Stories

Trump hits his own wall

President Trump and a swirling vortex
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Over the first two years, President Trump could get away with largely extending his campaign bluster: Build a "big, beautiful wall" and get Mexico to pay for it, withdraw from foreign entanglements, deliver "incredible" healthcare, slash drug prices and fundamentally change the U.S.-China relationship.

Between the lines: Now he faces a new reality that's driven by Democrats in Congress and the need to deliver on his lofty promises.

Trump’s dawning reality:

The only path to a wall is by taking executive action, probably by declaring a national emergency, and finding himself caught up in yet another court fight.

Nobody at a senior level in the White House thinks they’ll get any legislating done in a Congress now dominated by a newly-elected anti-Trump, and unapologetically progressive, House Democratic majority.

Trump has thrown China off balance with harsh tariffs and deserves credit for highlighting Beijing’s abuses more than any recent president. Congress and the business community are surprisingly receptive to Trump’s tough line on China.

  • But he now needs to deliver the structural changes he promised — fundamentally changing China’s behavior. If all this results in is a bribe — China goes on a short-term U.S. shopping spree in exchange for Trump leaving them alone — then all the bluster will be worthless.

The American healthcare system remains an unaffordable mess.

  • Trump is using executive powers to make some reforms to drug pricing, which have angered the pharmaceutical lobby. But the chances of Congress passing something substantial this year are minimal.

After declaring — unequivocally, as always — that he was getting U.S. troops out of Syria, Trump’s administration is now grinding through a complicated and unclear process.

  • Republicans are pushing back and many, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, are pushing Trump toward retaining a skeletal U.S. presence in Syria as part of a long-term "stabilization" mission.
  • The bottom line: It’s still unclear when or even if the U.S. military will fully withdraw from Syria. It's even more unclear in Afghanistan, though Trump says he’s optimistic about the ongoing talks with the Taliban.