By Jonn Elledge
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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:
- 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.
- Trump’s team has hung a portraitof 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.
- 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”.
- 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:
- 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 interpretedas a signal about the new administration’s attitude towards climate change.
- Not that we needed that signal, to be frank, because the administration has also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to removethe climate change pages from its website.
- It will also requireall scientific studies and data from the EPA to undergo review by political staff – that is, not scientists – before publication.
- The administration also attempted to ban government agencies from tweeting about climate change, thus sparking a Twitter feudwith the National Parks Service.
- 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.
- 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.
- The same executive order includes a section mandating the Department of Homeland Security to publish weekly listsof crimes committed by immigrants. Let’s not understate this: this is fucking terrifying.
- 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 immigrationthat he promised/threatened on the campaign trail.
- The administration is also temporarily blocking refugeesfrom entering the US.
- Except for those fleeing Syria, who will instead be banned indefinitely.
- Despite questions about conflicts between the president’s political and business interests, the head of Trump Hotels is talking about ambitious plans to massively expandthe 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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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. He is on Twitter, almost continously, as @JonnElledge.