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Four Corners -

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"A HELLUVA RIDE" The Trump Revolution - Monday 6 February 2017

SARAH FERGUSON: Welcome to Four Corners.

Malcolm Turnbull got his first ride on the Trump rollercoaster last week when Donald Trump branded the agreement to take Australia's unwanted refugees from Manus and Nauru "a dumb deal" and reportedly accused Turnbull of trying to export to the US the "next Boston bombers".

The Australian row became a sideshow in the war President Trump is waging against anyone challenging his authority.

It's all part of Trump's American Revolution… Part of the covenant he made with his people and is determined to implement.

All this the world is watching with varying degrees of amazement and trepidation. With the possible exception of Russia's Vladimir Putin, national leaders seem anxious, unsettled and even fearful of what the Trump Presidency may bring. As people around the globe drew breath and watched Trump's bizarre inauguration former US correspondent Michael Brissenden returned to Washington for Four Corners to observe the man who promises to blow away so many old certainties.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: It's a glittering celebration of American democracy. The night of the inaugural balls …when Washington dresses up to honour the peaceful transition of power. A political tradition that is itself a source of great national pride.

All across the capital supporters are putting on their black ties and their formal frocks and making their way into town.

Michael Caputo and his wife are among them. He's watched the rise of Trump all the way to his touch down as president elect in Washington DC.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: He came off the plane and he was standing up there waving and I knew that look on his face. I knew that look on his face. The look said this plane is garbage. What have I got myself into because on his plane the toilet bowl is gold, you know.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Actually, Michael Caputo knows Donald Trump's motivations better than most.

He was a senior advisor to the new president and ran his campaign in the New York primaries …he has known and worked with him for many years. And he knows this is exactly where Trump expected to be.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: I think it's one of the few times in American history where everything will change, and I don't think everything has changed in America because of a presidential election since the 19th century, and I think it's episodic in ways we don't even know yet. But I do know that from very instant he's inaugurated a lot of things in Washington and the United States are going to change immediately.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: We're all in for a helluva ride. I mean I think my best advice for everyone is to strap in. Donald Trump warned us from the very beginning that he's gonna break some eggs and that's you know, that's what he's doing.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Your limousine awaits.

Trump campaign volunteer Trina Philips has been waiting a long time for this moment.

So how are you feeling about tonight?

TRINA PHILLIPS, CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER LEADER: Very, very excited. It is part of history that I never thought I'd be able to experience so it is very good.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The inauguration ball is a long established tradition, it's the way it's always been done here. But there's little else traditional about Donald Trump and his approach to the job, and that's just the way his most ardent supporters like it.

TRINA PHILLIPS: I mean we've needed change for a long time. We're gonna get it now. America's gonna be number one again and we're gonna get that change and we're gonna get what we want.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Trina Phillips' first stop is the armed services ball. Donald Trump is there. It's one of many inauguration balls she will attend tonight.

The President attends many of the balls but not all of them, at least not in person. For the first time this year there's even a Gays for Trump inaugural ball.

TRUMP IMPERSONATOR: But it's a big movement, it's a beautiful movement, it's a bold movement. It's a big, beautiful, bold movement. I even trademarked the name. I call it the Donald Trump big beautiful BM. And a big beautiful BM is something that crooked Hilary just didn't have.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Strangely as divisive as he seems to be Donald Trump has managed to unite some disparate groups.

Trina Phillips who founded Military Spouses for Trump is also a keen participant at the Gays for Trump occasion.

SCOTT PRESLER, GAYS FOR TRUMP: The American people are fed up, we have had enough. We are tired of our jobs going overseas, we are tired of being overtaxed, we are tired of an insecure border, we are tired of 50,000 homeless veterans, we are tired of our veterans not receiving the healthcare that they need, we are tired of not having a good education system for our children. There are so many things wrong in America and those problems are not being addressed.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Gays for Trump was initiated by 28 year old Scott Presler - a gay man unafraid to speak his mind or flaunt his political colours.

