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A Year After He Was Elected, What's Changed Under President Trump?

Nov 9, 2017
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A lot has changed in the year since Donald Trump was elected president, but some things remain pretty much the same. As we mark the first anniversary of that election, NPR's Scott Horsley looks at the impact Trump has had on Washington policymaking and at the policies that remain stubbornly resistant to change.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump often promised to bring big change to Washington almost overnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions.

We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement.

When we win on November 8...

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: ...And elect a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare - have to do it.

HORSLEY: OK. We know that last one turned out to be a little more complicated than the president expected. Change in Washington often comes slowly - just ask former President Obama. Despite his dire warnings during the campaign about what a Trump victory would mean, Obama told The New Yorker shortly after the election he expected much of his legacy would survive.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: You know, the federal government and our democracy is not a speedboat. It's an ocean liner.

HORSLEY: Obamacare is not the only piece of the last president's agenda that's proven hard for Trump to undo. Although Trump announced with considerable fanfare his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, that turns out to be a multiyear-long process. Even Trump's selection of a new Federal Reserve chairman last week was mostly a signal of continuity.

JASON FURMAN: To date, there has been more expectation of policy change than actual tangible policy change.

HORSLEY: Jason Furman was an economic adviser in the Obama White House. Some Trump efforts have run into legal roadblocks, like the proposed ban on transgender service members. In other important ways, though, Trump has begun leaving his mark. Senior Vice President Neil Bradley of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says Trump has led the biggest rollback of regulations since Ronald Reagan, a move that's been welcomed by many of the chamber's members.

NEIL BRADLEY: They feel like the threat of overregulation has subsided. They have breathing room to focus on the fundamentals of their business. And that's completely generated kind of this sense of optimism about the future and their ability to grow their businesses.

HORSLEY: Immigration is another area where the election's had big consequences. Trump has slashed the number of refugees the U.S. takes in. Deportations from the nation's interior have jumped 34 percent since Trump took office. John Malcolm of The Heritage Foundation says immigration officers are now casting a much wider net.

JOHN MALCOLM: There is no question that President Trump ran on a get tough on immigration stance. And I think you're already seeing that in terms of the number of deportations, and also the number of people who are attempting to enter our country.

HORSLEY: Trump's EPA has also begun the lengthy process of lifting restrictions on greenhouse gases from power plants. Kate Larsen, who monitors carbon pollution for the Rhodium Group, says that move won't be felt right away, but it will make a difference 5 or 10 years from now.

KATE LARSEN: We're seeing continued emission reductions over the next few years because a lot of those investments have been made, but the long-term signals are really dismaying.

HORSLEY: Trump has also rattled foreign policy circles with provocative rhetoric, calling the Iran nuclear deal an embarrassment, for example, and threatening to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress and his own advisers have tried to sand off some of the president's rougher edges, but the rest of the world has taken notice. Derek Chollet of the German Marshall Fund says if Trump follows through on a narrowly defined America-first agenda, other countries will go their own way.

DEREK CHOLLET: What you're seeing, I think, is the accelerator being pushed down on the post-American world.

HORSLEY: During the president's Asia trip, for example, other countries will relaunch their effort to forge an Asia-Pacific trade pact minus the United States. Meanwhile, one of the biggest changes on the president's drawing board is the tax overhaul. That measure could have a dramatic effect on business, government coffers, the federal deficit and income inequality if it makes it through Congress. Trump has an ambitious timetable for the tax plan, hoping to sign it by the end of the year. But even if the ship of state moves more like Obama's ocean liner than a speedboat, Captain Trump is determined to chart a very different course. Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.