Nobody expected Donald Trump, whose presidential candidacy was built far more on his personality than it was on the details of his plans for the country, to become a policy wonk overnight after his shocking victory at the polls last week. But in his first major sit-down interview since the election, Trump appeared in a pre-recorded segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night and demonstrated little evidence that he has started to grapple with the details of even his top priorities.
Having campaigned on a promise to immediately “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Trump told interviewer Lesley Stahl that he intended to keep several of the act’s more popular measures in place, including the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and the requirement that insurers allow the adult children of policyholders to remain on their parents’ policies through age 26.
However, Trump has so far consistently failed to address a glaring problem: Both he and his allies in Congress say that they will do away with the individual mandate, which requires people who do not receive insurance through their employer or the government, to purchase their own policies. It was the individual mandate, though, that convinced insurance companies to buy into Obamacare in the first place, judging that the influx of new customers would offset the additional cost of insuring those with preexisting conditions.
When Stahl pressed for details about how Trump would manage the transition from the ACA to his as-yet-unspecified alternative, his answer was heavy on hand-waving and without any real substance.
“Now we're going to do it simultaneously,” he said. “It'll be just fine. 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 It will be repealed and replaced. And we’ll know. And it'll be great health care for much less money. So it'll be better healthcare, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.”
When Stahl brought up the ongoing battle to destroy the terror group ISIS, Trump doubled down on his insistence that he is better informed about fighting the terror group than the leaders of the US military.
“You said you knew more than the generals about ISIS,” she reminded him.
“Well, I-- I'll be honest with you, I probably do because look at the job they've done. Okay, look at the job they've done. They haven't done the job. Now, maybe it's leadership, maybe it's something else. Who knows? All I can tell you is we're going to get rid of ISIS.”
When Stahl asked for more detail, Trump continued to insist that his plans for dealing with the terror group must be kept secret.
On his signature issue of immigration, Trump said that he would implement the immediate deportation of up to three million undocumented immigrants with criminal records, construct the border wall he has promised (though he conceded that some segments of it might simply be a fence,) and turn his attention to the remaining eight or nine million undocumented individuals in the country.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” he said. “But we're getting them out of our country, they're here illegally. After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we're going to make a determination on the people that you’re talking about who are terrific people, they're terrific people, but we are going to make a determination at that. But before we make that determination—Lesley, it’s very important, we want to secure our border.”
How he will do any of these things, though, Trump did not say. And Trump’s promise of mass deportations seemed to run counter to comments House Speaker Paul Ryan made Sunday morning, in which he said that the government would not be creating the “deportation force” that Trump has promised.
When Stahl asked Trump if he would continue to use social media to attack his critics and rivals, Trump refused to take the possibility off the table, though he said he might dial things back somewhat as president.
“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” he said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s—it’s where it’s at.”
By the time the interviewed aired on Sunday night, Trump had attacked The New York Times as “dishonest” and insisted that the newspaper is losing “thousands” of subscribers. (Officials at the Times said that their digital subscriptions are actually rising, not falling.)
The president-elect also demonstrated a remarkably flexible approach to dealing with major legal issues. For example, when Stahl asked him about marriage equality for gay couples, which the Supreme Court declared legal nationwide last year, Trump essentially said that it’s a non-issue because it is now a matter of settled law.
“It's irrelevant because it was already settled. It's law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done...these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They've been settled. And- I'm-- I'm fine with that,” he said.
However, on the issue of abortion rights -- which has been settled law for decades -- he said that he would fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court with a justice who would vote for a pro-life judge and that one outcome could be returning jurisdiction over abortion rights to the states.
When Stahl pointed out that the likely consequence of that would be that many women would not be able to have abortions, Trump said it wouldn’t be a big deal -- they’d just have to travel to a different state.
“Well, we'll see what happens,” he said. “It's got a long way to go, just so you understand. That has a long, long way to go.”