Getty
Show Hide image

Here are 23 terrifying things that President Trump has done in the last seven days

Week one.

Donald Trump was inaugurated on Friday 20 January. This is his seventh day as president. He has not yet been in the job a full week.

But he’s been pretty busy – so here is a summary of some of the things he’s been up to.

I should warn you upfront that this is quite a long list – but it seemed worth taking the time to record quite how many frightening or ridiculous things a government can do in a short time period when it really puts its mind to it. 

1. On the day of his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order instructing agencies to minimise the cost of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The order is unlikely to change much at first – but it signals the White House’s intent to dismantle the Obama administration’s attempts to create universal healthcare coverage. 

2. On Saturday, Trump stood in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall – a memorial which honours those who have died in the line of duty – and gave what was widely perceived to be a stump speech. He praised himself for attracting such a big crowd to his inauguration, laid into the media for lying about him, boasted about the number of times he had appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, and generally talked far less about the CIA or intelligence issues more generally than he did about himself. 

3. Early reports that the CIA had cheered this speech were swiftly followed by others, in which it emerged that the front three rows had been stuffed with Trump supporters to ensure the president received applause. This is reportedly not the first time his team have used this trick.

4. At his first press briefing, Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer laid into the media for accurately reporting the size of Trump’s inauguration crowds (which, like the president’s hands, were surprisingly small). His colleague Kellyanne Conway later clarified that Spicer was not lying, but merely presenting “alternative facts”.

5. Later in the week, the president himself presented more alternative facts, this time about TV ratings. In an attempt to demonstrate that the right-wing Fox News is better and more popular than the neutral CNN, he tweeted the following:

6. Yesterday, to put the cherry on this particular cake, Spicer’s office released an email rounding up positive press coverage, just to make sure that the media had spotted it.

7. Trump’s team has hung a portrait of President Andrew Jackson (1829-37) in the Oval Office, apparently a nod to the populist sentiments of the new administration. 

Jackson is best remembered for signing the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced the native American population of the south eastern United States to relocate to reservations west of the Mississippi. In the resulting exodus, known to history as the “Trail of Tears”, more than 4,000 people died. 

Less famously, Jackson is also the president who introduced the Spoils System, under which new administrations purge the civil service and stuff it with their own supporters. He is a frankly terrifying model for a new administration to adopt.

8. On Monday, Trump signed an order re-introducing a Reagan-era gag policy which prevents federal funding from going towards any international organisation that offers or promotes abortion. You may have spotted the picture of half a dozen white men watching him do it:

The new policy will, in effect, defund organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International. That lack of funding will not merely prevent them from offering abortions, but also from providing contraception, family planning or health advice. Planned Parenthood’s Dawn Laguens said, “Women will die because of this”.

9. On Tuesday, President Trump threatened the city of Chicago with martial law:

One theory is that this was inspired by a feud with the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who had previously served as President Obama’s chief-of-staff. Another is that it was a panicked reaction to a segment on Fox News:

10. The same day, Trump resurrected plans for two oil pipelines – the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines – which had been rejected by the Obama administration. This was widely interpreted as a signal about the new administration’s attitude towards climate change.

11. Not that we needed that signal, to be frank, because the administration has also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the climate change pages from its website.

12. It will also require all scientific studies and data from the EPA to undergo review by political staff – that is, not scientists – before publication.

13. The administration also attempted to ban government agencies from tweeting about climate change, thus sparking a Twitter feud with the National Parks Service.

14. Trump also announced his intention to investigate voter fraud in this pair of tweets:

There is no evidence that any such voter fraud exists. By contrast, there is evidence of widespread disenfranchisement of African-American voters in swing states like North Carolina. 

Trump has yet to propose any investigation into the latter – or, come to that, to learn to thread his tweets.

15. Yesterday Trump confirmed that he was not kidding around, and signed an executive order calling for the “immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border” between the US and Mexico.

It is not yet clear how this wall, which will need to be up to 1,000 miles long if it’s to prevent migrants from just walking round it, will be funded.

16. The same executive order includes a section mandating the Department of Homeland Security to publish weekly lists of crimes committed by immigrants. Let’s not understate this: this is fucking terrifying.

17. Another executive order will block the government from offering visas to anyone visiting from six Middle Eastern and East African countries (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen). A move that looks a lot like a partial version of the ban on Muslim immigration that he promised/threatened on the campaign trail.

18. The administration is also temporarily blocking refugees from entering the US.

19. Except for those fleeing Syria, who will instead be banned indefinitely.

20. Despite questions about conflicts between the president’s political and business interests, the head of Trump Hotels is talking about ambitious plans to massively expand the company’s operations in the US. (In its defence, the company does seem to have shelved plans to develop its business in China.) 

