RNC Official On Trump's Cabinet Picks, Tweets: 'Business As Usual Has Ended'
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're now going to get an update on President-elect Donald Trump's transition and how he's been messaging to the public throughout that transition. We've got Sean Spicer on the line. He's the communications director for the RNC. Sean, thanks so much for being with us.
SEAN SPICER: Good morning, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: You are someone who thinks a lot about messaging and communications. And as such, I'm going to ask you kind of a big-picture question about the president-elect and how he's communicating. We have seen him use social media in some exceptional ways. And most recently, we've seen him use Twitter to go after big companies - Carrier, then Boeing. But last night, we saw Donald Trump attack an individual steelworker, a union leader on Twitter. As someone who thinks about political messaging, do you think that's OK?
SPICER: He is someone, who is as you kind of mentioned, highly unconventional. And if he wants to make sure the people - he has a direct voice to people with Twitter. And I think in the case of Carrier, the union came out and attacked him and called him a liar. And I think it was an area where he felt very passionate about saving those jobs. And for the union to come out there and belittle the work - the hard work that he and Vice President-elect Pence did to save those many jobs, I think he took it personally and he wants people to know that he's not going to sit back and take insults like that.
MARTIN: That feeds into the narrative about Donald Trump, though, being someone who takes the bait so to speak, that does have this knee-jerk emotional reactions sometimes that can lead him to send something out that may or may not be something he would have sent out if he had thought about it for a couple days.
SPICER: No, I don't think so because you haven't seen a single instance where he tweets something and says, gosh, I'm going to, you know, take that back or whatever.
MARTIN: I actually have seen him tweet something out and then change the wording on it.
SPICER: But I think, Rachel, I think the problem right now is that there's a lot of pundits, a lot of folks in the media and a lot of folks that just don't appreciate the authenticity that he has and the message and the resonate - the ability for him to resonate with the American people. They may not always agree with every tweet that he sends, but they know that he's honest and he speaks from the heart and that he's authentic. And I think that that's something that for too long Washington has misunderstood.
MARTIN: Sarah Palin has even accused Donald Trump of engaging in, quote, "crony capitalism" by interfering in the Carrier deal in the way that he did. You're a Republican. This is something Republicans talk a lot about, the idea of the free markets prevailing and the avoidance...
MARTIN: ...Of government overreach into capitalism. How do you come down on that?
SPICER: I think anyone who looks at it that way doesn't understand what's happening, which is that our regulatory and tax system here in the United States is what's forcing companies out of this country. I think he did exactly what we should be doing more, which is incentivizing companies to stay here. The problem with the left is that they believe you can tax folks to stay. Donald Trump did exactly what he said he'd do on the campaign trail and frankly what we should have more of, which is luring companies to stay here by easing regulations, by lowering the tax burden so that more Americans can have U.S. jobs.
MARTIN: Getting back to the social media and how he deploys it, have you been part of discussions about how the president-elect - once he assumes office - how he will use social media and Twitter in particular?
SPICER: We've had a couple of conversations. But, you know, largely this is something that will - he will decide. And this is something that's always been part of who Donald Trump is, is that ultimately staff gives him advice but he is the ultimate decider on whether it's what to tweet or who to hire.
MARTIN: And as someone who has spent his lifetime thinking about how to craft political messages, does that alarm you at all? Is that disconcerting that an executive would have that kind of power? I mean, we've seen now how his tweets can move markets.
MARTIN: They can affect American jobs...
MARTIN: ...Potentially for better or for worse.
SPICER: And I think - right. But that's the point is that I think people need to understand that business as usual has ended. When he talks about bringing real change and draining the swamp, he means it. And I think if you look at the people he's surrounded himself with so far and the people that he continues to meet with - Democrats, Republicans, independents - he shows that he's looking for the best and brightest, people who are going to bring change, who get the vision and are not going to stand for the status quo anymore.
MARTIN: I'd like to ask you about the president-elect's business interests. This morning The New York Times is reporting that even though Donald Trump says he's going to hand his business over to his kids, The Times says he intends to maintain a stake in his businesses. Is that a bright-enough line to prevent conflicts of interest?
SPICER: On the 15 of December next week, Donald Trump's going to have a press conference. He's going to lay out exactly how his business interests will be handed off to the kids. And I'll leave it to him to discuss that on the 15 and not get ahead of it over a New York Times story.
MARTIN: We talked with two ethics lawyers on the program recently, one Democrat and one Republican. And both of them said that the only thing that would be sufficient would be to place his financial holdings in a blind trust with an independent manager, not with one of his kids. And that if that doesn't happen, it will create conflicts of interest that would be unconstitutional. Is that something that you are concerned about?
SPICER: Well, look, number one, the law says that the president of the United States can't have a conflict of interests. So there is a specific carve-out for the president. Number two...
MARTIN: There is, but there's a constitutional article - the Emoluments Clause - that provides that no person holding any office shall accept any office or title of any kind from a king or a prince or a foreign state. So there's - you can't have a quid pro quo as articulated under the Constitution.
SPICER: Right. But again - but I think number one, that more refers to accepting foreign positions as opposed to holding U.S. interests. He's been very clear since day one of entering in the campaign, you know, what his financial disclosures were. He filed 150-some-odd pages of financial disclosure...
MARTIN: But he never released his tax returns.
SPICER: ...But that's - OK. I get it and I know you and the media want that to happen. But at the end of the day, the returns...
MARTIN: Only because the American people do (laughter).
SPICER: Let me - no, no - because you - OK, bottom line is this, the tax returns don't show holdings. The financial disclosure forms show everything that he has a financial interest in. It's actually extremely more comprehensive than a tax return would ever be. But the bigger picture is this, he has made very clear what he owns, how he's handling it, what his relationship was in terms of his kids and how they're going to run the things, he's stated that in August of last year.
So the idea that the American people want something, they've been given it. They've been well aware of it. I think this is more of what the media wants and what the media wants to see and how they want him to act, than actually what the American people did. They acted resoundedly on November 8 because they wanted someone who had real change. He laid it all out there - who he was, what he owned and how things operated.
MARTIN: I take your critique. But there is a sizable portion of the American population that didn't vote for Donald Trump that would have liked to have seen his tax returns as part of their calculus in making their choice.
SPICER: Sure, I'm sure there is.
MARTIN: Sean Spicer is the communications director for the RNC. Sean, we do appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
SPICER: Thank you, Rachel, appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.