American journalist John Reed’s chronicle of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, Ten Days That Shook The World, is rightly regarded as a classic chronicle of epoch-making events. Whether Donald Trump’s first 10 days can match that for historical significance remains uncertain, despite the obvious dangers for peace and global stability. But the character of 45th President of the United States quickly provided much material for both doom-sayers and satirists.
With his hand resting on two Bibles – one his own, the other used by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 – Donald John Trump was sworn in as US President, the first man to hold the office without either political or military experience. Addressing the nation President Trump spoke of rusted-out factories, poverty-stricken families and crime-blighted cities, vowing to end “this American carnage”.
“This was not a message to the American people as a whole – many of whom likely feel the past resident of the White House, Barack Obama, reflected their beliefs and their diversity,” BBC correspondent Anthony Zucker wrote. “This was a speech for the angry, the frustrated, the American voters who turned out in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Ohio to shake their fist at the status quo and take a chance on a man who was unlike any presidential politician who came before him.”
Trump was given the nuclear warhead codes, later describing it as a “sobering moment”. Much of the world said “amen” to that.
As Trump danced to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” with First Lady Melania, mass protests were held around the world, including one in Washington that spiralled into violence.
Global expression of opposition to the Trump administration questioned its perceived world view. Millions of people turned out to demonstrate at “Women’s Marches” in cities around the world to make their voice heard on women’s reproductive rights, gender, sexual and racial equality. Trump later claimed that the female marchers had not voted during the election.
Trump told the CIA it could have “another chance” to seize Iraq’s oil reserves. At the CIA headquarters he told staff that the media had fabricated a “feud” between him and the intelligence agencies, despite previously tweeting they were acting as if the US was Nazi Germany. He also complained about reporting of the crowd size at his inauguration, and unflattering comparisons to the turn-out at Obama’s own ceremony in 2009. That kicked “post-truth” politics into high gear. Trump dispatched his offensive new press secretary Sean Spicer to slam the media in a televised briefing.
Trump “Counsellor” Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer’s inaccurate claims, thereby introducing the world to the term “alternative facts”. NBC presenter Chuck Todd replied: “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.” The internet swiftly delivered an outpouring of #Spicerfacts, including: “The bass lines of Ice Ice Baby and Under Pressure are completely different. Period.”
Trump revealed that Barack Obama left him a “beautiful” letter at the Oval Office. He said he would soon begin negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts. “Mexico has been terrific. The president has been really very amazing,” he said.
The first working day of the Trump administration kicked off with meeting between the president and business leaders, during which Trump announced his aim to cut regulations for US-based businesses by 75 per cent. He declared the date of his inauguration a National Day of Patriotic Devotion. He repeated a fake claim that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of millions of illegal ballot papers.
He pulled the US out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, a key part of Obama’s efforts to engage and divert attention to the Asia-Pacific, and implemented a hiring freeze on some federal government workers. Trump also banned federal cash going to international groups which perform or provide information on abortions. The US president’s order shows he “wants to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn,” Spicer said.
A group of US ethics lawyers filed a lawsuit against the new president, alleging he is violating a constitutional ban on accepting payments from foreign governments through his hotels.
Trump described as “rigged” a Gallup poll which found that 45 per cent of Americans approved his early performance, compared to 67 per cent for Barak Obama at the same stage, and 57 per cent for George W Bush.
The barrage of executive actions continued with two orders signed to back controversial oil pipelines – Keystone XL and the Dakota Access project – if American steel is used. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose land abuts the proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline, called Trump’s decision a violation of “law and tribal treaties”. Environmentalists said Trump was proving as dangerous to the climate as they had feared. Oil industry groups applauded.
Trump issued a multi-paragraph directive to the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies involved in managing the nation’s healthcare system. The order states that agencies must “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay” any portions of the Affordable Care Act that creates financial burden on states, individuals or healthcare providers.
Although the order technically does not authorise any powers the executive agencies do not already have, it was seen as a clear signal that the Trump administration will be rolling back Obama-era healthcare regulations wherever possible.
It was announced the FBI Director James Comey would stay in his position under the Trump administration. Comey was blamed by many Democrats for Hillary Clinton’s election loss. He announced the FBI was looking into new Clinton emails just days before the election, before soon after saying it found no evidence of criminality.
