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One year later, Americans sound off on Trump presidency

Americans on Trump presidency
One year after election, Americans sound off on Trump presidency 06:45

One year ago today, Americans elected Donald Trump as our 45th president. What do they think now?

Democrat Halle Minchin-Skook, a special education teacher who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, said her views on President Trump have not changed since the election.

"His rhetoric – he's just a bully," Michin-Skook told CBS News' Elaine Quijano. "And I just morally, I cannot support someone like that."

Republican Steven Shook, a musician who voted for Mr. Trump, said he'd still cast the same vote.

"I really feel like, in a lot of ways, he got a crash course in Politics 101, but at the same time, he's really come through fairly well," Shook said.

In our ongoing series, "We the People," we've followed four people from across the country with varying political beliefs and perspectives. We brought the four of them – Michin-Skook, Shook, Leo Smith and Cesar Vargas –  to New York City to meet for the first time.

(L to R) Leo Smith, Cesar Vargas, Halle Minchin-Skook and Steven Shook  CBS News 

Smith, an activist and businessman, also voted for Mr. Trump last fall. He ran for a seat in Georgia's state senate and lost the election on Tuesday.

"I think even more today, I'm more convinced that Donald Trump was the right person for what we needed in America at this time," Smith said. "The economic growth that we are experiencing. I think that the last couple of months we've experienced three percent growth and that is a bigger number than I thought that was even possible."

Vargas, a lawyer and undocumented immigrant who couldn't vote, wasn't as positive.  

"This administration disappointed me because of the fact that he is trying divide all of us, when, in fact, we're all in this together. And, yeah, I cannot support someone like that," Vargas said.

"We have… been divided, we've just been silent about it," Smith said in response.

We the People: Americans share their letters to President Trump 05:14

The group also reflected on the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in August that led to violent clashes, which starkly exposed divisions within the country.

"You have people who are truly racist, people who are truly anti-immigrant, people who truly want to have this nation as a white nation," Vargas said. "And this administration is just simply, surprisingly is just fueling that division amongst us."

"I was horrified by that entire situation in Charlottesville," Smith said. "I mean, Donald Trump did not create white nationalism. He did not create the Nazis. … Those people existed. And so we needed to see them. They are in the light now. … And so, yeah, the way I've always looked at Donald Trump is sort of like he's a catalyst to bring awareness."

"There is nothing more anti-American than those groups," Shook said. "No offense to the media, but I think the media really construes it into that whole thing and helping place blame on the president."

We the People: Americans share hopes, fears for Trump presidency 05:43

Mr. Trump received criticism after he blamed "both sides" for the Charlottesville violence.

"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent," Mr. Trump said in August.

"It's true," Shook said. "There is violence on both sides of it. There is bad people on both sides of it. And it's not just Donald Trump." 

Minchin-Skook, on the other hand, said she was "appalled" by Mr. Trump's response. 

"I think Donald Trump's rhetoric has allowed these people to be more vocal about it. And honestly, I think it's a good thing because now we can do something about it," she said.

We the People: Americans reflect on President Trump's first month 06:14

A recent CBS News poll shows the president's overall job approval rating is 39 percent. Among Republicans, 84 percent approve of his performance.

"The last time we talked to you, Steven and Halle, you both agreed that the president was effective in dealing with global issues like Syria and with Korea," Quijano said.

"I do agree with that," Minchin-Skook said. "We have the strongest military in the world. We need to keep it that way. And I agree with… Syria, how we bombed over there."

But she said the president "needs work" on his rhetoric and how he speaks about other world leaders, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"Like the 'Rocket Man' and the 'fire and fury,'" Minchin-Skook said. "Like you can say those things but not using that verbiage."

"It's one thing to be tough in the world arena but another things to be reckless," Vargas added.  

Shook said he believes Mr. Trump has a "compassionate side."

"I do believe that he's improving," Shook said. "The thing about Donald Trump is that he's not a politician, he's a businessman. And he's also a TV personality, too. … And he's learning… what it's like to be a leader of this country. And I think that seeing that gave me a lot of hope."

But Vargas said Mr. Trump's rhetoric has "concrete, detrimental effects." Despite having been a businessman and TV personality, he said the country needs Mr. Trump to be a president right now.

"Like what happened in Puerto Rico — U.S. American citizens who have suffered and lost everything," Vargas said. "And then he throws napkins as if this is a football game."

"Is there anything that you heard today that surprised you or changed your opinion at all?" Quijano asked the group.

"Well, being able to engage with folks from all over the country with, you know, sort of different, divergent backgrounds… Look, we are very similar. We are very similar," Smith said. "We all have aspirational hopes for our country, for our communities."

"I think, for me, it's just bringing all of us together and appreciating each other as neighbors, not as, 'Oh, you're Republican, you're my enemy,'" Vargas said.

"We don't always agree on things, but if more people would just talk to one another respectfully and respect people's differences of opinion, I think the United States would be a much better place," Minchin-Skook said.

"For the most part, I think that we all want to see everybody doing well," Shook said. "And we all want to see the president succeed." 

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