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Donald Trump

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Donald Trump
Official White House portrait. Head shot of Trump smiling in front of the U.S. flag, wearing a dark blue suit jacket with American flag lapel pin, white shirt, and light blue necktie.
45th President of the United States
Assumed office
January 20, 2017
Vice PresidentMike Pence
Preceded byBarack Obama
Personal details
Born
Donald John Trump

(1946-06-14) June 14, 1946 (age 74)
Queens, New York City
Political partyRepublican (1987–1999, 2009–2011, 2012–present)
Other political
affiliations
Spouse(s)
(m. 1977; div. 1992)
(m. 1993; div. 1999)
(m. 2005)
Children
Parents
RelativesFamily of Donald Trump
Residence
Alma materWharton School (BS in Econ.)
Net worthUS$2.1 billion (April 2020)[a]
AwardsList of honors and awards
SignatureDonald J Trump stylized autograph, in ink
Website

Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality.

Trump was born and raised in Queens, New York City. He attended Fordham University for two years and received a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He became president of his father's real estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded its operations to building or renovating skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. Trump later started various side ventures, mostly by licensing his name. Trump and his businesses have been involved in more than 4,000 state and federal legal actions, including six bankruptcies. He owned the Miss Universe brand of beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015. He produced and hosted The Apprentice, a reality television series, from 2003 to 2015. As of April 2020, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $2.1 billion.[a] However, a New York Times analysis revealed that most of Trump's income comes from licensing deals and his share in The Apprentice, with many of his real estate holdings losing money.[1][2] Trump is personally liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, potentially placing his lenders in the "unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president."[2]

Trump's political positions have been described as populist, protectionist, and nationalist. He entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and was elected in a surprise victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, although he lost the popular vote.[b] He became the oldest first-term U.S. president,[c] and the first without prior military or government service. His election and policies have sparked numerous protests. Trump has made many false or misleading statements during his campaign and presidency. The statements have been documented by fact-checkers, and the media have widely described the phenomenon as unprecedented in American politics. Many of his comments and actions have been characterized as racially charged or racist.

During his presidency, Trump ordered a travel ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries, citing security concerns; after legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld the policy's third revision. He enacted a tax-cut package for individuals and businesses, rescinding the individual health insurance mandate penalty of the Affordable Care Act, but failed to repeal and replace the ACA as a whole. He appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. In foreign policy, Trump has pursued an America First agenda, withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal. He imposed import tariffs which triggered a trade war with China, moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria. Trump met three times with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, but talks on denuclearization broke down in 2019. Trump reacted slowly to the COVID-19 pandemic; he minimized the threat, ignored or contradicted many recommendations from health officials, and promoted false information about unproven treatments and the availability of testing. He is seeking a second term as the Republican nominee in the 2020 presidential election.

A special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller found that Trump and his campaign welcomed and encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election under the belief that it would be politically advantageous, but did not find sufficient evidence to press charges of criminal conspiracy or coordination with Russia.[d] Mueller also investigated Trump for obstruction of justice, and his report neither indicted nor exonerated Trump on that offense. After Trump solicited Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, the House of Representatives impeached him in December 2019 for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate acquitted him of both charges in February 2020.

Personal life

Early life

A black-and-white photograph of Donald Trump as a teenager, smiling and wearing a dark pseudo-military uniform with various badges and a light-colored stripe crossing his right shoulder
1964 New York Military Academy yearbook photo

Trump was born on June 14, 1946, at Jamaica Hospital in the borough of Queens, New York City.[3][4] His father was Frederick Christ Trump, a Bronx-born real estate developer whose parents were German immigrants. His mother was Scottish-born housewife Mary Anne MacLeod Trump. Trump grew up in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens and attended the Kew-Forest School from kindergarten through seventh grade.[5][6] At age 13, he was enrolled in the New York Military Academy, a private boarding school.[7] In 1964, he enrolled at Fordham University. Two years later he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in May 1968 with a B.S. in economics.[8][9] Profiles of Trump published in The New York Times in 1973 and 1976 erroneously reported that he had graduated first in his class at Wharton, but he had never made the school's honor roll.[10] In 2015, Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen threatened Fordham University and the New York Military Academy with legal action if they released Trump's academic records.[11]

Military deferment

While in college, Trump obtained four student draft deferments.[12] In 1966, he was deemed fit for military service based upon a medical examination, and in July 1968 a local draft board classified him as eligible to serve.[13] In October 1968, he was medically deferred and classified 1-Y (unqualified for duty except in the case of a national emergency).[14] In 1972, he was reclassified 4-F due to bone spurs, which permanently disqualified him from service.[15][16] Trump said in 2015 the deferment was for a bone spur in his foot, but could not remember which foot.[14]

Family

Parents and siblings

Fred Trump started working in real estate with his mother Elizabeth when he was 15, after his father Friedrich had died in the 1918 flu pandemic.[17] By 1926, their company, "E. Trump & Son", was active in the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn.[18] It would grow to build and sell tens of thousands of houses, barracks, and apartments.[19][20] Fred claimed to be Swedish amid the anti-German sentiment sparked by World War II;[21] Donald Trump also claimed Swedish heritage until 1990.[22] Trump's mother Mary Anne MacLeod was born in Scotland.[23] Fred and Mary were married in 1936 and raised their family in Queens.[22] Trump grew up with three elder siblings – Maryanne, Fred Jr., and Elizabeth – and younger brother Robert.[24]

Wives and children

Trump is sworn in as president by Chief Justice John Roberts on January 20, 2017. From left: Trump, wife Melania, and his children Donald Jr., Barron, Ivanka, Eric, and Tiffany.

In 1977, Trump married Czech model Ivana Zelníčková.[25] They have three children, Donald Jr. (born 1977), Ivanka (born 1981), and Eric (born 1984), and ten grandchildren.[26] Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988.[27] The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump's affair with actress Marla Maples.[28] Maples and Trump married in 1993[29] and had one daughter, Tiffany (born 1993).[30] They were divorced in 1999,[31] and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California.[32] In 2005, Trump married Slovenian model Melania Knauss.[33] They have one son, Barron (born 2006).[34] Melania gained U.S. citizenship in 2006.[35]

Religion

Trump identifies as Presbyterian. He went to Sunday school and was confirmed in 1959 at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens.[36][37] In the 1970s, his parents joined the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, which belongs to the Reformed Church.[36][38] The pastor at Marble, Norman Vincent Peale,[36] ministered to Trump's family until Peale's death in 1993.[38] Trump has described Peale as a mentor.[39] In 2015, after Trump said he attends Marble, the church publicly stated he "is not an active member" of the church.[37] In November 2019, Trump appointed his personal pastor, televangelist Paula White, to the White House Office of Public Liaison.[40]

