“On Day One.” The notion of immediately turning the page on policy is a staple of presidential transitions, from Franklin Roosevelt’s “first 100 days” on, but Donald Trump made the promise of things he’d get done on his first day in the White House into a special mantra throughout the campaign.
The full list, as Tim Murphy chronicled, included some things that were either wildly implausible and evidently figurative, or things that are impossible to assess. (How would you “fix” the Veterans Affairs Department on Day One? What does it mean to start taking care of the military?) But Trump also laid out a set of 18 specific, discrete promises for his first day in office in what he called a “Contract With the American Voter.” So how did he do?
First, let’s acknowledge that Trump changed the criteria a little bit, designating Monday as his real first day. “I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration,” he told The Times of London. With that, on to the promises.
The first six concern corruption:
Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.
If Trump has proposed such an amendment formally, there’s been no public announcement of such.
A hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health).
Trump signed a memorandum on Monday declaring, “By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order a freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees to be applied across the board in the executive branch. As part of this freeze, no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.” Interestingly, the Contract said it would exclude public safety and public health, but the order excepts only military personnel. The order does, however, offer heads of agencies wide leeway to ignore it: “The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”
A requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.
There’s no indication that Trump has issued such an order, though White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Friday sent a memo freezing all new regulations until they can be reviewed by Trump appointees.
A five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service.
There’s no indication of such a ban. While Trump could likely make such a rule for executive-branch employees, he probably could not do so for congressional ones without Congress’s assistance.
A lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.
There’s no indication that Trump has issued such a ban.
A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.
There’s no indication that Trump has issued such a ban.
The next seven promises have been billed as helping American workers:
I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205.
On Sunday, Trump reiterated his declaration that he will renegotiate NAFTA or else walk away from it. It’s unclear what weight a written declaration to that effect would carry beyond what he has already said; there were reports he would sign one Monday anyway, but none has materialized as of writing. As White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer noted on Monday, Trump would have to notify the other parties to NAFTA if he intended to withdraw the United States from the treaty, under section 2205 of the agreement, but the president has said he’s open to simply revising the existing treaty.
I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In a memorandum to the U.S. trade representative on Monday, Trump wrote, “I hereby direct you to withdraw the United States as a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to permanently withdraw the United States from TPP negotiations, and to begin pursuing, wherever possible, bilateral trade negotiations to promote American industry, protect American workers, and raise American wages.”
I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.
There’s no public announcement of such a directive. One possible road bump: Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee for the post of Treasury secretary, has not yet been confirmed, meaning the job is open.
I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately.
Once again, Trump has not publicly announced or released the text of such a directive. The commerce secretary-designate, Wilbur Ross, has also not yet been confirmed.
I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
This is one of vaguest of the pledges. Trump has not publicly announced any changes.
Lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.
Trump has not released any memorandum or order bearing on the fate of the controversial pipeline, which the Obama administration blocked.
Cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.
Trump has not released any directive bearing on UN funding.
The final set of actions in the Contract were labeled as “restor[ing] security and the constitutional rule of law”:
Cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.
This vow necessarily includes a great deal of subjectivity—unless the Supreme Court has made a ruling, who is to say what is and is not unconstitutional? Trump did not issue a large flurry of his own orders revoking Obama’s, either on Friday or on Monday. Trump did, however, reinstitute the “Mexico City Policy,” which bars U.S. government funding for organizations that fund abortion overseas.
Begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.
Trump met with William Pryor, one potential appointee, even before the inauguration, and Spicer indicated the choice would be made within two weeks.
Cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities.
Trump has not issued any order or directive attempting to strip funding from sanctuary cities, although it’s not clear he has the authority to do so anyway.
Begin removing the more than two million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.
Trump has not issued any statements, directives, or order on immigration.
Suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered “extreme vetting.”
Again, Trump has not made public any statements or directives related to suspending immigration or reworking the vetting process.
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It’s not a great score, even allowing for the extra three days: four or a generous five out of 18 complete. (It’s not the first time Trump didn’t follow through on a contract.) That doesn’t mean Trump won’t eventually keep these promises. During Monday’s White House briefing, Spicer was asked why the president hadn’t done all those things.
“We’re going to continue to sequence that out,” he said. “I think part of that is to make sure that we don’t spend out entire day signing executive orders and bringing you in. There’s a way that we can do this to make sure that we’re getting all those things that he promised the American people done in short haste.”
In other words: Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t have said we’d get all that stuff done quite on Day One. Even for a president who pledged to reject the bureaucratic quicksand of Washington, D.C., it’s not always easy to get things done as quickly as one might hope. But studies show that presidents do in fact follow through on most of their promises, and President Trump has a long list of other, larger vows to work on now.