Trump's Got 99 Problems After 100 Days
Photo illustrations by Lia Kantrowitz
Politics

Trump's Got 99 Problems After 100 Days

Actually he has more than that, but there are 99 in this list.
Lia Kantrowitz
illustrated by Lia Kantrowitz
April 28, 2017, 7:46pm

Donald Trump said a lot of outrageous things over the past two years, but his most obviously fake lines were about how simple running the country would be. Among other things, he said he'd label China a currency manipulator on day one and promised that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act would be "so easy." Maybe he believed these things at the time when he said them; if he did, he has since changed his mind. "After listening for ten minutes, I realized it's not so easy," Trump said of a conversation he had with Chinese president Xi Jinping about North Korea. (He subsequently reversed himself on the whole currency manipulation thing.) "Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated," Trump declared just before his healthcare bill failed to even get out of the House.

Advertisement

As Trump surely realizes by now, 99 days into the presidency, nothing is easy and everything is complicated once you're in the White House. Every crisis demands a response from you. Every problem in the country is your problem, and if an attempt at a solution fails, that's your failure. Every foreign leader wants something from you. So do members of Congress, lobbyists, and your own staff. Every move you make—every vacation, every church visit, the outfits your spouse wears—are scrutinized by a Media Establishment that exists to gin up controversy. The choices you make are literally a matter of life and death. Sometimes you will make a mistake. Sometimes there are no good options. No matter what you do, it's more than likely half the country will think you're doing a bad job. It takes a special kind of narcissist to want that power; it takes an even more special kind of talent to wield it successfully.

It's too soon to judge Trump's presidency as a success or a failure. But it's as good a time as any to survey the challenges facing him. Some of the 99 problems listed below are issues that came with the job, others have developed during his brief tenure through no fault of Trump's, and still others are the result of the administration's elevation of a variety of fringe figures, oddballs, and Trump family members who have little to no experience in government. At least a few of these problems are also opportunities for the Trump administration to demonstrate its competence, and some of them are things he doesn't seem too concerned with at the moment—and others seem insurmountable. And by the time you read this, there will probably be at least one new one.


1. Trump doesn't have any relevant experience. Having never held an elected office or served in the military, the president has been learning on the job a lot—which explains a lot of the below issues.

2. A lot of government positions are unfilled. Out of 556 keyjobs requiring Senate approval, only 25 have been confirmed, according to the Washington Post. Some of that delay can be blamed on the Senate, but in a whopping 468 cases, no one has even been nominated—likely a product of an inefficient and chaotic process on the part of White House officials.

Advertisement

3. Some Trump appointees have massive conflicts of interestDespite promises to "drain the swamp," Trump has hired many former lobbyists and affiliated lawyer types to fill posts in agencies that they spent time influencing. "In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration's own ethics rules," the New York Times reported this month. "But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules."

4. Trump seems incapable of hiring anyone who is critical of him.The president's predilection for hiring people who didn't badmouth him during the campaign is so well known one right-wing wonk who wanted a State Department gig got Arab News to delete columns he had written that attacked Trump. Given how many Never Trump conservatives there were before Election Day, this unofficial policy makes hiring awfully hard.

5. Sebastian Gorka. The deputy assistant to the president may not have much official power, but he's been getting a lot of press thanks to his ties to far-right groups in his native Hungary and his questionable credentials in counterterrorism, his supposed specialty. (He reportedly doesn't even have a security clearance.) This is the sort of person you end up hiring when you only want loyalists.

6. Sean Spicer. The White House press secretary habitually gets things wrong and misstates the administration's own positions.

Advertisement

7. Even ambassadors haven't been appointed. The granting of plum diplomatic assignments to top donors is one of the more routine—if odious—traditions in DC, but even here Trump has been dropping the ball. The administration has been dragging its feet when it comes to vetting potential ambassadors, and training sessions recently had to be delayed until May because there weren't enough new ambassadors to train.

8. The White House is at war with itself. The early days of the Trump administration have been defined by squabbling, in particular a long-running fight between White House adviser Steve Bannon and fellow adviser Jared Kushner, who happens to be Trump's son-in-law. More broadly, there's conflict between right-wing nationalists like Bannon and Kushner's crew of slightly less angry and ideological New Yorkers.

