In Brief

Donald Trump sued by two states over business links

Attorney generals of Maryland and DC accuse US President of 'unprecedented constitutional violations'

Why did Kanye West meet Donald Trump?

14 December

After shocking his fans last month by praising billionaire businessman Donald Trump, rapper Kanye West went one step further yesterday and enjoyed a 15-minute meeting with the US president-elect.

He arrived at Trump Tower in New York accompanied by his mother-in-law Kris Jenner's boyfriend, Corey Gamble, yesterday morning, days after being released from hospital for a breakdown related to stress and exhaustion.

During the meeting, the two men "discussed life", Trump told reporters afterwards, before posing for photos with the rapper, who he said was a "good man". 

Trump also added that he and West had been "friends for a long time".

A Republican billionaire and the rapper who once declared that "George Bush hates black people" might appear unlikely bedfellows, but the duo have a surprising amount in common, says Lisa Respers France at CNN. 

"Neither Yeezy nor Trump suffer from any self-esteem issues," she writes, and could also bond over fame, wealth and their shared love of using - and misusing - Twitter.

West came out in favour of the businessman last month, telling fans in San Jose, California: "If I would've voted, I would've voted for Trump", to a chorus of boos.

He also called on black people to "stop focusing on racism".

His rambling affirmation of the Republican "was seen at the time as evidence of his then-impending breakdown", notes Jezebel. 

Merely days later, West cancelled the remaining dates on his Saint Pablo tour before being taken to hospital and placed on a psychiatric ward following increasingly erratic behaviour, which his camp attributed to stress and exhaustion.

The rapper ignored reporters' questions yesterday, saying: "I just want to take a picture right now."

However, he later revealed more details of his conversation with Trump over Twitter, saying they discussed "multicultural issues".

He also appeared to backtrack on his declaration at the 2015 Video Music Awards to stand for the presidency in 2020, tweeting "#2024" to fans, suggesting they will have to wait a few more years to witness his bid for the White House.

Trump appoints climate change sceptic as environmental tsar

9 December

US president-elect Donald Trump has chosen climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to the alarm of environmental activists.

Who is Scott Pruitt?

A vocal critic of President Barack Obama's climate change policies, the Oklahoma Attorney General is seen as an ally of the fossil fuel industry and has been a key player in legal challenges against EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

The appointment is being seen as a move away from current green policies. "For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs," said Trump.

Democrats say Pruitt is a climate change denier. Writing in the National Review in May, he said the climate change debate "is far from settled", arguing that "scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind".

What has the reaction been?

Unenthusiastic - at least from green campaigners. A meeting earlier this week between the president-elect and green campaigner Al Gore, a former Democratic vice president, offered activists a glimmer of hope.

It suggested Trump might "moderate from his more extreme campaign pledges to scrap all efforts to stem the warming of the planet", says the New York Times.

However, the LA Times says that after the appointment of Pruitt, "any hope, quixotic as it might have been, that president-elect Donald J Trump might be less of a threat to the environment than candidate Trump has gone up in soon-to-be unregulated smoke".

There are also concerns about Pruitt's ties to the energy industry. He has made no secret of his close relationship with big oil, "so it's hard not to see his appointment as putting the fox in charge of the hen house", says the LA Times.

What does his appointment mean?

"The nomination of Scott Pruitt has two important ramifications," says BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath.

It is a clear signal from the incoming administration that environmental regulations, especially as they apply to the production of energy, are set for fundamental reform and it shows the Trump camp is not willing to accept that many aspects of the science of climate change are now settled.

Pruitt is the third of Trump's nominees to "have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run", says the Washington Post. The others are Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

Trump attacks China on Twitter after risking diplomatic rift over Taiwan

5 December

US president-elect Donald Trump has criticised China in a Twitter outburst, days after risking a diplomatic rift with the country by speaking directly to Taiwan's president.

"Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?  I don't think so!" he tweeted last night.

His comments came after he made the US's first official diplomatic contact with Taiwan in more than four decades - China regards the country as a breakaway province that will one day be reunited with the mainland.