Health and lifestyle

Trump abstains from alcohol.[41] He says he has never smoked tobacco or cannabis.[42] He likes fast food and French cuisine.[43][44] He has said he prefers three to four hours of sleep per night.[45] He has called golfing his "primary form of exercise", although he usually does not walk the course.[46] He considers exercise a waste of energy, because he believes the body is "like a battery, with a finite amount of energy" which is depleted by exercise.[47]

In December 2015, Harold Bornstein, who had been Trump's personal physician since 1980, wrote that Trump would "be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" in a letter released by the Trump campaign.[48] In May 2018, Bornstein said Trump had dictated the contents of the letter and that three agents of Trump had removed his medical records in February 2017 without due authorization.[48][49]

In January 2018, White House physician Ronny Jackson said Trump was in excellent health and that his cardiac assessment revealed no issues.[50] Several outside cardiologists commented that Trump's 2018 LDL cholesterol level of 143 did not indicate excellent health.[51] In February 2019, after a new examination, White House physician Sean Conley said Trump was in "very good health overall", although he was clinically obese.[52] His 2019 coronary CT calcium scan score indicates he suffers from a form of coronary artery disease common for white men of his age.[53]

In June 2020, Conley released a memorandum saying "the data indicates that the President remains healthy."[54][55] The memorandum was not the usual report issued after the annual physical exam. It summarized medical appointments that had taken place between November 2019 and 2020.[54]

Wealth

Trump and wife Ivana in the receiving line of a state dinner for King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in 1985,[56] with U.S. president Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan

In 1982, Trump was listed on the initial Forbes list of wealthy individuals as having a share of his family's estimated $200 million net worth. His financial losses in the 1980s caused him to be dropped from the list between 1990 and 1995.[57] In its 2020 billionaires ranking, Forbes estimated Trump's net worth at $2.1 billion[a] (1,001st in the world, 275th in the U.S.)[60] making him one of the richest politicians in American history and the first billionaire American president.[60] During the three years since Trump announced his presidential run in 2015, Forbes estimated his net worth declined 31% and his ranking fell 138 spots.[61] When he filed mandatory financial disclosure forms with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in July 2015, Trump claimed a net worth of about $10 billion;[62] however, FEC figures cannot corroborate this estimate because they only show each of his largest buildings as being worth over $50 million, yielding total assets worth more than $1.4 billion and debt over $265 million.[63]

Journalist Jonathan Greenberg reported in April 2018 that Trump, using the pseudonym "John Barron" and claiming to be a Trump Organization official, called him in 1984 to falsely assert that he owned "in excess of ninety percent" of the Trump family's business, to secure a higher ranking on the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans. Greenberg also wrote that Forbes had vastly overestimated Trump's wealth and wrongly included him on the Forbes 400 rankings of 1982, 1983, and 1984.[64]

Trump has often said he began his career with "a small loan of one million dollars" from his father, and that he had to pay it back with interest.[65] In October 2018, The New York Times reported that Trump "was a millionaire by age 8", borrowed at least $60 million from his father, largely failed to reimburse him, and had received $413 million (adjusted for inflation) from his father's business empire over his lifetime.[66][67] According to the report, Trump and his family committed tax fraud, which a lawyer for Trump denied. The tax department of New York said it is "vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation" into it.[68][69] Analyses by The Economist and The Washington Post have concluded that Trump's investments underperformed the stock market.[70][71] Forbes estimated in October 2018 that the value of Trump's personal brand licensing business had declined by 88% since 2015, to $3 million.[72]

Trump's tax returns from 1985 to 1994 show net losses totaling $1.17 billion over the ten-year period, in contrast to his claims about his financial health and business abilities. The New York Times reported that "year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer," and Trump's "core business losses in 1990 and 1991 – more than $250 million each year – were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years". In 1995 his reported losses were $915.7 million.[73][74]

In September 2020, the New York Times obtained two decades of Trump's tax return data. According to their report, Trump paid $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, far less than other presidents, and his businesses lose significants amount of money.[75]

Business career

Real estate

While a student at Wharton and after graduating in 1968, Trump worked at his father Fred's real estate company, Trump Management, which owned middle-class rental housing in New York City's outer boroughs.[76][77][78] In 1971, he became president of the company and began using The Trump Organization as an umbrella brand.[79] The business had previously used the names Fred C. Trump Organization,[80][81] Fred Trump Organization,[82][83] and Trump Organization,[84] but had not had a single formal name. It was registered as a corporation in 1981.[85]

Manhattan developments

Trump attracted public attention in 1978 with the launch of his family's first Manhattan venture, the renovation of the derelict Commodore Hotel, adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. The financing was facilitated by a $400 million city property tax abatement arranged by Fred Trump,[86] who also joined Hyatt in guaranteeing $70 million in bank construction financing.[87][88] The hotel reopened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt Hotel,[89] and that same year, Trump obtained rights to develop Trump Tower, a mixed-use skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan.[90] The building houses the headquarters of the Trump Organization and was Trump's primary residence until 2019.[91][92]

In 1988, Trump acquired the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan with a loan of $425 million from a consortium of banks. Two years later, the hotel filed for bankruptcy protection, and a reorganization plan was approved in 1992.[93] In 1995, Trump lost the hotel to Citibank and investors from Singapore and Saudi Arabia, who assumed $300 million of the debt.[94][95]

In 1996, Trump acquired a vacant 71-story skyscraper at 40 Wall Street. After an extensive renovation, the high-rise was renamed the Trump Building.[96] In the early 1990s, Trump won the right to develop a 70-acre (28 ha) tract in the Lincoln Square neighborhood near the Hudson River. Struggling with debt from other ventures in 1994, Trump sold most of his interest in the project to Asian investors who were able to finance completion of the project, Riverside South.[97]

Palm Beach estate

Mar-a-Lago in 2009

In 1985, Trump acquired the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.[98] Trump used a wing of the estate as a home, while converting the remainder into a private club with an initiation fee and annual dues.[99] On September 27, 2019, Trump declared Mar-a-Lago his primary residence.[92]

Atlantic City casinos

The entrance of the Trump Taj Mahal, a casino in Atlantic City. It has motifs evocative of the Taj Mahal in India.
Entrance of the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City

In 1984, Trump opened Harrah's at Trump Plaza hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with financing from the Holiday Corporation, who also managed the operation. Gambling had been legalized there in 1977 to revitalize the once-popular seaside destination.[100] The property's poor financial results worsened tensions between Holiday and Trump, who paid Holiday $70 million in May 1986 to take sole control of the property.[101] Earlier, Trump had also acquired a partially completed building in Atlantic City from the Hilton Corporation for $320 million. Upon its completion in 1985, that hotel and casino were called Trump Castle. Trump's then-wife Ivana managed it until 1988.[102][103]

