Trump’s lasting accomplishments


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 19th of January, 2021.

You’re listening to World Radio and we are so glad to have you along today. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. First up: a review of the Trump administration.

Tomorrow, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to President-elect Joe Biden, making him the 46th President of the United States.

REICHARD: Presidents come and go, but sometimes the changes they make stick around. So before President Trump leaves office tomorrow, WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reviews some of his administration’s most enduring achievements.

ROBERTS: Please, raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: At his inauguration four years ago, President Trump promised to shake up the status quo—both at home and abroad. 

TRUMP: We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first — America first. 

That philosophy largely shaped the president’s approach to foreign policy and trade. 

President Trump questioned international trade agreements. He withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade deal between America and 11 other nations. He said it sacrificed American jobs and sovereignty. 

In 2018, he also announced he would withdraw the country from the North American Free Trade Agreement. It had governed trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada for more than two decades.

Last January, President Trump signed a rebooted agreement. 

TRUMP: And today we are finally ending the NAFTA nightmare and signing into law the brand new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

The president also took on China and what he called its unfair international trade practices, including theft of intellectual property and state subsidies for competing businesses. 

In July 2018, President Trump imposed sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports.That started an ongoing tariff war. 

Colin Dueck is a foreign and defense policy researcher at the American Enterprise Institute. He predicts the “America first” trade approach will stick.

DUECK: I don’t think you’re going to have a move back to, you know, big, multilateral free trade deals. So there’s been a kind of protectionist shift right across the board. 

Elisabeth Braw also studies foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute. 

She says the Trump Administration also successfully pressured its allies to drop 5G infrastructure contracts with Huawei—a Chinese telecoms company. 

Braw says that change will protect many nations from potential Chinese espionage. 

BRAW: Once you put infrastructure into place, you don’t change it that quickly. So this is something that will look likely to last for a very long time or at least until we get 6G.

On the foreign policy front, President Trump also called into question agreements with international allies. He withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, an international agreement on climate change. 

He left the Iranian Nuclear Deal and reimposed stringent sanctions on Tehran. 

Jim Phillips is a Middle East scholar at the Heritage Foundation. He says those sanctions have weakened Iran to the advantage of peace in the region.

PHILLIPS: Well, I think by weakening Iran, the U.S. has given peace a chance because Iran supports not only Hezbollah, but Islamic extremist Palestinian groups, such as Hamas, Palestinian islamic jihad.

And he called on European nations to pay their fair share for NATO defense. The United States was spending 3.3 percent of its GDP on NATO while countries like Germany spent less than half that. 

Now, eight other NATO countries have raised their defense spending to 2 percent or more of their GDP. 

AEI’s Colin Dueck says President Trump reshuffled the post-World War Two world order. 

DUECK: He sort of shocked Europeans into realizing that they cannot necessarily count on the U.S. to just continue to go on providing the exact same level of support that it has for generations.

President Trump also broke with decades of U.S. policy and recognized the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

And this fall, the Trump administration helped broker peace deals between Israel and several majority-Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Heritage’s Jim Phillips says those agreements for normalized relations will be long-lasting. 

PHILLIPS: I think the Trump administration by going to the outer circle, to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco and Sudan helped advance Arab-Israeli peace without the participation of the Palestinians who still cling to their maximal demands. 

At home, President Trump left his most lasting marks on the judiciary. During his time in office, he nominated, and the Republican controlled-Senate confirmed, three Supreme Court Justices: Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

He also appointed more than 200 federal judges. 

Tom Jipping is a judicial scholar at the Heritage Foundation. He says these appointments could reshape how the judiciary behaves. 

JIPPING: President Trump has consistently appointed judges who are in the more traditional mold, whose approach to judging is more modest, who don’t believe that they can substitute their own views for what the constitution or statutes ought to mean. That’s been very consistent. 

Other notable domestic policies include establishing a new branch of the military, the Space Force. 

And in 2017, President Trump and a Republican led Congress passed a tax reform bill. A year later, the president signed the First Step Act, a prison reform bill that shortened mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

And just this month, the Trump Administration completed nearly 500 miles of new wall construction along the southern border. 

Joe Biden plans to undo many of the Trump administration’s policies within his first 100 days in office. But AEI’s Colin Dueck says there may not be as many reversals as people imagine, especially on the international stage.

DUECK: There’s a surprising number of areas where I think you’re going to see lasting effects. For all of the fury of the last election campaign, I think you’re gonna see some continuity.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.


(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) President Donald Trump speaks near a section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Alamo, Texas. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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