How Trump Has Reshaped the Presidency, and How It’s Changed Him, Too

At the same time, he has cast off conventions that constrained others in his office. He has retained his business interests, which he implicitly cultivates with regular visits to his properties. He has been both more and less transparent than other presidents, shielding his tax returns and White House visitor logs from public scrutiny while appearing to leave few thoughts unexpressed, no matter how incendiary or inaccurate. And he has turned the White House into a family-run enterprise featuring reality-show-style, “who will be thrown off the island?” intrigue.

“His first 100 days is a reflection of how much the presidency has changed,” said Janet Mullins Grissom, a top official in President George Bush’s White House and State Department. “The biggest difference between President Trump and his predecessors is that he is the first president in my political lifetime who comes to the office unbeholden to any special interest for his electoral success, thus immune to typical political pressures.”

In effect, she said, that compensates for a victory he secured in the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. “That gives him as much leverage as someone who won with landslide numbers — and the freedom to govern his way,” she said. “And his voters love him for it.”

Where Washington veterans fret about deviations from past norms, Mr. Trump’s supporters see a president willing to shake things up. Where Washington cares about decorum and process, they want a president fighting for them against entrenched powers.

Yet the crockery-breaking leader has shown signs of evolving. The president operating on Day 100 is not the same as the one who took office in January, when he was determined to make nice with Russia, make trouble for China and make war on elites.

By his own account, Mr. Trump has discovered how much more complicated issues like health care and North Korea are than he realized, and he has cast off some of his most radical campaign promises after learning more about the issues.

“I’m more inclined to say the presidency has changed Trump rather than Trump changed the presidency,” said H.W. Brands, a University of Texas professor who has written biographies of multiple presidents, including Ronald Reagan and both Roosevelts. “He has moderated or reversed himself on most of the positions he took as a candidate. Reality has set in, as it does with every new president.”

All the more so for the first president in American history who had never spent a day in government or the military, and surrounded himself with top advisers who had not either. Although Mr. Trump assumed that his experience in business and entertainment would translate to the White House, he has found out otherwise.

“I never realized how big it was,” he said of the presidency in an…

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