Trump’s First Month Has Been Anything But a ‘Fine-Tuned Machine’

By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray , Carrie Dann

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

Trump’s first month in office has been anything but a fine-tuned machine

The last 24 hours perfectly summed up President Trump’s first month in office. In a 77-minute news conference Thursday to voice a series of grievances, Trump declared that his administration was running “like a fine-tuned machine,” saying: “I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos. Chaos! Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.” Then, just a few hours later, the frontrunner to replace his ousted national security adviser declined to take the job.

Folks, that’s anything but a fine-tuned machine (though the White House did finally hire a communications director). Indeed, perhaps the best way to describe Trump’s first month is with three Cs — conflict, chaos, and constant. The conflict, of course, has involved the courts, the news media, Mexico, Nordstrom, and even Australia. The chaos? Try the travel ban, “alternative facts,” and the very slow start to Trump’s government. And constant describes how unrelenting the news and Trump’s presence has been over the past month. Sure, there have been good moments (the Gorsuch pick, the meetings with business and union leaders). And, yes, all new White Houses have their struggles. But we’ve never, ever seen a first month like this. To recap:

Trump’s presser did accomplish one thing: It moved the Russia stories off the front pages

But if yesterday’s news conference did accomplish one thing, it moved the news about Russia OFF the front pages.

So that’s definitely good news for Team Trump, and it epitomizes Trump’s ability to distract attention. Then again, we're not so sure the Russia story is going away, especially after Trump didn’t 100 percent deny that anyone in his campaign had contact with Russia intelligence officials. He first said, “I have nothing to do with it,” and then later added, “Nobody that I know of.”

Yet you’ve got problems when these people — Paul LePage, Mitch McConnell, Mark Sanford — are complaining about your first month in office

But these other headlines — from GOP voices — aren’t necessarily good news for Trump. CNN: “Gov. Paul LePage on Trump: 'We got to tell him that the TV show's over and he's gotta move on now.’” Politico: “‘I’m a Dead Man Walking’ Mark Sanford has nothing left to lose. And he’s here to haunt Donald Trump.” The Weekly Standard: “Trump Making it ‘Harder’ on Himself Than Necessary, McConnell Says.” David Brooks: “What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like.”

Just to emphasize how extraordinary these opinions are, we saw no such complaints from Democratic elected officials and liberal columnists during Barack Obama’s first month in office. Ditto GOP officials and conservative writers during Bush 43’s first month.

Trump’s cabinet by the numbers

Yesterday, Trump announced Alexander Acosta would be his replacement for Andy Puzder, who withdrew his nomination as Labor secretary. “Acosta served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush, selected by the president in August 2003. Acosta was a member of the National Labor Relations Board and also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division. Most recently, he was the dean of Florida International University College of Law,” NBC’s Ali Vitali and Peter Alexander write. So here’s an updated look at Trump’s cabinet by the numbers:

Note: These numbers are for the traditional cabinet slots, and don’t include cabinet-rank posts like EPA administrator, UN ambassador, or SBA administrator.

What were other presidents doing on February 17?