U.S. President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged Wednesday he is about to assume power in a politically divided country, but rejected the notion he contributed to the rift.
“I didn’t divide them,” he told NBC as it announced that TIME magazine had named him as its Person of the Year and calling him the elected leader of the “Divided States of America.”
“There’s a lot of division,” Trump said. “We’re going to put it back together. We’re going to have a country that’s very well-healed. And we’re going to be a great economic force and we’re going to build up our military and safety. We’re going to do a lot of great things.”
The billionaire real estate mogul turned Republican politician won the presidency in the country’s Electoral College that is based on the election outcomes in the 50 states and the national capital city, Washington, even as his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, is leading the national popular vote over him by nearly 2.7 million votes.
Trump said he has “a really good chemistry” with the man he will replace on January 20, Democratic President Barack Obama, a staunch Clinton supporter who called Trump unfit for the presidency.
“I really like him,” Trump said of Obama. “We very much disagree on some policies.” But Trump said he and Obama, in one face-to-face meeting and several phone calls, have had “a very good dialog. I take his recommendations very seriously.”
Trump said that he ran the names of several of his possible high-level appointments past Obama for his thoughts, and said that Obama “spoke very highly” about one individual he did not name, whom Trump subsequently appointed.
In the interview, Trump offered his thoughts on a variety of other issues.
He assailed U.S. trade deals during the lengthy presidential campaign as hurting U.S. workers, but declared, “I believe in free trade, but I don’t believe in stupid trade. My trade policies are going to be terrific.”
Trump defined “stupid trade” as “when our companies move out of our country, fire their workers and then come back and sell their products with no retribution.” Earlier this week, he called for a 35 percent tax on the products of companies that have left the United States for cheaper labor in other countries and then tried to sell their goods back in the U.S.
Trump defended his favorite means of talking to the American public, offering almost daily comments on Twitter. He said that he has 40 million followers on Twitter and Facebook, calling it “a modern-day form of communication. I get it out much faster than a press release” and can offer his thoughts “more honestly than dealing with dishonest reporters.”
During the campaign, he said he would be more restrained in his use of Twitter if he were elected, but he has continued to mock people and institutions he disagrees with.
Asked whether he is finding his Twitter habit difficult to break, Trump said, “I think I am very restrained. I talk about important things,” citing his Twitter complaints about China’s move to create a military base in the South China Sea.