Donald Trump read more

Trump insults civil rights hero and cancels MLK Day plans

A running guide to Donald Trump’s highly abnormal presidency

Updated 01.13

Donald Trump’s highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for January

Donald Trump made it clear at the beginning of his campaign that he wasn’t going to follow the normal rules or tone of politics. And almost daily since winning the election in November, the businessman and former reality-TV star has continued to defy precedents set by the 44 Oval Office occupants who came before him.

We’re keeping track of all the ways Trump’s presidency veers from the norm, both in policy and in rhetoric, starting from Nov. 9, the day he became president-elect. We’re also highlighting the ways in which policymakers and pundits normalize Trump’s abnormal actions, words, and policies.

Below you’ll find a reverse-chronological list of everything not normal Trump has done in January. See earlier updates from November and December.

Day 68 — Jan. 15

Trump insults civil rights hero and cancels MLK Day plans

President-elect Donald Trump has cancelled plans to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, ABC News reported, citing transition sources. The scheduling flip-flop comes as Trump is under fire for comments he made on Twitter criticizing civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.

Senior transition sources told ABC said that a scheduling conflict arose preventing Trump from visiting the newly opened museum, and that the president-elect would observe Martin Luther King day in some other fashion, but did not provide more detail.

The president-elect unleashed his tweetstorm in response to remarks made by Lewis on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he said, “I don’t see this President-elect as a legitimate president.”

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected,” Lewis said, “And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

Clips from the segment, which aired Sunday, got under the president-elect’s skin, and he fired off a series of tweets accusing Lewis of being “all talk, talk, talk” and “no action.”

Many on social media, including lawmakers, were quick to point out that Trump’s comments were particularly egregious considering that he made them on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, which honors the courageous actions taken by Lewis and others in the struggle for civil rights and an end to legal racial segregation.

Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders — which included King — who organized the 1963 March on Washington. As Democratic congressman, Lewis has served as Chief Deputy Whip since 1991 and Senior Chief Deputy Whip since 2003. Since 1987, Lewis has represented Georgia’s 5th District, a majority African-American district that encompasses almost three-quarters of Atlanta.

Trump said that Lewis should spend more time “fixing and helping his district,” which he described as being in “horrible shape” and “crime infested.” Crime data suggests otherwise; in September, Atlanta officials celebrated a 30 percent drop in crime in the city since 2009. Lewis told NBC that he would not attend inauguration, the first inauguration he has not attended since 1987. Trump’s comments about Lewis sparked a backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Since Lewis’ comments and Trump’s response, sales of two of the Georgia lawmakers’ books, “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” and “March,” a graphic-novel trilogy about the civil rights movement, have gone through the roof, spiking by more than 100,000 percent, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported. As of Sunday morning, both were listed as temporarily out of stock by Amazon.

Day 66 — Jan. 13

Trump’s cybersecurity adviser Rudy Giuliani can’t even put together a decent website

Within hours of Donald Trump naming Rudy Giuliani as his administration’s cybersecurity adviser on Thursday, experts and developers in the industry started roasting the former New York City mayor for his company’s apparently archaic and insecure website, as The Register pointed out.

Joomla! is a free content management system that, according to Gizmodo, has experienced more than a dozen vulnerabilities in the four years since Giuliani’s site started using it. Even worse, the login to the CMS and remote access are public, making them easier targets for hackers.

As part of his position, Giuliani will meet with companies that have experienced security vulnerabilities or hacks for their perspectives on addressing the challenges, according to a statement released by the transition team.

Why it’s not normal:

Trump made cybersecurity a key campaign issue, but as VICE’s Motherboard reported Thursday, Giuliani’s experience in the field is unclear.

His consulting firm and its subsidiary, Giuliani Partners and Giuliani Safety and Security, respectively, focus more on navigating legal liability for clients whose security was compromised than preventing such risks with increased security features like encryption. The companies also don’t publish white papers on hacks, as is typical for cybersecurity firms.

