Tumult Surrounds Trump Days Ahead Of His Presidency

Washington Foldernews.com Donald Trump is four days away from assuming the presidency after one of the most tumultuous transitions in modern history, setting the stage for a rocky period of dramatic change, partisan acrimony and unpredictable results.

Trump will take office with far lower poll ratings than his recent predecessors, with majorities of Americans doubtful of his capacity to handle the job. He’s at war with the nation’s intelligence agencies, has a dysfunctional relationship with the press, is fighting claims that he’s too cozy with Russia and is brushing off conventional ethical standards for an incoming president. China has warned him about changing policy related to Taiwan and Mexico has threatened retaliation if Trump imposes a border tax.

John Lewis became one of the most prominent Democrats to call the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency into question, prompting a weekend retort from the President-elect, who tweeted that the civil rights icon is “all talk” and “no action.”

For any other incoming president, such a pile of controversies and crises would suggest an early political disaster is imminent for the new White House. But Trump broke the mold in his outsider campaign and has repeatedly shrugged off scandals and controversies that would have downed normal politicians. He appears determined to shake up conventions that have built up around the presidency for two centuries and has little time for those who say he lacks presidential demeanor.

In fact, many of the political storms raging as he takes office have been instigated by Trump himself. Inciting chaos and disruption has been the key to his political career, helping him rupture the Republican establishment and win the White House. He seemingly has no plans to change tactics in the White House.

“He is reinventing the modern presidency,” said Timothy Naftali, a Cable News Network International presidential historian.

But as Trump takes office, his signature style, designed to keep everyone off balance, is facing its most significant test. Will his confrontational, brazen approach, the prosecution of personal grudges on social media and tendency to stir disorientation prove to be a workable template for a presidency? And will his method of deliberately picking at societal fault lines work when Trump is president of all Americans?

Metrics for success

“Only time will tell whether he succeeds as a leader,” said Naftali, who also teaches at New York University and warns that while Trump often plays by different rules, history will not. “We know the metrics for success haven’t changed — public opinion, bills passed, confidence around the world, confidence at home, a strong economy. All these things are the same metrics.”

Trump, he continued, “is reinventing the style of the presidency and every president has the right to do that. But he’s going to be tested the same way.”

Trump will begin his administration in a deepening hole with public opinion.

His approval rating stood at 44% a week before the inauguration, according to Gallup. President Barack Obama was at 83% at the equivalent moment, George W. Bush was at 61% and Bill Clinton at 68%.

A Pew Research poll found that 39% of Americans approve of the way Trump has outlined his policies while a Quinnipiac poll put his approval rating at 37% last week.
Photos: In transition: President-elect Trump
Photos: In transition: President-elect Trump
President-elect Donald Trump speaks at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday, January 11. In his first news conference since winning the election, a combative Trump made clear he will not mute his style when he is inaugurated on January 20. He lashed out at media and political foes alike.
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US Sen. Jeff Sessions, who Trump has nominated for attorney general, is sworn in during his confirmation hearing in Washington on Tuesday, January 10. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling high-level positions for the new administration.
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Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, arrives on Capitol Hill for a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday, January 9. Kushner, a 35-year-old businessman-turned-political strategist, will be senior adviser to the president, a senior transition official told Cable News Network International.
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Trump gets on an elevator after speaking with reporters at New York’s Trump Tower on January 9.
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Trump stands with Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, Asia’s richest man, as they walk to speak with reporters at Trump Tower on January 9. Ma met with Trump to tease plans for creating “one million” jobs in the United States. Trump praised Ma after the meeting as a “great, great entrepreneur and one of the best in the world.”
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Trump stands with legendary boxing promoter Don King after meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, December 28. Trump and King met to discuss the relationship between Israel and the United States.
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Trump attends a meeting with Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist and senior counselor, at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Wednesday, December 21. Trump spent the holidays in Mar-a-Lago.
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Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway talks to the press in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Thursday, December 15. Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager, will work in his administration as “counselor to the president,” it was announced on Thursday, December 22.
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Trump meets with technology executives in New York on Wednesday, December 14. From left are Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon; Larry Page, chief executive officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet; Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; and Vice President-elect Mike Pence. The three main areas discussed were jobs, immigration and China, according to a source briefed on the meeting.
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Three of Trump’s children — from left, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — attend the meeting with tech leaders on December 14.
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Trump, Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan wave during an event in West Allis, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, December 13. “He’s like a fine wine,” Trump said of Ryan at the rally, which was part of his “thank you” tour to states that helped him win the election. “Every day that goes by, I get to appreciate his genius more and more.”
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Trump and rapper Kanye West speak to the press after meeting at Trump Tower in New York on December 13. Trump called West a “good man” and told journalists that they have been “friends for a long time.” West later tweeted that he met with Trump to discuss “multicultural issues.”
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Trump selected former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, to be his nominee for energy secretary, which would make Perry the head of an agency he once suggested he would eliminate.
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Trump has tapped ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state, the transition team announced December 13. Tillerson, seen here at a conference in 2015, has no formal foreign-policy experience, but he has built close relationships with many world leaders by closing massive deals across Eurasia and the Middle East on behalf of the world’s largest energy company.
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Trump waves during the Army-Navy football game, which was played in Baltimore on Saturday, December 10.
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Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, speaks during an event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Friday, December 9.
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Trump shakes hands with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad at an event in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday, December 8. Trump re-introduced Branstad as his pick for US ambassador to China.
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Trump greets retired Marine Gen. James Mattis at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Tuesday, December 6. Trump said he would nominate Mattis as his defense secretary.
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Trump speaks to members of the media at Trump Tower in New York on December 6.
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Trump visits the Carrier air-conditioning company in Indianapolis on Thursday, December 1. Carrier announced that it had reached a deal with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is currently governor of Indiana, to keep about 1,000 of 1,400 jobs at its Indianapolis plant rather than move them to Mexico. The Carrier plant had been a theme of Trump’s campaign promise to prevent more jobs from being outsourced to other countries.
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Trump and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney share a meal in New York on Tuesday, November 29. Romney was reportedly in the running for secretary of state.
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Trump waves to a crowd at The New York Times building after meeting with some of the newspaper’s reporters, editors and columnists on Tuesday, November 22. Six takeaways from the meeting
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Trump is flanked by Pence and Romney after a meeting in Bedminster Township, New Jersey, on Saturday, November 19.
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“60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl interviews Trump and his family at his New York home on Friday, November 11. It was Trump’s first television interview since the election.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan shows Trump and his wife, Melania, the Speaker’s Balcony at the US Capitol on Thursday, November 10.
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Ryan listens as Trump speaks to the press at the US Capitol on November 10. Trump talked about his eagerness to join forces with Ryan to begin implementing new policies.
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Trump walks with his wife and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the US Capitol on November 10.
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Trump shakes hands with President Barack Obama following a meeting in the Oval Office on November 10. Obama told his successor that he wanted him to succeed and would do everything he could to ensure a smooth transition.
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Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown hotel on Wednesday, November 9.
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Gallup also found Trump under 50% on questions about whether he will handle military force wisely, how he would steer an international crisis and on his capacity to avoid major scandals in his administration. He does better over his ability to handle the economy and defend US interests abroad, but he still lags other previous incoming presidents at the equivalent time.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, however, said Trump has a mandate even as Democrats point out he lost the popular vote and question the legitimacy of his victory.

