Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 16, 2017

Welcome! This blog tracks the daily progress, success, detours and dead ends taken by President Trump toward fulfilling his 50 most important 2016 campaign promises. The blog has three sections:


1.      Trump's 50 Campaign Promises in the News 
2.      The Scoreboard: Quick summary of which promises have been kept and which have been dropped
3.      Status of the 50  – History/updates/commentary on each promise
The blog is updated daily. Please follow me on Twitter @raygiles1 for additional information about the blog and campaign promises.
Ray Giles, Blog Editor
To see my 2016 campaign predictions blog, go to: https://2016presidentialcampaignpredictions.wordpress.com/




Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump's 50 Campaign Promises in the News








12/16 - Tax Bill Watch: Which Trump campaign promises would the GOP tax reform bill break and which ones would it keep?

Analysis by Ray Giles, Blog Editor

The GOP tax reform bill released Friday is scheduled to be passed and signed into law by President Trump next week.  According to news reports, the bill would keep three of candidate Trump’s 2016 campaign promises, partially keep three more and break six.

The fate of three promises that were addressed in the earlier Senate and House tax bills is unclear. The three are listed below under “Promises – fate unknown.” As information becomes available, we will continue to update all four lists below. (For details on each campaign promise, scroll down to “Status of the 50.”)

Promises kept

#19  (Allow repatriation of overseas corporate profits with a one-time lower tax)

#21  (Dramatically lower corporate tax rates)

#24  (Eliminate marriage penalty for high earners)

Promises partially kept

#3    (Repeal Obamacare) – eliminates individual mandate beginning in 2019

#24  (Eliminate Alternative Minimum Tax) –does not eliminate but effects far fewer taxpayers

#24  (Eliminate “death tax”) – does not eliminate but doubles the exemptions to about $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples.

Promises dropped

#22  (“There’s very little benefit for people of wealth. I don’t benefit”) – Tax bill provides many benefits to the wealthy like the President, including a reduction in the highest income rate and adjustments in the AMT and estate tax

#22  (Eliminate taxes for singles earning less than $25,000 and couples less than $50,000) – standard deduction is half of what candidate Trump promised, $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for couples

#22  (35% tax cut for the middle class) – middle class tax cuts expire early

#22  (Reduce the number of tax brackets to three) – there are still seven brackets

#23  (Eliminate carried interest loopholes for Wall Street)

#27  (Eliminate national debt) – raises the debt at least $1.5 trillion

Promises - fate unknown

#21  (Get rid of corporate tax loopholes)

#25  (Make child care expenses tax deductible for families earning less than $500,000)

#25  (Create tax-free accounts for child care expenses)

12/15 – Heather Long at the Washington Post re. Promises #21-24 (Tax reform):
A new tax cut for the rich: The final (GOP) plan (announced Friday afternoon) lowers the top tax rate for top earners. Under current law, the highest rate is 39.6 percent for married couples earning over $470,700. The GOP bill would drop that to 37 percent and raise the threshold at which that top rate kicks in, to $500,000 for individuals and $600,000 for married couples. This amounts to a significant tax break for the very wealthy, a departure from repeated claims by Trump and his top officials that the bill would not cut taxes on the rich.

A massive tax cut for corporations: Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, big businesses' tax rate would fall from 35 percent to just 21 percent, the largest one-time rate cut in U.S. history for the nation's largest companies. It still amounts to roughly a $1 trillion tax cut for businesses over the next decade.

You can deduct just $10,000 in state, local and property taxes: One of the most controversial parts of the GOP tax plan is the push to greatly scale back how much state and local taxes Americans can deduct on their federal income taxes. Under current law, the state and local deduction (SALT) is unlimited. In the final GOP plan, people can deduct up to $10,000. The move is widely viewed as a hit to blue states such as New York, Connecticut and California, and there are concerns it could cause property values to fall in high-tax cities and leave less money for public schools and road repairs.

Working-class families get a bigger child tax credit: Thanks to a late push by Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the child tax credit would be more generous for low-income families and the working class. The current child tax credit is $1,000 per child. The final bill keeps the $2,000-per-child credit (families making up to about $400,000 get to take the credit), but it also makes more of the tax credit refundable, meaning families that work but don't earn enough to actually owe any federal income taxes will get a large check back from the government. Benefits for those families were initially limited to about $1,100, but through changes Rubio and Lee pushed for, it's now up to $1,400.

The individual health insurance mandate goes away in 2019: Beginning in 2019, Americans would no longer be required by law to buy health insurance (or pay a penalty if they refuse to do so). The individual mandate is part of the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office projects the change will increase insurance premiums and lead to 13 million fewer Americans with insurance in a decade, while also cutting government spending by more than $300 billion over that period.

You can inherit up to $22 million tax-free: In the end, the estate tax (often called the “death tax” by opponents) would remain part of the U.S. tax code, but far fewer families will pay it. Under current law, Americans can inherit up to $5.5 million tax-free (that threshold is $11 million for married couples). The final compromise was to double the threshold, so now the first $11 million that people inherit in property, stocks and other assets won't be taxed (and yes, that means $22 million for married couples).

Fewer families will have to pay the individual AMT: The AMT for individuals started in 1969 as a way to prevent rich families from using so many credits and loopholes to lower their tax bill to almost nothing. But what started out as a way to prevent the wealthiest Americans from tax dodging started to hit more and more families over time. The AMT begins to apply to singles earning over $54,300 and couples earning over $84,500, although nearly everyone who ends up paying the AMT earns six figures

12/15 – Aaron Lorenzo at Politico re. Promises #21-24 (Tax reform):

Among the winners:

Big U.S. companies that operate globally, like Apple and Microsoft. Get a low, one-time tax rate when they bring home profits they're holding abroad. However, that tax would be larger than expected, and they would face complex rules meant to discourage them from moving more money and operations abroad.

Wall Street. Investment fund managers wouldn’t have to reclassify their "carried interest" compensation — the share of investor profits that they get — from lower-taxed capital gains to ordinary income. Despite President Donald Trump's vow to end what some consider a loophole, the only new limit fund managers would face is the amount of time they have to hold assets to qualify for the lower rate — three years instead of one year under current law.

Among the losers:

People who make a lot of money and live in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California. No one would more acutely feel the loss of the federal deduction for all state and local taxes and the new $750,000 cap on the home mortgage interest deduction, down from $1 million.

Workers who depend on a regular paycheck. Many of them would get a mostly minimal decrease in their marginal tax rate, compared to contractors and the self employed. This is due to the changes in taxation of pass-throughs, and some tax experts say people would try to game the system to take advantage of the pass-through deduction.

Deficit hawks. The tax plan was built with a $1.5 trillion budget allowance for tax cuts that didn’t require offsets, which advocates have said would mostly be made up by revenue from economic growth. But a host of official estimates and outside analyses have shown otherwise, and there’s certainly concern that the real cost of the package would exceed that $1.5 trillion when individual tax cuts that are scheduled to run for only eight years get extended as expected.

12/15 – Wall Street Journal editorial re. Promises #12 (Withdraw from TPP), #17 (Bring back jobs from Japan, etc.) and #41 (Alter US relations with Europe and Asia):

Europe and Japan finalized a trade deal last week that shows how Donald Trump’s protectionism will harm American companies and farmers.  The agreement eliminates tariffs on more than 95% of products and reduces nontariff barriers.  Europeans will gain access in particular to Japan’s lucrative agricultural markets than the U.S. lost by walking away from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

The Japan-EU deal will eliminate quotas on European pork in Japan and cut the tariff to about 15% from 80% over 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  That will hurt American farmers, who currently hold 58% of the market for fresh and chilled pork and 63% for processed pork, while Europe provides 62% of Japan’s frozen pork.

Tariff reductions are important, but safety requirements and other regulations can pose a larger obstacle to trade.  The EU-Japan deal promises to harmonize these rules for food, vehicles, drugs and medical devices.  This threatens to leave American firms at a significant competitive disadvantage.

The U.S. had a chance to set new multilateral trade standards with TPP that would have boosted American exports.  After the U.S. withdrawal, Prime Minister Abe turned to Europe to find that leadership, and he will likely drag out talks on a bilateral deal with the U.S.  The Trump Administration’s plan to extract concessions from trading partners is backfiring as it drives them to forge new alliances.  American companies and their workers will pay the price in missed opportunities.



THE SCOREBOARD



"We're going to win so much, you're going to be so sick and tired of winning...And I'm going to say, 'I'm sorry, but we're going to keep winning, winning, winning.'"

-Presidential candidate Donald Trump, May 2016
😀  Promises kept:                    

 #5 (Terminate DACA),  #12 (Withdraw from Trans-Pacific Partnership), #44 (Move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem) and #42 (Withdraw from Paris climate accord) 

😀  Promises partially kept:

#8 (Ban Muslims) and #10 (Bar Syrians)  

😀  First step(s) taken to keep promise:

#9 (Implement "extreme vetting"),  #11 (Renegotiate NAFTA),  #18 (Undo Dodd-Frank),  #19 (Bring $$ back into U.S.), #21 (Lower corporate tax rate), #24 (Eliminate estate tax on the very wealthy), #24 (Eliminate the alternative minimum tax), #24 (Eliminate the marriage penalty tax), #30 (Appoint justices to the Supreme Court to overturn Rowe v. Wade),  #35 (Gut the EPA),  #36 (Move forward with Keystone pipeline), #39 (Dump the Iran nuclear deal), #41 (Alter US relations with Europe and Asia), and #46 (Bomb shit out of ISIS)

😠  Promises dropped:

#2 (Mexico pays for The Wall), #3 (Repeal Obamacare "on Day One"),  #4 (Replace Obamacare with something better and take care of "everybody"),  #7 (Deport 3 million undocumented/criminals on "Day One"), #7 (Deport 11 million illegals),  #10 (Kick out any Syrians living in the U.S.),   #13 (Introduce "End Offshoring Act"),  #17 (Declare China a currency manipulator),  #26 (Promote term limits for Congress), #27 (Eliminate national debt), #28 (Get rid of Common Core), #31 (Get rid of gun-free zones),  #37 (Stop crime and gun violence on 1/20/17), #38 (Immediately ask Congress to repeal defense sequester),  #40 (Allow Russia to deal with ISIS in Syria), #43 (Reverse Obama's open-door Cuban policy),  #45 (Bring back waterboarding),  #47 (Take Iraq's oil),  #49 (Drain the Swamp) and  #50 (Release tax returns)

😱  Promises being reconsidered: 

 #1 (Build The Wall),  #13 (Impose tariffs on many imports), #14 (Create $1 trillion infrastructure plan), #21 (Eliminate taxes for singles earning less than $25,000 and couples less than $50,000), #21 (Get rid of corporate tax loopholes), #22 (Reduce the number of tax brackets to three), #22 (Large tax cuts for the middle class), #22 ("Tax cuts won't benefit the wealthy like me"), #23 (Eliminate the carried interest loophole), #25 (Create tax-free accounts for child care expenses), #25 (Make child care expenses tax deductible for families earning less than $500,000),  #32 (Save Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security without cutting benefits), #33 (Fire corrupt VA leaders) and #48 ("Lock her up!")


See "Status of the 50" below for more details on each of the promises cited above as well

as those promises on which no action/decision has been taken. 



We must not promise what we ought not,

lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.

Abraham Lincoln



 

     






                                                                                                                    


Sunday, November 20, 2016


Status of the 50 

Table of Contents

1. Build Wall on Southern Border
2. Repeal and Replace Obamacare
3. Immigration Issues
4. International Trade
5. Economy/Jobs
6. Tax Policies
7. Domestic Policies
8. US Military
9. International Relations
10. War on Terrorism
11. Miscellaneous


Build Wall on Southern Border      

1.      Build "a great, great" wall along Mexican border - STATUS - Promise being reconsidered

2.      …And have Mexico pay for it   STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: Trump vowed from the beginning of his campaign to "build a great, great wall on our southern border" and "have Mexico pay for that wall." In August, 2015, Trump told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly of his plans to have Mexico pay for the wall.   "So simple.  So simple."  The Trump campaign promised to introduce legislation within the first 100 days of his presidency that would "fully" fund the wall. At one campaign stop, Trump said, "That wall will go up so fast your head will spin." He also bragged, "Nobody builds walls better than me and I'll build them very inexpensively."

Current status:   President Trump and the Mexican president had a public spat the week after the Trump inauguration over who will and who won't pay for the wall.  After cancelling a face-to-face on the topic due to the disagreement, they agreed during a subsequent private phone call to "work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship" and to "not speak publicly about this controversial theme."

President Trump on February 11 tweeted that the $21.6 billion price tag on the Wall is overblown and that "I have not gotten involved in the design or negotiations yet. Price will come WAY DOWN!"  On February 24, President Trump spoke at the annual meeting of CPAC and promised that the wall would go up "soon, way ahead of schedule."  At an April 29 rally in Pennsylvania, the President told a rally of his supporters, "Don't worry, we're going to have the wall. Rest assured. Go home, go to sleep." On April 30, House and Senate leaders reached agreement on a 2017 budget bill that has no money for the wall on the Mexican border.

On May 22, President Trump released his 2018 budget proposal to Congress in which he asked for $2.6 billion for planning, designing, and constructing the border wall. On June 8, the Associated Press reported that Trump told Republican congressional leaders that "his vision was a wall 40 to 50 feet high and covered with solar panels so they'd be 'beautiful structures.'" Trump told the lawmakers they could talk about the solar-paneled wall as long as they said it was his idea.

On July 13, the Los Angeles Times reported that President Trump has "significantly scaled back" his pledge to build a wall on the southern border.  "You don't need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers." In his remarks, the President also "offered a very different description of the border barrier than he portrayed in campaign rallies, where he sometimes talked about a wall 30 feet high.  His new description closely resembles the border fencing built under Obama and President George W. Bush."

A transcript of Trump's telephone with Mexican President Nieto the first week of his presidency was reprinted in the Washington Post on August 3 and showed that early in his administration Trump wasn't trying to talk Nieto into paying for the fence but, instead, was asking him not bring up the topic publicly. "You cannot say that to the press," Trump told Nieto when the Mexican president insisted he wasn't going to pay for the fence.  Trump described the wall as "the least important thing we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important."  Trump told Nieto they should both just say they "will work it out" when forced to answer questions about the wall.

But on August 22, President Trump vowed to close down the government in September if he doesn't get money for the border wall.  "Believe me," he told a Phoenix audience, "if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall." But 12 days later, on September 1, the president signaled he would not shut down the government in October if money for the wall isn't in the budget deal, in part, because of his desire to have Congress fund a multi-billion dollar relief effort for Texas and Louisiana. "This marks the second time he has pulled back from the wall demand in order to allow lawmakers to pass a budget bill," wrote Damian Paletta of the Washington Post.  "The first time came in May when lawmakers voted to authorize government funding through September and refrained from including money that would allow for the construction of a new wall."

Stan Collender at Forbes.com wrote September 4: "Now the White House is saying that Trump will demand funds for the wall when the continuing resolution that will be needed by October 1 to keep the government open expires later this year.  But Trump apparently got no actual promise from congressional leaders about funding his wall.  That means he twice demanded and twice backed down from a confrontation over this issue.  That's the kind of weakness members of Congress thrive on and makes it even less likely Trump will have the credibility he needs to ever get funding."

In September, Trump terminated DACA (see Promise #5), a program that protects children brought to the US illegally by immigrant parents, but then turned around immediately and struck up a tentative deal with Democrats to legislatively legalize the program, provide funding for more border security but no wall construction.  "We're working on a plan for DACA," Trump said.  "The wall will come later." The New York Times reported Sept. 15, "Most Republicans had assumed the president considered the wall nonnegotiable. No promise was more central to his campaign. And no constituency was more passionate in defending Mr. Trump than the conservatives who believed he would be uncompromising in his approach toward illegal immigration. Just last month, he was threatening to shut down the government if Congress did not approve funding to start the wall's construction."

On September 30, the New York Times, referencing the website Factbase, cited several examples of President Trump over the first eight months of his administration promising planning or construction of the wall will begin "very soon," "immediately" or  was "ahead of schedule." On December 8, the Los Angeles Times reported "President Trump still wants his wall." The President renewed his call for Congress to fund "his signature campaign promise - a large physical wall along the 2,000 miles of border between the United States and Mexico." Said Trump, "We're going to get the wall. If we don't get the wall, then I got a lot of very unhappy people, starting with me." 

Pushback: On April 24, President Trump told conservative media members at a special White House function that funding for the wall could be pushed back until 2018. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh reacted on his radio show, "I'm not happy to have to pass this on.  I'm very, very troubled to have to pass this on.  And I want to say at the outset that I hope my interpretation is wrong, and I hope this is not the case. But it looks like, from here, right here, right now, it looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall. The Democrats seems to have successfully used this stupid, silly threat of a government shutdown to get their way."



     Repeal and Replace Obamacare 

      3.   Repeal Obamacare on "Day One" STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

      4.   And replace it with something "so much better" STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: Trump promised to repeal President Obama’s signature health care law on Day One (also "immediately" and "very, very quickly") of his administration, including the individual mandate.  "Everybody's got to be covered," he told 60 Minutes on September 27, 2015.  "I'm going to take care of everybody.  I don't care if it costs me votes or not.  Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now." On February 25, 2016, candidate Trump promised, "I want to keep pre-existing conditions.  I think we need it.  I think it's  a modern age.  And I think we have to have it."  A month before the election, candidate Trump said, "Repealing Obamacare is one of the single biggest reasons we must win on November 8." Americans, he promised, will have "great health care at a fraction of the cost." The GOP candidate said that "we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to do it. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace, and it will be such an honor for me, for you, and for this country because Obamacare has to be replaced and we will do it very, very quickly."  He told an audience, "You're going to have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost, and it is going to be so easy."  He promised to preserve key aspects of the law, including refusing to allow insurers to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions. He has also promised to maintain the portion of the law that allows adults and children under 26 to be covered on their parents' plans.  

History of Trump/GOP effort to repeal and replace: On March 6, House Speaker Ryan and the Republican leadership introduced draft legislation to replace Obamacare. Vice President Mike Pence said, "This is the bill and the President supports (it)." President Trump called it "wonderful" and said, "I'm proud to support the replacement plan released by the House of Representatives."  On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office announced that roughly 24 million more people would be uninsured over the next ten years if the House Republican Obamacare repeal bill is enacted.  The Los Angeles Times reported March 14 that the White House has shifted away from President Trump's stated goal of providing "insurance for everybody" to instead claiming the House GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare offers "more people the option to get healthcare." On March 25, Speaker Ryan and President Trump pulled their Obamacare repeal and replace bill from the House after Republican members declined to support the legislation. On April 20, White House and Republican congressional leaders announced plans for another health care showdown to seek passage of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.  "The plan gets better and better and better and it's gotten really good and a lot of people are liking it a lot," said the President. But, on April 28, for a second time, the President and House leaders backed away from a vote just a day before the 100th day of his presidency. On April 30, House and Senate leaders agreed on a 2017 budget that continues to fund Obamacare.

On May 4, the House passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare with the GOP's American Health Care Act.  The bill was approved along mostly partisan lines, 217-213.  President Trump, at a Rose Garden ceremony celebrating passage of the House bill, called it "a great plan." The bill allows states to get federal waivers to allow insurers to charge older customers higher premiums than younger ones by as much as they'd like.  Obamacare limits the difference to a 3-1 ratio.  The states may also seek waivers from Obamacare's prohibition against insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems if the states have a mechanism to cover people with serious, expensive-to-treat diseases. According to a CBO analysis of the bill, issued weeks after it was passed, 23 million Americans will be without health insurance by 2026 and 14 million uninsured in its first years.  Insurance premiums will continue to rise, especially for older citizens and those with pre-existing health issues. On June 13, President Trump met with GOP senators working on their own health care bill and told them the House bill, which he originally praised, was "mean, mean, mean" and said, "We need to be more generous, more kind."

On June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled from consideration the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare after he was unable to garner enough Republican support.  The bill was supported by President Trump and would have provided significant tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the health care industry, made health care cheaper for the young and healthy and more expensive (with higher deductions) for older, poorer Americans.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated 22 million Americans would lose health insurance coverage over the next ten years, the hardest hit being 50- to 64-years-olds with incomes of less than 200% of the federal poverty level. The legislation would have prevented women enrolled in Medicaid from using their benefits to pay for contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood. However, it would have cut the deficit by $321 billion by spending $1 trillion less on health care, including a $772 billion cut in Medicaid. On July 27, the Senate failed on three different votes to repeal and replace Obamacare.

In late September, the GOP senate brought up a new bill sponsored by Senators Graham and Cassidy, one that would send funding back to the states and allow states to determine how best to provide health care.  "The newest legislation," The Hill reported, "would slash federal funding to states by $215 billion through 2026 and cut more than $4 trillion over a 20-year period."   Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia would experience funding cuts.  California, a Democrat state, would lose $800 billion.  Mississippi, a GOP state, would experience a 900% increase in funding.  President Trump, who praised the proposed bill as "GREAT!" in a tweet, also tweeted "I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if  it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions.  It does! A great bill.  Repeal & Replace."  However, according to AXIOS, the bill "does allow states to waive the ACA's ban on charging people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums than healthy people.  States can also waive the requirement that plans cover certain benefits, which many sick people use and could thus have to pay for out-of-pocket." The Tribune Washington Bureau reported September 21, "The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest."  Commentator Allahpundit at Redstate wrote, "One White House official admitted to Politico that 'we really aren't sure what the impact will be' of the bill becoming law, which on the one hand makes sense given that the bill would create 50 separate state health-care regimes and on the other hand sounds ominously reminiscent of Pelosi's infamous line about passing the bill to know what's in it." On September 25, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the latest GOP plan would reduce the budget deficit but also drive millions of Americans off the insurance rolls.  Several Republican Senators declined the support the bill, which President Trump had called, "GREAT!" and it was dropped from consideration without a vote the next day. Andrea Ruth of Redstate wrote, "Shortly after, President Trump tweeted about the NFL three times in quick succession. That kind of tells us everything we need to know about Trump and getting his policy agenda passed."

