TRUMP’S FIRST 30 DAYS
Saro Thiruppathy reports on President Donald Trump’s first 30 days in the White House and the ensuing chaos
America gifted its people and the free world with intellectual giants like Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy… but it has run out of steam and installed Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
While in campaign mode Donald Trump fought with the GOP leadership, infuriated Mexico, humiliated a disabled reporter, rowed with the media, disparaged the intelligence services, angered women, and abused opponents both within his party and the Democrats.
Trump’s administration seems surreal, and the line between reality and a parallel universe inhabited by him and his team is blurred. An obsessive tweeter, he has continued to tweet even after his inauguration – a mix of US policy with taunts and tantrums against anyone who dares criticise him has been the norm.
SELF OBSESSION The day after his inauguration, Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters to ostensibly put things right after belittling CIA operatives on earlier occasions. But the visit fell short of expectations.
Following a cosmetic attempt to mend hurt feelings, Trump spent the better part of his visit talking about himself and rambling on incoherently on a number of unrelated topics.
Losing the popular vote by nearly three million to Hillary Clinton is a thorn in Trump’s side and he firmly believes that those votes were cast by illegals. Regardless of polls authorities discrediting his claim, Trump has reverted to it time and again; although he didn’t sign an executive order (EO) calling for an investigation into electoral malpractices in his first 30 days in office.
To counter this loss of popular votes, Trump and his surrogates validated his presidency by exaggerating the number of people who attended his inauguration in the face of photographic evidence to the contrary.
FOREIGN POLICY Trump’s foreign policy thus far has angered friends, allies and trading partners across the globe – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Libya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen, and also including the European Union and the Holy See.
But strangely, Trump has not rescinded his admiration for President Vladimir Putin and nor has he withdrawn his seemingly unconditional support for Israel.
Following British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to the White House, Trump engaged in a flurry of telephone conversations with leaders in Japan, Australia, Mexico, Russia and Germany. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reacted to Trump’s proposal for a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to finance ‘the wall’ by cancelling a planned visit to Washington D.C. while the conversation with the Australian Prime Minister on the Obama-Turnbull deal to send 1,200 asylum seekers to the US resulted in an explosive diatribe by the US president who then abruptly terminated the call.
And his first military foray into Yemen was little short of catastrophic. It resulted in the death of a US Navy SEAL and unconfirmed reports of civilian non-combatant casualties.
CONTROVERSIES Here are some of the more interesting and controversial EOs and memos Trump signed within a space of a fortnight of assuming the presidency.
On day one, the president declared his inauguration day to be a ‘National Day of Patriotic Devotion.’ He then signed an EO titled ‘Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) Pending Repeal.’
On 23 January, Trump reinstated and widened the scope of the Mexico City Policy known as the Global Gag Rule by which President Ronald Reagan had restricted US funding for family planning organisations that promote abortion back in 1984. Upheld by the Bush administration, it had been rescinded by President Obama.
After signing the memo titled ‘Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations and Agreement,’ Trump proceeded to authorise ‘Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline’ and invited TransCanada Corporation to promptly resubmit its application and ordered the Secretary of State to fast track the process.
That same day he signed two more memos – viz. Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and Construction of the America Pipelines. The Dakota Access Pipeline project (a 1,172-mile-long pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois) has been the subject of strong protests by American-Indians and environmentalists over the past several months.
On 25 January, Trump signed an EO called ‘Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,’ wherein he directed customs and border patrol to secure the southern border of the US through the immediate construction of a physical wall.
THE MUSLIM BAN A week after his inauguration, Trump inked an explosive executive order titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.’ This order resulted in chaos at American airports as hundreds of people who were travelling as refugees or visitors from the seven Muslim-majority nations of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and even Green Card holders from the banned nations, were denied entry and left stranded.
However, a few good American men and women litigated on behalf of the victims of Trump’s unconstitutional ban; and within 48 hours, three federal courts had issued stay orders against the ban and a fourth federal judge followed suit on 3 February.
In a written order, District Judge James Robart (in Washington) stated that the temporary restraining order is granted on a nationwide basis and prohibited enforcement of Sections 3(c), 5(a), 5(b), 5(c) and 5(e) of the Executive Order. Section 3 names the seven Muslim-majority countries; Section 5 lays out the temporary suspension of the refugee programme as well as the indefinite shutdown of the Syrian refugee programme.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson was elated. “No one is above the law – not even the president,” he said.
As his ban crumbled, Trump tweeted: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” The Justice Department took immediate steps to appeal the stay order in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals but lost the appeal on 5 February.
WOMEN’S MARCHES While Trump was otherwise preoccupied, hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets on 21 January to protest against his election. More than one million people marched through the nation’s capital and other key US cities to show solidarity with women’s rights, and express displeasure over the outcome of the presidential election.
Simultaneously, women in major cities such as London, Tel Aviv, Melbourne, Pristina (Kosovo), Berlin, Nairobi, Sydney, Athens and Tokyo, among others, marched in solidarity with their American sisters.
About 30 ecologically conscious tourists and scientists aboard a ship in international waters also protested by displaying signs which read ‘Penguins for Peace’ and ‘Seals for Science.’
HELPING FRIENDS On 2 February, Trump told an audience of church leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast that he would definitely “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, which is a 60-year-old rule that blocks tax-exempt religious groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
The next day, Trump signed an EO reviewing banking rules, which he said would be “cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank.” This 2010 law titled ‘the Dodd-Frank Act’ was passed by Obama in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 in an effort to regulate Wall Street.
Trump justified his decision by saying that “frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, who have nice businesses who can’t borrow money; they just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.”
THE MEDIA WAR With the exception of Fox News, Trump and his team have attacked media giants like CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times. One of Trump’s rants on his visit to the CIA headquarters was about his “running a war with the media.” However, his claim is disputed by journalist Ezra Klein, in his article on vox.com: “His war is with facts. And it’s there that his tactical skirmishes with the press begin to make sense.”
SECURITY BOMBSHELL It took only 24 days for the Trump administration to face the ignominy of a resignation, at the boss’ request, of a senior official. On 13 February, Michael Flynn threw in the towel following revelations that the former national security adviser had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US.
To make matters worse, Trump’s replacement nominee Robert Harward turned down the offer.
WHITE SUPREMACY The Trump administration has white right-wing extremists in its midst with the most significant being Steve Bannon, the president’s Chief Strategist and member of the National Security Council. Bannon was previously the head of Breitbart News Network – a far-right American news, opinion and commentary website.
Bannon’s influence in the White House is so overwhelming that when his protégé Milo Yiannopoulos was prevented from speaking at the University of California, Berkeley, by dissenting students, Trump reacted angrily via Twitter: “If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view — NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
May God bless America; it certainly needs it!