The incipient president of the United States held an astonishing press conference at Trump Tower on Wednesday, dubbing himself “the greatest job creator that God ever created” and vowing that he will fire his own sons if they don’t turn a profit on his golf courses and six-star hostelries while he unselfishly revivifies an ailing nation.
Donald J. Trump declared that a bromance with Vladimir Putin would be “an asset, not a liability,” compared various “sick,” “sad and pathetic,” and “pile of garbage” purveyors of online and broadcast news—and even U.S. intelligence agencies themselves—to the propagandists of Nazi Germany, and explained that he would not, could not possibly, have commissioned a lurid video in a Moscow hotel room several years ago because he is “a pretty high-profile person, wouldn’t you say?” who was well aware that “there are cameras in the strangest places” and, besides, “I’m very much of a germophobe, by the way.”
Speaking—as he did to great effect to his government-hating “deplorables” on the campaign trail—in scream-of-consciousness sentences lengthy and tortured enough to make William Faulkner reach for an inhaler, Trump was in triumphantly irascible state at his first press conference in 28 weeks. The Manhattan tycoon will be sworn in at noon next Friday on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on what he predicted would be an “elegant day” with “massive crowds” and “incredible bands.”
He admitted, for the first time, that “I think it was Russia” that hacked into the email servers of the Democratic Party last year, but then hedged his bets by blaming China for stealing more than 20 million federal personnel files and suggested that they might have been behind the political espionage as well. The Russians would just have avidly tapped into Republican databases, Trump said, were it not for superior defences constructed by the cyberwall-builders of the Grand Old Party.
Those same guardians will be put to work immediately on a physical barrier with America’s southern neighbour, he promised, with the invoice to be mailed directly to the Zócalo for payment whenever the Mexicans get around to it.
Wednesday’s scene was a dangerously overcrowded, roped-off quadrant of the Trump Tower lobby on 5th Avenue, just south of Central Park. Inside the atrium, dark blue curtains masked the windows of the Gucci boutique, lest a glimmer of refinement escape to sully the trash-talking, and a stage was installed that was as flimsy and impermanent as the president-elect’s own convictions.
Had Trump yelled “Fire!” rather than “You’re fired!” hundreds of the continent’s paramount scribblers would have been trampled by their own peers. As it was, several were bushwhacked by the president-elect himself; he refused to take a question from a CNN correspondent, for example, snarling that “You are fake news.”
Props on display during the hour-long event included former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and a stack of legal papers meant to add verisimilitude to Trump’s promise to convert his multinational, umpteen-billion-dollar empire from eponymous to anonymous the instant he takes office.
An attorney was brought forth to explain that, come Inauguration Day, daily operations of the Trump organization will be placed in the hands of sons Eric and Donald Jr. while daughter Ivanka retires to the role of stay-at-multi-million-dollar-home mom. All erections with foreign entities will cease, an ethicist will be hired to ensure that the Trumpian behemoth conforms to the law, and should a domestic transaction take shape the disinterested President Trump “will only know of the deal when he reads it in the paper, or sees it on TV.”
The lawyer, Sherri A. Dillon, a tax litigation expert from the Washington firm of Morgan Lewis, dismissed calls for the president-elect’s entire empire to be placed into a blind trust or liquidated altogether, arguing that such a “fire sale” would cause an unfair and deleterious (to the Trumps) crash in the assets’ values.
“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” Dillon said.
“President Trump can’t un-know he owns Trump Tower,” she added. Removing visual clues to this and his other proprietorships by taking down all the signage would flood the world market for second-hand bullion.
Compared to Barack Obama’s uplifting and ever-hopeful farewell address in Chicago the previous evening—“Yes we can. Yes we did.”—Trump’s frontal assault on “fake news,” “phony stuff” and “crap” was long on rant and short on revelation. But the incoming commander-in-chief did find time to excoriate the entire pharmaceutical industry, reveal his choice to run the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs— “by the time [veterans] see a doctor, they’re terminal”—and announce that, after detailed consultations with “the generals and the admirals,” he soon would recalibrate the government’s contract for the budget-sucking F-35 combat aircraft.
Pressed for the reason why he has not mellowed into the mould of his no-drama predecessor in the Oval Office, Trump offered a pungent answer: