It is very easy to get Trump fatigue. We started watching and listening to his ramblings in good humour about a year and a half ago. Poking fun at his utter bullshit, we thought it would be over soon and we’d look back at how a maniac thought he could be president of the United States. How wrong we were.
Since his campaign trail started, we have been bombarded with updates from his Twitter account and subjected to his indirect monopoly of our newsfeeds.
And yes, it’s exhausting. But we believe it would be a crime to be complacent in the face of this and not to report the finite detail of the decisions he is making and the impact they may have.
Here are the most significant things he’s done in his first week:
Changed the White House website in a worrying way
While it may not sound like a big deal in comparison to, say, building a wall (see below), the day of Trump’s inauguration the Spanish language option was removed from the official White House website.
It’s a suspicious and petty move sending a message that America first also means English first, despite 37 million people in America being Spanish speakers.
The pages focusing on LGBTQ, global-warming and climate change policies also vanished, including mentions of LGBTQ worker rights on the labour pages.
Instead of the 29 separate issues that were listed during the Obama administration, there are now only 11 issues people can easily click into:
Additionally, the White House has shut down its public comment phone line, instead telling callers, with an automated message, that they should contact the administration via Facebook Messenger instead. Even though there is no current active Facebook Messenger account.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said they’re still building the website.
He is introducing a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants in the US
On Wednesday 25, he issued another executive order titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” which included an instruction that the Secretary for Homeland Security should “on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in the US.
The list will also name so-called “sanctuary cities” that are refusing to hand over immigrant residents for deportation, as well as freeze funding and grants to them. These so far include New York, Chicago and Seattle.
The order said:
“To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions, the Secretary shall utilize the Declined Detainer Outcome Report or its equivalent and, on a weekly basis, make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
Additionally, he ended a “catch and release” policy under which some immigrants are released from detention while they await a hearing with an immigration judge.
Signed an executive order to build a border wall
One of the main campaign points for Trump was that he was going to build a “great, great wall” to keep all the “bad hombres” out of his great nation.
This week he actually moved toward it, signing an executive order on Wednesday 25 to begin construction of the wall on the border within months.
Just FYI, because he’s been signature happy on these as soon as he got through the door and they’ll be coming up a lot, Professor Aziz Huq (law lecturer at University of Chicago) defines an executive order as:
“Executive order is an instruction in writing issued from the White House by the president that is usually directed at an agency or department within the government that...when it jumps through certain procedural hoops has the force of law.”
The construction of the wall is estimated to cost $14billion which wasn’t quite what his voters had bargained for. Throughout the campaign, he promised Mexico would pay for the wall, not America or Americans, but Mexico has (rightly) straight-up said no.
Trump has just kept repeating that he’ll make them pay for it but noone is quite sure how. When Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto came out to say no again, Trump told him not to bother coming to a meeting they’d planned:
The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2017
of jobs and companies lost. If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2017
The Mexican president then cancelled his trip. Trump responded by saying they’d increase import tax to 20 per cent on Mexican products, which Mexico pointed out would mean your average American Joe would have to pay more for fridges, washing machines and most importantly, avocados not Mexico. Which might be just the push California needs to go independent.
Pissed off China
While we’re on international relations, the White House spokesman Sean Spicer managed to rile up China when responding to comments made by Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (the former Exxon Mobil Corp chairman and chief executive).
Tillerson had said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea. It’s an area of contention between China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei thanks to access to shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and oil reserves.
When questioned whether the White House agreed with Tillerson, Spicer said:
“The US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there.
“It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
To which China responded:
“The United States is not a party to the South China Sea dispute.”
It’s a signal of change, swapping caution for brutishness in a historically tense relationship. Yay.
Continued to attack the press
Under the First Amendment, the press in America has a lot of freedom that can’t really be touched constitutionally. So instead, Trump has taken to fury tweeting and threatening press that is unfavourable to him with ‘consequences’. ‘Fake news’ is his new tagline and his press guy Spicer was instructed to use his first conference as a White House representative to shout at everyone about how they were lying about the number of people who attended Trump’s inauguration.
Spicer aggressively called the press “irresponsible and reckless” and said it was the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Despite photographic evidence. He also said “we're going to hold the press accountable”.
When questioned about it, senior adviser and previous campaign manager to Trump, Kellyanne Conway, said Spicer was giving “alternative facts”. While the internet went nuts for the phrase, it’s fairly terrifying that the Trump camp is fully OK with denying evidence from people’s eyes.
He’s so obsessed with the numbers that he even brought it up again in his first interview as president with ABC News.
So important is his ego, that against his staff’s advice, he cannot let it go and focus on talking about just the job at hand.
When ABC interviewer David Muir asked him when he was going to let it go, given that he was now president, he said:
“Well, you keep bringing it up. I had a massive amount of people here. They were showing pictures that were very unflattering, as unflattering -- from certain angles -- that were taken early and lots of other things. I'll show you a picture later if you’d like of a massive crowd.
“In terms of a total audience including television and everything else that you have we had supposedly the biggest crowd in history. The audience watching the show. And I think you would even agree to that. They say I had the biggest crowd in the history of inaugural speeches. I'm honored by that. But I didn't bring it up. You just brought it up.”
He even denied that it rained during his speech.
On Friday 27, the White House chief strategist, Stephen Bannon declared the media in America the “opposition party” and that it should "keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while."
Started to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
Within hours of being sworn in, Trump signed an executive order to repeal Obamacare – which if it actually happens will effect over 20 million Americans.