9. The constant leaking. Not surprisingly, this divided White House is prone to self-serving leaks as the factions attempt to make each other look bad. That doesn't make it an easy place to work, and evenly supposedly confidential meetings are quickly made public.

10. The paranoia. Those leaks in turn have led to a well-documented atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. "People are scared," is how one senior White House aide put it while talking (a.k.a. leaking) to Politico.

11. Jared Kushner, despite a history of incompetence, has too many jobs. As Kushner's star has risen, he's been tasked with Mideast peace, solving the opioid crisis, making the federal government more efficient, and assisting with diplomacy involving China and Mexico, among other jobs. Maybe the 36-year-old real estate scion is super brilliant—he's probably not—but no one is that brilliant.

Advertisement

12. Trump himself doesn't really seem to have policies. "Trump's critics and supporters alike are equally flummoxed about what this president stands for," is how a recent Politico piece put it. His foreign policy flip-flops on everything from China to NATO are evidence of that, as is his failure to understand what was happening in the debate over the American Health Care Act. That makes him vulnerable to being pushed or pulled in various directions by the mess of advisers he's hired.

13. Trump watches too much cable news—and is influenced by it. The president's TV news addiction is at this point sort of a joke, but his constant consumption of cable (especially FOX News) may also be exerting a powerful pull on him. Reportedly, it was the images of children injured or killed in a chemical weapons attack on Syrians that led Trump to order a missile strike against the Assad regime. Whatever you think of Syria, military intervention on the basis of whatever crisis has captured the media's capricious eye is likely not the best policy.

An example of the "Mother of All Bombs," a huge explosive dropped by the US in Afghanistan

14. The Syrian Civil War. A sprawling, long-running conflict that has captured the world's eye and resulted in a refugee crisis, this was always going to be one of the nastier challenges facing Barack Obama's successor.

15. Trump hasn't made his policy on Syria clear. … but Trump has so far failed to define what exactly he wants to do in Syria beyond defeat ISIS. Is removing Syrian President Bashar al Assad from power a priority? Is that missile strike going to be a one-off? Congress wants answers; so do a lot of other people.

Advertisement

16. Airstrikes against ISIS have reportedly led to more civilian casualties. It's not clear whether this is a result of changing policies or simply shifting conditions in the long-running campaign against ISIS, but a monitoring group says that the US has been bombing Iraq and Syria more aggressively than ever under Trump, resulting in more civilian deaths.

17. The first counterterrorism raid under Trump was a total failure. A January operation in Yemen ended with a lot of dead civilians and a dead Navy SEAL and didn't produce any intelligence worth having. What's more, it led to Yemen's government revoking permission for the US to conduct similar operations in the future.

18. By the way, Yemen is still in crisis. A civil war in the country has resulted in widespread starvation, and atrocities have been committed by Saudi Arabia—which is using US weapons to attack the rebels.

19. So is South Sudan. The African country is still suffering from war and famine, a situation that looks unlikely to change anytime soon. Trump's proposed budget cuts would likely limit aid to the country.

20. Famine is widespread in many other countries. Yemen and South Sudan aren't the only countries where millions are starving to death. In those two nations and two more (Nigeria and Somalia), 20 million people are starving or in danger of doing so.

21. The Philippines is still engaging in a brutal crackdown on drugs. Almost 9,000 drug dealers and users have been killed, many without a trial, under the brutal anti-drug government of President Rodrigo Duterte, a populist who was elected in 2016 after campaigning on a stark law-and-order platform. It's concerned many international observers, but Trump allegedly praised Duterte as recently as December.

Advertisement

22. Tensions with Iran are still high. This week, an encounter between an American ship and an Iranian one resulted in the US vessel firing a warning flare.

23. Egypt is still abusing human rights. Trump was able to negotiate the release of an Egyptian American aid worker who had been in Egyptian prison for three years. (Which is good!) Still, the broader question of Egypt's abysmal record on human rights remains. The government of Abdel Fattah al Sisi engages in "torture, enforced disappearances and likely extrajudicial executions," according to Human Rights Watch.

24. … And so is Saudi Arabia. Like Egypt, the US ally has a record of habitual brutality, not only in Yemen but also against dissidents on its own soil.

