Tuesday, December 6, 2016

March 20, 2018

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

3/19 – Kimberly Leonard the Washington Examiner re. Promises #4 (Replace Obamacare with something much better) and #34 (Defund Planned Parenthood):

Congressional Republicans unveiled legislation on Monday that would funnel billions of dollars to Obamacare markets, and hope the provision can be attached to the long-term government spending that's due Friday.

The new bill would fund insurer payments known as cost-sharing reduction payments for three years, and offer $30 billion in reinsurance funds distributed evenly for three years. It includes more flexibility for states to implement changes to their healthcare systems and allows more people to buy plans that have lower premiums and higher deductibles.

An aspect of the bill that hadn't been previously disclosed specifies that health insurers would have to specify in their marketing materials that this type of coverage isn't as extensive as Obamacare plans, and allows states to set up their own regulations on these plans.

The GOP proposal also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to issue rules about selling health insurance across state lines, a provision already proposed by the White House.

The bill has the support of Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.; and Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa.

Democratic leaders who support Obamacare have previously said they would not vote to pass the bill because it also contains the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the funding of abortions with taxpayer money, with limited exceptions.

The Hill reports: ObamaCare payments aimed at lowering premiums will not be included in the House’s government funding bill, in a significant defeat for backers of the effort. Multiple GOP lawmakers leaving a conference meeting held Monday evening to discuss the ominibus funding bill said the payments are not being included, in large part because of a dispute with Democrats over abortion restrictions known as the Hyde Amendment.

More on the spending bill from columnist Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post: It’s a measure of our low expectations of Congress that the working assumption around Capitol Hill is that the gigantic spending bill will be the “last chance to settle dozens of long-running policy fights.” You see, there won’t be more chances to pass legislation of any consequence. Wait. It’s only March. They cannot find the time between now and the November elections to put together an infrastructure bill? A fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program? If Congress does virtually nothing but the tax cuts, ordinary voters — aside from feeling chagrin at Republicans’ unwillingness to check an increasingly out-of-control president — might conclude that its members have failed to address many of the issues near and dear to them, including a big infrastructure bill, reasonable gun control, relief from rising health-care costs and immigration.

3/18 – Tom Epstein in the Sacramento Bee re. Promise #4 (Replace Obamacare with something better than takes care of everyone at a fraction of the cost):

Epstein worked on health policy for the White House, the California Department of Insurance and Blue Shield of California.

Republicans in Congress have worked hard to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

Last month, the Trump administration proposed the sale of “short-term” insurance that provides little protection for pre-existing conditions and does not cover many expensive healthcare services. These policies appeal to those without health problems because premiums are much lower, but they further damage the market for comprehensive individual coverage.

In previous years, Republicans stopped funding for risk corridors and cost-sharing subsidies, two features of Obamacare that make coverage more affordable by providing payments to insurers with a greater share of high-cost and low-income patients. Meanwhile, they refuse to let the government bargain with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices, despite President Donald Trump’s avowed support for the concept.

As a result, a recent Urban Institute study projects that premium increases in the individual market will average 18 percent next year and 5-9 million more people will lose their insurance.

And thanks to the haphazard manner in which the policies were adopted, the federal government will spend $33 billion more to insure fewer Americans.

For now, the Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and individual market subsidies are ensuring that most low-income people can still obtain affordable health care. But middle class individuals who earn too much to qualify for government help are being priced out of the market. They must pay the full cost of the rapidly rising premiums, which are now $5,000 per person with a $6,000 deductible, and likely to rise dramatically in the next few years.

3/16 – Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times re. Promise #27 (Eliminate the national debt):

President Trump has now amassed his first $1 trillion in debt, crossing that ignominious mark late last week — and analysts said it’s just a taste of what’s to come after the tax-cuts and spending spree of recent months.

Indeed, his next $1 trillion could come within a year, and one analyst said he could soon be staring at $3 trillion annual deficits if things go particularly badly in interest rates.

It’s a major reversal for a president who during the campaign had said given eight years he could eliminate the debt entirely, but is instead looking at setting records for red ink.

“We are in for a rude awakening,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Her organization calculated that with December’s tax cuts and January’s budget-busting spending deal, Mr. Trump has already signed legislation that will add at least $2.4 trillion to the debt in the next decade and, should Congress make those policies permanent, could add as much as $6 trillion.

Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, said the tax and spending bills will add about $3 trillion to the debt, in addition to $10 trillion already baked in from previous government spending patterns.

“I project the budget deficit will top $1 trillion by next year, and reach $2 trillion within a decade – or even approach a staggering $3 trillion if interest rates rise back to 1990s levels,” he said.

Mr. Trump at this time last year was crowing over the debt, which stood at $19.947 trillion and quickly dipped after his inauguration. He took to Twitter to demand credit. “The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.,” he wrote.

After touting his early successes Mr. Trump has gone silent this year.

3/15 – Timothy L. O’Brien at Bloomberg View re. Promise #49 (Drain the Swamp):

O'Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Gadfly and Bloomberg View

Last July, President Donald Trump warned the special counsel Robert Mueller that it would be a "violation" for him and his group of Justice Department investigators to examine the Trump family's finances. The president agreed with a New York Times reporter's question about whether doing so would amount to crossing a "red line."

Mueller apparently has decided to cross that line anyway. The Times reported on Thursday that Mueller's team has subpoenaed Trump's company, the Trump Organization, for records pertaining to a number of business deals -- including some related to Russia.

Mueller has already made it clear that he wouldn’t hesitate to look at Trump's business transactions. My Bloomberg News colleagues reported last July -- just a day after Trump conversed with the Times about that red line -- that Mueller was expanding the scope of his investigation to Trump's commercial dealings.

Mueller's probe seems to be pursuing three primary questions. The first is whether Trump or his campaign worked with the Kremlin to tilt the 2016 election in Trump's favor. The second is whether Trump or his advisers obstructed justice to derail the federal investigation. The third involves the possibility of financial quid pro quos that Trump and his family members (especially his son-in-law, Jared Kushner) may have sought in exchange for public policy favors (like, for example, possibly lifting economic sanctions on Russia or shifting U.S. Ukraine policy).

The quid pro quo stuff is likely to be all about money ultimately, and that's why the Times's scoop on Thursday is significant. Mueller is venturing into the Trump Organization itself, the nexus of all of the president's business deals. He's collecting records from a company that's inseparable from the president himself. No major transactions have occurred at the Trump Organization without Trump's blessing, and his unwillingness and failure to separate himself from his company since entering the White House makes that reality even more apparent.

"When Obama drew that red line in the sand, he should have crossed that red line.” 
President Donald Trump, July 25, 2017, commenting on
President Obama’s handling of the Syrian civil war.


Years 1 & 2 Results

😀  Promises kept:

#3 (Repeal Obamacare individual mandate), #4 (Obamacare - allow adults under 26 to remain on parents' health plans), #5 (Terminate DACA),  #10 (Stop massive inflow of refugees), #12 (Withdraw from Trans-Pacific Partnership), #19 (Bring corporate $$ back into U.S. at reduced tax rate), #21 (Dramatically lower corporate tax rates) and #44 (Move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem)

😀  Promises partially kept:

#8 (Ban Muslims), #10 (Bar Syrians) #24 (Eliminate estate tax on the very wealthy), #24 (Eliminate the alternative minimum tax) and #46 (Bomb the shit out of ISIS)

😀  First step(s) taken to keep promise

#9 (Implement "extreme vetting"), #11 (Renegotiate NAFTA),  #13 (Impose tariffs on many imports), #13 (Heavily tax Chinese imports), #13 (Put steel and aluminum back into the backbone of USA), #17 (Bring back manufacturing jobs), #18 (Undo Dodd-Frank), #30 (Appoint justices to the Supreme Court to overturn Rowe v. Wade), #35 (Gut the EPA),  #36 (Move forward with Keystone pipeline), #38 (Strengthen the military), #38 (Upgrade the nuclear arsenal), #39 (Dump the Iran nuclear deal), #41 (Alter US relations with Europe and Asia),  #41 (NATO members should pay more for their defense) and #42 (Withdraw U.S. from the Paris climate accord)

😠  Promises dropped:

#1 (Introduce legislation in first 100 days to fund Wall), #2 (Mexico pays for The Wall), #3 (Repeal Obamacare "on Day One"),  #4 (Replace Obamacare with something better that takes care of "everybody"),  #4 (Replace Obamacare with great health care at fraction of the cost),  #7 (Deport 3 million undocumented/criminals on "Day One"), #7 (Deport 11 million illegals),   #7 (Deport aliens with expired visas), #10 (Kick out any Syrians living in the U.S.),   #13 (Introduce "End Offshoring Act"),  #14 (Invest $1 trillion to rebuild US infrastructure), #17 (Declare China a currency manipulator),  #17 (Fix the trade deficit with China), #21 (Get rid of corporate tax loopholes),  #21 (Make tax code simple, fair and easy to understand), #22 (Give middle class large tax cut), # 22 (Reduce the number of tax brackets to three), #22 (Rich will not benefit from tax reform package), #22 (Eliminate taxes for singles earning less than $25,000 and couples earning less than $50,000), #23 (Eliminate Wall Street's carried interest loophole), #24 (Eliminate the marriage penalty),  #25 (Create tax-free accounts for child care expenses), #25 (Make child care expenses tax deductible for families earning less than $500,000), #26 (Promote term limits for Congress), #27 (Eliminate national debt),  #27 (Implement the "Penny Plan" to reduce national debt), #28 (Get rid of Common Core), #29 (Be nation's biggest cheerleader for school choice), #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), #41 (In the first 100 days, renegotiate trade and military deals), #41 (Update NATO’s outdated mission and structure), #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 (“Nobody builds wall better than me and I’ll  build them very inexpensively”), #4 (Obamacare - protect pre-existing conditions coverage),  #15 (Grow the nation's economy by 4 to 6 percent annually), #31 (Get rid of gun-free zones),  #32 (Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cutting benefits), #33 (Fire "corrupt and incompetent" leaders in the VA), #40 (Scale back U.S. military commitments abroad), and #48 ("Lock her up!")

😐 Promises Not Yet Scored:

#1 (Build a “great” wall along the Mexican border), #6 (End birthright citizenship), #7 (Greatest deportation force/triple custom officials), #13 (35% tax on goods coming into the country from U.S. companies that move production out of the country), #16 (Create 25 million new jobs), #17 (Bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO), #20 (Bring back the coal industry), #25 (Provide six weeks paid maternity leave), #33 (Dramatically reform the Veteran’s Administration), #33 (Allow veterans access to any medical facility that accepts Medicaid patients), #34 (Defund Planned Parenthood), #38 (Grow the Naval fleet to 350 ships and subs), #38 (Built Air Force to 1,200 fighter aircraft), #38 (Grow Army to 540,000), #38 (Build Marine Corps to 36 battalions), #38 (Add new missile defense systems),  #39 (Renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal) and #46 (Eradicate radical Islamic terrorism – including ISIS – from the face of the earth)

See “Status of the 50” below for 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

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. (PROMISE DROPPED) 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." (Promise being reconsidered)

Current status:  According to a leaked transcript of a January 27 call between President Trump and Mexican President Pena Nieto, Trump pleaded with Nieto to not say publicly that Mexico wouldn't pay for the wall. "Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about," Trump told Nieto. "But politically this might be the most important." 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, 2017 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.

But on August 22, President Trump vowed to close down the government in September if he didn'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. 

