What Trump has accomplished 40 days into his presidency
President Donald Trump and his advisers have not been shy about touting the administration’s record since taking office. Earlier this month, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said “we have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.”
Mr. Trump listed his accomplishments in office during a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, offering a preview of his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.
“One by one, we’re checking off the promises we made to the people of the United States,” Trump said in his CPAC speech.
Trump has moved quickly to fulfill many of the promises he made as a candidate. But while he’s made strong claims and signed dozens of executive orders, the early results have been uneven, and much of Trump’s agenda will ultimately be decided in Congress and the courts. New policies on health care, trade and immigration, among other issues, are just starting to take shape — and could change by the time Trump gives his first official State of the Union speech this time next year.
For now, here’s a closer look at some of Trump’s top achievements so far, according to a list released by the White House last week. Expect the president to hit on many of these themes in his speech before Congress.
Withdrawing from TPP
Trump upheld a campaign promise by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal between U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries. Trump supporters applauded the move. At CPAC, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called it “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.” Bannon added that the deal would be replaced by bilateral agreements between the U.S. and individual countries in Asia.
But the decision also drew significant criticism, including from some Republicans, who argued that abandoning TPP ceded economic control in the region to China. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that it was a “serious mistake” to withdraw from the trade deal. “This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets and protect American invention and innovation,” McCain said.
A green light for pipelines
Trump signed a presidential memorandum to clear the way for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, two embattled fossil fuel projects opposed by a broad array of interests on the left.
The order had an immediate effect. Weeks later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paved the way for construction of the final section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, ending a months-long protest of the project. Within days, construction on the pipeline resumed.
The Keystone project, which was blocked by the Obama administration, will likely take longer to get going. But opposition to Keystone is expected to continue. Experts say neither pipeline will create as many jobs as supporters have promised. But Trump’s memorandum handed the oil and gas industries a big win after years of battling the Obama administration — and underscored Trump’s campaign promise to boost domestic fossil fuel production.
The wall and immigration
On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order calling for the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. The wall was a top priority for Trump during the campaign; to Trump voters who backed the idea of the wall, the executive order was the first step towards turning his campaign rhetoric into reality.
But it was largely a symbolic step. The White House and Republicans in Congress must still come up with a plan to pay for the wall, which is expected to cost $12 to 15 billion, House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a GOP retreat last month. They also need a plan for what the wall will actually look like. As a candidate, Trump promised to build a multi-billion dollar, 40-foot-high border wall, though he has also said the wall could take various shapes and sizes. Its final design – assuming the project moves forward – will depend on how much Congress is willing to spend on the project.
The president also signed an executive order temporarily banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations. But the ban was blocked in court, dealing the White House an early setback.
The White House is preparing a new executive order on immigration that will come out this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday. The administration has also begun an aggressive push to deport undocumented workers who have committed crimes, another of Trump’s campaign promises.
These are still just the opening rounds in what could be a long legal and legislative battle over immigration policy under Trump. The president might ultimately prevail in his mission to tighten the nation’s borders. But his first month in office did not produce the clear-cut victory the White House hoped for.
Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for the open seat on the Supreme Court was a high point of his first month in office. (Though the smooth announcement ceremony was quickly overshadowed by the president’s criticism of the courts). As a candidate Trump promised to put conservative justices on the Supreme Court; Gorsuch’s confirmation would make good on that pledge and give Trump and conservatives a significant victory that liberals could not undo.
The Gorsuch pick has other, more immediate implications as well. If he is confirmed as expected, Gorsuch could vote to uphold Trump administration policies that reach the Supreme Court, helping cement Trump’s legacy on issues like immigration.
The White House included three foreign policy items on its list of accomplishments in Trump’s first month as president: sanctions against individuals and groups linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program; a presidential memorandum that ordered a plan for the defeat of ISIS; and phone calls or meetings between Trump and “more than 30 foreign leaders.”
The Trump administration did issue new sanctions directed at Iran. But the action did not come close to Trump’s more assertive pledge, during the campaign, to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal made under President Barack Obama. There is still plenty of time for Trump to try to dismantle the agreement, but the administration is facing pressure not to pull out of the deal.
Trump’s memorandum ordering the Defense Department to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS was a first step in fulfilling another campaign vow. Details of the plan have not been announced, so it’s unclear what approach Trump will take.
While Trump has spoken with dozens of foreign leaders, several of the calls did not go smoothly, according to news reports. Trump’s conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was so contentious that McCain and other senators felt compelled to assure Australian officials in the following days that the U.S. was still a staunch ally.
Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and John Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, have all made trips abroad in which they reassured U.S. allies who are worried about the county’s foreign policy under Trump. The trips came amid a flood of stories about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. presidential election, which led to the resignation of Mike Flynn, the national security adviser.
Repeal and Replace
Hours after being sworn into office, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to “minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens” of the Affordable Care Act while Congress comes up with a plan to repeal and replace Obama’s signature health care law.
Like the executive order on the border wall, the health care order was largely symbolic. The real work of redoing the Affordable Care Act will play out in Congress, where Republicans have so far struggled to come to a consensus on the matter. Still, Trump said he would roll back the law, and in his first day of office he took an important first step towards achieving that goal.