25. Israel and Palestine are no closer to peace. Former secretary of state John Kerry's effort to finally work out a deal between the two sides fell apart during Obama's second term. The only thing Trump has done on this front so far is to suddenly withdraw American support for a two-state solution in public—a position that was later reportedly reversed, sorta.

26. North Korea. The hermit kingdom is continuing its aggressive posturing and still has nukes.

27. South China Sea tensions. Meanwhile, China has continued to build man-made islands in a disputed body of water, leading to yet another source of potential conflict.

28. China is making trade deals with would-be TPP countries. When Trump killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as he promised, many Americans skeptical of free trade deals cheered. Whether that was the right move or not, China is stepping into the void, attempting to make its own trade deals with countries in the region who would have been part of the TPP.

Advertisement

29. Russia is violating a nuclear arms control treaty. It's reportedly deploying missiles that a 1987 treaty banned.

30. … And is continuing its aggressive posture toward Ukraine. Last month, Russian tanks were seen edging up on the Ukrainian border.

31. Renegotiating NAFTA. The president has threatened to cancel the free trade agreement, but it's unclear whether that's a negotiating tactic or what. Ironically, Trump tossed out some trade concessions from Canada and Mexico when he scrapped TPP, making any upcoming talks more difficult.

32. Mexico could swing left in the next election. If Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is running for president on an explicitly anti-Trump platform, wins the 2018 election, it could complicate Trump's relationship with the US's southern neighbor even more.

33. Germany might get more anti-Trump, too. Martin Schulz, a left-wing opponent of current German chancellor Angela Merkel, said he has no desire to spend more on defense, which would come into conflict with Trump's demand that NATO nations bump military spending.

34. Puerto Rico needs money. Puerto Rico—whose residents are US citizens who pay taxes—is broke and likely won't be able to fund Medicaid this year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans losing health insurance coverage. Democrats want the federal government to pick up the slack, but Trump is opposed to it, which could lead to a government shutdown. That is very unlikely, but the Puerto Rican debt crisis isn't going away.

35. Congressional Republicans aren't used to being in power. After eight years of being the pissed-off opposition party, the GOP is suddenly in charge. Governing is harder than simply trying to block the Democrats' agenda, as House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans have admitted.

36. The House Republicans aren't unified. One problem the GOP faces is that the Freedom Caucus—a group of hard-right congressmen—are willing to split from Trump. They helped kill the American Health Care Act because they thought it didn't do enough to dismantle Obama's Affordable Care Act, and they want to make sure they're involved in negotiations over tax reform too. But after some members of the Freedom Caucus backed a new healthcare bill, more moderate Republicans were hesitant to embrace it, because it would lead to too many people losing insurance.

Advertisement

37. Maybe Paul Ryan is bad at his job? The AHCA was the speaker's first piece of big legislation, and it was terrible.

38. Conservatives are fine with opposing Trump. Under some circumstances, opposing a president from your own party could lead to political blowback. But the Freedom Caucus isn't worried about facing any primary challenges from the right and so don't mind standing up to Trump.

39. Trump has a low approval rating. Only 44 percent of voters like what he's doing, according to a CNN/ORC poll, compared to 54 percent who dislike him.

40. People don't trust Trump. Just 45 percent say he'll keep his promises, according to Gallup.

41. Republicans as a whole are becoming less popular. The GOP's popularity has dropped from 47 to 40 percent since Trump has been in office, according to Pew Research.

42. The Democratic base is energized. And flooding congressional offices with phone calls—a deluge that may have helped bring down the AHCA.

43. A Kansas election was closer than it should have been. A Republican's narrow victory in a safely red district this month could show how vulnerable the GOP is.

44. Republicans are having to work hard to hold onto a Georgia House seat. Another special election is slated for June, and the GOP is spending a lot of time and money defending it from Democrat Jon Ossoff. Even if Ossoff loses, it's another warning sign for Republicans because…

45. … The midterms are coming in November 2018. If Republicans lose control of the House, Trump will have an even harder time passing anything, and investigations against him and his allies would likely intensify since Democrats would run the relevant committees.

Advertisement

46. It's not clear a healthcare bill will ever become law. Trump and Ryan have expended a lot of energy trying to line up votes in the House for the AHCA—but even if it did pass the House, it would probably run into more opposition in the Senate.

