April 29 (UPI) — Having reached the first mile marker of a new presidency, Donald Trump has at turns upended political norms and been stymied by the ways of Washington.
His unconventional leadership style has thus far failed to produce the kind of legacy-defining legislation presidents strive for during their first 100 days in office. In another way, Trump has put a stamp on the federal government that most presidents wait years to achieve. Elevating Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court so early in his term gives Trump a feather in his cap no other U.S. president can claim.
For the first man ever to become president without any government or military experience, turning other tent pole promises into policy has proven elusive, though he has moved aggressively in areas that do not require congressional approval to reshape the government and unwind large parts of his predecessor’s legacy.
Having completed the opening sprint of a 4-year marathon, here is a look at Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Healthcare failure shows GOP rifts
After their 2016 sweep left them in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Republicans wasted little time putting the wheels in motion for a long-promised healthcare overhaul.
It did not take long for those wheels to come to a screeching halt.
Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration were unable to craft legislation to replace former President Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act without alienating the disparate blocs of the House Republican caucus.
The staunchest conservatives said Trump’s replacement, the American Health Care Act, left too many Obamacare taxes and regulations in place. Republican moderates from states where the ACA is widely popular worried the GOP replacement would lead to the poorest and sickest Americans losing healthcare coverage.
In the end, Trump’s American Health Care Act failed to win enough support from either group to pass.
Efforts to revive the legislation this week gained some momentum, but vote counts show its passage is still far from guaranteed.
Immigration orders blocked, no action on border wall
Two other major Trump campaign promises have faltered in the first 100 days: a promise to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and construction of a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries early into his presidency. The order was met with confusion at many airports as customs workers struggled to comply. That led to days of protests and international travelers, some with green cards or a previously approved refugee status, being turned away.
The order was eventually blocked by a federal judge who ruled it discriminated against Muslims.
Trump then signed a second order eliminating some parts of the first order and clarifying that the travel ban did not apply to U.S. citizens or those previously granted asylum.
The second order was also blocked by two federal judges on the same grounds but approved by a third, setting up a legal showdown that will almost certainly wind up before the Supreme Court.
Trump’s campaign also pledged the Mexican government would pay for a border wall, a proposal that has failed to gain much steam. Congressional leaders put aside the funding issue to avert a potential government shutdown and Trump has not enacted the tariffs on Mexican goods he has threatened as a means to pay for its construction.
Unilateral action reshaping the federal government
While Trump and Congress have yet to pass any major legislation, the president has taken aggressive unilateral action in the form of executive orders to undo much of the Obama legacy and reorder the priorities of the federal government.
On Wednesday, Trump signed an order to review Obama’s policy of using the presidential authority to create national parks, a loophole Obama employed to protect large swaths of public land from oil and gas drilling. Trump has also moved to reverse the Obama administration’s ban on coal-fired power plants, a major source of greenhouse gases, and ordered a review of Obama-era regulations on businesses meant to curb water pollution.
Dozens of other executive orders have undone existing federal rules and regulations put in place by past administrations. From easing Wall Street banking and trading rules to dropping requirements by the Department of Education for states and local school districts, Trump has systematically reduced the authority of the federal government, instead empowering businesses and the states.
While the executive orders often fail to generate the kind of headlines that major pieces of legislation do, Trump has expanded on the Obama strategy of bypassing Congress wherever possible to remake the federal government in his own image.
However, because the orders do not carry the same weight as federal law, they are subject to being overturned when Trump leaves office.
Gorsuch’s game-changing confirmation
Trump delivered on the promise of filling an open Supreme Court seat almost immediately, nominating Gorsuch, a young conservative judge from Colorado. The choice was roundly applauded in conservative circles. It was met with deep skepticism from congressional Democrats still steaming over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s refusal to allow hearing on Obama’s pick, leaving the seat vacant for a year.
The standoff led McConnell to rewrite Senate rules for Supreme Court nominations, a move that could have major implications for all future nominees.
Invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” McConnell ignored decades of Senate precedent and allowed Gorsuch’s confirmation vote to go ahead despite a Democratic filibuster that would have blocked his nomination without the needed 60 votes.
Supporters of the move argued the 60-vote threshold gave the minority party the chance to block virtually any nominee out of political spite. Critics noted the lower bar will open the door to justices with strict ideological stances, potentially politicizing the Supreme Court.
Twitter offers a direct voice for Trump
More so than any president before him, Trump has turned to his favorite social medium to bypass the Washington press corps on virtually any issue he pleases.
As was the case during the campaign, Trump has taken to Twitter to lambaste critics, weigh in on pop culture, chastise companies threatening to move overseas and offer game-changing proclamations on matters of state.
In some ways, Trump has used Twitter the way many ordinary Americans do — to vent about a frustrating segment on cable news or take pot shots at celebrities. He tweeted barbs about the sinking ratings of Celebrity Apprentice, the reality television show he hosted before running for office.
He also used Twitter to launch an unprecedented broadside attack on his predecessor, claiming without evidence the Obama administration had tapped his phones before taking office. The Twitter outburst led to a weeks-long political drama, with the administration refusing to present evidence, but also refusing to back down from the claim.
Russia ties continue to dog White House
One of the controversies that followed Trump as a candidate was his repeated comments praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since then, intelligence agencies have concluded Russian actors intentionally meddled in the U.S. election to Trump’s benefit.
While the Trump administration’s stance toward Russia has changed little from that of the Obama administration, critics continue to question the relationship and there are three active investigations into Russia’s election cyberattacks. The FBI has said it is looking into whether any Trump campaign officials coordinated with the Russians in cyberattacks against Democrats that yielded damaging leaks about Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.
Those Trump-Russia ties also led to the downfall of a key campaign aide, Michael Flynn, who Trump subsequently nominated as national security adviser.
Trump fired Flynn from that role just weeks into the administration, with Flynn’s ties to Russia at the root of the controversy. Flynn was fired after it became clear he’d lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the substance of a conversation with Russia’s ambassador during the transition.
Since then, Flynn has come under federal investigation for failing to disclose thousands of dollars in speaking fees from Kremlin-controlled Russian companies weeks before he formally joined the Trump campaign.