The number of gaffes, dubious choices, and falsehoods issuing from the president in 2017 was so high that you may have forgotten some of the less notorious ones.
1. Where Does He Find These People?
The president’s first national-security adviser was a paid agent of the Turkish government; his second communications director raised more awareness about auto-fellatio than about the Republican agenda. Trump’s hires in lower-profile positions have been equally interesting:
David Friedman, ambassador to Israel: Trump’s former bankruptcy lawyer, Friedman believes that Barack Obama is anti-Semitic; that Israel has a legal right to annex the occupied West Bank; that liberal American Jews who disagree with him are “far worse than kapos,” i.e., Jews who carried out Nazi orders during the Holocaust.
The Reverend Jamie Johnson, director of community outreach, Department of Homeland Security: To work with skeptical faith-based communities, Trump picked Johnson, a conservative talk-radio host who’d argued that “Islam is not our friend” and that “America’s black community” had “turned America’s major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use, and sexual promiscuity.” (Johnson resigned in November.)
Michael Anton, senior security adviser: In an essay titled “The Flight 93 Election,” Anton compared conservatives in the 2016 race to the passengers of Flight 93 on 9/11: They could either “charge the cockpit” or “die.” His reasoning? “The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners” crowding out Republicans.
Lynne Patton, head of Housing and Urban Development for New York and New Jersey: Patton had no experience in government or public housing, but she was an event planner for the Trumps and apparently did a bang-up job on Eric’s 2014 wedding.
Frank Wuco, senior Homeland Security adviser: A former naval-intelligence officer turned right-wing radio host, Wuco has claimed that ex-AG Eric Holder had been a Black Panther and ex–CIA director John Brennan is a secret Muslim.
Steve King, ambassador to the Czech Republic: As a security guard for Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President, King was accused of keeping Martha Mitchell, wife of then–AG John Mitchell, in a hotel room — so she wouldn’t talk to the press about Watergate — and holding her down while she was injected with a sedative.
2. The New Blacklist
There’s scant evidence that the undocumented commit more crimes than any other group — don’t tell Trump.
One of Trump’s early executive orders required the Department of Homeland Security to assemble a weekly list of crimes (allegedly) perpetrated by undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities. DHS then opened the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office — an entire bureau dedicated to the supposed scourge. (To quickly grasp these actions’ discriminatory nature, imagine a weekly government list of “robberies committed by Jews” or, say, “sexual assaults by real-estate moguls.”)
3. Do As I Tweet, Not As I Do
Trump’s views on proper presidential conduct have evolved since the Obama years.
Before moving into the Oval Office, Trump tweeted his outrage about Barack Obama’s “excessive” golfing (27 times). As president, Trump has visited a golf resort roughly one out of every four days.
Trump found it scandalous that taxpayers were forced to finance Obama’s travels and pledged that as president he wouldn’t take vacations “because there’s so much work to be done.” In his first 26 weeks in office, Trump left the White House for the weekend 21 times. His family’s travel expenses are on pace to substantially exceed the Obamas’ (and Trump pockets a chunk of that change by channeling it into his own properties).
In 2013, Trump tweeted that bombing the Assad regime for its apparent chemical-weapons attack would be “bad,” but if Obama was set on it, it’d be a “big mistake” not to first get congressional approval. Obama didn’t, in the end, order a strike. In April 2017, Trump ordered a strike against Syria without congressional approval.
On executive orders
In 2012, Trump castigated Obama’s “major power grabs.” In April 2017, the White House boasted to the AP that Trump would sign 32 executive orders in his first 100 days, “the most of any president … since World War II.”
4. Trump’s Wildest Unvetted Policy Proposals
America should …
1. Form a joint cybersecurity task force with the nation (Russia) that had just used cyberattacks to influence the U.S. election.
