In his first frantic week at the White House, Donald Trump is doing almost exactly what he promised to do during his campaign, stunning those who thought he’d adapt his style as president.
Trump has signed an executive order to begin building a wall on the Mexican border and doubled down on his promises to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and repeal ObamaCare.
Actions to temporarily suspend visas for people coming to the United States from a number of Muslim nations are expected to come soon.
Trump hasn’t stopped tweeting either, nor has he quit his habit of launching into new fights seemingly on a whim. Much of his first week in office has been dominated by his claims, without any evidence, that massive voter fraud cost him a popular vote victory to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
On Wednesday, he announced a “major investigation” into his unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud.
President Obama famously said that “elections have consequences” in explaining to Republicans why he was moving forward with a nearly $1 trillion stimulus plan and his signature healthcare bill.
Now Trump is showing Washington and the world the truth of Obama’s words.
During the campaign, Trump’s critics dismissed his ambitious agenda as rhetoric that he’d back away from once in office.
If candidate Trump beat the odds and made it to the White House, they said, the Trump Show will surely grind to a halt once he’s confronted with the realities of governing.
It hasn’t turned out like that at all.
“Enough all talk, no action. We have to deliver,” Trump told Republican lawmakers Thursday. “This is our chance to achieve great and lasting change for our beloved nation.”
Hours after taking the oath of office last Friday, Trump returned to the White House to sign an order directing federal agencies to “ease the burden of ObamaCare.”
Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, followed that with a memo telling federal agencies to stop issuing regulations.
In the days since, Trump thrilled social conservatives with an executive order blocking foreign aid for international organizations that provide abortions, a traditional priority for new Republican administrations.
Trump fulfilled one of his main campaign promises by pulling the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
He froze hiring for non-military federal employees and attempted to move two controversial pipeline projects forward by signing a pair of executive actions that could speed approvals for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access projects.
Trump also signed an executive order that expanded the definition of criminal immigrants who are considered priorities for deportation. The order also called for federal funds to be stripped from so-called sanctuary cities that do not help federal authorities enforce immigration law.
The actions are in some cases vague, appearing aimed at satiating his supporters while the White House and Congress work on a broader legislative strategy.
For example, Trump visited the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday to sign an order that directs federal agencies to begin constructing a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
But Trump will need congressional approval to fund the wall. And construction on the project might not begin for months. The order gives the DHS 180 days to conduct a study to see how much money and material will be needed to build the wall.
There are also some areas where Trump has yet to deliver, including a proposed ban on Trump administration officials from lobbying after leaving their positions and the termination of an Obama-era program that allows people brought illegally to the U.S as children to live and work without fear of deportation.
Veteran GOP operative Charlie Black said that Trump’s aggressive early posture shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“Democrats should’ve been sweating this on Nov. 9,” Black said. “They should’ve known he’d follow through on the things he said. Some things will require congressional action or need to go through the regulatory process for what he can’t do on his own. But if he can do it on his own, you can bet he’ll do it.”
Trump has announced his administration’s energetic stance through Twitter, as well as in the same style of dramatic confrontations that punctuated his chaotic campaign.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer instigated a war Saturday with the press over accurate media reports that Trump’s inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama’s. That led to senior adviser Kellyanne Conway’s heated exchange with NBC’s Chuck Todd, in which she maintained that the administration in some cases will have its own “alternative facts.”
At a Monday meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Trump reiterated his unsubstantiated claim that he had only lost the popular vote to Clinton because millions of “illegals” cast ballots.
The remarks provoked a media firestorm. Rather than backing away, Trump is expected to direct a task force to investigate voter fraud and his claim that illegal immigrants influenced the outcome of the election.
The Trump administration also cracked down this week on public communications from federal agencies. The new policies were prompted by worries that bureaucrats who are hostile to the president would publish information that dissents from the administration line and came after the National Park Service’s Twitter account retweeted a picture showing that Trump’s inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama’s in 2009.
But Trump’s often-surprising moves haven’t come without consequences.
Trump angered lawmakers and members of the national security apparatus by reiterating his support for torturing terror suspects.
The rift between the U.S. and Mexico deepened, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto pulling out of a meeting at the White House next week over a dispute about who will pay for the wall along the southern border. After Peña Nieto canceled the meeting, Trump claimed that the decision had been mutual.
Trump also appeared to anger some CIA officials for a speech in front of a memorial wall for fallen agents that many viewed as self-serving after Trump touted his inaugural crowds and scraps with the media. Trump later said in his first post-inauguration television interview that he got a bigger standing ovation for the CIA speech than even Peyton Manning received after winning the 2016 Super Bowl.
Trump courted lawmakers from both parties with fancy receptions and meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Trump even jetted to Philadelphia to address Republicans gathered for the winter meeting on Thursday, where he laid out his priorities for the coming weeks.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a key Trump ally, summarized Trump’s action-filled first week with one word: “Firehose.”
“It’s refreshing and it’s energizing,” Reed told The Hill right after Trump spoke at the joint congressional GOP retreat. “I think it’s not only the nature of the president and his new town, and his bringing to the office a private sector-based mentality. It’s also unleashing the power of the American people.
“For so many years, it’s been a hamstrung by the bureaucracy of Washington and we’re cutting that red tape to empower the American people again.”