Knowing that Trump and Republicans would soon take a wrecking ball to everything he held dear, former President Obama used his last days on the job to preserve his progressive legacy by investing in AIDS relief, pushing healthcare enrollment, protecting trans inmates, making a record number of sentence commutations (including Chelsea Manning), ending oil exploration in the Arctic, and so much more. Trump used his first few weeks far less charitably. Here are some of his worst.
Drained the swamp right into the White House: In addition to rolling back post-financial crisis regulations, Trump is rewarding his billionaire cronies with control over federal agencies that they wish to undermine. Our new Secretary of Education, billionaire Betsy DeVos (whose family has given $200 million to Republicans), doesn't understand the basics of the public education system she wants to dismantle. Climate change denier Scott Pruitt was picked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Racist homophobe Jeff Sessions now runs the Justice Department as attorney general. Tom Price, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, belongs to an AIDS-denialist group that doesn't believe HIV causes AIDS. Fast-food magnate Andrew Puzder, who opposes worker protections, was picked to lead the Labor Department (and has now withdrawn), and anti-public assistance Ben Carson was chosen to head the Housing and Urban Development.
Given white nationalists power: David Duke, the former head of the KKK, is thrilled Trump is in power. Trump didn't just tolerate his white nationalist supporters, he encouraged them; and now they are coming out of the shadows with new confidence. Worse, Trump empowered Steve Bannon, whose white nationalist ideology is evident in the way the administration spoke about the International Holocaust Remembrance Day but avoided mentioning Jews -- and then claimed they did so out of respect for others who died in WWII. Trump gave Bannon unparalleled access to power, granting him a place on the National Security Council, allowing him to write and interpret policy.
Pushed a Muslim ban: The language of the executive order, the chaotic unveiling, the role Bannon played (including expanding the ban's interpretation to apply to permanent legal residents), the insistence that it isn't a Muslim ban (it is), and the fact that Trump apparently didn't consult or even alert lawyers, experts, Congress, the Transportation Security Administration, or the border patrol -- it all added up to a mess. Yet, the ban may turn out to be one of the best things for the resistance. That weekend as thousands protested, donations to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union skyrocketed (it raised $24 million in two days from over 350,000 donors).
Questioned the legitimacy of the courts: Lashing out at the judge who issued an indefinite stay of the Muslim ban, Trump tweeted, "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!" Two queer experts were among those concerned. Nate Silverman of FiveThirtyEight warned, "Trump is tipping his hand as to a strategy if/when 'something happens,' e.g. a terrorist attack, and is very likely to exploit it to expand his powers." When that stay was upheld by the Appeals Court, Trump called it "LawFare" (as in "warfare") in a tweet -- suggesting he views the decision as an act of aggression and could respond in kind. "He plans to ignore the judiciary and undermine the separation of powers," Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, writes in a Facebook post. This is particularly disturbing because the courts are one of the only checks on an over-reaching, power-hungry would-be autocrat in the White House, especially as the Republican-dominated Congress seems unwilling to slow his roll.
Ignored diplomatic protocols: "He will destroy longstanding alliances," warns Smith. Trump has blundered through international relations with all the diplomacy of a hungry toddler. He angered China by disregarding the "One China" policy and threatening a trade war. His insistence that Mexico will pay for his border wall one way or another has Mexicans outraged. His snarky phone call with the Australian prime minister irritated one of our closest allies. Diplomacy exists to help facilitate cross cultural interactions that are necessary in a global world. Trump's ignorance or disregard of it has serious long-term consequences, not the least of which is the real possibility of sparking a war.
Cozied up with Putin: Even if we don't mention the role Russia's hacking played in the outcome of the election, Trump has provided a long list of reasons to be concerned about his man-crush. He's discounted concerns about Putin invading other countries, having people killed, and hacking the U.S. He's rolled back Obama sanctions -- and it appears (now former) National Security Advisor Michael Flynn assured Russia those sanctions would be undone before Trump even took office. "He has undisclosed financial entanglements with Russia," Smith adds. "He will greenlight Russian aggression."
Doomed the environment: The Trump regime has suspended Environmental Protection Agency contracts (including safety testing on household chemicals); pledged to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change; and filled his administration with climate change-deniers. He put a former ExxonMobil CEO in charge of the State Department; expedited the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines (the latter will dig a massive tunnel under a major source of fresh water); repealed rules protecting streams from mining activities; reversed Obama's commitment to alternative energy; rolled back EPA protections; and made moves to support drastically easing regulations around oil and gas drilling on federal lands. And he's just getting started.
Normalized falsehood: Whether it is Trump's claims that his inauguration crowd was the largest despite evidence to the contrary or his (incorrect) insistence, "The murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years," our first reality TV president doesn't seem to know (or care) about the truth. According to Politifact's running tally, Trump has only spoken the truth 4 percent of the time. His statements are "mostly true" an additional 12 percent of the time. Everything else falls between half-truths and "pants on fire" lies. Meanwhile, Trump's proxies like Sean Spicer twist the truth every time they speak. The queen of propaganda, Kellyanne Conway insisted that "alternative facts" were a thing and made up a terrorist attack that never happened. (For the record: One did happen in 1643 in Bowling Green, New York, when Europeans killed dozens of Lanape Indians.) Add in Trump and friends calling any critical reporting "fake news" and one thing is clear: whether you want to call them deliberate efforts to misinform, misstatements, falsehoods, or gaslighting, this regime is burning through pants daily.
Attacked sanctuary cities: Trump issued an executive order on undocumented immigrants which may fuel massive arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It also aimed to punish sanctuary cities by ordering "that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law." Lawyers will be pushing to clarify the limit of that caveat. But trans author and former Naval pilot Brynn Tannehill found another element of the EO "the most disturbing." It orders the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly list of what it calls "criminal actions committed by aliens." "It is effectively using a U.S. government agency to race bait, and justify hatred and discrimination," writes Tannehill in her blog. "This is very similar to the 'Black Crime' section of Breitbart, designed to convince the public that black people are criminals and a danger to society ... Trump's executive order makes [race baiting] a federal function."
Reinstated an international abortion gag rule: To be clear, agencies were already prohibited from using U.S. federal funds for abortions or the promotion of abortions. But this law means, for example, that a women's clinic would risk losing funds by providing education about abortions, even if it doesn't offer those procedures. Studies show these rules haven't decreased abortions, but they do put women's lives in jeopardy. Because many of these same agencies also provide HIV prevention and treatment, losing their funding could have a detrimental impact in that international effort as well.