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Trump expected to act immediately on trade, energy

Associated Press

Donald Trump campaigned on a detailed and extensive to-do list for his first day in office. A day before his swearing-in, his team was being coy about when and how he plans to cross items off it.

As he’s assembled his new government, Trump has backed off some of his promised speed, downplaying the importance of a rapid-fire approach to complex issues that may involve negotiations with Congress or foreign leaders. On others issues, he’s affirmed his plan, indicating significant policy announcements may be teed up in the first hours and days of the Trump administration.

On Thursday, transition spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump would issue two executive orders on trade soon. On his Day One list, Trump said he would formally declare the United States’ intention to withdraw from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which he vigorously opposed during his campaign as detrimental to U.S. businesses and workers. He also promised to declare his intention to renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement or withdraw from the deal.

“I think you will see those happen very shortly,” Spicer said.

Other issues likely to see early action include energy, where he’s likely to undo regulations on oil drilling and coal, and cybersecurity, where he has already said he will ask for a report on the strength of the nation’s cyber defenses within 90 days of taking office.

He’s also made broad promises to upend immediately President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, although some of those vows may be difficult to keep.

The president-elect has said he sees Monday as the first big work day of his administration, his effective Day One. Trump said at his first post-election news conference last week that people would “have a very good time at the inauguration” but his team planned “some pretty good signings on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, and then also the next week.”

“Specifically we’ve focused in the president-elect’s direction on a Day One, Day 100 and Day 200 action plan for keeping our word to the American people and putting the president-elect’s promises into practice,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence said during a briefing with reporters on Thursday. Pence, who chaired Trump’s transition team, added: “We are all ready to go to work. We can’t wait to get to work for the American people.”

Trump’s Day One plan was an ambitious and specific list. It includes proposing a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress, imposing a hiring freeze for federal workers and beginning to remove immigrants who are criminals and living in the country unlawfully.

The list includes “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.” Given Trump’s objections to many of Obama’s policies, that category could involve some dramatic changes.

Among those would be cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has protected about 750,000 young immigrants from deportation. The program also offered those immigrants work permits.

If he makes good on his promise to terminate the program, Trump could chose to immediately cancel the deportation protection and revoke the work permits, or he could opt to block new enrollment and allow those already approved to keep their work permits until they expire.

Trump has said he plans to focus immigration enforcement efforts first on criminals, a group he said could including 2 million to 3 million people.

Redefining presidential

Trump enters the White House on Friday just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course.

In the 10 weeks since his surprise election as the nation’s 45th president, Trump has violated decades of established diplomatic protocol, sent shockwaves through business boardrooms, tested long-standing ethics rules and continued his combative style of replying to any slight with a personal attack — on Twitter and in person.

Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as a humbling experience, one that in an instant makes clear the weight of their new role as caretaker of American democracy. Trump spent much of his transition making clear he sees things differently: Rather than change for the office, he argues, the office will change for him.

Even before he takes the oath of office, Trump has changed the very nature of presidency, breaking conventions and upending expectations for the leader of the free world.

Advisers who’ve spoken with Trump say the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star is aware of the historic nature of his new job. He’s told friends that he’s drawn to the ambition of Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and John F. Kennedy, a Democrat. He’s thinking of spending his first night in the White House sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, according to some who dined with him recently in Florida.

But Trump also views himself as a kind of “sui generis” president, beholden to no one for his success and modeling himself after no leader who’s come before. Trump has said he’s read no biographies of former presidents. When asked to name his personal heroes in a recent interview, he mentioned his father before replying that he didn’t “like the concept of heroes.”

“I don’t think Trump has a great sense of the history of the White House. When you don’t know your history, it’s hard to fully respect the traditions,” said historian Douglas Brinkley, who recently dined with Trump and other guests at his South Florida club. “This is not somebody who brags about how many history biographies he’s read.

“He’s somebody who brags about it as this is a big event and he’s the maestro,” he said.

That’s a shift that thrills his supporters, who elected Trump to shake up what they see as an unresponsive and corrupt federal government in the “swamp” of Washington.

“I don’t want him to change,” said Iowa state Sen. Brad Zaun, one of Trump’s earliest backers. “One of the reasons that I supported him is that he told it the way it was. He didn’t beat around the bush. He didn’t do the standard political talking points.”

Trumping expectations

Trump won election with that approach, but he’s yet to win over the country. His Electoral College victory was tempered by a loss in the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots. The protests planned for the day after his inauguration threaten to draw more people to the National Mall than his official events.

Polls over the past week show that Trump is poised to enter the White House as the least popular president in four decades. Democrats remain staunchly opposed to him, independents have not rallied behind him and even Republicans are less enthusiastic than might be expected, according to the surveys.

In his typical reaction to poll results he doesn’t like, Trump dismissed them as “rigged” in a Tuesday tweet.

Those who know Trump say the billionaire mogul delights in confounding establishment expectations, even as he craves approval from powerbrokers in New York and Washington.

“He was born with a chip on his shoulder, and he is very much the guy from Queens who looked across at Manhattan and envied but also to some degree hated the elites who occupied Manhattan,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of “Never Enough,” a Trump biography. “The way that he wants to disrupt institutions reflects this idea that the institutions haven’t embraced him.”

That’s a style that may work better for a CEO of a family corporation — who has little oversight from corporate boards or shareholders — than a president constrained by a system of checks and balances. Former Cabinet officials say the layers of government bureaucracy, myriad regulations and intricacies of Congress will challenge Trump’s style.

“A president doesn’t have sweeping, universal authority. It is a very different operation than being a CEO who can fire people and hire people at will,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat and former health and human services secretary. “He’s never been part of any organization with a framework where institutional rules are in place.”

But Trump’s supporters say it’s the institutions and Washington — and not the next president — that must change.

“Trump believes that he has a better understanding of how things work in the modern world than all of these so-called critics,” said Newt Gingrich, a Trump adviser and former Republican House speaker, who has spoken with the president-elect about his presidency. “That’s who he is.

“The rest of us are going to have to learn how to think through that.”