DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President-elect Donald Trump has been celebrating the Christmas holiday at his estate in south Florida. There are still so many questions about how his business ties in multiple countries will affect his presidency. Trump appeared to take a step to address conflicts of interest when he announced this weekend that he'll close his charitable foundation. And let's talk about that and let's talk about politics in general this morning with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, a frequent guest on this program. Robert, good morning.
ROBERT COSTA: Good morning.
GREENE: Could I start by asking you about the Republican National Committee's Christmas message, which has created a firestorm on social media? I just want to read from it here. Among the things it said is that this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new king. And many on social media reacted thinking that they were referring to Donald Trump. What do you make of this?
COSTA: David, it was a firestorm on social media on Christmas Day, and there was also a microcosm of what we've seen happening in around the country, especially in places that the president-elect himself seems to inhabit, places like Twitter. So some Democrats and liberals thought this was absurd, that the RNC was in some way comparing Trump to Jesus Christ. And then you had the Republicans and their spokespeople fighting back and saying this was absurd from their perspective...
GREENE: Saying that they were clearly referring to Jesus Christ and they were not making a Donald Trump reference was their argument.
GREENE: Well, what - you say this speaks to something, a moment. I mean, are we going to see this time and time again potentially, that team Trump and, you know, what will be the White House doing something that many see as provocative and then critics, you know, saying this is outrageous and then Trump responding and saying, you know, everybody calm down, it's not that bad?
COSTA: In the Trump era, it seems to happen almost every day. As a reporter for The Washington Post, we always seem to be covering this same dynamic, which is where the Trump allies and the Trump advisers and their supporters often say that something is being covered as too much about political correctness or it's being misinterpreted or Trump's misunderstood. And then Trump supporters say that the meaning is entirely different than how the critics are interpreting it. And it shows just how much our country is divided, not just in the politics but in how we see things.
GREENE: Well, let's talk about the potential conflicts of interest that seems to be such a backdrop as Donald Trump will take office. The foundation that he has said that he is going to close - a lot of disagreement over how exactly he uses this foundation, right?
COSTA: The Washington Post and my colleague who sits right next to me, David Fahrenthold, he's done extensive reporting on this. And Trump - the president-elect has chosen to close his foundation amid an investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. And what happened is the New York attorney general decided to investigate the foundation because it had failed to register in the state. And Trump had - himself has not given a lot of money to his own foundation. He's often used donations to the foundation from other people to then give out those donations, so it's caused a lot of scrutiny and people to take a look at it over the past year.
GREENE: So is this a big step towards dealing with conflict of interest questions? Because the Democratic Party - not that impressed, the party spokesman, Eric Walker, saying shuttering a charity is no substitute for divesting from his for-profit businesses.
COSTA: It's a - it's something that's taken quite some time in this transition period. Trump and his family, they've been reluctant for some time to distance themselves from their charitable foundations, believing they were doing good works and that they could find some way once Trump entered the government to keep these foundations going, or at least keep the efforts going. But it's been found, many Trump people tell me, to be very difficult to keep these institutions moving forward. So you see Trump shuttering his foundation, closing it for the moment, same with Trump's son, Eric.
GREENE: Lots of promises about what the first hundred days will be like, and, of course, incoming presidents always make a lot of promises. What do you see as topping the agenda as things get started?
COSTA: It's not so much what Trump wants at this point, though that's important. It's also what Congress wants, and you have majorities in both chambers. And Paul Ryan, the House speaker, he's already outlining a program on tax reform, on rolling back the Affordable Care Act, on getting rid of regulations. And so as much as Trump ran as a populist and an outsider, much of his agenda for the moment is about what Republicans in Congress want to do on some of these core domestic issues.
GREENE: You're saying that the party is really going to wield some power over Donald Trump in terms of where the agenda goes.
COSTA: It certainly will. Trump, of course, has the nominations for his Cabinet. There will be a Supreme Court pick that Trump will nominate, and that will dominate much of 2017. But Trump himself, he ran mostly on immigration reform and tougher reforms on the border. The attorney general nominee, Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator, he's planning to take a real role and try to limit legal immigration and build the wall that Trump has proposed. But on other issues, it's really Trump going along with the Congress. And the other front, though, that Trump is working on right now in the transition, of course, is foreign policy. And that's where Trump will have a major say.
GREENE: OK. Robert Costa from The Washington Post, thanks as always, really appreciate it.
COSTA: Thank you.
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