Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trump Continues ‘Thank You’ Tour, Slams Obama Spokesman

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump delivered another installment in his “thank you” tour Thursday to states that helped him cinch the presidential election, and used the occasion to slam Barack Obama’s top spokesman.

At a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Trump criticized President Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, who has been skeptical about some of Trump’s positions in his daily briefings.

“This foolish guy, Josh Earnest, I don’t know if he’s talking to President Obama. You know having the right press secretary is so important because he is so bad the way he delivers a message,” Trump said. “He can deliver a positive message and it sounds bad. He could say ladies and gentlemen today we have totally defeated ISIS and it wouldn’t sound good.”

FILE - White House press secretary Josh Earnest discusses Zika virus during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington.

FILE – White House press secretary Josh Earnest discusses Zika virus during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington.

Trump is expected to announce his own press secretary choice in the next few days.

Meanwhile, he continues this “thank you” tour Friday in Orlando, Florida, and Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.

In continuing to fill his Cabinet and top leadership posts, Trump officially nominated bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as the ambassador to Israel. Friedman has expressed his opposition to a key tenet of U.S. policy in the region — the two-state solution of an Israeli and Palestinian state living peacefully side by side.

Interior secretary

Trump also nominated Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana as interior secretary Thursday.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, is a proponent of keeping public lands under federal ownership. That position would put him at odds with those in the Republican Party who favor privatization or placing federal lands under the control of states. But it is on par with Trump, who also has said he does not think federal public land should be placed under state control.

Many environmental groups oppose Zinke, who has advocated for increased drilling and mining on public lands and has expressed skepticism about the urgency of climate change.

The Interior Department has more than 70,000 employees across the United States and oversees more than 20 percent of federal land, including national parks.

Business interests

In another Twitter comment Thursday, Trump assailed news media coverage of his efforts to separate himself from his vast global business empire to avoid conflicts of interest with decisions he and the U.S. government make when he assumes power January 20.

“The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex — when actually it isn’t!” he said.

Trump has yet to spell out details of how he plans to remove himself from control of his commercial properties, golf courses, resorts and consumer product businesses. He says, though, his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, along with managers at the Trump Organization, will handle the operations.

Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s top aides, said it is possible that Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, might take White House jobs advising the new president.

But the president-elect apparently has ruled out the demand from ethics experts in past U.S. administrations that he divest his holdings and put the assets in a blind trust controlled by an independent manager making investment decisions without Trump’s knowledge.

Earlier this week, Trump canceled a news conference planned for Thursday to disclose how he would handle his business affairs when he takes office, but now says he will talk about it next month.

Aru Pande contributed to this report.

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