The Asian Journal looks back on the 45th president’s controversial first 12 months
Every president’s first year in office is important and widely observed. Meant to set the tone for the rest of his presidency, the first year often gives us a preview of how the rest of the term will transpire.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s first year as president was nothing, if not, exhaustingly eventful. Whether he was causing a storm on Twitter or announcing new policies which shocked the nation (often simultaneously), it’s no doubt that he accomplished many of his campaign promises.
Finishing off the year with a 32 percent approval rating — a historic low for any president’s first year, according to Pew Research Center — the Trump administration saw many highlights.
Here’s a recap of the 45th United States president’s first year:
Tax cuts for middle class, small businesses
Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 22, touting it as the most massive tax cut in the history of the country. The bill is said to lower taxes for middle-class Americans and will supposed bring back jobs to the U.S.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act keeps the number of individual tax brackets at seven but reduces the rates to 10, 12, 22, 24, 32, 35, and 37 percent, increases the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 for singles and married couples, and roughly doubles the standard deduction.
On the corporate side, the bill reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and also eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS.
“At a time when many Americans still living paycheck-to-paycheck, tax reform means more jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). “Already, workers are reaping the benefits of reform as companies take steps to reward their employees and expand their businesses.”
“Soon, workers will begin to see bigger paychecks as new withholding tables take effect,” he said. “Typical families of four can expect a tax cut of $2,059 next year as rates are lowered across the board. That is what this is all about: helping people earn more and keep more of what they earn.”
Travel ban to make America safe again?
For his major first act as president, Trump decided to tackle an oft-mentioned issue of his presidential campaign: immigration.
Just days after his inauguration, Trump signed the controversial Executive Order 13769, which called for a temporary 120-day ban on all travel from nationals hailing from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, countries which Trump said could jeopardize on the nation’s security.
A subsequent version of the ban allowed those who could provide a bona fide relationship with an individual or entity in the U.S. entry into the country. Another version also included North Korea and Venezuela in the ban while eliminating Iraq and Sudan as affected countries.
Closely reported by the Asian Journal this year, the travel ban went on to have a rocky year, the administration putting out three versions, all of which have been blocked by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii for violating the Constitution and for not providing enough evidence the ban is a necessity for national security.
“To the extent that the Government might have provided additional evidence to establish that national security is now the primary purpose for the ban, it has not done so,” U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Hawaii wrote in October in a ruling blocking the ban.
DREAMers react to rescission of DACA
Despite previously promising to protect undocumented youth, the president announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September.
DACA was put into law in 2012 by former President Barack Obama, and it provided temporary relief from deportation, allowed DREAMers to gain work authorization, relief from deportation and driver’s licenses. (Specific benefits vary depending on the state.)
“It is reprehensible that the president is now attempting to use these young people as bargaining chips to advance his anti-immigrant agenda,” Rep Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who represents Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley area in Congress, said in the statement in November.
“The White House should not play politics with the lives of our nation’s DREAMers. If the bipartisan, bicameral DREAM Act were brought to the floor today, it would have the votes to pass,” Chu asserted. “I urge my Republican colleagues to do the right thing and allow us to vote on a clean DREAM Act before Congress adjourns in December.”
The announcement of DACA’s termination caused a stir across the country, especially in the immigrant communities across the country.
As previously reported in the Asian Journal, Congress has agreed to push back conversations on a solution for DREAMers until January 2018, whether it’s a legislative alternative to DACA or a clean DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for all eligible undocumented youth.
Multiple vacation days spent golfing or at Trump properties
One of the many criticisms Trump faced in his first year was the number of days spent at one of his properties. During his campaign, he promised his supporters that he would spend time working and less time golfing, a point for which he criticized former President Barack Obama.
“@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic,” he tweeted in 2011.
Trump remarked at a campaign event in August 2016, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”
Yet, he somehow did find time to play golf. By the end of March, he had already logged 19 days at Trump-owned properties and had played golf on 11 of those days.
As of December 29, 2017, Trump has spent 85 days golfing, costing at least $42,510,956 of taxpayer money, according to The Washington Post. Additionally, he has spent 35 days at his Florida resort, Mar-A-Lago, which had cost taxpayers $6.6 million by July.
Remarks on white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA
After the nation was shaken by the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12 attended by white supremacists, members of the KKK and neo-Nazi’s, Trump failed to outrightly condemn white supremacy.
Trump, days after the rally (which claimed the life of 32-year-old counter protester Heather Heyer, who was purposefully hit by a white supremacist), asserted that there was “blame on both sides,” a remark that was criticized for being soft on white supremacy and the KKK.
Trump falsely claimed that the people protesting the taking down of a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee “were protesting very quietly.” In fact, the protesters were chanting Hitler-era anti-Semitic chants, such as “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil.”
Trump added that he thought that among the protesters, there are “some very fine people,” a point which angered many on both sides of the aisle.
“President Donald Trump wanted to know the facts. Just let that sink in for a moment,” renowned journalist Anderson Cooper said on CNN on August 15. “If there is anything we already know about this president, is that he does not wait for facts to become clear before speaking. Has any president in modern history lied so fast and so frequently as this one?”
Investigation into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election
What may be this generation’s Watergate, the investigation into Russian collusion, aided by the Trump campaign, dominated headlines this year.
Despite Trump denying collusion, the investigation was a whirlwind. However, it was found that many individuals from the Trump team — former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Manafort’s deputy Richard Gates, campaign adviser George Papadopoulos (who said he had connections that could help set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the campaign) — have confirmed having contacts with people tied to the Russian government during the campaign.
In a tweet released in July, Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., revealed that during the campaign, he corresponded with a tabloid reporter Rob Goldstone about a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have damaging information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that would secure a Trump win.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” an email from Goldstone said.
Headed by special counsel Robert Mueller (FBI director from 2001-2013), the investigation team has heard testimonies from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who had lied about inappropriate contacts with Russians during the transition period and then recused himself from the investigation as head of the Justice Department), Papadopoulos and many others connected to the allegations.
The probe slated to continue with hearings from other figures in the Trump campaign, but there is still no clear answer to the central question: did Trump and his team collude with the Russian government during the presidential campaign?