WASHINGTON (AP) — The sequel to President Donald Trump’s first year in office opens Sunday with the lead player hamstrung by a government shutdown and hunkering down amid investigations, crises and political unease.
After achieving 365 days in the Oval Office on Saturday, Trump has found that his drive to deliver quickly on campaign promises has yielded to the sobering reality of governing — and the prospect of an electoral rebuke in November. Administration aides, outside allies and Republicans on Capitol Hill see the Trump White House continuing to face many of the same challenges it wrestled with last year, with fresh plot twists to boot.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election keeps moving ever closer to the Oval Office. The government shutdown highlights the legislative challenges that persist even with Republicans controlling the White House and both the House and Senate, and makes clear the administration’s need to more carefully target its political capital on specific agenda items. And the fall elections are shaping up as a referendum on Trump’s tenure.
“In the second year, you no longer are one-dimensional,” said Ari Fleischer, press secretary when George W. Bush was president. “There’s an inevitable pivot that every administration makes, and that is to recognize that it’s no longer about future events and promises, it’s now about defending and promoting last year’s accomplishments.”
No administration comes into office fully ready for the task of leading the government, and Trump’s team has taken disruption to a new extreme. Republicans outside the White House are now hoping the Trump administration will be more politically savvy. But the 71-year old president has proved set in his ways, trusting his instincts over the advice of his aides, and there is no reason to expect that won’t continue.
Yet Trump has been changed by the experiences of the past year, according to aides and outside advisers, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal dynamics. The president has grown more fearful of leaks. His inner circle of friends is smaller, most recently with the banishment of former chief strategist Steve Bannon. This smaller group of informal advisers has seen Trump favor those who tell him what he likes to hear, according to several people who talk to him regularly. And that, combined with chief of staff John Kelly’s determination not to manage the president, is furthering Trump’s impulsive streak.