47. Trump's new tax plan is extremely vague. As everyone expected, Trump wants to cut taxes for the rich—but the document sent out this week is a back-of-the-napkin sketch that offers few specifics.

48. Some Republicans don't like the tax plan. Anonymous GOP sources in Congress told CNN they weren't happy they were kept out of the loop. That's not the way to start a major legislative push.

49. The tax plan as proposed would cause the national deficit to rise. By a lot. Groups estimate it would cost more than $3 trillion over ten years.

50. Democrats are unified in opposing Trump. There's a lot of attention on divisions in the Republican Party at the moment because Democrats have it relatively easy—they can just vote against everything Trump proposes.

51. Senate rules make it almost impossible to get anything done. Controlling both houses of Congress isn't enough—to pass sweeping, nation-changing laws, Trump would need a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate. It's highly unlikely that that will ever happen; even though the Republicans recently eliminated the filibuster to seat Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, they haven't yet contemplating ending filibusters forever.

Advertisement

52. Cross-party compromise is a dead art form. You could get to the necessary 60 votes in the Senate if you wrote a bill that some Democrats could support. But Trump has pursued a historically polarizing agenda.

53. The famed infrastructure plan doesn't exist yet. Trump keeps talking about investing in infrastructure, but he hasn't even submitted the barest outline of a plan.

54. The looming threat of a shutdown. Even if Congress can keep the federal government open after Friday—which wasn't totally clear by mid-afternoon Friday—the partisan atmosphere in Congress means that a shutdown is a constant threat.

55. Trump can't book good talent at his events. Maybe not the biggest issue in the world, but it must eat up the fame-obsessed Trump that he couldn't book A-listers for his inauguration.

56. He's being sued for defamation. A former Apprentice contestant who says Trump sexually harassed her is suing him for calling her a "liar" and "phony," a case that's winding its way through the legal system.

57. People are boycotting his brand.

58. Ivanka Trump's ethical conflicts. The president's daughter—who also works in the White House—has placed her company in a trust, but some ethics experts say that isn't enough to prevent conflicts of interest. She also recently announced the creation of a fund for female entrepreneurs, which could be complicated since White House officials aren't supposed to solicit funds.

59. Trump's own potential conflicts of interest. There are too many of these to go into, but in brief: Trump's sprawling business empire gives people plenty of ways to try to ingratiate themselves with him by say, buying a high-priced condo.

60. A Dallas hotel deal fell through because the Trump brand is so controversial. The developer is going with another company instead of the Trump Organization.

Advertisement

61. The EPA is in revolt. "Pretty much everybody is updating their resumes. It's grim," one EPA staffer told the Washington Post.

62. Morale at the State Department is in tatters. "I used to love my job," one employee told the Atlantic recently. "Now, it feels like coming to the hospital to take care of a terminally ill family member. You come in every day, you bring flowers, you brush their hair, paint their nails, even though you know there's no point. But you do it out of love."

63. All the squabbling in the administration has spread to federal agencies. Trump loyalists and Establishment Republican figures are engaged in toxic office politics across the government. "The backbiting is further paralyzing federal agencies, which have been hamstrung by slow hiring, disorganization and an overall lack of direction since Trump's inauguration," is how Politico described it this month.

64. The economy isn't growing especially fast. US GDP expanded just 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

65. The economic recovery has been uneven. Though some big cities are doing well, large swathes of the country are gripped by poverty. This geographic inequality helped Trump get elected, but it's also now his problem. (Like everything else.)

66. Economic inequality. More broadly, the rich are getting richer, and the massive gap between the One Percent (which Trump and most of his advisers belong to) and everyone else could lead to a political crisis.

Advertisement

67. The opioid crisis. In 2015, there were more heroin overdose deaths than gun homicides.

68. The deficit is on the rise. It's due to surpass $600 billion in 2019.

69. Student loan debt is a crisis. As a whole, Americans owe roughly $1.5 trillion in student debt.

70. Robots are replacing a lot of jobs. It will be hard to revitalize the manufacturing industry—as Trump wants to do—when automation has transformed it so completely. Even though the threat of robots is sometimes overstated, other areas of the economy are also at risk to lose jobs due to greater productivity.

