President Trump's extraordinary first month in office

It's only been one month since inauguration day...

President Trump's extraordinary first month in office

President Donald Trump with his wife, First Lady Melania Trump during a campaign rally Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in Melbourne, Florida. Picture by Chris O'Meara AP/Press Association Images

Yes, it has only been a month.

On January 20th, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America - and, no matter which side of the increasingly deep political trench you're on, it has been an extraordinary month.

Rarely a day has gone by when there hasn't been some fresh drama from the White House. Scandals & speculation; hirings & resignations; protests & rallies. The first month has been everything supporters hoped for and everything opponents feared.

For the tens if not hundreds of millions of vocal Trump opponents, 'credit where credit is due' is rarely a phrase uttered in relation to Donald Trump. But he has, in his first weeks, taken the first steps towards fullfilling many of his campaign promises. Many of his high-profile executive orders have been merely exploratory and preliminary in nature, but they're enough to encourage his supporters. He has taken the first steps towards building 'that' wall; towards repealing Obamacare; towards 'deregulating' the US government.

"This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump declared in his extraordinarily heated press conference last week. This is not necessarily accurate - the US Congress has been (as is routine in the early days of a new presidency) slow off the mark, and indeed little in the way of major new legislation has been signed into law so far. Symbolically, however, Trump is indicating he will do exactly what he suggested he was going to do. At the very least, he's going to try.

President Donald Trump applauds as he stands with Judge Neil Gorsuch in East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, after announcing Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

That said, a few executive orders have had very tangible effects already. Environmental and Native American groups have expressed dismay over the order to recommence work on two controversial pipelines. Internationally, the planned withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a move which, it's important to note, would likely have occurred under a Democratic president anyway) and the Mexico City policy on overseas abortion funding have and will continue to have very significant impacts.

There's no denying the order which has had the most significant impact, however. I won't yet again detail the  roll-out and subsequent suspension of the immediately controversial 'travel ban' signed only a week after inauguration day. However, the chaotic scenes in airports, the massive protests (in the US and elsewhere) and the dramatic legal challenges to the order have ensured it is the story that has dominated headlines for much of Trump's first month in office.

The US President has pledged a follow-up order later this week, and still hasn't ruled out a Supreme Court battle over the original order - so the fight is far from over.

Campaign 2020?

Donald Trump's first day in office was marked by the Women's March in Washington - the hundreds and thousands of demonstrators surpassing the inauguration crowds the previous day (much to the apparent irritation of President Trump himself - that frustration unforgettably manifested in Sean Spicer's first jaw-dropping remarks as Press Secretary).

It was the following weekend, however, that saw a new type of 'resistance' to Trump - the impromptu & impassioned protests at airports across the US making the opposition to Trump's policies abundantly clear.

Trump himself, meanwhile, has remained defiant. His rally in Florida this weekend showed his supporters remain as passionate to the new president as they were during his campaign. Such enthusiasm was clearly articulated by one supporter pulled up on stage by Trump.

There's a strong argument to be made that Trump is never more comfortable then he is when campaigning. The campaign, in a sense, has never ended - it almost got lost in the rush of news from those first few weeks, but Trump immediately applied to run for re-election in 2020.

Amid (contested) reports that the new President is feeling isolated in his new home on Pennsylvania avenue & the very visible opposition he is facing, rallies such as Florida - attended by cheering crowds of supporters - appear to be exactly where President Trump feels most confident. For Trump, Campaign 2020 is already well underway.

'Fake news'

One theme that has very much carried over from the 2016 campaign trail and even escalated quite significantly is Trump's criticism of the media. Indeed, he has attacked the media at almost every opportunity (not to mention his regular tweets on the subject). There are, indeed, two themes almost certain to play a prominent role in every Trump speech or press conference: 1) himself (and his election win) and 2) the media.

In a remarkable tweet last week, he directly accused the mainstream media of being an 'enemy of the American People' (leaving out, of course, Fox News and other organisations who often - but not always - are more sympathetic towards Mr Trump).

The constant attacks on 'fake news' - a phrase now effectively meaningless - come alongside his own continued complicated relationship with the truth. Trump and his administration have quite brazenly told falsehoods on a number of occasions. They have continuously alleged widespread voter fraud without offering any evidence to that effect. Trump has inaccurately claimed he enjoyed the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan ( he shrugged off a reporter's questioning on the subject with a nonchalant "I was given that information").

Worryingly, Trump and two key spokespeople - Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway - have appeared to invent a trilogy of non-existent attacks between them: the Bowling Green Massacrethe Atlanta attack, and, most recently, the Sweden incident (all since clarified, of course). The Trump administration has certainly kept the fact-checkers busy.

The new administration

Speaking of the administration, the new team has been settling into their roles over the course of the last month. Some have hit the ground running - as of writing, defence secretary James Mattis is in Iraq, while Vice President Mike Pence is in Brussels.

Trump too has already been meeting with some of his international counterparts - the UK's Theresa May and Japan's Shinzo Abe are among his highest-profile visitors to date. Enda Kenny - assuming he's still Taoiseach by then - will visit for St Patrick's Day. At the same time, Trump has sparked a few international incidents - relations with Iran have already worsened, while Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a planned visit amid the ongoing dispute over the planned border wall (or, as former Mexican president Vicente Fox put it, 'that f***ing wall').

President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands| Image: PA Images

Press Secretary Sean Spicer has become the public face of the new administration, and provided plenty of inspiration for Melissa McCarthy and Saturday Night Live writers in the process. Steve Bannon has become one of the most (in)famous figures of Team Trump - despite his low visibility compared to other aides, many critics have taken to referring to him as 'President Bannon', such is his apparent influence on Trump's policies and approach (a few clearly hoping they can stir up some tension between Trump and Bannon with such descriptions).

The Senate has been relatively slow to approve some of Trump's Cabinet nominees. The controversial choice for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was the most touch-and-go appointment to date - Mike Pence having to step in and break a tie-break vote. Others have begun settling into their new jobs - although Trump was forced to choose a new nominee for labour secretary after his initial choice Andrew Puzder withdrew his name amid mounting opposition and controversy.

The Russia controversy

Alleged links with Russia, however, has been the scandal the new White House team have been unable to shake. It has already to the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn in connection with a phone call with the Russian ambassador. Meanwhile, a New York Times report claimed that Trump campaign aides had 'repeated contacts' with Russian intelligence.

With the mere mention of 'Russia' having regained almost Cold War level connotations among some commentators, you can expect plenty more Russia-related speculation and potential scandal to come.

Altogether, it has been a long 30 days, full of drama & intrigue. Given the manic pace of developments, it has barely been enough time to make a firm appraisal of the presidency so far - let alone its future direction. So far it has been as surprising, tense and controversial as the campaign that preceded it.

Trump, it goes without saying, has remained a divisive figure through it all - Trump himself happily cited a poll showing a 55% approval ratings, while others show that number as low as 39-40%. The average shows a higher disapproval (50%) than approval (45%) rating.

So, it's still very early days in the Trump presidency, but it has still been an extraordinary month that has at times seemed much, much longer than that. If the first month is anything to go by, we ain't seen nothing yet.