Donald Trump will take the Oath of Office 583 days after he first announced his improbable run for the White House.
Along the way, he made 663 promises (and counting), according to a ThinkProgress analysis of Trump’s public statements that examined well over 4 million words from his media interviews, his policy position papers, and his speeches to supporters, interest groups, and national television audiences.
These promises matter. Trump’s voters expect him to deliver. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed out two weeks ago on the Senate floor regarding Trump’s pledge to not cut entitlement programs like Medicare, “This was a central part of his campaign… This is what he asked millions of elderly people and working class people to vote for him on.”
Yet attention spans are shorter than ever, and Trump himself is skilled at distracting attention from policy or scandal with tweets and endless varieties of incendiary remarks. It’s easy to forget what he told voters he would do.
So starting the week after the election, ThinkProgress undertook a two-month research project to document every promise Trump made, from the golden escalator ride to the inauguration. They are housed here in ThinkProgress’ searchable, interactive Trump Promises Database:
ThinkProgress examined 583 days of Trump’s public statements, from his campaign announcement speech on June 16, 2015 all the way up to the day before his inauguration. This included thousands of radio and television interviews, speeches, tweets, and campaign policy documents — well over 4 million words and counting.
Our basic criteria were: 1) a statement made by Trump or by a policy document or questionnaire issued in his name, 2) about what would or would not happen during or as a result of his presidency, 3) about which a reasonable person could be disappointed should the promise be broken.
Every time Trump made a new statement or claim about what he would or would not do as president, or guarantees about what he’d ensure would or would not happen, it went on the list. This includes instances when Trump straightforwardly said “I promise” or “I guarantee,” but also instances when he said that “we will” do something or that something “will never” happen if he became president.
We did not include the most general and vague of Trump’s promises, including his regular pledges to make America great/safe/rich/strong again. We did not include a promise if it would be impossible or unfeasible to judge whether it had been kept. We did our best to prune away promises that were examples of empty rhetoric or obvious hyperbole.
For instance, this promise was too vague for us to include:
“We will bring America together as one country again. United as Americans in common purpose and common dreams. We will have a thriving economy. A strong border. A powerful military. A peaceful nation. A rising standard of living. This is what I promise you.”
While these promises were specific and measurable enough to include for future scrutiny:
“And we will produce 25 million jobs over a period of 10 years as sure as you are standing there.”
“We’ll build a wall, I promise. I promise, we will build a wall. If there’s ever a second term, you’ll say, man, he got that wall built fast, we’re going to put him up. So we’ll see. We’ll build the wall.”
“ As part of removing the defense sequester I will ask Congress to fully offset the cost of increased military spending.”
After culling the list for duplicates and similar variations of the same promise, we counted 663 promises candidate Trump made before taking office.
By now, everyone knows that Donald Trump has promised to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, repeal and replace Obamacare, and renegotiate trade deals. But he’s also made plenty of other promises that most people haven’t heard or have since forgotten about.
Here are a few examples of largely forgotten promises that appear in ThinkProgress’ Trump Promise Database:
“[Russian President Vladimir Putin] would never keep somebody like Snowden in Russia. … Look if that — if I’m president, Putin says, hey, boom, you’re gone. I guarantee you this.”
“President Obama wants to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali after more than 100 years. Great insult to Ohio. I will change back!”
“We’re not going to have a $400 billion deficit. That will go away rapidly and we’ll get along.”
“You know the president calls him the Supreme Leader? I guarantee you I will be never calling him the Supreme Leader. He’s not going to be called — I’ll say, ‘Hey baby, how ya doing?’ I will never call him the Supreme Leader.”
“I’ll save Medicare. Ben Carson wants to get rid of Medicare. You can’t get rid of Medicare. You know, Medicare’s a program that works. There’s fraud, there’s abuse, there’s waste, but you don’t get rid of Medicare. You can’t do that. People love Medicare. And it’s unfair to them. I’m going to fix it and make it better, but I’m not going to cut it.”
“We’re going to triple up the number of the Border Patrol.”
“We’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”
“China, 2,000 years ago built a wall that is 13,000 miles long and they didn’t have Caterpillar tractors. We do. And we only want to use John Deere and Caterpillar, we don’t want to use Komatsu right? We don’t want to use Komatsu. We’re going to use our tractors.”
All politicians promise things in their campaigns for office. Trump is not new in this regard. However, Trump’s promises were often so outlandish, far-reaching, and ridiculous that they received disproportionate attention.
After the election, the president-elect did not walk back the scope of his campaign promises, saying in this “thank you” speech to Cincinnati supporters in December that “anything we want” is possible:
People are constantly telling me, and telling you, to reduce our expectations. Those people are fools. They are fools. But this campaign proved that the old rules no longer apply. That anything we want for our country is now possible. Anything we want. Anything, Right? Now is not the time to downsize our dreams but to set our sights higher than ever before for our country.
Following a meeting with the House Republican Conference on January 4, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said the Trump administration would not shirk from promises made in the heat of the campaign:
Today our message is very simple. Working with the leadership here in the House and in the Senate, we’re going to be in the promise-keeping business. The president-elect campaigned all across this country. He gave voice to the frustrations and the aspirations of the American people. He laid out an agenda to make America great again, and my message on his behalf today before this conference and before members of the Senate is that we intend to keep those promises.
Trump’s ambition matches his self-confidence. He has told his supporters he will accomplish all of the things he has said he will do in his first term, so that he can use his second term to relax.
“So I’m just telling you I can do it all in four years,” Trump told an audience in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last February. “But if I’m doing a great job, let me have four easier years, okay? Let me have four easier years. Let me have four years of relaxation because I’ll do most of the work in the first four years. By that time we’ll have a really strong military, we’ll be taking care of our vets better than any vets are taken care of anywhere.”
Starting on Inauguration Day, ThinkProgress will track which promises Trump fulfills, breaks, or ignores over the course of his presidency — including any new ones he makes after he takes office.
He has even made promises about keeping his promises.
“Promises, promises, all talk, no action,” Trump told a Michigan audience in August. “All talk, no action politicians. They talk, talk, talk. You vote them in with great fanfare, and then they do nothing. With Trump, that’s not going to happen. Believe me.”
We’ll be watching.
Judd Legum, Josh Israel, Esther Yu Hsi Lee, Zack Ford, Laurel Raymond, Aaron Rupar, Jonathon Padron, and Adam Peck contributed reporting and graphic design work to this project.