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." On January 5, 2018 the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration is asking Congress for nearly $18 billion to construct more than 700 miles of new and replacement barriers along the southwest border." But on January 17, White House chief of staff John Kelly told lawmakers that the United States will never construct a physical wall along the entire stretch of the US-Mexico border.   Some of President Trump's campaign promises on immigration, Kelly said, were "uninformed." The next day President Trump tweeted, "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.  The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico."

And on January 23, just days after a three-day shutdown of the government caused, in part, by differences between Republicans and Democrats over the fate of the Dreamers (See Promise #5), Trump again said that without Democratic support of funding for the wall, extension of DACA would not receive his support. Days later he proposed giving 1.8 million Dreamers - and those eligible to be Dreamers - a pathway to citizenship if Congress also allocated $30 billion for the Wall and border security. A number of Republican and Democrat congressional leaders and interest groups balked at the proposal. Breitbart News labeled the plan, "Don's Amnesty Bonanza." 

McClatchy's Washington Bureau reported February 10, after Congress passed and the President signed a two-year budget bill with no funding for the wall, the Trump administration was considering different ways of making Mexico - or somebody - pay for the wall. "While Trump's team has not reached a consensus, leading proposals include adding a small percentage fee on money sent by individuals in the United States to recipients in Mexico. Another is directing a surplus in revenue from a revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short has also spoken favorably of a proposal presented by Republican members of Congress to have foreign tech workers, though largely not Mexican, pay for part of the wall." 

On February 15, the U.S. Senate failed on four separate votes to pass funding proposals for The Wall and to protect DACA eligible residents. On February 23, the president once again promised to build the wall when he told CPAC convention attendees, "You're getting the wall. Don't worry. I had a couple of these characters in the back say, 'oh, he really doesn't want the wall.  He just used that for campaigning. You know, I say every time I hear that, the wall get 10 feet higher." And then on February 25 Politico reported that a planned meeting between President Trump and Mexican President Nieto was "scuttled this week after a testy call between the two leaders ended in an impasse over Trump's promised border wall. Both countries agreed to call off the plan after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico's position that it would not fund construction of a border wall."

President Trump surprised some supporters February 28 when he announced, via Twitter, that his administration would not push forward with plans to build the California section of the wall if/until the entire project was approved by Congress.

Commentary from Melissa Francis, co-host of Fox Business "After the Bell": "He always begins by taking a loud and outlandish position far outside the current discussion.  The pattern began near the start of his candidacy, when he first pledged to "build a great, great wall on our southern border" - and to make Mexico pay for it.  The strategy was torn right out of "The Art of the Deal," the 1987 book in which Mr. Trump advises: "If you're going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big." 

     Repeal and Replace Obamacare 

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

      4.   And replace it with something "so much better" that takes care of everybody -  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. (PROMISE KEPT - individual mandate eliminated in 2019 "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." (Promise being reconsidered) 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." (PROMISE DROPPED) 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 has also promised to maintain the portion of the law that allows adults under 26 to be covered on their parents' plans.  (PROMISE KEPT)

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 a vote on another piece 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. And 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."

And then on 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.  

On October 20, Gallup reported 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 December 23, a day after President Trump announced that "we have essentially repealed Obamacare," the Associated Press reported that 4 out of 5 of the 8.8 million Americans who signed up for Obamacare came from states that Trump carried in 2016. The four states with the highest number of sign-up - Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia - all voted for Trump.

Also in December, 2017, Congress passed its major tax reform bill, eliminating the individual mandate effective 2019. All told, 13 million fewer Americans are now projected to lose or decide to drop health insurance coverage, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Reported Politico, "Obamacare survived the first year of President Trump, but it's badly damaged.  The Trump administration has killed some subsidies, halved the insurance enrollment period, gutted the Obamacare marketing campaign, and rolled out a regulatory red carpet for skimpy new health plans that will change the insurance landscape in ways that are harmful to former President Obama's signature health care law." 

On January 4,  2018 the Associated Press reported the Trump administration is moving forward to facilitate the interstate sale of health insurance policies that cost less but may not cover as much. "The complex proposal aims to deliver on President Donald Trump's long-standing pledge to increase competition and lower costs by promoting the sale of health plans across state lines."  The plan would allow insurance companies to offer plans that do not include the set of 10 essential health benefits that Obamacare requires of insurance sold to individuals and small companies. But it would preserve Obamacare's rule that bars insurers from charging certain customers more based on their health status or from refusing to cover those with conditions that are expensive to treat. The proposals are open to 60 days of public comment.

On February 1, Politico reported that the Republican-led Congress held a GOP leadership retreat and decided to drop any effort this year to repeal-and-replace Obamacare. "It underscores how Republicans overpromised in their ability to reform the nation's health care and never fully recognized how divided the party is over key Obamacare planks like protecting pre-existing conditions and preserving the law's Medicaid expansion." On February 5, federal budget expert Stan Collender predicted  Republicans won't repeal Obamacare in 2018. Why? The GOP won't be adopting a 2019 budget resolution because they don't want to expose how their 2017 tax cut ballooned the national debt. "Not doing a budget resolution mean there can't be reconciliation, and without reconciliation the biggest parts of the GOP's legislative agenda will be virtually impossible to enact." Including repealing Obamacare.

But the administration continued its effort to expand the use of low-budget temporary insurance plans, which, critics fear, could undermine more comprehensive insurance for others. NBC News reported  the new plans, unlike the ACA plans, do not require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, cover specific treatments or provide unlimited benefits. "Health care advocates critical of the plans argue the administration's actions are deliberately driving up costs for Obamacare customers, many of whom can't get by with cheap plans that may not cover a chronic illness or unexpected medical emergency." And in late February the Urban Institute reported that 6.4 million fewer Americans are expected to have health insurance as a result of the GOP's decision to get rid of the individual mandate and other policy changes to Obamacare. Another 2.5 million people ,who would otherwise have been insured, are expected to opt for short-term policies instead. Tom Epstein, who has worked on health policy for the White House and the California Department of Insurance, commented March 18 in the Sacramento Bee, "thanks to the haphazard manner in which the (Trump and GOP policies in 2017) were adopted, the federal government will spend $33 billion more to insure fewer Americans."

Update from Wisconsin: Governor Scott Walker, one of the nation's most militantly anti-Obamacare governors, is making strengthening the health care law a key plank in his reelection platform, Politico reported February 23. "Walker wants to prop up his Obamacare market with a $200 million program that would compensate health insurers for high-cost patients so they don't hike premiums for everyone." Walker signed into law February 28 a new law that positions the state to receive $150 million in federal dollars to shore up the healthcare marketplace with the $200 million reinsurance fund.

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 (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, 2017 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." 

However, on September 5, President Trump terminated the DACA program but delayed implementation of his order for six months (until March 5, 2018). 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.

On January 9,  2018 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco blocked the administration's attempt to phase out DACA, citing President Trump's tweets in September supporting the program, including, "Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!"  Wrote Judge William Alsup, "For the reasons DACA was instituted and for the reasons tweeted by President Trump, this order finds that the public interest will be served by DACA's continuation." Four days later the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service said it had begun allowing certain Dreamers to renew protection under the DACA program. And then on January 16, the Washington Post reported "The Justice Department on Tuesday said it would take the 'rare step' of asking the Supreme Court to overturn a judge's ruling and clear the way for the Trump administration to dismantle" DACA.  "The Trump administration said it has appealed the judge's injunction - which said the Obama-era program must continue while a legal challenge to ending it is pending - to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."

On January 25, President Trump proposed that Congress approve a 10 to 12-year pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants, including Dreamers, if Congress will also allocate $30 billion for the Wall and additional border security. At his State of the Union address on January 30, the president said his proposal "covers almost three times more people than the previous administration covered."  A number of Democrat and Republican congressional leaders and interest groups, however, balked at the offer.

A federal judge in New York ruled in February that while the Trump administration has the right to rescind DACA, it has not provided sufficient legal reasons to do so.  

On February 15, the U.S. Senate failed, after numerous attempts, to pass legislation regarding DACA eligible residents. And on February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Trump administration's appeal of the San Francisco and New York federal district court rulings against President Trump's attempt to rescind the program.

     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.

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, which grants U.S. citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. (Approximately 7.5% of all births in the U.S. re to illegal immigrants.)  It is not clear whether an act of Congress or an amendment to the Constitution would be required to change birthright citizen.

In 2018, GOP leaders in the House introduced a comprehensive immigration bill that protects the Dreamers, ends the diversity visa lottery program, limits family-based visas, creates an ag guest worker program, bans sanctuary cities and requires employers to use E-Verify. It does not deal with birthright citizenship. In fact, as of March, 2018 President Trump has not spoken on the subject during his presidency.

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. (PROMISE DROPPED) Trump explained that he would do this by having “the greatest deportation force” imaginable and tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.   

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."  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. (PROMISE DROPPED)

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. That executive order was not implemented, however, during 2017.

On January 6, 2018, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is seeking funding from Congress to hire 10,000 additional immigration officer, attorneys, prosecutors and judges that some immigration activists called a build-up of a "deportation force."

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. 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.

Current Status of promises:  

·       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. 

·       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 Associated Press reported December 27 that the Trump administration sent about 152,000 Mexican nationals back to their home country in 2017, compared to roughly 205,000 returned in the first 11 months of 2016 during the last year of the Obama administration. But 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. TIME reported in March 2018 that the number of people caught sneaking over the U.S. - Mexico border had fallen to its lowest level in 46 years. 

·       On February 11, 2018 the Washington Post reported that the biggest percentage jump in arrests made by ICE has been of immigrants with no criminal record.  "The agency made 37,734 'noncriminal' arrests in the government's 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year. TIME reported in March, "Between 2016 and 2017, apprehensions of undocumented immigrants jumped by a third. That increase was driven primarily by arrests of people with no prior criminal record. In 2017, President Trump deported more than double the number of noncriminals than Obama had the previous year."  ICE also arrested 105,736 immigrants with criminal convictions, a slight increase from the year before. 

      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, 2017 signed an executive order that indefinitely blocked refugees from Syria and six other Muslim national 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 the 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. The court said that Trump's executive order was clearly a "Muslim ban."  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. The refugee program was again suspended 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 June 1 the Trump administration filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to reverse those rulings by lower courts.

Trump, by executive proclamation, then issued a travel ban on immigration from eight countries, six Muslim countries plus North Korea and Venezuela. 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. 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.

In January, 2018 the Wall Street Journal reported that the percentage of Muslim refugees admitted into the United States dropped from more than 40% of all refugees in recent years to 14% in October, November and December, 2017. The drop includes "a near-total suspension of admissions from 11 countries," most of which are Muslim dominated. Politico reported refugee admissions were lowered from 110,000 in 2016 to 45,000 in 2017. "Trump has had real success stopping the flow of refugees, even as the courts have at times blocked some of his measures."

On January 19, the Supreme Court announced it will rule on the legality of President Trump's travel ban targeting people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

      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, 2017 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, 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."

On January 9, the Wall Street Journal reported the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. has dropped dramatically and that the Trump administration in October, November and December of 2017 "implemented tougher screening and all but halted admissions from parts of the world."  

10.  Bar Syrian refugees from entering the country and stop the inflow of refugees - STATUS -  Promise to bar Syrian refugees partially KEPT. Promise to stop inflow of refuges of 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, 2017 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. The court said Trump's executive order was clearly a "Muslim ban." 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. And then on January 9, 2018 the Wall Street Journal reported that Syria was one of the 11 countries and that admission of refugees had dropped dramatically in the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year. 

On January 19, the Supreme Court announced it will rule on President Trump's third try at a travel ban targeting people from Syria, Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Politico reported that the ceiling on refugee admissions was lowered by the Trump administration from 110,000 in 2016 to 45,000 in 2017. "Trump has had real success stopping the flow of refugees, even as the courts have at times blocked some of his measures."