2. Give the president power to “challenge” the broadcast license of any news network that he deems irresponsible.
3. Make “the wall” see-through so immigration agents don’t get crushed: “When they throw the large sacks of drugs over … you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over.” (Drugs really are, occasionally, catapulted into the U.S. But there have been no reports of agents getting beaned.)
4. Crush its own health-care system: Trump repeatedly called on Republican lawmakers to spur a crisis in the individual insurance market — because, after all, the public would blame Democrats for it.
5. Forcibly expropriate Iraq’s oil: “If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place,” Trump remarked to a CIA audience. “So we should have kept the oil. But, okay, maybe we’ll have another chance.”
6. Ban transgender Americans from the military: The glacial pace of the president’s multipart policy tweets brought panic to the Pentagon last July: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … ,” Trump wrote. He did not complete his thought for nine minutes — and America’s top military officials scrambled to ascertain whether the president was about to declare war on North Korea. To their relief, he was merely declaring thousands of U.S. troops unfit for service while falsely suggesting that “generals” told him to.
5. His Highness
Trump has called himself a “king,” and Marla Maples reportedly believes her ex was a royal in a former life, but the presidency’s ceremonial duties … challenge him.
At Halloween: Handing out candy in the Oval Office, the president told the pint-size trick-or-treaters, “You have no weight problems, that’s the good news, right?”
Commemorating African-American History Month: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
Welcoming Representative Steve Scalise back to Capitol Hill, after a shooting left him hospitalized for months: “Hell of a way to lose weight!”
Signing the Book of Remembrance at Israel’s Holocaust memorial: “It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!”
Addressing the Boy Scout jamboree: Following a meandering rant about real-estate developer William Levitt, Trump informed the children that Levitt once had a “big yacht” where he engaged in “interesting” activities. “I won’t go anymore than that because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did,” the president continued. “Should I tell you? Should I tell you?”
Honoring Native American veterans — the famed “Code Talkers”: “You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”
Forgetting Ramadan: For the first time in nearly two decades, the White House didn’t hold a celebration for the Islamic holy month.
6. Alienation of Affection, in Four Steps
The alliance between the U.S. and Britain is so deeply rooted it’s commonly known as “the special relationship” — or at least it was.
Step 1: After filling his administration with racist incompetents whose main qualification was loyalty to Donald Trump, the president-elect chose to publicly pressure Prime Minister Theresa May to appoint the far-right Nigel Farage as U.K. ambassador to the U.S. The British government politely explained the job was already taken; Farage became a Fox News commentator instead.
Step 2: Require the press secretary to discredit Britain’s intelligence service: In March, Trump announced that Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones during the campaign. The new president later revealed that this charge was based on news reports … that he’d misread. But it was still probably true! he insisted. So, when a Fox host “reported” that Obama had enlisted British intelligence agency GCHQ to spy on Trump, Sean Spicer dutifully shared the info. GCHQ was not amused.
Step 3: Accuse London’s first Muslim mayor of indifference to terrorism hours after last summer’s killings on London Bridge. That morning, Mayor Sadiq Khan told his constituents not to be “alarmed” if they noticed an “increased police presence,” as it was merely precautionary. Trump’s twisted translation? “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed.’ ”
Step 4: The closer: In late November, the president decided to push out three videos from Britain First, an anti-Muslim hate group, with titles including “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Muslim Migrant Beats Up Dutch Boy on Crutches!” (The “Muslim migrant” was actually just another Dutch boy.) After May’s office scolded him, Trump wrote to a Twitter account belonging to a different Theresa May, “Theresa, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”
Number of days Trump spent as president before tweeting the phrase “Crooked Hillary” (despite leading a standing ovation for her and Bill at his inauguration): 131
Number of times President Trump has tweeted “fake” (news, media, MSM, dossier, tears …): 189
Number of times Trump has tweeted “fail,” “failed,” or “failing” about Obama since replacing him in the White House: 132
*This article appears in the January 8, 2018, issue of New York Magazine.