Trump’s first 100 days: Unfulfilled promises and major moves
US president has failed to deliver on campaign pledges but has already left his mark
When Donald J Trump returns to the Pennsylvanian town of Harrisburgon Saturday to mark his 100th day in office as US president he will be reflecting on a three-month period in the White House that no one saw coming.
Trump’s improbable journey from reality TV star to leader of the US stunned the world and has led to a gripping real-life drama that has played out daily from the White House over the past 15 weeks.
The concept of the 100-day benchmark stretches back to Franklin D Roosevelt. Faced with the Great Depression when he assumed office in 1933, FDR pushed through an unparalleled series of legislative measures within his first 100 days in office that helped put the country back on the road to economic recovery.
No president since has been able to match that achievement, andDonald Trump is no different.
In terms of legislative measures, Trump has underperformed compared with his predecessors – there has been no new piece of legislation passed by Congress since he assumed office. But the president has signed dozens of executive orders and 13 congressional review acts targeting recently-issued regulations, measures that could ultimately have a profound effect on the direction of the country.
Trump’s ambitious proposals to renegotiate trade deals as part of his policy of economic nationalism have yet to bear fruit
In terms of big wins, the appointment of his nominee to the supreme court, Neil Gorsuch, was a victory and has succeeded in tilting the balance of the nine-member court to conservatism. One of Gorsuch’s first acts was to allow a controversial execution to proceed in Arkansas last week.
Trump’s surprise decision to strike a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical attack was broadly welcomed across the political divide.
But a number of campaign promises have failed to materialise. His executive orders on immigration have been stopped by the courts, while construction of the Mexico border wall has not begun. His promise to repeal and replace Obamacare was stopped by his own party.
Several of his actions have appalled some of the millions of people who still oppose him, such as his decision to appoint climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency; Pruitt is now considering whether the US should be withdrawn from the Paris climate accord.
All of this has played out against a high-octane drama of personality politics in the White House, which has seen Trump adviser Stephen Bannon appear to lose favour, while the president’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner consolidate their power.
What comes after the first 100 days is anyone’s guess, but so far it seems that Trump has failed to fulfil his campaign promises, yet at the same time he has done enough to potentially impact the future of the US for many years to come.
Here is where things stand on his key campaign promises, 100 days in:
Of all candidate Trump’s campaign promises, it was his pledge to build a wall along the 3,200km border with Mexico that was most controversial. More than three months into his presidency, construction has not started, but contracts to build the wall have been advertised. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the cost could be $21 billion (€19.2 billion).
The White House is in negotiations with Congress to sanction some federal money for the wall, but a decision is likely to be pushed back until the autumn. While Trump previously said that Mexico would pay for the wall, he has now indicated that the US will pay the initial cash, which he says will then be reimbursed.
On immigration, Trump’s controversial travel ban prohibiting entry to the US of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries dominated the first weeks of his presidency. The executive order, and a follow-up order, have been blocked by various courts so the ban is not in effect.
Other measures on immigration have been more effective, however. The order to strengthen existing laws on deportation and beef up immigration staff have had an effect, with undocumented migrants who have committed minor crimes now facing deportation. The White House has also threatened to withdraw federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to support federal government efforts to increase deportations. But a federal court this week in San Francisco struck down an executive order on the issue. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said in response that those cities have “the blood of dead Americans on their hands”.
“We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $’s and have much better healthcare!” tweeted Donald Trump in February last year. A year later, his tone was very different. “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated,” he said in February as his officials prepared to bring the Republican American Health Care Act over the finish line.
In the end they failed. The much-heralded replacement plan failed to secure enough Republican votes, after a core group of conservative Republicans refused to support the plan.
Though Trump did not trouble himself much with the details of the plan, which had mainly been devised by the Republican leadership in Congress, he threw his fabled negotiating skills behind the deal in the final days before the vote, hosting wavering Republicans at the White House for dinner and bowling. But on this occasion the author of The Art of the Deal couldn’t work his charm and the failed Bill became a symbol of White House incompetence.