But on October 12, President Trump signed an executive order, the Washington Post reported, "intended to circumvent the Affordable Care Act by making it easier for individuals and small business (and associations) to buy different types of health plans with lower prices but also fewer benefits and protections.  The new insurance options will not be available in time for coverage beginning at the start of 2018." Critics "predict that a proliferation of these other kinds of coverage will have damaging ripple effects, driving up costs for consumers with serious medical conditions and prompting more insurers to flee the law's marketplaces. Among policy experts, critics warned that young and healthy people who use relatively little insurance will gravitate to association health plans because of their lower price tags.  That would concentrate older and sicker customers in ACA marketplaces with spiking rates."  Wrote Kimberly Leonard at the Washington Examiner, "Critics have referred to the plans as 'junk insurance,' warning that expanding access to them would take customers back to the days before the passage of Obamacare." Yuval Levin at National Review commented, these "moves are also likely to further destabilize the exchanges and complicate the situation of insurers offering coverage in the individual market. What is even less clear is whether the administration is acting with some sense of how Congress might respond to pressures created by the further destabilization of the exchanges. It certainly doesn't seem like Republicans on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue have an actual plan to respond to these pressures at the moment."

And then the next day, October 13, President Trump announced the federal government will cut off $7 billion in subsidy payments to ACA insurers this year. The subsidies are paid to insurers by the federal government to help lower consumers' deductibles and co-pays. America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group, complained, "Millions of Americans rely on these benefits to afford their coverage and care." According to an analysis by the Associated Press, nearly 70 percent of those benefiting from the so-called cost-sharing subsidies live in states Trump won in November, 2016.  Of the 10 states with the highest percent of consumers benefiting from cost-sharing, all but one - Massachusetts - went for Trump. Asked at a White House press conference October 16 if health care should be called Trumpcare, the president said, "I don't think so."

A week later Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray announced that, with the support of President Trump, they had forged a deal to provide two years of funding for the critical subsidies Trump said the week before he would terminate.  Trump said he was aware of the deal, describing the effort as very close to a "short term" solution.  However, the next day he reversed course and expressed opposition to the agreement after top congressional Republicans and conservatives gave it a frosty reception.  The Associated Press reported October 18 that discontinuing the subsidies "would actually cost the government more money under Obamacare's complicated structure, because some people facing higher premiums would end up getting bigger tax subsidies to help pay for them."

On October 20, Politico reported that Trump's IRS is actually moving to strengthen Obamacare by requiring all persons submitting a 2017 tax return to disclose the taxpayer's health-insurance status or specify whether the taxpayer qualifies for an exemption. "That disclosure is required under the ACA, but in the first two years since the mandate took effect, the IRS still processed tax returns that left the question blank." On the same day, Gallup announced that the uninsured rate had ticked up to 12.3 percent, up 1.4 percentage points since the beginning of the year. "The result is that the trendline of the uninsured rate is ticking up after a steep drop beginning at the start of 2014, when Obamacare's coverage expansion went into effect."

On November 14, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that the Senate tax bill would include language to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate. It would save the federal government an estimated $300 billion to 4400 billion over the next year that could be used to lower taxes. The Congressional Budget Office has said 13 million people would lose health insurance if the mandate was eliminated. On November 23, the Washington Post reported that nearly 2.28 million Americans had signed up for Obamacare in the first three weeks of open enrollment, an increase from the same time a year ago.




Immigration Issues 

     5. Cancel key Obama executive action on immigration - STATUS - PROMISE KEPT 

Background:   Trump promised to "immediately" rescind Obama’s immigration executive orders regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA). Undoing DACA would make undocumented young people who arrived in the United States as children - "Dreamers" - subject to deportation. The GOP presidential candidate strongly criticized President Obama for "illegal executive amnesties." There are currently roughly 800,000 young immigrants currently protected by the Obama-era program.

Update: At a February 16 press conference, President Trump backed away from reversing President Obama's DACA orders.  "DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me," Trump conceded, promising to address the issue "with heart.  It's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids." On February 21, CNN reported the Department of Homeland Security had laid out plans for "aggressive enforcement of immigrations laws" that did not include dismantling the DACA program.  "No. 1," said a department official, "none of this affects DACA." On April 22, President Trump told the Associated Press that young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children can "rest easy."  His administration, he said, is "not after the dreamers, we are after the criminals." On June 8, the Washington Times reported the Trump administration has approved "tens of thousands of temporary amnesties for illegal immigrant Dreamers" and "Mr. Trump appears to be maintaining the pace of the Obama administration, with more than 17,000 new two-year amnesties and more than 107,000 renewal applications approved from Jan. 1 through March 30.  Both numbers are comparable to the final three full months of President Obama's tenure." On June 29, Politico reported that Attorneys General from Texas and nine other Republican-led states threatened to sue the Trump administration over the "Dreamers" program.  They sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the administration to rescind the June 2012 memorandum that created the program. 

On September 5, President Trump terminated the DACA program. However, he delayed complete implementation of the program for six months (until March 5, 2018) and urged Congress to craft a legislative solution. The Washington Post reported, "The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers.  The agency said those enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by October 5."

However, within hours of the decision to terminate DACA, Trump was sending signals that he wanted Congress to restore the program through legislation.  Following a storm of criticism by Democrats and Republicans, the president tweeted, "Congress now has 6 months to legalize. If they can't, I will revisit this issue."  Trump announced he and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had tentatively agreed to legislation that would protect Dreamers, provide funding for increased border security but not fund construction of the wall. Trump tweeted, "For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about - No action!"  He then told reporters, "Chuck and Nancy (Pelosi) would like to see something happen, and so do I." Or does he? On October 8, President Trump announced that he now insists Congress fund construction of the border wall and the hiring of 10,000 new immigration agents in return for legislation protecting the "Dreamers."  Chuck and Nancy immediately objected, claiming Trump was going back on their September agreement that "explicitly ruled out" money for the wall.  "We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list (he has now proposed) goes so far beyond what is reasonable." But then, on October 13, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla) said that Trump told him that he would extend the March 5 deadline if Congress does not act to legalize the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.   Said Lankford, "The president's comment to me was that 'We put a six-month deadline out there.  Let's work it out. If we can't get it worked out in six months, we'll give it some more time."

Commentary from NRO's Jonah Goldberg: Earlier in the week the White House was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which lets undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children stay here.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions came out and said it was unconstitutional.  But when the press - and former President Obama - castigated Trump as heartless and cruel, the president made it clear he wants Congress to restore the program by passing legislation.  And if it doesn't, he suggested, he might keep the program via the same means his AG had just described as unconstitutional.  

     6.      End birthright citizenship

Background:  As a presidential candidate, Trump considered ending birthright citizenship as one way to improve immigration and "make American great again." An immigration reform plan posted on Trump's campaign website said birthright citizenship "remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration."  In an August, 2015 interview with CNN, Trump promised to eliminate birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to parents living here illegally.  He said it may take two terms to fulfill his promise.

Under federal law, U.S. citizenship is granted anyone born in the U.S.  (Approximately 7.5% of all births in the U.S. are to illegal immigrants.) Since the adoption of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1868, the citizenship of persons born in the U.S. has been controlled by its Citizenship Clause.  It is not clear whether an act of Congress or an amendment to the Constitution would be required to change birthright citizen but in January, 2017, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act so that an individual born in the U.S. becomes a citizen at birth if at least one parent is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or immigrant in active service in the U.S. armed services. The House has not voted on the bill. As of November, 2017, President Trump had not spoken on the subject during his first 10 months in office.

7.     Deport the almost 11 million immigrants illegally living in the United States  STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background:  The wall was just one piece of Trump’s immigration policy that defined his campaign. He also pledged to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. And he promised to deport undocumented immigrants in U.S. on expired visas. Trump explained that he would do this by having “the greatest deportation force” imaginable and tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Trump shifted on the issue repeatedly, taking 18 different stances on immigration during his campaign, but never disavowed his initial plan.  

Regarding criminals who are also illegal immigrants, Trump told a campaign rally in August, 2016, "We will begin moving them out on day one.  Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone." (PROMISE DROPPED) The president-elect indicated he would move forward with efforts to deport criminals - two to three million, he claims - and decide later about the others. " Five days after President Trump took office, he signed an executive order that promised a swift, sharp crackdown on illegal immigration, immediate construction of a massive border wall, quick hiring of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and stepped-up deportation of undocumented migrants.

Benchmarks: A University of Syracuse study in December, 2016 showed that almost 680,000 federal charges against immigrants in the country illegally were filed in the last eight years, up from about 287,000 under President George W. Bush. In the first seven years in office, the Obama administration deported 2.5 million people, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Department also reported in December that Border Patrol agents apprehended about 39,000 people trying to illegally cross the California border from Mexico in 2015, down by 510,000 - or 93% - from 1996. According to the Pew Research Center, from 2009 to 2014, more Mexicans left the U.S. than came north. The New York Times reported October 27, "Most people who are in the country illegally simply overstay their visas, rather than entering the United States illegally, immigration data show. Visa overstays accounted for 66 percent of the unauthorized population in 2014. Immigration experts also note that large numbers of people apprehended at the border were not captured by Border Patrol officers or trying to evade border security; they simply walked up to agents and gave themselves up, asking for asylum."

Current Status:  

·        Seven months into the Trump administration, the Los Angeles Times reported the number of Border Patrol officers had actually dropped by 220 and immigration agents are on track to deport 10,000 fewer people in 2017 than in President Obama's last year in office. 

·        As of August, illegal border crossings are down 22% compared to the year before and arrests of people in the country illegally have surged 43% since Trump was inaugurated.

·        The Wall Street Journal reported that in the first nine months of fiscal 2017, the U.S. Labor Department certified more than 160,000 temporary workers - the bulk of them from Mexico - to harvest berries, tobacco and other crops in the U.S. Among the employers that applied in the past year for guest workers under the H-2B program are two operations owned by the Trump Organization. 

·        The Trump administration and its Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents made 75,045 arrests during the first half of 2017, up 40 percent from 2016. But while arrests are up, the U.S. is actually on pace to deport fewer people in 2017 than in 2016 due to a staggering backlog of 630,000 cases in immigration courts.  According to government figures, the number of people attempting to cross the border illegally has dropped sharply since Trump came into office, down 25% compared with the previous year, and the lowest since 1971.

      8. Temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States  STATUS -  Promise partially kept 

Background: In December, 2015, the Trump campaign released the following statement: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Current status: The President on January 27 signed an executive order that indefinitely blocked refugees from Syria from entering the U.S. and suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days while the administration determined which countries pose the least risk. Trump also imposed a 90-day ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. On February 9, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the Justice Department's request to lift a Seattle-based judge's restraining order blocking the January 27 executive order. On March 6, President Trump signed a new executive order that bans immigrants for at least 90 days from six Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. On March 15, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a worldwide restraining order against the executive order.  A Maryland federal judge subsequently issued a second ruling against the ban on March 16. On June 1 the Trump administration filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to reverse those rulings by lower courts.


On June 26, the Supreme Court allowed parts of the travel ban to go into effect and scheduled oral arguments on the case in the fall.  The court allowed the ban to go into effect for foreign nationals who lack any "bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States."  On July 15, a federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country.  The judge ordered the government to allow into the country grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the U.S.  The Trump administration appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court but the court let stand the Hawaii judge's order.

On September 25, the Supreme Court decided not to hold a scheduled October hearing on the constitutionality of Trump's travel ban after the administration replaced the current travel ban with one that permanently restricts travel from eight countries, including Venezuela and North Korea. But, on October 17, the same Hawaiian federal judge that blocked the administration's travel bans in March and July, issued a nationwide order blocking Trump's third attempt at a travel ban. And the next day, a federal judge in Maryland issued a second halt to the travel ban, asserting that the president's own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban.


On December 4, the Supreme Court approved the temporary implementation of the ban on travel from the six Muslim-majority nations plus North Korea and Venezuela identified in the September proclamation. (The ruling stands until judges on the 4th and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals hear arguments on injunctions from federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland.) And on December 8, the State Department announced it would begin implementing the ban. The department stressed that travel restrictions for the eight nations are not permanent and can be lifted if countries comply with information-sharing standards set by the U.S.

      9. ...And implement "extreme vetting"  STATUS - First steps taken

Background: Trump first brought up the idea of extreme vetting in August, 2016 comparing it to ideological screening tests used in the Cold War. He has said that Muslims or at least those from "terror-prone" countries would be the targets. Trump said the United States needs to screen members of terrorist organizations and vet "any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles — or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law." 

Update: On January 27, President Trump signed an executive order requesting a 90-day interagency review of existing screening measures to ensure that "radical Islamic terrorists" cannot get into the U.S. and "ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directed diplomatic missions to identify "populations warranting increased security," and toughen screening for visa applicants in those groups, Reuters reported March 24. "Most posts already have populations that they look at for fraud and security issues," said Jay Gairson, a Seattle-based immigration attorney. "What this language effectively does is give the consular posts permission to step away from the focused factors they have spent years developing and revising, and instead broaden the search to large groups based on gross factors such as nationality and religion." The New York Times reported on June 12 Trump has so far made few changes to the way people enter the U.S. from countries he has deemed the most dangerous, despite his frequent campaign promises to institute "extreme vetting." Administration officials say they are handcuffed because of vetting restrictions imposed by one of the federal judges who put a hold on the revised travel ban. On March 17, government lawyers asked Judge Derrick Watson of the U. S. District Court for the District of Hawaii if he had meant to stop the government from proceeding with the 90-day interagency vetting review directed by the President.  The judge said yes. However, on June 26, the Supreme Court lifted the order and allowed the review of vetting procedures to proceed. On August 28, the Washington Times reported that Homeland Security had announced it will soon require potential immigrants to undergo in-person interviews before they're given permanent status in the country. The change will affect those currently in the country on work visas who wish to become permanent residents and those with family members who are refugees. On October 24, the Washington Examiner reported that Trump had signed an executive order that "allows most aspects of the refugee admissions process to resume while requesting an additional review of the vetting procedures for applicants from 11 'high risk' countries. Officials will also make changes to existing vetting procedures to bolster national security, such as forward-deploying more immigration officers to certain areas in order to screen refugees and training those officers more thoroughly on how to assess the authenticity of refugees' claims."

On December 5 at The Hill, Harsha Panduranga, a fellow in the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's School of Law wrote, "If extreme vetting is an important feature of the administration's national security policy, what does it mean in practice? For all its rhetorical flair, we know little about how extreme vetting is defined or how it's being implemented. When the president says he's ordered 'The Department of Homeland Security to step up...extreme vetting,' we are left to grapple with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' banal repackaging of longstanding U.S. government goals - like 'improving our intelligence streams' - to decipher what he means."  

Reality Check:
The U.S., The Hill reported, already had the most stringent vetting system for refugees in the world. Individuals seeking refugee or asylum status in the U.S. must register with the United Nations, pass a series of security checks, interview with State Department contractors, pass another background check, complete an in-person interview, participate in a cultural orientation course and pass one final security check at an American airport upon arrival. There are 2,000 Americans and/or contractors in 80 countries working to combat international terrorism, including running screening programs that target high-risk travelers. To see the process put into place by President Obama, see:

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2015/11/20/infographic-screening-process-refugee-entry-united-states

10.  Bar Syrian refugees from entering the country - STATUS -  Promise partially kept 

Background: During the campaign, Trump pledged to "stop the massive inflow of refugees" and warned that terrorists were smuggling themselves into naïve countries by posing as refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

Trump also promised to kick out any who are already living here. "I'm putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria," he told a campaign rally in Keene, New Hampshire, "as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they're going back." (PROMISE DROPPED)

Update: The president signed an executive order on January 27 indefinitely banning all Syrian refugees from entry into the United States. On February 9, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the Justice Department's request to lift a Seattle-based judge's restraining order blocking the Trump executive order. On March 7, the president signed a new executive order blocking citizens from Syria from obtaining visas for at least 90 days and suspending admission of refugees into the U.S. for 120 days. On March 15, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a worldwide restraining order against the executive order.  A Maryland federal judge subsequently issued a second ruling against the ban on March 16.

On May 26, Anna Giaritelli at the Washington Examiner reported that "the State Department will no longer restrict the number of refugees allowed to enter the U.S., a huge break from what President Trump promised on the campaign trail last year.  Organizations that help refugees resettle in the U.S. were informed about an abrupt change to allow the level of refugees that would be 'unconstrained by the weekly quotas that were in place,' according to an email State official Jennifer Smith sent to groups." On June 26, the Supreme Court allowed parts of President Donald Trump's travel ban to go into effect.  The court is allowing the ban to go into effect for foreign nationals who lack any "bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States."  Refugees can claim "concrete hardship" ---but in the end, if they "lack any such connection to the United States...the balance tips in favor of the government's compelling need to provide for the Nation's security." On September 25, the Supreme Court, which had set an October date for a hearing on the matter, decided not to hold a hearing on the constitutionality of Trump's travel ban after the administration replaced the current travel ban with one that restricts travel from eight countries, including Syria, Venezuela and North Korea."

On October 23, the Trump administration's worldwide temporary ban on refugees entering the U.S. ended, with President Trump signing an executive order allowing the resumption of admissions but with new enhanced screening measures. "There will be a general resumption of refugee admissions under this exec order, while that review (of vetting procedures) is ongoing refugee admissions from the 11 countries will be considered on a case by case basis," a senior administration official told Fox News. The 11 countries were not identified.   
     

    
     International Trade 

      11. Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement or withdraw from deal - STATUS - First step taken

UPDATE: During the campaign, candidate Trump called NAFTA "the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country." His "Contract with the American Voter" promised to renegotiate or withdraw from the deal.  

On July 25, the New York Times reported the administration had sent a 17-page document to Congress outlining its negotiation priorities, including reducing the U.S. trade deficit and adding new provisions to "eliminate unfair subsidies" and more authority to crack down on cheap imports. And on August 16, negotiations began.  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who heads the American team, said, "We cannot ignore the huge trade deficits, the lost manufacturing jobs, the businesses that have closed or moved, because of incentives, intended or not, in the current agreement. I want to be clear that (Trump) is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters.  We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvements." President Trump on August 22 said he doubts the U.S. can reach a deal with Mexico and Canada.  "I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point." The American negotiators are demanding that all autos coming into the U.S. have 50-percent American-made parts and a "sunset" clause be inserted that would force the trade deal to be reassessed every five years, two demands Canadians and Mexicans are resisting. On October 11, McClatchyDC reported that hundreds of business leaders from all 50 states had joined forces to increase pressure on President Trump to remain in NAFTA.  The Trump administration has responded to similar complaints by accusing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of being part of the entrenched Washington elite fighting his work to "drain the swamp." On November 23, the Washington Examiner reported that negotiations between the three countries "are making little headway." Canada and Mexico have been resisting U.S. demands for a "radical rewrite of the 1993 deal." DetroitNews.com reported that auto executives have asked Vice President Mike Pence to "pump the breaks" on the Trump administration's proposal to increase the minimum percentage of parts that must be made in the U.S. for a car to qualify for duty-free treatment under NAFTA. 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: According to the February 24 issue of The Week, NAFTA - negotiated by George H. W. Bush and signed by Bill Clinton - has had mixed results.  The Good: Trade between the three countries has grown from $290 billion in 1993 to $1.1 trillion in 2016.  It lifted tariffs and protected intellectual property.  Today, about 14 million U.S. jobs are directly related to trade with Mexico and Canada. The bad and ugly:  The trade balance between the U.S. and Mexico flip-flopped from a $1.7 billion American surplus to a $49.2 billion deficit.  Nearly 800,000 U.S. workers lost good jobs, mostly in manufacturing, according to some studies.  The number of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. quadrupled from three million in 1994 to 12 million in 2007. (Since the Great Recession in 2008, however, the net influx has been negative, with more Mexican nationals returning to their home country than arriving.)

Commentary from the Sacramento Bee:  "By pulling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Trump may have strengthened the positions of Canada and Mexico - two TPP countries - in the ongoing negotiations to retool the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.  Trump seems obsessed with the U.S. trade deficit (which has grown on his watch), but this isn't a zero-sum game.  The whole idea behind broad free trade agreements is that by reducing barriers in an increasingly interconnected world, economic activity increases and everyone wins. "

      12. On first day in office, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership - STATUS - PROMISE KEPT

Background: On the campaign trail, candidate Trump called TPP "another disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country." On January 23, President Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP. Moments after the executive order was signed, Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders praised the president's action, sounding very much like candidate Trump. "I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals - including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others - which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs."

Consequence of action: John Berthelsen, the former editor of the Hong Kong-based Asia Sentinel, wrote, "If President Trump had set out to deliberately create a vacuum in Asia that would allow Chinese influence to grow and wreck the American position in the region, he couldn't have done a better job than by canceling U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  So, instead of China being frozen out of a trading organization that covers 40 percent of world gross domestic product and a third of world trade, it looks likely that it is the U.S. that will be frozen out." Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, "We are embarking upon insularity and smallness.  Nor is this just theory. Trump's long-promised but nonetheless abrupt withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the momentous first fruit of his foreign-policy doctrine.  Last year the prime minister of Singapore told John McCain that if we pulled out of TPP, 'You'll be finished in Asia.'  He knows the region.  For 70 years, we sustained an international system of open commerce and democratic alliances that has enabled America and the West to grow and thrive.  Global leadership is what made America great. We abandon it at our peril."

