As The Shutdown Continues, A Look At Trump's Claims About Fixing A Broken System

Jan 18, 2019
Originally published on January 18, 2019 6:50 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This Sunday marks two years since President Trump took the oath of office. As that anniversary approaches, the president is stuck in a government shutdown he said he'd be proud to own. Cable news is stuck in an endless loop about the Mueller investigation. And Democrats in the House are preparing to launch investigations of their own. All this seems a long way from Trump's confident declaration in his convention speech accepting the Republican nomination in 2016.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I alone can fix it.

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KELLY: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith looks at the reality of that phrase two years in.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: President Trump pitched himself as the candidate who would come to Washington and bust things up, who wouldn't take no for an answer as other politicians had. Earlier this week, he took something of a victory lap in his speech to the Farm Bureau.

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TRUMP: I have actually done more than I promised. We've done a lot.

KEITH: He has done a lot - like it or not - upending many long-established norms along the way. And a lot of what he's done has been on his own often, against the advice of those around him - imposing steel and aluminum tariffs, pulling out of the climate Paris accord, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

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TRUMP: Every other president promised it, and they never had the courage or whatever it is to get it done. And I know why - because everybody started calling, just like they did me. They'd call and call.

KEITH: And urge him not to do it - foreign leaders, people in his own administration.

BARBARA PERRY: President Trump is carrying out his view of fixing foreign policy.

KEITH: Barbara Perry directs presidential studies at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. She says foreign policy is an area where the Constitution and the Supreme Court are clear - the president has a lot of authority all on his own.

PERRY: He's doing many things solely and unilaterally, where he doesn't even have to make deals. In today's parlance, we would call this the low-hanging fruit.

KEITH: Trump often boasts about legislative achievements too though on more than one occasion Trump has described himself as waiting around in the White House for Congress to act.

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TRUMP: Good luck, Chuck and Mike and Grant and everybody - Lindsey, everybody back here. Go out and see if you can get that done. And if you can, I'm waiting. I'll be waiting with a pen.

KEITH: Former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent is now a CNN contributor. And he says, from where he sat, Congress was in the driver's seat on the big items, including the failed effort to repeal Obamacare...

CHARLIE DENT: He was never really concerned about the substance of the matter - simply about winning.

KEITH: ...The big GOP tax bill...

DENT: The tax reform bill was more a product of Congress than the White House in many ways.

KEITH: ...And criminal justice reform.

DENT: That was a congressional initiative - no question about it.

KEITH: But the dynamic shifted earlier this month when Democrats took over the House. Trump could no longer just wait for Republicans to send him bills to sign. With no end in sight to the government shutdown, Trump has taken to describing himself once again as alone, waiting for Democrats to compromise and give him money to build the wall.

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TRUMP: I was all by myself in the White House. It's a big, big house - except for all the guys out on the lawn with machine guns - nicest machine guns I've ever seen.

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KEITH: In a recent tweet, he said, quote, "there's almost nobody in the White House but me, and I do have a plan on the shutdown." That was a week ago, and the government is still shut down. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.