July 20, 2017 marked the six-month anniversary of the Trump Administration, and, according to the White House, progress was being made on many fronts.  Trump was "bringing accountability back to government...spurring job creation...cutting down job killing regulations...opening up American energy..." and the list went on (+).

However, a look at the news suggested a White House in chaos and under siege, raising serious questions about the prospects of Trump's presidency.  Trump remained Trump, still Tweeting, still lying, still preoccupied by slights.  The Washington Post reported that in his first 180 days Trump made 836 false or misleading claims, an average of 4.6 per day (>).  Communications director Mike Dubke resigned on May 30 and Trump was reported to be actively searching for a new chief of staff to replace Reince Priebus.  The drip, drip, drip of Russia stories kept going.  News about Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey, Comey's testimony on Capitol Hill, and Donald Trump, Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with Russians dominated the news for days on end, undermining Republican efforts to move on agenda items such as health care and tax reform. 

On May 9, Trump unexpectedly fired FBI Director James Comey, shocking Washington, and leading to renewed calls for a special counsel for the Russian investigation.  On May 15 the Washington Post reported, "Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador."  On May 16 reports surfaced that in a February meeting President Trump had asked Comey to end his investigation of Michael Flynn, and Comey had documented that in a memo.  On May 17 Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced the appointment of former Department of Justice official and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel [PDF].  Chaos seemed to be the watchword, and there were many reports suggesting a shakeup of senior staff was imminent.  There was even talk of the possibility of impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment (>).

Meanwhile Trump was preparing for his first overseas trip, leaving on May 19 for eight days in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, a NATO summit in Brussels and a meeting of the Group of Seven in Sicily.  While Trump was overseas, the Administration issued its budget proposal (>).  On June 1 Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, declaring, "The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks, and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world."  Whille climate change skeptics and growth advocates heralded the move, which fulfilled a campaign promise, the announcement drew widespread criticism both domestically and  internationally (+). 

On June 8 parts of Washington, DC and the country came to a standstill as former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for almost three hours [PDF].  Reacting to the hearing (+), the RNC chair stated, "The president was never under investigation. There's been no obstruction of justice, no investigations have been impeded, and there's been no proof of Russian collusion."  The DNC chair stated, "Comey’s testimony just gave us the clearest and most damning evidence yet that President Trump lied to the American people and is likely under investigation for obstruction of justice – a serious and disturbing charge."  Trump tweeted the next day, "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!"

While Trump decried the "witch hunt," special counsel Robert Mueller built a team of top-notch attorneys for an investigation that will likely drag on for years.  (Recall that Ken Starr started investigating Whitewater in Aug. 1994, but his investigation grew to cover a whole range of matters and he issued a final report on Sept. 11, 1998).  Mike Huckabee wrote on June 19, "Indeed, it’s smelling more and more like a hoax concocted to hamstring and delegitimize Trump while covering up Hillary’s embarrassing loss."

But the Russia related stories kept coming out (1, 2).  The week of July 10 was dominated by news that Donald Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, had met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in the heat of the campaign on June 9, 2016 as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Trump also continued (1, 2) to be hit for inadequately separating himself from his business interests.  Time magazine's June 19 issue (out on June 8) featured a cover story on "The Swamp Hotel."  On June 12 the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland, building on the earlier work by Citizens for Resposibility and Ethics in Washington, filed suit charging Trump with violating the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution.  The lawsuit stated that, "President Trump's myriad international and domestic business entanglements make him vulnerable to corrupt influence and deprive the American people of trust in their chief executive's undivided loyalty [PDF]."  On June 13, almost 200 members of Congress filed another suit charging Trump with violating the emoluments clause.

Despite the seige, the administration sought to keep its agenda moving forward (+).  It developed weekly themes to focus discussion (the week of June 5 was infrastructure week, June 12 workforce development week, June 19 tech week, and June 26 energy week).  Trump made a steady trickle of nominations to fill positions in his adminstration (+), although as of mid-July the Partnership for Public Service's "Political Appointee Tracker" showed no nominees for 374 of 564 key positions requiring Senate confirmation (>). 

On the political front, on June 28 at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave., Trump held his first fundraiser for his 2020 re-election campaign; according to news accounts the event  brought in nearly $10 million.

Much attention focused on Trump's July 7 bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladamir Putin during the G20 Summit in Hamburg; would Trump press Putin on the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election?  The meeting lasted two hours and 15 minutes, much longer than expected.  A second, initally undisclosed meeting with Putin during dinner reportedly lasted nearly an hour.

The end of June saw another stage in Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, this time in the Senate.  After a 13-man working group drafted their bill in secrecy, Senate Republican leadership released a discussion draft ‘‘Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017’’ on June 22.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed for a vote before summer recess, but divisions among Republicans forced him to hold off until after the July 4 holiday (+).  McConnell said he would delay the Senate's August recess for two weeks in an effort to move a bill.  However, Republicans' narrow majority in the Senate provided little room for error.  Sens. Collins and Paul said they would not support the bill, putting it on the edge, Sen. McCain was away from Washington for surgery, and on July 18 Sens. Lee and Moran said they too opposed the bill.  On July 17 Trump tweeted, "Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!"  But the repeal-only strategy had significant opposition.  Indeed Senate Republican leaders' whole approach to tackling such an important issue, without hearings and through the reconciliation process, was widely criticized.  As of July 20, the six month anniversary of the Trump administration it was very unclear what would happen.

One thing to be said about the first six months of the Trump Administration was that it set a bar of very low expectations, leaving nowhere to go but up.  The situation is the opposite of President Obama; he came in with sky-high expectations and never was able to meet them.

The First 180 Days  |  The Second 180 Days