Update: On August 7, a Politico analysis found that "the 11 other TPP countries are now involved in a whopping 27 separate trade negotiations with each other, other major trading powers in the region like China and massive blocs like the EU.  Those efforts range from exploratory conversations to deals already signed and awaiting ratification.  In a further rebuke to the United States, Tokyo decided within a matter of weeks to offer the European nations virtually the same agricultural access to its market that the United States trade officials had spent two excruciating years extracting through near-monthly meetings with their Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the broader TPP negotiations; the United States is now left out.  Meanwhile, a bloc of four Latin-American countries - Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia, known as the Pacific Alliance - is quickly becoming the leading force for free trade in the region, announcing near the end of June it would commence its own negotiations with New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, heedless of its neighbor to the north.  And China, which was never a part of the TPP, senses blood in the water, it is moving quickly to assert itself, rather than the United States, as the region's trade arbiter.  China is aiming to close talks by the end of this year on its behemoth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership - a trade agreement involving 15 other Asia-Pacific countries."  On November 11, the Washington Post reported that less than 24 hours after President Trump delivered a fiery speech on trade during his Asian visit to Vietnam, "11 Pacific Rim countries collectively shrugged and moved on without the U.S. On Saturday, the countries announced they had reached a deal to move ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pack that Trump threw into question when he withdrew from it earlier this year."  

       13.   Impose tariffs on many imports - STATUS - Promise being reconsidered

Background: Trump also promised in his "Contract with the American Voter" to introduce the "End the Offshoring Act" within his first days in office by imposing tariffs on goods made abroad, especially those manufactured by companies formerly based in the U.S. (PROMISE DROPPED) During the campaign he also promised to heavily tax Chinese goods coming into the country. On January 7, 2016, Trump told the New York Times he favor a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports  to the U.S. "I would do a tax. And the tax, let me tell you what the tax should be...the tax should be 45 percent." On August 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida, candidate Trump promised, "Any country that devalues their currency to take unfair advantage of the United States and all of its companies that can't compete will face tariffs and taxes to stop the cheating." (See #17 below re. currency manipulation promise)  And in December, 2016 he promised there will be a 35% "tax" on goods coming into the country from U.S. companies that move production out of the country. "We will stop these countries from taking our jobs.  I promise we can fix it so fast." (Ahead of the election, a Trump campaign adviser asserted they could eliminate the deficit in one or two years.)

Update: Peter Navarro, an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine, now leads the White House National Trade Council.  Navarro said, "Trump will impose countervailing tariffs not just on China, but on any American trade partner that cheats on its trade deals using practices such as currency manipulation and illegal export subsidies."  Trump named Robert Lighthizer, a harsh critic of China's trade practices, to be his chief trade negotiator. Lighthizer has argued that China has failed to live up to commitments made in 2001 when it joined the World Trade Organization and that tougher tactics are needed to change the system, even if it means deviating from WTO rules.  As recently as mid-January, Trump told European papers he intends to impose 35% import duties on Germany's BMWs that are built outside the U.S. and that the auto maker should scrap plans to open a new plan in Mexico and build the factory in the U.S. instead.   In late April, the U.S. instituted a new tariff on Canadian softwood lumber.

On May 4, Trump was interviewed by The Economist. He repeated his pledge to impose a 35% tax on goods coming into America from U.S. companies that move production out of the country. "I said, 'Look, we don't mind if you leave the country. You can build all you want out of the country, I hope you enjoy your plant.  But when you build your car, you're going to have a 35% tax when you bring it back in.  And if your numbers work, we wish you well." On July 26, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that a decision about a crackdown on imported steel for national security reasons is in a holding pattern and that "we don't want to do it at this moment." United Steelworkers President Leo Gerald demanded Trump levy additional tariffs on steel imports, which have increased 18 percent since April, according to Gerard. Trump said a final decision on a steel import tariff will remain in a holding pattern until work on other major initiatives such as tax reform, healthcare and infrastructure reform are moving forward. (On October 4, Christopher Matthews at AXIOS reported "a surge in U.S. steel imports" after "buyers sought cheap steel before tariffs were enacted and U.S. trade partners retaliated. Now exporters have the worst of both worlds: Trump's tough trade talk is causing uncertainty in exporting industries, and Republican opposition to protectionist policies.  Meanwhile, his unwillingness to ruffle Chinese feathers amid the North Korean nuclear standoff means the enactment of no new, tough tariffs or other punitive measures.") 

On August 15, the Trump administration ordered the U.S. trade representative to investigate China's behavior on intellectual property rights.  This is known as a Section 301 investigation.  Following the investigation, the Trump administration could impose tariffs on Chinese imports. The President's frustration with his staff on this issue came to light on August 27 when AXIOS reported that during a staff meeting in the White House Trump turned to his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, and said, "For the last six months, this same group of geniuses comes in here all the time and I tell them, 'Tariffs.  I want tariffs.  And what do they do?  They bring me IP (intellectual property). I know there are some globalists in the room right now.  And they don't want, John, they don't want tariffs.  But I'm telling you, I want tariffs." And respond they did. 

CNN Money reported October 6, "The U.S. Commerce Department has heaped another big tariff on Bombardier's new C Series jet -- a win for Boeing. The department's International Trade Administration said that it would recommend a 79.82% tariff on the import of each roughly 110-seat Canadian airliner.  The penalty stems from an allegation by Boeing that Bombardier sold the C Series to Delta Air Lines last year at 'absurdly low prices' to undercut Boeing and win business. The ruling comes on top of 219.63% penalty recommended by Commerce's ITA on September 26." A ruling from the International Trade Commission is expected in February, 2018. On October 27, THE WEEK reported that Airbus was taking a majority share in Bombardier's C Series jet business and, in order to avoid the 220 percent tariff the U.S. had slapped on the plane, planned to build them in Alabama.

However, since taking office, Trump has not pushed for the wide-ranging tariffs on foreign imports that he promised as a candidate. And, according to a December 5 report by Politico, the U.S. trade deficit jumped 8.6% in October as "imports from China and other suppliers hit a record high." The monthly trade gap totaled $48.7 billion, the highest level for a full month since President Trump took office. The 2017 deficit is on track to exceed the 2016 level of $505 billion. 



Economy/Jobs  

     14. Rebuild the country's aging infrastructure - STATUS - Promise being reconsidered

Background: Trump promised, “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.” Team Trump announced it has a "rough blueprint" for a $1 trillion project over 10 years, creating 3.3 million jobs. Among the stated goals: modernize airports and air traffic control systems and reconstruct the nation's roadways, waterworks and bridges. 

Update: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in December, 2016 tried to tamp down expectations, telling reporters he wants "to avoid a $1 trillion stimulus."  Trump told the New York Times he didn't realize during the campaign that New Deal-style proposals to put people to work building infrastructure conflict with his party's small-government philosophy. But at his inauguration, Trump re-emphasized this promise when he said, "We will build new roads and highways and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation.  We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor." Axios reported on February 27 the Trump administration is planning to put the $1 trillion infrastructure plan before Congress in 2018 when both Republicans and Democrats will support election-year projects and jobs. On April 4, Time Magazine reported "Although Trump often spoke during the campaign of unlocking $1 trillion in infrastructure investments, the pledge may prove as hollow as his promised mastery of the health care muddle.  Ten weeks after Trump's inauguration, key House and Senate leaders say they are not in talks with the White House on the plan.  And the reason is is that there is no blueprint to discuss. Only in early March did White House economic adviser Gary Cohn convene a meeting to create a framework for drafting a proposal."  On April 17 in Wisconsin, Trump promised a "big infrastructure bill.  Infrastructure is coming, and it's coming fast." On May 22, President Trump submitted to Congress his 2018 budget, asking for $200 billion over 10 years for infrastructure, exactly 20% of what he promised during the campaign.   "Simply providing more Federal funding for infrastructure is not the solution," the White House said in its budget document.

On July 23, Glenn Thrush of the New York Times wrote: "An ambitious public works plan, arguably (President Trump's) best chance of rising above the partisan rancor of his first six months in office, is fast becoming an afterthought. Infrastructure remains stuck near the rear of the legislative line. It awaits the resolution of tough negotiations over the budget, the debt ceiling, a tax overhaul, a new push to toughen immigrations laws - and the enervating slog to enact a replacement for the Affordable Care Act." On August 17, President Trump announced he would not move forward with a planned Advisory Council on infrastructure.  On September 27, the Washington Post reported that President Trump "told lawmakers that he was abandoning a key element of his planned $1 trillion infrastructure package, complaining that certain partnerships between the private sector and federal government simply don't work. Trump's comments reveal an infrastructure plan that appears to be up in the air as White House officials struggle to decide how to finance many of the projects they envision to rebuild America's road, bridges and tunnels."

On September 29, the New York Times, citing the website Factbase, listed a growing number of examples of President Trump, over the past eight months, promising that the infrastructure bill, including large-scale projects, was coming soon or "in the not-very-distant future." On December 11, CNBC reported "The White House will move forward with a massive infrastructure program in 2018...Observers expect a proposal involving $200 billion in federal spending that is designed to spur as much as $800 billion in state, local and private sector spending."  

15.  Grow the nation's economy by 4 to 6 percent

Background: Candidate Trump said that his policies as president will boost GDP growth to 4%, which is about double the average seen in this century. In some speeches, Trump said his plans would result in even higher GDP growth, perhaps as strong as 5% or 6%. In fact, on October 19, 2016, Bloomberg reported, "Republican Donald Trump says his plan would push growth 5 or 6% while Democrat Hillary Clinton's plan would push economy to contraction."

Benchmarks: Annual economic growth has averaged 2.1 percent since the recession ended in 2009. In 2016, GDP grew 1.5 percent; in 2015, 2.9 percent and in 2014, 2.6 percent.

Update: At a press conference April 24, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin said, "3% or higher sustained economic growth" is the administration's target. However, on May 9 Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said 3% growth is not possible this year and not until all of the Trump administration's tax, regulatory, trade and energy policies are fully in place. GDP growth in the first quarter of 2017 averaged 1.9%.  The second and third quarters showed a gain of three percent.

Writes Juan Williams at TheHill.com on September 4, "Candidate Trump also promised that he would produce 25 million jobs in 10 years with 4 percent GDP growth.  Last week, before news of job growth lagging for the month of August, he went back on that promise by claiming that if he can sustain 3 percent growth it will result in '12 million new jobs.'  But even Trump's crowing about 3 percent GDP growth is misleading.  There were eight quarters during Obama's eight years in office during which GDP growth rose about 3 percent.  In the third quarter of 2014, growth surged to 5.2 percent."

In late September, 2017 President Trump told legislators that the tax reform plan he is promoting will grow the U.S. economy more than 6% a year. That's more than double what even Trump's advisers had hoped for or, as National Review's Kevin D. Williamson wrote on October 1, "The president's argument that it (tax reform) will lead to sustained 6 percent economic growth is pure fantasy."

      16. Create 25 Million New Jobs

Background:
Perhaps no promise was more critical to Trump’s ability to win over voters than the one guaranteeing he would be “the greatest jobs president God ever created.” The Trump campaign pledged that his policies would create 25 million jobs over the next decade, mostly as a result of tax cuts, deregulation, and new trade deals.


Benchmarks: During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, somewhere between 9 and 14 million jobs were created, compared to 5.7 million under George W. Bush and 21 million under Bill Clinton. America’s official unemployment rate has dropped steadily since 2010, and remained below 5% in 2016. The last time unemployment was consistently this low was before the Great Recession.

Update: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reported in late October that roughly 1.65 million jobs had been created since Trump's election in November, 2016.  In the final 11 months of Obama's tenure, 2.09 million jobs were created.

      17.  Bring manufacturing back jobs from China and Mexico and Japan, etc.

Background: At a campaign rally in Michigan, Trump said, "My plan includes a pledge to restore manufacturing in the United States." Among his promises included "Get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country" and convince Ford Motor Co. to not build a massive new plant in Mexico.

Trump also called China the "grand champion" of currency manipulators and promised in his "Contract with the American Voter" to "direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator." He said previous U.S. presidents "haven't had a clue" about how to deal with it.  "I will direct the secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator" in the first 100 days of his presidency. (PROMISE DROPPED) On April 12, a week after meeting the president of China, President Trump told the Wall Street Journal, "They're not current manipulators." According to the report, Trump changed his mind about China so as not to "strain the relationship between China and the United States as the two discuss handling the threat of nuclear weapons in North Korea." On April 29, Trump said, "When they talk about currency manipulation, and I did say I would call China, if they were, a currency manipulator, early in my tenure. And then I get there.  Number one, they - as soon as I got elected, they stopped."  (The New York Times reported that China actually stopped in 2014.)

During a visit to China in November, President Trump, according to a report from the Washington Examiner, "blamed his predecessors for the U.S.'s annual trade deficit with China. 'I don't blame China, I blame the incompetence of past Admins,' he tweeted, 'for allowing China to take advantage of the U.S. on trade leading up to a point where the U.S. is losing $100's of billion. How can you blame China for taking advantage of people that had no clue? I would've done same!'  Trump's comments come after he has long griped about the U.S.-China trade dynamic, calling China a 'current manipulator' during the campaign.  He also said in May 2016 that China was being allowed to 'rape' the U.S. in terms of trade." According to a December 5 report by Politico, the U.S. trade deficit jumped 8.6% in October as "imports from China and other suppliers hit a record high." The monthly trade gap totaled $48.7 billion, the highest level for a full month since President Trump took office. The 2017 deficit is on track to exceed the 2016 level of $505 billion.

Action on the job front:

·         Ford announced in January it would cancel plans to build a new plant in Mexico.  It will invest $700 million instead in Michigan, creating 700 new jobs. Last year, the company had announced plans to invest $1.6 billion in Mexico to transfer production of the Ford Focus from Michigan to Mexico.  Now the Focus will be built at an existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico and Ford will expand its plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.  

·         And then in late June, the Associated Press reported that Ford will "export vehicles from China to the U.S. for the first time starting in 2019." The company will move production of the Ford Focus from the U.S. to China, instead of to Mexico, as originally planned.  "The Trump administration was uncharacteristically subdued in its response to the news," said Todd Spangler and Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press

·         Fiat Chrysler announced in January it would spend $1 billion on U.S. manufacturing, including modernizing plants in Michigan and Ohio, a move that's set to add 2,000 jobs.  According to the company's plan, the plant in Michigan will be made capable of producing a pickup truck currently built in Mexico.   The company insisted the decision had been made more than a year ago.

·         The Seattle Times on Jan. 12 reported, "Amazon.com said it plans to hire 100,000 full-time U.S. employees over the next 18 months, a move that came amid pressure on the private sector by the incoming Trump administration to create jobs." 

·         Also in January, GM announced plans to invest $1 billion in U.S. factories and add or keep 7,000 white-collar and factory jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal.  But, the paper also reported, "General Motors' announcement today is mostly theater to play in the news cycle created by President-elect Trump's tweets," said Michelle Krebs, an auto industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book.  "These investments and hiring plans have long been in the works."  General Motors also began exporting the Buick Envision compact SUV to the U.S. last year from China.

·         On May 3, Apple announced it will invest $1 billion to start a fund geared toward boosting advanced manufacturing in the U.S.

·         On July 30, 2017 the Associated Press reported that Tawian-based Foxconn's decision to build a $10 billion plant and possibly hire up to 13,000 workers in Wisconsin to build flat-panel display screens for TVs and other electronics is a sign "America has been regaining some of its competitive edge.  The Reshoring Initiative, a nonprofit set up to restore American factory jobs, says that last year, for the first time in decades, the number of manufacturing job created by U.S. companies that moved operations back to the United States and by foreign companies invested in America exceeded the jobs lost by U.S. companies moving abroad."  Under the Wisconsin deal, Foxconn could receive up to $3 billion in state incentives over the next 15 years, equaling $230,769 per employee. On August 6, Reuters reported "Wisconsin is not expected to break even on a $3 billion incentive package...for at least 25 years, a legislative analysis showed."  April Glaser at Slate.com warned “Wisconsinites shouldn’t bust out the six-pack” in celebration just yet.  Foxconn is infamous for making big promises to job-hungry communities, only to quietly back out later.  In 2013, the company grabbed headlines by announcing it would build a $30 million factory employing 500 workers in Pennsylvania. But the plant “was never actually built, and there’s no sign it will ever happen.”  Similar deals have fallen by the wayside in Vietnam and Indonesia.

·         In early August, Toyota and Mazda announced plans to build a new $1.6 billion joint production facility in the United States, creating as many as 4,000 new jobs. Toyota also announced it would continue construction on an auto plant in central Mexico.

·         On October 23, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tesla is set to become the first foreign car company to have its own factory in China. The electric-car maker has struck a deal with the Shanghai government to build a "whole owned factory in the city's free-trade zone." The arrangement will require Tesla to pay the 25 percent tariff that China imposes on foreign vehicles but the company will not be forced to divulge its trade secrets - something other foreign automakers are required to do when they set up joint ventures with Chinese car companies.

·         On November 3, a day after the Republican House introduced a tax reform plan, the Associated Press reported that Broadcom Limited, a $100 billion semi-conductor company based in Singapore, will relocate its home address to Delaware, bringing $20 billion in annual revenue back to the U.S. "The company credits the GOP (tax reform) plan with making it easier to do business in the U.S. However, Broadcom's move to the U.S. will take place regardless of whether the Republican plan passes, the company said." 

Fact check: At his February 28 speech to Congress, the President took credit for Ford and many other companies announcing "that they will invest billions and billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs." Politico reported that "many of those were already in the works before Trump took office or even won the presidency." Softbank, Fiat-Chrysler, Walmart and GM - all cited by Trump in his speech to Congress - had announced their new investments and jobs before the election. 

On May 13, Steven Rattner at the New York Times completed an analysis of Trump's claims of creating or retaining jobs for U.S. workers and concluded: "A thorough review of Mr. Trump's celebrations reveals that virtually none of the pronouncements involved jobs generated or preserved by the new president's actions.  Indeed, they mostly consisted of a rehash of old decisions - some with origins dating back as many as six years - or plans made independently by companies for their own business reasons." Rattner reported that in late March the president tweeted that he was "thrilled to announce a commitment of $25 billion and 20,000 Americans jobs over the next four years" by Charter Communications.  That commitment was made by Charter in June 2015. "In fact, there not a single job that the president can clearly take responsibility for creating and only one case of jobs being retained because of his efforts, the 800 positions that Carrier was persuaded shortly after Mr. Trump's election not to send to Mexico. Even those few jobs came at a stiff price - $7 million of incentives from the state of Indiana, where Vice President-elect Mike Pence was still governor." But on November 9, Gregg Re of Fox News reported, "Carrier Corp., the HVAC manufacturer that had planned to move its operations to Mexico before President Trump staged a much-heralded intervention, said Tuesday it is gearing up for yet another round of layoffs.  Less than four months after it laid off nearly 340 employees at its Indianapolis factory, Carrier announced that 215 more employees will be terminated on Jan. 11. 'Trump came in there to the factory last December and blew smoke up our a---s,' Brenda Darlene Battle, a long-time Carrier employee, told The New Yorker. 'He wasn't gonna save those jobs.'" 
    
     18. Get rid of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform - STATUS - First steps taken

Update: On February 3, Bloomberg Politics reported the Trump Administration had ordered - by executive action of the President - a sweeping review of the Dodd-Frank Act rules enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis. The 2010 law reined in risky mortgage practices and derivatives trading, and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "The executive orders are intended to relieve restrictions and scrutiny that post-crisis regulations have put on banks," Bloomberg reported. "The orders are the most aggressive steps yet by Trump to loosen regulations in the financial services industry and come after he has sought to stock his administration with veterans of the industry in key positions." According to the Washington Examiner, "Trump and his allies have repeatedly blasted Dodd-Frank, arguing the legislation prevents community banks from lending to small businesses by forcing them to comply with the same burdensome rules that apply to big banks." On October 24, the Senate passed a bill eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new rule that would have allowed millions of Americans "to band together in class-action lawsuits against financial institutions," reported the New York Times. "For decades, credit card companies and banks have inserted arbitration clauses into the fine print of financial contracts to circumvent the courts and bar people from pooling their resources in class-action lawsuits. By forcing people into private arbitration, the clauses effectively take away one of the few tools that individuals have to fight predatory and deceptive business practices." The president signed the bill on November 1, 2017. Politico reported that at the signing ceremony "Trump reportedly vented about (CFPB head Richard) Cordray's overly aggressive approach to protecting consumers from financial ripoffs."  

19.  Allow corporations a one-time window to transfer money being held overseas - STATUS - First step taken

Background: Currently, corporations are required to pay up to 35% of their earnings in taxes to "repatriate" overseas profits. Trump has indicated he wants to charge a much-reduced one-time tax of 10 percent. It is estimated US companies hold about $2.5 trillion abroad. In its May 12 issue, The Week reported that "Apple has more than $250 billion in cash, an amount greater than the market value of Walmart and more than the foreign currency reserves of the United Kingdom and Canada combined.  More than 90 percent of Apple's cash is held outside the U.S."

Update: President Trump on November 1 said that as a result of tax reform Congress is working on, "$4 trillion will be brought back" into the U.S. And on November 2 the House GOP released their tax reform bill, which, if passed, would permit repatriation of profits stockpiled overseas at a one-time 12 percent rate. According to CNBC, tech giants like Apple, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle combined have nearly $500 billion cash and cash equivalents held overseas.

      20. Bring back the coal industry 

Background:  At a memorable campaign stop in West Virginia in May, 2016, Trump told miners holding "Trump Digs Coal" signs, "Get ready, because you're going to be working your ass off!"