On January 31, the Trump administration announced it would allow some 7,000 Syrians to remain in the U.S. for at least another 18 months under protected status as civil war rages in their native country.  "After carefully considering conditions on the ground, I have determined that it is necessary to extend the Temporary Protected Status designation for Syria," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. "It is clear that the conditions upon which Syria's designation was based continues to exist."    

     International Trade 

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

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.  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. A study by the Business Roundtable shows that withdrawing from the pact would cost 1.8 million jobs in the first year. 

On January 8, 2018 in a speech before the American Farm Bureau Federation, President Trump seemed to downplay the odds of succeeding in the renegotiation of the agreement. "Think of it: When Mexico is making all of that money, when Canada is making all of that money, it is not easy of a negotiation." Weeks later Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a Trump-like warning, "We aren't going to take any old deal.  Canada is willing to walk away from NAFTA if the United States proposes a bad deal. We won't be pushed around." On March 6, Megan Cassella and Doug Palmer at Politico reported, "President Donald Trump is running out of time to make good on a high-profile campaign promise to have a reworked NAFTA completed this year with congressional approval.  After many rounds of talks involving hundreds of trade officials, only six out of 30 chapters have closed." 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: According to the February 24, 2017 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 Robert B. Zoellick: The former World Bank president and U.S. trade representative wrote in the Wall Street Journal January 9, 2018: The continuing negotiations to "fix" NAFTA are doomed. Mexico and Canada would probably agree on eliminating barriers and setting new rules for the digital age. But Mr. Trump's real aim is to dictate market outcomes.  The administration wants to start with the goal of eliminating the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and then manipulate rules to that end."

      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." In July, 2015 at a rally he said, "I win against China.  You can win against China if you're smart." And then on August 1, 2016, he tweeted during the campaign, "China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, these countries are all taking our jobs, like we're a bunch of babies. That will stop." On January 23, President Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from the TPP. Moments after the executive order was signed, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) 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." To celebrate the President's decision, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) and Sen. Sanders held a rally on Capitol Hill.

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 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." Intended to counter Chinese economic clout, the deal covers markets that make up about 14 percent of global gross domestic product, including Canada, Japan, Mexico and Australia. 

Commentary from the Wall Street Journal, December 15: 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 that the U.S. lost by walking away from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. 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."

Commentary from the Editors at the National Review:  "Trump's views on trade have always been and remain foolish - he has been going on about the Asian economic Superman getting ready to eat our lunch since Japan rather than China was the locus of our national trade anxiety.  This has led to many unfortunate outcomes, including the abandonment of American leadership on trade-related issues:  The U.S. decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, has not derailed the project, but simply left it to proceed with Canada rather than the United States taking the lead while also giving China more leverage in its trade negotiations with its neighbors.  Trump called TPP 'a terrible deal,' but he never explained his objections in any meaningful detail, and his aides have been trying to replicate some of its provisions in new trade deals."  

       13.   Impose tariffs on many imports - STATUS - First steps taken

Background: Trump also promised in his "Contract with the American Voter" to introduce the "End the Offshoring Act" within his first days in office 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. (First step taken to keep promise)  As the GOP candidate, Trump told supporters, "We can't continue to allow China to rape our country." On January 7, 2016, Trump told the New York Times he favored a 45 percent tariff on all 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." In June, 2016, Trump also said, "When subsidized foreign steel is dumped into our markets, threatening our factories, the politicians have proven, folks, have proven they do nothing.  We are going to put American steel and aluminum back into the backbone of our country." (First step taken to keep promise) 

After the election, 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." 

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.  In April, 2017, President Trump announced a pair of investigations into steel and aluminum imports - predicting he would take action by summer, 2017. 

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. 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 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." (On January 25, 2018 the U.S. International Trade Commission unanimously voted to reject Boeing's petition, preventing the Trump administration from slapping duties totaling nearly 300 percent on the Canadians manufacturer's C Series aircraft. Politico reported, "The decision bucked a Trump administration 'America First' concept and handed a win to Canada and the United Kingdom - two countries where Bombardier employs thousands of people.) 

·         Politico reported on January 6, 2018 that the International Trade Commission has approved duties as high as 96 percent on Chinese tool chests and cabinets.  "The Commerce Department imposed the duties in December and the last step in finalizing them was a determination by the ITC, an independent agency, that the domestic industry was materially hurt by the subsidized imports. The move represents the first of perhaps many new trade sanctions on China as the White House considers imposing duties on everything from Chinese steel to solar panels."

·         On January 15 AXIOS reported the Trump administration "is at war with itself over a highly controversial plan to impose massive tariffs on steel and aluminum."  The plan would describe the global glut of both metals as a national security threat to the U.S.  Senior advisors such as Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin oppose the tariffs and Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross support the tariffs. "We're terribly disappointed and hugely frustrated," that Trump hasn't taken action already, said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union. Commentator Joe Innace writing at The Hill said Trump will need to decide who he loves more, steelworkers or farmers.  "If Trump decides to impose tariffs or quotas on imported steel, that might be a show of greater affection for the steel industry. Such a show of greater affection for the domestic steel industry, however, could ignite a retaliatory trade war against farm exports. In the end, Trump will likely deal a little bit to the farms, and a little bit to the mills.  After all, you can't turn off a cow, and you don't want to idle any more furnaces."

·         On January 22, Bloomberg reported that the Trump administration has imposed duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made abroad, a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry.  (In May, 2017, two U.S.-based solar-panel manufacturers formally petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission arguing that competition from China posed an existential threat to their industry.  The ITC agreed in a ruling released in October.) The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected 23,000 jobs will be lost in a sector that employs 260,000 and has been growing by a breakneck 20 percent annually in recent years. China and South Korea may opt to challenge the decision at the World Trade Organization.

·         The Wall Street Journal on the same day reported a 50 percent tariff had also been imposed on imported washing machines. The tariffs primarily affect China and South Korea but would also affect Mexico, Canada and Europe. "The president's action makes clear again that the Trump administration will always defend American workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses," U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer said. On February 6, Reuters reported that China, Taiwan and South Korea have all responded with claims that the U.S. broke numerous World Trade Organization rules. Beijing announced a self-initiated government investigation into whether about $1 billion in U.S. sorghum exports to its market were dumped or subsidized.

·         On February 14, The Hill reported President Trump told lawmakers at the White House that he is considering new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, warning that the domestic industries are being "decimated" by unfair trade.  Trump pushed back against several lawmakers, mostly Republicans, and staff - including Gary Cohn and James Mattis who warned tariffs could cost U.S. jobs, hurt the economy and affect relations with allies.  "You may have a higher price, but you have jobs," Trump said. Two days later the Commerce Department recommended imposing heavy tariffs on foreign producers of steel and aluminum in the interest of national security.  Reported CNBC, "Among the recommendations in the reports are a global tariff of 24 percent on all steel imports. An alternative option would impose a tariff of at least 53 percent on steel from 12 countries, including China and Brazil." Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers International, and Philip Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, both praised the Commerce Department's recommendation.

·         And on March 8, the president announced he would impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum for all nations except Canada and Mexico. Steel tariffs will be 25 percent and aluminum 10 percent. He earlier tweeted, "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don't trade anymore - we win big. It's easy." On the day of the announcement, Trump said, "We have to protect and build our steel and aluminum industries. We want to build our ships, we want to build our planes, we want to build our military equipment with steel, with aluminum, from our country." Two days later, on March 10, the president told a rally in Pennsylvania that "A lot of steel mills are now opening up because of what I did."   

Commentary: Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, Republican economists who supported the Trump campaign and  support his presidency, wrote on March 3: Donald Trump genuinely believes that his steel and aluminum tariffs will save thousands of blue-collar jobs. But even if tariffs save every one of the 140,000 or so steel jobs in America, it puts at risk five million manufacturing and related jobs in industries that use steel. Tariff hikes are really tax hikes. Since so many of the things American consumers buy today are made of steel or aluminum, a 25 percent tariff may get passed on to consumers at the cash register. This is a regressive tax on low income families. 


     14. Rebuild the country's aging infrastructure - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

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 had 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, 2017 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 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." And then 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." On December 22, President Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, told reporters, "We're going to get infrastructure.  Infrastructure is the easiest of them all.  We're very well on our way." And on January 30, 2018, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address and surprised both Democrats and Republicans in the audience when he called on Congress "to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs." But on February 12, three days after Congress passed and the president signed a two-year budget package with no infrastructure funding - the president released his 2019 budget that included only $200 billion of direct federal funds for infrastructure. And less than a month later, on March 7, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that a gas tax - the only funding source both Republican and Democratic members of Congress felt was a viable way of funding the President's infrastructure program - was off the table. "We're not going to raise gas taxes," the Speaker announced.  "We're just not going to do that."  

WHAT THE #%$@???
On March 2, the Washington Post reported "President Trump is pushing congressional Republicans not to fund a crucial infrastructure project - a long-delayed plan to build a new rail tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey. Trump personally appealed to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) this week to target federal funding for the $30 billion Gateway project, which would construct a tunnel into New York's Penn Station to supplement two aging tubes that are at risk of failing in the coming years."  

15.  Grow the nation's economy annually by 4 to 6 percent - STATUS - Promise being reconsidered

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." During the push in December, 2017 for his tax reform bill, President Trump repeated his campaign promise.  "I think we could go to 4, 5 or even 6 percent, ultimately.  We are back. We are really going to start to rock." And in January, 2018, a year into his presidency, Trump told a gathering of mayors, "We're going to be hitting 4 soon, and then we're going to be hitting 5s."

Benchmarks: Annual economic growth has averaged 2.1 percent since the recession ended in 2009. In 2014, GDP grew 2.6 percent; in 2015, 2.9 percent and in 2016, 1.5 percent. GDP last topped 5 percent growth in 1984.

Reality check: 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."

On January 25, 2018 the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that GDP growth in 2017, Trump's first year in office, was 2.3 percent.  The news came the same day President Trump took the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos and said, "After years of stagnation, the United States is once again experiencing strong economic growth." The year 2017 will place 11th in GDP growth over the last 20 years in the United States.

In March, Bloomberg's Steve Matthews observed, "The U.S. economy is beginning the year with a downshift in growth despite $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Unexpectedly weak February retail sales pushed down forecasts for the annualized pace of expansion in the first quarter, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's GDPNow tracking estimate at 1.8 percent, cut from 2.5 percent a week earlier."

      16. Create 25 Million New Jobs

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: In 2011, 1.8 million jobs were created in the United States. In 2012, 2.2 million; in 2013, 2.3 million; in 2014,  3.1 million; in 2015, 2.7 million and in 2016, 2.2 million. 

Update: In 2017, 2.1 million jobs were created. As Steve Benen, an MSNBC producer wrote, "While Donald Trump's first year as president has been pretty good overall for job creation, Americans nevertheless saw the slowest job growth in six years." February, 2018 was a blockbuster month for jobs, with 313,000 created.  Average hourly wages, however, rose just 0.1 percent.

      17.  Bring manufacturing jobs back, designate China a currency manipulator, bring trade cases against China at the WTO and fix the trade deficit with China - STATUS - First steps taken toward restoring manufacturing. Promises to fix massive trade deficit with China and declare China a currency manipulator were both dropped. 

Background: At a campaign rally in Michigan in 2016, Trump said, "My plan includes a pledge to restore manufacturing in the United States."

