The story of the Trump presidency cannot be fully told in numbers. But these numbers illustrate some of the many ways Trump and his administration defied the status quo of the executive branch.
And public behavior that otherwise was largely beneath the office before his tenure is often on full display online, with Trump often resorting to name-calling and tweeting overtly racist messages and media. On Twitter, he regularly expresses displeasure toward his own appointees, and sometimes uses expletives or shares tweets from users who do.
He also uses social media to spread misinformation. As of December 17, Twitter had flagged 362 of his tweets over potentially misleading or disputed claims, according to Factba.se, a data analytics company.
In addition, there have been 13 Cabinet departures since Trump took office, the most recent to exit being Attorney General William Barr.
Data collected by Brookings looking into turnover among those same “senior-ranking adviser” roles in past administrations found that among US presidents going back to Ronald Reagan, none had a turnover rate higher than 80% in his first term in office.
That same data showed that each US president going back to Reagan had eight or fewer Cabinet departures in his first four years in office.
Trump has had four chiefs of staff, tying with Obama for the most chiefs of staff during a first term.
Trump has been able to successfully appoint three US Supreme Court justices, and he’s surpassed the number of federal judges appointed by George H.W. Bush — the most recent one-term president.
As of December 11, 520 presidential documents signed by Trump — including executive orders, presidential memorandums, determinations and notices — had been published in the Federal Register. Of those, 288 were executive orders and presidential memorandums, not including memos that are clerical in nature.
Presidents have increasingly used executive orders and presidential memorandums interchangeably to issue directives to their agencies; they are both legally binding, though executive action can be undone by the next president.
The increased reliance on such actions has come as an increasingly gridlocked Congress has made it difficult for presidents to act on their agendas.
Obama had issued 226 executive orders and memorandums at this point in his tenure in office, while George W. Bush had signed 189.
Before becoming President, Trump complained about what he saw as Obama’s overuse of executive authority but also suggested that the government could be run like a business.
“The country wasn’t based on executive orders,” Trump said in February 2016. “Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.”
Yet Trump has already exceeded both George W. Bush and Obama in the number of published executive orders and memorandums.
Trump initially framed his presidency as one that would be run like a business, saying during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016 that “If we could run our country the way I’ve run my company, we would have a country that you would be so proud of.”
Coronavirus cases and deaths
Since taking office, the President has made 418 visits to Trump-branded properties — which include 307 days spent at golf clubs, according to CNN’s count based on pool reports, public schedules and public appearances as of December 17. That means Trump has visited golf courses on about 21% of the days of his presidency, or roughly 1 in 5 days. He has visited Trump properties on about 29% of the days of his presidency — nearly one-third of his days in office.
Trump isn’t the first President to have individuals in his orbit be found guilty of crimes, but he’s the first US President in decades to see this many friends and associates face potential jail time.
CNN’s count of individuals charged or found guilty of crimes up and down Richard Nixon’s command, for example, includes many of the individuals involved in the Watergate scandal, such as Nixon’s chief of staff and the five men involved in the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
And the individuals charged or found guilty of crimes around Ronald Reagan include a slew of associates involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and associates charged in relation to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Samuel Pierce’s mismanagement of the agency.
Pardons and commutations
While other presidents were criticized for their use of the pardon power for what appeared to be political ends, Trump’s acts of clemency have brought that self-serving use of the power to new extremes.
One of Trump’s first commutations while in office was to Alice Marie Johnson, who had been serving a life sentence for money laundering and a nonviolent drug offense. But like many of the individuals granted clemency by Trump, Johnson’s name was brought for serious consideration only when an individual connected to the White House — namely, Kim Kardashian West — got in touch.
So far, the number of people who have been pardoned or granted commutations by Trump is much smaller than acts of clemency by past US presidents going back to Nixon.
Jimmy Carter, who served for only one term, like Trump, granted 534 pardons. Obama’s 1,715 commuted prison sentences in his two terms were the most of any president in history — and he specifically explained his motivations to highlight systemic bias in the criminal justice system.