Five big Trump narratives to watch

Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE’s first month in office has delivered a wallop to Washington, D.C.

The news cycle in Trump’s White House seems to move at light speed, and the incredible interest in his presidency from around the globe has rocked politics, the media and the entertainment industry. The sheer volume of events and surprises makes it difficult to narrow down a list of story lines, but here are five of the biggest.

Trump and the travel ban

Trump’s executive order blocking people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States set off the biggest controversy of his presidency.

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The order, signed just a week after he entered office, triggered protests around the country and waves of criticism as even green card holders were initially prevented from returning to the United States. Opponents argued it was a Muslim ban, and the New York Daily News published a front page with the image of the Statue of Liberty shedding a tear. 

Republicans on Capitol Hill were caught off guard. The White House held few talks with lawmakers before moving forward with the order — something that appeared to catch up with the administration when two courts essentially suspended it.

Trump has vowed to put it back in place with a newly written order that is expected to come this week. How Trump moves forward will be a key test for his administration.

He of course won't back down, but he needs to move forward in a way that both satisfies his base and the legislative branch while easing concerns from wary Republicans.

Polls suggest the public is divided on the measure, which should give the White House hope in the public relations battle to come if it can roll it out the newly-written order more effectively 

Trump’s hard-line immigration policies are a reality

Trump promised a hard-line on illegal immigration, the issue that inspired his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border.

But the big questions are: Who will initially pay for the wall and can Congress pass legislation to start the construction of the wall? In many ways, Trump's wall is meant to finish what the Secure Fence Act of 2006 started. That law, signed by President George W. Bush, was supported by then-Sens. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIraq is not yet lost, but if we continue to ignore it, it soon will be Obama praises marathon runners Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei for 'remarkable examples of humanity's ability' Each of us has a role in preventing veteran suicide MORE (D-Ill.) and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points MORE (D-N.Y.).

Under the Obama administration, deporting illegal immigrants who committed violent crimes as a top priority. Other undocumented workers were more or less allowed to stay. Obama's policies attracted controversy from both sides. In 2014, for example, immigration reform activists labeled Obama "the deporter-in-chief."

Under Trump, it appears all undocumented workers are being targeted.

Guadalupe García de Rayos is test case A.

The Arizona woman was deported to Mexico because she was arrested in 2008 for using a fake Social Security number. In the intervening years, de Rayos had checked in annually with authorities and not been punished. This year, she was sent to Mexico.

Test case B is 23-year-old Daniel Ramirez Medina, who has been detained in Washington state.

Medina has permission to stay in the United States as an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States as a child. The permission was granted under the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program instituted by the Obama administration.

The authorities who detained Medina say he admitted in custody to being a gang member, which could lead to his deportation. Medina’s attorneys deny that he is affiliated with a gang.

What both cases show is a change in policy under the Trump administration that is in line with the promises of his campaign. How it plays out is the question. Many political observers thought Trump’s rhetoric about illegal immigration would hurt him with Hispanics and make it impossible for him to win the election.

Clinton easily defeated Trump with Hispanic voters, but exit polls suggest the president performed better with the demographic than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

His policies in office could change that and the 2018 mid-term elections will be an early indicator.

Trump’s war on the press

Trump has launched what can only be described as a public assault on the news media.

At his first solo press conference as president on Thursday, he lambasted the national media and a day later, on Twitter, proclaimed the Fourth Estate an enemy of the people.

Fighting the media, which Trump seems to view as his real opposition party, appears to energize the president. At his presser, Trump appeared subdued during the first 20 minutes as he read from a litany of grievances. He gained energy as he took questions and needled CNN’s Jim Acosta and other reporters for their questions. The press conference lasted an astounding 75 minutes.

The administration’s strategy appears clear. Fighting the media is a way to fire up his base, while providing a distraction from other controversies that could cause divisions with Republican lawmakers.

So far, there’s little evidence to think the effort won't work. Thursday's presser and Trump's subsequent rally on Saturday in Florida helped push the firing of former national security advisor Michael Flynn and the withdrawal of the president's labor secretary nominee off of the front pages.  

The thing to watch is whether the media changes its strategies in dealing with Trump. So far, the press has generally taken the bait when Trump has sought to change the subject with a media fight.

Trump’s agenda in Congress is moving sluggishly

Republicans hold the White House and Congress, but not a lot of action has happened yet on Capitol Hill. The GOP has successfully targeted Obama-era regulations, but major decisions on sweeping legislation have not been made. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) has set out a 200-day agenda, which gives the GOP more time to move on repealing ObamaCare and reforming the tax code. And it’s true that the tactics of Senate Democrats, who have slowed the pace of Trump’s Cabinet confirmations, have made life more difficult for Republicans.

That said, there are warning signs.

Republicans appear divided on both taxes and healthcare, and the administration has sent confusing signals. On ObamaCare, conservatives want to repeal the entire law, as they have promised for years. Centrists want to retain popular parts of the law.

Trump has said that repeal should be followed closely by replacing ObamaCare with a new law that would ensure that no one loses coverage. Democrats, seeking payback from years of election setbacks because of ObamaCare, are promising to make the GOP own whatever it does.

Some Republicans have been shouted down in their own districts at local events. The White House claims the rowdy events have been orchestrated by paid liberal activists, but the evidence to back that up is mixed at best.

Replacing ObamaCare won't be easy. How do you get rid of the mandate to buy insurance but keep provisions preventing insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep children on their policies up to the age of 26? And how do you get rid of all of those taxes without reducing coverage?

On tax reform, there is serious opposition to the GOP’s border adjustment tax proposal, which would raise more than $1 trillion over a decade by essentially imposing taxes on imported goods while reducing taxes on exported goods.

Ryan argues the shift would make a lot of sense. Much of the rest of the world taxes imports and not exports, meaning the current tax architecture penalizes U.S. companies.

Importers, including WalMart and other retailers, are strongly opposing the proposal. Resistance among Senate Republicans appears to be intensifying. And Trump himself has described it as too complex.

Raising the revenue would allow comprehensive reform of the tax code, and lower rates. to move forward. But without that revenue, it’s not clear whether the plan will go anywhere.

Conservatives , ranging from Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report to Trump ally Sean Hannity of Fox News, are getting antsy. Criticisms that the GOP-controlled Congress isn’t moving quick enough for Trump are becoming more common. 

Trump’s speech to a join session of Congress on Feb. 28 will be very interesting to watch. Will he be critical at all of the Congress? At his Thursday press conference, Trump attacked the media — by noting it has a worse approval rating than Congress.

Is Trump White House united or divided?

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Steve Bannon made a joint call to a reporter from The Hill on Wednesday. The call was intended to signal the unity between Priebus and Bannon, two subjects of considerable scrutiny in Washington, D.C.

Priebus is the ultimate Washington insider; a former Republican National Committee chairman close to Ryan. Bannon is the ultimate outsider; the leader of Breitbart News who regularly ripped establishment Republicans from his perch.

Every nasty story that comes out about Preibus — or embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who worked for Preibus at the RNC — is seen by many in the media as an attack from Bannon.

Every White House needs as much unity as it can muster to succeed.

It’s possible, if not likely, that some of the division reported about the Trump White House is overplayed. The White House has suggested lower-level aides are responsible for some of the damaging leaks.

If that’s the case, this White House could begin to run more smoothly in its second month and the focus will be on Trump's agenda moving through Congress.

If not, the big story-line going forward will be on how long various White House personalities can survive.