WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — From the moment he was sworn in, President Donald Trump has presided over four years of tumult and triumph.
There were boom times for some, while the country’s divisions were laid bare. Then, a year dominated by a historic pandemic, with almost 400,000 Americans dead and an economy hard hit.
Through it all, President Trump shattered norms with his relationship with Congress and his stance toward the media. In the process, he transformed the Republican Party.
“I think so many of the things that the Trump administration accomplished were great successes,” said Marc Lotter, who was part of the 2016 campaign that vaulted Trump into the White House.
Lotter, who later became a top White House staffer, puts the economy at the top of the list of achievements.
“The direct benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. We saw record low unemployment for women, for minorities,” Lotter said.
Median household income went up, and the stock market hit record highs. Before the pandemic hit, unemployment fell to 3.5% in February 2020 — the lowest rate since 1969.
In four years, President Trump has reshaped the political landscape. What used to be called the bully pulpit is now no longer a White House podium, but rather a Twitter account.
Dan Balz has covered seven presidential administrations for The Washington Post.
“Not every president wanted to dominate every news cycle. Whereas, it’s clear this president has done that,” Balz said.
Big tech, which is now a target of the president and his supporters, helped build the Trump movement.
“The rise of Twitter and Facebook gave him a platform and a reach that went beyond what any president had been able to do,” Balz said.
On foreign policy, Balz said Trump “moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in Israel, something every president promised to do but never did.”
He helped normalize relations between Israel and some Middle Eastern nations — a diplomatic success aimed at easing tensions in the region.
Trump also got progressively tougher on China, accusing the superpower of unfair trade practices and blaming it for destroying U.S. manufacturing.
In perhaps his most lasting achievement for Republicans, Trump oversaw three additions to the U.S. Supreme Court and more than 230 conservative judges on the federal bench.
But President Trump’s policies on immigration have been a flashpoint. Early in his term, Trump signed the so-called “travel ban,” barring visitors from seven majority Muslim countries.
“This is a president who obviously took a very strong stance on that,” Lotter said. “This is a country of immigrants. He wanted immigrants coming to our country, but he wanted to do so through the legal means.”
The president’s stance led to a child separation policy, and lawsuits against so-called sanctuary cities and states — all of which brought fire from critics who called the policies inhumane. Meanwhile, disputes erupted over the funding of the president’s promised U.S.-Mexico border wall. Mexico never paid for it, as Trump had vowed, and the fight led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
Then there was the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Before condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists, the president said this: “But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”
And at the outset of the 2020 campaign year, President Trump was impeached by the House.
Democrats say the president tried to strong arm his Ukrainian counterpart, demanding an investigation into his chief political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
What followed was the public health crisis that may define the Trump era.
There were delays in testing and backlogs on personal protective equipment early on as COVID-19 gripped the nation.
The president faced criticism for downplaying the virus, even as he was infected himself.
The U.S. has one of the highest death tolls per capita in the world. Nearly 24 million Americans have contracted COVID-19.
In response, the Trump administration led Operation Warp Speed to develop multiple, successful vaccines in record time.
In November, voters denied the president a second term, but he refused to concede. Instead, Trump continued to claim he won in a landslide. His allies were dealt a string of defeats in court challenges, but even the president still alleged widespread voter fraud that wasn’t supported by evidence.
“I think it’s the attack on truth, it’s the attack on institutions. His penchant for whether you want to call it distortions or falsehoods,” Balz said.
The false claims were taken to heart by President Trump’s most ardent supporters.
When the bitterness building over the last four years boiled over, it was too much for many in the party. Ten Republican members of the House voted with Democrats to impeach the president for a historic second time.
In the end, Donald Trump leaves office with a party — and a nation — divided and anxious over what comes next.