WASHINGTON ― On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump is scheduled to give his first press conference since July. It follows President Barack Obama’s Tuesday farewell address, in which Obama will celebrate the achievements of his administration, many of which will be in danger under Trump.
Trump’s infrequent press conferences often turn into spectacles that provide few answers, and he might use Wednesday’s event to take shots at Obama. It also comes amid a flurry of other stories that could be overshadowed. Here is what you need to know.
Confirmation hearings for Trump’s controversial Cabinet picks
Three of Trump’s Cabinet nominees will face questions from Senate committees on Wednesday. (Yes, you read that number correctly.) Several of the hearings will take place simultaneously with Trump’s press conference.
Democrats have protested that GOP leaders planned the packed hearing schedule in order to expedite the confirmation process and limit scrutiny. Areas of concern about the nominees may get short shrift ― such as Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is up for secretary of state, and his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin; or Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick for attorney general, and his record of anti-civil rights and anti-immigrant proposals.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s pick for attorney general, campaigning for Trump last year.
Over the weekend, the director of the Office of Government Ethics expressed “great concern” about the vetting process, writing in a letter to Senate Democrats that his office had not been given sufficient time to evaluate the candidates.
“This schedule has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews,” he wrote. “More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”
Senate accelerating the repeal of the Affordable Care Act
Republicans have pledged that their first order of business this year is to repeal Obama’s landmark law, but have not provided a viable replacement plan for the more than 20 million Americans who receive health insurance through Obamacare.
Now they have developed a new tactic: repealing the law first, but leaving parts of it in place until they decide on a replacement. As HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn explained, it is unclear how that would work, and it is likely they will never agree on a plan, leaving people’s health care in jeopardy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday affirmed that the Senate plans to take the “first step” to repealing Obamacare “by the end of this week.”
Trump’s unresolved conflicts of interest
Trump originally planned to hold a press conference on Dec. 15 to address how he would handle the numerous conflicts of interest between his businesses and the office of the presidency. But he canceled it, with adviser Kellyanne Conway claiming that he and the transition team needed more time to figure out the logistics.
During the transition, Trump has continued to meet with his foreign business partners and mentioned them in phone calls with world leaders. Trump has said that he would place his businesses in “a blind trust” run by his adult children, who continue to serve on both his transition team and as executives in the Trump Organization. Ethics experts have advised that Trump should completely divest himself from his businesses, but Trump has announced no plans to do so.
One major conflict of interest, Trump’s hotel in Washington, is located just blocks away from the White House.
|THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES|
The Trump hotel in Washington.
Trump’s undermining of the U.S. intelligence community’s findings on Russian hacking
Trump has downplayed Russia’s cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee, even though a joint report from the FBI, CIA and NSA last week concluded that Russia conspired to directly help Trump and harm opponent Hillary Clinton in the election.
“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” intelligence officials wrote in the report. “We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” the report continued.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Russia was involved, Trump has repeatedly cast doubts on U.S. intelligence officials’ findings, and on Saturday blamed Democrats for creating the controversy.
This story has been updated to reflect that Rep. Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing to be CIA director was postponed.