HE'S ALL HAT

A year since Donald Trump’s victory: These photos explain his unlikely presidency

Obsession
"America First"
Obsession
"America First"

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States on Nov. 8, 2016, one year ago.

Pictures from the past year have proven more and more valuable in understanding Trump’s approach to the office many Americans never imagined he would hold.

Restricted access for the media

Less than 10 days after winning the election, Trump hosted Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in a private meeting at Trump Tower. The meeting, his first as president-elect with a foreign head of state, set off a number of red flags for those concerned about how the incoming administration would conduct itself.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York
See you next time. (Reuters/Cabinet Public Relations Office handout)

As Quartz’s Selina Cheng reported last November:

All photos of Trump’s meeting were taken by a Japanese diplomatic staffer, and handed out by Abe’s public-relations team. No US journalists were invited, putting American media in the unusual position of portraying their government-to-be through the lens of a foreign government. Similarly, information about the meeting largely came from a press event with Abe after the meeting, with Trump’s team making no official comment.

Trump also hasn’t done much to reassure the public about potential conflicts of interest: As many pointed out, his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner feature prominently in photos of the diplomatic meeting.

Presidential family members often interact with foreign leaders at state dinners, but Ivanka is more than family—she represents Trump’s private business interests. While part of Trump’s transition team, she is one of three Trump kids slated to run his private business after Jan. 20. Her own business recently was forced to apologize for turning media appearances about her father’s presidency into a sales opportunity.

Both Ivanka and Jared have since joined the administration. And they have held yet to divest a broad swath of business holdings.

For dinner, your hat

U.S. President-elect Trump sits at a table for dinner with former Massachusetts Governor Romney and his choice for White House Chief of Staff Priebus at Jean-Georges at the  Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York
At your service. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

During the 2016 campaign, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, strongly denounced Trump, calling him a fraud with “neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president.” Cut to a few weeks after the election, and Romney is one of the top names floated as a potential secretary of state. Over steak, scallops and dessert in Trump Tower, Romney promptly ate crow and smiled for the cameras which were ushered into Jean Georges.

This wouldn’t be the last time a one-time Trump critic would come to kiss the ring. In fact, a well-worn motif of the year since last Nov. 8 is the parade of former Republican foes who have turned a blind eye to the nonconforming ways Trump has brought to Washington.

“The largest audience…period.”

A Picture and Its Story: Crowd controversy: The making of an Inauguration Day photo
2017 and 2009 (Reuters)

Just a single day into the Trump administration brought its first briefing-room squabble with the media. By comparing photos, it was obvious that Trump’s inaugural crowd was noticeably smaller than Barack Obama’s first, in 2009. Trump sent out his newly minted press secretary Sean Spicer to deliver a harsh rebuke to reporters settling in for their first administration briefing. This wouldn’t be the last time the press secretary and other members of the administration would lie to the public in attempt to please their boss. Welcome to the era of “alternative facts.”

That patented primetime reveal

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington
Putting on a show. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

In a year with multiple setbacks, one of Trump’s few outright successes has been his appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. When he was ready to announce the nomination, it felt appropriate for Trump to anoint the normally staid (day-time) ritual with its own reality-TV sheen. The conservative Gorsuch was a widely praised choice among Republicans, who easily confirmed his appointment in the Senate. For a president preoccupied with ratings and optics, he made sure as many people as possible saw the first step toward his clearest victory yet.

Pence stays in the picture

Trump speaks by phone with Merkel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington
Donald Trump, joined (left to right) by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in the Oval Office. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Internal dysfunction has defined the first months of Trump’s presidency. There have been a string of departures, many the result of internal struggles between establishment Republicans like Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer battling against the more right-wing partisans from the Trump campaign.

The first major exit came fast, as national security advisor Michael Flynn stepped down after less than a month. By the summer, the only people in the above photo still working in the White House are Trump himself and vice president Mike Pence.

When all else fails, go for the photo op

U.S. President Donald Trump sits on a firefighter truck as he participates in a "Made in America" products showcase at the White House in Washington, U.S.
Attempting to drive the narrative. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

The early months of the Trump administration were beset by unfavorable judicial decisions and legislative failures. Just days after the Senate decided to delay a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, with his poll ratings at record lows and the inquiry into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was picking up, Trump took time out to sit at the wheel of a fire truck, try on a hat and look at guitars. These oddest of photo ops have seemed useful for the president. When it’s time to do something silly like cosplay a trucker or stare directly into the sun, he seems to be actually enjoying himself.

Read next: A well-timed Oval Office photo perfectly illustrates Trump’s revelation that being president is hard

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