The 21 days of President-elect Trump

Romney and Trump meet for dinner
Romney and Trump meet for dinner


    Romney and Trump meet for dinner


Romney and Trump meet for dinner 02:00

(CNN)Three weeks have passed since President-elect Donald Trump delivered a gracious, sober and almost totally unexpected victory speech at his election night rally in New York City.

For nearly 48 hours, Trump embraced the role of decorous winner and temperate future commander-in-chief. He was uncharacteristically solicitous during an early meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House. The weight of the job ahead seemed hung around his neck like a steel collar. But then, with the third day on the horizon -- and street demonstrators on the march -- Trump cracked, tweeting falsely that "professional protesters" had been "incited by the media." It was all, he wrote, "Very unfair!"
And with that, life as we had come to know it during a long campaign was restored to an apparently indefinite state of rancor. The President-elect has vacillated on some pre-election promises, but the fundamentals of his hardline politics and unpredictable persona have emerged intact.
Here is an abridged account of his 21 days on the cusp of power.

    1. Meets Obama in the afternoon, attacks protesters at night

    Sitting beside the man whose legitimacy as President he had assailed with baseless accusations for years, Trump played nice, calling their summit a "great honor" and expressing his desire to speak again with Obama "many, many more times."
    At 9:10 p.m. that night, he tweeted: "A fantastic day in D.C. Met with President Obama for first time. Really good meeting, great chemistry. Melania liked Mrs. O a lot!"
    Nine minutes later, though, he switched gears, attacking protesters who had rallied against him in a number of major US cities.
    "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

    2. Settles the Trump University lawsuit, agreeing to pay $25 million

    With a court date on the horizon, the President-elect settled three suits against his defunct real estate seminar business. The victims -- some 6,000 former students -- will receive a sum total of $25 million, or at least half of their money back.
    Why did he back down after past promises to take the case to trial?
    "I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country," Trump tweeted.

    3. Goes to Twitter war with the cast of 'Hamilton'

    Ten days after the election, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Friday night performance of the super smash-hit Broadway musical. As the play ended, cast member Brandon Dixon addressed Pence from the stage, saying the cast represented "the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious" about the new administration.
    "But we truly hope," he continued, "this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us."
    Despite the mild nature of the remarks, the video went viral. Trump reacted the next morning, tweeting that Pence had been "harassed." A few minutes later, he added: "The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"
    When none was forthcoming, Trump again (in a since-deleted tweet) called Dixon's words "insulting" and mocked him for not memorizing the lines.

    4. Names Steve Bannon, alt right hero, his top adviser

    Trump's first major post-election decision was to select Bannon, his campaign CEO and the executive chairman of Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor.
    The chief of staff job went to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, but the headlines belonged to Bannon, who has been accused of domestic violence and making anti-Semitic comments.
    The decision to install him in such an influential position drew immediate and sharp opposition from groups like the Anti-Defamation League and top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who called the hire a continuation of the "hateful and divisive vision that defined (Trump's) campaign."
    The self-described "alt-right" is considered by many to be a right-wing neo-Nazi-type movement.

    5. Says maybe he won't seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton

    "It's just not something I feel very strongly about," Trump said during a meeting with reporters from The New York Times.
    "I don't want to hurt the Clintons, I really don't," Trump added, either skirting a potential abuse of power -- the attorney general, though appointed by the President, does not take orders from the White House on specific targets for investigation or prosecution -- or oblivious to the standard. "She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways."
    The comments marked a stark reversal from the second presidential debate in October, when Trump told Clinton that, if he won, "I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation."

    6. Talks to President Obama 'regularly'

    Trump led the racist birther movement against Obama, who before and during the campaign, was a relentless and mocking critic. But following their meeting at the White House days after the election, the men have apparently taken to speaking "regularly" on the phone.
    "You know, beyond the sitdown they had 30 hours or so after President-elect Trump won the election, they've been talking regularly on any number of issues," Trump top aide Kellyanne Conway told NBC on Sunday. "They talked just yesterday (for about 45 minutes)."
    The contents of the conversations are, for now, a mystery.

