But even as he has demanded deficit reduction, Trump has handcuffed his advisers with limits on what measures could be taken. And almost immediately after demanding the cuts from his Cabinet secretaries, Trump suggested that some areas — particularly the military — would be largely spared.

The president has said no changes can be made to Medicare and Social Security, two of the government’s most expensive entitlements, as he has promised that the popular programs will remain untouched.

When staffers sought to include an attack on Democrats’ Medicare-for-all proposals in Trump’s campaign speeches this fall, he initially blanched, two administration aides said. Medicare is popular, he said, and voters want it. Eventually, he agreed to the attack if he could say Democrats were going to take the entitlement away.

He has suggested that military spending could be curtailed slightly, from $716 billion this year to $700 billion in his next proposal, a smaller reduction than other agencies would face.