When Donald Trump became the president-elect one year ago, his elated supporters and his crestfallen detractors had two very different ideas of the president he would become.
Those aboard the Trump Train had elected a president who declared, “I alone can fix it,” and they took him at his word.
He would provide “great health care at a fraction of the cost.” He would be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” by bringing back dying industries like coal mining and manufacturing. He would “rebuild” the U.S. military and “take care” of veterans. His “big, beautiful” wall along the border would halt illegal immigration, and Syrian refugees would no longer be allowed to enter the country.
Those who had opposed Trump the candidate were horrified at the prospect of him taking office. To them, Trump had campaigned on a dystopian vision of America, and his promises — to crack down on immigration, reverse Obama-era policies and pursue an isolated “America First” agenda — were more like threats. They predicted the possibility of nuclear war, a prospect Trump has done little to ward off by provoking the volatile leader of North Korea.
Of the two opposing visions of Trump’s presidency, neither has been fully borne out by events. It was probably unrealistic to expect him to repeal and replace Obamacare on “Day One” of his administration, but we’re now up to Day 291 and counting. His promise to push for a constitutional amendment setting term limits for members of Congress seems to have fallen through the cracks, along with getting rid of gun-free zones near schools. Tax cuts and infrastructure spending, signature initiatives during the campaign, are, respectively, a work in progress and a can being kicked down the road.
Nevertheless, Trump has been busy in the White House, when he’s not golfing. Here’s a partial list of his accomplishments and disappointments:
One of the Trump administration’s earliest concrete victories, and one the White House still cites as proof of his effectiveness, was the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Senate Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. During the campaign, Trump released a list of potential nominees, promising conservatives he would replace Scalia with someone from the pool. Within weeks of his inauguration, he picked Gorsuch, who was confirmed in April.
In addition to the Supreme Court, Trump has stacked the federal benches with his picks. Last week, after four confirmations, Trump thanked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for helping to confirm federal judges “at a record clip,” which he said amounted to the courts “rapidly changing for the better!”
Failure to repeal and replace Obamacare
One of Trump’s signature campaign promises was quality health care for every citizen at a reduced cost. This, he claimed repeatedly, would be accomplished by repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature health care legislation. Although Trump and many congressional Republicans campaigned at least in part on a repeal-and-replace platform, the effort has been shelved after a series of defeats.
A House bill was pulled by Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in March because it lacked support. In May, the House passed a bill, and Trump hosted a premature celebration in the White House Rose Garden. However, the Senate rejected it and opted to write their own version instead. In July, Republican Sens. Susan Collins, John McCain and Lisa Murkowski sank the latest effort, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “time to move on” to other parts of the GOP agenda. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, sensing one last opportunity, introduced their repeal bill in September, but a vote was never held after it failed to garner the necessary support.
Comey’s firing and Mueller’s appointment
In May, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, who had become a bogeyman for the Democrats for his public updates on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Trump originally cited a Justice Department memo criticizing Comey’s handling of the investigation as the reason for his dismissal, but he later admitted he had already decided to fire Comey and hinted in an interview with NBC News “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia” influenced his decision.
Meanwhile, Comey had been keeping notes of his interactions with the president, including one conversation in which Trump allegedly said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” More damningly, Comey contended Trump asked him to ease off former national security adviser Mike Flynn. After his dismissal, Comey testified he gave the memos to a friend to leak to reporters in hopes that they would trigger the appointment of a special counsel. Shortly after Comey was fired and the New York Times published the contents of the memos, Robert Mueller was tapped to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Mueller has brought federal charges against Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy and business partner. A former campaign foreign policy aide, George Papadopoulos, has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.
Continued pressure on ISIS and bombing of Syria
Trump vowed to “bomb the s*** out of” ISIS during the campaign, and he has made gains in taking down the terrorist organization. In October, U.S.-backed forces declared the end of “major military operations” in the retaking of Raqqa, Syria, the putative capital of the “Islamic State” declared by ISIS.
