President-elect hints at possible compromise after vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
NEW YORK—President-elect Donald Trump said he would consider leaving in place certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, an indication of possible compromise after a campaign in which he pledged repeatedly to repeal the 2010 health-care law.
In his first interview since his election earlier this week, Mr. Trump said one priority was moving “quickly” on President Barack Obama’s signature health initiative, which Mr. Trump said has become so unworkable and expensive that “you can’t use it.”
Yet, Mr. Trump also showed a willingness to preserve at least two provisions of the law after Mr. Obama asked him to reconsider repealing it during their meeting at the White House on Thursday.
Mr. Trump said he favors keeping the prohibition against insurers denying coverage because of patients’ existing conditions, and a provision that allows parents to provide years of additional coverage for children on their insurance policies.
“I like those very much,” Mr. Trump said.
Other urgent priorities during his first few weeks as president, Mr. Trump said, would be deregulating financial institutions to allow “banks to lend again,” and securing the border against drugs and illegal immigrants.
He said he would create jobs through nationwide infrastructure projects and improved international trade deals. He also said he would preserve American jobs by potentially imposing tariffs on products of U.S. companies that relocate overseas, thereby reducing the incentive to move plants abroad.
After a bitter campaign in which he came under criticism for his harsh and angry rhetoric, and a postelection period marked by anti-Trump protests in numerous cities, Mr. Trump said he is placing a high priority on bringing the country together.
“I want a country that loves each other,” Mr. Trump said. “I want to stress that.” He said the best way to ease tension would be to “bring in jobs.”
Asked whether he thought his rhetoric had gone too far in the campaign, Mr. Trump responded: “No. I won.”
Mr. Trump suggested he would now turn more positive, saying that was true of his victory speech early Wednesday morning, as well as his comments with Mr. Obama at the White House on Thursday. “It’s different now,” he said.
He deflected a question on whether he would follow up on a campaign vow to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate his election opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, over her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state: “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform.”
On health care, Mr. Trump said a big reason for his shift from his call for an all-out repeal was the meeting at the White House with Mr. Obama, who, he said, suggested areas of the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, to preserve. “I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that,” Mr. Trump said in his Trump Tower office.
“Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced,” Mr. Trump said.
The White House wouldn’t comment on Mr. Obama’s discussion with Mr. Trump on health care.
Mr. Trump declined to identify a single top priority upon taking office, saying: “I have a lot of first priorities.”
He did say, though, that he would rely heavily on his vice president-elect, Mike Pence, who had a decade of experience in Congress before becoming Indiana’s governor. “Mike will have a big role. He’s very capable,” Mr. Trump said.
He said he wanted Mr. Pence to handle “different areas of policy” and “be very much involved in health care.” He also said Mr. Pence would serve as his “liaison” with Congress, adding that Mr. Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are friends.
On foreign affairs, Mr. Trump said he has heard from most leaders, though he hadn’t yet spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said he got a “beautiful” letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that a phone call between them is scheduled shortly.
Although he wasn’t specific, Mr. Trump suggested a shift away from what he said was the current Obama administration policy of attempting to find moderate Syrian opposition groups to support in the civil war there. “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria,” he said.
He suggested a sharper focus on fighting Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria, rather than on ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “My attitude was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. 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.”
If the U.S. attacks Mr. Assad, Mr. Trump said, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”
On a different foreign hot spot, the Israel-Palestine situation, which Mr. Trump called “the war that never ends,” he said he hoped to help craft a resolution between them.
“That’s the ultimate deal,” Mr. Trump said. “As a deal maker, I’d like to do…the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”
On domestic policy, Mr. Trump said he is eager to focus on the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law, which he called “a tremendous burden to the banks.” He said: “We have to get rid of it or make it smaller. …Banks are unable to lend. It’s made our country noncompetitive. It’s slowed down growth.”
He said that people who have money haven’t been affected by the increased financial regulations. “I can borrow money,” Mr. Trump said. “The people who are really good, but need money to open a business or expand a business, can’t borrow money from the banks.”
By Monica Langley & Gerard Baker