Under fire for conflicts, Trump backs off Clinton prosecution

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On the roster: Under fire for conflicts, Trump backs off Clinton prosecution -Time Out: Feast, famine, friend, foe - Trump looks to beat the press - Audible: That darned 22nd Amendment - They were after the booty

Of all the days for Donald Trump’s top spokeswoman to announce that the president-elect was dropping his call to prosecute former rival Hillary Clinton, today was an interesting choice.

The declaration from Kellyanne Conway on MSNBC that Trump “doesn’t wish to pursue these charges” seems to clarify a move away from the promised prosecution that began shortly after the election.

While Trump would later tell the NYT that he wasn’t taking anything off the table in regard to prosecuting his presidential rival, he made it clear that he didn’t want to “hurt the Clintons.”

“It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about,” Trump said.


Trump first called for a special prosecutor to investigate pay-for-play allegations against Clinton and her family foundation when his campaign was foundering in its August doldrums.

“The amounts involved, the favors done and the significant number of times it was done require an expedited investigation by a special prosecutor immediately, immediately, immediately,” Trump told a crowd in Akron, Ohio on Aug. 22.

And the crowd knew what to say in response: “Lock her up!”

The prosecution of Clinton became such a central part of Trump’s candidacy that he would even confront her with the threat at their second debate: “There has never been so many lies, so much deception,” Trump said to Clinton of his allegations. “There has never been anything like it, and we're going to have a special prosecutor.”

Now, politicians flip on issues all of the time. And certainly Trump is no exception. Truth squadding policy deviations is usually pretty lame stuff, especially with Trump, a wellspring of hyperbole. Trump’s voters don’t seem to be offended at the fudge factor from a guy who seems to be more marketer than policy maker.

But what we don’t know is whether he can pull off a somersault like this one.

Going to the argument that he can is a new CNN poll that shows that Americans are responding mostly favorably to their new president-elect. An impressive 53 percent thought Trump would be a good president, better than his 47 percent of the popular vote and better than his immediate predecessors at this point.

There’s some goodwill at work as even Trump detractors express cheerful support for potential appointments and, despite some rather hot rhetoric from some Democrats, a basic willingness to accept his legitimacy and work with him on common causes.

That has been helped by Trump tempering positions on issues, importantly this evolution away from prosecuting Clinton.

We should remember, of course, that presidents aren’t prosecutors and aren’t supposed to direct their attorneys general or FBI directors to bring cases or not bring cases. That part is supposed to happen independently.  When he was first calling for prosecution, it was inappropriate. Now that he’s discouraging prosecution, it’s equally inappropriate.

One imagines that, however much liberal loathe Sen. Jeff Sessions’ ultra-conservatism, most fair-minded folks would assume that the attorney general designee is a stickler for the rules and a fan of due process. And Trump’s veering on the Clinton prosecution may even be a function of Session’s making his prospective agency’s independence manifest to Trump.

But there is something else going on here, too.

The heat is on Trump over what would be at best the sloppy entanglements of his personal and government affairs. Trump’s prospective White House counsel, Don McGahan, is trying to sort out a way to prevent ethical misdeeds but they are already stacking up.

Here’s the problem: Trump wants to have his children tend to his assets rather than liquidating his assets and placing them in a blind trust. But he also wants his children and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to help him be president.

It’s already proving untenable and even Trump allies like the NY Post Editorial Page are calling for a remedy and suggesting that it will need to be more than just a change in title for his children.

Remember, that the allegations against the Clinton were that even if they did not demand payola from people doing business with the government, the presence of the foundation sent the signals that pay to play was the order of the day.

Trump declared Monday that voters don’t care about these matters: “Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!” But he knows from his campaign how powerful these kinds of corruption charges can be. And if they would be all the more potent if larded with claims of hypocrisy.

It may be that Trump’s decision to steer so sharply away from the Clinton prosecution push stems from his growing understanding of the complexities of holding office – and maybe fears that he will see his own words used against him.

“A man who might be afraid to defeat a law by his single VETO, might not scruple to return it for reconsideration; subject to being finally rejected only in the event of more than one third of each house concurring in the sufficiency of his objections.”–Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 70

Did you ever wonder why Thanksgiving wasn’t widely celebrated until the 19th century? Nat Geo has that story and more in these little known Thanksgiving tidbits: “When the Mayflower pilgrims and the Wampanoag sat down for the first Thanksgiving in 1621, it wasn’t actually that big of a deal. Likely, it was just a routine English harvest celebration. More significant—and less remembered—was the peace treaty that the parties established seven months earlier, which lasted for 50 years. ‘There’s in fact very little historical record of the first Thanksgiving, which is why Thanksgiving wasn’t really celebrated as a holiday until the 19th century,’ says Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. ‘To historians, it seems kind of funny that the celebration … now seems more important than the treaty itself.’”

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In a move apparently designed to demonstrate President-elect Donald Trump’s ability to deliver on his threat to circumvent reporters, he released a video message outlining his intended first executive actions as president.

Trump, who has not held a press conference since July, said he would rescind some of President Obama’s executive actions on trade and energy as well as establish new rules for cyber security and how government agencies draft regulations.

It was his first statement intended for public consumption since his victory speech.

Trump’s direct-to-video move is reminiscent of a play the Obama administration made in its early days to ditch press briefings in favor of direct communication. Ultimately, though, Obama found that supporters quit tuning in for video updates as the thrill of the campaign turned into the humdrum of governance.