He also repeatedly promised to fix the massive trade deficit with China. In May, 2016 candidate Trump said that China was being allowed to 'rape' the U.S. in terms of trade." On June 28, 2016, Trump added, "I am going to instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO.  China's unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO, and I intend to enforce those rules."

Trump 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.  On April 12, 2017, 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.)

For additional information on how Trump's actions affecting China are influenced by his personal business interests, see "Business is suddenly good between Trump Family and China" under #49 (Drain the Swamp) below.

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!'  

Despite the president's protestations, America's trade deficit with China hit a record high $375 billion in 2017. (The deficit with the European Union was $151.4 billion, with Mexico $71.1 billion and with Japan $68.8 billion.) The total trade deficit in 2017 was $566 billion, exceeding the 2016 level of $505 billion. Said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, "As a candidate, the president promised to reduce the trade deficit, end China's cheating, stop unfair trade in steel and aluminum, and reverse the tide of lost jobs due to trade. Despite many promises, workers are still waiting for a new approach."

Action on the job front:

·        Ford announced in January, 2017 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.  The Focus will still be built at an existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico but Ford will expand its plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.  

·        But 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. On January 16, 2018, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that a state legislative study shows the planned Foxconn plant may end up costing Wisconsin taxpayers $4.5 billion, mostly in tax credits the state granted Foxconn over a 15-year period. 

·        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. (The company announced in January, 2018 that the plant will be built in Alabama.) 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."

·        Shortly after Mr. Trump's election, Carrier in Indiana was persuaded by the governor, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, not to send jobs to Mexico. Those jobs, however, came at a stiff price - $7 million of incentives from the state. But a year later, on November 9, 2017 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, 2018. '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."

·        Sweden's Electrolux, Europe's largest home appliance maker, announced March 2 it would delay a planned $250 million investment in Tennessee the day after President Trump announced tariffs of 25% on all steel imports and 10% on aluminum imports. "We believe that tariffs could cause a pretty significant increase in the price of steel on the US market," said a company spokesman.

·        On January 17, 2018 AXIOS reported that "manufacturing has now rebounded sharply from the Great Recession.  The sector turned around last year after losing jobs in 2016, and economists say the trend seems to be continuing in 2018." Nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs were added in 2017. But on March 7, Politico reported, "The U.S. trade deficit, which President Trump has repeatedly vowed to reduce or eliminate, rose 5 percent in January to hit $56.6 billion, its highest level since October 2008.  The gap was higher than during any month of former President Obama's administration.  The trade deficit with China rose to $36 billion, its highest mark since September, 2015."  
     18. Get rid of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform - STATUS - First steps taken

Update: On February 3, 2017 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."

On February 1, 2018, the Trump administration moved to eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's enforcement powers when pursing anti-discrimination cases made against financial firms.  The agency, which once penalized lenders for systematically charging minority consumers higher interest rates than white consumers, will only have an advocacy and education role moving forward.  

19.  Allow corporations a one-time window to transfer money being held overseas back to the U.S. - STATUS - PROMISE KEPT

Background: At the beginning of 2017, corporations were required to pay up to 35% of their earnings in taxes if they wished to "repatriate" overseas profits. Candidate Trump indicated he wanted to charge a much-reduced one-time tax of 10 percent to encourage companies to bring those funds back to the U.S. for investment and economic growth. It is estimated US companies hold about $2.6 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 in December, 2017, the Congress passed its tax reform bill, which sets a one-time mandatory tax of eight percent for illiquid assets and 15.5 percent for cash and cash equivalents.

On January 18, Apple announced will be bring back hundreds of billions of overseas dollars to the U.S., pay about $38 billion in taxes on the money, spend tens of billions on 20,000 new domestic jobs as well manufacturing and data centers in the coming years. Apple also said employees will receive stock-based bonuses worth $2,500. President Trump tweeted "Great to see Apple follow through as a result of TAX CUTS."

      20. Bring back the coal industry 

"I'm the one that saved coal.  I'm the one that created jobs."
President Donald Trump, December 28, 2017

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, 2017 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."

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. EPA chief Scott Pruitt said that repealing the measure meant that "the war against coal is over."

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.  

Reality Check: 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. 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 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." 

·       On January 9, 2018 Politico reported that the Trump administration's efforts to prop-up with federal subsidies the coal industry hit a road block when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously agreed to reject Energy Secretary Rick Perry's proposal to "guarantee financial payments to the (coal and nuclear power) plants that could be facing retirement because of the rise of natural gas and renewable energy."  FERC Commission Cheryl LaFleur said the administration's effort is trying to "freeze yesterday's resources in place indefinitely.  I believe the Commission should continue to focus its efforts not on slowing the transition from the past but on easing the transition to the future."

·       On January 29, the Washington Post reported that, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, "since Trump became president, the gain in coal jobs is 500, or just one percent."

    Tax Policies 

21.  Lower the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15% and get rid of most corporate tax loopholes or incentives STATUS - The president kept his promise to dramatically reduce the corporate tax rate but dropped his promises to eliminate corporate loopholes and make the tax code simple, fair and easy to understand.

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." Trump's first principle for a tax bill was to "make the tax code simple, fair and easy to understand." In early November, the House and Senate GOP leaders released the tax reform bill, which would lower the corporate tax to 20%. 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." And in December, 2017, Congress passed a tax reform bill that reduced the corporate rate to 21% but did not eliminate corporate loopholes or make the tax code easy to understand. (H & R Block stock rose 10% on the day Congress passed its tax reform bill.)  

Commentary on corporate loopholes in the new tax code bill: Jim Tankersely at the New York Times wrote on December 17, just days before the new tax bill passed both houses of Congress, "The Republican tax bill does not pass the postcard test.  It leaves nearly every large tax break in place.  It creates as many new preferences for special interests as it gets rid of. It will keep corporate accountants busy for years to come. As their bill tore through Congress, their ambitions fell to the powerful forces of lobbying and the status quo. Killed tax breaks returned to life. New ones sprung up beside them.  The bill even retained a tax break that helps professional sports teams build new stadiums with taxpayer dollars." 

Commentary on failure to make tax code simple, fair and easy to understand: Theodoric Meyer at Politico commented on January 2, 2018, "Rather than streamlining the tax code, Republicans have made it more complicated by jamming through a new series of temporary tax breaks for everything from craft brewers to citrus growers.  'Trump said this was a giant Christmas present to the American people,' said John Raffaelli, a former Senate tax aide and the founding partner of Capitol Counsel, a prominent lobbying firm.  'Well, it's a giant present to the tax lobbying community as well because of the extenders.' Republicans' hastily written tax bill left many of the details vague, to be ironed out later by the Treasury Department and clarified through regulations."
      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 a 35% tax cut was dropped, as was promise to reduce the number of brackets, eliminate taxes for individuals and couples earning less than $25,000 and $50,000, respectively, and the promise that tax reform would not benefit the wealthy.

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." 

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. 

Update: 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." The 2018 federal income tax rate for single taxpayers earning from $1 to $25,000 is between 10% and 22%.  The 2018 federal income tax rate for couples earning from $1 to $50,000 is between 10% and 22%, depending on circumstances.   

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

Drew Harwell of the Washington Post summarized the benefits of the new tax code for the wealthy by commenting, "The tax plan's transformation into law crystallizes the contrast between Trump's populist rhetoric and the private fortune he made by marketing condos, hotels and golf resorts to a wealthy clientele.  The Republicans' first legislative triumph of 2017 will ensure a financial windfall for the president and his family in a way that is virtually unprecedented in American political history, experts said."
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.

In December, 2017, Congress passed a tax reform bill that broke three of candidate Trump's promises - to give the middle class a large tax cut, to reduce the number to tax brackets to three and to ensure the rich would not benefit from the tax bill. The number of tax brackets was kept at seven. The tax reform bill, the Washington Post reported, "lowers taxes for 95 percent of Americans in 2018, but on average the cuts for the highest earners far exceed those of people making less, according to the Tax Policy Center.  According to the center, 65 percent of the savings from the tax cut will go to taxpayers in the top 20 percent of the income ladder.  In 2018, taxpayers earning less than $25,000 would receive an average tax cut of $60, the center found.  Those earning between $49,000 and $86,000 would get an average cut of about $900; those earning between $308,000 and $733,000 would receive an average cut of $13,5000; and those earning more than $733,000 would receive an average cut of $51,000. In general, higher-income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income."  The bill also fails to eliminate taxes on singles earning less than $25,000 and couples earning less than $50,000. To benefit the wealthy, the bill makes large cuts to the estate tax, a levy on inheritances charged only to the very wealthy, like President Trump and his family.  In addition, the tax bill cuts the top tax rate from 39.6% to 37% and raised the income threshold at which that rate kicks in. In addition, the tax bill included new provisions in the tax code to benefit real estate investors, like President Trump and his family. Forbes.com columnist and federal budget expert Stan Collender called the bill the "Trump Family and Friends Tax Cut." (For more details on the benefit of the new tax cut to President Trump and his family, see Promise #49 - Drain the Swamp.) On December 24, CBS News reported that "President Trump kicked off his holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago at a dinner where he told friends, 'You all just got a lot richer,' referencing the sweeping tax overhaul he signed into law hours earlier."  (Initiation fees at Mar-a-Lago cost $200,000 and annual dues cost $14,000.)

A history of Trump promises that his tax cuts are for the middle class, not the rich:

·      "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 13 promised that "The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan.  We are looking for the middle class and we are looking for jobs." And then two days later, 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." Also in November in St. Charles, Missouri, Trump took pains to tell his audience that the tax-overhaul bill would hurt him personally. "This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me." 

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

      23.  Eliminate the carried interest loophole for Wall Street  - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

Background: What is the carried interest loophole? It's a 20% 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 high-income 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." At a 2016 campaign speech at the Detroit Economic Club, candidate Trump promised, "We will eliminate the carried interest deduction and other special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors and for people like me but unfair to American workers." 

Update: However, on November 2 the GOP leadership in the House introduced, with President Trump's blessings, its tax reform package. The plan does not eliminate the carried interest loophole. The GOP Senate bill released November 9 also ignores Trump's promise and was passed by both houses of Congress in December, leaving the loophole intact. Even super Trump supporter Ann Colter was critical. "For Trump to promise to end it everywhere he went, and then back down, is a very bad look. Tax rates ought to at least have some bare minimum perception of fairness." Fox Business host Trish Regan called out Trump specifically for preserving the carried interest loophole for "private equity fat cats."  

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 - Promises to eliminate the estate tax and AMT were partially kept. Promise to end the marriage penalty was dropped. 

Update: On April 26, 2017 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. (See Promise #22 above) 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.  

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 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. In December, 2017, the Congress passed the GOP tax reform bill that does not eliminate the AMT but raises the level of income required before it affects taxpayers. The bill does the same for the estate tax. It doesn't eliminate the tax but doubles the amounts taxpayers can pass on to their families tax-free.  The new tax tables do not eliminate the marriage penalty. For example, the bill puts a limit of $10,000 on the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted from federal income taxes. The law applies the same for both singles and married couples. Bob Brinker, host of the national radio show, "Money Talk," said on his show January 7, 2018 that the new tax bill is full of marriage penalties.  "They're all over the place."  

    Domestic Policies 
      25.  Paid maternity leave plus make child care more affordable  STATUS - PROMISES DROPPED

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. (Both promises dropped) 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, 2017 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 didn't explicitly say what form this relief would take. On May 22, President Trump released his 2018 budget, which included $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." The tax reform bill passed by the Congress in December, 2017 did not include any of the proposals from the President or his daughter but did include a Republican measure that offers a tax credit for businesses who voluntarily offer employees paid leave. 

