President-elect Donald Trump will keep his campaign promise to void a 2014 deal that improves diplomacy and commerce between the U.S. and Cuba, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday, a day after the announcement of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s death.
“President-elect Trump has been pretty clear,” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday,” in a wide-ranging interview. “We’ve got to have a better deal.”
Trump, during his successful White House bid, argued against President Obama’s 2014 executive action that attempts to “normalize” relations between the United States and the communist country.
Obama used executive actions to ease sanctions against Cuba. The president ended the 180-day ban on ships docking at U.S. ports after sailing from Cuba, paved the way for doctors to work with Cuban researchers on medical investigations and allowed Americans to travel to Cuba in cultural exchange programs.
Obama visited Cuba in March, becoming the first president since Calvin Coolidge to visit the island nation. Coolidge took the trip in 1928.
Trump, during a campaign stop in September, said if elected president he would void Obama’s deal unless Cuba met his demands, which included “religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners.”
The incoming Republican president and other critics said Obama's deal vastly improves the island nation’s isolated economy, while the U.S. gets nothing in return.
Priebus repeated that Cuban leader Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro, will have to “meet our demands” for such a deal to continue.
He cited such issues as Cuba opening up its economic markets and putting an end to religious oppression and other human rights violations.
“These things need to change,” said Priebus, making clear that the continuing Castro regime has to at least show signs of moving in those directions.
“This isn’t going to be one way,” he said. “I think the president-elect has been clear on this.”
Priebus also slammed 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s efforts to have vote recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, calling the effort, which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joined Saturday, a “fundraising scheme.”
He called the effort a “total waste of time.”
Priebus also downplayed rumors about vicious infighting within the transition team about whether Trump should pick former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as his secretary of state.
“He’s going to have the best possible people,” said Priebus, while acknowledging “teams of rivals” in the debate over who will run the State Department. “He’s going to make the best decision for the American people.”