Obama ended up keeping up his dance with the press and eventually learned how to orchestrate desired coverage, e.g. the coverage of his nuclear deal with Iran.

Given the deeper reach of digital media and the ardency of his supporters, Trump might have a more credible claim to make that he could go it alone.

Up to a point…

Trump tries to make nice with NYT - Trump had a meeting at the NYT today where many topics were covered a broad range of topics from his appointment of Steve Bannon to senior White House counselor to conflicts of interest between his company and serving as president. On running his company, Trump said, “In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There’s never been a case like this.” When discussing Bannon, Trump said that if he thought the former Breitbart editor was a racist Trump “wouldn’t even think about hiring him.” You can read all of the tweets from the reporters in the meeting here.

Trump summons television executives, criticizes coverage - WSJ: “During the meeting, which was organized by Mr. Trump’s staff, the president-elect criticized the executives and correspondents for their election coverage and predictions that he would lose to Hillary Clinton, according to a person familiar with the gathering. The president-elect also complained about some of the postelection coverage as well but wants to wipe the slate clean, this person said. Mr. Trump was quite knowledgeable about the ratings for many of the various networks represented at the meeting, a person briefed on the matter said.”

Spotted at Trump Tower today:
--Ben Carson, whom Trump announced was under consideration to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development

--Former campaign aides and reportedly bitter rivals Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort

--Rep. Cynthia Loomis, R-Wyo.-Seema Verma, founder of SVC, Inc., a national health policy consulting company

--Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who told reporters his meeting was in his role on the transition team and not as a possible cabinet pick.

-- The president-elect discussed with NYT reporters soon-to-be former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who Trump said would “love a job in the administration,” before Trump added, “No, thank you.”

[Trump departs today for his family’s Thanksgiving holiday at his Florida estate, bringing presumably some pause in the auditions for his appointments.]

“If we don’t have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, we can’t win elections. That is an unsustainable model.” – Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who is seeking to oust Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader, as quoted by the Washington Post.

New York City will spend $1 million a day to protect Trump, family - Time

Tom Ricks on what retired Gen. James Mattis would mean as Defense secretary - Foreign Policy

A rare interview from Trump son-in-law and campaign ‘chief operating officer’ Jared Kushner - Forbes

What would a successful Trump-era GOP coalition look like? Henry Olson explores - National Review

Pence backs trillion-dollar infrastructure plan - Fox News

Trump Foundation admits ‘self-dealing’ to IRS -

Christie vows: ‘I’m serving the rest of my term’ -

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, makes his case saying House Democrats cannot be controlled by coastal elites - Vox

Dem Roy Cooper’s lead grows in still-unsettled N.C. governor race as canvass continues -
Fox News

“Mr. Stirewalt, Has there been a time in history when the press had such a tense, tumultuous relationship with a President-Elect? Anti-Trumpers are begging the press not to ‘normalize’ Trump, yet the media is sorta begging for Trump to ‘normalize’ them! Can they have their cake and eat it too? Do you foresee a ‘peace’ period? I have to admit that as a news junkie, it is getting a little old to hear all the same old criticisms and complaints about Trump. Let’s get to real news already! Really do enjoy your input and your humor!” – Chantal Thompson, Jacksonville, Fla.

[Ed. note: Campaigns provide useful structure for both politicians and the press. There’s always a finish line in sight and every story has to fit into the larger narrative of the campaign. When we get into the business of governance – “real news,” as you put it – things get more challenging. While Trump has a more openly hostile relationship than any president-elect since Richard Nixon, the same dynamics apply to most transition, just by varying degrees. For Trump, there is profit in fighting with the press since it so often thrills his supporters. But when it comes to governing, have to fight the media on basic issues like access and holding press conferences can be more distraction than any president, even Trump, would want.]

“My mother made absolutely the best cornbread! She did it in a cast iron skillet in the oven and when it was almost done she took the skillet handle two handed (with a potholder) and flipped that sucker in midair! It was a sight to behold!” – Mary Thompson, Las Cruces, N.M.

[Ed. note: Real heroes don’t wear capes! Thanks for sharing, Ms. Thompson.]

“I have enjoyed the I’ll Tell You What podcasts and television shows as well as the HFR. I have not been able to find which agency is responsible for collecting and tabulating the vote counts reported by the states. I’m sure that awesome brain of yours contains the information I seek. May you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving.” – Steven Lentz, Cypress, Texas

[Ed. note: Thank you, Mr. Lentz, and a happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Like almost everything with elections, keeping score is a function of the states. The federal role in elections is essentially limited to investigating violations of the limited number of federal elections laws and then certifying the winners… as reported by the states. But rather than you combing through the web sites of 50 states and the District of Columbia, David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report keeps a handy running total of the presidential vote. You can find it here. Gobble, gobble!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

BBC: “Officers investigated a robbery at a community hall in Wodonga, in south-east Australia, at the weekend. Instead of fingerprints, police found the offenders had left a bare bottom mark on a glass door. Sergeant Shane Martin, from Victoria Police, told The Age newspaper he had never seen anything like it. ‘They’re having a joke, or they’re actually trying to lean up against the door to break in, but I don’t know why they’d do it pantsless,’ he said. The intruders set off a fire extinguisher before stealing a television. Police are looking for three people spotted in a black car near the scene. Wodonga is a town about [180 miles] north-east of Melbourne.”

“What would you would normally do is you sell everything because you can’t have a blind trust for a business that’s so visible. You have to sell everything. But that of course would impact the value. It would be a fire sale. [Donald Trump] would never do that.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” 

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.