Tuesday, 1 Dec 2020

4 years in, President Trump still has plenty of unfinished business

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump swept into office nearly four years ago as an outsider who promised to get things done quickly on behalf of the American people through sheer force of will and unrivaled knowledge about the art of the deal.

He has checked off some items on his to-do list.

Trump pushed through the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax system since President Ronald Reagan. Trump, as he said he would, tilted the Supreme Court further to the right with confirmation of two conservative justices and likely a third, Amy Coney Barrett, in the coming days. His promise to get tough on illegal immigration has resulted in a surge in migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Trump has also faced the same hard truth that each of his White House predecessors learned: Governing is rarely easy.

A look at some of the president’s unfinished business as he asks voters for a second term in the White House:

HEALTH CARE

Trump has managed to undermine President Barack Obama’s health care law, but has fallen far short of his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

His administration has managed to dismantle parts of the law. Enrollment periods have been shortened, some subsidies were ended and the individual mandate — the fine for people without health insurance — has been eliminated.

Trump says he’s still focused on replacing the with something “much better and much less expensive.” He said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that “it will be so good” if the Supreme Court puts an end to “Obamacare” when the justices hear challenges to it next month.

The number of uninsured Americans has risen under Trump’s watch. According to Census Bureau data released last month, nearly 30 million people in the U.S. lacked coverage at some point during 2019, about 1 million more than in the previous year.

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“ENDLESS WARS”

Trump has made only modest progress toward meeting his 2016 pledge to bring home all troops from what he calls America’s “endless wars.”

When Trump took over the White House, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan stood at about 8,400, and there were about 6,800 troops in Iraq.

Within a year, the number of troops in Afghanistan climbed to about 15,000. Trump approved commanders’ requests for additional troops to reverse setbacks in the training of Afghan forces, fight an increasingly dangerous Islamic State group and put enough pressure on the Taliban to force it to the peace table.

In February, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that calls for the eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

With an eye toward the election, Trump has accelerated his push to bring troops home, teasing that all U.S. troops could be out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Pentagon officials said the number of troops in Afghanistan will drop to 4,500 in November. But defense officials insist there are no plans to have all troops home from Afghanistan by the end of the year. U.S. officials also say there currently is no approved plan to reduce the number to 2,500 by early next year. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In Iraq, the number of U.S. troops has dipped from about 5,000 to roughly 3,000, although officials say the number fluctuates higher as units rotate in and out.

47 PHOTOSTrump and Biden on the campaign trailSee GalleryTrump and Biden on the campaign trailPresident Donald Trump waves to supporters after speaking at a campaign rally in Gastonia, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)TOPSHOT – Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden waves as he departs The Queen after taping an interview with CBS 60 Minutes, in Wilmington, Delaware, on October 19, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump applauds after a campaign rally at Tucson International Airport, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he arrives at The Queen theatre in Wilmington, Del., Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump leaves the stage after a campaign rally at Tucson International Airport, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)El candidato presidencial demócrata Joe Biden hace campaña el 18 de octubre del 2020 en New Castle, Delaware. (AP Foto/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, in Prescott, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Carson City Airport, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Carson City, Nev. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden boards his campaign plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, en route to Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump dances after speaking at a campaign rally at Carson City Airport, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Carson City, Nev. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)DURHAM, NCOCTOBER 18:Presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks during a Voter Mobilization event at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina on October 18, 2020.(Photo by Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Supporters listen as Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)CARSON CITY, NV – OCTOBER 18: President Donald Trump smiles during a campaign rally on October 18, 2020 in Carson City, Nevada. With 16 days to go before the November election, President Trump is back on the campaign trail with multiple daily events as he continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)CARSON CITY, NV – OCTOBER 18: President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on October 18, 2020 in Carson City, Nevada. With 16 days to go before the November election, President Trump is back on the campaign trail with multiple daily events as he continues to campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)El candidato presidencial demócrata Joe Biden hace campaña el 18 de octubre del 2020 en New Castle, Delaware. (AP Foto/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump tosses face masks into the crowd as he arrives for a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)ABC NEWS – 10/15/20 ABC News will host a town hall with Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, October 15, 2020 in Philadelphia.The primetime event , “The Vice President and the People” will be moderated by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos and will allow voters to ask questions of the candidate.The live, 90-minute special edition of 20/20 airs on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.(Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images)JOE BIDEN, AUDIENCEPresident Donald Trump sits during a break in an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 15: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden prepares for a live ABC News town hall format meeting at the National Constitution Center October 15, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The second presidential debate was originally scheduled for this day but was cancelled due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to participate in a ‘virtual’ debate. Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized for three days. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Donald Trump speaks during an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a town hall with moderator ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump talks with voters after an NBC News Town Hall, at Perez Art Museum Miami, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden (L) and moderator George Stephanopoulos participate in an ABC News town hall event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on October 15, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 15: President Donald Trump is seen through a television at a takeout pizza shop in the U street corridor as he speaks during a town hall on October 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden both participated in simultaneous presidential town halls in Miami and Philadelphia, after the cancellation of the second presidential debate. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 15: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden prepares for a live ABC News town hall format meeting at the National Constitution Center October 15, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The second presidential debate was originally scheduled for this day but was cancelled due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to participate in a ‘virtual’ debate. Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized for three days. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Southwest Focal Point Community Center in, Pembroke Pines, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rallyin Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. – Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)PEMBROKE PINES, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 13: Wearing a face mask to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden poses for a socially-distanced selfie after delivering remarks about his ‘vision for older Americans’ at Southwest Focal Point Community Center October 13, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. With three weeks until Election Day, Biden is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)President Donald Trump moves to the song YMCA as he finishes a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Supporters look on as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. – Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)Supporters listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) wears a mask depicting Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden as he speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. – Joe Biden headed for Florida to court elderly Americans who helped elect Donald Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic. Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump throws face masks into the crowd during a campaign rally at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)The Florida state flag hands behind Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden as he speaks at Southwest Focal Point Community Center in, Pembroke Pines, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)While maintaining social distance, people try to make a selfie as Jill Biden, center, waves to supporters after she was introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, left, with Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, looking while campaigning for her husband and former Vice President Joe Biden in a parking lot event at Fair Park Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Wendy Nelson holds up posters of Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden as she waits for she waits for motorcade to arrive, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020, at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)A crowd of fans cheer on President Donald Trump during a Make America Great Again campaign rally at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pa., Tuesday, Oct.13, 2020. (John RucoskyMIRAMAR, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 13: Wearing a face masks and sitting in their cars to reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus, supporters listen to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks during a drive-in voter mobilization event at Miramar Regional Park October 13, 2020 in Miramar, Florida. With three weeks until Election Day, Biden is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Up Next

