Trump was quickly shut down by federal courts, but that didn’t stop him. He has tried twice since then, issuing new and altered travel bans (and often getting slapped back down by courts). The president hasn’t figured out how to achieve what he wants, and his past statements about the ban have proven a legal obstacle for him, but he keeps at it.
The same holds true for the wall. By all indications, Trump’s temper tantrum on March 23, the day he signed the omnibus spending bill, was related to Congress’s refusal to fund his border well. Within days, he began cryptically speaking of a plan to “Build WALL through M!,” which turned out to be a harebrained, probably illegal scheme to pay for construction of the wall out of the military budget. Frustrated in that pursuit as well, Trump then announced that he was going to send the military to the border until the wall was built. That, too, wasn’t really plausible, but Trump issued an order to deploy the National Guard to the border.
In sequence, the president has had to concede that Mexico will not build the wall, that Congress is not funding it, and that he cannot dispatch the Army there, but he has remained staunchly committed to the wall. This is true even as Trump’s own allies try to soft-pedal the claim, or to say that the wall might just be a fence, or might be virtual. (Just on Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said that improvements to an existing fence were the real wall.) The president can’t figure out how to get his wall, but he remains committed to it.
Trump’s advisers, or at least some of them, are often in the position of trying to prevent the president from doing what he wants to do, or at least trying to soften it. That was the case when Gary Cohn, then an economic adviser, tried to prevent the imposition of tariffs, or when national-security officials reportedly arm-wrestled him out of a swift departure from Syria during a meeting on Tuesday. These advisers may believe that protectionism and precipitous withdrawal from military deployments are unwise, and they may very well be right, but there should be little surprise that Trump is doing what he said he would.
Trump has shown his persistence, and its limits, in the cases of tax cuts, health care, and judicial appointments, too. As a candidate, Trump promised “tax reform.” Once he was in office, it became clear quickly that true reform, as in 1986, was impossible, but despite the expectations of analysts who said even a tax-cut bill could not be completed by the end of 2017, Trump jammed through a package of tax cuts. (The complications of moving so quickly are only slowly emerging.)
He was less successful on health care. Repealing Obamacare was always going to be a challenging task, and the president’s impatience, refusal to roll up his sleeves and work on the legislation, and frequently changing stance did not help. Still, his commitment to action was clear. On one occasion, when repeal seemed dead, Trump more or less willed it back to life. When even that failed, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared they were done trying to get rid of Obamacare. Trump still continues to periodically bring it up.