On January 30, 2018, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address and told Congress, "Let's support working families by supporting paid family leave." On February 4, Politico reported that Senator Marco Rubio is working with Ivanka Trump on a plan that would allow people to draw Social Security benefits when they want to take time off for a new baby or other family-related matters.  

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

"I think now we've proved that I'm a conservative."

President Donald Trump
February 23, 2018

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. (PROMISE DROPPED) 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." 

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.  The 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."  

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." 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. In December, the Congress passed the tax reform bill. The Hill reported that because the tax cuts on the middle class expire in 2025, if the Congress decides to extend the lower tax rates for individuals and families, the bill will actually end up adding $2 to $2.2 trillion to the deficit, according to a report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "The national debt could exceed the size of the economy" by 2027.  Commented National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, Republicans "claim, contrary to historical evidence and the views of most professional economists, that these tax cuts will pay for themselves.  This is the right-wing version of the magical Keynesian stimulus multiplier - a free-lunch fantasy that we can pay for our bloated and expensive federal government by cutting taxes.  The Growth Fairy is not going to save us."

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.

The New York Times reported that with the President pushing a $1.5 trillion infrastructure program and $25 billion for The Wall, the U.S. annual deficit is "creeping up to $1 trillion and the national debt has topped $20 trillion." The Congressional Budget Office projected that the annual deficit would hit $1 trillion in 2022, but that was before the tax law and spending bills promised to add more debt. Now the annual deficit is expected to widen beyond $1 trillion in 2019. 

On January 30, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address, prompting Stephen F. Hayes, Editor in Chief, Weekly Standard, to comment, "I read it twice and mostly liked what was in there. The most notable thing about the speech was actually what was left out.  Trump said nothing about the country's $20 trillion debt crisis.  Literally not a word. Here's what particularly striking about all of this. Nobody seems to care."

On February 9, Congress passed and the president signed a two-year budget bill that will, according to the New York Times, raise the nation's annual deficit to $1.2 trillion in 2019. The budget calls for increased spending for the military, disaster relief, the opioid crisis, the Children's Health Insurance Program and community health centers. Wrote former GOP White House aide Ed Rogers, "So, after watching the debt soar under President Barack Obama, could Republicans just be shrugging off concerns about debt and deficits? Is the GOP at peace with the notion that Republican debt will somehow be less corrosive than Democratic debt?" 

On March 13, the Associated Press reported that the February deficit rose to $215.2 billion, a 12.1 percent increase over February, 2017. The Washington Times reported March 16, "President Trump has now amassed his first $1 trillion in debt." Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, predicted the annual deficit will top $1 trillion in 2019 and reach $2 trillion within the decade. 

“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, 2017 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 March, 2018, there is no record of Trump addressing this issue in a speech or administratively during his presidency.

      29. "Be the nation's biggest cheerleader for school choice." - STATUS - PROMISE DROPPED

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, 2016 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, 2017 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 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 embarrassing 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."

GOP appropriators in 2017 rejected Trump administration proposals for a $250 million private school choice program and $1 billion for a new program in which federal funds would follow poor students to the public school of their choice. In fact, after mentioning school choice during his speech before Congress in February, 2017 President Trump has never raised the subject again.

And, according to a report February 8, 2018 from Politico, even DeVos seems to have given up. "In some recent speeches, such as at a department event celebrating Blue Ribbon schools and to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, DeVos didn't mention school choice at all in her prepared remarks.  Instead, she encouraged the crowds to embrace 'innovative approaches' and 'to come together and find solutions.'"

      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 being reconsidered

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, 2017 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.  

Following the killing of 17 Florida high school students in February, 2018, President Trump instructed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to craft new regulations to ban firearm modifiers, including the "bump stock" used in the October, 2017 Las Vegas massacre of 59 concert-goers. The President suggested at a White House meeting February 21 regarding the killings at the Florida high school that "teachers with military of special training experience" be armed. "They would be there - and you would no longer have a gun-free zone." He added, "A gun-free zone to a maniac is, 'Let's go in and let's attack'." It was learned the next day, however, that an armed-security guard was on the Florida high school campus the day of the killings but did not enter the building where the attack occurred. A day later it was also learned that three Broward County Sheriff's deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles during the slaughter and not one of them entered the building.

At the CPAC convention February 23, the President announced, "We're going to look at that whole military base gun-free zone.  If we can't have our military holding guns, it's pretty bad." Defense Department guidelines require troops leave personal weapons either off base or checked at the gate to prevent accidental shootings or to prevent suicides, of which the military suffers a higher than average rate.

The White House announced March 11 a plan to start working with states to provide "rigorous firearms training" to some schoolteachers and "harden our schools against attack."   

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

Background: Trump promised repeatedly before and during his White House bid not to touch entitlements. In 2013 he told a political conference, "As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen." 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." When he announced for the presidency, Trump said, "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." 

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 the bill would cut total Medicaid spending by 25 percent in 2026. The bill 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 included the $880 billion cut to Medicaid. President Trump on May 22 released his 2018 budget proposal which 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.

But then o
n 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." 

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." But on January 3, 2018 Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reported that President Trump has, in fact, not changed his mind or his campaign promise to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  "The president hasn't changed his position at this point."

The President apparently changed his mind weeks later when on February 12 he released his 2019 budget and called for cuts totaling $554 billion for Medicare and $250 billion for Medicaid over the next ten years. Wrote Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, "Remember Trump's promise that 'I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid' and his boast about being 'the first and only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid'? That promise has gone up, up and away."   

     33. Fire "the corrupt and incompetent" leaders of the Department of Veterans Affairs - STATUS - 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, 2017 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 and President Trump signed it 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."  According to ABC News, about 1,500 VA employees have been fired since January, 2017, but 500 of them were removed before the bill passed. 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." 

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.

Update #2:  In a scene right out of a George Orwell novel, Politico reported February 20, 2018 that President Trump has given Shulkin "the green light to quash an internal rebellion among conservative foes of his leadership."  Instead of going after the corrupt and incompetent, Shulkin has begun investigating what he called "subversion" at his agency.  Shulkin was accused by the department's Inspector General of breaking department rules by taking his wife on a European vacation at taxpayer expense (See Promise #49 below for details under "Here Comes the Jets."). After pushing out the assistant who filed the paperwork that allowed Shulkin and his wife to take a government-funded European vacation, Shulkin is now seeking out those in the department who, he said, were involved in "subversive events." (Such as publicly exposing what Shulkin did?)

On March 7, Hope Yen of the Associated Press reported a finding by the VA internal watchdog blaming "failed leadership" during the Obama years for patients being put at risk at the Washington, D.C. medical center. Shulkin said he was not aware of the issues at the hospital and "pledged wide-scale change across the VA. Painting a grim picture of communications breakdowns, chaos and spending waster, the report found that at least three VA program offices directly under Shulkin's watch knew of serious, persistent deficiencies when he was VA under-secretary of health from 2015 to 2016." Several major veterans organizations are standing behind him as the best guardian of the VA amid a planned overhaul of the Veterans Choice program, a Trump campaign priority aimed at expanding private care outside the VA system.

But the next day, March 8, Arthur Allen of Politico reported that a multi-billion dollar initiative to create a seamless digital health system for active duty military and the VA that President Trump said would deliver "faster, better, and far better quality care" has, according to Allen's reporting, "utterly failed to achieve those goals at the first hospitals that went online." Instead, "technical glitches and poor training have caused dangerous errors and reduced the number of patients who can be treated." Said one doctor, "We took a broken system and just broke it completely." And then the news kept getting worse for the VA.  Trump's promise to fire "corrupt and incompetent VA executives" has been replaced by an aggressive campaign to fire low-level staff.  According to a March 12 report in Politico, firings under Trump rose in 2017 (1,704 total employees) but, "If top officials were the target...a ProPublica investigation suggests the (effort) misfired." Only four senior leaders have lost their jobs. Most were housekeepers, nursing assistants, food service workers and whistleblowers. (Those who exposed corruption.)

     34. Defund Planned Parenthood 


·       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, 2017 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 December 31, Adam Cancryn at Politico commented that after Republicans struck out repealing Obamacare in 2017 when a handful of GOP senators balked at the proposition of cutting benefits to constituents, they found themselves again "foiled" by their own members when trying to defund Planned Parenthood. "Moderate Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) used their leverage as Senate swing votes to protect the funding of an organization they ardently support."

But on January 19, 2018 the Trump administration announced it is rescinding guidance from the Obama administration that made it harder for states to defund Planned Parenthood.  The guidance had warned states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or other health-care providers that offer abortions could be against federal law. On March 10, Steve Magagnini at the Sacramento Bee reported, "The U.S. Health and Human Services Department last week announced new rules for $260 million in Title X grants, used for family planning and preventative health programs, that favor providers who offer 'Natural family planning' such as information about the rhythm method of birth control, effectively knocking Planned Parenthood out of the running for the money."

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

Background:  At a March, 2016 GOP debate, candidate Trump promised he would reduce the size of government by, in part, getting "rid of it (the EPA) in almost every form. We're going to have little tidbits left, but we're going to take a tremendous amount out." 

President 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.


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, at an event with coal miners in eastern Kentucky, Pruitt declared the end of the "war on coal" and moved to officially repeal the Clean Power Plan - what he termed the "so-called Clean Power Plan" - and its goal of reducing power-plant carbon emissions.  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. Environmental groups and several states plan to challenge the repeal proposal in federal courts, arguing against Pruitt's move on both scientific and economic grounds.

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." On December 14, President Trump nominated former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as Pruitt's top deputy. The Associated Press reported December 19 that Pruitt announced he would be issuing a set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama's drive to curb global climate change. "Closely aligned with the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change."

The Washington Post reported December 27, "In legal maneuvers and executive actions, in public speeches and closed-door meetings with industry groups, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has moved to shrink the agency's reach, alter its focus and pause or reverse numerous environmental rules.  The effect has been to steer the EPA in the direction sought by those being regulated. In an interview, Pruitt said a priority during his first 10 months in office has been listening to 'stakeholders that actually live under the regulations that we adopt...I don't understand how that's not what I should be doing.' Countered William Ruckleshaus, the EPA's first administrator, who led the agency under both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, "We've spent 40 years putting together an apparatus to protect public health and the environment from a lot of different pollutants. He's pulling that whole apparatus down."

On January 9, 2018 the Washington Examiner reported that President Trump "is on schedule to fulfill his promise to cut its staff nearly in half by the end of his first term." If just those employees slated to retire by early 2021 leave, "Administrator Scott Pruitt and his team will have reduced a staff of nearly 15,000 to below 8,000, or a cut of 47 percent."

On February 8, NBC News reported that "The EPA initiated 20 percent fewer civil cases against polluters for violating environmental laws from the beginning of September 2016 to the end of September 2017, as compared to the previous fiscal year. The EPA also opened 30 percent fewer criminal enforcement cases during the same time period." And on February 27 The Hill reported the EPA is shuttering a program that distributes grants to test the effects of chemical exposure on adults and children. The National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) is best know for a program "to discover methods to reduce children's health risks from environmental factors."

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:  Former EPA administrators Carol Browner and Christine Todd Whitman both expressed concern in January that current administrator Pruitt was being too successful in his goal of meeting President Trump's promise to "gut" the agency.  Browner, who served under President Clinton, predicted it could take the agency "20 to 30" years to regain its full capability after the Trump administration cut its budget and repealed many of its regulations. Whitman, who served under President George W. Bush, said, "If Obama's name is near it - irrespective of whether it's good, bad, or indifferent - they're undoing it.  To just mindlessly do it is...mindless." 

