Donald Trump hasn’t held a wide-ranging press conference in 167 days. That streak is expected to be broken Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET, when Trump holds his first news conference since being elected president.
He’d tweeted 1,601 times in that time, as of midnight Wednesday.
Ironically, Trump’s last news conference, in July 2016, was when he seemed to encourage Russia to “find” more of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The topic of Russian hacking — and his alleged ties to the Kremlin — is sure to be Item A of Trump’s press conference. That’s especially true, since Trump still hasn’t yet explicitly accepted the findings of the intelligence community that Russia was, in fact, responsible for hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee and a top Clinton aide — and that Russia’s intent to was to get him elected.
This press conference comes nine days before Trump is set to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States and nearly a month after Trump canceled his last scheduled news conference. That one was supposed to be about how he would unwind the complex international financial entanglements of the Trump Organization to avoid a potential conflict or perceived conflict of interest. This press conference is not specifically billed to be about that, but Trump has not fully answered how he would do this, beyond tweeting that he’d hand off management to his sons.
It also comes amid the busiest week since his electoral victory — and as more than half a dozen of his Cabinet nominees have testified about their records. Some of them have disagreed on expressed desired Trump policies — like on waterboarding and a border wall.
And, of course, there’s policy and the issue of Obamacare. Republicans have said they want to “repeal and replace” it, but they can’t agree on what to replace it with, whether it should be repealed and replaced at the same time, or repealed and then replace it at a later date. A growing chorus of Republicans is arguing to do them at the same time. So what does Trump believe?
There’s a lot to ask. Here are just some that some of us at NPR would like answered:
From NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly, national security correspondent
1. Last week, you received the classified briefing on Russia. Are you now persuaded that Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election? Are you persuaded that he did so in order to help you get elected?
2. Will you continue tweeting after you are sworn in as president? Why do you prefer to communicate via Twitter as opposed to the channels that presidents and presidents-elect have traditionally used?
From NPR’s Carrie Johnson, justice correspondent
3. You told an interviewer you’re “not sure” whether you want to retain FBI Director James Comey and that you’d like to understand his reasons “for doing what he did” in the email investigation of Hillary Clinton. Will you keep him on board or have you found a reason to demand his resignation?
Context: The FBI director became the focus of bipartisan criticism for his extraordinary disclosures to Congress about the email probe as the election loomed. Traditionally, the Justice Department takes pains to avoid public action that could influence a political contest. Clinton aides have blamed Comey in part for their election loss. But Comey is only about three years into a 10-year-term, designed to insulate the FBI from political pressure during any single administration. Firing Comey could carry political risk for Trump, who may fear the former prosecutor will turn his energy toward investigating Cabinet members and the White House.
4. The Office of Government Ethics, a federal watchdog, took to Twitter last year to urge you to divest your holdings to resolve conflicts of interest before you’re sworn into office. Are you and your counsel and Cabinet nominees following guidance you have received from OGE? In which instances have you ignored or countermanded their advice to divest?
Context: In a break with years of protocol, the OGE went public on social media to encourage the president-elect to divest some of his real estate and other investments. “Divestiture is good for you, very good for America,” one tweet read. “We can’t repeat enough how good this total divestiture will be.” But it’s not clear whether Trump will in fact completely divest or create a truly blind trust. The public statements hint at a bigger controversy: a behind the scenes battle over whether the nascent Trump administration is following advice from the federal ethics cops.
From NPR’s Tamara Keith, White House correspondent
5. Mr. President-elect, Sen. Rand Paul says he spoke with you and got assurances that you supported his position that Obamacare must be repealed and replaced simultaneously. The majority leader, whom you met with earlier this week, says the plan is to pass a repeal measure soon, and then work on passing a replacement later. Who do you agree with? What is your view about the appropriate timing and sequencing for undoing and replacing the Affordable Care Act?
Context: Repealing key parts of President Obama’s signature health care law would require only 51 votes in the Senate, thanks to a procedural maneuver. If Republicans are united, they have the numbers to meet that threshold. Replacing the law would be harder as other legislation will require at least 60 votes in the Senate. In recent days there have been a number of cracks emerging in Republican unity, with a small but growing number of senators insisting that repeal and replace happen at the same time, while others have expressed concerns about some elements of previous repeal legislation. As Democrats know all too well, the U.S. health care system is massive and complex with competing interests and reforming it is both challenging and politically perilous.