Politics | Analysis
April 20, 2017 at 2:28 PM
Thursday is Donald Trump's 90th full day as president of the United States.
In March 2016, before he secured the Republican nomination for the presidency and well before he won the general election, Trump sat down for an interview with The Washington Post's Robert Costa and Bob Woodward. Over the course of that interview, Trump was asked what he hoped to accomplish in his first 90 days, should he be lucky enough to be elected president.
Here's what he said:
Trump: What I would do — and before I talk about legislation, because I think frankly this is more important — number one, it's going to be a very big tax cut. Because the middle class has been … And Larry Kudlow and numerous people have liked very much … You know, I put in a plan for tax cuts, and I've gotten some very good reviews. I would do a tax cut. You have to do a tax cut. Because we're the highest-taxed nation in the world.
But I would start — because I noticed your question briefly — boom, what would you do in the first 90 days? I would immediately start renegotiating our trade deals with Mexico, China, Japan and all of these countries that are just absolutely destroying us. And they have been for years. It's an incredible tribute to our country that we can lose billions — hundreds of billions — of dollars consistently, year in and year out — and still even survive. We have rebuilt China. We have rebuilt it. I mean, you look at what's going on in China. We have rebuilt China single-handedly.
Now, they've done okay with Europe, too, but …
Costa: So renegotiate trade deals and have a tax cut. That would be your first 100 days?
Trump: Renegotiate trade deals and renegotiate military deals.
Costa: Real quick on trade deals …
Trump: And by the way, and renegotiate with NATO. And renegotiate with Japan …
Let's evaluate his progress.
"A very big tax cut." For some reason, Trump framed his push for a tax cut as not being "about legislation." Regardless, the administration hasn't yet pressed Congress to take up tax reform. Shortly after taking office, Trump and Republican leaders in the House agreed to first tackle an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — before moving on to change the tax system. Optimistic estimates figured that both could be achieved by August, a longer time frame than 90 days, but still an early effort.
The Obamacare overhaul collapsed last month, though the administration appears to be working on an effort to resuscitate it. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared that enacting tax reform by August was "highly aggressive to not realistic."
Had the House and the Senate passed the Obamacare overhaul in March, it would have fallen in that 90-day window. But the time frame Trump promised on the repeal of Obamacare was 89 days shorter.
"Renegotiate trade deals." Within days of taking office, Trump pledged to immediately address trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), by quickly signing an executive order. On Jan. 23, he officially ended participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership with such an order.
But after that, things stalled. In late March, the administration again promised to sign an order reviewing NAFTA and a similar agreement with Central American countries. What emerged, though, was an executive order looking at the trade deficit and the possibility of new tariffs. He also signed an order emphasizing the use of American-made products, which is only tangentially related to NAFTA.
To renegotiate that agreement, Trump needs to inform Congress 90 days before such discussions begin. That hasn't happened. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that will probably be coming in a few weeks. Of course, he said that in early March.
"Renegotiate military deals," "renegotiate with NATO" and "renegotiate with Japan." One of the things Trump emphasized during his campaign was that he felt as though the United States was being taken advantage of in its interactions with foreign governments. For example, during the first presidential debate, he said: "We defend Japan. We defend Germany. We defend South Korea. We defend Saudi Arabia. We defend countries. They do not pay us what they should be paying us, because we are providing a tremendous service and we're losing a fortune."
Germany, of course, is one of the countries that's part of NATO. Trump also complained that NATO members weren't paying their "dues" — his term for countries not committing 2 percent of GDP to military spending, per the terms of the NATO mandate.
Trump doesn't appear to have begun any sort of formal renegotiation with any of these partners. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House last month, Trump reportedly pressed her on committing more spending to the military, but he doesn't seem to have received any such commitment.
He has claimed success in one renegotiation: The cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, from which Trump says he was able to trim $700 million. Our fact-checkers, though, note that the cost reductions were already in the works.
Before he was inaugurated, Trump made an additional 90-day pledge on Twitter. Within that window, he said, he'd release "a full report on hacking" related to Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.
No report has been released or, it seems, prepared.