This week in Trump’s America: Hitting the 2020 campaign trail
Welcome to month two, which looks eerily like month one.
Last week, President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russia dominated the news. But as soon as he gave his first big campaign speech, that issue quickly faded away as the top news story for the week, just like it did in the immediate aftermath of his inauguration.
And much like in the first month of his presidency, month two is focused on cementing Trump’s xenophobic agenda, complete with crackdowns on undocumented immigrants and a Muslim Ban 2.0.
It’s unclear if this is a cycle that will keep repeating or not. Either way, let’s dive into Week 5.
- Xenophobe in chief: A new memo leaked last Friday proposed using 100,000 National Guard troops as a deportation force, and two memos released Tuesday lay out an “instruction manual for mass deportation.” Such enforcement could cost the economy trillions of dollars. This is all in addition to a new Muslim ban executive order coming next week, which will only have “minor technical differences” from the first one that’s still held up in court.
- Dropping the T: Trump’s Departments of Justice and Education abandoned Obama-era protections for transgender students, prompting new legal questions in ongoing trans rights cases. The administration insisted allowing discrimination against trans students was an important “states’ rights” issue, but the move prompted massive protests supporting trans youth. Transgender inmates could be next.
- Obstructing justice: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus reportedly tried to convince the FBI to “knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence.”
- From inside the house: High-ranking Trump assistant Sebastian Gorka reportedly helped found a fascist political party in Hungary, working closely with that country’s anti-Semitic hard right.
- The end of clean power: Newly confirmed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, whose nomination was forced through without seeing thousands of secret emails between him and oil and gas companies, made clear that the Clean Power Plan is going away and didn’t even mention climate change once in his first speech.
- A new war on drugs: The White House indicated Thursday a plan to crack down on legalized recreational marijuana.
- Cooking the books: Trump wants economic advisers to make up the numbers to look like the country is achieving the GDP growth he wants to be able to brag about.
- Rerigging the system: Trump’s first budget proposal would cut a grant program that helps low-income people hire lawyers.
- Fiscal conservative: Trump’s first month of travel expenses were almost as high as President Obama’s for his entire first year. Meanwhile, his federal hiring freeze has forced several Army bases to suspend their child care programs because of staff shortages.
- Flights of fancy: Trump’s sons, Eric and Don, Jr., traveled to Dubai for the opening of Trump’s new golf course, which, in addition to costing the taxpayers more for their Secret Service coverage, highlighted many conflicts of interest the President still has with his businesses.
- “Trump” in China: When China granted Trump the trademark to his name, it may have both violated Chinese law and created a new legal conflict for Trump.
- Calling the bluff: Federal election officials, those tasked with maintaining the integrity of elections, are holding Trump accountable for his baseless claims that there was massive voter fraud.
A ThinkProgress review of Trump’s first month found that he broke 64 promises he made on the campaign trail, keeping only seven. Many of these broken promises were things he said that he’d do, but didn’t. A few of the broken promises from the past week include:
- Trump promised to label China a currency manipulator, but hasn’t.
- Trump promised his kids would do no new business deals while he was in office, but they did.
- Trump promised to be “so presidential you won’t even recognize me.”
- Trump promised not to tweet anymore because it’s “not presidential.”
Remember, you can always check out our interactive list of Trump’s 663 campaign promises here.
- Mar-a-Lobby: Members of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club apparently have plenty of opportunity to talk to the president about his policy decisions. Although Trump has denied this, his spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed this week that Mar-a-Lago makes him accessible to “regular Americans.” Membership recently doubled in cost to $200,000.
- Unskew the poll: Trump’s campaign launched a survey to see if Americans agree with his recent assertion that the media is their “enemy,” then he got upset when people who didn’t agree with him were actually taking the survey.
- Too foggy a day: London’s mayor doesn’t want to permit Trump to visit because of his immigration policies.
- False proposition: The White House specifically said Trump wouldn’t use Air Force One as a prop, then Saturday’s campaign rally took place in an airplane hangar as everyone watched the President’s plane arrive.
- Not extreme enough vetting: During his campaign speech, Trump said that thousands of people were let into the country with “no documentation.”