Update: President Trump signed a resolution February 16 repealing regulations on the coal industry that were issued by the Obama administration in its final weeks. Trump called the Stream Protection Rule regulation "another terrible job killing rule" and said ending it would save "many thousands American jobs, especially in the mines." The Associated Press reported  June 27 that "the world's biggest coal users - China, the United States and India - have boosted coal mining in 2017...Production through May is up by at least 121 million tons, or six percent, for the three countries compared to the same period last year.  The change is most dramatic in the U.S., where coal mining rose 19 percent in the first five months." The Bureau of Labor Statistic noted in June that employment in mining has risen by 47,000 since reaching a low point in October 2016. Most of the gain came in support activities for mining. 

On August 8, the New York Times reported the Trump administration is taking active steps to open government-owned land in the West to more coal mining and "exploit commercial opportunities on public lands", contrary to efforts by the Obama Administration to restrict such usage. "Mr. Trump's Interior Department is drawing up plans to reduce wilderness and historic areas that are now protected as national monuments, creating even more opportunities for profit."

The Hill reported on September 2 that Trump has nominated David Zatezalo, a former executive at Rhino, a coal company, to the nation’s top mining safety post. “During Zatezalo’s time as an executive at Rhino, the company was issued two ‘pattern of violations’ letters from Mine Health and Safety Administration over safety issues at their mines. Federal officials at the time were cracking down on safety standards after the fatal 2010 Upper Big Branch mining disaster in West Virginia that left 29 miners dead." (Zatezalo was confirmed November 15.)  On October 5, the New York Times reported that Trump had nominated Andrew R. Wheeler, a coal lobbyist, to help lead the Environmental Protection Agency.  According to the report, Wheeler was "hailed by industry as having the know-how to dismantle Obama-era fossil fuel regulations. The nomination comes at a critical moment for the EPA as the agency prepares to repeal a sweeping climate change regulation known as the Clean Power Plan." And on October 29, the Daily Beast reported that the president had nominated Steven Gardner to head up the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.  Gardner's firm has worked on behalf of the coal industry "to conduct a comprehensive critical review" of the office's Stream Protection Rule.

On October 10, the Trump administration officially moved to kill the Obama-era climate change rule for power plants by repealing the Clean Power Plan, fulfilling a campaign pledge but setting off what is expected to be a bitter legal battle between the EPA and several states, health and environmental groups. Politico reported, "The Trump administration has hailed the withdrawal as a victory for coal, but market experts say the outlook for the fuel is still dim.  'Withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan won't clear the deck for new coal generation.  The economics of natural gas and renewables are more favorable, now and in our future scenarios.' Bloomberg New Energy Finance Policy Editor Steph Munro said.'"  Natural gas power generation tripled between 2009 and 2016.  Tweeted former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, "The EPA can repeal the Clean Power Plan but not the laws of economics.  This won't revive coal or stop the U.S. from reaching our Paris goal." On November 15, NBC News reported that the Mine Health and Safety Administration "has already moved to roll back and delay Obama-era regulations intended to protect workers in one of the country's most dangerous industries."  

Reality Check: Trump made his  promise to revitalize the coal industry despite America's shift to natural gas, the steady technology-driven move toward renewable energy sources and huge productivity gains in the coal industry (i.e. work that required 10 miners now requires just one.) On March 29, Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight.com reported, "Coal's biggest problem isn't regulation - it's natural gas. For decades, coal was the dominant source of electrical power in the U.S. But starting in the mid-1990s, the twin technologies of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and horizontal drilling led to a surge in natural-gas production, which in turn pushed down prices.  That, along with other facts - gas-fired power plants are cheaper to build and operate than coal-fired ones, for example - led power companies to burn more gas and less coal." Casselman said the second most powerful factor challenging the growth of coal miner employment is automation. "Employment in the mining industry has been falling for decades, a decline that long predates the recent drop in coal production."

On July 18, Jane C. Timm at NBC News reported that President Trump's recent boast that the nation had added 45,000 mining jobs recently was not backed up by the data.  "The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are roughly 50,800 coal mining jobs nationwide, 800 of which have been added since Trump took office. (The six months before that, under President Barack Obama's administration, 1,300 coal jobs were added.) This isn't the first time we've heard Trump's numbers. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt made a similar claim speaking about all mining and logging jobs earlier this year, earning a PolitiFact ruling of 'mostly false.'"

And on August 10, Bloomberg News reported Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia, ground-zero for Trump's efforts to boost the coal industry, "told the president that rolling back environmental rules, which is Trump's current approach to helping coal country, is not going to be enough to help his state's coal miners." Gov. Jim Justice is "pitching the idea of federal coal subsidies...in which the federal government pays power plants to buy Appalachian coal." The Wall Street Journal reported Justice is seeking "some $4.5 billion a year in federal funding for eastern coalfields." (On a related note, on October 23 the Washington Examiner reported that the Trump administration is working to "save the largest coal-fired power plant in the West.  The deliberations over the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona are beginning to heat up after months of confidential, behind-the-scenes negotiations to secure new owners. The Trump administration ramped up efforts to save the plant after low natural gas prices prompted the owners to decide to close the plant by the end of the year.")

Despite Trump's decision to repeal the Obama-era Stream Protection Rule and  the Clean Power Plan, coal, wrote Michael Grunwald at Politico on October 16, "is continuing its slump despite Trump's support.  Utilities have announced the retirements of 12 more coal-fired power plants since he took office, including two massive ones in Texas.  That announcement marked a milestone: Half of America's coal fleet has been marked for mothballs since 2010, a total of 262 doomed plants.  And as jobs go, coal mining is now a tiny sliver of the U.S. economy, employing about 52,000 Americans last month, down 70 percent over three decades. (The count is up about 4 percent since Trump took office, but mostly because a snafu in China's steel industry temporarily boosted U.S. exports.) By contrast, the solar and wind industries employed almost 10 times as many Americans last year."




    Tax Policies 

21.  Lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15% and get rid of most corporate tax loopholes or incentives - STATUS - First step taken on corporate rate, corporate tax loophole promise is being reconsidered


Update: Candidate Trump's "Contract with the American Voter" promised a drop in the corporate rate to 15%. He also promised to eliminate "corporate loopholes that cater to special interests." On September 27, President Trump and GOP leaders in the House released details on a tax reform package that will cut corporate tax rates from 35% to 20%, the lowest corporate rate since 1940. On November 2, the House GOP released its tax reform bill, which would lower the corporate tax to 20%. The GOP leadership in the Senate released its tax proposal on November 9. It provides for a 20% corporate tax but does not make it effective until 2019. On November 28, Ezra Klein at Vox.com wrote that "loopholes abound" in the current Senate tax bill. "There's a giant shortcut for businesses that make less than $100 million and want to shelter their profits abroad.  There's a bizarre allowance for businesses to deduct both their expenses and the interest on the debt they take on, leading to potentially negative tax rates on new investments. A list like this could go on: A New York Times report identifies some other apparent loopholes, and remember that there are many we don't know about yet because tax lawyers haven't found them yet."  

Commentary: Chris Macke, founder of the think tank Solutionomics, wrote at The Hill on November 3, "In 2000, the tax rate paid by companies after all deductions, known as the 'effective corporate tax rate,' was 29.4 percent.  In 2016, the effective corporate tax rate was 18.6 percent. Not surprisingly, corporate profits after taxes increased 250 percent during the same period as companies kept more of their profits. You would expect, based on today's argument for cutting the corporate tax rate, that business investment would have skyrocketed during the same period, but it didn't. While corporate profits after taxes increased 250 percent, nonresidential business investment increased by just 55 percent. What happened? Instead of business investment skyrocketing as promised, net corporate dividend payments increased 2.55 times from 2000 to 2016 and undistributed corporate profits increased 7.26 times during the same period.  Rather than leading to skyrocketing business investment, corporate dividends and undistributed corporate profits experienced outsized growth. It seems companies didn't have enough good investment opportunities."  
      22.  Give middle class a large tax cut, reduce the number of tax brackets and raise taxes on the rich  - STATUS -Promise to give middle class large tax cut being reconsidered as is reducing the number of brackets.

Background: Trump promised in his "Contract with the American Voter," that the "largest tax reductions are for the middle class...A middle class family with two children will get a 35% tax cut." 

Candidate Trump also promised to eliminate "most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich" and at an April 21, 2016 town hall exchange on NBC's Today also promised his tax cuts would be the working families, not the rich: Host Savannah Guthrie: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?  Trump:  I do. I do. Including myself. I do."  (Promise being reconsidered)

Other elements of his promise include: reduce the number of tax brackets to three and eliminate income tax on single individuals earning less than $25,000 per year or couples earning less than $50,000. (Promise being reconsidered)

Update: According to Brian Faler at Politico, writing November 12, “The Senate's plan to rewrite the tax code would go much further than a competing House proposal toward making good on Republican promises to focus on the middle class, a new report shows. Moderate-income people would consistently see the largest percentage declines in their tax bills, according to an analysis released late Saturday by the official, nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. Unlike with the House plan that trend holds up throughout the period over which JCT analyzed the Senate proposal.Appearing on CNN November 12, President Trump's Treasury secretary Mnuchin said most middle income Americans will get a tax break under the Republican plan brewing in Congress. But he stopped short of saying that break would be for all of them. "For most people -- and, again, it may not be 100 percent, but by far the majority -- both the House and Senate version provide middle-income tax relief." Mnuchin's comments came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked back his claim that "nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase" under the Senate's version of the reform plan. McConnell told the New York Times that he "misspoke." On November 19, AP News reported, "Many families making less than $30,000 a year would face tax increases starting in 2021 under the Senate bill, according to Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. By 2027, families earning less than $75,000 would see their tax bills rise while those making more would enjoy reductions." The Tax Policy Center reported November 21 that "the bill would reduce taxes on average for all income groups in both 2019 and 2025. In general, higher income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income, with the largest cuts as a share of income going to taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of income distribution.  On average in 2027, taxes would rise modestly for the lowest-income group, change little for middle-income groups, and decrease for higher-income groups."   

Are the rich (and President Trump) getting the largest tax cut?

On September 29, Politico reported, "The top 1 percent of income earners would be the biggest winners under (House) Republicans' plans to rewrite the tax code, according to a new analysis, while some moderate-income people would face tax increases. About 30 percent of those earning between $50,000 and $150,000, and 60% of those taking home between $150,000 and $200,000, would pay more under the Republican plan, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. On average, those in the top 1 percent would see a tax cut of $207,000 while those in the center of the income spectrum would receive on average a $420 tax cut, the report found."     

According to analysis by both the New York Times and the Washington Post, the House proposal would save Trump and his family multi-millions of dollars due to several factors, including the proposed repeal of the alternative minimum tax and the proposed repeal of the estate tax. The Times, with the help of tax experts, estimated "President Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year, under his proposed tax changes."  Based on his estimated worth of $2.86 billion, the proposed elimination of the estate tax "could save his family about $1.1 billion" in federal taxes.  Elimination of the alternative minimum tax "would save him $31.3 million." And Trump could save another $6.2 million on business income and $9.8 million on income from real estate and other kinds of partnerships. CNN Money's Jeanne Sahadi wrote, "Trump in particular has claimed several times that he would pay more under the GOP plan.  That seems implausible given that so many provisions would directly benefit him and his family. One of the biggest is the lower tax burden on pass-through entities, which are how Trump's more than 500 businesses are structured."

On October 13, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin openly conceded that eliminating the estate tax does benefit the wealthy. "Obviously, the estate tax, I will concede, disproportionately helps rich people."  He said many Americans give half their income to the government through taxes and they should not need to continue to give the government more once they die.  Only a few thousand extremely wealthy estates are impacted by the "death tax" each year. According to analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, nearly 50 percent of the benefits of the Senate tax bill would go to the top 5% of earners in the first year.  Half of all Americans will, in fact, be paying more taxes by 2027.

On December 6, President Trump acknowledged, for the first time, that there could be some Americans who might not benefit from the tax-cut package before Congress.  "We're going to try to take care of even that very small group of people," he said at a cabinet meeting. "But the middle class gets a tremendous benefit, and business, which is jobs, gets a tremendous benefit."

A History: Trump promises his tax cuts are for the middle class, not the rich:

·         Candidate Trump, at an April 21, 2016 town hall exchange on NBC's Today: Savannah Guthrie: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?  Trump:  I do. I do. Including myself. I do." 

·         "The thing I'm going to do is make sure the middle class gets good tax breaks," said Trump on Meet the Press on May 8, 2016.  "Because they have been absolutely shunned.  For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it's going to go up (talking about the tax rate). And you know what, it really should go up."

On October 22, 2016 in Gettysburg, PA., candidate Trump said, "The largest tax reductions are for the middle class, who have been forgotten."

On February 15, 2017, the President said, "We'll lower rates very, very substantially for virtually everybody in every category, including personal and business."

·         On July 25, 2017, President Trump told the Wall Street Journal, "The people I care most about are the middle-income people in this country, who have gotten screwed. If there's an upward revision (on personal tax rates) it's going to be on high-income people." Trump also said, "You know, I was with Bob Kraft the other night.  He came to have dinner with me.  He's a friend of mine.  And as he left, he said, Donald, don't worry about the rich people. Tax the rich people.  You got to take care of the people in the country.  It was a very interesting statement. I feel the same way."

·         On September 15, the New York Times reported, "Mr. Trump also reiterated what he said earlier this week, declaring that the tax plan would not benefit the wealthiest Americans. 'This is not a plan for the rich,' Mr. Trump added."

·         On September 21, the Los Angeles Times quoted Mr. Trump as saying, "My priority is people in the middle class, and that's where we're giving the big tax reduction to." In another setting he said, "My plan is for the working people. There's very little benefit for people of wealth. I don't benefit. I don't benefit."

·         On September 27, the day Trump announced the tax plan, he said, "I'm doing the right thing, and it's not good for me, believe me. My plan is for the working people, and my plan is for jobs. I don't benefit."  Two days later the president told a gathering, "We will cut taxes for everyday, hard-working Americans, and we're going to cut them substantially.  Our framework ensures that the benefits of tax reform go to the middle class, not the highest earners." 

·         President Trump insisted on October 11, "By eliminating tax breaks and special interest loopholes that primarily benefit the wealthy, our framework ensures that the benefits of tax reform go to the middle class, not to the highest earners.  It's a middle class bill. That's what we're thinking of. That's what I want."

·         But once again, this time on October 16, President Trump said, "We want to make sure that the middle class is the biggest beneficiary of the tax cuts and tax reform." 

·         According to AXIOS, on October 25 President Trump attended a special meeting of the GOP Senate members and was asked if rich people should get a tax cut.  Trump said no.

·         On November 7, President Trump again promised that the GOP tax reform bill will "kill" him. "My accountant called me," he told Democrats by phone during his Asian trip, "and said, 'you're going to get killed in this bill.'" West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told the press, "The bottom line is the president told me specifically that this is not a tax cut for the rich - it's a tax cut for the hard-working middle class, so I'm looking at everything we're seeing." 

A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
                                                                                                        -         Niccolò Machiavelli


      23.  Eliminate the carried interest loophole for Wall Street  - STATUS - Promise being reconsidered


Background: What is the carried interest loophole? It's a 23% tax rate that allows Wall Street investors, hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, real estate developers and mutual fund managers to avoid the 39.6% tax rate paid by salaried Americans.  They do this with investments that are taxed as long-term capital gains rather than as ordinary income. In 2015, Trump said, "The hedge fund guys didn't build this country.  These are guys that shift paper around, and they get lucky." He added, "They make a fortune. They pay no tax.  It's ridiculous, O.K.?" Candidate Trump promised that "carried interest will be taxed as ordinary income" to "ensure the rich will pay their fair share." 

Update: On September 29, White House Economic Advisor Gary Cohn said, "The president remains committed to ending the carried interest deduction.  As we continue to evolve on the (tax reform) framework, the president has made it clear to the tax writers and Congress.  Carried interest is one of those loopholes that we talk about when he talks about getting rid of loopholes that affect wealthy Americans." However, on November 2 the GOP leadership in the House introduced, with President Trump's blessings, its tax reform package. The plan does not include language to eliminate the carried interest loophole. The GOP Senate bill released November 9 also ignores Trump's promise. 

Commentary:  James B. Stewart at the New York Times wrote on November 10, "There is no more glaring example of the House Republicans' indifference to the inequities embedded in the tax code than the treatment of so-called carried interest.  For decades, the carried interest provision has enabled wealthy private equity managers, hedge fund managers and real estate investors to pay the lower capital gains rate (20 percent, not counting the Obama health care surcharge of 3.8 percent) on their income rather than the rate on ordinary income (a maximum of 39.6 percent). The former Republican candidate Mitt Romney was excoriated for taking advantage of the loophole in 2012, and as a candidate Mr. Trump repeatedly promised to close it.  Yet in the House plan unveiled last week, and in the Senate plan released Thursday, the carried interest loophole emerged unscathed." On November 24, Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast asked and answered the question, "Why was Trump, who has never shown much interest in details, suddenly obsessing over this one obscure provision in the tax law?  Trump's advisers and donors include the very Wall Street plutocrats who benefit from the loophole: Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Stephen Schwarzman, Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn.  So do some of the biggest donors to the Republican Party. And so now, that lofty campaign promise is vapor."

      24. Eliminate the federal estate tax, the alternative minimum tax and the so-called marriage penalty that affects some high-income earners.  - STATUS - First steps taken

Update: On April 26, President Trump's economic team released a one-page tax reform proposal that included elimination of the federal estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, as candidate Trump promised in his "Contract with the American Voter."  Trump also promised during the campaign to eliminate the feature in the tax code that charges some married couples a higher tax rate than if they were filing individually. Trump campaigned on making the taxable income of an individual filer exactly half of that of a married couple. (In other words, a single person making between $50,001 and $150,000 would be taxed at the same rate as a couple filing jointly with a combined income between $100,001 and $300,000.)

Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com wrote the tax proposals forwarded by the Trump Administration will be a "massive tax cut for the rich," including the President and his family. Scrapping the alternative minimum tax, which cost Trump $31 million in 2005, will save him millions going forward and ending the estate tax would save the Trump family up to $4 billion. The AMT was designed to prevent the rich from excessive tax dodging by forcing people who earn more than about $130,000 to calculate their taxes twice, once with all the deductions they can find and the AMT method, which prevents most tax breaks.  

On November 2, the GOP House leadership introduced its tax reform bill. It includes language to eliminate the federal estate tax after five years, eliminate the alternative minimum tax and eliminate the so-called marriage penalty. Joe Cunningham of Redstate concluded, "Trump family businesses and big businesses like them stand to benefit the most from this package as it stands." On November 9, the GOP leadership in the Senate released its tax proposal, which also eliminates the alternative minimum tax but does not eliminate the estate tax. The amount of money in the estate that can be exempted from the inheritance tax, however, is doubled from $11 million to $22 million.   


    Domestic Policies 
    
      25.  Paid maternity leave plus make child care more affordable  STATUS - Promises being reconsidered

Background: During a speech in suburban Pennsylvania September 14, 2016, candidate Trump, flanked by his daughter Ivanka Trump, a working mother who helped craft the policies, said he would seek to make child care expenses tax deductible for families earning less than $500,000 and called for establishing tax-free accounts to be used for child care and child enrichment activities. He also called for guaranteeing six weeks' maternity leave to biological mothers by extending unemployment insurance benefits to working mothers whose employers do not offer paid maternity leave. "We can provide six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit."

Update: At his first speech before Congress in late February, President Trump told the nation: "My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents that they have paid family leave."  The proposal would cost an estimated $500 billion over 10 years, according to Bloomberg. On April 26, the Trump Administration released a one-page tax reform proposal that offers "relief for families with child and dependent expenses" but doesn't explicitly say what form this relief would take. On May 22, President Trump released his 2018 budget, which includes $25 billion over 10 years to support Ivanka Trump's family leave proposal. The program, which Republicans have long resisted, would give fathers and mothers six weeks of paid time-off to care for a new child and would, according to the White House, benefit 1.3 million caregivers.  

On May 25, the Wall Street Journal criticized Ivanka Trump's plan in an editorial: "President Trump is asking Republicans to start a bidding war for government family benefits, which is bad policy and worse politics. Mr. Trump's budget would require states to provide six weeks of paid family leave for new mothers and fathers, as well as adoptive parents."  Ivanka Trump responded in a WSJ piece defending her proposal. "The reality is that in 63% of American homes with children, all parents work.  Providing a national guaranteed paid-leave program - with a reasonable time limit and benefit cap - isn't an entitlement, it's an investment in America's working families."  She went on to point out, "A 2012 study found that women who took paid family leave were more likely to be working a year after their child's birth than those who didn't take leave, and that women who took leave and returned to work were 39% less likely to report receiving public assistance than those who didn't."

On November 27, Vox.com reported that Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fl) and Mike Lee (R-UT) "have spent months working with Ivanka Trump and persuaded her to abandon her plan to add a tax deduction for child care in favor of an increased child tax credit. But Senate leaders have fallen short of the more refundable credit Rubio and Lee want.  Slowly, the additional $1,000 would become refundable, but not initially, sharply limiting how much the expansion helps the poor." 

         
26. Propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress. - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: The Trump campaign issued the "Donald J. Trump Contract with the American Voter" and listed, as its first promise, a term limit Constitutional Amendment. The "Contract" stated: "On the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C." #1 - a term limit Constitution amendment. At a campaign rally on October 18, 2016, Trump said, "If I'm elected president, I will push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress." 

Update: No action or proposals have been forwarded by the Trump administration regarding this promise. There is also no evidence that he has spoken publicly about this promise since his inauguration. 

