Donald Trump’s highly abnormal presidency: a running guide for December
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 did in December. Check here for November’s updates.
Day 53 — Dec. 31
Trump wishes his enemies well in the New Year
Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2016
Day 52 — Dec. 30
Trump seemingly sides with “very smart” Putin over Obama
Trump once again heaped warm praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, calling him “very smart” and applauding his response to President Obama’s new round of sanctions against Russia for allegedly interfering in the U.S. presidential election.
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
It was Trump’s latest public display of affection toward a world leader who’s engaged in contentious relations with the sitting president, and it comes just a day after Obama signed an executive order ousting 35 Russian intelligence officials and ordering Russians to leave two compounds outside of Washington, D.C., and New York City that were regular retreats for Russian diplomats. Obama said in a statement that these sanctions were part of a response “to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.”
Putin has repeatedly denied any Russian involvement in the July cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton, and this morning announced he would not retaliate against the United States. Instead, in a sly gesture, the Russian president invited the children of all U.S. diplomats to a Christmas and New Year’s celebration at the Kremlin.
Putin’s unexpectedly calm response after indications of retaliatory aggression that would “cause serious discomfort to the American side,” was ostensibly the “great move” Trump spoke of in his tweet that is now prominently “pinned” to the top of his timeline.
Why this isn’t normal…
It’s not normal for a president-elect to publicly contradict a sitting president and the U.S. intelligence community. It is even stranger to publicly heap such personal praise on the leader of a country the U.S. sanctioned the day before.
Day 51 — Dec. 29
Trump is still bragging about jobs Sprint announced weeks ago
Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida that Sprint had called him with some good news: “Because of what’s happening and the spirit and the hope,” the telecommunications company would be “bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United State and taking them from other countries.” He also said that OneWeb, a satellite Internet startup, would hire 3,000 additional people domestically.
Trump acted as if these 8,000 jobs were new, but they were part of the 50,000 jobs pledged weeks ago by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp., a Sprint spokesman confirmed in a statement Wednesday. SoftBank owns about 80 percent of Sprint and also recently invested in OneWeb. In early December, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son met with Trump and later announced a $50 billion investment in the United States with the goal of creating 50,000 new jobs.
Whether SoftBank had always intended to make such an investment or not, the company ingratiated itself with Trump when the president-elect took credit for the jobs. “Masa [Son] said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election,” Trump tweeted in early December.
In November, Trump also negotiated with Carrier, an air-conditioning company, to stop it from outsourcing at least 800 jobs from Indiana to Mexico.
Almost never do sitting presidents, let alone presidents-elect, negotiate one-on-one with companies. Trump’s deals, however, have allowed him to follow through on campaign promises before he even takes office. Trump repeatedly pledged during the election to punish companies that outsourced to other countries and even bring back those jobs. But some members of his own party, including ally Sarah Palin, have raised questions about Trump’s forceful interference in the free market.
On the other hand, Vice President-elect Mike Pence suggested earlier this month that Trump’s dealings may be the new way of Republican governance. “The free market has been sorting it out, and America’s been losing,” he told The New York Times. “Every time, every time,” Trump concurred.
Day 50 — Dec. 28
Trump is still tweeting about Israel, and now Netanyahu is tweeting back
Donald Trump added President Barack Obama to his list of diplomatic complaints on Wednesday, criticizing the sitting president for creating “roadblocks” during his transition period. Fittingly, his Twitter complaint came just as Trump continued to insert himself, along with some help from Israel, into the Obama administration’s policy decisions regarding the U.N. and Israel.
We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but…….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (U.N.)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2016
In a notable departure from eight years of foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Obama administration last week declined to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, effectively allowing it to pass.
Before the vote, Trump joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in aggressively lobbying against the resolution. His outspoken stance even saw some success, derailing the resolution for a day before it was reintroduced and brought to a vote on Friday.
Trump has since directed his ire at the U.N., calling it just a “club for people to get together and have a good time,” and promising that things will be different under his watch. And his interjections have earned him a fan in Netanyahu, who responded to Trump’s latest Twitter outburst with glowing appreciation — the latest example of the two leaders’ blossoming relationship.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 28, 2016
In another strange move, the Israeli PM tagged two of Trump’s children in the message: Ivanka and Donald Jr. Their inclusion in major international relations continues to draw criticism as Trump attempts to square his existing family businesses with his incoming responsibilities as commander-in-chief.
