Following a highly contested election on November 9, 2016, Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20, 2017. Now, one month later, we’ll take a look at what the new president has done with his first few weeks in office.
Prior to his inauguration, Trump named several of his administration’s cabinet-members. Notable picks include Alabama senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and ex-opponent Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Controversy surrounded the appointment of DeVos in particular. Her opponents claim that her lack of experience in terms of public education (she did not attend public school nor do her children, and she has never worked in a public school) makes her unfit to lead the American education system.
More controversy arose surrounding the actions of one Trump’s cabinet heads. On February 13, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned due to allegations that he had engaged in diplomacy with the Russian Federation without the President’s approval.
On January 27, President Trump signed an executive order entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The order required the Department of Homeland Security to compose a list of nations that were either a) state sponsors of terrorism or b) a “country of concern.” The DHS provided a list of seven such nations: Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan and Iran.
The executive order’s provisions caused confusion at several American airports. Some people who had green cards from the banned countries were not permitted to enter the country, and were subsequently deported.
The ban led to protests at airports across the nation, including Raleigh-Durham International. According to WRAL, around 150 protesters were expected at the demonstration in Raleigh on January 29 but around 1,000 were in attendance at the protest’s peak. Police shut down the protest around an hour before it was supposed to end due to safety issues and the impact the protest had on airport operations.
In mid-February, a new executive order was announced to replace the travel ban. The same countries would have restrictions placed on travel into the US, however, anyone already holding a visa prior to the order going into effect can still get into the country.
One of the key points of the Trump campaign was the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico (and making Mexico pay for it). From the looks of his first few weeks in office, Trump isn’t backing down from this idea.
On February 9, 2017, the news agency Reuters reported that the border wall would cost $21.6 billion dollars to construct the approximately 1,900 mile long wall and would take around three and a half years to build. And while this is a drop in the puddle that is the United States’ $3.54 trillion budget, $21.6 billion is certainly not chump change.
Another key point of the Trump campaign was to bring jobs back into the United States from places like Mexico, Vietnam and India. His method of bringing jobs back is to enforce tariffs on companies that import goods into the United States.
One tariff the Trump administration plans to implement is a 20% tax on all goods coming from Mexico. The president believes that this tax will 1) push American companies to bring jobs back into the United States and 2) pay for the wall being built on the border with Mexico.
Even prior to his run for the presidency, Donald Trump gave Russian president Vladimir Putin glowing endorsements. In 2007, Trump told CNN’s Larry King that Putin is “doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia.” In July 2015, one month after Trump began his bid for the presidency, he said “I think I’d get along very well with Vladimir Putin.”
However, relations between the United States and Russia have been rocky, even after Trump was inaugurated in January. In mid-February, the United States discovered a Russian spy vessel that was sailing roughly thirty miles off the coast of Connecticut.
Around the same time, several Russian aircraft flew within 200 yards of the USS Porter in the Black Sea.
Trump has also recently stated that he expects Russia to give the Crimean peninsula back to Ukraine to de-escalate the situation in the region. Russia replied by saying that Crimea is Russian territory now, with one Russian official saying “to return the Crimea” is just as “impracticable as if Russia demanded the US should return Alaska.”
Relations with Russia have also been strained due to allegations that the Russian government meddled in the United States election. On February 16, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that there was “little doubt” that the Russian interfered in the American election.
The 2016 election was undoubtedly one of the most polarizing and divisive events in recent American history. The two major candidates for the presidency were the most disliked candidates in American presidential electoral history.
As expected, President Trump’s popularity is nothing to write home about. While he is leagues ahead of President George W. Bush’s abysmal late-2008 approval rating of 25%, he still lags behind President Barack Obama’s January 2017 approval rating of 59%. According to Gallup, Trump’s approval rating is at 42%.
Since his inauguration, his administration has been marred by a large number of protests against him, including the Women’s March and the Day Without Immigrants.
Whether you like him or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States, and he’s here to stay. If his first month in office is any indication of what his term will be like, we are in for a very interesting four to eight years.