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Rating Trump’s first six months: what he said, what he did

July 19, 2017

Halfway through his first year in office, President Trump has struggled to sign a single major piece of legislation. Why the delay? Three words: Russia, Russia, and Russia.

He has kept some promises — so long as he didn’t need Congress to pass them — using executive orders to roll back environmental regulations, to review all recent tax regulations, and to try to enact a travel ban for residents of a handful of Muslim-majority countries.

But the constant drip of stories about the 2016 campaign and his administration’s ties to the Russian government has kept Trump occupied while largely derailing the White House’s attempts to control the Washington agenda. Six months into his presidency, polls have put Trump’s approval rating around 40 percent, the lowest in modern history. For context, former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had 59 percent approval ratings at this point of their presidencies.

The most recent ABC News/Washington Post survey also found that 55 percent of Americans believe that Trump isn’t making progress toward his major goals. Let’s take a look at where things stand in terms of what he said on the campaign trail versus what he’s done.

Border wall

What he said
“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
— Trump, in response to a question after his campaign announcement speech, June 16, 2015
What has happened
Trump’s biggest and best-known campaign promise — to build a wall on the US border with Mexico — is only a bit closer to becoming reality, some six months into office. Five days after being sworn in, Trump directed the Department of Homeland Security to begin planning and to receive bids to build a wall. Back then, the Republican-led Congress said it was willing to pay for it. But when a debt ceiling deal was being negotiated by Congress this spring, Trump wanted money specifically earmarked for the wall (he said Mexico would repay us later). Congress balked, and Trump said that he will take up the funding issue again in September.

Muslim ban

What he said
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
— Trump, in a press release, Dec. 7, 2015
What has happened
The road to enacting such a ban has been as complicated as it has been controversial. After several attempts to institute such a ban, and subsequent court orders blocking those attempts, a very limited temporary ban is in place as of July 2017. The US Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue this fall. In the meantime, against his lawyers’ wishes, Trump is still calling it a “travel ban.” He has dropped the word Muslim because of fears that that would make it blatantly unconstitutional.

Repeal Obamacare

What he said
“As soon as we take office, it’s America first again. That begins with immediately repealing and replacing ‘Obamacare.’ . . . We’re gonna repeal it, we’re gonna replace it, and we’re gonna get you great, great health care at a fraction of the cost.”
— Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in Florida, Oct. 25, 2016
What has happened
After months of wrangling, the US House passed a bill. But different versions have stalled in the Senate, and some now wonder whether the repeal will happen at all.

Create jobs

What he said
“Over the next 10 years, our economic team estimates that under our plan the economy will average 3.5 percent growth and create a total of 25 million new jobs.”
— Trump, speaking to the New York Economic Club on Sept. 15, 2016
What has happened
Trump set an ambitious plan for job growth that most economists dismissed as impossible to pull off. It would mean, logically, that the American economy would have to create 2.5 million new jobs each year. As of June, when the latest job statistics were released, 863,000 net new jobs had been created since he took office. Trump would probably argue that once his signature proposals are in place — including tax reform, an infrastructure plan, and the repeal of Obamacare — more jobs will follow. At the same time, the stock market has showed strong growth since Trump’s election, leading some to believe it’s overdue for a downturn, which could stymie job growth.

Rewrite trade deals

What he said
NAFTA is “a disaster,” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership “is going to be worse, so we will stop it.”
— Trump, speaking at a May 7, 2016, rally in Spokane, Wash.
What has happened
On his first full day of work, Trump signed an order that removed the United States from negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Renegotiating NAFTA is more complicated because it is existing law. But Trump continues to make progress on this promise, and intense renegotiations are expected to begin later this summer on how to restructure the 20-year-old trade pact.

Defeat the Islamic State

What he said
“I WILL DEFEAT ISIS. THEY HAVE BEEN AROUND TOO LONG! What has our leadership been doing?”
— Trump tweet, Oct. 19, 2016
What has happened
During the campaign, Trump said that defeating the Islamic State would be his highest priority. He also told voters that he had a secret plan for how to do it. When he took office, he issued an order asking the Pentagon for a plan in 30 days, saying he would figure out how to meld that proposal with his secret plan. The Pentagon delivered such a proposal to his desk in February. No announcement followed. But in April, Trump ordered that the “mother of all bombs” be dropped on an Islamic State-controlled cave complex in Afghanistan, while in Iraq, the United States helped to reclaim the city of Mosul in early July. While the group itself might have weakened in recent years, there have been a number of Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks around the world in recent months.