Trump’s forays into an active and escalating diplomatic discussion between an international body and a sitting U.S. president directly contradicts his team’s regular claims that they are respecting the current White House, and stand to further inflame pushback from Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups already on the offensive.
For his part, Netanyahu rejected the Security Council’s vote and has launched a series of attacks on Obama and other high-ranking members of the body, whose 14 other members voted to rule Israeli settlements illegal. Israel’s defense minister urged Jews to leave France in the wake of the decision, and Netanyahu reportedly cancelled a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.
Day 48 — Dec. 26
Trump is still tweeting about Israel, and now Netanyahu is tweeting back
President-elect Donald Trump continued his Twitter diplomacy over the holiday weekend, on Saturday criticizing the United Nations for its decision to condemn Israeli settlements and calling the resolution an obstacle to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. He promised to “get it [a peace deal] done anyway.”
Trump kept at the U.N. on Monday evening, calling the organization “just a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time.” The U.N., despite recent controversies and criticism, remains a crucial global forum for humanitarian aid, diplomacy, and peacekeeping.
The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2016
Trump joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week in voicing his opposition to the resolution, and even seemed to have some temporary success derailing it. Ultimately the resolution was introduced and brought to a vote Friday afternoon.
The president-elect also appeared to be in a giving mood over the holiday weekend — but his generosity was mostly directed at himself.
The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2016
That bright stance was an entrée to a pair of tweets defending Trump’s embattled foundation, which has admitted to illegal self-dealing in 2015 and is currently under investigation by New York’s attorney general.
Despite a holiday retreat at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump didn’t take too much time off Twitter, even responding to a report that President Obama said he would have won a third term had he run.
President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY! – jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2016
Day 45 — Dec. 23
Trump brags about receiving a Christmas letter from Putin
Trump’s team shared a pdf of an “unofficial translation” of a Christmas greeting they said Trump received from Russian President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 15.
“A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct. I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path,” the president-elect said in a statement promoting the letter.
Putin wishing Trump happy holidays wouldn’t be all that suspicious. Putin sent a telegram to Trump the day after the election to congratulate him and they spoke on the phone on Nov. 14. An administration official confirmed that while President Obama does receive holidays greetings from world leaders, “as a general matter we don’t speak to specific correspondence.”
So while the note itself may not be weird, much like everything else with the incoming Trump administration, the fact that it was shared is not exactly how this thing usually works.
Day 44 — Dec. 22
The Rockettes are told they have to perform at Trump’s inauguration
The lineup for Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration started shaping up this week amid reports the event committee is having trouble attracting A-list talent. On Thursday it was announced the Radio City Rockettes dance troupe would perform, along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and “America’s Got Talent” star Jackie Evancho. But at least one Rockette wasn’t happy about the gig and talked about boycotting it.
In a now-deleted message on her Instagram account, dancer Phoebe Pearl said:
Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed. The women I work with are intelligent and are full of love and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling.. After we found out this news, we have been performing with tears in our eyes and heavy hearts. We will not be forced! #notmypresident
Responses on social media ranged from solidarity to concern that Rockettes who refuse to perform may lose their jobs and have a hard time finding other full-time employment in dance.
The #rockettes being forced to perform at inauguration will become the Trump era's first women to lose their right to choose.
— Vadim Feichtner (@shaftshaft) December 23, 2016
According to Broadway World, the Rockettes’ union, the American Guild of Variety Artists, said in an email to the dancers that any planned boycott is “invalid” and noted that dancers who “are not full time [do not] have to sign up to do this work. If you are full time, you are obligated.”
On Friday, however, the Madison Square Garden Company, which oversees the Rockettes, told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement that dancers “must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event.” The company added that more than enough dancers had requested to perform at the inauguration.
In addition to their premier annual “Christmas Spectacular” shows at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Rockettes have performed at both inaugurations for George W. Bush, Super Bowl halftime shows, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, and New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square.
State Department officials freak out after Trump’s team asks for a list of programs focused on gender equality
Trump’s transition team appears to be taking an interest in women’s issues: A one-page memo went out to the State Department and the Agency for International Development on Wednesday asking about programs promoting gender equality. But the memo was not well received, as staffers at State were “chilled” and “rattled” by the request, according to separate reports Thursday in The Washington Post and The New York Times.