SCOTT PRESLER: Whenever I go for a run I wear a backpack on me that says Gays for Trump. I know it's a little crazy but I have fun with it and I have people that throw things at me from their cars. That's violence, that's actually a felony if you throw a projectile from a car.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Scott Presler is in no doubt about the significance and the impact of this moment.

SCOTT PRESLER: This is America's Brexit. This was our independence from an oppressive, gluttonous, obtrusive government. We won our independence on November 8, 2016. We don't need a soft spoken gentleman. We need a Pitbull, and that's what Mr. Trump is.

DONALD TRUMP: I Donald J Trump solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: An inauguration is usually a moment of humility, a chance to bridge the divisions of the campaign and to begin the process of governing with a speech to inspire, to heal and reassure.

But as he did in the campaign and now in the office itself - Donald Trump has signalled his approach will not be constrained by convention.

DONALD TRUMP: This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. From this day forward it's going to be only America first, America first.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Trump's inauguration speech was dark and foreboding, a continuation of his campaign theme of a nation on the brink.

JENNIFER RUBIN, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST WASHINGTON POST: The most chilling from my perspective was his evoking the phrase "America First". That has very dark meaning here in the United States. It goes back to pre World War II years and Charles Lindbergh and other isolationists really showing sympathy towards Adolf Hitler and wanting America to stay out of the war, that mentality which does not see America as an international leader, which does not see democracy as a value to be protected and to be defended. That is a very chilling sort of phrase and people say, "well maybe he doesn't know what that means", and I think that's preposterous, I think he knows exactly what that means and how serious he is about that how that translates into policy, I think that's going to be the defining issue of however long he's in office.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Jennifer Rubin is what you might call an establishment conservative. A well respected and well connected columnist with the Washington Post. She had hoped that the gravity and significance of the office itself might somehow temper Donald Trump.

But if anything his first few weeks in the White House have shown that's not going to happen.

JENNIFER RUBIN: We are in extraordinary times, his behaviour his ideas his manner of governing is unprecedented in American politics. He seems to be really a loose cannon and I think it really cements the division that we have in this country between people who love him and love this show and think he's just showing everybody up, and those people who look aghast at this and say this man is not all there and he's gonna lead not only the country but the world in some very dangerous directions.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: Donald Trump is deliberately confrontational, he does it on purpose and in fact when I was trying to convince him to run for Governor of New York, he insisted that he wanted to run for President of the United States and he told me then how he was gonna win, he told me, he says, "I'm gonna say things that are going to be absolutely newsworthy because of the way that I say them, I'm gonna say things that are gonna attract all the news attention and nobody else and none of the other candidates are gonna have any oxygen left in the room".

DONALD TRUMP: They said what do you think about waterboarding and I said I like it a lot and I don't think it's tough enough.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: And when the news dies down and they start turning- the cameras on the other candidates I'll say something outrageous again and when I do, eventually each one of these candidates will drop away and that's how I'm gonna win the election.

OPRAH WINFREY: I know people have talked about whether or not you wanted to run. Would you ever?

DONALD TRUMP: Probably not.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Over the last three decades, Trump has often flirted with the idea of running for President.

OPRAH WINFERY: You said if you did run for president you believed you would win?

DONALD TRUMP: Well I don't know. I think I'd win. I would tell you, I've never gone into to lose in my life and if I did decide to do it I think I would be inclined, I would say that would have a hell of a chance of winning.

GWENDA BLAIR, BIOGRAPHER: He first started talking about it out loud, I mean who knows, maybe when he was you know five years old, but out loud in 1987 after he'd written a book called 'the Art of the Deal' and it was kind of maybe I'll be president or maybe I should run and kind of a marketing for his book. So he printed some bumper stickers, went to New Hampshire, gave a few speeches. It didn't really go very far but then he did the same thing five more times and the last was 2015 when he really decided to go for it.