Trump acquired a third casino in Atlantic City, the Trump Taj Mahal, in 1988 in a highly leveraged transaction.[104] It was financed with $675 million in junk bonds and completed at a cost of $1.1 billion, opening in April 1990.[105][106][107] The project went bankrupt the following year,[106] and the reorganization left Trump with only half his initial ownership stake and required him to pledge personal guarantees of future performance.[108] Facing "enormous debt", he gave up control of his money-losing airline, Trump Shuttle, and sold his 282-foot (86 m) mega yacht, the Trump Princess, which had been indefinitely docked in Atlantic City while leased to his casinos for use by wealthy gamblers.[109][110]

In 1995, Trump founded Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (THCR), which assumed ownership of Trump Plaza, Trump Castle, and the Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana.[111] THCR purchased the Taj Mahal in 1996 and underwent successive bankruptcies in 2004, 2009, and 2014, leaving Trump with only ten percent ownership.[112] He remained chairman of THCR until 2009.[113]

Golf courses

The Trump Organization began acquiring and constructing golf courses in 1999.[114] It owned 16 golf courses and resorts worldwide and operated another two as of December 2016. His 2015 golf and resort revenue amounted to $382 million.[115]

From his inauguration until the end of 2019, Trump spent around one of every five days at one of his golf clubs.[116]

Branding and licensing

After the Trump Organization's financial losses in the early 1990s, it refocused its business on branding and licensing the Trump name for projects owned and operated by other people and companies.[117] In the late 2000s and early 2010s, it expanded this branding and management business to hotel towers located around the world, including Chicago; Las Vegas; Washington, D.C.; Panama City; Toronto; and Vancouver. There were also Trump-branded buildings in Dubai, Honolulu, Istanbul, Manila, Mumbai, and Indonesia.[118]

The Trump name has also been licensed for various consumer products and services, including foodstuffs, apparel, adult learning courses, and home furnishings.[119][120] According to an analysis by The Washington Post, there are more than fifty licensing or management deals involving Trump's name, which have generated at least $59 million in yearly revenue for his companies.[121] By 2018 only two consumer goods companies continued to license his name.[120]

Legal affairs and bankruptcies

Fixer Roy Cohn served as Trump's lawyer and mentor in the 1970s and 1980s, with a 13-year relationship.[122][123] According to Trump, they were so close that Cohn sometimes waived fees due to their friendship.[77] In 1973, Cohn helped Trump counter-sue the United States government for $100 million over its charges that Trump's properties had racial discriminatory practices; in 1975 an agreement was struck for Trump's properties to change their practices.[124] It was Cohn who introduced political consultant Roger Stone to Trump, who enlisted Stone's services to deal with the federal government.[125]

As of April 2018, Trump and his businesses had been involved in more than 4,000 state and federal legal actions, according to a running tally by USA Today.[126]

While Trump has not filed for personal bankruptcy, his over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection six times between 1991 and 2009.[127][128] They continued to operate while the banks restructured debt and reduced Trump's shares in the properties.[127][128]

During the 1980s, more than 70 banks had lent Trump $4 billion,[129] but in the aftermath of his corporate bankruptcies of the early 1990s, most major banks declined to lend to him, with only Deutsche Bank still willing to lend money.[130]

In April 2019, the House Oversight Committee issued subpoenas seeking financial details from Trump's banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, and his accounting firm, Mazars USA. In response, Trump sued the banks, Mazars, and committee chairman Elijah Cummings to prevent the disclosures.[131][132] In May, DC District Court judge Amit Mehta ruled that Mazars must comply with the subpoena,[133] and judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District Court of New York ruled that the banks must also comply.[134][135] Trump's attorneys appealed the rulings,[136] arguing that Congress was attempting to usurp the "exercise of law-enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch".[137][138]

Side ventures

In September 1983, Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals, a team in the United States Football League. After the 1985 season, the league folded, largely due to Trump's strategy of moving games to a fall schedule (where they competed with the NFL for audience) and trying to force a merger with the NFL by bringing an antitrust suit against the organization.[139][140]

Trump's businesses have hosted several boxing matches at the Atlantic City Convention Hall adjacent to and promoted as taking place at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.[141][142] In 1989 and 1990, Trump lent his name to the Tour de Trump cycling stage race, which was an attempt to create an American equivalent of European races such as the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia.[143]

In the late 1980s, Trump mimicked the actions of Wall Street's so-called corporate raiders, whose tactics had attracted wide public attention. Trump began to purchase significant blocks of shares in various public companies, leading some observers to think he was engaged in the practice called greenmail, or feigning the intent to acquire the companies and then pressuring management to repurchase the buyer's stake at a premium. The New York Times found that Trump initially made millions of dollars in such stock transactions, but later "lost most, if not all, of those gains after investors stopped taking his takeover talk seriously".[73][144][145]

In 1988, Trump purchased the defunct Eastern Air Lines shuttle, with 21 planes and landing rights in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. He financed the purchase with $380 million from 22 banks, rebranded the operation the Trump Shuttle, and operated it until 1992. Trump failed to earn a profit with the airline and sold it to USAir.[146]

Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

In 1992, Trump, his siblings Maryanne, Elizabeth, and Robert, and cousin John W. Walter, each with a 20 percent share, formed All County Building Supply & Maintenance Corp. The company had no offices and is alleged to have been a shell company for paying the vendors providing services and supplies for Trump's rental units, and then billing those services and supplies to Trump Management with markups of 20–50 percent and more. The proceeds generated by the markups were shared by the owners.[67][147] The increased costs were used as justification to get state approval for increasing the rents of Trump's rent-stabilized units.[67]

From 1996 to 2015, Trump owned all or part of the Miss Universe pageants, including Miss USA and Miss Teen USA.[148][149] Due to disagreements with CBS about scheduling, he took both pageants to NBC in 2002.[150][151] In 2007, Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work as producer of Miss Universe.[152] After NBC and Univision dropped the pageants from their broadcasting lineups in June 2015,[153] Trump bought NBC's share of the Miss Universe Organization and sold the entire company to the William Morris talent agency.[148]

Trump University

In 2004, Trump co-founded a company called Trump University which sold real estate training courses priced from $1,500 to $35,000.[154][155] After New York State authorities notified the company that its use of the word "university" violated state law, its name was changed to Trump Entrepreneur Initiative in 2010.[156]

In 2013, the State of New York filed a $40 million civil suit against Trump University; the suit alleged that the company made false statements and defrauded consumers.[157][158] In addition, two class actions were filed in federal court; they named Trump personally as well as his companies. Internal documents revealed that employees were instructed to use a hard-sell approach, and former employees said in depositions that Trump University had defrauded or lied to its students.[159][160][161] Shortly after he won the presidency, Trump agreed to pay a total of $25 million to settle the three cases.[162]