Trump’s Cabinet so far is the most white and male since Reagan’s

If all of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees are confirmed, women and minorities will hold just five of 21 Cabinet or Cabinet-level positions, according to an analysis by the New York Times.

Why it’s not normal:

That’s fewer women and minorities than the Cabinets of both President Bushes, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama and almost as few as Ronald Reagan.

 Day 64 — Jan. 11

Trump’s pick to run Veterans Affairs would be the first non-veteran

When Sarah Palin was rumored to be under consideration to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, much of the concern focused on her being the first non-veteran in the post. The same is true of Trump’s official nominee, announced at a press conference Wednesday, current Undersecretary of Health at the VA David Shulkin.

Shulkin, named to his current post in 2015 by President Obama, has never served in the military. He would also be the first member of the Obama administration to be tapped by Trump.

Why it’s not normal:

Not just an unprecedented nomination, Trump’s pick of Shulkin raises questions about how someone who has never served in the military can understand the difficulties and needs of outcoming veterans. At the press conference Wednesday as well as repeatedly throughout his campaign, Trump had promised to take care of the community and nominate a secretary who would make that the first priority.

Trump brags about refusing $2 billion Dubai deal as proof he’ll avoid conflicts of interest

During his surreal press conference Wednesday morning — his first since July — Trump boasted that he turned down a $2 billion offer “to do a deal in Dubai over the weekend.”

“I turned it down. I didn’t have to turn it down,” Trump said of his own volition, not in response to a question from media.

Trump pointed to his refusal as a way to show that he had no problem separating himself from his business interests as he prepares to assume the office of the president. He said he was acting out of a sense of propriety and didn’t legally need to separate himself from the Trump Organization or its dealings while acting as president.

“I could actually run my business and run government at the same time,” he said. “I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to.”

Why it’s not normal: 

Trump’s insistence that he could continue to operate his sprawling business, often with foreign entities, from the Oval Office is up for debate. The Emoluments Clause in the Constitution prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” from accepting gifts or money from foreign entities to prevent a possible situation of bribery.

But Trump and his lawyer, Sheri Dillon, made a big to-do at the press conference Wednesday that everyone has expanded the definition of “emoluments” from what the Framers intended and thus doesn’t apply to Trump. Many legal scholars and constitutional experts, however, have interpreted the Emoluments Clause to mean the opposite.

If Trump continued to accept cash payments from foreign entities, such as the $2 billion deal from Dubai, that could violate the Constitution.

Still, Dillon insisted that Trump would take “extraordinary steps” to “ensure the Trump Organization continues to operate in accordance with the highest and legal ethics standards.”

Trump compares unverified leak about him to “living in Nazi Germany”

Donald Trump responded angrily — on Twitter, as usual — to the leak of an unverified memo alleging that the Kremlin holds a dossier of compromising material on him. Trump called the situation “FAKE NEWS,” while going on to invoke Godwin’s Law with a comparison about “living in Nazi Germany.”

Trump is poised to give his first press conference in 168 days Wednesday, and reporters will have some big questions for him. BuzzFeed published the unverified memo compiled by an ex-British spy Tuesday, which allegedly includes a video of the president-elect in a comprising sexual situation.

The memo also alleges that Trump’s team and Russian officials colluded to swap intel on the Democrats and other political rivals. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohan is also alleged to have met Russian officials in Prague last August to discuss “the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership,” according to the document. Cohen, however, claims he has never been to Prague. The FBI has also found no evidence he traveled there, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Read more about the memo here.

Why it’s not normal: 

Where to start? BuzzFeed’s release of the memo breaks with typical media policy and has earned the publication both scorn and praise. While the information remains unverified, the intelligence community briefed both Trump and President Obama on it last week. The allegations will also likely drown out Trump’s unprecedented attempt to avoid the media, while frequently tweeting his disdain for the intelligence community and his support of Russia.

Day 63 — Jan. 10

176 retired military officers tell Trump waterboarding doesn’t work

One hundred seventy-six retired military officers, including 33 four-star generals and admirals, sent Donald Trump a letter urging him to leave the torture tactic of waterboarding in America’s past.