DONALD TRUMP: Yes I think I'd make a good president.

GWENDA BLAIR: And so he printed some bumper stickers, he went to New Hampshire, gave a few speeches. It didn't really go very far but then he did the same thing five more times and the last was 2015 when he really decided to go for it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: On Inauguration Day Gwenda Blair came to Washington to witness history. She's been documenting this most extraordinary American life for more than 20 years.

She has written two biographies of Trump and his family. Donald Trump's greatest influence was his father Frederick.

GWENDA BLAIR: His father raised his kids to be killers, the boys that is. The girls - one of his sisters told me they were never in line for taking over the company. That wasn't on the table. But the boys, they were supposed to be killers and Donald took that to heart.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But Gwenda Blair says Donald understood something even his father didn't.

GWENDA BLAIR: From the minute he first started building in the 1970s he was pretty far ahead of the pack with the idea of celebrity branding. Getting your name to be a value added thing, letting your name to be worth more than anything.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump was even able to spin his multiple bankruptcies to his advantage.

GWENDA BLAIR: He's been remarkably adept at framing everything as a success. Four corporate bankruptcies, that was a successful thing to do because he was gaming the system and he did indeed game the system, used his losses to write off his own income tax for nearly 20 years so he's always looking for a way to reframe it; to turn it into a success.

GWENDA BLAIR: The whole Apprentice, the last piece of his career prior to running for president, of being this reality TV show star where he was every week in peoples living rooms, being a boss, being the guy in charge, being the guy who hired people, fired people, setting them against each other, setting up conflict between them making them very competitive, standing back deciding so that there were not loyal to each other. They'd be loyal to him.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And it's clear to all of those who know him that family is where the loyalty lies. And the most loyal of all are his children.

GWENDA BLAIR: He's really got in mind a dynasty situation there and these are who he trusts. These are the people that he sees as loyal to him. Loyalty is super important. Everybody else is an outsider.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Trump has five children to three wives. Donald junior, Ivanka and Eric from his first marriage, Tiffany from his second, and 10-year-old Barron from his third and current wife Melania.

The two older boys Donald and Eric are deeply enmeshed in the trump business but of all of them his daughter Ivanka is the most influential.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: The one person who would call Donald Trump's office and he would always take her call is Ivanka, and when Ivanka was in the room with her father it just seemed that things moved along smoother. Her advice and counsel was something he values above and beyond any other advisor.

I think he wouldn't be president today if it weren't for his children.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The other family member who has emerged as an important player is Ivanka's husband - the millionaire property developer Jared Kushner. He has been appointed senior advisor to President Trump.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: You know Donald Trump sees himself in Jared Kushner and he listens to him.

GWENDA BLAIR: Donald sees in Jared himself really, even perhaps more than he sees himself in his own sons who are at the Trump organisation. They're supposedly going to be running it while Donald is in the White House but Jared seems to be, it looks like that's who Donald sees as his true apprentice. He's a very sharp shrewd guy, pulled off a very large real estate deal in Manhattan just down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower at a very young age and the building is not called the Kushner building, not called the Kushner Tower, but except for that it was the kind of move that Donald I'm sure really applauded.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump has already shown he's transferring the same techniques he's practiced in a life of corporate conquest to the art of governing.

JENNIFER RUBIN: In business Donald Trump was infamous for taking an outlandish, extreme position and thinking that was the opening bid as it were. It's different as president because people take every word you say at every instance quite literally.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump doesn't draw a line between business and politics.

The Trump presidency is challenging more than just the expectations of the political establishment - it is also challenging the laws of the nation and the constitution.

Donald Trump's businesses both here and abroad throw up numerous questions of conflict of interest.

One of the most public examples is this building here in Washington, the new Trump Hotel, leased from the government by the man who now heads the government.