The state-run China Daily newspaper yesterday said Trump's decision to speak to Taiwan's President, Tsai Ing-wen, was the result of a lack of foreign policy experience.

It had "exposed nothing but his and his transition team's inexperience in dealing with foreign affairs", added the editorial.

Trump's ten-minute phone call with Tsai, which took place on Friday, was expected to infuriate the Chinese government, but its public reaction has been "measured", says The Observer. That reflects "an apparent desire not to immediately lock itself into a public confrontation with the US president-elect".

John Delury, an East Asia expert, said: "They are holding their fire but they are sizing him up. I think a classic mistake would be for Trump and his people to think: 'Wow, we got away with it. We can do that. Great!'"

Donald Trump to cut ties with businesses: What are his options?

1 December

Donald Trump yesterday announced he will be "leaving" his business interests "in total" when he takes office.

The president-elect said he would hold a "major news conference" in New York with his children on 15 December to "discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country".

He tweeted: "While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as president, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The presidency is a far more important task!"

Despite the announcement, "it remained unclear whether the new arrangement would include a full sale of Trump's stake or, as he has offered before, a ceding of company management to his children," says the Washington Post.

Previous presidential candidates have pledged to place their assets into a blind trust should they enter the White House. "Trump's plan to hand control to his children would fall short of that threshold," says Politico.

What are his options?

Conservative voices such as the Wall Street Journal have suggested Trump liquidate all his assets and place them in a genuine blind trust, arguing it would benefit both him and the country.

"One reason 60 million voters elected Donald Trump is because he promised to change Washington's culture of self-dealing, and if he wants to succeed he's going to have to make a sacrifice and lead by example," the paper said.

Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer under George W Bush, said ceding company management would not resolve worries that the business could still influence his decisions in the Oval Office.

"Even if he does not operate the businesses, you're going to have lots of people working for the business running around the world trying to cut deals," Painter said.

"It's critical that none of those people discuss US business in a way that could be interpreted as soliciting a bribe on the part of the president."

So what will he do?

In an interview with the New York Times last week, Trump expressed some reluctance to remove himself from an ownership and management position at the Trump Organization and his other companies, noting that the law was on his side.

"The president can't have a conflict of interest," he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC he was not "ready to reveal" whether the move would include Trump truly severing ties to his business or whether he would simply leave the day-to-day operations to his kids. 

"It's not the easiest thing to work out," he said. "What you see in those tweets is the person at the top that understands and is willing and showing the American people that he's working hard on it and he's taking it seriously."

Regardless of what he chooses to do, the president himself "will never be 'blind' to his own interests", says Slate. "After all, they consist mostly of fixed assets stamped with his name."

Trump's 'landslide' win was just the opposite, says pollster

29 November

Did Donald Trump win the US presidential election by a landslide? His former campaign manager says he did, but the facts do not support her claim and commentators have been pointing it out.

Kellyanne Conway, who decried the president-elect as "extreme" when she was managing his rival Ted Cruz's election bid, tweeted the Republican had enjoyed a landslide victory following the news that vote counting has ended in Michigan, one of the closest states between Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. 

While there is no precise definition of a "landslide" victory, it is hard to see how it could be applied to Trump. 

US pollster Nate Silver, who predicted President Barack Obama's 2012 victory with uncanny accuracy, debunked the claim on his website FiveThirtyEight

Trump had received 56.9 per cent of the Electoral College votes, he wrote, "nothing to sneeze at" and better than George W Bush in either of his election victories.

But it still only puts the president-elect at 44 in the table of presidential election victories, well below both of Obama's wins - the current President secured 67.8 per cent of Electoral College votes in his 2008 victory and 61.7 in 2012.

Trump's performance is well below average for a US president, making it "a bit Orwellian" to claim his victory is a "landslide" or "blowout", says Silver.

USA Today adds: "While Trump did win the electoral vote, he is more than two million votes behind Clinton in the popular tally. So, election 2016 was many things, but historic blowout it was not."

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