27.  Reduce and eliminate the $19 trillion national debt - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: Reducing and eliminating the national debt will be achieved by "vigorously eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, ending redundant government programs and growing the economy to increase tax revenues."  Part of this plan would be implementing the "Penny Plan," reducing net spending by 1% each year. (But exempting defense and public safety spending.) Trump promised "the plan will reduce spending by almost $1 trillion without touching defense or entitlement spending." He also told the Washington Post on April 2, 2016 that he would be able to get rid of the nation’s more than $19 trillion national debt “over a period of eight years." Asked how, Trump said, "I'm renegotiating all of our deals, the big trade deals that we're doing so badly on." He said that economic growth would enable the U.S. to pay down the debt. 

Update: Trump named Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to the key position of director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Mulvaney promised "The Trump administration will restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington after eight years of an out-of-control, tax and spend financial agenda." However, less than a week after his inauguration, President Trump told Sean Hannity, "So a balanced budget is fine.  But sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going.  And we have to take care of our military.  Our military is more important to me than a balance budget." Then on April 12, Susan Wright at Redstate quoted Mulvaney explaining Trump's promise to eliminate the national debt.  "It's fairly safe to assume that was hyperbole.  I'm not going to be able to pay off $20 trillion worth of debt in four years.  I'd be being dishonest with you if I said I could.  The reason the president doesn't want to change some of the mandatory spending is because the public's not ready for it yet."  On May 4, President Trump was interviewed by The Economist. They asked if it was okay if his tax plan increased the deficit. "It is OK, because it won't increase it for long.  You may have two years where you'll...you understand the expression 'prime the pump'? We have to prime the pump."  

On July 15, Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press reported the "White House says worsening tax revenues will cause the budget deficit to jump to $702 billion this year.  That's a $99 billion spike from what was predicted less than two months ago.  The White House budget office also says the deficit for the 2018 budget year that starts on Oct. 1 will increase by $149 billion to $589 billion." 

In September, Texas, Florida and other states were hard hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Trump immediately signed a $15 billion relief package.  Wrote federal budget expert Stan Collender at Forbes.com, "With preliminary relief estimates ranging between $100 billion and $200 billion and almost no one in Washington pushing for offsets for that spending, the federal deficit could easily approach $1 trillion in both 2018 and 2019." 

The Washington Post reported October 8, "The federal government is projected to spend $4.1 trillion in 2018 and bring in $3.5 trillion through taxes and other revenue.  That deficit is projected to expand each year if no changes are made to the budget."

Budget director Mulvaney, a strong deficit hawk when he was a Republican congressman, said on October 1 in an interview with CNN regarding the need to grow the economy, "I've been very candid about this.  We need to have new deficits because of that. We need to have the growth.  If we simply look at this as being deficit-neutral, you're never going to get the type of tax reform and tax reductions that you need to get a sustained three percent economic growth."  Commented Ed Morrissey at Hotair.com, "Besides the obvious conflict with Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric on deficits and national debt...Mulvaney has become a fan of deficits, as long as they're 'new deficits,' which apparently means deficits run up by Republicans." On October 10, President Trump told Sean Hannity that the stock market has "picked up" $5.2 trillion in value since his election, "So you could say, in one sense, we're really increasing values.  And maybe in a sense, we're reducing debt."

Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press reported October 20 that the Senate passed a $4 trillion budget with a $1.5 trillion deficit. "The measure doesn't promise to balance the budget, projecting deficits that would never drop below $400 billion." Stan Collender wrote on October 22, "The spending and taxing policies about to be put in place by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress will balloon the federal deficit to $1 trillion or more every year going forward." Commented Patterico at Redstate, "You don't have to agree with every aspect of Collender's numerical analysis to see that Trump is not interested in controlling spending. Remember: former deficit hawk turned spendthrift Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney said, 'We need to have new deficits because of that. We need to have the growth.' And a GOP Congress  - which sometimes pretends to act on behalf of limited government when a Democrat is in office - gains zero political mileage out of opposing big spending when it is proposed by a Republican president."

The Associated Press reported November 14 that the federal deficit in the budget year 2017 totaled $666 billion, up 13.7 percent for the 2016 deficit. 

On November 2, the House GOP submitted tax reform legislation that would, like the Senate budget bill, add up to $1.5 trillion over 10 years to the national deficit, "A move," the Washington Post commented, "that contrasts with Republicans' efforts under President Barack Obama to block legislation that could have expanded the deficit." The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the overall cost of the GOP House tax bill will "cause debt to exceed the size of the economy by 2028." On November 16, the president urged the House to pass its tax bill, which would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

The Treasury Department reported that at the end of September, foreign holdings of U.S. debt were $6.23 trillion, up from $5.95 trillion when Trump became president.  China has regained its spot as the United States' biggest creditor. 

“Americans like big government.
They just don't like paying for it."
- Robert Samuelson

      28. Get rid of Common Core - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: Common Core created a set of academic standards within the subjects of English and math throughout our public school system. Trump pledged to abolish Common Core, saying that education should be managed on a local level – not a national one (though Common Core is not a federal program). He called Common Core "a disaster" and a "very bad thing." On March 3, 2016 at a GOP presidential debate, Trump said, "We're cutting Common Core.  We're getting rid of Common Core.  We're bringing education locally."   

Update: TIME magazine reported on December 22, 2016, "Both Trump and (Secretary of Education Betsy) DeVos have promised to 'end' the controversial state-based achievement standards.  But the Education Department is forbidden under the new federal law from either setting such benchmarks or incentivizing states of adopt them.  Common Core was adopted by state lawmakers, and will also have to be dismantled by them."  And, according to a report by the Washington Post in April, many states are still using the standards. "A recent analysis found that of the 46 states that adopted the standards, eight states have officially repealed or withdrawn, 21 states have finalized revisions - many of them minor - or have revision processes underway, and 27 states have not made any changes." But that hasn't stopped DeVos from claiming, as she did in April on Fox News that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 has done away with Common Core. "There isn't really any Common Core anymore.  Each state is able to set standards for their state.  They may elect to adopt very high standards for their student to aspire to and to work toward.  And that will be up to each state."  But as the Washington Post pointed out in its story, "Of course there still is something known as Common Core.  What she may have meant was that the federal government can't tell states what to do about the Core, though, again, it couldn't force states to adopt them before ESSA was passed." On September 19, the Associated Press reported that only eight states - out of 45 that initiated Common Core - had moved to repeal the standards. "The core of the common core remains in almost every state that adopted them," said Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. As of December, there is no record of President Trump addressing this issue in a speech or administratively.

      29. "Be the nation's biggest cheerleader for school choice." 

Background: Trump's "100-day action plan" included a promise to introduce legislation to allow families to redirect their share of education spending to "give parents the right to send their kid to public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice."  His campaign's education vision  said he supported $20 billion in federal funding to send low-income students to private and charter schools.

Pushback: TIME magazine in December reported: "Trump's federal voucher plan would require not only that Congress allocate $20 billion to the program - a potentially heavy lift given that lawmakers have already promised tax cuts and a balance budget. It would also require states to pony up another $110 billion."

Update: On February 28, at his first speech before Congress, the President said, "I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them." After his inauguration, Trump asked Congress to create a national school voucher program and to allot $1.4 billion toward school choice in 2018.

On October 8, the Washington Post reported, "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has touted online learning as a school-choice solution for rural America, saying that virtual charter schools provide educational options that wouldn't otherwise exist.  But in Pennsylvania, an early adopter where more than 30,000 kids log into virtual charter schools from home most days, the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent.  Not one virtual charter school meets the state's 'passing' benchmark."

On November 1, Tim Alberta at Politico Magazine reported, "Accomplishing any version of her life's mission - disrupting the K-12 system - hinges on whether (DeVos) can persuade Congress to alter its model for funding education policy nationwide. And in her first try, earlier this year, she failed. She failed to persuade the committees of jurisdiction in Congress to approve her and the department's budget request, which would have slashed funding to other initiatives in the name of expanding DeVos' pet cause, school choice.  It amounted to an embossing repudiation of a president and a secretary in their first year, when there is traditionally the most political capital to spend - especially considering Republicans control both the House and the Senate."

      30. Appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade - STATUS - First step taken

Background: At the third debate, Trump was asked about abortion by moderator Chris Wallace. He confirmed that he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade — the monumental court case that legalized abortion in 1973.

Update:  President Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 8.  As of this date, there are no pending cases before the Supreme Court that will test the President's promise.

     31.  On his first day in office, get rid of gun-free zones at military bases and in schools - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: Candidate Trump pledged to eliminate gun-free zones on his first day in office to keep the United States safe from mass shootings.  "I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and - you have to - and on military bases," told a Burlington, VT. rally January 8, 2016.  "My first day, it gets signed, okay?  My first day.  There's no more gun-free zones." (The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act prohibits firearms from being carried in schools.)

Update: By April 1, President Trump had signed 11 measures from Congress revoking regulations that took effect during the final months of the Obama administration, including limitations on gun purchases by 75,000 mentally ill people determined by the Social Security Administration to be incapable of handling their own finances. As of December, 2017, the president has not, however, taken any action or made any comments regarding his promise to get rid of gun-free zones. 

     32. Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cutting benefits - STATUS - Promise being reconsidered

Background: Trump promised repeatedly during his White House bid not to touch entitlements. "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid." He added, "Have to do it.  Get rid of the fraud.  Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it." Before entering the race he tweeted, "I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid."  He also tweeted, in 2015, "The Republicans who want to cut (Social Security) & Medicaid are wrong."

Update: On March 6 the House leadership introduced a repeal and replace bill for Obamacare that would cut, according to the Congressional Budget Office, $880 billion from federal Medicaid funds over the next 10 years.  In all, CBO projected that total Medicaid spending would be 25 percent less in 2026 than under current law. The program would insure 14,000,000 fewer Americans. And on March 16, the House Budget Committee voted to recommend further cuts to Medicaid beyond the $880 billion already targeted. On March 24, House Speaker Ryan and President Trump, who called the bill "wonderful," pulled the repeal and replace bill after Republicans in the House declined support. However, on May 4, the House passed the bill - the American Health Care Act - which includes the $880 billion cut to Medicaid. President Trump on May 22 released his 2018 budget proposal which, in fact, would cut Medicaid and several Social Security programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance, by over $850 billion over the next ten years. Medicaid currently covers about 73 million Americans. SSDI covers approximately 10 million Americans.

On October 7, the Washington Post reported that "Trump rejected a proposal from White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to curb future Medicare and Social Security spending, saying he had promised voters in 2016 that he would not touch those programs." But then on October 20, Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press reported that the Senate has passed a $4 trillion budget that "calls from $473 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid."

On December 6, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that congressional Republicans will aim to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs in 2018. The Washington Post reported, "Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Donald Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program and primarily insures the elderly.  'I think the president is understanding that choice and competition works everywhere in health care, especially in Medicare.'"  The story also quotes Senator Marco Rubio: "You also have to bring spending under control.  The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries."   

     33. Fire "the corrupt and incompetent" leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs - Promise being reconsidered

Background: And dramatically reform the agency, including investigating "the fraud, cover-ups and wrongdoing" at the VA and allowing veterans to access any medical facility that accepts Medicaid patients. Trump's 10-point plan to fix the VA focuses, in part, on the firing and disciplining "corrupt and incompetent VA executives that let our veterans down. New leadership will focus the VA staff on delivering timely, top quality care and other services to our nation's veterans." On July 18, 2015, Trump tweeted, "One of the reasons I am no fan of John McCain is that our Vets are being treated so badly by him and the politicians.  I will fix VA quickly."

Update: The House of Representatives on June 13 passed a bill that will make it easier for the Veterans Affairs Department to fire managers accused of misconduct.  The bill passed the Senate June 6. President Trump signed the bill June 22. The bill was backed by VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, who called the department's employee accountability process "clearly broken." On July 9, Joe Davidson at the Washington Post reported that 525 VA doctors, nurses, housekeepers, grave diggers and others have been fired since Trump was inaugurated. On November 6, USA Today reported, "The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to face complaints about long wait times, shoddy care and bad doctors.  But Trump has ordered a number of accountability measures, and VA Secretary David Shulkin has taken a data-driven approach to fix management problems." 

Benchmarks: According to the Washington Post, there were more than 77,000 federal employees fired for performance or conduct issues from 2000 to 2014, an average of more than 5,000 a year.

Blog Editor’s Commentary:

In a 1,100 word report November 18 in the Washington Examiner, Sarah Westwood wrote in detail on the progress Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has made transforming the agency and earning himself “a spot in President Trump’s good graces.”  Westwood reported “Trump made the VA a top target during the presidential race, holding up its failures as evidence of the Obama administration’s broader ineptitude. Although Shulkin served for more than a year as undersecretary for health in former President Barack Obama’s VA, he said his ascension to the top of the organization has given him a chance to ‘reboot’ an agency in need of an overhaul.”

Reports Westwood, “Trump has cited reforms at the VA as a bright spot amid the stagnation of his legislative agenda and the delay of his immigration executive orders by the courts.

"Shulkin said one of his top priorities since taking the helm at VA has been to shift more of the agency’s resources into providing services unique to veterans — such as treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries — and away from services veterans can easily obtain from private doctors.” According to Westwood’s reporting, Shulkin’s strategy “has focused on expanding veterans’ access to care in the private sector to supplement what they receive directly from the VA.”

During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump promised to investigate "the fraud, cover-ups and wrongdoing" at the VA and then fire and discipline "corrupt and incompetent VA executives that let our veterans down.”

However, more than a year after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, neither Trump or, in this latest report from the Washington Examiner, Secretary Shulkin have spoken of investigating corruption or firing VA executives from the Obama era.

     34. Defund Planned Parenthood 


Background:


·         On September 8, 2015, candidate Trump said, "I mean a lot of people say it's an abortion clinic. I'm opposed to that. And I would not do any funding as long as they are performing abortions."

·         On October 18, 2015, candidate Trump said, "Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded.  I mean if you look at what's going on with that, it's terrible." 

·          And then on February 25, 2016, candidate Trump said, "Millions and millions of women - cervical cancer, breast cancer - are helped by Planned Parenthood.  So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn't fund it.  I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is three percent.  I don't know what percentage it is.  They say it's three percent.  But I would defund it, because I'm pro-life.  But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood."

Update:  On April 13, President Trump signed a resolution that will allow states to withhold Title X family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.  The resolution overturns a rule enacted by the Obama administration in 2016 that prevented states from defunding Planned Parenthood.  Now, states can withhold federal family planning grants. On April 30, House and Senate leaders approved a 2017 budget that continues to fund Planned Parenthood. However, on May 4, the House passed the American Health Care Act, which would de-fund Planned Parenthood, and sent the bill to the Senate. On July 27, the Senate failed, for a third time in a week, to approve a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. On September 26, the Senate considered a second bill and again failed to repeal and replace Obamacare or defund Planned Parenthood. President Trump did not speak or tweet in favor or in opposition of defunding Planned Parenthood during either of the GOP's repeal and replace efforts.


     35. Gut, if not eliminate, the Environmental Protection Agency - STATUS - First steps taken

Background:  Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, a key foe of EPA regulations, to lead the agency. Pruitt, while attorney general of Oklahoma, joined a coalition of state attorneys general in suing the federal government over the agency's Clear Power Plan, the Obama administration's principal policy aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas admissions. He also sued, along with others, the federal government over regulations seeking to curtail the emissions of methane.

Update: 

On July 2, the New York Times reported that Pruitt has "moved to undo, delay or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules, a regulatory rollback larger in scope than any other over so short a time in the agency's 47-year history."  Actions include proposals to undo or weaken Obama's climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan, efforts to undo Obama-era rules curbing pollution in the nation's waterways, and delaying rules that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane from oil and gas wells (NOTE: A federal appeals court on July 4 ruled that Pruitt overstepped his authority on this matter.) and reversing a ban on the use of a pesticide that the E.P.A.'s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children's nervous systems.  

On October 10, Pruitt moved to officially repeal the Clean Power Plan.  When asked earlier this year on Fox News about the health consequences of doing away with the plan, Pruitt ducked the question and focused on how the plan would cost jobs. Under President Obama, the EPA estimated the plan would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.

On October 21, Eric Lipton at the New York Times reported, "For years, the EPA has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water. The chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid, has been linked to kidney cancer, birth defects, immune system disorders and other serious health problems.  So scientists and administrators in the EPA's Office of Water were alarmed in late May when a top Trump administration appointee insisted upon the rewriting of a rule to make it harder to track the health consequences of the chemical, and therefore regulate it.  The revision was among more than a dozen demanded by the appointee, Nancy B. Beck, after she joined the EPA's toxic chemical unit in May as a top deputy. For the previous five years, she had been an executive at the American Chemical Council, the chemical industry's main trade association."

On October 22, Lisa Friedman of the New York Times reported that the EPA had "canceled the speaking appearance of three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference in Rhode Island." The agency helps fund the conference as part of its Narragansett Bay and Watershed program.  "The move highlights widespread concern that the EPA will silence government scientists from speaking publicly or conducting work on climate change."

On November 1, TIME reported, "Since Pruitt took office, more than a dozen EPA regulations have been killed or put under review, from fuel-efficiency standards to regulations on the disposal of coal ash to restrictions on toxic metals like arsenic in waterways.  Moreover, the Trump Administration has proposed slashing funding for the agency's law-enforcement branch, which identifies polluters under existing regulations."

On November 4, the Associated Press reported, "The head of the Environmental Protection Agency has named a slate of new members to federal science advisory boards, including several who work for chemical and fossil-fuel interests.  Pruitt's new list features members who are more likely to reflect industry-friendly views.  They include executives and scientists working for electricity companies, pharmaceutical companies, a chemical industry trade group, a pesticide manufacturer and the oil industry. Pruitt named Paul Gilman as the new chair of EPA's Board of Scientific Counselors. Gilman is a former EPA official who now works as a senior vice president at Covanta, a company that operates plants that generate electricity by incinerating waste."

The New York Times reported on December 10 that an analysis of enforcement data shows the administration has "adopted a more lenient approach than the previous two administrations - Democratic and Republican - toward polluters." During the first nine months under Pruitt's leadership, "the EPA started about 1,900 cases, about one-third fewer than the number under President Barack Obama's first EPA director and about one-quarter fewer than under President George W. Bush's over the same time period."  In addition, "the agency sough civil penalties of about $50.4 million from polluters for cases initiated under Mr. Trump.  Adjusted for inflation, that is about 39 percent of what the Obama administration sought and about 70 percent of what the Bush administration sought over the same time period."

Irony alert: EPA director Pruitt became famous and well-respected in GOP circles for suing the Obama EPA when he was attorney general of Oklahoma.  Now attorneys general from throughout the country are suing him.  According to a report December 11 from the Sacramento Bee, "a coalition of attorneys general from red and blue states are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over what they called its 'failure' to enforce the Clear Air Act." One suit alleges the EPA has "not designated air quality standards across the nation, as required under the Clean Air Act" and another for the EPA's 'failure" to "designate parts of the country as unhealthy due to high levels of smog. The Clean Air Act mandates the disclosure and requires areas to take steps to improve air quality." 

Commentary:  Alex Guillen and Emily Holden at Politico wrote on November 20, "The Environmental Protection Agency administrator came into office promising to discard his predecessor's 'overreaching' focus on climate change and concentrate on what he called the agency's real mission: cleaning up the air, water and land.  But instead, Pruitt has rolled back or stalled environmental protections, given the fossil fuel and chemistry industries more sway over public health decisions and taken steps that critics fear will undermine work on pollution cleanups, according to a Politico analysis of what he's accomplished to date.  He says he will be tough on environmental crimes, but his agency is also easing up on enforcement and collecting far less in penalties than previous administrations, according to agency watchdogs."

       36. Move forward with the Keystone Pipeline - STATUS - first steps taken

Background: The Obama administration rejected the application for the Keystone SL pipeline in 2015, arguing, in part, that it encouraged the use of fossil fuels and would harm the U.S.'s standing in the world as a leader in fighting climate change. Trump promised during the 2016 campaign to overturn the Obama administration's rulings and barriers regarding to pipeline.

Update:  On March 24, the Trump administration gave the pipeline its key federal permits.  The 875-mile line would carry up to 830,000 barrels a day of heavy oil sands petroleum from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, where the oil would continue through existing lines to the Gulf Coast to be refined. Environmentalists have vowed to fight the decision "in the streets and in the courts." The final decision on whether to actually build the pipeline is due before the end of the year. 

      37.  Stop crime and gun violence - PROMISE DROPPED 

Background:  After complaining about the lack of jobs and an alleged increase in crime in American cities, candidate Trump promised, "I'm going to fix it." In July 2016 at the Republican National Convention, Trump said, "The crime and violence that today afflicts our national will soon come to an end.  Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored." 

In August, 2016, candidate Trump promised, "I'll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city, or wherever you are, you're not gonna be shot." 

UPDATE: At his inauguration, President Trump said, "For too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

Reality check: On April 24, 2017 the Chicago Tribune reported: "The number of people shot in Chicago this year is nearing 1,000 after a violent weekend left seven dead and 31 others wounded.  As of Monday morning, at least 992 people had been shot in Chicago this year.  The Associated Press reported August 1 that the total killed in Chicago is more than 400 "and puts the city on pace to eclipse last year's total." In the first 200 days of 2017, U.S. gun deaths were up more than 12 percent over 2016. Firearms injuries were up nearly eight percent. In the first eight months of his presidency, Trump or Congress has made no effort to address this issue.