NOAH BOOKBINDER, LAWYER, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: He's essentially landlord and tenant of this property so it means that on the one hand he's got a duty to do the best he can for American taxpayers and on the other hand he had a duty to make as much money as he can for his business…and those two interests are not compatible, it's the textbook definition of a conflict of interest.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Noah Bookbinder is one of a group of bi partisan ethics lawyers who are arguing that this president presents the nation with an un paralleled constitutional crisis.

NOAH BOOKBINDER: This morning our organisation filed suit against the against President Donald Trump for violating the constitution. Our Constitution says that an official, government official including the President, is not allowed to accept payments or money from foreign governments. Donald Trump, by continuing to maintain ownership of his businesses is clearly violating that whether it's through diplomats staying at his hotels, foreign government owned companies leasing space at Trump Tower in New York, foreign governments giving favourable treatment to development projects of his all over the world.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump says he has no case to answer.

DONALD TRUMP: So I could actually run my business. I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able do that if I wanted to.

NORMAN EISEN, OBAMA ETHICS ADVISER: Like so much else that he says, not accurate. Starting with the Constitution of the United States our most fundamental law. It has a conflicts provision that applies to presidents. It's called the emoluments clause, just a fancy eighteenth century word, but what it means is the President is not allowed to get cash or other things of value - benefits - from foreign governments because it would create a conflict of interest. The founders of the United States were so concerned about this they put it in the constitution.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Norm Eisen - an ethics advisor to Barak Obama, is also one of the lawyers party to the suit against the president.

NORMAN EISEN: It's much bigger than just hotel rooms. People are taking out entire floors. They're having large gatherings, these are individual events that are hundreds of thousands of dollars…and collectively millions of dollars of business from foreign governments When you're doing that with large sums of course that's an emolument.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Washington hotel is just one of many potential conflicts of interest arising out of Trump's sprawling business empire, which includes golf courses and hotels around the world

As well as hotels, the President has Trump tower in New York, the biggest tenant is the state owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

He owns a 30 per cent stake in a partnership that borrowed more than a billion dollars from lenders which included the Bank of China.

NORMAN EISEN: By continuing to own his businesses, he is first of all raising the question is he doing deals from the Oval Office to benefit the people, including these people in the rust belt of America, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, who've been terribly damaged by the economic dislocations of recent decades. Is he helping them or helping himself? When he sends our men and women into battle to conflict, when he threatens or deploys American force, it's gonna be the same question. Are they going abroad to defend a Trump golf course or to defend American national interests whenever one of his properties and he's got 'em all over the world is on the one side of or another of a conflict?

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: After relentless public pressure, Trump handed over the day to day running of the business to his sons. He says he will keep an arm's length but has refused to divest himself… he says he simply doesn't need to.

In the end the courts will decide. If they do rule against the president and the president still refuses to budge that could spark another crisis.

NOAH BOOKBINDER: I mean at that point you have a president who is essentially asserting that he doesn't have to follow the law. And I truly don't know how that resolves itself. Right now we have a dispute about what the law is. But if it goes to a situation where courts say that the law is clear the he needs to follow it and he says no I'm not quite sure how that plays out. That would be unchartered territory in the country.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So what do you say to the ethicists and others who are really combing through this and say this is unacceptable constitutionally unacceptable?

MICHAEL CAPUTO: I say see you in court because I mean I understand that the, clauses that people are quoting, I'm not a lawyer, but Donald Trump is surrounded by some of the best lawyers in the world and they believe he's obeying the letter of the law, if he doesn't follow the liberal spirit of the law, so be it, that's politics.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So it will be challenged won't it?

MICHAEL CAPUTO: I think absolutely, Donald Trump's third breath every day will be challenged, he will be challenged on every front.

MICHAEL BRISSEDEN: And the challenging began on his first day in office when hundreds of thousands of women marched on the capitol. The protests cascaded around the nation, an estimated 3.3 million people took to the streets, said to be the largest day of demonstrations in American history. Protests challenging Trump's presidency have become a regular occurrence across the country.