The Times posted a copy of the document:
The memo comes after a similar Trump transition team request to the Energy Department sought the names of staffers who had worked on climate change initiatives. (A Trump spokesman later said this survey did not follow protocol.) One anonymous official told The Washington Post that the latest request could be benign, or it could be “a witch hunt.”
The transition team declined to comment on the gender equality memo, and a State Department spokesman told the Times that such requests are not out of the ordinary. Indeed, the memo could be the product of nothing more than Ivanka Trump acting on her stated desire to promote women’s issues under her father’s presidency. What’s not normal is how spooked the incoming administration seems to have made career diplomats and Democrats.
Trump advocates nuclear expansion
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
After taking on the United Nations in an early-morning Facebook post, Trump turned his attention to “strengthening” U.S. nuclear armament in a tweet directly contradicting decades of nuclear nonproliferation policy and the aims of his predecessor, who sought to expand such efforts.
Day 42 — Dec. 20
Trump’s sons are auctioning off access to themselves and their father
UPDATE 12/21/16: According to a statement from Trump’s transition team, the events were unapproved and “merely initial concepts.” The team claims Donald Jr. and Eric won’t be involved “in any capacity.”
As the New York Times points out, however, legal documents reveal Eric recently opened the charity and served on its board of directors. The event is still on — sans the hunting and fishing trip with the Trump boys. Eric also said Tuesday he and his brother wouldn’t attend, the Times reported.
A new nonprofit reportedly run by Donald Trump’s sons is offering access to the president-elect the day after his inauguration in exchange for million-dollar donations to “conservation charities.” In the top package, 16 donors will attend a “private reception and photo opportunity” with the president-elect, and four big donors will join the Trump boys for a “multiday hunting and/or fishing excursion,” according to a promotional brochure first obtained by TMZ.com.
Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are listed as directors of the nonprofit Opening Day Foundation, which was formed on Dec. 14, less than a week before the invitations went out, as first reported by the Center for Public Integrity. The brochure — which lists the attire as “camouflage and cufflinks” — claims that all donations will go to conservation charities, although it’s unclear which charities or what percentage of the profits will go to the Opening Day Foundation.
Politicians regularly trade access to themselves in exchange for donations at fundraisers, but the idea of selling off a days-long trip raises some new questions about access and conflict of interest. Trump regularly depends on his children for counsel, and buying time with them could be a means to get the ear of their father. Several donors admitted last week that they had bid in a charity auction — which was abruptly cancelled after a chorus of ethics experts raised questions — for a meeting with Ivanka Trump for political access, according to The New York Times.
A record number of electors defected against a living candidate
During the electoral vote on Monday, seven electors defected, breaking with the results of the popular vote in their states. Three “faithless electors” voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and single votes were cast for Vermont Sen. and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Native American activist Faith Spotted Eagle. Just two Republican electors defected, while the other five voted against Hillary Clinton.
Normally, the Electoral College vote is a formality, and every elector votes according to the winner of their state’s popular vote. The last record for electors defecting against a living candidate was set in 1808 with six — although 63 Democratic electors in 1872 did not vote for their party’s nominee Horace Greeley because he died after the general election.
But Democrats started lobbying electors in recent weeks to defy the voters in an attempt to stop Donald Trump from assuming office. Hollywood stars filmed short civic-minded videos, and thousands of activists called, mailed letters, emailed, and outright harassed electors. Ultimately, only two Republican electors — both in Texas — defected while five Democrat electors did in an effort to rally around an alternative candidate.
Trump goes after Bill Clinton on Twitter
Donald Trump, who was officially elected by the Electoral College Monday, tweeted out some insults at former President Bill Clinton after he commented on the outcome of this year’s election.
Bill Clinton stated that I called him after the election. Wrong, he called me (with a very nice congratulations). He "doesn't know much" …
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2016
especially how to get people, even with an unlimited budget, out to vote in the vital swing states ( and more). They focused on wrong states
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2016
Clinton, a New York elector this year, cast a vote for his wife, the winner of the popular election in the state. Afterward, Clinton told reporters outside the Statehouse, according to Politico:
“I’ve never cast a vote I was prouder of …. She fought through everything, and she prevailed against it all. But, you know, then at the end, we had the Russians and the FBI deal. But she couldn’t prevail against that. She did everything else and still won by 2.8 million votes.”
