Since becoming the president-elect this month, Donald Trump appears to be softening his stance on several firmly held campaign themes, from building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to shifting on the cause of climate change to putting his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, in jail.
Political experts have said candidates often have to moderate their opinions once in office, sounding harsher on the campaign trail and then compromising or backtracking once the realities of office set in. Trump’s actions seemingly show that he is softening his campaign rhetoric and will be taking more pragmatic positions in the White House.
Wall on U.S.-Mexico border
«Build that wall!» was a chant heard loud and often at Trump campaign rallies.
Trump boasted during debates and on the campaign trail that he would not only build a «big, beautiful» wall but also get Mexico to pay for it.
Nearly a third of the 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) border between the U.S. and Mexico already has a border wall of some type.
In an interview this month with the CBS news show 60 Minutes, Trump admitted that the wall he campaigned about might actually be fencing in some areas. And in a video touting plans for his first 100 days in office, which was released Monday, Trump never mentioned the wall.
Trump said during his campaign that he planned to deport millions of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Trump also caused an uproar when he kicked off his campaign last year by saying Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers across the border.
«They’re sending people that have lots of problems. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,» he said at the time.
On the 60 Minutes interview, Trump backtracked from his pledge to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, saying he would focus on those who have been arrested for alleged crimes.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million,” he said. “We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.”
After terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Trump proposed last December temporarily banning all members of the Islamic faith from entering the United States.
His position since then has fluctuated, from calling for a Muslim registry and monitoring of mosques, to banning immigration from countries with a «proven history» of terrorism, to urging extreme vetting of anyone entering the country.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, known by its acronym, NSEERS, is a post-9/11 George W. Bush-era policy. It was created by the Department of Justice but then gutted in 2011 during President Barack Obama’s first term.
The framework, however, remains in place. Trump and several advisers have publicly expressed interest in focusing registration and surveillance efforts broadly on Muslims, and in reviving NSEERS.
Asked whether the Trump administration would ban Muslims from coming to the U.S., Luis Quinones, a member of the Hispanic Advisory Council to the president-elect, told VOA’s Latin America division last week that it would not be a «ban,» but would instead «slow down the process.» He added that the new administration would be «dusting off» such policies already in place.
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman who has been named as Trump’s chief of staff, told Meet the Press on Sunday: «Look, I’m not going to rule out anything. We’re not going to have a registry based on a religion. But what I think what we’re trying to do is say that … there are some people that are radicalized. And there are some people that have to be prevented from coming into this country.»
During the campaign, Trump was a staunch critic of Obama’s signature 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Trump said during rallies that on Day One of his presidency he would fully repeal the act.
Less than a week after his election, Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he would «simultaneously» repeal and replace Obamacare.
In the interview on 60 Minutes, he said he would like to keep at least two provisions from the current plan: the inclusion of people with pre-existing conditions and adult children, up to age 26, who live with their parents on their parents’ health care plan.
Trump softened his position after a meeting with Obama.
Experts, however, say the situation requires more than an outright repeal or a cut-and-paste of the health care elements Trump likes and dislikes.
The problem with keeping the two provisions Trump says he likes, experts say, is that they are paid for by some other provisions that are less attractive, such as the mandate that all adults in the U.S. have health care coverage. The healthy adults in the system contribute the funds that help pay for the sick people who cannot be denied coverage.
Without that mandate, Trump will have to find some other source of funds for the insurance companies covering people with pre-existing conditions.
Conflicts of interest
The incoming president has been facing questions about whether he can run his multibillion-dollar real estate and corporate empire and be president at the same time. He told The New York Times that in theory, «I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly.»
He said that even though the law was on his side, a president could not have any conflicts of interest and that he was in the process of turning over his businesses to his children.
Trump, who once called global warming a Chinese-created hoax, also appears to be backing down from his threat to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Trump told the Times that «clean air is vitally important» and that he thought «there is some connectivity between» climate change and human activity.
«I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind» about the accord, he said.
Trump said he had no intention of calling for further investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state and into questions surrounding the charitable Clinton Foundation.
«I don’t want to hurt the Clintons. I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways. … The campaign was vicious,» he said.
Trump said investigating Clinton was not something he felt «very strongly about.»
«I think it would be very, very divisive for the country,» Trump told reporters and editors at the Times. «My inclination would be, for whatever power I have on the matter, is to say: Let’s go forward. This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseam.»
Trump’s decision not to push for investigations into Clinton’s email use or the Clinton Foundation, however, may not deter some Republican Party members on Capitol Hill. Republican Congressman James Chaffetz, who chairs the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has promised to continue to investigate Clinton’s use of emails.
By backing off his promises to investigate Clinton, Trump has outraged some of his most passionate supporters. Breitbart News, a conservative news organization that has strongly supported Trump, published a headline Tuesday that read: «Broken Promise.»
The billionaire real estate mogul also appears to have changed his mind about torturing terrorism suspects.
He had said he favored the use of waterboarding, which Congress banned in 2006.
But Trump suggested he changed his mind after meeting with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, a leading candidate for secretary of defense. He said Mattis told him he never thought harsh interrogation techniques «to be useful,» and added that the general preferred developing trust with «a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers.»
Trump will be inaugurated on January 20.
Victoria Maachi, Wayne Lee and Marissa Melton contributed to this report.