Trump administration opens term turbulently
The resignation of former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, marked yet another upright nail in the Trump presidency’s recklessly built bed of them. With a hectic month of executive orders, super-majority meanderings and intelligence leaks, the Trump administration has recorded perhaps the most turbulent and controversial beginning to a presidential term in modern American history.
After a New York Times’s report released Sunday, Feb. 19, that claimed that Trump Organization lawyer Michel Cohen hand-delivered a plan for Russia and Ukraine to Flynn before he was asked to resign, the new presidency’s rocky start only appears to be the beginning. Regardless of one’s take on the matter, no one could argue against how relentlessly busy the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency has been. Trump has already signed in 12 executive orders, including the since-court-silenced “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” Executive Order – otherwise known as the “Muslim Ban” due to the suspension of immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries – and passed several more executive actions.
Despite the undebatable nature of how busy the Trump administration has been, the debate over whether his actions in office have followed the promises made in his campaign should have only begun. Trump has undeniably followed through on many campaign promises, especially his attempt at instating the “Muslim Ban,” and beginning legislation towards the construction of the border wall, but has remarkably strayed far from several points established on his run for president.
Even before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, his administration Cabinet appointees have failed to represent what many might have understood a frequented Trump campaign rally chant “Drain the Swamp” to mean. Inciting the chant often at his rallies, Trump used it to loosely describe his intentions to flush out the “entire corrupt Washington Establishment,” and the involvement of money and the influence of the powerful within the American political system. Trump’s assembly of his Cabinet marks a notable difference from his previously stated intentions, however. Per the Time, 11 of his 19 Cabinet and Cabinet-level appointments have been board members of corporations and/or organizations that have lobbied more than $497.5 million to the federal government – most of which newly-confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accounts for ($368.4 million from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable).
Beyond that, HedgeClippers.org has reported that Trump’s Cabinet picks’ total net worth exceeds $63 billion, with Special advisor Carl Icahn leading the way with $17.7 billion, followed by three Economic Advisory Council members with $10.5, $10.2 and $8.6 billion in Beal, Schwarzman and Paulson. Betsy Devos, the newly-confirmed Education Secretary, is estimated to be worth $5.1 billion. Seven other billionaires litter Trump’s handpicked cabinet, followed by numerous millionaires. Even before the top four Cabinet-level appointees and others were appointed, the wealth of his Cabinet choices was already five times greater than President Obama’s Cabinet and 34 times more than George W. Bush’s Cabinet – and that was reported on Dec. 20, 2016, by the Boston Globe, when Trump’s Cabinet was only worth a total of $13 billion. A far cry from the promise of ridding Washington of the financially elite and indirectly politically involved, “the Swamp” has only been made swampier.
Beyond his Cabinet picks, Trump’s promise of an inexpensive wall, and having Mexico pay for the border wall has proven to be empty. After repeatedly denying Trump’s proposals for Mexico to fund the border wall’s construction, Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico, condemned the entirety of the project.
“I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us,” Nieto said in a televised message on Jan. 25. “Mexico does not believe in walls. I have said it time and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.”
Instead, Trump figures to fund Mitch McConnell’s estimated $12-15 billion needed for the wall’s construction – and that’s a conservative (pun intended) figure – by having Congress fund the project immediately before finding ways to reimburse the nation. How this might be done is still up in the air, but not a single plan discussed so far actually have Mexico pay for the wall. Whether Trump implements a 20 percent tariff on goods from Mexico, which would have taxpayers and consumers fund the wall by paying more for Mexican goods, increases visa and entry fees to the United States from Mexico, which would have hopeful and potential immigrants pay more, or controversially pushing border taxes and impounding remittance payments derived from illegal wages, not a single option has Mexico pay for the wall – only Americans paying for more expensive goods, immigrants required to pay more for simple entry or having the funds taken from the wages of the illegal immigrants Trump has pledged to remove entirely.
Furthermore, Trump’s explicit promise of a smooth repeal-and-replace process dealing with the Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare – is looking less and less like any kind of replacement will be ready in time for the Republicans’ rush to repeal the act.
“It will be repeal and replace,” Trump said, addressing reporters at a news conference in New York on Jan. 11. “It will be essentially simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day. Could be the same hour.”
His words deliver a strong message – “it be essentially simultaneously” – but the ambiguity the then president-elect intertwines within that message underscores the uncertainty that only seems to be manifesting itself more and more each day within conservative Congress members’ approach to the topic. So far, Republican legislators have failed to present a concrete piece of legislation, despite Obama’s offer to publicly support any legislation that would provide better healthcare to more people for better prices. Even proposed plans – including Paul Ryan’s – have failed to distinguish themselves significantly from the Act Congress is so set on repealing completely, and a consensus remains almost entirely out of grasp for now.
As of now, according to the Wall Street Journal, GOP leaders in Congress are continuing to stall the repealing of the ACA so that they might be able to come up with a replacement in time. Progress on the replacement will be critically important to follow for millions of Americans relying on Obamacare for health insurance.
Trump’s presidency has only just begun, and each week reveals only more of what Trump and the Republicans truly mean to accomplish for the American people. So far, several of his actions have strayed far and wide from the words blathered from the president’s campaign and the echoes reflected within chanting crowds. With the Trump-Russia scandal seemingly ever-unraveling, it will be interesting – and perhaps frightening – to see what will happen next in this wild roller coaster ride of modern politics.