresident.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just finally, to the children of undocumented immigrants in this country, who we see, through reporting over the last few weeks, are now saying they’re living in fear that their parents are going to be deported, their families are going to be torn apart, what is Mr. Trump’s message to these children?

Will the president — will he — let me just ask this. Will he undo President Obama’s executive order on the children of undocumented immigrants?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: So, I think there are fewer issues where president-elect Donald Trump could have been more clear than he was on immigration the whole time during his candidacy.

He put out a 10-point plan that addressed all this. He wants people to be here legally. He wants to respect the fact that folks are standing in line and it takes them many, many years and different processes and, in many instances, Judy, a whole bunch of money for people that are giving up such a high percentage of their disposable income to try to become American citizens.

The process must be respected. The rule of law must be honored. And he says — he tells them all the time, if you are a good person, if you are here and you would like to stay here, you would like to come back here, that they’re not who he’s talking about when he says we’re first going to get rid of the two million or so — people don’t really know the exact number — of the criminals who don’t belong here to begin with. They will be out immediately.

Then he is going to secure the border. He’s going to build the wall. He said Mexico will pay for it. And then he’s going to take a look at who’s here and decide — he’s made this very clear — and decide, with his experts, what should happen.

But, you know, for those saying they live in fear, again, I think they should be part of the conversation. They should reach out and try to not be so presumptively accusatory, frankly, or presumptively negative towards the president-elect, and instead try to build that trusting relationship and try to, frankly, explain their case to him and to his advisers in a way that I know he’s open to hearing.

But he’s made very clear he wants the rule of law honored. These sanctuary cities have to stop. They lead to the murders of people, all these innocent kids. What about those angel moms and dads? What about their children, Kate Steinle, and the angel moms that went all around for us, Julie and Angela?

And these women are — they’re suffering in a way that can never be healed either, all because of the leftist policies of sanctuary cities harboring illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and shouldn’t be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kellyanne Conway, adviser, senior adviser to president-elect Donald Trump, we thank you.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you, Judy. All the best.

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