Though House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan said the US would continue to live with Obamacare “for the forseeable future” after the Bill debacle in March, the White House has been pushing to revive the plan as the administration approaches the 100-day mark. With signs that conservative Republicans are on board with an amended version, a vote is possible next week.
But with the congressional budget office estimating that 24 million more people could be uninsured within a decade under the Republicans’ Bill, the latest proposal could cause political difficulty for the party in the months ahead as it prepares for the mid-term elections.
In his inauguration speech on January 20th in Washington DC, Trump evoked a broken American landscape, peppered with the shells of rusted-out factories and memories of past industrial glories. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” he said as he vowed to put “America first”.
But Trump’s ambitious proposals to renegotiate trade deals as part of his policy of economic nationalism have yet to bear fruit.
While he did withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal between the US and 12 Asian-Pacific countries, in his first few days in office, he has not followed through on many of his trade promises. He did not brand China a currency-manipulator on his first day in office as he promised, and he has softened his stance on that country, the main contributor to America’s massive trade surplus, instead prioritising securing Chinese help in tackling North Korea. Neither has he pulled out of Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico.
There are signs that further trade action could be imminent, however. Trump has instructed his commerce department to undertake a country-by-country analysis of nations that run a trade surplus with the US, including Ireland.
This week has seen a ratcheting up of trade tensions with Canada and Mexico as officials began drafting an executive order directing the US to withdraw from Nafta, before two hastily-arranged phone calls with the Canadian and Mexican leaders resulted in Trump changing his mind.
During the presidential campaign Trump boasted that he could achieve 4 per cent growth in gross domestic product in the US, as he promised a trillion-dollar investment plan, wide-ranging tax reform and a cull of financial regulation that would kick-start the American economy.
Markets appeared to buy the talk, undergoing a huge rally since November’s election.
To date, Trump has failed to deliver on his infrastructure investment plan, which was supposed to upgrade America’s roads, bridges and buildings. There have been virtually no actions on these areas from the White House, though advisers have been appointed, and officials are looking at the all-important question of how to pay for it, which may involve private money.
On tax, the White House unveiled its tax reform proposal on Wednesday. Though lacking in detail – its contents were contained in a one-page document – it represents the starting point in what is likely to be a dramatic reworking of the US tax code under the current administration, which is likely to see a sharp drop in the corporation tax rate and a simplification of the individual tax system.
Trump did follow through on his promises on regulation, signing a number of executive orders designed to roll back the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, which introduced a raft of financial regulations in the wake of the global financial crisis.
The economic policies of Trump and the various billionaire businessmen that populate his cabinet are likely to come further into focus as figures on Friday showed that the US economy expanded at its weakest pace in three years in the first quarter of this year.
In keeping with his “America first” policy, Trump promised a new, transactional approach to foreign policy when he entered the White House, repeatedly insisting that he would not intervene in wars in the Middle East.
The first 100 days of the Trump administration have witnessed a radical U-turn of his pre-election foreign policy promises. Last month, he astonished the world by launching missile strikes against a Syrian airfield following a chemical attack in Syria. A week later the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal, targeting Islamic State, in a remote region of east Afghanistan.
Trump has also upped the ante on North Korea, warning on Friday that a “major, major conflict” is possible with the rogue state, and summoning the entire US Senate to the White House on Wednesday for an update on the situation.
He has appeared to flip-flop on his views on Russia, directing both his secretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations to directly criticise Moscow for supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria while questions remain about his own campaign team’s links with the Kremlin. An FBI investigation and two congressional inquiries are under way into Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, which include investigations into links between the Trump campaign team and Moscow.
On Iran, Trump has yet to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal signed by his predecessor, as he promised to do during the campaign. He has also rowed back on his promise to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would be highly problematic for the Palestinian community.