Foundation

The Donald J. Trump Foundation was a U.S.-based private foundation established in 1988 for the initial purpose of giving away proceeds from the book Trump: The Art of the Deal.[163][164] In the foundation's final years its funds mostly came from donors other than Trump, who did not donate any personal funds to the charity from 2009 until 2014.[165] The foundation gave to health care and sports-related charities, as well as conservative groups.[166]

In 2016, The Washington Post reported that the charity had committed several potential legal and ethical violations, including alleged self-dealing and possible tax evasion.[167] Also in 2016, the New York State attorney general's office said the foundation appeared to be in violation of New York laws regarding charities and ordered it to immediately cease its fundraising activities in New York.[168][169] Trump's team announced in late December 2016 that the foundation would be dissolved to remove "even the appearance of any conflict with [his] role as President".[170]

In June 2018 the New York attorney general's office filed a civil suit against the foundation, Trump himself, and his adult children, asking for $2.8 million in restitution and additional penalties.[171][172] In December 2018, the foundation ceased operation and disbursed all its assets to other charities.[173] The following November, a New York state judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million to a group of charities for misusing the foundation's funds, in part to finance his presidential campaign.[174][175]

Conflicts of interest

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then the prime minister of Turkey, attended the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul AVM in 2012.

Before being inaugurated as president, Trump moved his businesses into a revocable trust run by his eldest sons and a business associate.[176][177] According to ethics experts, measures taken by Trump do not help avoid conflicts of interest as long as he continues to profit from his businesses.[178] Because Trump would have knowledge of how his administration's policies affect his businesses, ethics experts recommend selling the businesses.[177] Though Trump said he would eschew "new foreign deals", the Trump Organization has since pursued expansions of its operations in Dubai, Scotland, and the Dominican Republic.[178]

Multiple lawsuits have been filed alleging that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, which forbids presidents from taking money from foreign governments, due to his business interests; they argue that these interests allow foreign governments to influence him.[178][179] Previous presidents in the modern era have either divested their holdings or put them in blind trusts,[176] and he is the first president to be sued over the emoluments clause.[179] According to The Guardian, "NBC News recently calculated that representatives of at least 22 foreign governments – including some facing charges of corruption or human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and the Philippines – seem to have spent funds at Trump properties while he has been president."[180] On October 21, 2019, Trump mocked the Emoluments Clause as "phony".[181]

Tax Analysis

According to a September 2020 analysis by the New York Times of twenty years' worth of Trump's tax returns, Trump had accrued hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and deferred nearly $290 million in debt to lenders.[1] According to the NYT's analysis Trump's main sources of income were his share at The Apprentice and income from businesses in which he was a minority partner, while his own businesses were routinely running at a loss.[1] A significant portion of Trump's income was in tax credits due to his losses, which enables him to avoid paying income tax, or paying as little as $750, for several years.[1] Over the past decad Trump has been stabilizing his business affairs using "a series of one-shots that may not be available again", including a $100 million mortgage on Trump Tower (due in 2022) and liquidation of over $200 million in stocks and bonds.[1] Trump has personally guaranteed over $420 million in debt, leading an unusual situation: "should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president."[1]

Media career

Books

Trump's first book, The Art of the Deal (1987), was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 48 weeks. According to The New Yorker, "The book expanded Trump's renown far beyond New York City, promoting an image of himself as a successful dealmaker and tycoon." Trump was credited as the book's co-author with Tony Schwartz, who later said he had done all the writing; this was confirmed by former Random House head Howard Kaminsky.[182] Trump has called the book his second favorite after the Bible.[183]

WWE

Trump has had a sporadic relationship with the professional wrestling promotion WWE (World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment) since the late 1980s.[184][185] He headlined the record-breaking WrestleMania 23 in 2007 and was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.[186] WWE co-founder and former CEO Linda McMahon later worked in his administration and election campaigns.[186]

The Apprentice

In 2003, Trump became the co-producer and host of The Apprentice, a reality show in which Trump played the role of a powerful chief executive and contestants competed for a year of employment at the Trump Organization. Trump winnowed out contestants with his famous catchphrase "You're fired".[187] He later co-hosted The Celebrity Apprentice, in which celebrities competed to win money for charities.[187]

Acting

Trump has made cameo appearances in eight films and television shows[188][189] and performed a song as a Green Acres character with Megan Mullally at the 57th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2005.[190]

Talk shows

Starting in the 1990s, Trump was a guest about 24 times on the nationally syndicated Howard Stern Show.[191] He also had his own short-form talk radio program called Trumped! (one to two minutes on weekdays) from 2004 to 2008.[192][193] In 2011, he was given a weekly unpaid guest commentator spot on Fox & Friends which continued until he started his presidential candidacy in 2015.[194][195]

Political career

Political activities up to 2015

Trump and President Bill Clinton in June 2000

Trump's political party affiliation changed numerous times. He registered as a Republican in Manhattan in 1987, switched to the Reform Party in 1999, the Democratic Party in 2001, and back to the Republican Party in 2009.[196]

In 1987, Trump placed full-page advertisements in three major newspapers,[197] advocating peace in Central America, accelerated nuclear disarmament talks with the Soviet Union, and reduction of the federal budget deficit by making American allies pay "their fair share" for military defense.[198] He ruled out running for local office but not for the presidency.[197]

2000 presidential campaign

In 1999, Trump filed an exploratory committee to seek the nomination of the Reform Party for the 2000 presidential election.[199][200] A July 1999 poll matching him against likely Republican nominee George W. Bush and likely Democratic nominee Al Gore showed Trump with seven percent support.[201] Trump dropped out of the race in February 2000.[202]

2012 presidential speculation

Trump speaking at CPAC 2011

Trump speculated about running for president in the 2012 election, making his first speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February 2011 and giving speeches in early primary states.[203][204] In May 2011 he announced he would not run.[203]

Trump's presidential ambitions were generally not taken seriously at the time.[205] Before the 2016 election, The New York Times speculated that Trump "accelerated his ferocious efforts to gain stature within the political world" after Obama lampooned him at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in April 2011.[206]

In 2011, the superintendent of the New York Military Academy at the time, Jeffrey Coverdale, ordered the headmaster of the school, Evan Jones, to give him Trump's academic records so he could keep them secret, according to Jones. Coverdale confirmed that he had been asked to hand the records over to members of the school's board of trustees who were Trump's friends, but he refused to and instead sealed them on campus. The incident reportedly happened days after Trump demanded the release of President Barack Obama's academic records.[207]

2013–2015

In 2013, Trump spoke at CPAC again;[208] he railed against illegal immigration, bemoaned Obama's "unprecedented media protection", advised against harming Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and suggested the government "take" Iraq's oil and use the proceeds to pay a million dollars each to families of dead soldiers.[209][210] He spent over $1 million that year to research a possible 2016 candidacy.[211]