Prominent names such as Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former head of the Joint Special Operations Command, and Adm. William McRaven, who lead the 2010 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, signed the letter to the president-elect, sent Jan. 6 and recently obtained by the The New York Times. Citing “six thousand years” of combined military experience, they call waterboarding “unnecessary,” “counterproductive,” and a violation of “our core values as a nation.”

Why it’s not normal:

Trump repeatedly called torture, including waterboarding, effective during his campaign and promised to reinstate the policy if elected. After the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered a report in 2014 detailing the brutality of torture used by the CIA, however, many members of the defense community, as well as former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, denounced the practice. 

Day  62 — Jan. 9

Trump to appoint son-in-law to top White House post, not worried about nepotism law

Donald Trump will appoint his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be the senior adviser to the president, one of the top positions in the White House, according to a report by NBC News Monday.

Kushner, 35, has been one of the most influential members of Trump’s inner circle since well before he won the presidency, and his appointment doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. He and wife Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, are reportedly planning to move from New York with their three children into a $5.5 million Washington, D.C., house once Trump takes office.

Why it’s not normal:

Kushner’s formal appointment to a high-level government position brings up a number of ethical and legal issues. Chief among them: the 1967 anti-nepotism law that prohibits federal officials from appointing their civilian relatives to government positions in agencies they oversee. But neither Kushner or Trump seems troubled by that. “Mr. Kushner is committed to complying with federal ethics laws, and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take,” Kushner’s lawyer told NBC News.

Kushner will resign as chief executive of his real estate corporation, Kushner Companies, in an attempt to disentangle himself from thorny conflict-of-interest questions, according to the New York Times. Kushner’s legal team and Trump’s advisers said that Kushner plans to put his various financial holdings into a blind trust, which they hope will relieve him of any possible violations of nepotism laws.

Day  62 — Jan. 9

Trump insults Meryl Streep after she criticized him at the Golden Globes

Donald Trump attacked Meryl Streep Monday after the actress excoriated the president-elect in her Golden Globes speech the previous night.

To start, the president-elect fired off a series of tweets around 6:30 a.m. E.T. calling Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.”

During her emotional acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, Streep defended press freedom and called out Trump for infamously mocking a disabled reporter.

“It was that moment, when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country, imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to right back,” Streep said Sunday evening. That moment “stunned me” and “kind of broke my heart,” she continued, on the verge of tears.

Streep’s speech prompted a standing ovation from the Hollywood audience and quickly went viral online, with many in the industry showing support for the renowned actress.

In his tweetstorm Monday, Trump denied that he’d made fun of the reporter and insisted he only imitated the reporter’s “groveling” and blamed “just more very dishonest media” for “making him look bad.” Trump then told the New York Times that while he had not seen Streep’s speech, he was “not surprised” that “liberal movie people” would criticize him.

Trump’s senior adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was busy doing damage control Monday morning on various cable news shows.

“I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep’s is inciting people’s worst instincts,” Conway said on “Fox and Friends.” Later in the morning, on CNN’s “New Day,” she criticized journalists for reporting what Trump was saying rather than “what was in his heart.” 

Why it’s not normal:

Actors and actresses often use their fame to voice their political views or further causes. Presidents-elect, however, don’t usually respond on Twitter with insults and name-calling.

Day  59 — Jan. 6

Trump calls focus on Russian hacking a “political witch hunt” in latest jab at U.S. intelligence

Donald Trump continued to antagonize the intelligence community during an interview with the New York Times Friday morning when he accused his political opponents of carrying out a “political witch hunt” in ongoing efforts to prove Russia’s role in the U.S. election.

The conversation occurred three hours before intelligence officials would brief the president-elect on a classified report about the hacking. NBC, however, released details of the report ahead of the meeting on Thursday, based on two unnamed top intelligence sources, drawing further ire from Trump.

By midday Friday, Trump had started a hunt of his own: to find NBC’s sources.