In a previous interview with Westchester local newspaper the Bedford-Pound Ridge Record Review published in print Dec. 16, Clinton said Trump placed an oddly congenial call to him earlier that week. In his tweets, Trump contested it, saying Clinton had called him.
Clinton also said that Trump “doesn’t know much,” but “one thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”
Day 38 — Dec. 16
Trump’s Cabinet has more money than one-third of Americans combined
Trump has almost finished compiling his Cabinet picks, and the list doesn’t exactly reflect the populist theme of his campaign.
Thus far, all of Trump’s Cabinet nominees — including the elected vice president and appointed chief of staff — possess more money than a third of the 126 million American households combined, according to Quartz. With picks yet to be named for six positions, the 17 named nominees’ wealth totals well over $9.5 billion.
The four richest members of Trump’s Cabinet are:
- Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education: $5.1 billion in net worth
- Wilbur Ross Jr., Secretary of Commerce: $2.5 billion in net worth
- Linda McMahon, Small Business Administration: $1.16 billion in net worth
- Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: over $150 million in net worth
Some of these nominees’ business entanglements, while less extensive than the president-elect’s, could raise conflicts of interest.
As Quartz noted, matching the nominees’ combined wealth would take about 120,000 U.S. households with median net worths of $83,200. The current median household income is $55,775, according to the U.S. Census.
Day 37 — Dec. 15
Trump will sit through up to seven hours of deposition in feud with celebrity chef
A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump can be deposed in his $10 million contractual dispute against celebrity chef José Andrés. The questioning could last up to seven hours, the previously agreed-upon length.
Trump sued Andrés last year after the chef reneged on an agreement to open a restaurant in the real estate mogul-turned-president’s new luxury D.C. hotel. Andrés backed out in protest weeks after Trump declared his presidential candidacy and made comments many saw as denigrating toward undocumented immigrants, especially Mexicans.
“More than half of my team is Hispanic, as are many of our guests,” Andrés wrote in July 2015. “I believe that every human being deserves respect, regardless of immigration status.”
The judge dismissed arguments from Trump’s lawyers that the president-elect was “extremely busy handling matters of very significant public importance” and ruled the deposition could proceed in early January.
Notably, President Bill Clinton sat for a deposition in 1997 when Arkansas state employee Paula Jones accused him of sexual harassment. During the hearing, Clinton also lied about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which precipitated his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
Day 36 — Dec. 14
Trump may violate a government lease on his luxury D.C. hotel
Four prominent House Democrats released a letter Wednesday morning asserting that the Government Services Administration — which owns the Old Post Office building Donald Trump transformed into a luxury hotel in Washington, D.C. — told them last week that “Mr. Trump will be in breach of the lease agreement the moment he takes office on January 20, 2017.”
A GSA spokesperson disputed that characterization, however, and told VICE News the agency “can’t make a definitive statement at this time about what would constitute a breach of the agreement, and to do so now would be premature.”
The contested portion of the lease states that “no member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.”
House Democrats cite the last clause as a reason why Trump “must divest himself not only of managerial control but of all ownership interests as well,” although it’s unclear how he’ll do that without divesting from the Trump Organization entirely.
The GSA spokesperson said the agency hasn’t taken a position on how Trump could avoid violating the lease, however, and will wait to review the agreement until after he takes office.
Day 35 — Dec. 13
Trump expected to name Rick Perry as secretary of energy
Donald Trump will nominate former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy, sources close to the transition team told multiple news outlets Tuesday.
The choice is an ironic one, considering Perry’s infamous moment during a 2011 presidential debate when the then-candidate couldn’t remember the Department of Energy. While explaining his platform, Perry intended to name three agencies he would eliminate but could cite only two before ending with a fateful “oops.” He later clarified the third department would have been the Department of Energy. The moment was thought to effectively end his campaign.
Aside from his momentary lapse of memory, it’s not exactly clear what experience Perry would bring to the post. He has been a vocal supporter of cutting federal spending and called to eliminate the Department of Energy, along with others, as a means of accomplishing that. In addition to funding basic science research and energy regulations, the Department of Energy oversees and maintains the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Trump meets with Kanye
Donald Trump met with rapper and potential 2020 presidential candidate Kanye West at Trump Tower Tuesday morning. After their meeting — during which Trump said they talked about “life” — West and Trump appeared together in the Tower’s lobby and posed for the ravenous media. West declined to answer questions and said he just wanted to take the picture.