“Donald Trump won a landslide election,” Pence said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The American people spoke decisively, they wanted change and I promise … come noon this coming Friday, change really begins and we are going to make America great again.”

Starting from such a low base of approval gives Trump little leeway should things begin to go wrong in his administration. Presidents who get into trouble in the polls generally become less effective in molding public opinion in times of crisis and in exerting leverage on Capitol Hill.

It’s also notable that while Trump took care to keep his supporters on his side during his post-election “thank you” tour, he’s done almost nothing to reach out to the millions of Americans who view his inauguration with anxiety.

He has instead spent his transition waging personal vendettas on Twitter, castigating Cable News Network International and other media organizations while putting more credibility in the statements of Russia and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange than those of US intelligence agencies.

Senate probe into election hacking to review possible links between Russia, campaigns

But if Trump proves skillful at handling the presidency, it’s possible his approval rating could quickly rise. And for Trump’s supporters, who sent him to Washington to fundamentally dismantle the political class, blasting Meryl Streep on Twitter, slamming journalists, defying the intelligence establishment and ignoring conventions on avoiding conflicts of interests is not troubling at all.

Future problems?

Still, the President-elect could be storing up future problems that could return and haunt him later in his administration.

Ethics lawyers have condemned his decision to flout the normal practice of presidents by not putting his assets in a blind trust as far short of what is necessary. Trump will hand over the running of his businesses to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr., and has pledged not to discuss them. But he will retain his financial stake, which means he can still boost his own wealth indirectly by decisions he will make as President.

The President-elect will also take office beset by looming political challenges in Congress.

Trump said at last week’s news conference that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced nearly simultaneously, a sentiment that House Speaker Paul Ryan seemed to endorse at a Cable News Network International town hall. But no workable plan has emerged that could pass Congress and insure millions of people who will lose coverage if Obamacare is dismantled.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for a “stable transition period” between the two moving parts of building a new GOP health care plan and several Republican senators are anxious about moving too quickly.

Trump vs. his Cabinet

Disagreements are also brewing at the heart of Trump’s own cabinet. While most of his nominees appear to be heading for confirmation, clear differences emerged between the President-elect and his national security team at their hearings on Russia, torture, the Iran nuclear deal and the need to preserve US alliances.

Their positions raised questions about how their conventional views would fit with a president who seems intent on disrupting foreign policy traditions. Trump tweeted on Friday that there was no reason to worry.

“All of my Cabinet nominee are looking good and doing a great job. I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”

Traditionally, new presidents begin their administrations by using their inaugural address to call on the nation to unite after fractious political campaigns. Trump may do the same, though his scorched earth style leaves him with perhaps a bigger challenge in this area than any recent president. His handling of lingering questions about the extent of Russian interference in the election and the treatment of Hillary Clinton by the FBI could also be crucial to establishing credibility with those who oppose him.

For now, however, he remains hyper sensitive to the merest suggestion that his election victory was marred by outside influences, suggesting that corrosive questions about 2016 will linger long into his presidency

“What are Hillary Clinton’s people complaining about with respect to the F.B.I. Based on the information they had she should never….. have been allowed to run — guilty as hell,” Trump said in consecutive tweets on Friday.

FBI Director Comey’s political firestorm, explained

Former Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said on Cable News Network International last week that such comments bode ill for Trump’s presidency.

“I think those tweets are just the latest indication that Donald Trump is someone very insecure in his victory,” he said last week. “Every day, there are new developments and new shoes dropping, so to speak, that call into question the legitimacy of his win.”

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