In October 2013, New York Republicans circulated a memo suggesting Trump should run for governor of the state in 2014 against Andrew Cuomo. Trump responded that while New York had problems and its taxes were too high, he was not interested in the governorship.[212] A February 2014 Quinnipiac poll had shown Trump losing to the more popular Cuomo by 37 points in a hypothetical election.[213]

According to Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, in May 2015 he sent letters to the New York Military Academy and Fordham, threatening legal action if the schools ever released Trump's grades or SAT scores; Fordham confirmed receipt of the letter as well as a phone call from a member of the Trump team.[214]

2016 presidential campaign

Republican primaries

Trump speaking behind a brown wooden podium, wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie. The podium sports a blue "TRUMP" sign.
Trump campaigning in Laconia, New Hampshire, July 2015

On June 16, 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States in what Politico called a "bizarre spectacle" at Trump Tower in Manhattan.[215][216] His campaign was initially not taken seriously by political analysts, but he quickly rose to the top of opinion polls.[217]

On Super Tuesday, Trump received the most votes, and he remained the front-runner throughout the primaries.[218] After a landslide win in Indiana on May 3, 2016 – which prompted the remaining candidates Cruz and John Kasich to suspend their presidential campaigns – RNC chairman Reince Priebus declared Trump the presumptive Republican nominee.[219]

General election campaign

Clinton had a significant lead over Trump in national polls throughout most of 2016. In early July, her lead narrowed in national polling averages.[220][221][222]

Donald Trump and his running mate for vice president, Mike Pence. They appear to be standing in front of a huge screen with the colors of the American flag displayed on it. Trump is at left, facing toward the viewer and making "thumbs-up" gestures. Pence is at right, facing Trump and clapping.
Candidate Trump and running mate Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention, July 2016

On July 15, 2016, Trump announced his selection of Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate.[223] Four days later, the two were officially nominated by the Republican Party at the Republican National Convention.[224]

On September 26, 2016, Trump and Clinton faced off in their first presidential debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.[225] The second presidential debate was held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The final presidential debate was held on October 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Trump's refusal to say whether he would accept the result of the election, regardless of the outcome, drew particular attention, with some saying it undermined democracy.[226][227]

Political positions

Trump's campaign platform emphasized renegotiating U.S.–China relations and free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, strongly enforcing immigration laws, and building a new wall along the U.S.–Mexico border. His other campaign positions included pursuing energy independence while opposing climate change regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement, modernizing and expediting services for veterans, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, abolishing Common Core education standards, investing in infrastructure, simplifying the tax code while reducing taxes for all economic classes, and imposing tariffs on imports by companies that offshore jobs. During the campaign, he also advocated a largely non-interventionist approach to foreign policy while increasing military spending, extreme vetting or banning immigrants from Muslim-majority countries[228] to pre-empt domestic Islamic terrorism, and aggressive military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. During the campaign Trump repeatedly called NATO "obsolete".[229][230]

His political positions have been described as populist,[231][232][233] and some of his views cross party lines. For example, his economic campaign plan calls for deregulation and large reductions in income taxes, consistent with Republican Party policies,[234] along with significant infrastructure investment, usually considered a Democratic Party policy.[235] Trump has supported or leaned toward varying political positions over time.[236][237] Politico has described his positions as "eclectic, improvisational and often contradictory",[238] while NBC News counted "141 distinct shifts on 23 major issues" during his campaign.[239]

Campaign rhetoric

In his campaign, Trump said he disdained political correctness; he also said the media had intentionally misinterpreted his words, and he made other claims of adverse media bias.[240][241][242] In part due to his fame and willingness to say things other candidates would not, Trump received an unprecedented amount of free media coverage during his run for the presidency, which elevated his standing in the Republican primaries.[243]

Fact-checking organizations have denounced Trump for making a record number of false statements compared to other candidates.[244][245][246] At least four major publications – Politico, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times – have pointed out lies or falsehoods in his campaign statements, with the Los Angeles Times saying, "Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has."[247] NPR said Trump's campaign statements were often opaque or suggestive.[248]

Trump adopted his ghostwriter's phrase "truthful hyperbole" to describe his public speaking style.[249][250]

Support from the far right

According to Michael Barkun, the Trump campaign was remarkable for bringing fringe ideas, beliefs, and organizations into the mainstream.[251] During his presidential campaign, Trump was accused of pandering to white supremacists.[252][253][254] He retweeted open racists,[255][256] and repeatedly refused to condemn David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan or white supremacists, in an interview on CNN's State of the Union, saying he would first need to "do research" because he knew nothing about Duke or white supremacists.[257][258] Duke himself enthusiastically supported Trump throughout the 2016 primary and election, and has said he and like-minded people voted for Trump because of his promises to "take our country back".[259][260]

After repeated questioning by reporters, Trump said he disavowed David Duke and the KKK.[261] Trump said on MSNBC's Morning Joe: "I disavowed him. I disavowed the KKK. Do you want me to do it again for the 12th time? I disavowed him in the past, I disavow him now."[261]

The alt-right movement coalesced around Trump's candidacy,[262] due in part to its opposition to multiculturalism and immigration.[263][264][265] Members of the alt-right enthusiastically supported Trump's campaign.[266] In August 2016, he appointed Steve Bannon – the executive chairman of Breitbart News – as his campaign CEO; Bannon described Breitbart News as "the platform for the alt-right".[267] In an interview days after the election, Trump condemned supporters who celebrated his victory with Nazi salutes.[268][269]

Financial disclosures

As a presidential candidate, Trump disclosed details of his companies, assets, and revenue sources to the extent required by the FEC. His 2015 report listed assets above $1.4 billion and outstanding debts of at least $265 million.[63][270] The 2016 form showed little change.[115]

Trump has not released his tax returns, contrary to the practice of every major candidate since 1976 and his promises in 2014 and 2015 to do so if he ran for office.[271][272] He said his tax returns were being audited (in actuality, audits do not prevent release of tax returns), and his lawyers had advised him against releasing them.[273] Trump has told the press his tax rate is none of their business, and that he tries to pay "as little tax as possible".[274]

In October 2016, portions of Trump's state filings for 1995 were leaked to a reporter from The New York Times. They show that Trump had declared a loss of $916 million that year, which could have let him avoid taxes for up to 18 years. During the second presidential debate, Trump acknowledged using the deduction, but declined to provide details such as the specific years it was applied.[275]

On March 14, 2017, the first two pages of Trump's 2005 federal income tax returns were leaked to MSNBC. The document states that Trump had a gross adjusted income of $150 million and paid $38 million in federal taxes. The White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents.[276][277]

In April 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee made a formal request to the Internal Revenue Service for Trump's personal and business tax returns from 2013 to 2018.[278] Two deadlines to provide the returns were missed, then Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin in May 2019 ultimately denied the request.[279][280][281] Committee chairman Richard Neal then subpoenaed the Treasury Department and the IRS for the returns.[282] These subpoenas were also defied in May 2019.[283] A fall 2018 draft IRS legal memo asserted that tax returns must be provided to Congress upon request, unless a president invokes executive privilege. Congress need not justify the request, the memo stated, contradicting the administration's justification that a legislative purpose is needed to produce the tax returns.[284] Mnuchin asserted the memo actually addressed a different matter.[285]