AFRICAN AMERICA WOMAN PROTESTOR: I really feel that our president, our new president Donald Trump does not reflect my beliefs, the beliefs of my family, the beliefs of my loved ones and the majority of the country. 2.9 million people voted for Hilary Clinton than Donald Trump and I don't accept him as my president.

ELDERLY WOMAN PROTESTOR: I am here because I abhor everything that Donald Trump stands for. I don't want to take up two hours of your time but he is against the planet, he's against women and he is against what Americans stand for.

WHITE WOMAN PROTESTOR: We are here to stand up for all the people he dumps on who don't have a voice, that can't stand up to him and his bullying, that's why we are here, human rights, women's rights, for everyone's rights.

MUSLIM WOMAN PROTESTOR: The level of hate in this country has always been here. What Trump has done is just served it up, made it public and made it normalised, he normalised hate so I think what is happening tody is historic and I hoping in a few years from now I can look back at this day I can say this is where it all started.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: I first came to Washington as a correspondent just after the inauguration of Barak Obama.

Americas first black president took office promising hope and change - 'Change has come to America' he said. But this is the real watershed moment. And Donald Trump's change is disruptive and confrontational. Many say that's just what the country needs but others, many - are afraid, anxious, and uncertain.

Bonnie Bellow was one of those who travelled to Washington to protest. She was formerly head of Public Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency.

BONNIE BELLOW, FORMER EPA PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I am marching because I am really concerned about climate change. It is an issue that is of critical importance for us and the next generation and we have to get out. And I am really excited there are so many people who feel the same.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Bonnie Bellow is most concerned about Scott Pruitt - the man Donald Trump has picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

BONNIE BELLOW: It's hard to imagine that the intention of putting of Scott Pruitt in place is not to if not destroy the EPA to bring it to its knees and control it in a way that will ultimately be very destructive, otherwise why would you choose somebody who sued the very agency theyre being asked to lead to take that position. So I can't think of any other scenario.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: If Scott Pruitt does not change the EPA ill be drastically disappointed as will so many people among Trumps base. Our EPA has run amok, its creating such problems for so many different industries that they're killing job s every time they draw breath. The EPA is absolutely out of control. And the idea that our country is willing to you know make changes that have a negative impact on our economy and kill jobs while china and india aren't required to do the same things that's not the kind of america that Donald trump believes in. It's not the kind of America his voters believe in. It's not the kind of America we're gonna have any more.

ROAD SWEEPER: We're cleaning up after Obama for what he done to our county. He closed us all down from working in the mines.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The road to Trump's victory runs through the busted industrial heartland of America. The rust belts of Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania and the once prosperous mining towns of Appalachia, where the loss of jobs has entrenched intergenerational poverty and dislocated families and communities. In the 1980s' towns like Logan were vibrant, bustling and prosperous.

ROGER HORTON, UNITED CITIZENS FOR COAL: Its close to depression era - it really is. Our local bakery, a lot of their new and old patrons are now relying upon food stamps to come in and buy their bakery goods. A lot of the local mom and pop hydraulic and machine shops have closed down. They're not selling cars like they were. You don't find people buying recreations vehicles or buying properties. If you just look around you see houses for sale everywhere. People unable to sustain their mortgages.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: West Virginia is coal country. And it's been on the decline now for decades but the Obama era regulations and a shifting energy marker have devastated towns like this. All Donald Trump had to do was promise to bring coal back. Years ago this was democrat territory. But this time 70% of people voted for Donald Trump.

BILL RANEY, WEST VIRGINIA COAL ASSOCIATION: Trump brought the message. I've never seen first of all that many people in the civic centre and I've never seen them more enthusiastic and more hopeful and you know there was just a sense of confidence among all of them. And it was emblematic of the hope that everyone has that we can get back to where we need to be.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Bill Raney is taking me to see a coal mine - one of only 76 out of 300 that were once open in this district. Like a lot of people here bill Raney was once a democrat - but that was a long time ago - another life time. Driving through the valleys of West Virginia with him - what they call around here the hollers - it's clear who he blames for devastation of his community.

