The Surprises From President Trump's First Week President Trump has been accused of constitutional and legal overreach in his first week in office. Some of his actions surprised even his supporters.

The Surprises From President Trump's First Week

The Surprises From President Trump's First Week

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President Trump has been accused of constitutional and legal overreach in his first week in office. Some of his actions surprised even his supporters.


Members of the Trump administration are making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows in an attempt to clarify details of their executive order. But as the morning goes on, many of the details of the rule are becoming less clear. NPR's Mara Liasson joins us now.



GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let's just note that we are learning about major pieces of policy affecting many people on Sunday talk shows. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, seemed to say this morning on NBC's "Meet The Press" that this executive order does not now affect green card holders. Let's hear what he said.


REINCE PRIEBUS: As far as green card holders, moving forward, it doesn't affect them. But here's the deal, if you're coming in and out of one of those seven countries, then you're going to be subjected, temporarily, with more questioning until a better program is put in place over the next several months.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Walk us through what the president's team is saying this morning.

LIASSON: Well, what they're saying is, over time green card holders will not be affected, but in the short-term they might be subject to more screening. U.S. citizens might also be subject to more screening if they come back and forth from these countries.

The White House feels comfortable that most Americans will think this sounds perfectly reasonable. Donald Trump is just trying to keep them safe. Reince Priebus was also asked why other Muslim countries that have been the country of origin for terrorists who have attacked the U.S. but also are countries where Trump has business interests or hotels - why weren't they on the list. He said, well, maybe other countries will be added in the future.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Other countries added in the future. Mara, President Trump is just starting his second week, and he's already made a number of dramatic moves. Should this surprise anyone?

LIASSON: No, I think that he's moved very quickly to make good on promises that he made during the campaign. He has heartened his supporters by that, and he has horrified some of his critics. Yes, he's caused a lot of confusion and even chaos, as you saw at the airports this weekend. He's gotten pushback from the federal judiciary. Sometimes he stepped on his own story. He's embraced conspiracy theories. He's shown that he really cares about his box office, crowd size, etc.

But the bottom line is that the White House thinks he's been very successful. Kellyanne Conway tweeted this recently. She said (reading) get used to it. POTUS is a man of action and impact - promises made, promises kept, shock to the system. And he's just getting started. So I think when we heard during the campaign that supporters took him seriously but not literally and his critics took him literally but not seriously. Now we're learning it's a good idea to take him seriously and literally.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Indeed. How much of a shock to the system has it been, as Kellyanne Conway put it?

LIASSON: Well, I think it has been a shock to the system. There's also been questions raised about who's calling the shots at the White House. The executive order process seems driven by a very small group led by Steve Bannon who is Donald Trump's chief strategist and keeper of his nationalist, populist ideology. He has been accused of not coordinating enough with other agencies, which resulted in some of the chaos this weekend. But just to give you an idea of how important he is, Donald Trump has elevated him, by executive order, to a seat on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council at the same time that he downgraded the director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is something that's unusual. David Axelrod, for instance, who had the same position in the Obama White House, said that he never sat on a principals committee meeting. He only was in the Situation Room as an observer. So the big question is - did Bannon create chaos on purpose or, did the chaos ensue because he and other White House aides are inexperienced or maybe even a little paranoid? I'm told one of the reasons that they didn't reach out and coordinate with other agencies was not just because they were in a rush, but because they feared that career bureaucrats would sabotage their policy.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Bannon has indeed been quite a controversial figure. Remind us a bit who he is now that he is so powerful.

LIASSON: He is a former investment banker, worked at Goldman Sachs, also was the chairman of Breitbart, the website which traffics in conspiracy theories and has become a haven for white nationalists. Bannon told a Daily Beast reporter in 2014 - he described himself as a Leninist. He said (reading) Lenin wanted to destroy the state. That's my goal, too. I want to bring everything crashing down and destroy all of today's establishment.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How is the rest of President Trump's party responding to this very eventful week?

LIASSON: I think there's been some pushback from Republican members of Congress on the refugee ban, but mostly silence from the leadership. I think Republicans are a little confused and cowed by Donald Trump. They have changed their positions - to get closer to him - on immigration, trade, governing by executive order, deficit spending, crony capitalism, conflicts of interest. Republicans used to be against all of those things, not anymore. Although at the bottom line, they're very, very happy that Donald Trump is going to be signing their agenda into law.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks so much for being with us.

LIASSON: Thank you.

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Donald Trump's First Week As President: What's Reality In The Show

President Trump points toward members of the media while seated at his desk on Air Force One Thursday. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP hide caption

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Trump points toward members of the media while seated at his desk on Air Force One Thursday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The first week of the Trump administration has been marked by a flurry of executive actions — and lots of bombast and argument with the press.

President Trump's executive actions — in the form of orders and memorandums, which differ slightly — aim to show that President Trump will deliver on the promises made by Candidate Trump. And the actions hit on many of the most contentious issues in American politics: Trump moved to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remove roadblocks from the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, impose a hiring freeze on federal employees, withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities.

