Where things stand heading into Day 100 of the Trump administration:
President Trump vowed as a candidate to be unpredictable.
In the past 100 days, he has done nothing if not keep that promise.
Trump won voters’ favor with his strident positions and long list of campaign promises. He promised to shake up government, to promote fair trade, to crack down on illegal immigration and to “drain the swamp.” He promised an “America first” foreign policy that would question U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts. He said he would take economic adversaries such as China to task. He said he would be more effective as a dealmaker than his predecessor, Barack Obama.
This extremely ambitious and controversial agenda has proved somewhat more challenging to implement that he might have expected. The American president is hemmed in not only by the other branches of government but by the political norms and realities of the time. True to his personality, Trump has often balked at these limits. He has also demonstrated a willingness to adjust his plans and expectations, though you might never hear him say that.
These adjustments might not trouble his political base (94 percent of people who voted for Trump continue to support him, according to a recent Washington Post poll), but the examples are telling as we try to make out what kind of president Trump is.
ON TRADE …
Trump made fair trade a pillar of his campaign for president.
He railed against China as an economic enemy and promised to label it a currency manipulator. He painted free-trade deals such as NAFTA as job-killers, vowing to renegotiate them or withdraw if partner countries don’t agree to new terms. He specifically denounced the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it a “disaster” and a “continuing rape of our country.” And he vowed to kill the Export-Import Bank, which supports sales by U.S. exporters.
After the first 100 days, it’s clear Trump is more flexible on these issues than he appeared during the campaign.
For example, he has been significantly less confrontational toward China since meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the beginning of the month. After that, Trump refused to label China a currency manipulator and promised “far better” trade terms if China puts pressure on North Korea. He also reversed his position on the Export-Import Bank, calling it “actually a very good thing.”
He has followed through in some instances, withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January and starting a minor trade spat with Canada this week. Trump just backed off a recent threat to kill NAFTA, but he still is vowing to renegotiate the 23-year-old trade pact with Mexico and Canada, close U.S. allies and trade partners.
ON CLIMATE …
Trump has been able to reverse pieces of Obama’s legacy on energy and climate issues with the stroke of a pen.
The new president greenlighted the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in January. At the end of last month, he signed an order canceling Obama’s efforts to fight climate change under the Clean Power Plan. On Friday, he signed another order that could expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic.
It is unclear whether Trump will fulfill his campaign promise to leave the Paris climate agreement. As our colleagues wrote on Thursday, this is a major topic of disagreement among his senior aides.
ON IMMIGRATION …
Trump set a high bar for what he would accomplish on immigration. He has vigorously pursued some of his goals, though the efforts have not come without setbacks.
Arrests of undocumented immigrants have risen sharply in the past 100 days, after Trump dramatically increased the number of people who could be considered priorities for deportation. This is perhaps Trump’s biggest action so far when it comes to immigration.
His attempts to withhold money from cities that do not comply with immigration authorities and to block people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States have been halted by the courts.
Trump has seemed to soften his position on deporting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, and his promised border wall remains unfunded.
ON THE SUPREME COURT …
Trump arrived at the White House with a vacancy on the Supreme Court. In one of his most widely touted achievements of the past 100 days, he filled that vacancy with Neil M. Gorsuch, a conservative jurist who the Senate approved after Republican leaders killed the use of a filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Gorsuch, who was sworn in April 10, is already hearing cases in his new role.
ON DEFENSE AND FOREIGN POLICY …
Some of the biggest surprises of Trump’s early presidency have been on the international stage.
Earlier this month, he authorized missile strikes in Syria after a chemical attack on civilians attributed to President Bashar al-Assad’s government — despite having urged Obama not to launch strikes under the same circumstances four years ago.
A week later, the United States hit the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan with the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat. Trump has delegated more power to military leaders to decide, for example, how many U.S. troops operate in Iraq and Syria, and he has paved the way for the armed forces to receive more planes, ships and other resources.
Trump has taken an aggressive stance toward North Korea, even stating Thursday that the United States could end up in a “major, major conflict” with the reclusive state. But while tensions seem high, Trump told senators this week he is first seeking to curb North Korea’s ambitions through peaceful means, particularly economic pressure from China.
In typical fashion, Trump has reversed his position on several foreign policy issues. In early February, he told Xi he would honor the “One China” policy after threatening to abandon it. Trump voiced support for NATO this month after calling it “obsolete” on several occasions.
ON ETHICS AND GOVERNMENT …
Trump came into office vowing to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
To start, he strengthened limits on lobbying for ex-employees of the executive branch, then began to lay the groundwork for a marked reduction in the size of the federal bureaucracy.
Many of his actions have met with criticism. Trump has yet to fill hundreds of key positions in the executive branch, stalling crucial work. He chose to appoint his daughter and son-in-law to powerful positions at the White House, and his senior staff has been consumed with infighting.
Trump failed to fully divorce himself from his business interests as ethics experts had suggested. He still has not released his tax returns.
Questions about Trump associates’ ties to Russia continue to haunt the administration. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after it was revealed he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russia’s ambassador. Flynn and several other Trump associates who were in contact with Russian officials are now the targets of investigations.
ON HEALTH CARE …
When Trump was elected, it seemed it might finally be doomsday for the Affordable Care Act. But in a significant defeat last month, Republicans’ attempt to revise the law crashed and burned amid disagreements within the GOP.
Since then, the White House has worked with Republican lawmakers on a new agreement, and this week the conservative Freedom Caucus endorsed a deal. But it remains to be seen whether it can garner enough votes to pass, given unified opposition from Democrats and skepticism from Republican moderates.
ON TAXES …
Revising the Affordable Care Act was supposed to pave the way politically and procedurally for tax reform, another key component of Trump’s agenda. The fact the health-care effort remains in limbo complicates that task.
Still, Trump administration officials unveiled broad principles for overhauling the tax code this week, promising lower rates and the elimination of most deductions. The process of negotiating a legislative package that achieves those goals and can pass the House and Senate could take months, at a minimum.
Follow the author: @eliseviebeck.