BILL RANEY: The last eight years have been absolutely miserable with the Obama administration. The guy that's been there for the last eight years has taken our jobs and you know every bit of that was done without any congressional approval or endorsement, it was all done by executive order, by policy, by regulation, agency behaviour that's under control of the president. He kicked the props out from under us and so yeah it's going to take a while to get it back but we can get back.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump told the people of West Virginia what they wanted to hear. He is going to make America great again. Regulations will be wound back and coal will reclaim its positon as the key energy provider. Senior Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz claims it is a false promise.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CONGRESSWOMAN: I mean if he's relying on coal that is sending out false hope to people who really need to have solutions both in terms of job training so that they can move in another direction away for the obsolete jobs that they have lost. Or we need to help them move into another form of energy that generates the kind of movement we need in our economy.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: To reach that positon though requires a degree of acceptance that firstly climate change is a significant threat and that coal use should be phased out. And you won't find too many people here who think like that.

BILL RANEY: Is the jury still out in my mind as it regards climate change and CO2? Absolutely it is and we need to have along long discussion about that before we have any kind of dramatic regulations such as we've had in the last eight years.

ROGER HORTON: If you read the bible the bible will tell you point blank there are always going to be spring, there's always going to be summer, there's always going to be fall and there's always going to be winter. We as people can impact the environment, there's no doubt about it, we can impact it in a good way or we can impact it in a negative way. Coal is not the main culprit.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump once joked that climate change was a Chinese hoax and he threatened to cancel the Paris agreement. Climate change is just one fight that President Trump has picked in his first weeks in office.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SHULTZ: With millions of supporters who are not going to go down without a fight on the hard fought accomplishments that we have made. And if the new administration and the republic majority in congress thinks that this is gonna be easy for them to pull the rug out from under Americans that have made that progress they're sadly mistaken.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The reality is the republicans now have an iron grip on government. For the next two years at least they control the house, the senate, and the white house. For the moment the group that he's already defined as the real opposition is - the media.

JENNIFER RUBIN: Usually to begin with there is a honeymoon period for the president. That is clearly not happening. We're onto the divorce before the marriage forget about the honeymoon. Obviously his relationship with the press or anyone else who chooses to put forth a different information stream is gonna be very hostile and he has already I think just inflamed the media and is at war with them and we don't know how that's gonna turn out frankly.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump uses twitter as a way of by passing the traditional media channels. The pronouncements by twitter have thrown global diplomacy into turmoil.

MICHAEL J GREEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO GEORGE W BUSH: In our recent history and perhaps throughout our entire history weve never had a president come into office with such an unpredictable style of communication and with such alarm among our closest allies and friends.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Only last week Australians were gobsmacked by leaked reports of tense discussions between the president and Malcolm Turnbull reinforced with a bellicose tweet. Some are now questioning the strength and the value of the US Australia alliance but old hands like Michael Green a former national security advisor to George W Bush say Australia should try to work around the social media diplomacy.

MICHAEL J GREEN: A kind of temper tantrum back at trumps temper tantrum is probably a bad idea for Australia's national interests. A better way is to reinforce ties with those parts of the administration that have experience and understand how allies are indispensable for any foreign policy the us wants to pursue.

DAVID J KRAMER: I certainly hope that after assuming the awesome responsibilities of being president of the united states that Mr. Trump proves me and the other critics wrong and I think that would be good for everybody, Australia included.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But you're worried?

MICHAEL J GREEN: I am indeed.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: David Kramer was an assistant secretary of state and former foreign policy advisor to George W bush. He was one of 50 senior Republican national security officials who signed a letter warning that trump would be the most reckless president in American history.

