A year ago today, President-elect Donald Trump – perhaps the only politician not shocked by his historic victory – rallied supporters with a vow to apply his bigger-and-better business style to the country as a whole.
“America will no longer settle for anything less than the best,” he declared. And after a divisive election, the next commander-in-chief pledged to be “president for all Americans.”
Twelve months later, the changes are seismic.
It is indisputable that the candidate who ran as the get-things-done, board-room executive was great for Wall Street.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained nearly 29 percent since Election Day 2016. The S&P 500 is up 21 percent.
After a rocky first quarter, economic growth also has picked up to around 3 percent under Trump, while the unemployment rate has dipped from 4.8 percent in January to 4.1 percent.
Trump marked his election anniversary Wednesday with a tweet congratulating the "DEPLORABLES" who voted for him.
The Trump team and its allies on Capitol Hill are vowing a bigger economic shot in the arm soon if they can muscle through a massive tax overhaul in the coming weeks and months – aiming to unleash growth by slashing corporate tax rates, simplifying the tax system and boosting the standard deduction.
But the deal isn’t yet sealed, and congressional leaders are cautious given their repeated failure to pass an ObamaCare overhaul as promised during the campaign.
While the president has struggled to get his legislative agenda passed on Capitol Hill, Trump often boasts of his nomination – and the successful Senate confirmation – of Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court when talking up his accomplishments to conservative audiences.
Elsewhere, 12 months of Trump have brought mounting complications.
In the days after Trump’s election, Gallup conducted a poll finding a record 77 percent of Americans think the country is divided on key values. The country hasn’t demonstrated much unification since then. Trump’s inauguration was countered with massive protests in cities across the country. Far-left activists have since rioted on college campuses and far-right demonstrators – including neo-Nazis – have taken to the streets, notably in Charlottesville where a counter-protester was killed in August.
The president’s scorched-earth approach to politics – largely conducted via his Twitter account – also has fueled divisions on Capitol Hill, where moderate Republicans are increasingly speaking out against the president and bucking the White House on key votes like health care, even when it invites his Twitter wrath. The most outspoken are those, like Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, who plan to retire.
Meanwhile, a backdrop of investigations and grievances over those investigations has kept both sides of the political aisle in an outrage cycle.
In a stunning sequence of events that started with Trump’s firing of James Comey at the FBI, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with Trump associates. The first indictments were announced last week, though they didn’t speak specifically to campaign collusion with Moscow. The investigation is ongoing, as are related congressional investigations – giving Democrats, especially book-touring Hillary Clinton, a hook for continuing to question the fairness of the 2016 race.
But Republicans have increasingly countered with allegations of their own, with some even calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate Obama and Clinton-era controversies – including claims that the Clinton email case was mishandled and questions over how much the FBI relied on a research firm that commissioned an unverified anti-Trump dossier. It has recently emerged that the research was funded with help from the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party.
Nothing energized Trump’s base during the campaign like his promises to get tough on illegal immigration, build a wall and institute extreme vetting for refugees and others entering the country.
Implementing those policies hasn’t been easy, but the Trump administration has sought to make a hard break from the Obama years: Shortly after taking office in January, the president signed an executive order temporarily banning immigration from several majority-Muslim countries while restricting entry for some Syrian refugees. That led to protests across the country and federal court challenges, which forced the administration to revise the order. The ban expired last month, as the administration keeps pursuing revised rules.
Trump also tasked his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, with ramping up enforcement of immigration laws, including cracking down on sanctuary cities by threatening to deny them federal funding. Trump also announced plans to end DACA, the Obama-era executive action protecting young immigrants from deportation, while calling on Congress to pass a remedy. All of this has been complicated by Trump’s public criticism of Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
The wall along the southern border has yet to be built – and Mexico still insists it won’t pay for it, as Trump promised during the campaign – but the Customs and Border Protection agency recently unveiled prototypes of a new wall design from several contractors.
Gridlock in Congress has not stopped the president from unraveling former President Barack Obama’s executive action legacy, with Trump portraying his regulatory rollbacks as a boon for business.
That includes withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, green-lighting the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines, moving to roll back the Clean Power Plan and using the Congressional Review Act, an obscure rule-killing law, to wipe out a wave of last-minute regulations pushed through before he took office.
THE WORLD IS STILL A DANGEROUS PLACE
The president has spent a considerable amount of his time over the last 12 months dealing with threats – at home and abroad.
As the Islamic State orchestrated terror attacks and declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump famously promised during to “bomb the sh-t” out of ISIS. Last month, after the liberation of Raqqa, the president boasted that “more progress” had been made “against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years.”
Tensions with North Korea, however, have escalated since Trump took office, with the president mocking leader Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” over the country’s nuclear program. During a speech in South Korea this week, the president warned North Korea: “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us." As for the nuclear threat from Iran, Trump announced last month that he would decertify the 2015 Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, while leaving to Congress whether to restore sanctions.
In recent months, the president has flown on Air Force One to sites of deadly disasters in the country, including hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. He also traveled to Las Vegas last month after the massacre at a country music festival – the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. Democrats have reiterated their calls for new gun control measures in the wake of more mass shootings, including after the slaughter of a Texas church last weekend, but the NRA-backed president has suggested he has no appetite for restricting the gun ownership of law abiding Americans.
ORDER IN THE WEST WING?
There’s been no shortage of drama, rivalries and turnover inside the West Wing. Many aides -- including national security adviser Mike Flynn, chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer -- joined the White House at the beginning of the administration but have since been fired or resigned from their positions. Anthony Scaramucci lasted just 10 days in office. And the presence of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as White House aides has complicated dynamics.
But some of that drama has calmed since this summer’s selection of retired Marine general and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly for White House chief of staff. Kelly has attempted to bring order to an unruly West Wing environment as the president pushes Congress to pass a tax reform package, a campaign promise Republicans acknowledge having to fulfill after failing so far to repeal ObamaCare.
In an op-ed for USA Today on Wednesday marking the anniversary of the election, Vice President Pence argued that tax reform would pass in the Republican-controlled Congress by the end of the year.
“It has been a year of accomplishments, and we’re just getting started,” Pence said. “Before this year is out, we’ll pass historic tax cuts for the American people. And with President Trump’s leadership, I know: We will Make America Great Again.”