Election to the presidency

2016 electoral vote results

On November 8, 2016, Trump received 306 pledged electoral votes versus 232 for Clinton. The official counts were 304 and 227 respectively, after defections on both sides.[286] Trump received nearly 2.9 million fewer popular votes than Clinton, which made him the fifth person to be elected president while losing the popular vote.[287][e] Clinton was ahead nationwide, with 65,853,514 votes (48.18%) compared to Trump's 62,984,828 votes (46.09%).[290]

Trump's victory was considered a stunning political upset by most observers, as polls had consistently shown Hillary Clinton with a nationwide – though diminishing – lead, as well as a favorable advantage in most of the competitive states. Trump's support had been modestly underestimated throughout his campaign,[291] and many observers blamed errors in polls, partially attributed to pollsters overestimating Clinton's support among well-educated and nonwhite voters, while underestimating Trump's support among white working-class voters.[292] The polls were relatively accurate,[293] but media outlets and pundits alike showed overconfidence in a Clinton victory despite a large number of undecided voters and a favorable concentration of Trump's core constituencies in competitive states.[294]

President Obama and president-elect Trump on November 10, 2016

Trump won 30 states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which had been considered a blue wall of Democratic strongholds since the 1990s. Clinton won 20 states and the District of Columbia. Trump's victory marked the return of a Republican White House combined with control of both chambers of Congress.[295]

Trump is the wealthiest president in U.S. history, even after adjusting for inflation,[296] and the oldest person to take office as president.[297] He is also the first president who did not serve in the military or hold elective or appointed government office prior to being elected.[298][299]

Protests

Women's March in Washington on January 21, 2017, a day after Trump's inauguration

Some rallies during the primary season were accompanied by protests or violence, both inside and outside the venues.[300][301][302] Trump's election victory sparked protests across the United States, in opposition to his policies and his inflammatory statements. Trump initially tweeted that these were "professional protesters, incited by the media" and "unfair", but later "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country."[303][304]

In the weeks following Trump's inauguration, massive anti-Trump demonstrations took place, such as the Women Marches, which gathered 2,600,000 people worldwide,[305] including 500,000 in Washington alone.[306] Marches against his travel ban began across the country on January 29, 2017, just nine days after his inauguration.[307]

2020 presidential campaign

Trump signaled his intention to run for a second term by filing with the FEC within a few hours of assuming the presidency.[308][309] This transformed his 2016 election committee into a 2020 reelection one.[310] Trump marked the official start of the campaign with a rally in Melbourne, Florida, on February 18, 2017, less than a month after taking office.[311] By January 2018, Trump's reelection committee had $22 million in hand,[312] and it had raised a total amount exceeding $67 million by December 2018.[313] Trump became the Republican nominee on August 24, 2020.[314] Trump's reelection campaign saw declining poll numbers by mid-2020, reflecting dissatisfaction with his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread racial justice protests following the killing of George Floyd.[315][316]

Starting in spring 2020, Trump began to sow doubts about the election, repeatedly warning that the election would be "rigged"[317] and claiming without evidence that the expected widespread use of mail balloting would produce "massive election fraud".[318][319] When the House of Representatives voted for a $25 billion grant to the post office, to allow them to handle the expected surge in mail voting, Trump said he would not agree to the grant because he wanted to prevent any increase in voting by mail.[320] In what The New York Times called an "extraordinary breach of presidential decorum", Trump raised the idea on July 30 of delaying the election.[321] He has refused to say whether he will accept the results of the election if he loses.[322]

Campaign advertisements in July focused on crime, claiming that cities would descend into lawlessness if Biden won the presidency.[323] Several sources described his campaign message as shifting to "racist rhetoric" in an attempt to reclaim voters lost from his base.[324][325]

Presidency

Early actions

Trump during his inauguration in 2017. From left, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer.

Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. During his first week in office, he signed six executive orders: interim procedures in anticipation of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, unlocking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline construction projects, reinforcing border security, and beginning the planning and design process to construct a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.[326]

Upon inauguration, Trump delegated the management of his real estate business to his sons Eric and Don Jr.[327] His daughter Ivanka resigned from the Trump Organization and moved to Washington, D.C., with her husband Jared Kushner. She serves as an assistant to the President,[328] and he is a Senior Advisor in the White House.[329]

On January 31, Trump nominated U.S. Appeals Court judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Antonin Scalia until his death on February 13, 2016.[330]

Domestic policy

Economy and trade

The economic expansion that began in June 2009 continued through Trump's first three years in office.[331][332] This ended in February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a recession.[332] Throughout his presidency, Trump has repeatedly and falsely characterized the economy as the best in American history (at least four U.S. presidents have presided over better economies).[331]

In December 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which permanently cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, temporarily lowered personal tax brackets until 2025, increased child tax credit, doubled the estate tax exemption to $11.2 million, and limited the state and local tax deduction to $10,000.[333]

Trump speaks to automobile workers in Michigan, March 2017.

Trump is a skeptic of multilateral trade deals, as he believes they indirectly incentivize unfair trade practices that then tend to go unpoliced. He favors bilateral trade deals, as they allow one party to pull out if the other party is believed to be behaving unfairly. Trump favors neutral or positive balances of trade over negative balances of trade, also known as a "trade deficit". Trump adopted his current skeptical views toward trade liberalization in the 1980s, and he sharply criticized NAFTA during the Republican primary campaign in 2015.[334][335][336] He withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations,[337] imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports,[338] and launched a trade war with China by sharply increasing tariffs on 818 categories (worth $50 billion) of Chinese goods imported into the U.S.[339][340] On several occasions, Trump has said incorrectly that these import tariffs are paid by China into the U.S. Treasury.[341]

Despite a campaign promise to eliminate the national debt in eight years, Trump as president has approved large increases in government spending, as well as the 2017 tax cut. As a result, the American government's budget deficit has increased by almost 50%, to nearly $1 trillion in 2019.[342] In 2016, the year before Trump took office, the U.S. national debt was around $19 trillion; by mid-2020, it had increased to $26 trillion under the Trump administration.[343]

In April 2020, the official unemployment rate rose to 14.7% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was an underestimation of the actual unemployment rate, but still was the highest level of unemployment since 1939.[344]

Energy and climate

Trump rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.[345][346] Since his election Trump has made large budget cuts to programs that research renewable energy and has rolled back Obama-era policies directed at curbing climate change.[347] In June 2017, Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, making the U.S. the only nation in the world to not ratify the agreement.[348] At the 2019 G7 summit, Trump skipped the sessions on climate change but said afterward during a press conference that he is an environmentalist.[349]