Along the way, Trump and his surrogates claimed to have drawn the largest-ever inauguration crowd (he didn't), said that 3 million to 5 million votes were illegally cast (no evidence of that), softened his stance toward the CIA and said that he would announce his pick for the Supreme Court next week. The Senate approved four of his nominees for high-level positions, and 10 others have finished their confirmation hearings and await votes. And it comes as congressional Republicans huddle to figure out a legislative way forward with the new president.

Here, we take a look at the biggest issues and where they stand, one week into the Trump presidency:

Affordable Care Act

Within hours of being inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, Trump signed an executive order that seeks to "ease the burdens" of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The order allows the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, or any other agency with authority under the law, to not enforce regulations that impose a financial burden on a state, company or individual.

What are the consequences? It's not totally clear yet. The order is so broad that it's possible it could dismantle key parts of the ACA before a replacement plan is ready owing to a potential lack of enforcement of some of the tax provisions like the mandate, the requirement that if you don't have health insurance, you have to buy it. That's despite previous statements from Republican lawmakers that a replacement plan would immediately follow repeal.

What happens next?

The action adds a lot of confusion to an already complicated system. Trump's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, hasn't yet had his confirmation hearing or vote. He will be responsible for administering the program and exchanges run by the federal government for states that opted not to create their own systems. Price is an opponent of the ACA, and congressional Republicans are vowing to repeal the law. But they haven't yet settled on an alternative. Trump has also confused matters with a pledge to offer "insurance for everybody," though congressional Republicans say they assume he means "access" for everyone.

Immigration and a border wall

On Wednesday, Trump signed two executive orders related to immigration and border security, shortly after the new head of the Department of Homeland Security, Marine Gen. John Kelly, was sworn in. "Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders," Trump said.

What are the consequences?

The move communicated that Trump planned to follow through with his oft-spoken-of plan to build a border wall, estimated to cost $15 billion or more. The fallout was immediate: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a planned visit to Trump in Washington next week.

What happens next?

Trump and Congress need to figure out how to pay for it, for starters. Though Trump has repeatedly said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, on Wednesday he told ABC News that the U.S. will be "reimbursed at a later date" by Mexico for the costs of building the wall. Congressional Republicans vowed to come up with the funding during a policy retreat Thursday in Philadelphia, though they did not specify how.

On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that one way the administration is considering paying for the wall is via a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico — a cost that would mean that U.S. consumers would, in fact, pay for the wall. Ironically, that was part of a congressional plan that Trump, less than two weeks ago, derided as "too complicated." Hours later, the White House walked it back, saying there are many funding options being considered.

Voter fraud

On Monday, Trump told congressional leaders in a bipartisan, bicameral meeting at the White House that that he would have won the popular vote, were it not for 3 million to 5 million votes cast against him by "illegals." When asked about it at the Tuesday press briefing, Spicer affirmed that "the president does believe that."

It was revealed by the New York Times that Trump is partially basing his belief on a story he heard thirdhand from a professional golfer, born in Germany, who wasn't allowed to vote in Florida and claimed there were people in line behind him who looked like they shouldn't be allowed to vote. After NPR's Mara Liasson pressed Spicer at a White House briefing on why the president wouldn't call for an investigation into something that could be the biggest scandal in U.S. history, Trump tweeted, in fact, that he would. On Thursday, Spicer told reporters Trump will issue an executive action calling for a probe of voter fraud in the coming days.

What are the consequences?

Trump's insistence that massive voter fraud occurred would seem to set up a showdown between the White House and. .. the evidence. So far, no evidence of significant voter fraud has come to light.

What happens next?

At this point, it's unclear. The White House insists it will issue an executive action to launch an investigation, but it's uncertain what form a probe would take. Would it be run by the White House? Would the Justice Department take it up (even though the Justice Department is supposed to operate independently of the White House)? The U.S. has already conducted a voter fraud investigation, by the way, during the Bush administration — and found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, turning up only 120 people charged and 86 convicted.

The environment and infrastructure

On Tuesday, Trump signed five executive actions relating to the Keystone XL pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, using American materials when building pipelines, reducing regulations for domestic manufacturing, and "expediting environmental reviews and approval for high-priority infrastructure projects."

What are the consequences?

The pipelines had been stopped during the Obama administration. Trump's actions mean that the owner of the Keystone XL pipeline could apply again for a construction permit, and it did exactly that Thursday night. Trump also encouraged the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the review and approval process for the section of the Dakota Access Pipeline that hasn't been built.

What happens next?

The Dakota Access issue will probably head back to federal court: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will take legal action to fight Trump's decision, saying the pipeline "risks contaminating tribal and American water supplies while disregarding treaty rights." Demonstrators remain camped near the site where the Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri River.

Hiring freeze for federal workers

On Monday, Trump signed a presidential memorandum imposing a hiring freeze on federal workers, with exceptions for military positions and national security.

What are the consequences?

The ramifications are immediate: The freeze is now in effect and is scheduled to last 90 days. It's expected that by then, the Office of Management and Budget will have a longer-term plan for shrinking the federal government. The impact, though, is far-reaching. The federal government employs some 2.8 million people, more than 80 percent of whom live outside Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

What happens next?

The next steps are for the exceptions to be hammered out; the memorandum states that "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." That could give agency heads at least some flexibility to hire as needed. Other exceptions could also emerge. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, has 45,000 job openings, and Trump's nominee to lead the VA had said he needs to fill those openings to serve veterans.