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Chaos Defines Trump's First Week in Office

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: President Donald J. Trump walks down the Colonnade of the White House after returning on Marine One, in Washington, D.C. on jan. 26.
President Donald J. Trump walks down the Colonnade of the White House after returning on Marine One, in Washington, D.C. on jan. 26.Michael Reynolds / EPA

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Recapping Trump’s chaotic first week

It’s been a week since Donald Trump took the oath of office to become the nation’s 45th president, though it certainly feels more like a month. And if the past seven days have had a defining characteristic, it’s been this -- chaos. To recap the last week:

  • Friday, Jan. 20: Trump takes the oath as the nation’s 45th president.
  • Saturday, Jan. 21: Speaking at the CIA, Trump mischaracterizes his past statements about the intelligence community (saying the media “sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community”), misstates the size of his inaugural crowd (“it went all the way back to the Washington Monument”), and repeats his claim that the United States should have “kept” Iraq’s oil. White House Press Secretary later chides the press for its portrayal of the inauguration’s crowd size.
  • Sunday, Jan. 22: Appearing on “Meet the Press,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says, “Our press secretary gave alternative facts”-- about the size of the inaugural crowd.
  • Monday, Jan. 23: In a meeting with congressional leaders, Trump repeats claim that 3-5 million “illegals” voted in the election, but there is absolutely no evidence from experts to back up that assertion.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 24: Spicer responds to Trump’s voter-fraud claim: “He believes what he believes.” Trump later tweets, “If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
  • Wednesday, Jan. 25: Trump signs border-wall and sanctuary-city executive actions. He also gives interview to ABC where he discusses his voter-fraud claims, his crowd size, his popular-vote loss, and his support for waterboarding.
  • Thursday, Jan. 26: Mexico’s president cancels visit to meet with Trump. Spicer tells reporters that the U.S. could tax imports from Mexico (and other countries) to pay for Trump’s border wall. Spicer then tells NBC’s Peter Alexander that it’s not a policy proposal -- but an option how to pay for the wall. White House strategist Steve Bannon tells the New York Times, “The media here is the opposition party” and adds it should “keep its mouth shut.”

Phew -- all of that in seven days. And besides all of the chaos, there’s another way to look the past week: Team Trump is operating on two different tracks -- picking fights (on crowd size, with the media, and with Mexico), and laying the groundwork for Trump and conservative policies (border wall, withdrawing from TPP, and abortion).

Wall Street Journal editorial page: Trump’s battle with Mexico will produce a political backlash across the border

The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page criticizes Trump’s recent moves against Mexico, saying that they will only embolden Mexico’s more leftist (and Anti-American) political forces. “Some six million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico. But the much larger risk is that Mexicans will sour on progress toward joining their North American neighbors as prosperous free-market democracies. This is the moment that Mexico’s left—dormant but not dead—has been waiting for as anti-American Andrés Manuel López Obrador prepares to run for President again in 2018. Mr. Trump is a foreign-affairs neophyte, but he is already learning that nations can’t be bullied like GOP candidates or CEOs. They have their own nationalist political dynamics and when attacked they push back. Mr. Trump said as a candidate that he’d treat America’s friends better than Mr. Obama did, but his first move has been to treat Mexico like Mr. Obama treated Israel. On present course he may get comparable results, or worse.” Ouch.

Remember: If you break it, you own it

“The Trump administration has pulled the plug on all Obamacare outreach and advertising in the crucial final days of the 2017 enrollment season, according to sources at Health and Human Services and on Capitol Hill,” Politico writes. “Even ads that had already been placed and paid for have been pulled.” That has Obamacare supporters saying that the new Trump administration is sabotaging a law before it’s even been repealed and replaced. “This is sabotage pure and simple. This proves that this administration doesn’t care about people who need health coverage,” said Leslie Dach, the campaign director for Protect Our Care Coalition. While it should be no surprise that the administration doesn’t support the health-care law, President Trump has touted people being able to have health insurance. But this move does the opposite -- it’s signaling it’s OK with fewer people having health insurance. And there’s one more important point: If the enrollment numbers come in lower than expected, the Trump administration will get blamed. As Kaiser Family Foundation health-care expert Larry Levitt remarks, “So, is this the moment at which Obamacare becomes Trumpcare? Enrollment was up slightly over last year up until this point.”

Britain’s May wants a trade deal -- and a reassurance from Trump about NATO

At 1:00 pm ET, Trump holds a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May (the Trump White House misspelled her first name on its press schedule last night before correcting it). May has two priorities on this trip, we’re told -- 1) getting a trade deal with the United States (now that it won’t be a member of the European Union), and 2) getting Trump to reassure NATO. It will be interesting to see if that NATO question comes up at today’s press conference.

March for Life to receive more direct attention today than from any other past GOP administration

Finally, today is the annual March for Life, and it will receive more DIRECT attention from a Republican administration than we’ve ever seen. Not only is Trump going to phone in remarks to the crowd -- as past GOP presidents have done -- but Vice President Mike Pence will speak there in person at 12:15 pm ET. It’s the first time in the march’s history that a vice president will speak.

What were other new presidents doing one week after their inauguration (January 27) ?

  • Barack Obama’s first formal TV interview is with an Arabic satellite network. The new president says his message to Muslims is “the Americans are not your enemy.”
  • George W. Bush continues to push his new education plan
  • Bill Clinton postpones a planned announcement about gays in the military as senators continue to hammer out compromise language
  • George H.W. Bush holds his first news conference amid continuing concerns about the savings and loan crisis (He also admits he’s battling a bad cold that would later force him to scramble his schedule)
  • Ronald Reagan holds a welcome ceremony for released hostages at the White House
  • Jimmy Carter speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Democrats in Congress publicly grumble about their relationship with the new White House.

Trump Cabinet Watch

  • Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson NOMINATED
  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions NOMINATED
  • Treasury: Steve Mnuchin NOMINATED
  • Defense: JamesMattis CONFIRMED
  • Homeland: John Kelly CONFIRMED
  • Interior: Ryan Zinke NOMINATED
  • HHS: Tom Price NOMINATED
  • HUD: Ben Carson NOMINATED
  • Education: Betsy DeVos NOMINATED
  • Commerce: Wilbur Ross NOMINATED
  • Transportation: Elaine Chao NOMINATED
  • Labor: Andy Puzder NOMINATED
  • Agriculture: Sonny Perdue NOMINATED
  • Energy: Rick Perry NOMINATED
  • Veterans Affairs: David Shulkin NOMINATED
  • OMB Director: Mick Mulvaney NOMINATED
  • U.S Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer NOMINATED
  • UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley CONFIRMED
  • Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt NOMINATED
  • Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon NOMINATED
  • CIA Director: Mike Pompeo CONFIRMED