Following Friday’s briefing with top U.S. intelligence officials, Trump acknowledged that Russia, China and other countries are “consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.” But he was reluctant to put the blame on Russia and maintained the hacks had no impact on the outcome of the election.

Why it’s not normal:

The president-elect continued his very public rift with the intelligence community on Friday, to the dismay of many top officials. Trump’s latest round of criticism once again pitted the incoming president against an intelligence apparatus he’ll soon oversee, raising questions about the sort of role and relationship these powerful agencies will have in his administration. 

Trump is kicking out Obama’s ambassadors without the usual grace period to find new jobs and homes

U.S. ambassadors appointed by President Obama and currently stationed around the world recently received a rude awakening from President-elect Trump’s incoming administration.

In a precedent-defying move, Trump’s transition team notified all of the politically appointed ambassadors that their last day on the job would be Jan. 20, without exceptions, The New York Times reported. The decision denies the ambassadors a grace period traditionally granted to them between transitioning administrations.

Why it’s not normal:
There’s reason for this tradition: the grace period affords ambassadors and their families time to sort out new employment and living conditions and to serve as diplomatic stop-gaps while the new administration searches for their replacements. Trump’s decision to break with the tradition means that many critical diplomatic outposts could sit without an ambassador for months while the new administration searches for replacements.

Trump confuses Toyota plants in Mexico, still negatively impacts the company’s stock

Donald Trump took aim at Toyota on Thursday for the Japanese auto giant’s long-known plans to build its Corolla sedan in a plant in Mexico. The news elicited a simple “No way,” and a promise from the incoming president: “Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.”

Trump’s tough talk instantly had a negative effect on the company’s stock price and sent other Japanese automakers scrambling.

Within five minutes, Toyota’s stock dropped $1.2 billion, and other carmakers’ market caps, like Honda and Nissan, also fell on the Tokyo exchange Friday, contributing to a decrease in the Nikkei share average. Perhaps in an attempt to ease the tension, the head of Toyota signaled a willingness to work with Trump just hours later.

Trump, however, confused Toyota’s existing plant in Baja with one in Guanajuato, which, when completed, will shift production from Canada — not the U.S., as the Associated Press noted. Construction began on the plant shortly after the November election.

“We don’t have any plan to move existing plants in the U.S. to Mexico or any other countries,” Japanese Trade Minister Horoshige Seko told reporters Friday.

However misinformed, the tweet marked the first time the president-elect has taken aim at a foreign company for its stated intentions to move jobs overseas.

Why it’s not normal:

Incoming president’s normally don’t tweet out potential punitive measure intended for  foreign company’s seeking to move business to another country. This is especially true when they level such threats based on misinformation.

“Ratings machine DJT” calls out Arnold Schwarzenegger for dwindling “Celebrity Apprentice” ratings

Donald Trump usually reserves nicknames for his political opponents. But in a series of tweets Friday morning disparaging Arnold Schwarzenegger’s success (or lack thereof) in “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the president-elect gave himself one: “ratings machine DJT.”

Trump, who maintains the title of executive producer on the show, clearly isn’t happy with its new lead. Schwarzenegger replaced the show’s iconic catchphrase with some flair from a previous franchise: “You’re terminated.”

Why it’s not normal:

Presidents-elect don’t typically engage in petty social media fights with celebrities.

Day  58 — Jan. 5

Trump says he doesn’t agree with Julian Assange, but his tweets say otherwise

President-elect Donald Trump attempted to clarify Thursday morning that his retweets do not equal endorsements of comments WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange made about Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election.

A day earlier, Trump retweeted a Fox News tweet that included a quote from Assange calling the American media “very dishonest.” Trump also tweeted several other comments Assange made to Fox’s Sean Hannity during an interview.

Several publications interpreted the tweets as Trump agreeing with Assange’s comments, which bolstered the president-elect’s own skepticism about Russia’s role in the election. For example, The New York Times characterized Trump and Assange as “an unlikely pair” who “unite to sow hacking.” And CNN noted that Trump had flip-flopped on Assange since 2010, when he suggested Assange should face “the death penalty or something.”