71. More and more Americans are going on disability. A trend that's concentrated in struggling regions like Appalachia.

72. Health insurance companies are pulling out of exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act. Aetna was the latest to announce plans to leave, blaming uncertainty over the law's future. Trump may want to repeal the ACA, but he also has to manage the exchanges or risk being blamed for their failures.

73. The ACA is more popular than ever. According to one poll, more than 60 percent of Americans want the law to be fixed rather than replaced. Trump, of course, would rather replace it.

74. Fewer tourists want to visit America, possibly because of Trump himself.

75. Fewer international students want to come to American universities. Again, possibly because of Trump and his policies.

76. Trump's "travel ban" remains held up by courts. The executive order intended to keep people from several Muslim-majority countries out of the US hasn't gone fullyinto effect thanks to court rulings.

A section of border fencing

77. Trump's border wall is extremely expensive. It might cost as much as $20 billion, money that Congress will have to approve.

78. Politicians on the border don't want the wall. Not even Republicans.

Advertisement

79. But the Republican base really wants the wall. Or so says the Republican National Committee chair.

80. Authorities are in no position at all to deport all the undocumented immigrants Trump wants kicked out of the US. A report from a watchdog found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are already desperately overworked.

81. The legal system may be overwhelmed by attempts to deport migrants en masse. Prosecutors only have so many resources.

82. Deportations can be unpopular. Many Americans like the idea of removing undocumented immigrants in the abstract, but there have already been cases where a deportation has caused pain for Trump supporters. One well-liked businessman in a Trump-supporting town was at risk of being deported in February, and in April, the husband of a Trump voter was deported. Those stories are likely to multiply as time goes on.

83. Voters are warming to the idea of immigration. Rather counterintuitively, some polling has found that Americans are actually getting more liberal when it comes to immigration policies—in other words, Trump's position may become less popular.

84. Trump's threat to take federal funding away from "sanctuary cities" that didn't comply with federal immigration law was blocked in courts.

85. It's hard to define what a "sanctuary city" is. That led to the administration suspending a plan to list jurisdictions that didn't comply with the law.

Advertisement

86. Wildfire season is going to be bad this yearFires are burning in Arizona, and the season is off to an early start in Jersey.

87. The National Parks system is falling apart. Congress wants Trump to help fix it.

88. A grain surplus is making life harder for many farmers. They're storing grain and waiting for prices to rise.

89. Rising sea levels are creating a crisis in Louisiana right now. The situation is so bad that the governor has declared a state of emergency.

90. China may soon overtake the US when it comes to renewable energy. Another result of Trump's executive orders dismantling efforts to fight climate change.

91. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is under investigation for all sorts of things. Flynn was forced out of the White House for lying about his conversations with a Russian ambassador after the election, and now is being investigated for taking money from foreign governments.

92. The whole Russia thing. If nothing comes of all of the investigations into the ties Trump-linked individuals have with Russia, it at the very least is a constant distraction for a very easily distracted White House.

93. The press doesn't like TrumpIf you constantly call out major media companies for being "fake news" and denounce them at major rallies, you can't be surprised that so many outlets—even traditionally right-leaning ones—don't go out of the way to praise your presidency.

94. Sometimes Trump says things that are complete nonsense. It seems wrong to use the word lie indiscriminately because sometimes Trump seems badly informed rather than looking to maliciously deceive the public. But he has a long history of saying things that aren't so and hasn't changed this habit in the White House.

95. These misstatements are sometimes big deals. When the administration incorrectly said that an aircraft carrier was headed to North Korea, it showed exactly how serious Trump's combination of imprecise language and incompetence could be. How do you lose track of an aircraft carrier?

96. Trump's response to climate change could threaten disaster preparedness. When Trump signed an executive order rolling back some of Obama's climate change policies, local governments warned that it would make it harder for them to prepare for floods, hurricanes, and other natural catastrophes made more common by climate change.

97. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in particular seems in over his head. "Why should US taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?" is something he actually said at a diplomatic conference in Italy. Some State Department staffers have reportedly been told not to make eye contact with him.

98. Trump actually seems bothered by Saturday Night Live. Really.

99. Trump thought this wouldn't be so hard. He told Reuters this week, "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.