Thousands of Americans spilled into the streets Saturday for a new day of protests against Donald Trump, even as the president-elect appeared to back away from the fiery rhetoric that propelled him to the White House.
The Republican billionaire — huddled with his transition team at his Manhattan residence — has sought to strike a conciliatory tone since his election sent a shockwave around the world, announcing Friday he no longer intended to scrap Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, Obamacare.
“This will prove to be a great time in the lives of all Americans. We will unite and we will win, win, win!” he tweeted Saturday, as up to 15,000 people prepared to march on Trump Tower under the rallying cry of “Trump is NOT my president”.
In downtown Chicago, several thousand marched peacefully to chants of “No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”
Four days after his shock election, the world is scrutinising the maverick’s every move for clues to how he will govern.
President-elect Trump’s U-turn on Obamacare — which the candidate Trump had branded a “disaster” — was prompted by his White House meeting with the outgoing president a day earlier.
In his first post-election interview, Trump told The Wall Street Journal he may maintain a ban on insurance companies denying coverage because of so-called pre-existing conditions. He also said he may continue to ensure that children can remain on their parents’ policies until the age of 26, a key Obamacare tenet.
“I like those very much,” the 70-year-old real estate mogul and political novice said of both points.
It marked one of several moves by Trump and his advisers away from his more sweeping campaign positions.
Asked by the Wall Street Journal whether he would, as threatened, name a special prosecutor to investigate his opponent Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server as secretary of state, Trump deflected.
“It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform,” he said — a far cry from his stump rhetoric leading crowds in chants of “Lock her up!”
Top Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich also cast doubt on whether Trump would make Mexico fund his proposed border wall — another rallying cry for his supporters.
“He’ll spend a lot of time controlling the border. He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it, but it was a great campaign device,” Gingrich was reported as saying by The Washington Post.
Despite his more measured tone, the Republican has yet to respond to mounting calls to reassure the US public who fear a xenophobic crackdown under his authority.
The South Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, tracked more than 200 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation in the three days following the election.
More than 47,000 people have signed an SPLC petition urging Trump to clearly distance himself from “haters” — from white nationalists to anti-Muslim and anti-gay extremists — who are celebrating his victory.
Thousands of anti-Trump protesters held a third straight night of largely peaceful marches on Thursday, although violence marred a rally in Portland, Oregon, where a demonstrator was shot and sustained non-life-threatening injuries after what police believe was a confrontation.
Asked by The Wall Street Journal whether he thought his rhetoric had gone too far, Trump responded: “No. I won.”
But he added that he would now take a more positive approach, saying, “It’s different now.”
“I want a country that loves each other,” he said, arguing that the way to ease tension would be to “bring in jobs.”
In a CBS interview to be aired on Sunday, Trump spoke warmly of the election night call he received from Clinton conceding that he had won.
“It was a lovely call, and it was a tough call for her — I mean, I can imagine,” he said according to interview excerpts, praising his vanquished foe as “very strong and very smart.”
He also spoke about a call he received from her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who he said “couldn’t have been more gracious.”
The president-elect said he wouldn’t rule out approaching the former US leader for advice.
Trump said as much of Obama after their apparently harmonious meeting, saying he was open to seeking his “counsel”.