The defining moments of Trump’s turbulent presidency, so far

The defining moments of Trump’s turbulent presidency, so far

A look at the key decisions made in year one — from the travel band and its legal saga, to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and pushing North Korea’s buttons

US President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Airforce One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on January 12, 2018, for a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago.  (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)
US President Donald Trump gestures as he boards Airforce One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on January 12, 2018, for a weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

WASHINGTONUnited States — With this week marking one year since Donald Trump took office as president of the United States, here is a look at the defining moments of the his turbulent presidency so far:

Travel ban: the legal saga

Out of the blue, one week after taking office, Trump decreed a 90-day ban on arrivals of people from seven Muslim majority countries and a 120-day ban on all refugee arrivals.

Chaos broke out at US airports, with travelers detained upon arrival, and Americans nationwide staged protests against a measure seen as discriminating against Muslims — though Trump said it aimed to keep out extremists.

Protestors rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York City, January 28, 2017. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump’s move kicked off a legal saga that has dragged on through the first year of his presidency — and is not yet over.

The initial ban was quickly blocked in court, as was a modified version removing Iraq from the countries targeted, and a third iteration adding citizens of North Korea and some Venezuelan officials.

Last month, the Supreme Court authorized enforcement of the ban’s third version as the legal challenges against it make their way through the courts.

Sacking James Comey

Former FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill June 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

In one of the most momentous moves of his young presidency, Trump abruptly fired FBI director James Comey on May 9, sacking the man leading a probe into whether his election campaign colluded with Russia in an effort to defeat Hillary Clinton.

Trump later acknowledged he had the Russia probe in mind when he sacked Comey.

In the end, Trump’s move backfired. The sacking led to the appointment of a more powerful, independent counsel, Robert Mueller, to head the Russia investigation — which Trump dismisses as “fake news.”

The former FBI director may also be looking at whether Trump and his inner circle sought to obstruct justice.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (2nd L) leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)

Two Trump associates, including campaign manager Paul Manafort, have been indicted so far. Two more — including former national security advisor Michael Flynn — have admitted lying to investigators and have become government witnesses.

‘Pittsburgh, not Paris’

On June 1, 2017, Trump announced America was pulling out of the Paris climate deal, reversing its commitment to fight global warming in spite of appeals from environmental groups, foreign leaders, industry and even his own daughter Ivanka.

Anti-Trump protesters hold a banner reading ‘Paris against Trump’ during a demonstration against Trump’s policies in Paris, February 4, 2017. (AFP/THOMAS SAMSON)

Trump painted the accord as a “bad deal” for the US economy, declaring he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

This month, he said the United States could “conceivably” return to the deal under more favorable terms, renewing questions about whether he is bluffing — and simply wants easier emissions targets.

Pushing North Korea’s buttons

In his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly last September, Trump fired the opening salvo in what would be months of brinkmanship with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un — a.k.a. “Rocket Man” — vowing to destroy the nuclear-armed country if it threatened America.

As 2017 came to a close, the North Korean nuclear threat had soared dramatically — with Kim boasting that his missile arsenal can hit any city on the US mainland, and Trump faced criticism for stirring tensions.

A man watches a television screen showing US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, August 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

The new year opened to signs of a potential cooling, as Pyongyang reached a landmark agreement to send athletes to the Winter Olympics in the South — with the White House arguing Trump’s tough rhetoric, coupled with intense diplomatic pressure, had helped bring the Koreas together.

But many analysts fear Trump’s erratic outbursts — he recently boasted he has a “much bigger” nuclear button than Kim — dangerously raise the risk of a miscalculation that could lead to disaster.

Merry Christmas, America

On December 22, Trump signed into law the most sweeping rewrite of the US tax code in decades, sealing his biggest legislative victory to date — after the stinging failure to repeal his predecessor’s health care law, Obamacare.

US President Donald Trump holds up a copy of legislation before signing the tax reform bill into law in the Oval Office December 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Delivering on a core electoral pledge, Trump billed the $1.5 trillion of tax cuts as a “Christmas gift” for the American people.

Opposition Democrats branded it a giveaway to the wealthiest that risks blowing a hole in the national debt.

But Trump and his Republicans are confident the overhaul will play to the party’s advantage in this year’s crucial mid-term elections.

Trump the peacemaker

Trump came to office boasting he could achieve the “ultimate deal” for Middle East peace, something that has eluded US presidents for decades.

On December 6, he threw those efforts into jeopardy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision that overturned decades of US policy.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Defiying worldwide warnings, Trump insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

But the move also triggered a spasm of protests, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warning he would “no longer accept” any peace plan proposed by the United States.

Bye bye, Bannon

Since Trump took office, traditional Republicans had competed for the president’s ear with the anti-Washington populists who carried him to power — Steve Bannon chief among them.

In the opening days of 2018, the establishment regained the upper hand.

In this Sept. 25, 2017 photo, former presidential strategist Steve Bannon speaks at a rally for US Senate hopeful Roy Moore, in Fairhope, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

For months, the president let the firebrand Bannon, who was his top strategist, conduct open war against the Washington “swamp” of party leaders and lawmakers they saw as undermining Trump’s revolution.

After Bannon exited the White House in August, he continued to push Trump’s agenda from the helm of provocative right-wing website Breitbart News.

But when Bannon was quoted making unflattering remarks about the president in an explosive West Wing expose, Trump split with his ally, branding him “Sloppy Steve” and declaring he had “lost his mind.”

Banished by the president and rejected by his financial backers, Bannon stepped down from Breitbart, further isolating a man once dubbed “the most dangerous political operative in America.”

‘A very stable genius’

The book that precipitated Bannon’s demise — tantalizingly titled “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” — threw the White House on the back foot with its bombshell portrayal of a disengaged, ill-informed and temperamentally unstable president.

A man holds a copy of the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff after buying it at a bookstore in Washington, DC on January 5, 2018. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP)

Stung by its publication, Trump took to Twitter to describe himself as “a very stable genius” and “like, really smart.”

That did little to quell a swirling debate about the president’s fitness for office, with media outlets emboldened to muse about his tweetstorms, body language and tendency to repeat himself.

And while the White House assailed the media, it failed to put a lid on the free-for-all of speculation that has cast a pall over the start of his second year.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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