    7. Ousts Christie and allies from his transition team

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was one of the first mainstream Republicans to back Trump, standing loyally at his side during much of the primary. For his trouble, the New Jersey governor was named head of Trump's transition team, a job he worked at quietly as the campaign seemed to be sputtering toward defeat.
    But after Trump's historic upset, Christie got a second -- and final, as it turned out -- look from the President-elect. Within days, he and former Congressman Mike Rogers had been ousted as Pence took over the operation.
    Why the quick hook? Among the most prominent theories: Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, held a grudge against the former US attorney for successfully prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner, for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions back in 2004.

    8. Stands by as top aide publicly campaigns against potential appointment

    Perhaps the most unlikely candidate for the new cabinet, Mitt Romney, has divided opinion among Trump loyalists. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has run hot and cold with Trump, soliciting his endorsement four years ago then blasting him in March as a "phony" and a "fraud."
    Though Trump seems open to a reconciliation -- the two, along with Priebus, shared an intimate dinner Tuesday night -- Conway has been vocal in her opposition. And not just in conversations with the boss. Last Thursday, she tweeted about a "deluge of social media & private comms re: Romney" and linked to a Politico story headlined, "Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as secretary of state."

    9. Tells supporters to stop harassing minorities

    "I am so saddened to hear that," Trump told CBS' Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes" after she brought up the mounting reports of harassment against Muslims and Latinos. "And I say, 'Stop it.' If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: 'Stop it.'"
    Trump, though, mostly pleaded ignorance to the broader issue, saying he had only heard about a handful of attacks.
    By November 16 -- a week out from the election and a few days after the interview -- the Southern Poverty Law Center had recorded 701 incidents across the country.

    10. Asks about security clearances for his kids -- or not?

    Initial reports from a week after the election suggested the Trump transition team had asked about top security clearances for his elder children and son-in-law, a claim denied by a campaign spokesman.
    Conway provided a little more information the next day, saying there had been discussion but no explicit inquiry.
    "It doesn't sound like it was a formal request," she told Fox News.

    11. Praises the 'genius' of the Electoral College

    In 2012, Trump called it a "disaster for democracy." That was late on Election Day, when he thought Obama would lose the popular vote but win reelection over Romney. (Obama would eventually catch up and surpass the Republican.)
    Four years on, Trump, himself losing the popular vote but ascending to the presidency based on a strong Electoral College performance, took a different view.
    "The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play," he tweeted. "Campaigning is much different!"

    12. Claims massive fraud as reason he is losing popular vote

    The comment above came on November 15. Trump was mum on the issue over the next two weeks, but as the margin in the popular vote surpassed 2 million, he lashed out.
    On the Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend, he tweeted -- falsely and without evidence -- that he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."
    There have been no reputable reports of mass fraud.
    In addition to the bogus claim, Trump later pinned his looming defeat in the "so-called popular vote" on the apparently less than "genius" Electoral College, which, he argued in an additional pair of tweets, altered his campaign strategy.

    13. Brushes off concerns about conflicts of interest

    Trump's business ties -- which span 144 companies in at least 25 countries, according to recent financial disclosures -- could have untold implicit and explicit influence over foreign and domestic policy decisions.
    Calls for Trump to put his assets in a blind trust have mostly been dismissed. And it might not matter anyway -- given the high profile nature of his holdings, it would be impossible for Trump to remain unaware of their fortunes.
    One solution would involve liquidating his assets, but that's never been serious considered. The expectation now is that his children will run the businesses -- a plan that's already drawn criticism after daughter Ivanka Trump was photographed during her father's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a Trump building plan in Argentina broke through some sticky red tape not long after the election.