EPA ethics questioned: John Konkus, a key aide to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, has been granted permission to make extra money moonlighting for private clients whose identities are being kept secret, the Associated Press reported March 6. Konkus' duties include signing off on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants. Tweeted Norm Eisen, former ethics and government reform counsel for President Obama, "This is insane.  Prediction: by end of Trump admin, prisons will be full of his associates."

(See Promise #49 below - "Here Come the Jets" - for information on the scandal involving Pruitt's passage practices.)

       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, 2017 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 was due to be announced before the end of 2017. 

      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 nation 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."

·       Three months after President Trump’s inauguration, 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.

·       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."

·       On January 28, 2018, five people were found dead at a car wash in suburban Pennsylvania. The victims were identified as three men and two women. Police say they have no motive yet. 

·       On January 23, the New York Times ran this headline following the death of two students by gunfire in Benton, Kentucky, "School Shooting in Kentucky is Nation's 11th of year.  It's January 23."  When pressed by NBC's Peter Alexander about what the president has done specifically to curb gun violence, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to "crack down on crime." It didn't work. 

On February 14 a young man walked into a Broward County high school in Florida and shot to death 17 students. At a meeting in the White House with some students who survived the massacre and their parents on February 21, the President advocated for teachers carrying guns and promised, "Two minutes after this meeting we're going to start working.  It's not going to be talk like it has in the past...we're going to get it done."

    US Military  

38.  Strengthen the military - STATUS - First steps taken

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 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 to 36 battalions and add new missile defense systems and upgrade the nuclear arsenal. (First step taken) 

Update: On January 27, 2018, the Washington Post reported that Trump is "expected to ask for $716 billion in defense spending when he unveils his 2019 budget." The proposed budget would be a 13 percent increase over 2017.  The 2018 budget has yet to be approved so Congress is still operating under 2017 budget levels. And then on January 30, at his State of the Union address, the President told Congress, "I am asking the Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military. And on February 9, Congress approved a huge increase in military spending for 2018 and 2019. Military spending, in fact, jumps from $634 billion in 2017 to $716 billion by 2019. "The defense hawks got everything they wanted in this deal," said Todd Harrison, a budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Time Magazine reported in February that "The Trump administration is convinced that the best way to limit the spreading nuclear danger is to expand and advertise its ability to annihilate its enemies." The president has signed off on a $1.2 trillion plan to overhaul America's nuclear-weapons complex in Nevada and has authorized research and development on a mobile medium-range missile. He has called for more nuclear weapons and modernizing the aging U.S. "nuclear triad" of bombers, submarines and land-based missiles.  The U.S. is also reinvesting in the labs and factories that produce warheads. 

     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, 2017 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, 2017 Gen. James Mattis, Donald Trump's secretary of defense nominee, said he believed the United States should stick with the 2015 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."    

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." 

On January 12, 2018 President Trump again threatened to terminate the agreement while at the same time announcing he would again waive the threat of sanctions on Iran. The next sanctions waivers come up for renewal in May, but Trump may not wait that long.  "If at any time I judge that such an agreement (between the nations party to the agreement) is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.  No one should doubt my word." Russia called Trump's remarks, "extremely negative" and China said the deal now faces "complicating factors." Iran insisted it "will not accept any change in the deal, neither now or in the future." The Wall Street Journal reported January 23 that the U.S. will soon begin talks with France, Germany and Great Britain "on what the Trump administration considers flaws in the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement."  Trump "said earlier this month he wouldn't renew U.S. sanctions relief to Iran in May, as required under the nuclear accord, unless Europe goes along by then with a supplemental agreement to restrict Iranian missile testing and development, provide for expanded inspections and extend prohibits on nuclear-weapons work."

The Trump administration is facing another tough decision, reported the Wall Street Journal on February 20. "An Iranian airline under sanctions by the U.S. for ferrying weapons and fighters into Syria repeatedly bought U.S.-made jet engines and parts through Turkish front companies over the past several years." The finding will force the U.S. to decide between looking the other way or punishing Iran by "scuttling" a Boeing Co. deal estimated at $40 billion. 

A television reporter in Israel reported March 12 that President Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he won't show flexibility in the negotiations with France, Germany and England on amending the Iran nuclear deal.  Barak Ravid of Channel 10 News reported that Trump stressed that if his demands are not met, the U.S. will withdraw from the deal.   

Commentary: From P.J. Crowley, a former assistant secretary of state: If President Trump walks away from the Iran nuclear deal, after again calling on Congress to unilaterally 'correct' it during his State of the Union address, it would be the third major international agreement he has ditched. Unlike the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Agreement, where other parties moved on without the U.S., blowing up the Iran deal would have serious repercussions. It undermines the U.S. relationship with key allies and makes Russia and China appear to be the more responsible international actors. And it gives the Ayatollah a gift-wrapped opportunity to point to yet another American conspiracy and shift the blame for Iran's trouble to the Great Satan."   

      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." According to CNN, "At one rally after the next, candidate Donald Trump lamented the 'trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost,' in the Middle East, criticized his opponent as a warmonger and signaled he would scale back US military commitments abroad."  (Promise being reconsidered)

Update: On April 6, 2017 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. 

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." The New York Times on December 24 quoted Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, saying U.S. forces will remain in eastern Syria as long as needed to defeat the Islamic State.

On January 16, 2018 Reuters reported that Turkey's premier, Tayyip Erdogan, is threatening to "strangle" a planned 30,000-strong U.S. backed force in Syria.  The U.S. announced recently plans for a "border fence" to defend territory held by U.S.-backed Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria. A day later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a conference at Stanford University that the U.S. must maintain a long-term military presence in Syria to counter ISIS. Days later, Erdogan announced Turkey was moving armor and troops to Syria's border enclave of Afrin to drive out the Kurds.  Warned commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, "If Erdogan is serious, a clash with the U.S. is coming, as our Kurdish allies occupy most of Syria's border with Turkey." Asked the conservative writer, "Now that ISIS has been driven out of Raqqa and Syria, by what authority do U.S. forces remain to arm troops to keep the Damascus government from reimposing its authority on its own territory? Donald Trump won the presidency on a promise of no more unnecessary wars."

Bloomberg reported February 13 that U.S. forces "killed scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War...More than 200 contract soldiers, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base held by U.S. and mainly Kurdish forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region." Observed Ralph Peters, a New York Post columnist and retired US Army officer, "What's clear as vodka is that Putin was willing to risk a large number of his men in the hope they'd kill enough American advisers to make us flee Syria.  It didn't work, but Putin won't give up. The Russians are at war with us, and we're at war with them, but both sides would find an admission inconvenient."

The Washington Post commented March 16, "U.S. commanders have said their military mission in Syria remains limited to defeating the Islamic State. But some administration officials have begun characterizing the U.S. presence more broadly, suggesting that it must serve as a bulwark against Iran, ensure stability in liberated territory and bolster American aims in any future political settlement."  

      41.  Alter U.S. relations 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. (PROMISE DROPPED) 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." (PROMISE DROPPED)  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.) (First step taken to keep promise)

Update on Europe:  On January 27, 2017 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 July 26, the Associated Press reported "NATO's chief says U.S. allies are projected to spend around $12 billion more on defense this year, after President Donald Trump berated them for failing to boost military budgets. Unveiling new figures, the NATO chief said European allies and Canada have increased spending by almost $46 billion over the last three years." 

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.  Despite strong pressure from President Trump, fewer than half of NATO's 29 members - including Belgium and Germany - plan to meet the alliance's military-spending target of 2 percent of their economic output by 2024.  U.S.'s allies did increase their defense spending in 2017.

On January 28, 2018, Jordan Bhatt of International Business Times reported "Donald Trump is refusing to visit the United Kingdom unless Theresa May can ensure that he is not met with protests.  Bloomberg revealed that Trump complained in a phone call to May about the 'negative coverage' he has received in the British press. Trump went on to say that he would not visit the UK unless there were guarantees that he would not be met with protests."

NOTE: To see how President Trump is prompting other changes in the U.S./Europe relationship, see Promise #39 (Find an "out" in the Iran nuclear pact). 

Commentary: Nicholas Burns, a Harvard professor and former undersecretary of state, wrote in USA Today on December 26, "Trump is the first U.S. president since World War 11 who does not seem to consider himself the leader of the democratic West.  His populist America First platform has opened deep fissures in his relations with European leaders. He has changed the way the U.S. government talks about our oldest allies, describing the European Union more as an economic competitor than a leading strategic partner.  Trump's distancing from Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and, more recently, British Prime Minister Theresa May, however, is strikingly different than his praise of autocratic leaders XI Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia." Matt Bennett and Gabe Horwitz also wrote in USA Today, "This is how empires crumble."  By withdrawing America from the world stage, Trump is leaving a gaping void that an aggressive China "is already stepping in to fill." If he keeps alienating our closest allies, "America First" will become "America Alone." 

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." 

On January 18, Gallup Polling announced the international approval of U.S. leadership hit a historical low of 30 percent in 2017.  The latest polling finds an 18-point drop from a year earlier, when 48 percent approved of the national influence under former President Obama. It is the single largest year-to-year drop in approval of U.S. leadership - or of any country examined - to date. 

(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 and #42 directly below.)

        42.  Cancel U.S. participation in the 2015 Paris climate change accord  - STATUS - First steps taken
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. Under President Obama, the U.S. committed to cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025.

Update: On June 1, 2017 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 for the U.S. 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.

Reality check: 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.

"In another departure from his predecessor Barack Obama, President Donald Trump has removed climate change as a global threat in his new national security strategy," the United Kingdom's Independent reported December 19.

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."

Brief history of a kept promise: On the day President Trump landed in Israel for his first state visit,  May 22, 2017 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.  Then 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 said he believe the move would push the peace process forward since it would take Jerusalem off the table as a subject of disagreement.

The president 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."

But on February 23, 2018 the U.S. State Department announced it will open its new Embassy in Jerusalem in May.

“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 - PROMISE PARTIALLY KEPT

Background:  Trump made repeated promises in 2015 and 2016 that he had a "foolproof plan" to defeat ISIS and "bomb the hell out of" the terror group. 

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."

(For more information on U.S. bombing of ISIS in Syria, see Promise #40 above.) 

      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 Iraq's 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, 2017 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."


      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. 

At a post-election rally in December,  2016 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!"  Trump has, in his tweets, urged the Justice Department to also investigate the Democratic Party, former FBI Director James Comey, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, and Congressman Adam Schiff. On February 21, 2018 the president urged the Justice Department to investigate former President Obama, who Trump blamed for the Russians meddling in the 2016 election. On February 27, he tweeted agreement with a Fox News analyst who reported that the Justice Department had evidence of Hillary Clinton's criminal acts that, the president tweeted, "ought to be investigated."

Irony alert: At campaign rallies during the 2016 campaign, General Michael Flynn often led the chant "Lock her up!" and, famously, led the same chant at the Republican National Convention.  On December 1, 2017 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

Candidate Trump, at a rally in Wisconsin in October, 2016, announced, “It is time to drain the swamp in Washignton, D.C.  This is why I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.” But President Trump’s famous promise has been overwhelmed by questionable decisions and actions by the President himself as well as unethical actions by White House staff and cabinet members, criminal guilty pleas by campaign staff and ongoing Congressional and Justice Department investigations into connections between the President, his campaign staff and Russia operatives. As National Review’s David French observed, "Trump didn't drain the swamp. He hired the swamp."  Here are some of the issues that upended Trump’s promise.

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.

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."

Trump may, according to some 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, 2016 "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.

