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Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

When President Trump backed off his threats to hit Mexico with crippling tariffs earlier this week, there was a chorus of commentary that it was all so predictable — but his track record on such threats is anything but.

Between the lines: Trump does frequently back down from threats. But in other cases, he defies expectations by doubling down. Even threats that seem to expire — a national emergency on the border, blanket tariffs on China — can rear their heads once again.

On immigration:

  • Trump did move to end protections for Dreamers, leading to a legal battle and a court order that has kept them in effect.
  • After it seemed he'd elected not to declare a national emergency for wall funding, he went ahead and did it.
  • He hasn’t closed the border, ended birthright citizenship or moved illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities.

On trade:

  • Trump did withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Despite threats, he hasn’t pulled out of NAFTA, the KORUS trade deal with South Korea or the World Trade Organization.
  • He slapped steel and aluminum tariffs on close allies, but hasn’t followed through on auto tariff threats.
  • He’s pushed the trade war with China much farther than expected, carrying out threats to escalate tariffs and target telecom giant Huawei — despite reports along the way that he was ready to back down.

Military intervention:

International accords:

  • It looked for a time like Trump had reconsidered walking away from the Iran nuclear deal. Then he did it. He also started the process to leave the Paris climate accord, as promised.
  • NATO is still standing, and Trump hasn’t pulled troops out of South Korea or held the U.S. troop presence in Japan and Germany hostage for more money.
  • Trump did move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem despite repeated warnings about the risks of inflaming tensions, including from his own advisers.

Other threats:

  • He didn’t cut FEMA funding to California over “mismanagement” around forest fires.
  • He hasn’t attempted to change libel laws, or have NBC’s broadcast license revoked. But he has effectively ended the White House press briefing.

The bottom line: Trump often vows to do things no other president would consider, but he's followed through on enough of them that no threat can be immediately dismissed.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios