All presidents break campaign promises, some more than others. President George H.W. Bush broke his “read my lips, no new taxes” vow, which contributed to his reelection loss in 1992. President Barack Obama kept most of his campaign pledges, with the exception of not closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, despite repeatedly saying he would.
But 10 days after winning the presidency, Donald Trump may be changing the rules on broken or scaled-back campaign promises. When he said everything is negotiable, he apparently meant it. Here’s a list of promises Trump made during the campaign and backtracked on so far:
▪ Affordable Care Act
Then: Trump repeatedly called for repealing and replacing Obamacare, starting on day one in office.
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Now: After last week’s Oval Office meeting with Obama, Trump eased off this promise. He’s now considering keeping two of the law’s more popular provisions: letting 26-year-olds remain on their parents’ insurance plans and barring insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. As he told the Wall Street Journal on Nov. 11: “Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced.”
▪ “Drain the Swamp”
Then: This leitmotif of Trump’s candidacy reflected a disdain for establishment politicians and the corrupting influence of special interests. By promising to “drain the swamp,” he pledged he would get rid of the elite class of corporate lobbyists and Washington careerists.
Now: Lobbyists are sprinkled throughout his transition team. Trump says it’s unavoidable because they’re the only ones who know how the government works. He has, however, imposed a five-year lobbying ban on anyone who joins his administration.
▪ Build the wall
Then: Trump’s most-repeated promise on the stump was to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico. It would be at least 35 to 50 feet high, made of concrete, and Mexico would pay for it.
Now: In a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday, Trump said he’d accept a fence, instead of a wall, along parts of the border. Aides also say Mexico’s payments could be collected indirectly, such as by charging Mexico more to export its goods to the U.S. or by taxing money transfers.
▪ Immigration enforcement
Then: As part of his day one to-do list, Trump said he would create a deportation force to send back 11 million undocumented immigrants, starting with those who have criminal records. He opened his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals.
Now: In the “60 Minutes” interview, he said he will deport only the “bad hombres” — the 2 million to 3 million immigrants with criminal records — or about the same number Obama has deported for the same reason. Trump also called undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed crimes “terrific people” whose ability to stay in the U.S. “we will have to make a determination on.”
▪ Ban on Muslims
Then: Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the U.S.
Now: He has watered down that vow and says he will use “extreme vetting” procedures to weed out known or suspected Muslim terrorists. He will bar Muslims from countries that have been “compromised by terrorism.” It’s unclear if the list would include the U.K. and France, two close U.S. allies that have had terrorist attacks.
Then: Trump criticized Hillary Clinton’s plan to create an infrastructure bank because, he said, it would be “controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington” and funded by a “$275 billion tax increase on American businesses.”
Now: Steven Mnuchin, the hedge-fund manager who was his top campaign fundraiser and is a potential Treasury secretary, says the incoming administration is exploring establishing an infrastructure bank.
▪ Lower trade deficits
Then: He promised to reduce the U.S. trade deficit in part by revoking trade deals and bringing companies and jobs back home.
Now: Trump’s other promises for deficit-financed tax cuts, U.S. defense rebuilding and public-works spending, along with the approach of the Federal Reserve’s tighter monetary policy, have pushed up interest rates. Under Obama, the economy is already growing more quickly and nearing full employment. With the dollar rising against most major currencies (putting U.S. exporters at a disadvantage), the result could soon be larger trade deficits, fewer jobs and higher consumer prices.
▪ Get tough with China
Then: On his first day in office, Trump said he’d label China a currency manipulator for purposely holding down the value of the yuan against the dollar. Obama steadfastly refused to impose such a label, which could lead to penalties such as tariffs on Chinese imports.
Now: China’s currency, if anything, is undervalued, economists say. Chinese officials are trying to prop it up, not drive it down, by intervening in foreign-exchange markets. That means China is doing the U.S. a favor by preventing the yuan from going into freefall.
▪ Conflicts of interest
Then: Rudolph Giuliani, a possible Trump Cabinet member, urged the president-elect to set up a blind trust into which he would place his business interests, thus insulating him from charges that his official government decisions benefit him personally. A blind trust would also help Trump avoid the perception that “drain the swamp” applies to everyone but him.
Now: Trump is turning his businesses over to his children and won’t be setting up a blind trust, a legal device that would have given a trustee authority over his assets while keeping him in the dark about specific gains and losses.
▪ Prosecute Hillary Clinton
Then: In debates, Trump said he’d name a special prosecutor to investigate his Democratic opponent for violating laws with her private e-mail server and Clinton Foundation fund-raising.
Now: In the Wall Street Journal interview, he didn’t rule out a Clinton prosecution, but said it isn’t “something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform.” In the “60 Minutes” interview, he said about the Clintons: “I don’t want to hurt them. They’re good people.”