DAVID J KRAMER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE TO GEORGE W BUSH: I am worried about our total re-alignment of our partnerships in the Middle East. I worry that we will align ourselves with the Russians in dealing with ISIS when the Russians, it might be won't deliver on that. I worry that we will view Assad as a partner when in reality Assad is not a partner of ours. And the whole relationship how it evolves with Russia is arguably the biggest issue that I think is making people nervous. My hope is that there will be a level of reassurance that comes about after a settling in period. And if there isn't then we are really in a whole different world. As one commentator said recently this is the new abnormal.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: If the US does form an alliance with Russia to deal with ISIS in Syria then David Kramer for one says allies like Australia should rethink their commitment

DAVID J KRAMER: I think each country that is a partner with us in the Middle East would have to re-examine its approach. I think it would be a terrible mistake for the United States to align with Russia and with Assad. And so I think Australia and other countries that have been with us from the beginning would have to take a step back and try to figure out what approach to take as well. It would be a massive re-alignment.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The president is also at odds with his own intelligence community. He initially dismissed their conclusions about Russian hacking in the election and he accused them of leading a damaging dossier on him. At least four agencies, including the CIA, are investigating Trump's former campaign chairman and other associates, over their links with Russia.

MICHAEL CAPUTO: I know Donald Trump well enough and I've known him long enough to know there is no Putin Trump connection, it doesn't exist.

MICHAEL J GREEN: Now he's saying he wants to build an alliance with Russia and he's acting like there's some strategic principle that underlies all this. And because of the Russian interference in our election and independent FBI investigations of the Russian activities and because so many on the Democratic Party side are saying he's illegitimate, because of that once again politically he's doubling down with this idea that he is doing all of this praise of Vladimir Putin and Russia out of some grand strategic vision. So it's been shaped almost entirely by domestic politics. There's speculation the Russians have something on him. That's pure speculation. Frankly Mr Trump has survived some pretty embarrassing revelations. The Russians would have to pretty impressive dossier to beat what's already out there that he's survived politically.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Donald Trump came to office embroiled in numerous lawsuits. In the weeks since he was sworn in dozens of new court cases have been filed.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: President Trump himself has still not released his taxes and says that he will not divest from his businesses. So he'll be profiting off of his businesses while serving as President likely in in violation when he engages in foreign in business with the Emoluments Clause in our Constitution. So the President is going, is inviting controversy, inviting investigations, that I believe will ultimately if he continues down that path ah cause him a tremendous amount of problems.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Could it to lead to impeachment? Is that likely?

DAVID KRAMER: It's a little early I think to be talking about any impeachment scenarios. High crimes and misdemeanours are the threshold for impeachment and I think it would take a very serious matter. Appearance issues probably wouldn't cross that threshold. It would lead to calls for investigations and calls for independent counsels.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Some pundits are speculating that President Trump may not see out his four year term. While others think he will make American great again. One thing they do agree upon is under Trump, American will never be the same.

DAVID J KRAMER: The President of the United States and this is hard for many people including Americans to understand has the authority to launch a nuclear strike. Because the decision has to be made so quickly depending on circumstances there is no resort to congress to either try to block it or to authorise it. And that is arguably the most powerful authority any leader in the world could have. So I hope that a tweet from a foreign leader or some insult directed toward the white house won't set off Mr Trump into a fit.

JENNIFER RUBIN: Predicting what Donald Trump will do or say is very difficult. It is possible that there will be utter chaos, that literally nothing will get done, domestically in terms of foreign policy. His wall will never get built, tax reform will die a slow death and that you just cannot operate in the American political system with someone this flighty, this erratic.

SARAH FERGUSON: The spectrum of uncertainty felt during Trump's first fortnight feels unlike anything we have faced for decades. The question for now is "what's next?"

On our program next week, Four Corners investigates Australia's vitamins and supplement's industry - how much of your money is going down the toilet?


Pruitt is just one of a number of deliberately provocative appointments made to key cabinet positions. In 2011 Scott Pruitt as the Attorney General of Oklahoma joined 27 other states that sued the EPA. He is one of those who disputes the science of climate change.