WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump tweeted right to the end of 2017 on Sunday (Dec 31), boasting of his accomplishments in his turbulent first year in office and throwing down the gauntlet for the US midterm elections.
He highlighted his tax cut and a surging stock market in a series of New Year’s Eve tweets that seemed to set the table for next year’s fight for control of the US Congress.
“Why would smart voters want to put Democrats in Congress in 2018 Election when their policies will totally kill the great wealth created during the months since the Election,” he said.
“People are much better off now not to mention ISIS, VA, Judges, Strong Border, 2nd A, Tax Cuts & more?”
“2nd A” appears to refer to the constitutional right under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms – though it was unclear what action, if any, Trump has taken in that regard.
Trump is ringing in the New Year at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida before returning to Washington.
He goes into 2018 with the lowest approval ratings of any modern first-year US president, after a year during which he shattered political expectations, strained long-standing alliances and courted controversy on race and immigration.
In a tweet late Thursday, Trump addressed criticism of his often incendiary use of social media with an attack on a favourite target, the press.
“I use Social Media not because I like to, but because it is the only way to fight a VERY dishonest and unfair ‘press,’ now often referred to as Fake News Media.
“Phony and non-existent ‘sources’ are being used more often than ever. Many stories & reports a pure fiction!”
Still unresolved is a deepening federal probe into whether Trump campaign aides and associates colluded with a covert Russian effort to sway the 2016 US presidential election in the Republican’s favor.
But Trump, who told the New York Times this week the investigation makes “the country look very bad,” stuck to the good economic news on Sunday.
“If the Dems (Crooked Hillary) got elected, your stocks would be down 50% from values on Election Day. Now they have a great future – and just beginning!” he said in one of his tweets Sunday.
Despite passage of a major tax overhaul before Christmas and stock markets ending the year at record highs, Republicans have proved vulnerable in recent elections.
Republicans now hold a slender one-seat majority in the US Senate after a Trump-endorsed candidate – accused of preying on young girls – lost a special election in red state Alabama.
A poll average compiled by website RealClearPolitics.com finds that 55.6 per cent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s performance in office and only 40 per cent approve.
That represents a notable deterioration on both measures since he took office in January, after a divisive campaign that featured attacks on immigration and free trade deals and promised to bring back jobs to depressed parts of the country.
The US economy is growing at 3.2 per cent and unemployment is at a two decade low at 4.1 per cent.
And in his most significant legislative victory to date, Trump succeeded in slashing corporate tax rates from a top rate of 35 to 21 percent, but at an expected cost of soaring federal deficits.
Internationally, gathering storm clouds have set nerves on edge, with some questioning Trump’s leadership on the world stage.
Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, said on Sunday that Trump’s unpredictability and the disruptive nature of his presidency has created “an incredibly dangerous climate.”
“We’re actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
“I don’t see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point,” he said.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy hawk who has grown close to Trump, called 2018 “a year of opportunity and extreme danger.”
“We’ve got a chance here to deliver some fatal blows to really bad actors in 2018. But if we blink, God help us all,” he said on CBS’ Face The Nation.