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THE WALL

During his 2016 primary run, Trump sought to mark his ground as a hard-line immigration enforcer who would build “a great, great wall on our southern border.”

“And I will make Mexico pay for that wall,” Trump said as he launched his run for the White House in June 2015. “Mark my words.”

Nearly four years later, Trump still has work to do completing his wall and much that has been completed has been paid by U.S. taxpayers despite promises otherwise.

The president’s administration has promised to build 450 miles by the end of this year and has so far built 371. Trump has replaced hundreds of miles of old, worn-out barriers, meant only to stop cars, with tall, 30-foot fencing that is much harder to get over and impedes wildlife from crossing the border. Conservationists in Arizona, where a bulk of the building has taken place, say the new wall is detrimental to wildlife and the surrounding ecosystems.

Mexico has steadfastly refused to pay for the border wall, though Trump earlier this year suggested that the wall is being paid, in part, by remittances from Mexican immigrants working in the U.S.

To date, the money is coming from the U.S. Treasury, meaning today’s taxpayers and the future ones who will inherit the federal debt. To the extent any people who came into the U.S. illegally are kicking in for the wall, it’s because they’re working and paying taxes like other workers.

Trump also freed up $3.6 billion for the wall last year by diverting money from military construction projects as well as $2.5 billion from approved counterdrug spending.

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MIDEAST PEACE

Early in his presidency, Trump expressed confidence that his administration could broker a long-term peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. “We will get it done,” Trump declared in May 2017. He put his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner in charge.

Trump moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that was cheered by Israelis and the president’s evangelical Christian supporters in the U.S. but angered Palestinian leaders. He scored a big win in recent weeks with the U.S. nudging Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates — three Arab states — to normalize relations with Israel.

The normalization of relations between Israel and the three Arab nations is certainly an important achievement. But the agreements between nations that have never been in direct conflict don’t meaningfully move the ball in achieving the large and long elusive goal of achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

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INFRASTRUCTURE

The White House’s multiple attempts to designate an “infrastructure week” — each effort quickly eclipsed by other issues — have become something of a running punchline in the administration.

In his 2016 victory speech, Trump said he would rebuild the nation’s highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals, making American infrastructure “second to none” and putting millions to work in the process.

Nearly four years later, Trump’s soaring rhetoric has failed to produce legislation.

In April 2019, Trump reached an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. This March, he resurrected the idea for a “VERY BIG & BOLD” plan for infrastructure spending to help jolt the staggering economy after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

While Pelosi and Schumer again threw their support behind big infrastructure spending, Senate Republicans have bristled at deficit spending, and Trump’s sales pitch has gone nowhere with his own party.

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TRUMP’S TAXES

On the debate stage four year ago, Trump said his federal income taxes were “under a routine audit” but promised they would be released as soon as the IRS finished.

Four years later, Trump says the IRS still hasn’t completed its work, and the president has yet to fulfill his promise to release his tax returns. No law prevents Trump from making his tax filings public while under audit.

Questions about Trump’s tax returns — and his broader financial situation — have only grown following revelations that he is personally liable for more than $400 million in debt. That sort of debt load, ethics experts say, raises concerns he could be manipulated to sway U.S. policy by those to whom he’s indebted.

The New York Times reported last month that Trump’s debt includes more than $300 million in loans that will come due in the next four years.

Trump dismisses his debt load as a “peanut” compared with his assets.

The president is the only post-Watergate president not to release his tax returns.

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Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Hope Yen, Calvin Woodward and Astrid Galvan contributed to this report.

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