The first 100 days is not just about the new President.
The dawn of a new administration unleashes conflicting forces of change, hope, opposition, dislocation and even confusion that reverberate throughout Washington far beyond the West Wing of the White House.
Every first 100 days is fraught — but President Donald Trump slammed into town on January 20 with unusual force, in keeping with a promise he made to supporters to turn the establishment on its head.
The political hurricane that he whipped up battered Democrats and his own party, ripping through the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, as he flouted countless assumptions on how a president should behave.
In a new CNN feature, ‘100 Days that Changed America,’ CNN Politics and Digital Studios spoke with people across the political spectrum caught in the path of Hurricane Trump. Both those who have witnessed the new administration up close and those who stood outside to cheer or jeer.
We talked to Democrats suddenly adjusting to a new political foe and Republicans trying to work out how to march in lock step with the most unorthodox President in recent history.
Progressives told us how the reality of Trump helped trigger a new mood of political activist that sent them into the streets to protest.
We spoke to Trump supporters who believe that the turmoil in the capital is simply a downpayment on the disruption he promised.
At the end of the first 100 days, the storm shows little sign of blowing itself out, even if Trump has, on foreign policy especially, toned some radical campaign stances, especially regarding US alliances in Europe and Asia.
Even so, as events of the just the last week, including the unveiling of a new tax plan and a new broadside against the federal judiciary, show, the President remains as unpredictable as ever.
Surveying the turmoil that raged in Washington in the weeks after Trump took office, Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told us: “It’s a little messy, it can be a little chaotic, but we needed it. We definitely needed it.”
Messy is a good word.
Trump hit the ground running with a blizzard of executive orders. But his travel ban on citizens of predominantly Muslim nations sent angry protesters into the nation’s airports before hitting a dead end, when it was blocked by the federal courts.
The President pressed ahead with an effort to repeal Obamacare, which fizzled in a humiliating defeat for the White House and the GOP House leadership.
He gave a well-received speech to a joint session of both chambers of Congress, and for a moment it seemed that the President would finally bask in the honeymoon that most new commanders in chief get to enjoy.
But within hours, the story that has haunted the new administration from the start, questions about the involvement of Trump aides and Russia at a time when Moscow was accused of interfering in the election, resurfaced.
The first 100 days is often a sobering experience for Presidents as they first come come face-to-face with the huge responsibilities of serving as commander in chief. Trump faced a life and death decision when he ordered cruise missile strikes in Syria to punish the use of chemical weapons by government forces. He had once advised his predecessor, Barack Obama, not to bomb Syria. But he changed his tune after he saw harrowing video of children choking for air after a chemical weapons attack.
“I talked with him the night of the bombing and told him I was very proud of our nation and proud of him for making that decision as quickly as he did,” Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told us.
“I thought it was exactly the right thing to do.”
Some Republicans see an evolution in Trump’s behavior and demeanor, despite his tendency to roil his opponents with his Twitter account and lambast the press. They also insist that the loyal voters who put the President in the White House are not going to desert him over a sometimes rocky start.
“DC is not going to be changed in 100 days. What you’re talking about is disrupting an institution that doesn’t want to change,” said Bryan Lanza, a deputy communications director for the Trump-Pence campaign.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Trump’s arrival in the Oval Office triggered an immediate backlash from progressives who had been in mourning since Hillary Clinton lost the election.
“We know this is just one moment, it’s a moment to celebrate really, but I want the girls to understand what activism looks like,” one activist told us, after taking her daughters to a Women’s March in Washington on the first weekend of Trump’s presidency.
Democrats caught in the whiplash of Trump’s first 100 days have also hurriedly had to draw new battle lines as they work out how to fight back.
“He’s done nothing but push us further and further and further away, with every executive order that he’s issued so far,” Democratic New York Rep. Joseph Crowley said midway through the first 100 days.
“He’s not trying to bring the country together, but further drive us apart.”
One Washington figure who was originally critical of Trump, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, suddenly found herself on his team — helping to shepherd Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch through his confirmation process.
“I really thought about it, and I thought this is very important for the country and what a phenomenal nomination,” Ayotte, who was interviewed for the project after losing her seat in last November’s election, said.
“I have to say, I was surprised, but I was very glad to work with him on this.”
Gorsuch’s confirmation was a rare moment one of the most successful moments of Trump’s 100 days. But it still shook up the Washington status quo because because Republicans were forced to dismantle Senate rules to get around a Democratic filibuster.
That drama, which played out over several weeks, was another of the remarkable events that unspooled as Trump settled into the White House.
But it’s not been all work in Washington. Longtime swamp dweller Ryan Williams, a former White House aide for President George W. Bush and campaign hand for Mitt Romney, has noticed a changed in the city’s culture.
Some presidents were known for frequenting the Georgetown dinner party circuit, others have put certain restaurants on the map just by dropping in for a meal. But the locus of Trump world in DC is a place with the President’s name on the front.
“The Trump Hotel is definitely the place to see and be seen in Washington these days,” Williams told us.
“Not just for the President but for senior administration officials. I believe the treasury secretary even lives in the hotel during the weekdays.”
The White House will likely be relieved when this week is over — the first 100 days marker is often an irritant to new presidents who chafe at being judged so early on, as they are still learning the ropes of their job.
But as he embarks on the next 100 days of his presidency, and beyond, Trump is saddled by the lowest approval ratings of any new commander in chief in modern history.
But all is not lost. Some presidents, like Bill Clinton for instance, endured a tumultuous first 100 days but went on to win a second term.
Others, like Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, exhibited vulnerabilities during their first 100 days that came helped derail their presidencies later on.
No one can say to which category Trump will eventually belong.
That’s the story of the next 1,300 plus days …