Top Trump Aide on First 100 Days: ‘I Don’t Regret Anything’

White House busily selling first three months as productive, critics disagree

The North Lawn of the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, seen from the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel. President Trump is nearing his 100th day in office. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
The North Lawn of the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, seen from the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel. President Trump is nearing his 100th day in office. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Posted April 26, 2017 at 12:43pm

A top Trump aide stopped shy of admitting the new administration has made mistakes, despite a turbulent three months as President Donald Trump nears his 100th day in office.

“I don’t regret anything,” a senior White House official told reporters Tuesday evening.

Pressed on whether the administration’s initial executive order banning entry into the United States by individuals from seven Muslim countries was a mistake, the senior official dismissed the notion.

“I don’t think it was a mistake. I don’t think that at all,” the senior official said. “I’m not trying to be arrogant. I don’t feel like– I don’t regret anything.”

Former government officials and experts said a major reason a federal court, then appellate court, blocked that order was the still-green White House failed to get the inputs of Department of Homeland Security staff and other experts within the federal apparatus.

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The senior official spoke to a group of reporters as part of the White House’s push to describe Trump’s first three-plus months in office as a productive success. They are mostly pointing to his list of executive actions, rolling back Obama administration-era regulations, and getting Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump has accomplished things “in relation to other presidents in a remarkable way,” the senior White House official said. The president himself last week contended he has had the most productive first 100 days in history.

“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days — that includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement … and on government reform,” Trump said at the top of a speech on his executive action on a “buy American, hire American” policy.

As they briefed reporters about the first 100 days milestones, Trump’s aides mostly sidestepped questions about his two executive orders banning some Muslims from entering the United States that have been blocked by federal judges, the health care overhaul measure he backed that was pulled before a House vote, his firing of his first national security adviser, and federal and congressional investigations of his campaign associates’ possible ties to Russia.

Congressional Democrats are spending the week describing Trump’s first 100 days as chock full of “broken promises,” missteps and setbacks. (Saturday will mark his 100th partial or full day as commander in chief.)

Democrats on the Hill are ready to work with Trump on issues where common ground appeared to exist — things like trade deals that would be more advantageous to working Americans, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Monday. That has not happened, Schumer said, because “the president has governed from far right,” pushing policies that benefit only “the special interests.”

Democrats’ “hopes of finding common ground” with the populist GOP president were greatly lessened during his first 100 days, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on the same conference call.

Still, the senior official told reporters Trump’s West Wing staff is learning from its first three months.

“I think you learn that, you know, decisions have an enormous ability to vibrate and grow and ripple in this town and across the country. I think that we’ve learned here to follow a much broader process in decision-making,” the official said. “The equities involved in every decision that’s made, I think, is something that you learn as you grow and go in the West Wing.

“The interagency process: The amount of opinion involved in getting to a decision prior to presenting that decision to the president is something that you learn,” the official added. “I think we’ve become much better at it. It slows you down a little bit, obviously. But then the benefit is you get more equities involved in the process.”

The official said it already is apparent that the “enormity” of the job of being president or one of his top aides “changed people,” adding “you become better” and “more thorough.” To that end, there are ample signs the Trump White House learned from the botched initial entry ban order.

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For instance, after Trump expressed a desire last week for a vote on a new bill that would repeal and replace the Obama administration’s 2010 health care law, the White House pumped the brakes — including the president himself. They quickly pivoted to saying a vote next week, or even the week after that, to get the bill right and secure the necessary 217 House GOP votes, was more important than getting the measure through the chamber before his 100 days milestone.

Administration officials are also taking a methodical approach to the package of tax code changes and rate cuts they will roll out Wednesday afternoon. It likely will be well into the summer before a tax bill is even crafted, White House legislative affairs chief Marc Short signaled Tuesday. It would then have to move through the Hill’s sausage-making grinder.

The White House is also taking ownership of that measure, with the senior White House official on Tuesday evening telling reporters the tax bill won’t be, like the initial health care measure, one Trump will “inherit” from lawmakers.

“We’re the ones driving this,” the senior official said.

The president’s style, which has shaken up Washington, is not going to change, the Trump adviser made clear. Trump is someone who will not “sit around and dilly-dally,” they said.