THE MEMO: Trump's wild first month

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE marks his one-month anniversary in the White House Monday, bruised from a series of controversies but adamant that he is delivering on the promises that won him a stunning election victory last November.

The biggest of the many questions that loom over Trump is whether he can now move ahead, putting legislative flesh on the bones of his campaign slogans; or whether the in-fighting and volatility that have marked his first month will ultimately capsize his hopes.


No-one ever expected a Trump administration would be plain sailing, given its leader’s love of the unpredictable and the unorthodox. But Team Trump has had to navigate some exceptionally choppy waters since the 45th president was inaugurated on Jan. 20. 


Serious harm was done to the administration’s credibility on its first full day, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted, in the face of the available evidence, that the audience for Trump’s inauguration was the biggest ever. 

A number of other aides, including counselor Kellyanne Conway, have made their own high-profile gaffes. And the president himself has inflamed opponents with his rhetoric. On Friday evening, Trump seemed to equate criticism of him with an attack upon the American people.

“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” he wrote on Twitter.

The comment drew strong criticism from Trump’s Republican colleague, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Graham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 MORE (Ariz.), who told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that attacks upon the free press are “how dictators get started.”

McCain has also been more willing than most Republicans to aggressively raise the issue of alleged Russian links to Trump’s inner circle. The Russia story is ongoing, and it has already led to the departure of retired Gen. Michael Flynn, after the shortest tenure ever as National Security Adviser.

Despite all of its turmoil, Team Trump has notched up some real achievements for those who wanted to see the flamboyant first-time candidate put an end to business as usual in Washington.

It is almost universally accepted that Betsy DeVos, the new Education Secretary and Scott Pruitt, who will lead the Environmental Protection Agency, will bring stark change from the Obama years. Both were confirmed by the Senate over the vigorous protests of Democrats.

By executive order, Trump has cleared the way to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline — both of which had been frozen under President Obama. The Trans Pacific Partnership, painstakingly negotiated by Trump’s predecessor, looks like it’s toast.

The choice of Neal Gorsuch as Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court delighted conservatives. 

The rollout of the pick stood out as smooth, efficient and conventional — something that could not be said of the most dramatic fight of Trump’s first month. 

Trump’s travel ban preventing people from seven majority-Muslim nations from coming to the United States —which surprised Republicans — represents the single most controversial act of his presidency to date. 

Trump was handed two legal rebukes — first when a federal judge in Washington State put a stay on the order and again when that ruling was upheld, unanimously, by the three judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals soon afterward. 

The judicial defeats added to the sense that Trump’s order should have been better vetted before it was signed. 

Trump, unusually for him, has accepted the need to regroup. He has promised a new executive order this week. The widespread presumption is that the revised version will be cast more narrowly in an effort to make it less vulnerable to legal challenge.

Even if Trump eventually makes a version of the order stick, however, much about the rollout exemplifies the aspects of his administration that most irk critics — a willingness to announce dramatic policies without preparing the ground first, even with potential allies in Congress; the influence within the administration of polarizing figures such as White House aides Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who espouse a very hard line on both immigration and Islam; and Trump’s own tendency to react to any setback with vigorous counterpunches.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE (R-Ky.) has repeatedly signaled his desire for Trump’s White House to be more disciplined in its messaging. On Friday, he said that he wasn’t a “fan” of Trump’s daily tweets but that his conference would “soldier on.”

Conservatives supportive of Trump are already showing impatience with the GOP Congress, asking why more isn’t being done legislatively. 

Trump quickly signed an executive order to begin unraveling ObamaCare, but there are real divisions in the GOP over how to do so, and what should replace it. 

Tax reform, another Trump priority, is also a subject of GOP infighting.

None of Trump’s achievements has lifted his approval ratings. He is the most unpopular newly-inaugurated president in modern polling history.

A Gallup poll late last week showed only 38 percent of the public approving of his job performance. The Real Clear Politics average gives him a 45.0 percent approval rating, and a 50.2 percent disapproval rating.

If those numbers stay static or worsen further, dissent even in Republican ranks is sure to grow. 

But there is another side to the story. 

The large crowd that showed up to see Trump in Florida on Saturday showed just how impervious many of his supporters are to the criticism that has rained down upon him from other quarters.

If he can get his White House onto an even keel, he could defy the naysayers once again.

One month on from Inauguration Day, he stands at the end of the beginning.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump's presidency.