- Swedish fishy: Trump also claimed at his rally that there had been a terrorist attack in Sweden. As many suspected had been the case, Trump later admitted that he had misinterpreted something he’d heard the night before on Fox News, and Fox News unsurprisingly came to his defense. A week later he was still making the same claim:
- Not so routine: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly claimed that “criminal aliens routinely victimize Americans and other legal residents.” They don’t. A senior White House official likewise told CNN that “the refugee program has been a major incubator for terrorism,” with no evidence to support the claim.
Aside from some residual attacks on the “fake news” media from last week, Trump wasn’t particularly bombastic this week. (Perhaps his White House staff has learned the same lessons his campaign staff apparently had to learn about how to keep his rage in check.)
But the absence of a tantrum this week served to highlight who Trump doesn’t seem to use his bully pulpit against. In particular, the president never seems very invested in calling out the many people committing acts of hate across this country. Last week, there were three different occasions when Trump was asked to denounce anti-Semitism but declined to do so.
The situation got more urgent this week, when a fourth round of bomb threats hit Jewish community centers around the country.
On Monday, Sean Spicer claimed, “The president has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.” But it wasn’t until his visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture the next day that Trump finally called out the threats.
Moments prior to making those remarks, Trump claimed in an interview with MSNBC — wherein he was asked a fourth time about the threats — that he always denounces such threats and violence. “Wherever I get a chance, I do it.”
This claim, along with Spicer’s description of the president’s outspokenness, clearly isn’t true. And that very afternoon, Spicer refused to call out Islamophobia, instead reinforcing it with more of the administration’s fear-mongering about the threats of radical extremism. And when a white man in Kansas shot at two men he thought were Middle Eastern — one fatally — telling them to “get out of my country,” Trump was silent.
We’ve been here before. In the weeks and months after the election, ThinkProgress tracked a surge in hate-related incidents (which included an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents), and Trump was mum about them throughout the transition. In his first interview after the election, he seemed oblivious to the attacks, and instead of addressing the hate responsible for the attacks, he simply said, “Stop it.”
When a white nationalist conference was held in Washington, D.C. a few weeks later, one of Trump’s surrogates claimed that he “has repeatedly denounced racists more than any candidate in this race,” but there was no evidence to support that claim. Trump had been a bit busy lashing out at Saturday Night Live and the cast of Hamilton at the time.
In the wake of Trump’s latest attempt to rewrite his own record, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect came out swinging, calling his “sudden acknowledgement” of these threats and attacks “a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration.” It went on to say, “The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”
But when asked about those comments Tuesday, Spicer doubled down. “No matter how many times he talks about this,” he lamented — referring to an imaginary plural number of times — “it’s never good enough.” Lauding Trump’s comments at the museum, Spicer said he wished the Anne Frank Center had “praised the President for his leadership in this area” and that they recognize “his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans.”
The Center responded with its conditions for what it would take to “praise” the President. So far, none of those conditions has been met.
This week, Congress was on recess. That’s normally a time for lawmakers to return to their districts and meet with their constituents, but this week, hundreds of them refused to hold town halls. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) even claimed he can’t hold one because paid protesters will “wreak havoc and threaten public safety.”
Whether the town halls were scheduled or not, constituents have been making their views heard, often relying on cardboard cutouts of their lawmaker. The Washington Post even put together a “Yell-O-Matic,” allowing readers to pick different lawmakers they want to see yelled at, though they certainly did more than yell.
In Issaquah, Washington, constituents actually marched on the streets, demanding Rep. Dave Reichert (R) hold a town hall. Others got creative, writing songs about their absent leaders.
The lawmakers who did show up heard an earful from constituents concerned about losing their health care (including many Trump voters). Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) heard from, among others, a woman whose husband is suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia who is afraid of losing her family’s coverage.
Many also confronted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and when an Afghan man who assisted U.S. armed forces asked, “Who’s going to save me here?” Grassley refused to respond.
This grassroots engagement from constituents across the country is almost unprecedented, and it may be starting to work. Thursday night, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), surprised his raucous town hall by admitting, “Absolutely, Donald Trump should release his tax returns.”