While the image of the two men was surreal, presidents often meet with celebrities in hopes of catching some of their popularity. Nixon famously met with Elvis, and West met with President Obama two years ago.
Day 34 — Dec. 12
Trump postpones a “major news conference” about his business interests until January
Donald Trump’s transition team confirmed to VICE News Monday evening that the president-elect may not resolve all of the legal issues surrounding his business empire before his inauguration.
Since his Nov. 8 election victory, Trump has faced harsh scrutiny for the many conflicts of interest his business would pose while he serves as president. In response, Trump announced he would hold a “major news conference” this Thursday to lay out how he would take himself “completely out of business operations,” but that’s been postponed.
The news conference was expected to clarify whether Trump would divest himself completely, as the Office of Government Ethics has encouraged, or if he would merely remove himself from day-to-day activities.
On Monday evening, a Trump transition official confirmed that the announcement would be delayed until January. Asked if it would be resolved before the Jan. 20 inauguration, the official said, “That’s the plan.”
“With so many iconic properties and successful entities, moving the announcement to January ensures the legal team has ample time to ensure the proper protocols are put in place,” the official added.
Without a clear separation from his business interests, the concern many have is that Trump could leverage the power of the presidency to enrich himself and his children, who help run his businesses. In addition to opening up himself and his administration to serious ethical questions, doing so could potentially violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits anyone holding office from receiving compensation “from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
John Bolton said the CIA’s latest report on Russia is a “false flag”
John Bolton is questioning the new CIA report that states Russia intervened in the U.S. election for the purpose of helping Donald Trump win. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who’s reportedly under consideration for a role in the State Department, called the assessment a “false flag.”
“It is not at all clear to me, just viewing this from the outside, that this hacking into the [Democratic National Convention] and [Republican National Convention] computers was not a false flag,” Bolton said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “So the question has to be asked: ‘Why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server, but their dumb intelligence service against the election?’”
A false flag is a covert operation carried out by one group or nation intending to deceive the public to believe another source committed the act.
When host Eric Shawn pressed Bolton on his apparent claims that the U.S. orchestrated the hack itself, Bolton responded: “We just don’t know.”
The CIA has known Russia hacked into DNC emails, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, since well before the election, but the report released Friday reflects a consensus among officials, based on an analysis of overwhelming circumstantial evidence, that Russia was trying to tip the election to Trump.
It’s unclear why the CIA did not release the information before the election, although several officials told the New York Times that President Obama received an informal assessment in his intelligence briefings.
China blasts Trump for “One China” comments, calls him “as ignorant as a child”
Donald Trump wants China to know that everything is negotiable, including the “One China” policy, the principle that the U.S. not recognize Taiwan as an independent democracy but a breakaway province of China.
The agreement has allowed the U.S. and China to cooperate since 1979, and China is making it clear that if Trump plans to abandon it, relations between the two countries are about to get chilly.
“In the field of diplomacy, he is as ignorant as a child,” China’s state-run Global Times wrote. And a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told CNN that without the policy, “bilateral cooperation in major fields would be out of the question.”
Day 33 — Dec. 11
Trump doesn’t believe a CIA report that Russia hacked the U.S. election
Donald Trump continues to shrug off a CIA report that Russia meddled in the 2016 election with the specific goal of helping him win.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
A bipartisan group of high-profile lawmakers, including Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Schumer, however, released a joint statement Sunday morning stating that Russian interference in the U.S. election should “alarm every American.”
Trump is receiving one intelligence briefing per week
At first refusing State Department briefings entirely, President-elect Donald Trump is now receiving one intelligence briefing per week, according to intelligence officials. For comparison, President Obama attended about half of his daily briefings and read the rest during his presidency.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump told host Chris Wallace that he gets them when he needs them.
“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years — could be eight years,” Trump said.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence, on the other hand, has received one almost every day since Election Day (Nov. 8), the Washington Post reported as of the end of November.
Day 31 — Dec. 9
Trump plans to use his “spare time” on a reality TV show
When “The Apprentice” returns to NBC on Jan. 2 for its 14th season, President-elect Donald Trump will receive an executive producer credit, a spokeswoman for the creator of the reality-TV show told the New York Times Thursday.
