Donald Trump's 100 days in office: What he has done and failed to do so far

 Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th US president by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in front of the Capitol in Washington on Jan 20, 2017.
Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th US president by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in front of the Capitol in Washington on Jan 20, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump's approval ratings are at record lows, as he approaches the 100-day mark in office.

He has yet to achieve a major legislative accomplishment, as he struggles to deal with various domestic issues. On the foreign policy front, however, the early uncertainty is being replaced with some reassurances to old allies, at least in Asia.

The real-estate-tycoon-turned-president has dismissed the 100-day marker as a "ridiculous standard" and has suggested the media would judge him unfairly.

Here's a quick stocktake of the key things that Mr Trump has done, or failed to do, so far:

SUPREME COURT JUDGE

 The Republican-led Senate gave Mr Trump the biggest triumph of his young presidency by confirming his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on April 7 over stout Democratic opposition, and restoring a conservative majority on the highest US judicial body.

Judge Gorsuch's confirmation ends the longest Supreme Court vacancy since 1862 during the American Civil War, with the court down a justice for almost 14 months since long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb 13 last year.

 

Analysts and critics alike agree that this is Mr Trump's  standout achievement. However, they also point out that any Republican president would have been able to do this; the groundwork was laid by the party when they blocked former president Barack Obama's liberal appointee, in effect betting that

 

they would have a Republican in power who would nominate a conservative.

US-MEXICO BORDER WALL

He signed two executive orders: one declaring that the US will create "a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier" to block illegal immigration, and the other one pledging to hire 10,000 more immigration officers and revoke federal grant money from "sanctuary cities" which refuse to deport undocumented immigrants.

The building of the wall will cost billions of dollars and so far the Trump administration has yet to find funding. This issue will clearly require a battle with Congress, where many members, including Republicans, oppose the wall. Failure to quickly follow through with his promise to build the wall carries real political risks for Mr Trump, whose election success was due in large part to his embrace of hard-line positions on illegal immigration.

HIRE AMERICAN, BUY AMERICAN

Mr Trump signed the "Hire American, Buy American Act" which has two parts - one calling for a review of the H-1B visa program to ensure that foreign workers in the US don't drive down wages or put Americans out of work, and the other telling agencies to buy more domestically produced goods.

The ramifications of this Act -  which will make it more difficult for businesses to hire lower-wage foreign workers and  will involve a review of government rules related to the use of American companies for federal contracts -   have yet to play out.

IMMIGRATION RESTRICTIONS

The White House issued its first travel ban on Jan 27, suspending visa holders from seven Muslim majority countries - Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen - and Syrian refugees indefinitely. That weekend, hundreds of travellers were blocked at airports around the world as US lawyers and the powerful American Civil Liberties Union immediately contested the legality of the order. The travel ban was later suspended by a George W. Bush-nominated judge in Seattle, James Robart.

The Trump administration returned with a modified ban on March 15, removing Iraq from the list of implicated countries and excluding those with valid visas. Another federal judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii blocked it, again on the grounds that it was reasonable to conclude the restrictions were intended to "disfavour a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously-neutral purpose." The government plans to challenge the last stay order in the Supreme Court.

Mr Trump insists he will build the border wall, but in order to lift the threat of a government shutdown, he gave way on his demand that Congress include full funding for it in a spending bill. 

REPEALING OF OBAMACARE

One of Mr Trump's campaign promises was to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare - the signature domestic policy achievement of Mr Obama. The law had enabled 20 million Americans to obtain insurance, many through an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor.

The Republican proposal preserves some popular elements of the existing law, such as allowing young people to stay on their parents plans and barring insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. It will cover fewer people than those who gained insurance under Obamacare, among other things.

But Mr Trump could not save the healthcare Bill from being yanked by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives , in an embarrassing turn of events for them and him. Objections among Republican moderates and the party's most conservative lawmakers left leaders short of the votes needed for passage of the Bill, with Democrats unified in opposition.

A reworked plan has drawn support from the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative bloc that helped sink the original bill. That improves the chances of a deal in the House, though it is unclear if it can win enough support from moderate Republicans, and it would face tougher challenges in the Senate. 

FREE-TRADE DEALS

Mr Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal, making good on a pledge to scrap a deal he denounced as a "job killer" and a "rape" of US interests. Promoted by the Obama administration and signed by 12 countries in 2015, the TPP had yet to go into effect and US withdrawal is likely to sound its death knell.

Some experts are worried that China will seek to replace itself in the deal or add TPP nations to its own free trade negotiations, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), excluding the US.

Mr Trump also wants to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. Nafta was established on Jan 1, 1994 under then-president Bill Clinton. It removes tariffs and allows a free flow of goods between the three partners. Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed the deal resulted in millions of lost US industrial jobs, mostly to Mexico.

KEYSTONE AND DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINES

The president signed orders smoothing the path for the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in a move to expand energy infrastructure and roll back key environmental actions of the Obama administration. Mr Obama had blocked the construction of a 1,900km section of the Keystone XL pipeline - which links Canadian oil sands in Alberta to refineries on the US Gulf coast - for environmental reasons. The permit for construction of the North Dakota pipeline project was blocked after native Americans protested that it could contaminate water resources and threaten sacred Native American sites.

Both projects would employ over 50,000 people, though many of the construction jobs will be temporary.

TAX REFORMS

Mr Trump has proposed sharply cut rates for businesses and on overseas corporate profits returned to the US. The Trump administration has touted the blueprint, which also calls for raising standard deductions for individuals, as a landmark tax cut.

But critics say the proposal falls short of a comprehensive tax code overhaul long discussed by his fellow Republicans. And while Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate, the plan may be unpalatable to party fiscal hawks. Since the plan lacks proposals for raising new revenue, it would potentially add billions of dollars to the federal deficit.

FOREIGN POLICIES

Mr Trump has signalled a hard line on Syria, North Korea and Iran. He unleashed a missile strike on a Syrian air base overnight on April 6-7, in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad's alleged chemical attack on civilians. He has also charged that Iran is not honouring the spirit of its deal to forego its nuclear weapons ambitions.

And as North Korea continues to test missiles and may conduct a sixth nuclear test, Mr Trump has warned that the status quo is unacceptable and that all options are on the table. He has also ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to mounting concern over the North's nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the US and its Asian allies.

 

Signalling continued commitment to the Asian allies, Mr Trump emerged credibly from closely watched summits with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China's President Xi Jinping.

With China, Mr Trump,  known for his tough rhetoric against China in the past, stopped short of igniting a trade war, instead using terms of trade as a bargaining chip in exchange for greater pressure from Beijing on Pyongyang to halt its weapons programme.

After their closely watched summit at Mar-a-Lago in Florida in early April, both leaders emphasised the deeper understanding and trust between them and the new friendship forged. Mr Trump also told the Wall Street Journal that Beijing is not manipulating its currency, in a significant U-turn.

 

After Mr Trump's summit with Mr Abe in February, both leaders reaffirmed the "unshakeable alliance" between their countries and heaped praises on each other.

On Nato, Mr Trump had alarmed US allies during the election campaign by calling the military alliance “obsolete.” In mid-April, however, he lavished praise on Nato and said it is not obsolete.

"In some ways, President Trump's foreign policy appears to be increasingly conventional. There has been an emphasis on strengthening alliances especially with Japan and Korea," said Ms Bonnie Glaser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.  

SOURCE: The Straits Times Archives, Reuters, AFP, BBC