At his mid-January, 2017 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. 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." (On March 9, 2018 The Hill reported the Trump Organization had donated $151,470 in profits earned from foreign government patronage at its hotels and other business in 2017 to the U.S. Treasury.)

Here are some examples of exactly how President Trump is currently making money also as a businessman:

·       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 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."

·       Public Citizen, a nonpartisan group, reported in January that 64 trade groups, foreign governments, Republican candidates and others stayed at or held events at properties linked to President Trump during 2017. Some of those groups listed include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, oil and coal mining interests, and 24 groups backing Republican congressional candidates. CNN reported the Defense Department in the first eight months of 2017 spent $138,000 at Trump branded properties.  About of third of that was spent at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

·       On January 23, 2018 it was reported that Trump has doubled membership fees at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida to $200,000, that the president has spent one of every  three days of his presidency visiting his properties, including Mar-a-Lago, and that he and his staff have mentioned them at least 35 times in tweets and public comments.

·       On March 7, the Huffington Post reported that President Trump’s re-election campaign in 2017 spent over a half-million dollars for Trump Tower offices – “a choice that put donors’ money into the president’s pocket, but provided workspace for at most a handful of staff.” During the campaign, “Trump made a practice of spending donor money at properties that he owned from the time he locked up the GOP nomination in the Spring of 2016. The rent on the Trump Tower offices nearly quintupled, from $35,458 to $169,758 a month by July 2016, even though the number of campaign staff remained the same."

The Washington Examiner reported March 15 that the American Petroleum Institute held a two-day board meeting at Trump International Hotel before meeting in the White House with the President. Wrote Philip Wegmann, "It seems that industries are adapting their lobbying strategies to the age of President Trump. Can anyone think of a better way to start a meeting with Trump than to subtly show featly by complimenting one of his properties?"

Legal proceedings on the issue: In 2017, a judge in New York threw out a lawsuit from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington accusing the president of accepting gifts from foreign governments in violation of the Emoluments Clause. The court ruled it is an issue that Congress should address. That case is being appealed. Two hundred Democratic members filed a similar lawsuit last year. And, in February, 2018, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a similar lawsuit suing him not only as President but in his personal capacity as a businessman.

Business is suddenly good between Trump Family and China

Questions were raised February 15, 2017 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."

The New York Times reported June 2 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 her 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."

FBI Update: U.S. counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals, reported CNN on March 1. The FBI is looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver to determine whether the deal could leave her vulnerable to pressure from foreign agents. She has yet, a year after occupying an office in the White House, to secure a full security clearance. And on March 16, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Counterintelligence officials have worried for years about China’s efforts to cultivate relationships with family members of those in power through business dealings, and they have warned senior officials to be mindful of such relationships.”

The Trump family and 2017 tax reform

Despite repeated promises as a candidate and as President that the tax reform bill he favored would benefit middle class voters and not the wealthy – “There's very little benefit for people of wealth. I don't benefit. I don't benefit” – in December President Trump signed into law a major tax reform package tilted heavily in favor of the wealthy. As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson observed, "It would be hard to craft a measure more tailor-made to enrich Trump and his family."

(See Promise #22 above in the blog for a long list of Trump quotes promising he wouldn’t benefit from the tax bill.)

Here are just a few of the many financial benefits the 2017 tax reform bill provides the President and his family.

·       Like all 1-percenters, Trump will benefit from the lowering of the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. But that’s just for starters. As is always the case with the tax code, the devil is in the details.

·       Trump conducts his business affairs through hundreds of “pass-through” companies whose income is taxed at the personal rate, not the corporate rate. The House wanted to dramatically slash the pass-through rate across the board, but the Senate initially balked. At the last minute, however, the Senate wrote into the final bill a 20 percent deduction for pass-through income. If a taxpayer like the President or his son-in-law Jared Kushner had, say, $100 million in pass-through earnings, he or she would be taxed on only $80 million; the rest would be tax-free.

·       Couples can now pass on as much as $22 million (up from $11 million) before estate taxes take effect.

·       The minimum income level affected by the alternative minimum tax, which was created to ensure the wealthy pay taxes, was also increased to benefit the wealthy.

“I’m not even aware of a single provision in the bill that disadvantages him or his family,” said Daniel Shaviro, a tax professor at the New York University School of Law who worked for Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation during the country’s last major tax overhaul in 1986.  “It’s so clear that he is financially much better off than previously.”

History being repeated?

From Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America, 1927” (Anchor Books 2013): “Treasury secretary Andrew Mellon spent much of his working life overseeing tax cuts that conveniently enhanced his own wealth.  According to the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., with a single piece of legislation Mellon gave himself a greater tax cut than that enjoyed by almost the entire populace of Nebraska put together. As Mellon’s biographer David Cannadine notes, Mellon also illegally used his position to promote his business interests – for instance, by asking the secretary of state to help one of his companies secure an engineering contract in China.”

The Trump Campaign and Яussia

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, 2017 the U.S. intelligence community reported that Russia interfered in the 2016 election – to hurt Hillary Clinton and benefit Donald Trump.

The FBI and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees almost immediately began a review of the matter.

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. (In January, 2018, the New York Times reported that the White House made a coordinated effort to urge Sessions not to recuse himself from the investigation.)

On March 20, 2017 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.

Blog Editor’s Note 3/6/17: The Hill  reported that J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, two of Trump’s early foreign policy advisors, met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey 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.

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 the President 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.” National Review Online Commentator Charles Krauthammer wrote of Trump's decision to fire the FBI director, "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 Russian Ambassador Kislyak - "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. I am not under investigation."  

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 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 robe.)

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.

President Trump 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, former campaign CEO Steve Bannon and former national security chief Michael Flynn have also all hired counsel.

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. 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.”

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.”  The emails showed he had agreed to the meeting because music promoter, Rob Goldstone, had assured him that the Russian lawyer had "official documents and information" that would "incriminate" Clinton, "and be very useful to your father." Goldstone wrote that the damaging information on Clinton was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”  Trump Jr. later 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. (In January, 2018, writer Michael Wolff published “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Wolff reports that a spokesman for Trump's legal team, Mark Corallo, left the job because he feared possible obstruction of justice related to the statement drafted aboard Air Force One "Mark Corallo was instructed not to speak to the press, indeed not to even answer his phone," Wolff writes. "Later that week, Corallo, seeing no good outcome — and privately confiding that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice — quit.")

On July 20, 2017 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. On March 15, 2018, the New York Times reported Mueller's team has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business-relate documents pertaining to Russia. The request "may indicated that the special counsel is looking into any flow of foreign money to the Trump campaign." It was speculated that Mueller is looking into the possibility of financial quid pro quos that Trump and family members may have sought in exchange for public policy favors. (In July, 2017, Trump told the New York Times that Mueller would be crossing a "red line" if he examined Trump's family finances.") 

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.)

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 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."

The White House was rocked again in January, 2018 when Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” quoted Steve Bannon as calling the meeting between the Russians and Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner in Trump Tower “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon also said that Mueller’s investigation was “all about money laundering. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner…It’s a plain as a hair on your face.”

On January 26, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that in June, 2017, President Trump ordered the White House attorney, Donald McGahn, to fire special counsel Mueller.  McGahn refused, saying he would quit first, and Trump backed off.

Garrett M. Graff at Wired.com summarized the status of the Mueller investigation in a February 5 article indicating that “Right now, we know it involves at least five separate investigative angles.”

·         Preexisting Business Deals and Money Laundering

·         Russian Information Operations (“hacking of the 2016 election” using Facebook, Twitter,  etc.)

·         Active Cyber Intrusions (operations by Russians against the Democratic National Committee, etc.)

·         Russian Campaign Contacts (did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians?)

·         Obstruction of Justice (“the big kahuna” - did President Trump obstruct justice?)

On February 16, the federal grand jury empaneled by special counsel Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election. According to the indictment, the Russians’ primary directive was to “communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton” and “to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

On February 27, various media sources reported that White House communications director Hope Hicks declined to answer many questions during an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Hicks said she was acting on instructions from the White House. Former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon earlier refused to answer many of their questions — apparently also at the direction of White House lawyers. (Hicks resigned her position March 1, a day after she told a Congressional committee that she had told “white lies” on behalf of the president.)

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.

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

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

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 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, goes to trial Sept. 17, 2018

Federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, charged President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate and Trump aide, Rick Gates, with money laundering. A third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI.

Manafort, 68, a longtime Republican operative, and Gates, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, 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.

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. Gates remained on the Trump campaign after Manafort left.

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. On February 22, 2018, the special counsel filed a 32-count indictment against Manafort and Gates with fresh allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud.

UPDATE: On February 23, 2018, Gates pleaded guilty to fraud and lying to the FBI. The New York Times reported, “The pleas deal could be a significant development in the investigation – a sign that Mr. Gates plans to offer incriminating information against his longtime associate (Mr. Manafort).

A government of, by and for lobbyists

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.”

But on June 21, 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, 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.

·       Trump nominated Daniel Elwell to run the Federal Aviation Administration. Elwell is a former lobbyist at American Airlines and the Airlines for America, the industry’s largest trade group.

About one-third of the 59 appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency tracked by the Associated Press  previously worked as lobbyists or lawyers for companies in industries regulated by the EPA. Three have received official waivers that allow them to work on issues that could affect their previous employers.

The Hill reported, “White House counsel Don McGahn has issued at least 24 ethics waivers to officials across the administration, despite the president signing an executive order to block former lobbyists from working on issues related to former clients.”

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.  The Hill reported on January 28, 2018 that "Trump's first year in office has mostly served to fatten the swamp creatures inhabiting the Beltway" and for "virtually all of the top 20 lobbying firms in D.C., revenues were significantly higher in 2017 than in 2016."

(For more information on the power of lobbyists in the Trump administration, see Promises #35 (Gut the EPA) and #23 (Eliminate the Wall Street carried interest loophole) above.)

The Unusual Suspects

Appointments by the White House have raised questions about presidential judgement and ethics. The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, who worked in the George W. Bush White House, added, “Trump and his team accused the government of being corrupt – and have proved it beyond reasonable doubt.” Here are a few examples:

Anthony Scaramucci – hired 7/21/17, 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.

Callista Gingrich - US ambassador to the Holy See

In 1993, Callista Bisek was an aide in the office of Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson. At the time, she was having an affair with a married man, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was leading the charge to impeach President Bill Clinton for having an affair with an unmarried woman. The Bisek/Gingrich extra-marital affair lasted through 1999 when Ms. Bisek testified in Speaker Gingrich's divorce hearing regarding her relationship with the Speaker. Newt Gingrich subsequently divorced his second wife, Marianne, and, in 2000, married Ms. Bisek. 

Proving once again that not only does God exist but that he/she has a sense of humor, in May 2017 President Trump, like Speaker Gingrich, a thrice married man who has bragged about his sexual conquests during and between marriages, nominated Callista Gingrich to represent the United States before the Pope and the Holy Roman Church. 

Ben Carson – Housing and Urban Development Secretary

Carson was shocked, shocked in March, 2018 when it was discovered someone had ordered a $31,000 dining room set for his personal office.  “I was surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” Carson protested. Emails, however, show Carson and his wife selected the furniture themselves. His spokesman, Raffi Williams, reassured taxpayers, “In general, the secretary does want to be as fiscally prudent as possible.”

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.

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."  Clovis continues to work as a "senior advisor" inside the department.