This news inspired a genuinely quite heartbreaking headline in The Onion:

21. Yesterday officials briefed that the administration wanted to reinstate the CIA’s “black site” prisons, where “enhanced interrogation techniques” – torture, basically – were used. President Trump later told ABC’s David Muir that torture techniques like waterboarding “absolutely” work.

22. In the same interview, broadcast last night, Trump said the following:

I can be the most presidential person ever, other than possibly the great Abe Lincoln, all right?

For those keeping score, that’s more presidential than Obama, and Reagan, and FDR, and Teddy Roosevelt, and the founding fathers. It’s only possibly more presidential than Abraham Lincoln, who won the Civil War and ended slavery.

But don’t get too excited yet:

But I may not be able to do the job nearly as well if I do that.

23. Trump ended the interview by showing Muir a photograph of the inauguration crowd and described it as “the sea of love”.

***

This is not a comprehensive list: there’s simply too much of this stuff. I haven’t included things that are still, at time of writing, just rumours (like scrapping the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities). Nor did it seem fair to dwell too much on terrifying things for which Trump is not directly responsible, such as the arrests of multiple journalists who covered the inauguration protests, or the fact the Economist Intelligence Unit no longer considers the US to be a full democracy. 

But the point is – it has been a busy, and terrifying, week. And this is just week one.

This list was meant to have a lot more jokes in it than this. But somehow, it doesn’t seem very funny.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Seven things we learnt from the Battle for Number 10

Jeremy Corbyn emerged the better as he and Theresa May faced a live studio audience and Jeremy Paxman. 

1. Jeremy Corbyn is a natural performer

The Labour leader put in a bravura performance in both the audience Q&A and in his tussle with Jeremy Paxman. He is often uncomfortable at Prime Minister’s Questions but outside of the Commons chamber he has the confidence of a veteran of countless panels, televised discussions and hustings.

If, like me, you watched him at more hustings in the Labour leadership contests of 2015 and 2016 than you care to count, this performance wasn’t a surprise. Corbyn has been doing this for a long time and it showed.

2. And he’s improving all the time

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t quite perfect in this format, however. He has a temper and is prone to the odd flash of irritation that looks bad on television in particular. None of the four candidates he has faced for the Labour leadership – not Yvette Cooper, not Andy Burnham, not Liz Kendall and not Owen Smith – have managed to get under his skin, but when an interviewer has done so, the results have never been pretty for the Labour leader.

The big fear going into tonight for Corbyn was that his temper would get the better of him. But he remained serene in the fact of Paxman’s attempts to rile him until quite close to the end. By that point, Paxman’s frequent interruptions meant that the studio audience, at least, was firmly on Corbyn’s side.

3. Theresa May was wise to swerve the debates

On Jeremy Corbyn’s performance, this validated Theresa May’s decision not to face him directly. He was fluent and assured, she was nervous and warbly.  It was a misstep even to agree to this event. Anyone who decides their vote as far as TV performances tonight will opt for Jeremy Corbyn, there’s no doubt of that.

But if she does make it back to Downing Street it will, in part, be because in one of the few good moves of her campaign she chose to avoid debating Corbyn directly.

4.…but she found a way to survive

Theresa May’s social care U-Turn and her misfiring campaign mean that the voters don’t love her as they once did. But she found an alternate route through the audience Q&A, smothering the audience with grimly dull answers that mostly bored the dissent out of listeners.

5. Theresa May’s manifesto has damaged her. The only question is how badly

It’s undeniable now that Theresa May’s election campaign has been a failure, but we still don’t know the extent of the failure. It may be that she manages to win a big majority by running against Jeremy Corbyn. She will be powerful as far as votes in the House of Commons but she will never again be seen as the electoral asset she once was at Westminster.

It could be that she ends up with a small majority in which case she may not last very much longer at Downing Street. And it could be that Jeremy Corbyn ends up defeating her on 8 June.

That the audience openly laughed when she talked of costings in her manifesto felt like the creaking of a rope bridge over a perilous ravine. Her path may well hold until 8 June, but you wouldn’t want to be in her shoes yourself and no-one would bet on the Conservative Party risking a repeat of the trip in 2022, no matter what happens in two weeks’ time.

6. Jeremy Paxman had a patchy night but can still pack a punch

If Jeremy Paxman ever does produce a collected Greatest Hits, this performance is unlikely to make the boxset. He tried and failed to rouse Jeremy Corbyn into anger and succeeded only in making the audience side with the Labour leader. So committed was he to cutting across Theresa May that he interrupted her while making a mistake.

He did, however, do a better job of damaging Theresa May than he did Jeremy Corbyn.  But not much better.

7. Theresa May may have opposed Brexit, but now she needs it to save her

It’s not a good sign for the sitting Prime Minister that the audience laughed at many of her statements. She had only one reliable set of applause lines: her commitment to getting the best Brexit deal.

In a supreme irony, the woman who opposed a Leave vote now needs the election to be a referendum re-run if she is to secure the big majority she dreams of. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496