Trump said capturing Raqqa meant “the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight,” and claimed credit for the victory. However, former Defense Secretary Ash Carter denied the Trump administration had radically changed the U.S. military’s tactics in fighting ISIS. He said the capture of Raqqa was the result of a plan that “was laid out two years ago, and has been executed pretty much in the manner and the schedule that was foreseen then.”
In a departure from Obama-era policy, however, Trump authorized a missile strike on a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 people and resulted in horrifying footage of civilians struggling to breathe and move and foaming at the mouth. The action against the air base from where the attack was launched constituted an escalation of American involvement, as no direct military action had been taken against the Syrian government until then.
West Wing and Cabinet exits
The team around Trump in the White House today is markedly different than the one with which he began his term in January. National Security Adviser Mike Flynn resigned after just three weeks, following reports that he had discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador and lied about those interactions to the vice president. Other high-profile White House exits included the departures of deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, communications director Mike Dubke, press secretary Sean Spicer, assistant press secretary Michael Short, chief of staff Reince Priebus, communications director Anthony Scaramucci, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and deputy assistant to the president Sebastian Gorka. Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price resigned under fire after reporting by Politico revealed he had spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money on chartered planes.
Trump appointees have dramatically overhauled and shrunk several Cabinet agencies. Scott Pruitt, in his former job as attorney general of Oklahoma, had sued the Environmental Protection Agency 13 times before he was tapped to lead it. He has attempted to transform the EPA by scaling back its regulatory footprint and shutting out environmental groups from policymaking in favor of industry executives and lobbyists. A report on his daily schedule by the New York Times found Pruitt “has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates.”
Pulling out of Paris climate agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership
As a candidate, Trump denounced the previous administration’s approach to international affairs as weak and promised to make better “deals” for the country. He put his money where his mouth is on two: the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Days after inauguration, Trump signed an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from TPP, a trade deal negotiated under Obama. Technically, though, the agreement hadn’t yet taken effect and still had to be approved by Congress.
Trump also pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, a 2015 deal that established voluntary goals for countries to curb harmful emissions. When Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S., Nicaragua and Syria were the only countries in the world not part of the agreement. Both have since signed on, leaving the U.S. the only nonmember.
Tangles with courts
The Trump agenda has been largely stalled in Congress, with no health care, infrastructure, or tax reform bills passed, and he has turned to executive action to realize some of his other priorities.
Most notably, Trump has attempted to implement three versions of his travel ban, which barred Syrian refugees and citizens from several majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S. After a court ruling struck down the first iteration, Trump signed what he called a “watered down, politically correct version” that would last 90 days. After that second version expired, another guidance was set to take its place that would have banned travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. A federal district court judge in Hawaii largely stayed the order, leaving in place the restrictions on travel from North Korea and Venezuela.
Trump announced on Twitter that the U.S. military would not accommodate transgender soldiers, but a federal judge ruled the current policy should stand. The Trump administration position, the judge said, signaled the “disapproval of transgender people generally,” adding that banning and discharging transgender troops would be have more of a negative effect on the military than allowing them to serve.
Stock market rally and falling unemployment
Trump ran in part on his business acumen and his understanding of the financial world, and indeed the stock market has risen and the unemployment rate has fallen since he took office.
The 20 percent rally in the S&P 500 and the 30 percent rise in the Dow have sent markets to record highs, and the president plainly said recently “the reason [the U.S.] stock market has been so successful is because of me.”
Similarly, unemployment is down to 4.1 percent, although Trump previously preached skepticism of jobs numbers — before they could be credited to him.
Escalation in tensions with North Korea
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have repeatedly provoked each other, with the latter ordering numerous missile tests, including some that have flown over Japan. They’ve traded verbal insults too: Trump branded Kim “Little Rocket Man,” and Kim lobbed back with the archaic slur “dotard.” Moreover, Trump has undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts toward North Korea, tweeting that Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate” with Kim. One day before the anniversary of his election, Trump was in South Korea, warning Pyongyang that aggression toward the South would be a “fatal miscalculation,” while putting in a plug for the golf course at his New Jersey resort.
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