Previously Trump has held as much as a 50 percent stake in the show, but top adviser Kellyanne Conway said in an interview with CNN’s “New Day” Friday that it’s “doubtful” he will collect a salary from the role. She added the president-elect is still consulting with ethics experts about staying on the show.
After arguing that no one seemed too concerned about President Obama’s time on the golf course, Conway said, “I mean, presidents have a right to do things in their spare time or leisure time. I mean, nobody objects to that.”
The move, however, could raise more questions about Trump’s already mounting number of conflicts of interest.
David Simon, creator and producer of “The Wire” and no fan of Trump, pointed out on Twitter Friday that Trump’s involvement, by way of royalties, may not mean much.
@AoDespair …in TV, there's no reason he shouldn't receive his regular royalty for every episode of a show he helped create by contract….
— David Simon (@AoDespair) December 9, 2016
@ranjitdighe …bear in mind that a producing credit on a show can and does continue when active involvement no longer does. It means 0.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) December 9, 2016
Three members of Trump’s brain trust — as well as Trump himself — have been accused of assault
Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor —Andrew Puzder, CEO of the company that owns the fast-food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. — was accused of domestic abuse by his first wife in the 1980s.
Two other men Trump has surrounded himself with — as well as the president-elect himself — have faced similar allegations.
Although the case was later dropped, Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery in 2001 after his then-wife accused him of grabbing her neck and wrist and smashing the phone when she tried to call the police after the two argued about grocery money. The police report reflected an officer seeing red marks on her neck and wrist.
Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was also arrested in Florida and charged with misdemeanor simple battery of a female reporter, Michelle Fields. Three days after the alleged incident at a campaign press conference, Fields reported to police that when she went to ask Trump a question, she felt herself tugged backward. An officer wrote in the report that her arm showed finger-shaped bruising from a “grabbing type injury,” according to CNN.
Trump faces serious accusations himself in court on Dec. 16. An anonymous woman is alleging in a civil suit that the president-elect raped her at a sex party thrown by billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 1994, when she was just 13 years old. The woman alleges she was also raped by Epstein, a registered sex offender.
Trump would rather be “man of the year”
At a rally in Louisiana Trump surveyed the crowd on the headline for his recent TIME magazine cover, which declared him “Person of the Year.”
Trump devoted more than a minute of his speech to the epithet and said the magazine had gone “very politically correct” when it changed to “Person of the Year” from “Man of the Year” in 1999.
All but three U.S. presidents have been named to the list since it began in 1927. And since the United States has never elected a woman president, all of them — as Trump suggests — have been men of the year.
Day 30 — Dec. 8
Trump used Twitter to insult a union boss who criticized him
Donald Trump took to his preferred public platform, Twitter, Wednesday night to insult Indianapolis’ United Steelworkers Local 1999 and its president, Chuck Jones.
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
Local 1999 represents the Carrier Corp. A deal negotiated by Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (still governor of Indiana) saved Carrier’s parent company, United Manufacturing, from outsourcing about 1,000 jobs (although Jones claims the actual number is more like 750) in exchange for $7 million in tax incentives.
Jones has been critical of the deal, which he calls a “bargaining chip,” leading to a contentious, albeit peripheral, relationship with Trump. He previously told The Washington Post that Trump has “lied his ass off” about the deal.
Jones told the Indianapolis Star that Trump’s latest comments, among the threats he’s receiving, means the union leader is doing his job.
Trump’s web of LLCs makes his conflicts of interest nearly impossible to track
Donald Trump owns his $7 million private helicopter — with four degrees of separation. In reality, Trump’s revocable trust owns 99 percent of a limited liability corporation that owns 99 percent of another LLC that owns a Scottish LLC that owns another Scottish company that owns the helicopter, the Wall Street Journal found.
In fact, Trump obscures at least $304 million of the revenue he reported from his private assets, including real estate, in 96 different LLCs, according to the Journal. The web of LLCs makes his wealth and business interests nearly impossible to track and, therefore, his conflicts of interests are difficult to foresee.
None of the LLCs, many held in Delaware, often considered a U.S. tax haven, regularly release audited financial information, according to the Journal.
Day 29 — Dec. 7
Trump’s now infamous call with Taiwan was all thanks to Bob Dole
Far from an impromptu affair, Donald Trump’s unprecedented phone call with Taiwan’s president Friday — which has since disrupted nearly 40 years of diplomatic norms with China — has more than a little bit of history.