Trump has rolled back federal regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, water pollution, and the usage of toxic substances. One example is the Clean Power Plan. He relaxed environmental standards for federal infrastructure projects, while expanding permitted areas for drilling and resource extraction, such as allowing drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Trump also weakened protections for animals.[350] Trump's energy policies aimed to boost the production and exports of coal, oil, and natural gas.[351]

Government size and deregulation

Trump's early policies have favored rollback and dismantling of government regulations. He has signed 15 Congressional Review Act disapproval resolutions to allow Congress to repeal executive regulations, the second President to sign any such resolutions after the first CRA resolution was passed in 2001, and the first President to sign more than one such resolution.[352] During his first six weeks in office, he delayed, suspended or reversed ninety federal regulations.[353][354]

On January 30, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13771, which directed that for every new regulation administrative agencies issue "at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination".[355][356] Agency defenders expressed opposition to Trump's criticisms, saying the bureaucracy exists to protect people against well-organized, well-funded interest groups.[357]

Health care

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.[358] Shortly after taking office, he urged Congress to repeal and replace it. In May of that year, the House voted to repeal it.[359] His first action as president was Executive Order 13765, which increased flexibility "to the maximum extent permitted by law" for the Cabinet to issue waivers, deferrals, and exemptions for the law while attempting to give states more flexibility.[360] Executive Order 13813 was subsequently issued, designed to reduce regulations imposed under Obamacare by increasing competition.[361] Trump has expressed a desire to "let Obamacare fail", and the Trump administration has cut the ACA enrollment period in half and drastically reduced funding for advertising and other ways to encourage enrollment.[362][363][364] The 2017 tax bill effectively repealed the ACA's individual health insurance mandate in 2019,[365][366][367] and a budget bill Trump signed in 2019 repealed the Cadillac plan tax, medical device tax, and tanning tax.[368][369] As president, Trump has falsely claimed he saved the coverage of pre-existing conditions provided by ACA, while his administration declined to challenge a lawsuit that would eliminate it.[370] As a 2016 candidate, Trump promised to protect funding for Medicare and other social safety-net programs, but in January 2020 he suggested he was willing to consider cuts to such programs.[371]

Social issues

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and her family with President Trump on September 26, 2020

Trump favored modifying the 2016 Republican platform opposing abortion, to allow for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and circumstances endangering the health of the mother.[372] He has said he is committed to appointing "pro-life" justices.[373] He says he personally supports "traditional marriage"[374] but considers the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage a "settled" issue.[373] Despite the statement by Trump and the White House saying they would keep in place a 2014 executive order from the Obama administration which created federal workplace protections for LGBT people,[375] in March 2017, the Trump administration rolled back key components of the Obama administration's workplace protections for LGBT people.[376]

Trump supports a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment and says he is opposed to gun control in general,[377][378] although his views have shifted over time.[379] Trump opposes legalizing recreational marijuana but supports legalizing medical marijuana.[380] He favors capital punishment,[381][382] as well as the use of waterboarding and "a hell of a lot worse" methods.[383][384]

Pardons and commutations

In August 2017, Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing for contempt of court in a class action that alleged racial profiling.[385][386] In March 2018, he pardoned former Navy sailor Kristian Saucier, who had been found guilty of taking classified photographs of a submarine.[387] In April 2018 he pardoned Scooter Libby, a political aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby had been convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements to the FBI.[388] In May 2018 he granted a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, a black boxer who had been convicted in 1913 for traveling across state lines with his white girlfriend.[389][390] In June 2018 he pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who had made illegal political campaign contributions.[391] That month he also commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a non-violent drug trafficking offender, following a request by celebrity Kim Kardashian.[392] In February 2020, Trump pardoned white-collar criminals Michael Milken, Bernard Kerik, and Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., and commuted former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's 14-year corruption sentence.[393][394] In July 2020, Trump commuted the 40-month prison sentence for his friend and adviser Roger Stone, who had been soon due to report to jail for his actions during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.[395]

Immigration

Trump's proposed immigration policies were a topic of bitter and contentious debate during the campaign. He promised to build a more substantial wall on the Mexico–United States border to keep out illegal immigrants and vowed Mexico would pay for it.[396] He pledged to massively deport illegal immigrants residing in the United States,[397] and criticized birthright citizenship for creating "anchor babies".[398] He said deportation would focus on criminals, visa overstays, and security threats.[399] As president, he frequently described illegal immigration as an "invasion" and conflated immigrants with the gang MS-13, though research shows undocumented immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans.[400]

Trump has attempted to drastically escalate immigration enforcement.[401] Some of the results are harsher immigration enforcement policies against asylum seekers from Central America than any modern U.S. president before him, and a significantly increased usage of migrant detentions and deportations.[402][403] This was accompanied by the Trump administration's mandating in 2018 that immigration judges must complete 700 cases a year to be evaluated as performing satisfactorily.[404]

In other immigration policies, Trump has from 2018 onwards deployed nearly 6,000 troops to the U.S. Mexico border,[405] in 2019 was allowed by the Supreme Court to stop most Central American migrants from seeking U.S. asylum,[406] and from 2020 used the public charge rule to restrict immigrants using government benefits from getting permanent residency via green cards.[407][408] Trump has continually reduced the number of allowed refugees into the country; when Trump took office the annual limit was 110,000, in 2019 Trump set a limit of 18,000, a record low for the U.S. refugee program.[409] Additional restrictions implemented by the Trump administration caused (potentially long-lasting) bottlenecks in processing refugee applications, resulting in fewer refugees accepted compared to the allowed limits.[410]

Travel ban

Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, Trump made a controversial proposal to ban Muslim foreigners from entering the United States until stronger vetting systems could be implemented.[411][412][413] He later reframed the proposed ban to apply to countries with a "proven history of terrorism".[414][415][416]

On January 27, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13769, which suspended admission of refugees for 120 days and denied entry to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days, citing security concerns. The order took effect immediately and without warning.[417] Confusion and protests caused chaos at airports.[418][419] Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, directed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the executive order, which she deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional;[420] Trump immediately dismissed her.[421] Multiple legal challenges were filed against the order, and on February 5 a federal judge in Seattle blocked its implementation nationwide.[422][423] On March 6, Trump issued a revised order, which excluded Iraq, gave specific exemptions for permanent residents, and removed priorities for Christian minorities.[424][417] Again federal judges in three states blocked its implementation.[425] On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban could be enforced on visitors who lack a "credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States".[426]

The temporary order was replaced by Presidential Proclamation 9645 on September 24, 2017, which permanently restricts travel from the originally targeted countries except Iraq and Sudan, and further bans travelers from North Korea and Chad, along with certain Venezuelan officials.[427] After lower courts partially blocked the new restrictions, the Supreme Court allowed the September version to go into full effect on December 4, 2017,[428] and ultimately upheld the travel ban in a June 2019 ruling.[429]

