In his second year in office, the list of extraordinary things President Trump has done so far, for good and ill, continued to grow.
As we approach the end of President Donald Trump's first year in office, the list of extraordinary things he has done so far — for both good and ill — is nothing short of remarkable. Trump inspires such deep emotions in his critics and supporters that many have struggled to objectively assess his presidency. Some are so blinded by their hatred of Trump that they refuse to acknowledge the good he has done, while others are so blinded by devotion that they overlook almost any transgression.
What Has Trump Done So Far:
1. He has secured the release of 19 people, including 16 Americans, from foreign captivity. When Pastor Andrew Brunson was freed by Turkey, he became the 19th captive released thanks to Trump. Others include four held by North Korea; an aid worker and her husband held by Egypt; three UCLA basketball players and a Texas businesswoman held by China; a couple and their three children held by the Taliban; a former CIA officer held by Portugal; and a couple held by Venezuela. That’s more captives freed in two years than President Barack Obama got released in eight. And unlike Obama, Trump did it without releasing terrorist leaders or sending planeloads of cash to rogue regimes, creating incentive for more hostage taking.
2. He enforced President Barack Obama's red line against Syria's use of chemical weapons. When the regime of Bashar Assad used a toxic nerve agent on innocent men, women and children, Trump didn't wring his hands. He acted quickly and decisively, restoring America's credibility on the world stage that Obama had squandered.
3. He delivered for the “forgotten Americans.” The Trump boom is benefiting those left behind by the Obama economy. Manufacturing jobs grew at the fastest rate in 23 years and the unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma reached the lowest point ever recorded. The Wall Street Journal reports that wages rose 3.1 percent — the biggest jump since 2009 — and that “low-skilled workers are among the biggest beneficiaries.”
3. He worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass important legislation. It didn’t get a lot of attention, but Trump got a lot done on a bipartisan basis, including criminal justice reform, opioid and sex trafficking legislation, and a new “Right to Try” law giving dying Americans access to experimental medications.
4. He has taken a surprisingly tough line with Russia. Trump approved a $47 million arms package for Ukraine, sent troops to Poland's border with Russia and imposed new sanctions on Moscow for violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
5. He has ushered in a golden age for women in the CIA. Trump not only appointed Gina Haspel as the agency’s first female director but also made Elizabeth Kimber the first women to lead the agency’s clandestine service — rewarding the CIA’s “band of sisters” who have toiled to keep the country safe since 9/11.
6. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Four American presidents promised to do it, but only one actually did. This is why the American people elected Trump. He does what he promises to do, for better or for worse — in this case, definitely for the better. Even Jeb Bush tweeted his approval.
7. His push to expand domestic energy production bore fruit. This year the United States passed both Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer.
8. He withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. After George W. Bush pulled out of the disastrous Kyoto treaty, U.S. emissions went down faster than much of Europe. The same will be true for Trump's departure from the Paris accord. Combined with his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration, Trump is helping usher in a new age of American energy development.
9. In the six months after the Singapore summit with North Korea, he has made no concessions to Pyongyang. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un expected to blow up some useless nuclear facilities in exchange for billions in hard currency. Trump has refused to play Kim’s game. Not only has Trump not lifted sanctions, unfrozen North Korean assets, ended the Korean War or offered Pyongyang diplomatic recognition, but also he imposed new sanctions on members of Kim’s inner circle.
10. He got NATO allies to kick in $12 billion more toward our collective security. Decades of pleading by the Bush and Obama administrations failed to get NATO allies to meet their financial commitments to the alliance, but Trump's tough talk and reticence to affirm America's Article V commitment did the trick. NATO is stronger as a result.
11. He struck Syria again and eliminated the last vestiges of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate. For a second time, he enforced Obama’s red line against the use of chemical weapons. In December, U.S.-backed fighters captured Hajin, the last pocket of territory held by the Islamic State. The militant group is far from defeated, but Trump is right that we have knocked “the hell out of ISIS.”
12. He has virtually eliminated the Islamic State's physical caliphate. Trump removed the constraints Obama placed on our military and let it drive the terrorists from their strongholds.
13. He’s continued his tough line with Moscow. Trump announced America’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, shipped Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine, canceled a meeting with Putin at the Group of 20 summit over Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships, expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and imposed more sanctions against Moscow.
14. He admitted he was wrong on Afghanistan and reversed Obama's disastrous withdrawal. In a rare admission, Trump declared: "My original instinct was to pull out. ... But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. ... A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists."
15. He pulled out of Obama’s disastrous Iran deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran. The new sanctions have taken millions of barrels of Iranian oil off the market and led to the cancellation of major deals with European investors. And when Iranian protesters rose up to challenge the regime, Trump (unlike his predecessor) stood with them.
16. He enacted historic tax and regulatory reform that has unleashed economic growth. Trump signed the first comprehensive tax reform in three decades and removed the wet blanket of Obama-era regulations smothering our economy. We are now heading into our third consecutive quarter of above 3 percent growth.