Two-time Republican presidential candidate and one-time Viagra pitchman Bob Dole suddenly surfaced as an unexpected player in President-elect Trump’s abnormal foreign policy forays of late. The New York Times reported the former senator spent six months machinating relations with Taiwan that eventually led to Trump’s call.
For their efforts, Dole and his lobbying firm, Alston & Bir, received $20,000 a month from the Taiwanese government. Throughout his campaign, Trump vowed to stamp out government corruption and took a tough stance on the lobbying industry’s influence on U.S. foreign affairs,
Trump picks another military official to fill a post normally headed by a civilian
Donald Trump has reportedly picked retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security, making him the third high-ranking military officer in the Trump administration to fill a post normally held by a civilian.
Day 28 — Dec. 6
Texas Republican becomes eighth elector to defect against Trump
Another “faithless” elector announced he wouldn’t cast his electoral vote on Dec. 19 for Donald Trump. This time, it’s a Republican — and a 9/11 first-responder to boot — who joins the seven others.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Christopher Suprun of Dallas, a Texas elector who works as a paramedic, wrote that Trump “shows daily he is not qualified for office.”
“Five years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again,” he ended the piece.
Trump needs at least 270 electoral votes to become president, and America voted to hand him 306 — including those from Wisconsin and Michigan now subject to a recount. To overturn Trump’s election, at least 37 electors would have to vote differently than their states.
Prominent Harvard law professor Larry Lessig announced a new effort Monday which he calls the “The Electors Trust” that will counsel electors who wish to defect and potentially help them coordinate.
“It makes no sense to be elector number five who comes out against Trump. But it might make sense to be elector number 38,” Lessig told Politico.
Day 27 — Dec. 5
Trump taps retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson for housing secretary
Donald Trump announced Sunday that retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who ran against the president-elect in the unwieldy Republican primary, has formally accepted the position of secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The role oversees policy that influences the lives of roughly 2.2 million Americans who rely on public housing.
Carson will certainly be looking at the problem with fresh eyes. Unlike most Housing and Urban Development secretaries, who tend to come from the ranks of mayors, governors, or other public officials who have dealt with urban issues, affordable housing, and economic development, Carson is a celebrated neurosurgeon.
Only recently, when addressing rumors of his possible inclusion in Trump’s cabinet, Carson said he would be a “fish out of water” as a federal bureaucrat.
Here’s what some of his predecessors were up to before they came to HUD:
Jack Kemp (R), Feb. 1989 – Jan. 1993
Kemp previously served nine terms as a congressman in western New York’s 31st congressional district, from 1971 to 1989. He ran for president in 1988 and vice president in 1996.
Henry Cisneros (D), Jan. 1993 – Jan. 1997
Cisneros served as mayor of San Antonio, Texas from 1981 to 1989. Before he was elected mayor, he served two terms on the San Antonio city council.
Andrew Cuomo (D), Jan. 1997 – Jan. 2001
Cuomo served as assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1993 to 1997 after working as an assistant district attorney in New York City and head of the New York City Commission on the Homeless.
Mel Martinez (R), Jan. 2001 – Dec. 2003
Martinez was elected chairman of Orange County Florida in 1998 (during his tenure, the position was relabeled “mayor”) and served until 2000. He also served as chairman of the Orlando Housing Authority.
Alphonso Jackson (R), March 2004 – April 2008
Jackson worked as executive director of the St. Louis Housing Authority and directed the Department of Public and Assisted Housing for Washington, D.C. In 1989, he took over the Housing Authority of the City of Dallas as president and CEO.
Shaun Donovan (D), Jan. 2009 – June 2014
Donovan served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. As a visiting scholar at New York University, he conducted research on preserving federally assisted housing.
Julian Castro (D), July 2014 – Jan. 2017
Castro was elected to the San Antonio city council in 2001 and later served five years as the city’s mayor before being appointed secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump tests U.S.-China relations via Twitter
Donald Trump on Sunday night continued to test nearly 40 years of staid U.S. foreign policy relations with China. Instead of a casual phone call — the president-elect’s preferred way of communicating with foreign leaders lately — Trump used his favorite public medium, Twitter, to make provocative comments about China.
Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
Trump’s tweets came less than 24 hours after China lodged diplomatic protests in response to the president-elect’s surprise phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday. Beijing considers Taiwan a rogue province that regularly challenges its “one China” policy.
The U.S. formally broke off official diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979.
