Has it really only been a month? I feel like I’ve aged 30 years. So to keep my brain from exploding, I’m going to try and neatly summarize his first month in office. Spoiler alert: when you wade through the spectacle, it turns out that Trump has actually not done a whole lot. Besides a flurry of sloppy executive orders, Trump’s campaign promises remain just that: promises. So here’s a look back on Trump’s first month in office. Still to come? Comprehensive tax reform, the repeal and replacement (?) of Obamacare, his $1 trillion infrastructure package, and any meaningful change.
Trump’s executive orders have been messy and unpredictable. Some are symbolic, but some are very, very real and already have devastating consequences.
Here’s a breakdown of every action and what it does:
Week one (link to previous roundup)
A (mostly) symbolic nod to people strongly opposed to Obamacare, this calls for reducing the economic burden of the law (The IRS has since stopped enforcement of the penalties on individuals who do not have health care).
Freezes all agency regulations until Trump can approve them, a move that experts worry will mostly hit environmental regulations.
Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze (January 23)
Freezes all hiring of federal employees that is not only inefficient, but harms important agencies like Veterans Affairs.
Largely symbolic, nail in the coffin for TPP.
Bars federal funds to American non-governmental organizations that counsel patients in other countries on abortion.
Calls for agencies to review and approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and because that isn’t bad enough…
Immediately challenged in court under environmental and religious grounds, this gives the green light to the DAPL pipeline that activists and indigenous peoples have been protesting for months.
Another review of regulations imposed on American manufacturers.
Requires that all pipelines use American-made materials.
Projects considered “high-priority” are eligible for expedited environmental review.
Military strength and foreign safety
Calls for immediate construction of the border wall and for Congress to appropriate funds to do so. It also buffs up border patrol agents, and expands powers of immigration enforcement leading to the sweeping immigration roundups we’ve been seeing across the country.
Cuts funding to “sanctuary cities” for failing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. This order is also being tried in court.
Calls for Secretary of Defense Mattis to evaluate the military’s readiness.
This was perhaps the most controversial order, barring all immigrants from 7 Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 4 months and all Syrian refugees indefinitely. Public outcry was powerful, legal action was swift, and the Muslim ban is now suspended.
Simply calls for his administration to develop a plan within 30 days.
“Draining the swamp”
Any appointee must pledge to wait 5 years after leaving government to begin lobbying, and to never lobby on behalf of a foreign government. It also eases some existing ethics restrictions so it’s kind of a wash?
Replaces some top military and intelligence advisors from Trump’s security council with Steve Bannon, alt-right advisor extraordinaire. The unprecedented move has provoked bipartisan outrage.
Rules and regulation
States that for every one regulation the executive proposes, two must be repealed. In addition, it caps the cost of any new regulation at…$0. Meaning any new cost of enforcing a rule must be offset by cuts elsewhere.
Presidential Memorandum on Fiduciary Duty Rule (February 3)
Calls for a review of the “fiduciary rule” intended to protect Americans’ retirement savings.
Calls for a review of financial regulations put in place after the 2008 recession to prevent predatory lending and another financial collapse.
Restoring Law and Order in America
Dismisses acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to enforce his Muslim ban, and appoints Dana Boente in her place.
Intended to break up organized crime such as “criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities.”
Increases penalties for crimes committed against law enforcement and review how current federal funding supports law enforcement.
Directs new Attorney General Jeff Sessions to assemble a task force intended to reduce crime and streamline crime data.
Choosing his cabinet
Despite a tumultuous few weeks of nasty hearings, partisan gridlock, and party-line votes, Trump managed to put together the wealthiest, least qualified cabinet in US history. With the exception of labor secretary Puzder, even the least qualified nominees are now in charge of leading the agencies that dictate our nation’s future.
While some nominees made it through relatively unscathed and with little delay, some more controversial nominees delayed the confirmation of Trump’s cabinet by almost an entire month.
- Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary: An investor who was CEO of a bank that foreclosed on more than 35,000 homes between 2009-2014, a period in which he earned almost $2 billion.
- Mick Mulvaney, Director of OMB: a tea party leader who believes the Department of Education is unconstitutional, Social Security is a ponzi scheme, and that it would be better for our country to default on its loans than increase the debt ceiling.
- Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education: famous for thinking schools should be armed with guns in case of a grizzly bear attack, DeVos demonstrated a complete lack of experience and knowledge, failing to answer even the most fundamental questions about public education.
- Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development: The neurosurgeon-turned-politician has no experience with housing policy (or any policy), believes desegregation rules are a “failed socialist experiment,” and that poverty is a choice.
- Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: A former Exxon CEO, Tillerson comes highly recommended by…people with whom Exxon has contracts and Vladimir Putin.
The Russia Debacle
Speaking of Russia…US intelligence officials have intercepted phone records between Trump campaign officials and senior Russian intelligence officials that show frequent contact between the two for the year leading up to the election. They have since requested additional banking and travel records to supplement their investigation.
The FBI and the NSA are collecting information on three top aides, one of which was forced to resign after his conversations with Russian ambassadors was made public on February 14th.
While the frequency of those communications, and the proximity to Trump of those involved “raised a red flag,” it is still unclear whether they were communicating in order to coordinate the attacks on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Trump has disparaged this leak as being pedaled by the “fake news media.” But what Trump calls “conspiracy,” the American public, policymakers, and intelligence officials call “national security threat.”
And speaking of ethics violations…Trump’s administration has had a series of controversies that have prompted other governmental bodies to take action.
- Kellyanne Conway promoted Ivanka Trump’s fashion line
- Trump discussed sensitive information out in the open
- Growing concern over Trump’s ties to Russia
Nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
With the fanfare that we have become accustomed to, Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. A pretty traditional, pro-life conservative with a track record of curbing executive powers, Gorsuch is terrifying but not as terrifying as Trump
Other scandals, things of note, and a wrap-up
One month in, Trump is already exhausted, and I don’t blame him. It’s probably tiring singlehandedly dismantling our core democratic institutions. Trump continues to make serious strides in undermining our voting institutions (voter fraud), our courts (bias judges), and now, our intelligence community. Any criticism of him, no matter who it’s from, is “unfair” and illegitimate.
For example, yesterday a senior National Security Council aide was fired after criticizing Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders at a think-tank even. No room for someone who disagrees in a Trump administration.
His administration thus far has been nothing short of chaos and dysfunction. He has lost two top national security advisers, is in the middle of several court battles, has provoked diplomatic crises, has sparked nation-wide protests almost daily, and has insulted pretty much every reporter he has come into contact with.
And yet, the administration continues to spew “alternative facts,” insisting that their administration “is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
GOP Congressmen and women are bombarded with angry constituents at every event, and while they insist that they are “listening to the people who came out to the polls in November,” they ignore the constituents trying to get their attention right now.
It’s hard to tell whether Trump is distracting Congress from its legislative agenda or providing a useful decoy to take the pressure off of them. But either way, I urge everyone to stay angry, stay vocal, and stay hopeful that we can continue to prevent some of the most harmful proposals from every taking shape.