Trump claims they’re going to replace it with ‘something terrific’ but no-one knows what yet. The act is a sprawling legal legislature which will not be easy to dismantle but Trump sure is going to try, taking the first step almost immediately.
That order grants the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of the Treasury, and the IRS all authority available under the current law of the act to roll back the pieces that make it work and directs the secretary to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation”.
Cleared the way for the Dakota pipeline
On Tuesday 24, Trump ordered the re-authorization and rapid completion of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, two controversial underground infrastructure projects that will make it easier to transport fossil fuels across North America.
The pipeline projects were suspended last year after the route was diverted to go through Native American land against the will of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (who should be autonomous). The pipelines have previously leaked, killing wildlife and contaminating water sources and following months of protesting, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has approval authority, suspended the project saying further analysis was needed.
Trump reversed that decision as long as American steel is used in the build...Steel necessary, regard for First Nations not.
Advocated illegal torture methods
In an interview with ABC News, Trump said he believes waterboarding works and that “we have to fight fire with fire”. Despite the method being illegal. He did say he would take his Defense Secretary (General Mattis) and CIA Director’s (Mike Pompeo) but in the same breath said he felt strongly in favour of using the torture technique.
"I have spoken with people at the highest level of intelligence and I asked them the question 'Does it work? Does torture work?' and the answer was 'Yes, absolutely'.”
Meanwhile General Mattis is opposed to waterboarding, saying he’d never got anything out of waterboarding a guy that he couldn’t get out of sitting down with him:
“I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.”
Signed an anti-abortion edict in a room surrounded by men
On Monday, the day after millions of people marched in solidarity against Trump’s policies toward women (and in general), he signed the global gag rule, otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy. The anti-abortion policy makes US aid money to family planning providers across the world contingent on a pledge not to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning,” even when those specific activities are funded by other countries or private foundations.
The policy limits the ability of global family planning providers to provide women and families comprehensive care if, in any aspect of their work, they recommend, discuss, or even mention abortions to clients, let alone provide abortion services.
There are over 22 million unsafe abortions performed every year, threatening the lives of women and to make things worse, Trump has extended the rule to all health organisations across the world that receive money from the US, not just sexual health and family planning services. Which means even if their aim is to combat malaria, they lose their funding if they mention abortion.
At the moment he can’t ban abortions in the USA, but he has passed a bill that permanently bans American women from using federal funds or private health insurance towards abortion services while also cutting funds to violence against women programmes.
Put a gag order on his own federal agencies
While he figures out whether climate change is real or not, Trump has temporarily frozen (ironically) all contracts and grants for the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture until further notice while his administration prepares to reshape the department.
He’s also told them not to issue any press releases, publish blog posts, or use social media until “further direction” is given – essentially a media blackout.
The EPA also happens to oversee the National Park Service, who Trump personally called to demand they send him pictures of the inauguration crowds so he could prove the media was lying after the Park Service tweeted out comparison pictures.
Someone on the National Park Service’s social team defied that order and started tweeting climate change facts before the account went silent:
Pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership
The TPP is a huge trade deal that was signed by 12 countries in 2015. It included agreements from the US, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico, amongst others. Its goal was to increase global economic ties and boost growth in various ways, including by reducing tariffs but it hadn’t gone through congress and hadn’t been signed yet.
While there is no reversal going on, it may very well impact international relations with the countries who had signed up for the deal.
Trump reckons he doesn’t need anyone to make trade deals that will benefit America and screw up globalisation, through his bargaining prowess alone. After he signed it he claimed he had just done a great thing for the American worker. But it could mean trade will go down, things will be more expensive with higher tax and businesses will lose access to markets they once could take advantage of.
"This decision will forfeit the opportunity to promote American exports, reduce trade barriers, open new markets, and protect American invention and innovation," Arizona Senator John McCain said in a statement.
He made his opinion on critics abundantly clear
In his ABC interview, in response to criticism about his statement that America should have “taken Iraq’s oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS if we’d taken the oil” he said:
“I don't call them critics. I call them fools.”
He seemed surprised by how scary nuclear weapons are
In the same interview he spoke of being handed the nuclear launch codes:
“When they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment, yes. It’s very, very scary, in a sense."
Worryingly for a man who’s previously spoken of upping America’s nuclear arsenal, he also said he wouldn’t be afraid to use them, stating: “I have confidence that I’ll do the right thing, the right job.”
And finally, he’s going to ban Muslim travellers and refugees coming to the USA
Trump has said he is about to sign a sweeping executive action to suspend immigration into the US.
In his ABC interview he said:
“We are excluding certain countries. But for other countries we're gonna have extreme vetting. It's going to be very hard to come in. We're going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme. And we're not letting people in if we think there's even a little chance of some problem”
The countries excluded from entry to the US while the administration tightens the laws are said to be Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
When questioned about inciting anger and divides within communities, Trump said:
“There's plenty of anger right now. How can you have more?...The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.”
The move is being referred to as ‘the Muslim ban’, but only unauthenticated drafts have been seen, leaked to The Huffington Post.
According to Vox:
“As this ban is being implemented, the secretary of homeland security, along with the secretary of state and director of national intelligence, is instructed to evaluate which countries do and don't provide enough information about visa applicants for the US to vet them for terrorism risk.
“Any countries that don't provide enough information, according to the secretary of homeland security, will be given 60 days to start doing so. After those 60 days, the secretary of homeland security will provide to the president a list of any countries still judged to not be providing enough information. The president will then issue a proclamation prohibiting nationals of those countries from entering the United States.”
Regarding refugees, the order is said to ban any refugees from anywhere entering the US in the next 120 days while laws are tightened.