On June 5, at an awning company in Florida, five persons were killed by a former employee. On October 3, the New York Daily News ran the headline, "AMERICAN CARNAGE," following the mass murder October 1 of 59 persons at a country western outdoor concert in Las Vegas by a man armed with multiple weapons. On October 31, a man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center in New York City, killing eight. On November 5, 25 worshipers were killed at the Texas church by a man armed with a machine gun. On November 14 a man in rural Northern California killed five people, including his wife, and wounded seven children. He tried to attack an elementary school but failed when the school heard gunshots and locked up the facility.  On the same day, a serial killer in Tampa, Florida killed his fourth victim in the past two weeks. The Tampa Bay Times reported, "All four victims walked, took the bus or rode a bicycle to get around town."



    US Military  

38.  Strengthen the military 

Background: So that it's "so big and so strong and so great" that "nobody's going to mess with us."

First step: ask Congress to repeal the defense sequester.  "As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester." (PROMISE DROPPED)

Other promises: Grow the Naval fleet to from 275 to 350 ships and subs, build an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, increase the size of Army from 476,000 to 540,000 and Marine Corps of 36 battalions and add new missile defense systems and upgrade the nuclear arsenal. 

Update: On May 22, President Trump submitted his 2018 budget to Congress, seeking a 10 percent increase - $54 billion - in the Pentagon's base budget, with some of the money going toward new jets and ships.  "That level of funding will not accomplish the administration's goals," said Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. As of December, 2017, the defense sequester is still in place. Connor O'Brien and Bryan Bender at Politico reported December 3, "Lawmakers and the administration have taken few concrete steps to lock in any sustained increase in defense spending close to the three to five percent a year that Defense Secretary James Mattis says is needed to make the vision a reality." The story quotes General Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, "Nobody wants to pay more taxes, everyone wants to have the programs they like protected and everybody wants defense...and they want the deficit to go away.  The math just isn't there." 




     International Relations  
     
      39. Find an "out" clause in the Iran deal  - STATUS - First step taken

Background:  And then "totally" renegotiate the whole thing.  On April 5, President Trump described the deal as "one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed." On April 20, he said, "Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement, and they have to do that. It's a terrible agreement."

Update: At his confirmation hearing in January, Gen. James Mattis, Donald Trump's secretary of defense nominee, said he believed the United States should stick with the Iran deal.  "I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement -- it's not a friendship treaty.  But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies."    

David Andelman, the editor emeritus of World Policy Journal, wrote on March 3, "You don't hear that 'rip it up' language any longer. And you won't. Indeed, in his landmark message to Congress on Tuesday, the President touched only once on Iran. It was becoming increasingly clear that if Trump were to follow through on his ill-considered threat to 'tear up' the agreement, he would be doing so alone.  None of the other signatories to the pack - Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany - have made any move to follow him." 

On April 5, Nasser Karimi and John Gambrel of the Associated Press reported the Boeing Co. had signed a $3 billion deal with an Iranian airline for 30 new aircraft, with an option for another 30, forcing "Trump to choose between two major campaign promises: Taking a harder line against Iran or defending American manufacturing jobs.  'On the one hand, there's the attraction of jobs and export orders for American goods.  On the other hand, of course, they were elected partly on the promise of getting tough on Iran,' said Richard Aboulafia, an aircraft analyst and vice president of analysis at the Virginia-based Tel Group. ' They'll have to make tough decisions.'"  Boeing says the deal will create 18,000 U.S. jobs. On April 29, Boeing ran ads in major U.S. newspapers congratulating President Trump on his first 100 days in office.  "Thank you, President Trump, for your commitment to U.S. manufacturing and to making American businesses more globally competitive." 

The New York Times reported that in April and May President Trump "quietly signed crucial waivers to certain sanctions that allow the (Boeing) deal to remain in place and let Iran conduct international business and gain access to funds long frozen by the U.S."  NBC News' First Read commented, "The Trump administration admitting that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal - despite so much GOP rhetoric to the contrary - is another reminder that, besides its rhetoric and firing off some cruise missiles in Syria, Team Trump is still pretty much following the Obama playbook, at least when it comes to actions." On July 17, the Trump administration again certified to Congress that Iran is still complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. However, in late July Foreign Policy reported that Trump is fed up with Secretary of State Tillerson's position on Iran and has created a White House panel charged with making the case that Tehran is not upholding its side of the nuclear deal.  Sources say Trump has asked Tillerson to lay the groundwork for allowing Trump to declare Tehran not in compliance and "Tillerson did not do this, and Trump is infuriated."

On September 15, the New York Times reported, "President Trump kept the Iran nuclear deal alive on Thursday as a critical deadline lapsed, a sign that he is stepping back from his threat to abandon an agreement he repeatedly disparaged...Thursday's congressionally imposed deadline, to renew an exemption to sanctions on Iran suspended under the 2015 deal, was significant because had the president reimposed economic punishments on Iran, he would have effectively violated the accord."

But on September 19 before the United Nations, the president told world leaders, "The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.  Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it.  Believe me." And on October 13, President Trump announced he will decertify the Iran deal but will not urge Congress to immediately reimpose nuclear-related sanctions, instead calling for new legislation that could trigger penalties down the line.  The president said Iran "has committed multiple violations of the agreement," and accused Tehran of "not living up to the spirit of the deal." He warned, "In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated." There is no guarantee, of course, that "our allies" on the deal - Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany - will consider Trump's actions or entreaties or any new legislation binding on them or Iran. 

International relations expert
Ian Bremmer writing @ TIME:
"Trump wants a better deal.  He wants to extend the time frame on Iran's compliance.  He wants expanded access to military sites.  He says it must stop testing ballistic missiles, which were not part of the deal, and halt its support for terrorist groups, like Hizbollah and Hamas.  Politically, Trump wants to show that Obama made a bad deal and he can make a better one.  Iran's leaders have good reason to compromise, whatever they say publicly.  The lifting of sanctions has given the regime an extra $17 billion per year in oil revenues, and foreign investment has begun to return to the country.  Risking new sanctions at a time of still-high unemployment is not an appealing prospect, and Iran doesn't want blame for breaking the deal."
  

      40.  Allow Russia to deal with the Islamic State in Syria - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: In 2013, when President Obama was mulling a military response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's first use of chemical weapons, citizen Trump tweeted, "We should stay the hell out of Syria!" Two years later, candidate Trump told CNN's Erin Burnett in September, 2015, that the U.S. should let Russia fight it out against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.  "You have Russia that's now there. Russia's on the side of Assad, and Russia wants to get rid of ISIS as much as we do, if not more, because they don't want 'em coming into Russia. Let them fight, take over the remnants.  Let Russia fight ISIS, if they want to fight 'em..in Syria. Let Syria and ISIS fight. What do we care?" A year later, on October 26, 2016, candidate Trump said, "What we should do is focus on ISIS.  We should not be focusing on Syria.  You're going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton...You're not fighting Syria anymore, you're fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right?  Russia is a nuclear country."

Update: On April 6, President Trump ordered a military attack on a Syrian airfield in response to an April 4 chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime on a rebel-held town. The U.S. military, after notifying the Russians, launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield. On June 19, Nahal Toosi at Politico.com reported that U.S. forces are actively involved in the Syrian civil war and, in fact, "shot down a Syrian regime jet suspected of dropping bombs near U.S.-backed fighters, and Russia threatened to target aircraft flown by the U.S. and its allies in the region."  Wrote David French in National Review Online, "We're not only raising the risk of direct and sustained confrontation with Syria (and its chief ally, Russia), we're inching toward an outright invasion and extended occupation of northern Syria.  Let's put this in plain English. American forces and American allies are not only taking territory from ISIS, they're holding that territory against regime forces.  There's a word for what happens when a foreign power takes and holds territory without the consent of the sovereign state - that word is 'invasion'."

Jeet Heer in NewRepublic.com commented that as a candidate, Trump vowed to stay out of Syria's messy war.  "Yet through sheer impulsiveness, he has dramatically escalated U.S. involvement - repeatedly striking Assad's forces in recent weeks in defense of U.S.-backed rebel groups fighting ISIS. With Russia now threatening to target U.S. warplanes flying in the Syrian regime's airspace, Trump could be sleepwalking into a major war." On July 26, the Washington Post reported the U.S. is negotiating with Russia over who operates within what parts of Syria. "According to lines being drawn on a map of the conflict, the United States and its proxies would concede Assad's control of most of central and southern Syria to just west of the Euphrates River, with a few agreed deviations, said U.S. officials. In exchange, once Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital is retaken, U.S.-backed forces would move downriver to control the militant-populated villages alongside it, to the Iraqi border."  

On July 11, The Daily Beast reported that satellites reveal U.S. military bases emerging in the Syrian desert. "We've located what appear to be another two bases - one in Jordan near the border with Syria, and another a short distance across the same border in southern Syria.  The two airstrips could support drones, helicopters and special operations airplanes."

President Trump has altered U.S. involvement in Syria, reported the Washington Post on July 20, to end the CIA's covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government.  "With the end of the CIA program, U.S. involvement in Syria now consists of a vigorous air campaign against the Islamic State and a Pentagon-run train-and-equip program in support of the largely Kurdish rebel force that is advancing on the Islamic State strongholds in Raqqa and along the Euphrates River Valley."

On October 30, Jared Malsin of TIME wrote about the final battle to drive ISIS out of  its last Syrian stronghold, "Raqqa is now in ruins.  More than 4,450 airstrikes by the U.S. led military coalition and others have left its streets a moonscape of shattered buildings and mountains of detritus.  What was once a city of 200,000 is now all but deserted.  Clouds of flies hover near collapsed buildings, a sign of the bodies crushed beneath." And what happens now that ISIS has been driven from Syria?  "Keeping the approximately 900 U.S. troops on the ground risks a confrontation with the Assad regime and its backers.  Quitting Syria completely risks creating a vacuum for ISIS or a successor to regain strength. U.S. military officials say they have not received instructions from the Trump Administration stating whether U.S. forces will remain in northeast Syria for the long haul."

On December 8, the Wall Street Journal reported "The Pentagon plans to keep some U.S. forces in Syria indefinitely, even after a war against the Islamic State extremist group formally ends, to take part in what it describes as ongoing counterterrorism operations, officials said.  There are approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, along with an unspecified number of contractors supporting them.  Last month, the U.S. military withdrew 400 Marines from Syria, which U.S. forces first entered in the fall of 2016."  

      41.  Alter the US role with NATO and Asian allies - STATUS - First steps taken

Background: In his first 100 days, Trump told the Washington Post he would “renegotiate trade deals and renegotiate military deals,” including altering the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Trump expects Germany, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to pay more for US security protection. He had called NATO "obsolete" and wants to update "NATO's outdated mission and structure."  NATO members, Trump has complained, do not pay "what they should" for their defense. (The U.S. foots the bill for about 22 percent of the 28-nation NATO spending.)

Update on Europe:  On January 27, British Prime Minister Theresa May put President Trump on the record as being "100 percent" behind NATO.  "Mr. President, I think you said, you confirmed, that you're 100 percent behind NATO," May said at a press conference following their first meeting. Trump responded quietly to her, "It's true." On April 12, President Trump, in a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, announced that he no longer believes that NATO is obsolete.  "I said it was obsolete.  It is no longer obsolete," citing the group's recent anti-terror efforts.  Stoltenberg, however, noted that NATO soldiers have fought terrorism for many years, including in Afghanistan and against ISIS. President Trump called NATO a "great alliance" and the "bulwark of international peace and security."

On May 25, President Trump, visiting NATO headquarters, "scolded NATO allies for not paying their fair share for defense", according to The Hill. "Trump pointed out that 23 of the 28 member nations are not meeting NATO's target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense." Franco Ordonez of McClatchy's Washington Bureau pointed out, "It was Trump's undiplomatic rhetoric that got the issue to the top of the group's agenda this week, when NATO's members are expected to accept the idea of public report cards to make sure everyone's meeting the requirements of the alliance." On June 1, President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, moving away from European allies on the issue, including Germany and France, two of the strongest proponents of the accord.

On June 9, USA Today reported that "President Trump gave what was perhaps his most unequivocal support for the U.S. pledge to provide a common defense to other NATO allies...ending months of ambiguity on his commitment to the treaty obligation."  The Wall Street Journal reported November 14 that the governments of the European Union agreed to a defense arrangement aimed at increasing military spending and cooperation. Details still need to be worked out.

On December 12, the New York Times reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin "undertook a whirlwind tour to his new allies in the Middle East, underscoring the extension of Russia's influence in the region and the continuing shrinkage of the United States' role." Among the countries Putin visited were Turkey, a member of NATO. "His excursion came as anger at the U.S. was running high over President Donald Trump's unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam, as the capital of Israel." 

Update on Asia: As the only nation in the world not part of the 2015 Paris climate change accord, the U.S., some observers believe, is giving China an opening to overtake the U.S. role in international leadership. David E. Sanger and Jane Perlez of the New York Times wrote on June 2, the day after America's withdrawal, "President Trump has managed to turn America First into America Isolated. In pulling of the Paris climate accord, Mr. Trump has created a vacuum of global leadership that presents ripe opportunities to allies and adversaries alike to reorder the world's power structure. His decision is perhaps the greatest strategic gift to the Chinese, who are eager to fill the void that Washington is leaving around the world on everything from setting the rules of trade and environmental standards to financing the infrastructure projects that give Beijing vast influence."

In November, Murray Hiebert in the Nikkei Asian Review warned that unless the Trump administration challenges China on its construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea the U.S. will watch the Chinese military turn the sea "into a Chinese lake within the next decade or two." Said Sushil Seth in the Taipei Times, "Even though Trump has talked up his 'great chemistry' with (Chinese strong man) Xi," he's made no gains on any key issue: Not North Korea, not trade, not the South China Sea. But Trump has made a huge concession, "offering China a shared role with the U.S. to manage world affairs." 

President Trump's strategy to use China to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions suffered a setback November 28 when the North Koreans launched a missile that experts said could reach Washington, D.C. or even Mar-a-Lago. President Trump told reporters, "We will take care of it," calling it "a situation we will handle."

(For additional information on how Trump is altering U.S. relations with Europe, Asia and Latin America, see #12 (Withdraw from Trans-Pacific Partnership) above.)

        42.  Cancel the 2015 Paris climate change accord  - STATUS - PROMISE KEPT
Background: Climate change allegations and science are a "hoax" invented by the Chinese, Trump said on the campaign trail. In a March, 2016 interview with the Washington Post's editorial board, he said, "I think there's a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I'm not a great believer...I'm not a big believer in man-made climate change." Speaking to a crowd of oil-rig workers in May 2016, Trump vowed to "cancel" the agreement.

The Paris accord, which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century with a shift from fossil fuels, states in Article 28 that any country wanting to pull out after joining has to wait four years. The accord has been endorsed by nearly 200 countries to fight climate change. The U.S. committed to cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.   

Update: On June 1, President Trump announced he's pulling the United States out of the 195-nation agreement.  "The bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest levels to the United States," the president said.  "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburg, not Paris." Negotiations, he said, will begin to re-enter "on terms that are fairer to the Unites States, its business, its workers, its people, its taxpayers."  The leaders of Germany, France and Italy responded by stating the accord cannot be renegotiated. Said French president Emmanuel Macron, "On climate, there is no Plan B because there is no planet B." The New York Times also reported on June 1, "But he (Trump) will stick to the withdrawal process laid out in the Paris agreement, which President Barack Obama joined and most of the world has already ratified.  That could take nearly four years to complete, meaning a final decision would be up to the American voters in the next presidential election." In August, President Trump's team gave notice to the United Nations of his plan to withdraw.

And in August, 2017, the New York Times reported on a draft climate change report by scientists from 13 federal agencies that showed "the average temperature in the U.S. has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years" and that "it directly contradicts claims by President Donald Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain and that the ability to predict the effects is limited." On November 7, Syria signed the Paris agreement, leaving the United States as the only nation in the world that has rejected the global pact. 

Is China the beneficiary?  On June 2, David E. Sanger and Jane Perlez of the New York Times wrote: "President Trump has managed to turn America First into America Isolated.  In pulling out of the Paris climate accord, Mr. Trump has created a vacuum of global leadership that presents ripe opportunities to allies and adversaries alike to reorder the world's power structure.  His decision is perhaps the greatest strategic gift to the Chinese, who are eager to fill the void that Washington is leaving around the world on everything from setting the rules of trade and environmental standards to financing the infrastructure projects that give Beijing vast influence."  

      43. Repeal President Obama's executive orders regarding Cuba - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED 

Background:  Trump promised to reverse Obama's Cuba-related executive orders - including opening a U.S. embassy and lifting restrictions on trade and tourism - if Cuba did not meet his "demands," including religious and political freedom and the freeing of political prisoners.  "All the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them - and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands.  Not my demands. Our demands," Trump told supporters in Miami during the campaign. Vice President-elect Pence told supporters in Florida: "We will support continuing the embargo until real political and religious freedoms are a reality for all the people of Cuba. Donald Trump will stand with freedom-loving Cubans in the fight against Communist oppression."

Update: On June 16, 2017 President Trump visited Miami to announce a partial rollback of President Obama's policy of normalizing relations with Cuba. Trump's action will not affect the new embassy in Havana or the Cuban embassy in Washington. "People-to-people" exchanges are banned and Americans visiting Cuba will be prohibited from engaging in financial transactions with any entity owned by the Cuban military (but will be allowed to buy the country's popular rum and cigars.) But Americans who want to meet Cubans will now have to travel in groups accompanied by an authorized representative of the sponsoring organization.  U.S. companies will be allowed to continue to do business in Cuba and Cuban-Americans can continue to travel freely to the island and send money to family on the island. The U.S. will continue to keep Cuba off a list of state sponsors of terror and will allow commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba.

On November 19, The Hill reported that despite the implementation of the new rules, "The core of Obama's Cuba rapprochement remains intact." On November 26, McClatchy reported that a U.S. Chamber of Commerce note to members of its U.S.-Cuba Business Council reads, in part, "The U.S. government has actually made it easier for U.S. companies to engage directly with the Cuban private sector.  Specifically, the rule simplifies and expands the ability for U.S. companies to export directly to the Cuban private sector, private sector agricultural cooperatives and private sector entrepreneurs." John Hughes, who served as deputy director of sanctions policy at Obama's State Department, said the new regulations did two new main things: make it harder for individual travelers to go visit and create a list of businesses and entities that U.S. officials can't work with. "If you look at Obama's over all changes, this is about five percent of that, maybe less. It's a pretty small change." 

Commentary: Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald commented after the Trump visit to Miami on June 16, "President Trump is right that the Obama administration's opening to Cuba has failed to produce any human rights or democratic changes on the island, but I'm afraid that Trump's plan to partially reverse the current U.S. policy will make things worse.  Trump's limited reversal of Obama's opening to Cuba is political theater for domestic consumption.  It will not achieve what U.S. sanctions against Cuba failed to achieve in the past five decades.  Worse, it may backfire, by shifting world attention away from the Cuban regime's oppression of its people to what Cuba will now claim is new 'U.S. aggression' against the island."

      44. Move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - STATUS - PROMISE KEPT

Background: Trump promised to move the embassy "fairly quickly."


Update: On April 24, Politico reported that GOP mega-donor and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson had privately complained about Trump's failure to fulfill his campaign promise. On the day President Trump landed in Israel for his first state visit,  May 22, the Associated Press reported, "While Israeli officials cheered Trump's election, some are now wary of the tougher line he has taken on settlements: urging restraints but not a full halt to construction.  Trump has retreated from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bending to the same diplomatic and security concerns as other presidents." Trump made no mention of moving the U.S. Embassy during his visit.  A Trump administration official said, "We don't think it would be wise to do it at this time.  We've been very clear what our position is and what we would like to see done, but we're not looking to provoke anyone when everyone's playing really nice." On June 1, President Trump signed an order keeping the American embassy in Tel Aviv.  The New York Times reported, "Aides said that the decision was just a delay and that he still planned to eventually move the embassy to Jerusalem."  On June 5, the Senate voted 90-0 in favor of a resolution reaffirming the 1995 law urging the State Department to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.  But on October 8, in a television interview on Trinity Broadcasting Network, President Trump said his priority is peace in the Middle East, not moving the embassy.  "I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem.  If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it'll lead to ultimately peace in the Middle East, which has to happen."

But on December 6, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announced plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy there.  "Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.  This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.  After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result." Trump ordered the State Department "to begin preparations to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem." His directive would allow the State Department to begin hiring architects and building contractors. On December 8, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem "is not something that is going to happen this year, probably not next year."  The department still needed to acquire a site, make construction and building plans, ensure necessary authorizations and then build the embassy.  He also said that Trump's decision does not "indicate any final status for Jerusalem," adding that the "final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide."
   

“I have a large sea shell collection which I keep scattered on beaches all over the world.  Maybe you’ve seen it.”  - Steven Wright 




War on Terrorism 

45.  Bring back waterboarding - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: Trump promised the U.S. will use interrogation techniques that go even further than waterboarding, because “torture works.” Even if such tactics don't work, "they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing."

“Don't tell me it doesn't work – torture works. Okay, folks? Believe me, it works. Okay."

Change of mind: On November 23, 2016 in an interview with the New York Times, Trump "suggested" he had changed his mind about the usefulness of waterboarding after recently talking with James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general and Trump's nominee for Secretary of Defense. Mattis told Trump there were better ways of securing valuable information from prisoners. But, Trump also told the Times, "I'm not saying it changed my mind." But it did. The week after he was sworn in as the 45th President, Trump told ABC News that he would defer to Mattis and Mike Pompeo, his CIA director, both of whom indicated that torture is illegal. "I'm going to go with what they say," Mr. Trump said. 
      
     46.  "Bomb the shit out of ISIS" STATUS - First steps taken

Background:  After repeated promises in 2015 and 2016 that he had a "foolproof plan" to defeat ISIS and "bomb the hell out of" the terror group, Trump in September, 2016 pulled a "180°" and said, at a campaign stop in North Carolina, he would give his top generals 30 days to present a plan to defeat ISIS. 

