What President Trump can and cannot do, despite what he has promised

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump spent 17 months making outlandish, improbable and sometimes shocking promises. But as President of the , it’s not clear how much he can actually get done. Here’s how four of his biggest promises might play out over the next four years.

Can’t: Build “a tall, physical, impenetrable, beautiful wall along the Southern border” and make pay it.

As president, Trump can and probably will expand on the 670 miles of border fencing that already exists between the United States and Mexico. Trump advisor Rudolph Giuliani told CNN Thursday he could begin right away, using executive power to bypass Congress and start construction on of the wall approved in 2006, but never built for financial, legal, logistical and practical reasons. What he almost certainly can’t do is expand that wall as far as he he would, or make Mexico pay for it. Trump vowed to build about 1,000 miles of new, 30- to 55-foot-high wall. That would cost about US$25 billion, according to an estimate by the Washington Post, and take a minimum four years to build. As for the plan to blackmail Mexico into paying for the wall by withholding remittances from Mexicans in the United States, let’s just say that’s a long shot. The Mexican government said again this week it had no intention of paying for the wall. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, are already floating a much more modest plan to install more fencing along the border.

Probably Can: Bring back waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse”

Trump would face significant political and moral hurdles if he tried to reinstate waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” as he promised. Torture is already banned by U.S. and international law, and in 2015 Obama signed a bipartisan measure that strengthened that prohibition. However, if Trump is truly determined to bring waterboarding back, he probably can. If the Trump Justice Department writes legal opinions claiming waterboarding—or rectal feeding or exposure to severe temperatures—are not torture, there’s not much that can be done to stop them. 

Probably Can’t: Repeal and replace it with something “much, much better and much less .”

Trump doesn’t have the majority in the Senate he’d need to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. He can, however, use a budget process called ‘reconciliation’ to gut key chunks of the plan, including provisions that provide Medicaid coverage to the poor, subsidies that help the middle class buy their own insurance, and the taxes that help pay for it all, according the New York Times. What he won’t be able to do is replace Obamacare with something “much better” and “much less expensive,” as he claimed he would during the campaign. The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates Trump’s post-Obamacare plan—even if he could get it through the Senate —would cost the government an extra US$550 billion over the next decade and leave 21 million Americans without health insurance.

Definitely Can: Instruct his general to a special to “look into” Clinton’s email situation.

Trump has carte blanche to appoint his attorney general and attorneys general to appoint special prosecutors. Under the current law, the AG can appoint what’s actually known as a “special counsel” in any case where they determine an investigation is warranted, and it would be in the public interest to do so. That doesn’t mean Trump can just lock Clinton up. The would have to sift through the same evidence the FBI went through, conclude that Clinton actually did break the laws, and then convince a jury of the same. So lock her up? Probably not. But investigate her? If he wants to, sure.

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