Rob Porter, White House staffer and wife beater

Porter resigned February 7, 2018 after his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse, with one presenting pictures of her blackened eye. Porter served in the White House as the staff secretary. Porter functioned as Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s chief enforcer in their shared mission to instill discipline and order in what had become an extraordinarily chaotic West Wing. Kelly initially said he believed Porter’s denials and saw him as a valuable ally in the White House. Kelly continued to press him to stay in his job saying he could weather the storm.

Porter’s second wife, Jennie Willoughby, received a temporary emergency protective order in Arlington in June 2010 after saying he refused to leave her residence, in violation of their separation agreement. She said he broke her window, causing his knuckles to bleed. The document, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post, concludes that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that [Porter] has committed family abuse and there is probable danger of a further such offense.”

After the White House staff secretary was accused of domestic violence by both of his ex-wives, Kelly publicly defended Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him.” A day later Porter was terminated.

The White House gave a couple different answers to the question when exactly Chief of Staff Kelly learned about the allegations against Porter. The Washington Post reported White House officials had known since January, 2017 and that Porter never secured a top security clearance because of the allegations. At a Senate hearing on February 13, FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicted the White House and said that, in fact, the FBI had completed its investigation of Porter months before the White House claimed it received the FBI report.

Commentary from David Frum at The Atlantic:

Let’s face it: This White House does not see “domestic violence as disqualifying.” Countless members of the president’s team “have faced similar claims – including Trump himself.”  Campaign chair Steve Bannon was once charged with three misdemeanor counts of domestic violence.  White House speechwriter David Sorenson followed Porter out the door last week after his ex-wife accused him of abuse.

John McEntee, Presidential personal assistant with “financial problems”

McEntee was fired March 13 and promptly escorted out of the White House without being allowed to even get his coat. McEntee was dismissed after being denied a security clearance due to personal financial problems, including issues with online gambling and tax problems, the Wall Street Journal reported.

CNN reported McEntee, who was usually the first man the president saw each morning, is the subject of a federal investigation over unspecified “serious financial crimes.” But have no fear, the faithful Trump aide didn’t have to go far as he was immediately hired by the President’s reelection campaign team.

Jared Kushner- Presidential senior advisor and son-in-law

More than a year after being appointed to his key White House position, Kushner still can’t get a top security clearance from the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Despite not having a final clearance, Kushner has had a high level of access in the White House and has seen some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets. Among the potential problems: repeated amendments that Kushner had to make to a form detailing his contacts with foreign officials. Hugely indebted due to a failing Manhattan real estate investment, Kushner has courted Chinese, Russian and Saudi investors.

And on February 27, Politico reported, “Presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has had his security clearance downgraded — a move that will prevent him from viewing many of the sensitive documents to which he once had unfettered access."

On February 28, the New York Times reported that in 2017, Kushner's companies received over $500 million in loans from two companies whose CEOs met with Kushner in the White House.  Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, met on multiple occasions with Kushner to talk about infrastructure and a possible White House job for Harris.  Citigroup's chief executive, Michael L. Corbat, met to talk about financial and trade policy. And then on March 2 NBC News reported  that Mueller's team is looking into the question of whether Kushner's failure to secure financing for his real estate empire in 2017 from Qatari moneymen helped trigger America's support for a blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. "Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner's business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with." 

“To simplify his life and set a high standard for future presidents, 
Washington refused to favor friends or relations in making appointments.”
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (page 560)

Joe Arpaio – pardoned 8/25/17

President Trump pardoned 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.

When Arpaio announced in January, 2018 that he would run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, the editors at the National Review described him as "a limelight-seeking octogenarian petty criminal, a serial abuser of police power, a man who oversaw inhuman and indeed homicidal brutality committed against blind and paralyzed prisoners in his custody, a preening huckster of the first order."

Here come the jets

Apol encouraged agencies to “re-double” their commitment to ethics

Trump cabinet members – Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – have a passion for flying first class…in taxpayer-funded U.S. government and privately-owned jets and helicopters. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has a slightly different proclivity – he had the U.S. taxpayer pick up the travel tab for he and his wife on a Europe vacation.

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 had a reputation 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 then 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.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into their boss’s travel history in October, 2017 after new reports surfaced that Pruitt has taken frequent and costly trips on private and military jets at taxpayer expense. The Washington Post then reported in February, 2018 that taxpayer-funded travel for Pruitt and his top aides during a stretch in early June, 2017 cost at least $90,000, according to months of receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project under the Freedom of Information Act. (That figure does not account for the costs of Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail, which have not been disclosed.)

As one example, the Post reported, “After traveling with Trump on Air Force One for an infrastructure event in Cincinnati, Pruitt and several staffers raced to New York on a military jet, at a cost of $36,068.50, to catch a plane to Rome. The transatlantic flight was part of a round-trip ticket for the administrator that cost $7,003.52, according to EPA records — several times what was paid for other officials who went. The documents do not explain the discrepancy. In Rome, Pruitt and a coterie of aides and security personnel got private tours of the Vatican and met with papal officials, business executives and legal experts before heading briefly to a meeting of environmental ministers in Bologna. Pruitt departed the Group of Seven summit a day early, before negotiations had concluded, to attend a Cabinet meeting at which Trump’s deputies lauded the president’s job performance.”

Pruitt on February 13 attributed his habit of taking taxpayer-funded, first-class flights to his personal security detail and chief of staff, saying he plays no role in his travel arrangements. “I’m not involved in any of those decisions,” Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader during a visit to the state. “Those are all made by the [security] detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff.” On February 22, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee began an investigation into Pruitt’s travel habits.

(In March, 2018, the Washington Post reported that Pruitt spent $43,000 for a soundproof booth in his office. )

Politico and the Washington Post reported September 28 that Interior Secretary 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. On October 2, it was announced that the Interior Department’s inspector general had opened an investigation. Zinke reportedly spent $53,000 on three helicopter trips in 2017, including one to go on a horseback ride with Vice President Mike Pence.

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.

On March 8, the Associated Press reported Zinke’s Interior Department is spending nearly $139,000 to upgrade three sets of double doors in the Office of the Secretary.

The Post reported September 29, “Nearly three days into a trip to Europe this past July, Veterans Affairs Secretary 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 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.” Altogether, the trip cost taxpayers $122,000.

The Associated Press reported February 13, 2018 that an internal watchdog's investigation has found that Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tennis tickets and likely wrongly used taxpayer money to cover his wife's airfare for an 11-day European trip. The report also questions Shulkin's decision to direct agency staff on official time to arrange his personal sightseeing activities during the July trip to England and Denmark. On the same day, the Washington Post reported, Shulkin’s chief of staff “doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer. Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government — then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael Missal said."

On March 15, 2018, the Daily Beast reported that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin spent $33,000 in taxpayer funds to watch the solar eclipse in Kentucky last year by using military aircraft rather than a commercial flight. The records show that the government has spent nearly $1 million for Mnuchin's flights on military aircraft.  "Mnuchin's wife Louise Linton was criticized after she posted an Instagram photo of the couple descending from the plane, and referring to the fashion labels she was wearing."

On October 11, 2017 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.

Stormy Daniels – The President, the porn star and (some) Christian conservatives  

In January, 2018 the Wall Street Journal reported that President Donald Trump’s lawyer used a private Delaware company to pay a former adult-film star $130,000 in return for her agreeing to not publicly discuss an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in 2006, a year after Trump married the current First Lady, Melania, and months before their child, Baron, had been born. The lawyer, Michael Cohen, established Essential Consultants LLC, on Oct. 17, 2016, just before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen then used a bank account linked to the entity to send the payment to adult-firm star Stormy Daniel’s attorney a month before the election.

The $130,000 payment was part of a non-disclosure agreement concerning her relationship with Trump. Susan Wright at Redstate wrote on January 19, “The payoff came in the midst of an avalanche of allegations of sexual misconduct. Over a dozen women came forward to accuse then-candidate Trump of past inappropriate behavior – ranging from uninvited, rough kissing, to walking into the dressing rooms of contestants in the beauty pageants he owned, as they were in various stages of undress." The White House has denied the affair ever took place but in March it was discovered that a Trump Organization lawyer was listed in an arbitration demand to stop Stormy from talking about the affair. (The Federal Election Commission is now reviewing complaints alleging the transaction violated campaign-finance laws.) And on March 16 the President's attorney filed a claim in federal court alleging that Daniels violated the terms of her non-disclosure agreement. Asked Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, "How can President Donald Trump seek $20 million in damages against my client based on an agreement that he and Mr. Cohen claim Mr. Trump never was a party to and knew nothing about?" 

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group, told Politico that "We kind of gave him - 'All right, you get a mulligan.  You get a do-over here.'"  (The stated mission of the Family Research Council is "to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.")

Other interesting tidbits from the many media reports:

·       InTouch posted the full interview with porn star Stormy Daniels on her sexual encounter with Donald Trump that included this:  Stormy: “I can definitely describe his junk perfectly, if I ever have to. He definitely seemed smitten after that. Here’s the weird thing. He had one of my DVDs and he asked me to sign it for him and I did.”

·       Fox News had the story at the height of the presidential election but opted not to publish it, four people familiar with the matter told CNN.

·       Former Playboy model Karen McDougal had a nine-month affair with Trump in 2006, just months after First Lady Melania Trump gave birth to son Baron, and was going to go public during the 2016 presidential campaign. But then the National Enquirer bought the rights to her story for $150,000 and never published it.


Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress, a Trump supporter: Evangelicals know they’re not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president.  And let’s be clear, evangelicals still believe in the commandment, ‘thou shalt not have sex with a porn star.’ Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post:  Republicans who regarded Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky as the end of civilization as we know it are serenely untroubled.  Evangelical Christians who rail against sin and cloak themselves in piety offer nothing but a worldly, almost Gallic shrug.  Daniels has taught us much about their character and morals, too.

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.

On February 28, 2018, Elizabeth Drew of the New Republic wrote, "It has been reported that the FBI is investigating whether Russia funneled money to the Trump campaign through the NRA. And as CNBC recounted, not only is it widely known that large amounts of Russian money has gone into Trump properties, but, even more interesting, 'Recent reports have shown that money continues to move into Trump properties from obscured sources like anonymous LLCs and shell companies. One such report found that since Trump secured the Republican nomination in 2016, the fraction of anonymous purchases of his properties through shell companies has skyrocketed from 4 to 70 percent.' Is it any wonder that Trump has refused to release his income taxes?" 


19th hole promise: “I’m not going to have time to play golf”

Background: “I’m going to be working for you," he told a campaign rally crowd in August 2016. "I'm not going to have time to play golf."

"I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don't think I'd ever see Turnberry again," he said in February 2016, referring to the famous course he owns in Scotland. "I don't think I'd ever see Doral again," he added, referring to the famous course he owns in Miami. "I don't ever think I'd see anything — I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off, make great deals, right? Who's gonna leave?"

Update: Wrote Washington Examiner columnist Byron York on March 5, 2018: “Trump has visited one or the other of his golf properties about 100 times so far, often on beautiful days. On the assumption that when the president visits a golf course on a beautiful day, he is there to play golf, it's reasonable to guess that most of those 100 visits to golf properties involved playing at least a few holes.

“Whatever it is, it's a significantly faster clip than former President Barack Obama's golf numbers. By a count from CBS's Mark Knoller, a keeper of presidential records, Obama played 29 rounds in his first year in the White House. But Obama speeded up; according to Knoller, he played 64 rounds in 2016, his last full year in office. Obama's total for two terms was 333 rounds of golf. Although it's impossible to say for sure, Trump's first-year total could be in the ballpark of Obama's final-year total. The problem for Trump, of course, is that he slammed Obama repeatedly for playing so much golf.”

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

Shirley MacLaine