17. He stood by Brett M. Kavanaugh and even in the worst moments never wavered. Trump has confirmed a record 85 judges in his first two years as president. That total includes two Supreme Court justices, 30 appellate court judges and 53 district judges who will preside for decades. Trump’s successful fight for Kavanaugh also helped him expand his Senate majority, as energized Republican voters threw out four Democratic incumbents who opposed Kavanaugh.
18. He is installing conservative judges who will preside for decades. With his appointment of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump secured a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and he is moving at record pace to fill the federal appeals courts with young conservative judges.
19. He, not Hillary Clinton, was inaugurated as president. Trump delivered the coup de grace that ended the corrupt, dishonest Clinton political machine.
There were many more accomplishments not included in this list. Trump got Mexico, Canada and South Korea to sign new trade deals. He continued his regulatory rollback, replacing Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” and his “Waters of the United States” rule and returning power to the states. He took on the International Criminal Court, which purports to have jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers and citizens. And his graceful handling of George H.W. Bush’s funeral brought dignity to the office.
Let's start with the wall - not the president's only promise, but certainly one of his oldest, most high-profile ones. Candidate Trump constantly spoke of the great wall that he plans to build along the US-Mexico border at his campaign rallies, and the crowd roared in agreement when he said Mexico would pay for the project.
Contrast that certainty with this tweet, which the president wrote over the weekend.
"Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall," he tweeted.
Mr Trump promised to choose a Supreme Court justice to fill the empty seat on the bench from a list he released during the presidential campaign - and, by tapping Neil Gorsuch, he did.
"I've always heard that the most important thing that a president of the United States does is appoint people - hopefully great people like this appointment - to the United States Supreme Court," Mr Trump said at Mr Gorsuch's White House swearing-in ceremony. "And I can say this is a great honour. And I got it done in the first 100 days. That's even nice. You think that's easy?"
That kind of depends how one defines "easy". Mr Gorsuch's confirmation hearing was bruising, no doubt. Facing united Democratic opposition, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell broke with longstanding precedent to allow a simple majority vote for Supreme Court confirmations. Once that was done, however, it was simply a matter of the Republican majority in the Senate imposing its will.
"Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated."
It's way too early for political epitaphs, but if the Trump presidency collapses under the weight of disorganisation and broken promises, this February quote from the president - made as it became increasingly clear his own party couldn't even agree on healthcare reform - will make a fitting inscription for a tombstone.
At one point during the presidential campaign, Mr Trump promised that the Democratic healthcare reform legislation - Obamacare, as it has become known - would be repealed on his first day in office.
Mr Trump may have a bit of a mixed record when it comes to fulfilling his promises on immigration, but it's not for a lack of trying. His administration has taken two shots at curtailing the US refugee programm and preventing citizens of a handful of majority Muslim nations from entering the US, but those executive actions have been stymied by a handful of court judges (one, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions put it, residing on an "island in the Pacific").
During the campaign, Mr Trump's foreign policy vision was a collection of sometimes contradictory, often controversial proposals.
The candidate spoke of getting tough on the so-called Islamic State, Iran and China, reaffirming an alliance with Israel and mending relations with Russia. He entertained the notion of lifting restrictions on the use of torture on detainees and giving the US military more authority to act, including by targeting the families of suspected militants.
Above all else, he promised to put American priorities first and downplayed support for US allies and international alliances that he deemed too burdensome.
As president, the contradictions may have changed in nature but the controversy lingers.
Infrastructure, taxes, childcare…
On 22 October, just a few weeks before election day, Candidate Trump gave a speech in Pennsylvania announcing a "100 Day Plan to Make America Great Again" - a contract, he said, with the American voter.
Included in the accompanying document was an outline of a series of official-sounding pieces of legislation he would "work with Congress to introduce" and "fight for" in his first 100 days. They included the Middle Class Tax Relief and Simplification Act, the End the Offshoring Act, the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act, the Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act, and the American Energy and Infrastructure Act.
Aside from the aforementioned Obamacare repeal effort, which is currently a smoking crater somewhere on the floor of the House of Representatives, the rest of these pieces of legislation remain in the realm of unicorns and fairies. Mr Trump has said details of a tax plan are coming as soon as this week, but - as we saw with healthcare - a detailed plan creates a juicy target for opponents of all political stripes.
A change of tone
Mr Trump is far from a traditional president, so perhaps it's unfair to evaluate the first few months of his presidency in traditional ways, such as by tallying up his policy accomplishments and failures. His voters largely didn't back his candidacy based on specific promises - on the wall, on healthcare, on taxes - but because of his attitude and his promise to shake up the political system.
If the performance metric is how much the Trump presidency has disrupted politics as usual, Mr Trump has posted a clear victory.
The record of achievement suggests that, despite the noxious tweets and self-inflicted wounds emanating from the White House, Trump has the potential to become one of the most consequential conservative presidents in modern American history.