A visit to the Department of Homeland Security saw two more executive orders signed. One called for “a large physical barrier” –the infamous wall – to be built on the US’s southern border.
The other toughened policy on illegal immigrants – ”aliens” – including by withholding funding from so-called “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants within their boundaries. Trump ordered his administration to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrant.
In an interview with ABC News, Trump said he believed waterboarding works, stating “we have to fight fire with fire”. But he also said he would consult Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA director Mike Pompeo – both of whom have indicated they oppose the method – and “if they don’t want to do it that’s fine”.
A draft executive order – that the Trump team disavowed as a White House document – also surfaced. It called for a review into whether the “black sites” programme should be reintroduced and would scrap Obama’s move to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Yet another draft executive order emerged suggesting Trump would suspend the Syrian refugee programme and stop issuing visas from several Muslim-majority countries deemed to pose a threat to the security of the US.
Trump took his first trip in Air Force One instead of his private T-Bird jet.
Plans for an upcoming meeting between Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Trump fell apart after the US President insisted Mexico must pay for the border wall. The White House then suggested a new 20 per cent tax on Mexican imports could fund the barrier, but this was rubbished by Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who said that such a move would only shift the costs burden onto US consumers.
Theresa May arrived in the US, joking that “opposites attract” and saying she wants to “renew the special relationship” between the UK and America. Trump’s staff misspelt her name three times in the official schedule.
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright vowed to register as Muslim if Trump creates a register of Muslim-Americans.
Thousands of people marched on Washington to protest against abortion, and Vice-President Mike Pence became the first sitting VP to address the demonstrators, saying, “Life is winning in America.”
Amid rumours that he would lift sanctions on Russia, Trump hosted his first international leader as president. He and Theresa May held hands during a post-lunch walk. Trump joked about revoking the “special relationship” after the BBC asked him a pointed question about his stance on abortion, torture and other hot topics. May looked nervous.
Just before close of business, he attended the swearing-in ceremony for James Mattis as Secretary of Defence. There, he announced two new executive orders: one ordering “new ships, planes, resources and tools” to build up the military, and one creating new vetting measures to combat radical Islamic terrorism. “We only want to admit into America those who support our country and love deeply our people,” he said.
A US judge issued a temporary halt to the deportation of visa holders or refugees stranded at airports following President Trump’s executive order. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the case in response to the order issued the previous day. Thousands of people protested at US airports against the order which halted the entire US refugee programme and also instituted a 90-day travel ban for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Those who were already mid-flight were detained on arrival – even if they held valid US visas or other immigration permits. Trump told reporters: “It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over.”
Other executive orders issued included: a ban on administration officials ever lobbying on behalf of a foreign government; an order to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to come up with a plan within 30 days to defeat so-called Islamic State; and restructuring the National Security Council with a key role for senior strategist Steve Bannon.
Trump held a series of phone calls with world leaders, including one with Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin said both sides had agreed to make fighting “international terrorism” – including so-called Islamic State and “other terrorist groups” in Syria – a top priority. The White House said the call was a “significant start” to improving a relationship “in need of repair”. Trump also spoke with leaders from Japan, Germany, France and Australia.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would comply with judicial rulings but would continue to enforce Trump’s deportation. Judges elsewhere in the US also ruled on the issue: In Boston, a judge decided two Iranian nationals, professors at the University of Massachusetts, should be released from detention at Logan International Airport; an order in Virginia banned, for seven days, the deportation of green card holders held at Dulles Airport and ordered the authorities to allow access to lawyers; a Seattle judge issued an emergency stay of removal from the US for two people.
Britain’s four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Mo Farah criticised Trump for imposing an order that leaves him unsure whether he can return to the US. Farah, 33, was born in Somalia but has lived in Oregon for the past six years.
Theresa May, under fire for not raising such issues directly with Trump at their “love-in”, told Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd to contact their US counterparts about the travel ban imposed by President Trump. Johnson tweeted it was “divisive and wrong” to stigmatise people on the basis of nationality.
George Orwell’s novel 1984 hit Number One on Amazon’s US bestseller list.