    14. Lobbied the UK to give a major diplomatic post to his political ally

    Perhaps bored with stocking his own cabinet, Trump in a tweet on November 21 suggested that his ideological ally and campaign pal, the right-wing former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, would make a fine diplomat.
    "Many people would like to see @Nigel_Farage represent Great Britain as their Ambassador to the United States," Trump wrote. "He would do a great job!"
    But a spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May quickly shot down the idea. Farage is a longtime opponent of May's Conservative Party and the job is already filled. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson -- like Farage, one of the leading Brexit advocates -- laughed off the tension with a droll reminder during a session of parliament.
    "We have a first-rate ambassador in Washington doing a very good job of relating both with the present administration and with the administration to be, and there is no vacancy for that position," he said.

    15. Is maybe offering Ben Carson the HUD secretary job

    After Carson, a former presidential primary rival turned Trump ally, reportedly turned down an offer to run the Department of Health and Human Services citing a lack of experience in running a government agency, Trump approached him about another gig.
    That job, leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has emerged as a more appealing option to Carson, a retired neurosurgeon with no background in housing policy.
    No official word yet from the transition team on the offer.

    16. Chooses Mike Flynn to be his national security adviser

    Trump tapped retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, a vocal campaign surrogate and controversial former Obama administration employee, to be his closest national security aide. A well-regarded intelligence officer for many years, Flynn was fired by the current White House from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.
    Flynn has been called out recently for his social media activity -- which includes interactions with anti-Semitic accounts, a claim that "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL," and efforts to spread conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton.
    Flynn has also pushed insidious rumors that Islamic Sharia law is on the march in the US and ran a lobbying company with foreign clients while he was receiving classified intelligence briefings during the campaign.

    17. Picks Sen. Jeff Sessions as his attorney general nominee

    Like Flynn, the Alabama Senator is a controversial choice. Unlike the former, though, he will need to be confirmed by his colleagues in the upper chamber.
    Civil Rights groups have already lined up against Sessions, who has spoken out against the 1965 Voting Rights Act and accused the ACLU and NAACP of having "forced civil rights down the throats of people."
    There's more. Sessions in 1986 was up for a federal judgeship when allegations he made racist comments to an African-American colleague caused a minor scandal, ultimately scuttling his nomination.
    Sessions has called the charges "false" and told CNN in 2009 that he "was caricatured in a way that was not me."

    18. Gets nasty, then nice, with the media

    In a whirlwind 48 hours, Trump last week first met with top executives and network anchors at Trump Tower, then made a trip to hold court with The New York Times.
    Trump used the first gathering, with boldface names from the country's five largest TV news outlets, to rip the media, according to a source who spoke to CNN's Brian Stelter.
    A day later -- after canceling and un-canceling the meeting -- Trump went to the Times, where he answered a wide range of questions as reporters live-tweeted the conversation.
    After roughly four minutes spent criticizing its coverage, Trump eventually called the paper, which he frequently scorns in his Twitter stream, a "great great American jewel -- world jewel."

    19. Eventually sort of disavows right-wing extremists

    During the Times interview -- which came days after neo-Nazis and white supremacists under the "alt right" banner hailed his victory -- Trump told the Times, "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group ... if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why."
    He also defended Bannon, who during his time at Breitbart boasted that the site had become "the platform for the alt-right," saying, "If I thought he was racist, or 'alt-right' ... I wouldn't even think about hiring him."

    20. Announces plans for a 'thank you' tour

    And you thought the campaign was over.
    Team Trump on Monday revealed that a rally in downtown Cincinnati on Thursday will mark the first stop on his promised "thank you" tour. He is expected to hit a number other battleground states, where Trump and supporters will celebrate the election results.

    21. But still no press conferences

    For all the news he's made, Trump has yet to hold a news conference since being elected. Most general election winners meet the press in the days or week after the vote. But Trump, for all his blustering online and in negotiated sitdowns with single outlets, hasn't taken questions from a diverse group of reporters since July.
    On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that he is planning to hold a news conference on December 15.