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Donald Trump's populist campaign didn't always square with his past statements.

And that makes his agenda as president anybody's guess.

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump’s populist campaign didn’t always square with his past statements.

And that makes his agenda as president anybody’s guess.

That could give the businessman an edge in making legislative deals in a town unaccustomed to surprises. Or it could halt action in Washington completely if he finds himself at odds with both Republicans and Democrats.

Here’s a look at key issues, in which, his campaign statements don’t sync with opinions he expressed in the past:


Trump’s incendiary rhetoric aimed at undocumented Mexican immigrants and calls to build a massive border wall and deport those here illegally were the central pillar of his presidential campaign. But in the immediate years leading up to his 2016 campaign, Trump described himself as “down the middle” on the issue of illegal immigration, and spoke forcefully against deporting undocumented immigrants who had lived in the US for many years.

Speaking about undocumented immigrants on CNBC in June 2012, Trump said, “I also understand how, as an example, you have people in this country for 20 years, they’ve done a great job, they’ve done wonderfully, they’ve gone to school, they’ve gotten good marks, they’re productive — now we’re supposed to send them out of the country, I don’t believe in that, Michelle, and you understand that. I don’t believe in a lot things that are being said.”

Eight months earlier, in an interview on “Fox and Friends,” Trump had said he supported “amnesty” for some undocumented immigrants, saying, “how do you tell a family that’s been here for 25 years to get out?”

And following Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat, Trump called Romney’s position on self-deportation for undocumented immigrants “maniacal” and “mean-spirited.” A month later, again on “Fox and Friends” in December 2012, he implored Republicans to take the lead on immigration reform or it would “never win another election.”

Foreign policy

Trump’s views on foreign policy, and specifically intervention abroad, are also difficult to pin down. He has claimed he opposed interventions in Iraq and Libya, and that his opposition to those conflicts are a sign of his foreign policy expertise. Many have taken his claims of opposition to mean Trump is non-interventionist.

But Trump did offer tepid support for the Iraq War on Howard Stern in 2002, and in writings and interviews before that, expressed how he wished President George H.W. Bush had “finished” the job in Iraq during the First Gulf War. Trump would turn against the Iraq War in 2004, and despite publicly calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in the 2006, 2007 and 2008, Trump has throughout his campaign criticized President Barack Obama for withdrawing troops to quickly.

When the US and NATO were considering intervening against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Trump repeatedly called for the US to get involved, saying on CNN at the time, “At this point, if you don’t get rid of Gaddafi, it’s a major, major black eye for this country.”

And when, in 2011, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in the face of massive uprisings in his country, Trump praised his decision. Now, Trump criticizes Obama for not backing Mubarak, saying in April, “He supported the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel, and then helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in its place.”

Health care

On the issue of health care, President-elect Trump has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare. A partial or full repeal is likely, but what a Trump administration would replace it with is less clear. Trump praised the Canadian single payer system — an anathema to conservative Republicans — as late as 2015 in the first GOP primary debate.

“As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here,” Trump said at the debate, before talking about his proposals for a private system.

In 1999, Trump forcefully argued for universal health care, telling CNN’s Larry King, “If you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it’s all over. I mean, it’s no good. So I’m very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care. I believe in whatever it takes to make people well and better.”


With Republicans now controlling the executive and legislative branches of government, tax cuts are on the table. Trump’s current plan has offered major tax cuts for individuals and businesses, but Trump in the past has shown a willingness to impose higher taxes on the wealthy.

In testimony before the House Budget Committee in 1991, Trump criticized Reagan-era tax cuts for earners in the top tax bracket, saying it had removed incentives for wealthy people to invest.

When Trump considered a presidential run as a Reform Party candidate in 1999, he once proposed paying for universal health care with “with an increase in corporate taxes.” That same year, he proposed what would have been the largest tax in American history with “a one time, 14.25% tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth over $10 million.”

When the Bush tax cuts were set to expire in 2012, Trump said told Fox and Friends in December of that year he’d support higher taxes on wealthier Americans as part of a larger deal to balance the federal budget.


Trump has largely been consistent in his fierce opposition to what he has called unfair trade deals, but he has spoken about the forces of globalization in the past much differently than he does now.

In a 2013 op-ed for CNN, for instance, Trump wrote, “we will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability.”

Even in some of his recent books, Trump has seemingly admitted globalization is here to stay.

“Globalization has torn down the barriers that have formerly separated the national from the international markets and one result is that affluent foreigners have been drawn to real estate in the United States,” Trump wrote in Never Give Up: How I Turned My Biggest Challenges into Success, a book from Trump University.

“The important thing to consider is that more and more there is an interdependence of world economies,” he adds. “No one can afford to be isolationist anymore.