Update:  In his inauguration address, the new President pledged to eradicate radical Islamic terrorism "completely from the face of the Earth." In his first week in office, Trump signed a directive ordering the Joint Chiefs of Staff to return within 30 days with a plan to defeat ISIS. Columnist Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote on March 7, "In his speech to Congress, President Trump hardly mentioned foreign policy. But he did repeat his campaign promise to 'demolish ISIS' and 'extinguish (it) from the planet.' The battle to uproot the so-called Islamic State, which is centered in the cities of Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, has been underway for months, using local forces backed by U.S. advisors and air power.  The president wants it done faster." On April 13, the U.S. dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb  - the Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) - on an ISIS tunnel and cave hideout in Afghanistan, reportedly killing almost 100. The 21,600 lb. bomb is known as the "mother of all bombs." (Irony alert: The tunnels that MOAB destroyed were built with U.S. taxpayer dollars in the 1980s for the mujahedeen fighting, at that time, against the Soviets.)

On June 19, Nahal Toosi at Politico.com reported that the Trump administration "has followed a more aggressive version of the (Obama administration's) approach" to defeating the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq. "The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, many of who are Kurdish, recently began trying to oust Islamic State fighters from Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in Syria." On July 4, Susannah George and Andrea Rosa of the Associated Press reported, that "the U.S.-led coalition unleased punishing airstrikes and artillery fire that set dozens of buildings ablaze" in the effort to drive ISIS from Mosul, Iraq.  "The tempo of airstrikes was so great Monday that coalition aircraft couldn't keep up with the requests for air support from Iraqi ground forces."

On July 20, the Washington Post reported, "U.S. involvement in Syria now consists of a vigorous air campaign against the Islamic State and a Pentagon-run train-and-equip program in support of the largely Kurdish rebel force that is advancing on Islamic State strongholds in Raqqa and along the Euphrates River valley." U.S. airstrikes in Syria have continued to gradually but steadily increase each month over the past three years, according to the website airwars.org/data.  They reached approximately 9,000 monthly in June, 2017. TIME reported in late October that "more than 4,450 airstrikes by the U.S. led military coalition and others have left (Raqqa's) streets a moonscape of shattered buildings and mountains of detritus. In August alone, U.S. led forces loosed more than 5,775 individual bombs, shells and missiles into the city. As a result, the destruction of Raqqa is complete." On November 3, the New York Times reported that U.S. forces had bombed ISIS militants in Somalia, killing "several" terrorists.

Tobin vs. Bergen: Has Trump kept his promise?  Jonathan S. Tobin of NRO on 10/19/17: "ISIS was still largely undefeated and in control of much of the territory of Iraq and Syria when Trump was sworn in.  But only nine months into his administration, the Islamic State's hold on these countries has dwindled, and after the liberation this week of Raqqa, Syria, capital of the Islamists' caliphate, it's fair to say that the group is being routed after years in which it held its own against coalition forces. Trump's role in the transformation is not insignificant.  In the Spring, Trump loosened the rules of engagement to allow commanders in the field more authority in day-to-day decisions about fighting the enemy.  Though the number of air strikes hasn't increased, their impact has been greater, and that is probably because competent military commanders in the field are making decisions rather than civilian staffers posing as military experts in the White House situation room."  Peter Bergen at CNN on 10/19/17: In August, 2016, Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who was the ground commander for the fight against ISIS, said the US-led coalition had killed an estimated 45,000 ISIS fighters.  About a year later, at the Aspen Security Forum in July, 2017, the commander of the US Special Operations Command, Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas, said that an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 ISIS fighters had been killed since the US-led campaign against the terror group began in August, 2014.  Under Obama, ISIS also lost significant Iraqi cities such as Falluja, Ramadi and Tikrit. According to the UK-based Airwars, which carefully tracks coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, the numbers of strikes has declined in Iraq under Trump, while they have spiked in Syria. Bottom line: There is much continuity between the Obama campaign plan against ISIS and the Trump plan." 

      47.  …And take their oil - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: “I would just bomb those suckers, and that's right, I'd blow up the pipes, I'd blow up the refineries, I'd blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left. And you know what, you'll get Exxon to come in there, and in two months, you ever see these guys? How good they are, the great oil companies, they'll rebuild it brand new... And I'll take the oil.”

Trump promised to seize the oil and give the profits to military veterans who were wounded while fighting.

Update: A day after his inauguration, the President visited the CIA and told a gathering of employees, "To the victor belong the spoils. We should have kept the (Iraqi) oil. But, O.K., maybe you'll have another chance." However, a month later, on February 20, Defense Secretary Mattis, while visiting Iraq, said the U.S. does not intend to seize Iraqi oil.  "I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I'm sure we will continue to do that in the future. We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil."



Miscellaneous

      48.  Prosecute Hillary Clinton  - “Lock her up!”  STATUS - Promise being reconsidered

Background: Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor to go after his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during his campaign. "Lock her up!" was a constant chant amongst supporters on the campaign trail. During one debate, he famously responded that if he were in charge she'd "be in jail."

Change of mind #1: After the election on 60 Minutes, Trump immediately walked that back: "I don't want to hurt them. They're, they're good people," he said. A senior advisor went further: Trump will not push for further criminal investigations into potential wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton. “I think when the president-elect, who's also the head of your party now … tells you before he's even inaugurated he doesn't wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content, to the members."

At a post-election rally in December, the crowd began chanting "lock her up!"  Trump replied, "That plays great before the election -- now we don't care, right?" And then, at his Inauguration, the Clintons not only attended but participated in the post-ceremony luncheon where the new President told the assembled crowd he was "very, very honored" that the former first couple was there and asked them to stand for a round of applause.  "There's nothing more I can say," the President added, "because I have a lot of respect for those two people, so thank you all for being here."

Change of Mind #2: Days after his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was arrested and charged with various federal crimes, Trump issued a forceful call for the Justice Department - which is currently investigating the President and several of his campaign associates - to investigate Hillary Clinton over "all of the dishonesty."  In a tweet November 3, the President said, "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn't looking into all the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems.  At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper.  The American public deserves it!" (On November 16, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Trump ordered Attorney General Sessions to investigate Clinton. "In fact, he said publicly that he hasn't been involved with that and that's entirely up to the Department of Justice.")   On November 14, Politico reported, "Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw cold water on Republicans clamoring for the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel." 

Irony alert: During the 2016 campaign, General Michael Flynn often led the chant "lock her up!" at Trump rallies and, famously, at the Republican National Convention.  On December 1, Flynn pleaded guilty in federal court of lying to an FBI agent and now faces up to five years in jail. 

49.  “Drain the Swamp”  STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

"Trump didn't drain the swamp.  He hired the swamp."
David French, National Review

There are several real and potential scandals and federal investigations challenging candidate Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp.”  Those covered below include:

1.      The President decided not to divest himself of his private holdings, thus opening the door to potential conflicts of interest and ignoring the Constitution.

2.      Business is good between the Trump Family and China.  Chinese authorities are approving trademark requests benefiting the President and his family.

3.      Federal officials, including Congress, are investigating the connection between Russia and the Trump campaign.

4.      National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who was fired for lying to Vice President Pence, is being investigated for his financial connections to Russia and other foreign nations.

5.      Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was arrested October 30 and arraigned on various federal charges, the first major step in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

6.     Sam Clovis’ nomination as the Department of Agriculture’s top scientist was withdrawn after it was learned he was tied to a Trump campaign advisor arrested by the FBI.

7.     The Trump administration has granted ethics waivers from the President’s promise to limit the activities of lobbyists now employed by the White House.

8.    Trump named Anthony Scaramucci – “The Mooch” – director of communications on July 21 and fired him 10 days later.

9.     Special Presidential advisor Carl Icahn resigned after potential conflicts of interest came to light.

10.     President Trump pardoned former Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt.

11.      Here come the jets – Trump cabinet members spend tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars on private jets. Trump fired Health and Human Services Secretary Price over the matter.

Here are some of the details on each.

President Trump – businessman in the White House               

President Trump owns or has a position in more than 500 companies, according to a CNN analysis. That includes about 150 that have done business in at least 25 foreign countries, including Turkey, India, Canada, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Because President Trump refuses to release his tax returns, the extent of his potential conflict remains unknown.  For example, loans that help finance his companies from foreign governments and banks - even on projects that are already built - could be perceived as affecting his decisions as President.

Then there’s the Trump-owned hotel in The Swamp (i.e. Washington, D.C.). Trump International Hotel is located in a building- the Old Post Office Building – owned by the federal government. Trump has a 60-year lease with the government on the property.  But the lease states no "elected official of the Government of the United States" shall be "admitted to any share or part of this Lease." Some experts say this clause should force Trump to relinquish his equity stake in the hotel since he is now President. (The hotel is valued at roughly $200 million, much of it financed by Deutsche Bank, a German company.)

Trump may, according to experts, be in conflict with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts or earning profits from foreign governments.  Politico reported in December, "Diplomats from Bahrain and Kuwait have already booked events at his Washington hotel, raising questions of whether a foreign government would be making payments to Trump's businesses.”  The Emoluments Clause forbids any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under (the United States)” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state” unless Congress explicitly consents.

Update: At his mid-January press conference, Trump announced that his businesses and assets will be put into a trust run by his two sons for the duration of his presidency and that he will have "no involvement whatsoever" in the businesses.  Under his new ethics plan, Trump, his children and a longtime business associate will be barred from discussing company operations with the President. (Bobby Burchfield, a veteran Republican attorney, will serve as an outside ethics adviser. Some corporate transactions will not be undertaken without his approval. However, Trump will maintain a significant ownership stake in the company and financially benefit from its profits.) Trump’s attorney also announced Trump will "voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made by his hotels to the United States Treasury.  This way it is the American people who will profit."  (Update: On May 24, MSNBC reported that "the Trump Organization is not tracking all possible payments it receives from foreign governments. By failing to track foreign payments it receives, the company will be hard-pressed to meet Trump's pledge to donate foreign profits and could even increase its legal exposure.” Politico reported June 12 that the Trump Organization announced in May that it would be "impractical" to single out foreign guests so as to siphon their payments to the Treasury.) 

Pushback: On January 23, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit arguing that President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on officials accepting benefits from foreign governments.   The suit claims Trump's business dealings with foreign countries that rent space in his buildings or lend money to his real estate venture run afoul of the foreign emoluments clause in the Constitution.

But on March 23, Politico reported, The General Services Administration concluded that Trump's pledge not to take money from the Old Post Office project resolves concerns that language in the lease declares that no government employee should be permitted to benefit from the lease. "What this accomplishes is that the funds generated by the hotel will not flow to the President through DJT Holdings LLC," contracting officer Kevin Terry wrote.

On June 9, The Hill reported that lawyers for the Justice Department are arguing that President Trump isn’t violating a Constitutional provision that bars federal officials from accepting payments from foreign governments because the clause doesn’t apply to certain transactions.  “In a new brief asking the judge to throw out a lawsuit brought against Trump by ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), DOJ lawyers contend that the foreign emoluments clause doesn’t apply to ‘fair-market commercial transactions’ like payments for hotel rooms and golf club fees.'"

The June 19 issue of TIME magazine reported that between October 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, lobbyists working on behalf of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia ran up a $270,000 tab on rooms, catering and parking at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C.  "That stretch coincided with a Saudi lobbying push against legislation that would allow victims of terrorists attacks to sue foreign governments. In May, Trump chose Riyadh as his first foreign stop as President, where he announced an arms deal, gave a major foreign policy speech and participated in a traditional ceremonial sword dance." 

The Wall Street Journal reported April 15 that nearly $500,000 from President Trump's 2020 re-election campaign had gone directly to Trump-owned restaurants, hotels and golf clubs. During the 2016 campaign, Trump's campaign spent more than $14 million on Trump-branded companies and family-owned businesses. On August 20, the Washington Post reported that “at least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year…Trump’s companies collected an additional $793,000 from the RNC and the president’s campaign committee.” On August 27, the New York Times reported that Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. has “cemented its status as a gathering spot” for domestic and foreign politicians, lobbyists and insiders.  Trump’s company has earned “about $20 million over 15 months, according to financial disclosure forms.”

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments October 18, 2017 on President Trump’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit against him alleging he has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution with his family businesses. The suit was filed by CREW “To stop President from violating the Constitution.”  Judge George Daniels said he hoped to have a ruling within 60 days.

On December 15, THE WEEK reported that a construction company partly owned by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea is building a Trump-branded luxury resort in Indonesia.  "The arrangement appears to violate a promise by President Trump that his businesses would not make deals with foreign government entities while he is in office.  Ethics experts said it could violate the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is meant to discourage American leaders from being influenced by gifts from powerful foreigners." 

Commentary from Timothy P. Carney at the Washington Examiner on President Trump financially benefitting as President from government contracts

This is exactly why we said President Trump had to unload his businesses in order to avoid corruption and the appearance of corruption. The GEO Group is a private prison company that received a massive multimillion-dollar federal contract for an immigrant detention center. By its nature, GEO's fortunes depend on taxpayer dollars, and thus on the favor of politicians and government officials. So when GEO moves its annual conference from its normal location to a Trump resort (Trump National Doral in Florida), here's what it looks like: A company that depends on the Trump administration for profit is giving money directly to President Trump.

That Trump doesn't manage the company doesn't matter. He owns it. The resort's revenue is Trump's revenue.

At Slycraft, honesty isn’t just a word…it’s a goal

Business is suddenly good between Trump Family and China

Questions were raised February 15 when the Chinese government announced that Trump had been granted something he had been seeking for 10 years - trademark protection for the use of the Trump name in the construction industry.  The Chinese announcement came only six days after President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation, after which Trump announced he supports the long-standing "one China" policy of the U.S. (In early December, 2016, president-elect Trump held, according to the Associated Press, a "highly unusual, probably unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect" phone call with the leader of Taiwan, congratulating her on becoming president in 2016.) 

The Associated Press reported "This may well be the first foreign trademark to be handed to Trump during his presidency, but it unlikely to be the last.  In China alone he has 49 pending trademark applications." Then on March 8, AP News reported "China has now granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, paving the way for President Trump and his family to potentially develop a host of branded businesses from hotels to insurance to bodyguard and escort services."  Dan Plane, a director at Simone IP Services, a Hong Kong intellectual property consultancy, said he has never seen so many applications approved so expeditiously. 

On April 18, the Washington Examiner reported that on the same day Ivanka Trump dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, her company won provisional approval for three new trademarks.   China gave Trump's company monopoly rights to sell the brand's jewelry, bags and spa services. Ivanka Trump's U.S. imports, almost all of them from China, shot up an estimated 166 percent in 2016. The week Trump dined with President Xi, 3.4 tons of her handbags, wallets and blouses arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to an April 23 story from the Associated Press.  Sales in February, 2017, spiked 771 percent from the same month in 2016, after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway exhorted Fox viewers to "Go buy Ivanka's stuff."

On May 6, The Hill reported that the sister of Trump's senior presidential advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, held a business meeting with wealthy Chinese in Beijing encouraging them to "invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States." Nicole Meyer, Jared's sister, touted her links to the Trump family and the White House and urged the audience to garner an EB-5 immigrant investor visa by investing in a New Jersey real estate project her family is involved with. Wrote Redstate columnist Allahpundit, "For cripes sake. The point of Trump's populist revolution was not to enrich the Kushner family by trading precious American immigration privileges for filthy lucre. It was to enrich the Trump family.  Eyes on the prize, people." 

On June 2, the New York Times reported that President Trump and his daughter Ivanka can now "sell jewelry and wedding dresses and provide catering services in China under new trademarks granted in recent days in Beijing.  The new trademarks expand the president's business interests in the world's second-largest economy...Mr. Trump has at least 89 trademarks registered and 28 others that have won preliminary approval.  His daughter now had 17 registered trademarks and six that have won preliminary approval.” In the July 10 issue of TIME, Charlie Campbell reported from Beijing, “(Ivanka) Trump’s firm does not publish sales figures, but its fortunes trace her father’s political rise. Company president Abigail Klem told TIME there was ‘significant year-over-year revenue growth’ in an emailed statement.” Ivanka’s company has 18 existing trademarks in China with 40 applications still pending. “Trump’s business model,” TIME points out, “mirrors that of virtually all her competitors in the apparel industry: use low foreign wages and minimal import levies to maximize profits. That’s precisely what he father railed against during his volcanic campaign when he pledged to put ‘America first’ and force U.S. companies to bring manufacturing jobs back home.”

The Trump Campaign and Russia

“You know you can talk all you want about Russia, which is all a you know, fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats.”
— President Trump,
in a news conference, Feb. 2, 2017

In the summer of 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian intelligence, according to current and former U.S. officials. On January 6, the intelligence community reported that Russia interfered in the 2016 election – to hurt Hillary Clinton and benefit Donald Trump.

The FBI is examining intercepted communications between the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and Michael Flynn, who served on candidate Trump’s national security advisory council. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees are also undertaking a review of the matter. In addition, Reuters reported February 18, "This counterintelligence inquiry includes but is not limited to examination of financial transactions by Russian individuals and companies who are believed to have links to Trump associates. The transactions under scrutiny involve investments by Russians in overseas entities that appear to have been undertaken through middlemen and front companies, two people briefed on the probe said."

On March 2, after stories broke indicating Attorney General Jeff Sessions had not told the whole truth at his Senate confirmation hearings about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, Sessions held a press conference to announce he had, contrary to his testimony, met twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and was, therefore, recusing himself from overseeing any investigation(s) by his department related to Russia's contacts with the Trump campaign.

On March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed before the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI is investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 president election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.  "This will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed," Comey told the intelligence panel.

The Washington Post in mid-May reported the FBI inquiry “also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president.”

Blog Editor’s Note 3/6/17: The Hill  reported that two members of Trump’s campaign team spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign.  J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, two of Trump’s early foreign policy advisors, met with Kislyak at a conference hosted in Cleveland during the 2016 GOP convention.  Rolling Stone reported other members of the Trump campaign that spoke with Russian representatives include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s first National Security Adviser Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, informal advisor and personal friend Roger Stone and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.  CNN reported that a foreign affairs advisor to the Trump campaign, Walid Phares, was also part of a meeting in July with the Russian ambassador. The New Yorker ran a list of Trump associates being investigated by the FBI for their Russian connections and included another, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. And the Wall Street Journal reported the same day that Donald Trump, Jr. was paid $50,000 in October to speak before a French think tank in Paris whose founder and his wife are allies of the Russian government.

Update: On May 9, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump first said Comey was fired for mishandling the Clinton email investigation but on May 11 told NBC that he was thinking of the Russian investigation when he fired Comey. “When I decided to (fire Comey), I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote of Trump's decision to fire the FBI director at National Review Online, "So why did he do it? Now we know: The king asked whether no one would rid him of this troublesome priest, and got so impatient he did it himself."

On May 10, Trump told a group of Russian foreign officials meeting in the White House – including the Russian ambassador - "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job.  I faced great pressure because of Russia.  That's taken off."  

On May 17, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was named by the Justice Department as special counsel to oversee the federal government’s investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign (and “any matters that arose or may arise” from that investigation) following reports that President Trump had asked FBI Director Comey to back off the investigation of former National Security Advisor Flynn.   According to a memo Comey wrote after his private meeting with the President February 14, Trump dismissed Vice President Pence and Attorney General Sessions from the room and told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.” It was an apparent reference to the bureau’s counterintelligence inquiry into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates – including Flynn – and Russian officials accused of seeking to influence the presidential election. White House officials and President Trump have said Comey's memo was "not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation."  

On May 22, the Washington Post reported that President Trump "asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against the FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government." Daniel Coats, director of national intelligence, and Admiral Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, both refused to comply with the request, the paper reported.  The Washington Post’s The Fix commented, “But here’s why the latest news is particularly bad for Trump: It erases any idea that the Comey request was just a one-off. We have now learned that Comey isn’t the only top official whom Trump approached in an effort to free Flynn from his investigation.” (On June 7, Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that while he declined to discuss conversations he’s had with the President, he never has “never felt pressured” to influence the Russian probe.)

On May 26, the Washington Post reported Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed in December, 2016 the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring by U.S. intelligence services. On May 27, Reuters reported the FBI is investigating whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump.  The head of Russian state-owner Vnesheconombank, Sergei Nikolaevich Gorkov, a trained intelligence officer whom Putin appointed, met Kushner at Trump Tower in December. Wrote Taegan Goddard at Politicalwire.com, "To what extent Russian financiers - and through them, Russian President Vladimir Putin - hold power over the U.S. president is virtually impossible to determine. But that seems to be the most important focus of this investigation."

President Trump on June 16 acknowledged on his Twitter feed that he is under investigation. He has hired several attorneys to represent him in the Russia matter. Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and her husband presidential son-in-law Kushner, and former national security chief Michael Flynn have also all hired counsel. As of September 29, 14 White House officials and former campaign aides have retained lawyers in conjunction with the Russia probes.

On June 7, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee – and 19.5 million viewers on television and the internet – that while he didn’t want to express an opinion on whether Trump was seeking to obstruct the ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling into the presidential election, he is “sure” the special counsel Mueller will be examining that.  He said he was fired because of “the Russian investigation.”  Comey also explained that he wrote the memos of his January, February and April private meetings with Trump because he had a “gut feeling” the president might lie about the nature of the meetings. 