Day 24 — Dec. 2
UPDATE: Trump is still casually talking with world leaders
On Friday, President-elect Trump took a phone call with Taiwan president Tsai Ying-wen, the Financial Times reported, stunning observers as the U.S. has had no official diplomatic relationship with Taiwan since it severed ties in 1979.
U.S. relations with Taiwan have followed the “one China” policy that was introduced as part of President Richard Nixon’s historic pivot to China in 1972. The policy stipulates that there is one China, of which Taiwan is a province.
Regardless of its agenda or lack thereof, the call is almost certain to enrage China and further complicate already tense relations between the two world superpowers.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, responded to news of the call Friday evening: “There is no change to our longstanding policy on cross-Strait issues. We remain firmly committed to our ‘one China’ policy based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-Strait relations.”
Trump’s casual phone calls are freaking diplomats out
Trump’s unfiltered and candid way of talking was a large reason why people voted for him. Now that he’s president-elect, Trump is adopting that same style when making calls to world leaders — and the casual chit-chat is worrying some diplomats, the New York Times reported.
- When Trump called British Prime Minister Theresa May two days after he won the election he told her, “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know.” The British leader is usually the first or second person the U.S. president-elect calls. May was 10th on Trump’s list, according to the Times.
- Trump casually told Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaf Sharif that he was “a terrific guy” and that Trump would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people,” according to a summary of the call released by the Pakistani government.
- Trump’s call to the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull only took place after world-famous golfer Greg Norman gave Trump’s cell phone number to the Australian leader, CNN reported.
Some conversations are more concerning than others.
On Friday morning, the president-elect invited the controversial, tough-talking Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House for a visit next year during their brief, seven-minute call. One of Duterte’s aides described the conversation as “very engaging” and “animated,” Reuters reported.
The two world leaders have often been compared to one another for their blunt rhetoric and populist streak. Yet Duterte has been widely criticized for his bloody crackdown on drugs, which has regularly relied on extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate arrests and claimed more than 3,000 lives since he took office. Over the summer, Duterte directed his ire at local journalists, whom he said were not exempt from his hit list if he deemed them “corrupt.”
Calls from the U.S. president-elect to world leaders usually follow a careful script assembled by the State Department. Trump, of course, isn’t known for following talking points.
“By taking such a cavalier attitude to these calls, he’s encouraging people not to take him seriously,” Daniel F. Feldman, a former State Department representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the New York Times. “He’s made himself not only a bull in a china shop, but a bull in a nuclear china shop.”
Day 23 — Dec. 1
Another “faithless” elector comes forward as Clinton’s popular vote margin widens
Among the more galling aspects of this election for Democrats is the margin by which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
Her lead hit 2,526,094 Thursday and will no doubt expand once all of California’s ballots are counted. As the New York Times noted, at 1.9 percentage points, it’s a bigger margin than 10 other presidents had, and it approaches the historic margin of the Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford election in 1976.
Meanwhile, a seventh member of the 538-member Electoral College has declared herself “faithless.” Levi Guerra, a 19-year-old Democrat elector from Vancouver, Washington, said she’ll vote for an alternative Republican when the group meets for the official vote on Dec. 19. “I promised those who elected me that I would do everything I could to keep Donald Trump out of office,” she told The Guardian.
New York City officials are worried about spending $1 million a day protecting Trump
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called protecting president-elect Donald Trump “unsustainable” due to the high cost for the city: $1 million per day, DNA Info reported.
The Secret Service handles the majority of Trump’s protection, but the New York City Police Department is required to assist when Trump is in the city. Right now, the main challenge is securing Trump Tower, a public building and Trump’s residence in Manhattan, where he has stayed almost every day since the election.
While Trump confirmed he’ll move to the White House after his inauguration, which would ease the burden on the city, a source also told The New York Post that future first lady Melania Trump and the Trumps’ 10-year-old son, Barron, who also receive protection, won’t be leaving New York so that Barron can stay in his current school. Trump will likely visit the city often to see his wife and son.
Mark-Viverito’s concern comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio already asked the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, about reimbursement.
VICE News will file regular updates on just how not normal Trump’s presidency is. Check back for more and go here for November’s updates.
Olivia Becker, Alex Thompson, Tess Owen, Christina Sterbenz, Nick Miriello, Anne Torpey, and Shawna Thomas contributed to this report.