Why this isn’t normal:

A president-elect doesn’t usually enter into a pedantic debate about whether his retweets do or do not equal endorsements of the head of a whistleblowing website who’s been exiled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Trump calls Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer a “clown”

Trump unveiled his latest moniker for a political rival Thursday morning: head clown Chuck Schumer.

This latest name-calling follows several pithy titles Trump has attached to opponents, including (but not limited to): Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Crazy Bernie, and Goofy Elizabeth Warren.

Why it’s not normal:

Presidents-elect do not usually descend into public name-calling of the Senate Minority Leader.

Day  57 — Jan. 4

Trump cites WikiLeaks’ Assange when mocking U.S. intelligence officials

President-elect Donald Trump claimed Tuesday night — in a tweet complete with mocking scare quotes —  that the “intelligence” community had delayed his briefing on the “so-called Russian hacking” and speculated officials may have needed more time to “build a case.” Trump continued his assault with a series of tweets Wednesday morning, citing comments Wikileaks’ Julian Assange made to conservative commentator Sean Hannity.

The White House rebutted the president-elect and said his briefing with the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Director of National Intelligence had always been scheduled for Friday. Trump and his transition team have repeatedly refused to accept media reports that the intelligence community believes Russia hacked into senior Democratic officials with the intent of aiding the Republican’s candidacy.

While the FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a vague report in mid-December, a more detailed report from every branch of the intelligence community is forthcoming later this week. Trump, however, is raising doubts about its conclusions before they have been presented to him.

Why this isn’t normal: 

Presidents, let alone presidents-elect, don’t refute, let alone mock, the intelligence community so publicly. Presidents have fumed at and battled with such agencies (JFK for example) but always behind the closed doors of the Oval Office.

Day  56 — Jan. 3

Trump scolds House Republicans on first day of new Congress

The first day of a Republican Congress that will soon enjoy a Republican president started with discord when President-elect Donald Trump publicly criticized House Republicans for attempting to defang the body’s independent ethics watchdog.

In a surprise move on Monday, Republicans had voted to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of much of its independence and authority. The Republican House Leadership, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, reportedly opposed the change — but they were ignored by many of their Republican members.

Those members seemingly were not as willing to go against Trump, however, reversing the vote hours after he posted his tweets.

Why this isn’t normal:
Presidents-elect don’t typically clash publicly with their own party on the first day of a new Congress. And they certainly don’t typically do it on Twitter.

Trump threatens GM over Mexico-made Chevys

President-elect Donald Trump threatened General Motors Tuesday morning with a “big” tax if it did not start manufacturing its Chevy Cruze cars in the United States. In a tweet, Trump claimed GM was building the car in Mexico and then selling it to Americans after shipping it across the border “tax-free.”

General Motors responded later Tuesday morning that only a small number of Chevy Cruze hatchbacks were manufactured in Mexico and then sold in the U.S. All Cruze sedans sold in the U.S. are made in Lordstown, Ohio, the company said. GM did not address its November announcement to cut production significantly at the Lordstown plant in early 2017.

It’s unclear what prompted Trump’s tweet, but it might also be a warning to other American car manufacturers who build all or parts of automobiles in Mexico before selling them domestically. Last fall, Ford announced it was moving all small-car production south of the border. Car companies are able to do this without incurring large penalties because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has called one of the worst deals in history.  

Why this isn’t normal: 

It’s not normal for a president, let alone a president-elect, to publicly single out a company and threaten it with government action. It’s especially abnormal for a Republican to interfere so directly in the free market, further demonstrating the ideological transformation happening to the party. Trump has also personally intervened with Carrier to save jobs in Indiana and with SoftBank, which owns a controlling stake in Sprint, to create 50,000 jobs in the United States.

VICE News will file regular updates on just how not normal Trump’s presidency is. Check back for more and see our earlier updates from November and December.

Alex Thompson contributed to this report.

M-F 7:30PM HBO