On June 15, the New York Times reported that Mueller's investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates, including Trump's son-in-law.  The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff. Also on that day, it was reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), was also beginning an investigation into the firing of former FBI Director Comey. On June 25, Michael Kranish at the Washington Post reported that Kushner's real estate company finalized a $285 million loan with Deutsche Bank in October, 2016, one month before the election and at about the same time "the lender was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charge from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme.”

On June 27, Politico.com reported that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, made more than $17 million working for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.  Manafort, however, failed to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent as required by law. “Trump forced Manafort to step down from his campaign last year after The Associated Press reported that Manafort and another Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, had secretly helped the Ukrainian Party of Regions steer money to two Washington lobbying firms.”

And then the entire Trump campaign/Russian collusion story exploded on July 11 when Donald Trump Jr. released emails describing an offer from Russia government officials to help dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton, the first public indication that at least some in the Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian help.  Trump Jr. admitted he, Kushner and campaign manager Manafort held a meeting with a Russian government attorney – Natalia Veselnitshkaya – on June 9, 2016 in Trump Tower.  (It was subsequently learned that Rinat Akhmetshin, a U.S. citizen suspected of being a former Russian intelligence officer and email hacker, was also present in that meeting.) Trump Jr. had initially said the meeting was “about the adoption of Russian children.” When he finally released the emails connecting the Russian government to the meeting, Trump Jr. insisted the meeting did not result in any information about Clinton being passed on to the campaign. 

Wrote Taegan Goddard at PoliticalWire.com: “What we do know – thanks to reporting from the New York Times and newly-released emails from Trump Jr. – is explosive:  1) Trump Jr. was aware of and willing to cooperate with a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign.  2) Kushner and Manafort also knew of Russian efforts to help Trump.”   Charles Krauthammer at National Review added:  “This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks.  This is an e-mail chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself. Once you said ‘I’m in,’ it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods.  What matters is what Donald Jr. thought going into the meeting, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were copied on the correspondence, invited to the meeting, and attended.”

On July 31, the Washington Post reported, and the White House later confirmed, that President Trump “personally dictated” Donald Jr.’s initial false statement regarding his meeting with the Russians in which Donald Jr. claimed to have discussed only the issue of adoptions of Russian children. The statement was drafted by the President and staff on the Air Force One flight back to the U.S. after a G-20 summit in Europe in July.

On July 20, Bloomberg.com reported the U.S. special counsel is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses and well as those of his associates, including Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008. They are also investigating businesses dealings by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Presidential son-in-law Kushner. (On November 6, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose business connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family and inner circle on a financial-disclosure form this year, according to documents.”)

TheGuardian.com reported in July that two of the Russians Kushner, Manafort and Trump, Jr. met with on June 9, 2016 worked for the oligarch owner of Prevezon, a Russian company that was under investigation by U.S. authorities related to money laundering through Manhattan real estate. One of Prevezon’s main business partners is Russian-born billionaire Lev Leviev, from whom Kushner bought $295 million worth of Manhattan office space in 2015.  After Trump entered office, his Justice Department abruptly settled the Prevezon money-laundering case for just $6 million.

On August 3, Special Counsel Mueller impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C. THE WEEK reported, “Mueller’s team is now reportedly reviewing financial records concerning the president, his business, his family members, and his campaign associates, with a focus on transactions involving Russians.” FBI agents “raided the house of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, reportedly to search for tax documents and foreign banking records.” And in late August, The Daily Beast reported that Mueller had teamed up with the IRS’ Criminal Investigations unit. “And it goes without saying that the IRS has access to Trump’s tax returns – documents that the president has long resisted releasing to the public.”

Facebook announced in September that it had identified $100,000 in spending on about 3,000 ads purchased by 470 “inauthentic” accounts “likely operated out of Russia.”  Mueller’s team has obtained a search warrant to access information about Facebook’s disclosure. “To get a search warrant like that, you have to show a judge that there is probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found at the location,” said Harvard Law professor and former federal prosecutor Alex Whiting.  “The fact that they got a search warrant shows that the investigation is moving forward and that they have found some evidence of crimes.”

The Washington Post reported November 12 that, “Despite denials from the campaign and the White House, it is now clear that members of the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least 30 times throughout the campaign. (There are at least 19 known meetings.) Knowledge of these communications went to the highest levels of Donald Trump’s operation — both Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort, two of the campaign’s three managers, were aware of it.”

On November 13, The Atlantic reported that President Donald Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., communicated with WikiLeaks over Twitter’s direct message between September 2016 and July 2017. The messages were given to congressional investigators probing whether Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. (Federal officials believe WikiLeaks published material, including emails from the Democratic National Committee’s servers, that had been obtained via Russian hackers.) President Trump tweeted about the hacked emails of then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta approximately 15 minutes after WikiLeaks requested Donald Trump Jr. ask his father to, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal pointed out, based on reporting from The Atlantic.

The December 15 issue of THE WEEK reported, "Did President Trump just 'admit to obstruction of justice?' asked Andrew Prokop in Vox.com. After Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI, Trump wouldn't resist trying to downplay the bombshell news in a tweet. Flynn 'had nothing to hide,' Trump tweeted, but had to be fired 'because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.' That was a huge legal error.  If Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI - a felony - when he fired him back in February, then Trump's subsequent efforts to make then-FBI Director James Comey drop his investigation of Flynn, and Trump's eventual firing of Comey, could constitute criminal obstruction of justice.  Recognizing the mistake, Trump's lawyer John Dowd quickly claimed he himself had written the incriminating tweet."

On December 15, the Wall Street Journal reported that lawyers from the House Intelligence Committee were scheduled to interview Felix Sater, a longtime business associate of President Trump, before Christmas and that Robert Mueller is expected to meet with the President's private lawyers also before Christmas.  WSJ reported, "Mr. Sater is a Russian-born businessman who has worked with Mr. Trump since 2010. In a November 2015 email to Mr. Trump's lawyer, he wrote that he planned to enlist the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin in getting Mr. Trump a business deal in Russia that could boost his U.S. political fortunes.  'Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,' he wrote." 

Michael Flynn - resigned 2/13/17 & pleaded guilty 12/1/17

National security adviser Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States a month before President Trump took office, contrary to subsequent public assertions by Flynn and Trump officials. In those calls, Flynn reassured Moscow that sanctions imposed by President Obama in late December over Russia's hacking of the 2016 U.S. election would be lifted by the incoming Trump Administration.

Days before Mr. Trump’s inauguration on January 20, Vice President-elect Mike Pence denied Flynn had discussed sanctions with the ambassador. He said he had personally spoken to Flynn, who assured him that the conversation was an informal chat that began with Flynn extending Christmas wishes. “They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Mr. Pence said on the CBS News program Face the Nation.

In late January, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, and a senior career national security official, informed the White House that they believed Flynn had misled the new administration about the nature of his communications with the Russians.  (Yates, a holdover from the Obama Administration, was subsequently fired by President Trump when she refused to support, in court, Trump's proposed Muslim ban.)

On February 11, 2017, Flynn filed a financial-disclosure statement that under-reported more than $150,000 in 2016 income, including a financial relationship with Russia.

On February 13, 2017, President Trump asked for Flynn's resignation and received it after Flynn admitted he had misled Vice President Pence.

On April 24, the Washington Post reported Flynn "likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey." House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut) said, "As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else. It was inappropriate, and there are repercussions for a violation of law."

On November 23, the New York Times reported that lawyers for Flynn recently notified the president’s legal team that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case, an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating such a deal. Mr. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. And on December 1, Flynn pleaded guilty in a federal court of lying to the FBI. He faces penalties of up to a $250,000 fine and five years in prison. Flynn also indicated he is cooperating with the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "The scandal is obvious, said Max Boot in ForeignPolicy.com," reported THE WEEK of December 15. "Clearly, 'there was a quid pro quo,' between the Trump campaign and Russia: Vladimir Putin's regime would help Trump win the election in return for having painful U.S. sanctions lifted. At least 12 of the president's associates had contacts with Russians, and have 'lied and lied and lied about them.' Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, eagerly accepted an offer from a Kremlin emissary of 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton, and even 'communicated secretly with WikiLeaks,' which published the Democratic campaign emails stolen by Russian hackers.  Flynn knows what the president knew about all this, which is why his cooperation with Mueller is so devastating."

NOTE: Flynn has the distinction of being fired by both Presidents Obama and Trump. He was fired in April, 2014 by the Democratic president after clashing with superiors over his alleged chaotic management style and vision for the agency.

Paul Manafort – arrested October 30, 2017

Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election charged President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering. A third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI. It was a sharp escalation of U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller's five-month-old investigation into alleged Russian efforts to tilt the election in Trump's favor, and into potential collusion by Trump aides.

Manafort, 68, a longtime Republican operative, and Gates were arraigned at a federal courthouse in Washington. Both men pleaded not guilty to charges against them in a 12-count indictment, ranging from money laundering to acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine's former pro-Russian government. The judge ordered house arrest for both men and set a $10 million unsecured bond for Manafort and an unsecured bond for Gates at $5 million.

Manafort ran the Trump campaign from June to August of 2016 before resigning amid reports he might have received millions of dollars in illegal payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Both Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars of income from Ukraine work and laundered money through scores of U.S. and foreign entities to hide payments from U.S. authorities, the indictment said.

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare.com: The first big takeaway from Monday morning’s flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort, Jr., Richard Gates III, and George Papadopoulos is this: The president of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department. The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to “arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials” and to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some of them.

Sam Clovis – nomination withdrawn 11/2/17

Clovis, President Donald Trump's nominee to be the Department of Agriculture's chief scientist, withdrew himself from consideration after his connections to the ongoing Russia probe came to light. CNN reported, “Questions are swirling over Clovis' relationship with George Papadopoulos -- the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who has admitted to making a false statement to the FBI regarding his interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government -- and a trip Papadopoulos took during the election where he met with a Russian figure. Clovis, a former conservative radio talk show host in Iowa, became an early supporter of Trump's two years ago. The Washington Post reported the same day, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist nominee, Sam Clovis, who now serves as the agency’s senior White House adviser, confirmed in an Oct. 17 letter obtained by the Washington Post that he has no academic credentials in either science or agriculture.” As of November, Clovis continues to work at the department.

A government of lobbyists

During the campaign, the Trump team released the "Donald J. Trump Contract with the American Voter." The "contract" included two promises:  "A five year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government" and "A lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government." At a campaign stop in Green Bay, Wisconsin on October 17, 2016, Trump tied his “drain the swamp” promise to a specific set of rules for lobbyists, saying, “I am proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.”

The White House posted on its website in early June, 2017 ethics waivers granted to four ex-lobbyists and numerous others who have joined government.  In all, the White House has granted 17 ethics waivers. From the Washington Post:  The waivers exempt the appointees from certain portions of ethics rules aimed at barring potential conflicts of interest.  The rate at which the Trump White House has handed out waivers is far faster than that of the Obama administration, which issued 17 exemptions for White House appointees over eight years.

Columnist Foon Rhee of the Sacramento Bee commented:  “This is shamefully cynical, even for Washington, D.C.  Make a big deal over signing an executive order limiting lobbyists.  But then give free passes to top aides.  That’s the bottom line of the latest ethics outrage by the Trump White House. Counselor Kellyanne Conway can meet former political clients of her polling firm.  Trump’s energy adviser (a former lobbyist for oil and gas companies) can work on energy and environmental policy. And his tax policy adviser (a former mutual fund executive) can handle retirement and financial services issues. So much for ‘drain the swamp.’”

On June 21, 2017, USA Today reported that more than 100 former federal lobbyists had found jobs in the Trump Administration, 69 of them in agencies they had tried to influence from the outside.

In late October, 2017, the Daily Beast examined 341 nominations the president had made to Senate-confirmed administration positions. Of those, more than half (179) have some notable conflict of interest, according to a comprehensive review of public records. One hundred and five nominees worked in the industries that they were being tasked with regulating; 63 lobbied for, were lawyers for, or otherwise represented industry members that they were being tasked with regulating; and 11 received payments or campaign donations from members of the industry that they were being tasked with regulating. For example:

Trump nominated Brendan Carr, a former telecom lawyer who represented, among others, AT&T and Verizon, to serve as a commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees telecoms. He was confirmed.

Trump nominated Jeffrey Rosen, a lobbyist for a major airline group, to be the deputy secretary at the Department of Transportation, which will likely seek to implement the president’s proposal to privatize air traffic control. He was confirmed.

 “While some of the president’s nominees are nontraditional,” noted Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, “they are merely from a neighboring swamp.”

Update from THE WEEK: “During his campaign, Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of special interest groups.  Yet one of his first actions as president was to remove an Obama-era ethics restriction banning lobbyists from joining government agencies they had lobbied in the past two years.  Trump has since hired more than 100 lobbyists from Big Pharma, health care, and the energy and finance industries – roughly two thirds of whom work in departments they once directly lobbied. Eric Lipton, a New York Times reporter, said, ‘The regulated have become the regulators.’”

Theodoric Meyer at Politico reported October 19, “In the year since the Green Bay rally, Trump has delivered fully on just one of his five (ethics reform) promises, signing an executive order a week after taking office that banned executive branch officials from lobbying for foreign governments and overseas political parties after they leave the administration. (How the ban will be enforced is unclear.)” Meyer added, “Rather than draining the swamp, many Washington lobbyists say business is better than ever.  Spending on lobbying in Washington totaled almost $1.7 billion in the first half of the year, the highest since 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

Anthony Scaramucci – fired 7/31/17

On July 27, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker magazine reported on an obscenity-laced call he had with the new White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci.

Scaramucci’s called Lizza to find out who tipped Lizza off about a dinner at the White House.

“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said of the White House chief of staff. He channeled Priebus as he spoke: “‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Former Fox executive Shine was one of the persons at the White House dinner Lizza had reported on.)

Scaramucci said, unlike other White House officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”

He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him.

“What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people.”

After the interview became front-page news, Scaramucci, naturally, blamed the reporter he called.  I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again.” Priebus was fired by Trump a few days later, July 28, 2017. Scaramucci was fired three days later after 10 days on the job.

Carl Icahn – resigned 8/18/17

During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly applauded the business acumen of investor billionaire Carl Icahn and publicly promised Icahn would be a key part of the Trump administration. But in August, 2017, Icahn, who was an unpaid special advisor on regulatory reform to the president, suddenly resigned.

Icahn was trafficking in potential conflicts of interests and possible criminal law violations “involving obscure rules that require oil refineries to blend ethanol into gasoline,” the Associated Press reported August 20.

Icahn had invested in a Texas refinery years ago. After the Trump administration took office, Icahn struck a deal related to ethanol blending requirements that dramatically increased the value of his investment.

The Wall Street Journal reported November 9 that U.S. prosecutors are investigating Icahn's former role as an adviser to President Trump and his attempts to change an environmental rule he opposed.  Icahn Enterprises said it had received a subpoena from the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York asking for information about activities related to his role as an adviser to Trump on the Renewable Fuels Standard — a rule which he opposed.

Joe Arpaio – pardoned 8/25/17

President Trump pardoned controversial former Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt. Arpaio was found guilty in July of disregarding a 2011 court order to stop detaining people based on his suspicions they were undocumented immigrants. Critics have called Arpaio’s actions racist and discriminatory. His sentencing was scheduled for October 5. "Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise," wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order.

Arpaio, who endorsed Trump early in the 2016  campaign, was both praised and criticized for his aggressive efforts to hunt down and detain undocumented immigrants, making him a national symbol of the divisive politics of immigration.

Arpaio and Trump were also linked years before promoting the lie that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Months before the conviction, President Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about closing the federal government’s criminal case against Arpaio.  The Washington Post reported August 26, 2017, “The president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against Arpaio, but was advised that would be inappropriate… After talking with Sessions, Trump decided to let the case go to trial, and if Arpaio was convicted, he could grant clemency.” Trump’s “effort to see if the case could be dropped showed a troubling disregard for the traditional wall between the White House and the Justice Department and taken together with similar actions could undermine respect for the rule of law, experts said.”

Here come the jets

When you're a Jet,
You're the swingin'est thing,
Little boy, you're a man,
Little man, you're a king!
                  Jet Song from West Side Story

Trump cabinet members – Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – have a passion for flying first class…in taxpayer-funded U.S. government and privately-owned jets. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has a slightly different proclivity – he had the U.S. taxpayer pay the travel tab that allowed his wife to join him in Europe for 10 days of business meetings and site-seeing, but mostly site-seeing.

Politico uncovered Secretary Price’s passion for private jet travel when it identified more than $400,000 spent on 24 charter jet flights Price took from May through September, 2017.

Interestingly, Price has a track-record for being vehemently opposed to government-funded jet travel.  In 2009, when he was a congressman, he attacked as “fiscal irresponsibility” a proposal to spend $550 million on planes for members of Congress and government officials.  In 2010, Congressman Price criticized then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “flying over our country in a luxury jet.”

The inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed September 22 it was investigating the private jet travel of the agency’s chief. Price told Fox News on September 23 he will stop his taxpayer-funded travel on private jets. On September 26, Politico reported Price “took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simons Island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land, a day and a half before he addressed a group of local doctors at a medical conference that he and his wife have long attended.” Politico reported on September 28 that Price’s overseas trips this year have cost taxpayers over $500,000 and that all his trips have cost taxpayers $1 million. On the same day, Price wrote a check for $52,000 to “reimburse” the government for his jet travels.  The next day, September 29, Price resigned his post.

Treasury Department investigators are probing Price’s cabinet partner, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, regarding an August trip taken from New York to Washington, D.C. in a government jet that cost taxpayers $25,000.  (A commercial flight on the same route costs considerably less.) 

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt took charter and military flights that cost the taxpayers more than $58,000, according the Washington Post. Pruitt has taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February. The EPA’s Office of Inspector General is conducting an investigation.

Politico and the Washington Post reported September 28 that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke used the private jet of a campaign contributor to travel from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana and also for a visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Zinke’s charter cost the taxpayer $12,000 for a plane ride between two airports that run regular commercial flights. On October 2, it was announced that the Interior Department’s inspector general had opened an investigation. On December 8, Politico reported that Zinke "spent more than $14,000 on government helicopters this summer to take himself and staff to and from official events near Washington, D.C., in order to accommodate his attendance at a swearing-in ceremony for his replacement in Congress and a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence."

The Washington Post reported September 29, “Nearly three days into a trip to Europe this past July, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin had attended a Wimbledon championship tennis match, toured Westminster Abbey and taken a cruise on the Thames. The 10-day trip was not entirely a vacation. Shulkin was in Europe for meetings with Danish and British officials about veterans’ health issues. Yet he and his wife spent about half their time sightseeing, including shopping and touring historic sites, according to an itinerary obtained by the Washington Post and confirmed by a U.S. official familiar with their activities. Shulkin’s six-person traveling party included his acting undersecretary of health and her husband, his chief of staff and another aide, the itinerary says. They were accompanied by a security detail of as many as six people.” The VA’s inspector general is reviewing the trip.

It was learned on September 27 that the House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation. On October 11, Talking Points Memo reported that Office of Government Ethics acting Director David Apol sent a memo to the heads of federal agencies admonishing some Cabinet officials for their actions and encouraging a greater focus on ethics. “I am deeply concerned that the actions of some in Government leadership have harmed perceptions about the importance of ethics and what conduct is, and is not, permissible,” he wrote. Apol encouraged agency heads to “re-double” their commitment to ethics. On October 18, the chairman and vice chairman of the House Oversite Committee threatened to subpoena Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the panel's leaders say they have not "received sufficient communication" from the Justice Department about the Trump administration's use of private aircraft.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to properly document his travel, the agency's watchdog said November 16, preventing it from determining whether he had violated government rules. "Our investigation is delayed by absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips and a review process that failed to include proper documentation and accountability," Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said in a letter obtained by POLITICO and first reported by The Washington Post.

50. Release his tax returns  - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: After the election, on 60 Minutes, Trump again said that he would release his tax returns, despite his failure to live up to this promise for at least two years (he first made the promise in 2014 and repeatedly since.) As usual, Trump said that he couldn’t release his returns just yet because he is under routine IRS audit, even though the IRS says Trump is totally free to release his tax returns, audit or no audit.

Update: Two days after President Trump's inauguration, special assistant KellyAnne Conway told ABC's "This Week" that Trump would not be releasing his tax returns. "We litigated this all through the election.  People didn't care. They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: Most Americans are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like." On March 28, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee blocked a Democratic effort to force President Trump to submit 10 years worth of tax returns to Congress for review. On May 31, weeks after former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel for the Department of Justice and given the task of investigating the Trump campaign's alleged connection to Russia, Philip Shenon wrote for Politico Magazine, "Veteran federal prosecutors and legal scholars said that Mueller, who began his investigation only last week, has clear-cut authority to obtain the president's tax returns - perhaps the most sensitive and sought-after government documents since the Pentagon Papers - from the IRS if Mueller suspects they might contain evidence of a crime."  On August 31, the Daily Beast reported that Mueller has teamed up the IRS' Criminal Investigations unit, a group that works exclusively on financial crime such as money laundering and tax evasion.

In addition, a second opportunity for the public to see the President's tax returns came to light during October 18 oral arguments in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The judge was hearing pro and con arguments from attorneys representing CREW (see Promise #49 for more details) and the Justice Department on the question of whether the plaintiffs have a case against President Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.  Reported Peter Overby of NPR, "If Judge George Daniels says the plaintiffs have legal standing to proceed with the suit, they then can seek internal financial documents, including (Trump's) tax returns. 'We will be looking for detailed financial records, foreign and domestic transactions, in the president's businesses,' plaintiffs' lawyer Joseph Sellers told reporters after the hearing. 'If the tax returns turn out to be relevant we may seek them.'" 




It is useless to hold a person to anything he says while
he is in love, drunk, or running for office.

Shirley MacLaine