Family separation at border

Children sitting within a wire mesh compartment
Children and juveniles in a wire mesh compartment, showing sleeping mats and thermal blankets on floor
Children sitting within a wire mesh compartment in the Ursula detention facility in McAllen, Texas, June 2018

The Trump administration has separated more than 5,400 migrant children from their parents at the U.S.–Mexico border while the families attempted to enter the U.S.[430] The Trump administration sharply increased the number of family separations at the border starting from the summer of 2017, before an official policy was announced in 2018; this was not reported publicly until January 2019.[431][432]

In April 2018, the Trump administration announced and enacted a "zero tolerance" immigration policy, whereby every adult illegally crossing the border would be criminally prosecuted.[433] This resulted in family separations, as the migrant adults were put in criminal detention for prosecution, while the migrant children were taken away as unaccompanied alien minors.[434] The children would be brought to immigration detention, immigrant shelters, tent camps, or metal cages, with the stated aim of releasing them to relatives or sponsors.[435] Administration officials described the policy as a deterrent against illegal immigration.[435] Previous administrations had no such policy of generally separating migrant families with children.[435]

The policy of family separations sparked public outrage,[436] and resulted in demands from Democrats, Republicans, Trump allies, and religious groups that the policy be rescinded.[437] Trump reacted by falsely asserting that his administration was merely following the law, blaming Democrats, when in fact this was his administration's policy.[438][439][440] More than 2,300 children were separated as a result of the "zero tolerance policy", the Trump administration revealed in June 2018.[435]

Although Trump originally argued that the issue could not be solved via executive order, he proceeded to sign an executive order on June 20, 2018, mandating that migrant families be detained together, unless the administration judged that doing so would harm the child.[441][442] On June 26, 2018, a federal judge concluded that the Trump administration had "no system in place to keep track of" the separated children, nor any effective measures for family communication and reunification;[443] the judge ordered for the families to be reunited, and family separations stopped, except in the cases where the parent(s) are judged unfit to take care of the child, or if there is parental approval.[444]

4,370 children were separated from July 2017 to June 2018, reported the Trump administration in October 2019.[430] Even after the June 2018 federal judge order, the Trump administration continued to practice family separations, with more than a thousand migrant children separated.[430]

Migrant detentions

Overcrowded conditions for migrant families detained in Weslaco, Texas were reported by inspectors from the federal government in June 2019.[445]

The Trump administration has taken a harsher approach than previous administrations regarding migrant detentions, by allowing no exemptions for detention unlike the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.[446] While the Obama administration already employed a high level of detentions and deportations for migrants, the Trump administration took it to a significantly higher level.[403] In April 2018, Trump ordered an end to the "catch and release" policy which released illegal immigrants from detention pending a court hearing.[433]

Government inspectors from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General conducted spot-checks of migrant detention centers in June 2018, finding that U.S. Customs and Border Protection "in many instances" violated federal guidelines for detaining migrant children for too long before passing them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.[447] Meanwhile, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan said in March 2019 there was a "border security and a humanitarian crisis", with the system for handling migrants already at a "breaking point" due to an increase in migrants.[448] The government inspectors released further reports in May 2019 and July 2019 of migrants being detained under conditions failing federal standards. They reported migrants enduring prolonged detention, "dangerous overcrowding", poor hygiene and food standards.[449][450] In June 2019 and July 2019, lawyers, a certified doctor, and lawmakers visited the migrant detention facilities, reporting a lack of supervision, traumatized children, and many sick migrants respectively.[451][452][453]

The treatment of the detained migrants resulted in public indignation by July 2019.[454] Also that month, Trump reacted to criticism of the migrant detentions by declaring that U.S. Border Patrol was doing a "great job", and if the migrants were unhappy about the conditions of the detention facilities, "just tell them not to come."[455] Meanwhile, Vice President Pence visited an overcrowded facility, where he reacted by saying "this is tough stuff" and the system is "overwhelmed".[456]

In August 2019, the administration attempted to change the 1997 Flores Agreement that limits detention of migrant families to 20 days; the new policy allowing indefinite detention was blocked before it would go into effect.[457]

2018–2019 federal government shutdown

Trump examines border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa, California.

On December 22, 2018, the federal government was partially shut down after Trump declared that any funding extension must include $5.6 billion in federal funds for a U.S.–Mexico border wall to partly fulfill his campaign promise.[458] The shutdown was caused by a lapse in funding for nine federal departments, affecting about one-fourth of federal government activities.[459] Trump said he would not accept any bill that did not include funding for the wall, and Democrats, who control the House, said they would not support any bill that does. Senate Republicans have said they will not advance any legislation Trump would not sign.[460] In earlier negotiations with Democratic leaders, Trump commented that he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security".[461]

The shutdown caused an estimated 380,000 government employees to be furloughed, while an estimated 420,000 government employees worked without getting paid; most of the affected workers missed two paychecks.[462] The shutdown resulted in a permanent loss of $3 billion to the U.S. economy, estimated the Congressional Budget Office.[463] A plurality of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown, polls showed; the percentage increased as the shutdown continued, to around 50%. Trump's approval ratings also dropped.[464]

On January 25, 2019, the Senate and the House unanimously approved a temporary funding bill that provided no funds for the wall but would provide delayed paychecks to government workers. Trump signed the bill that day, ending the shutdown at 35 days. It was the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.[465][466]

Since the government funding was temporary, another shutdown loomed. On February 14, 2019, the Senate and the House approved a funding bill that included $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fences, in lieu of Trump's intended wall.[467] Trump signed the bill on February 15, 2019, just hours before another shutdown would begin.[468]

National emergency regarding the southern border

On February 15, 2019, after Trump received from Congress only $1.375 billion for border fencing after demanding $5.7 billion for the Trump wall, he declared a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States, in hopes of getting another $6.7 billion without congressional approval, using funds for military construction, drug interdiction, and money from the Treasury.[468] In doing so, Trump acknowledged that he "didn't need to" declare a national emergency, but he "would rather do it much faster".[468]

Congress twice passed resolutions to block Trump's national emergency declarations, but Trump twice vetoed them, and Congress did not have enough votes to override Trump's veto.[469][470][471] Trump's decision to divert other government funding to fund the wall resulted in legal challenges. In July 2019, the Supreme Court allowed Trump to use $2.5 billion (originally meant for anti-drug programs) from the Department of Defense to build the Trump wall.[472][473] In December 2019, a federal judge stopped the Trump administration from using $3.6 billion of military construction funds for the Trump wall.[473]

Trump wall

As a presidential candidate, Trump insisted that along the southern border he would build a wall – not a fence – saying there is a "big difference"[474] and mentioning "concrete going very high". In January 2018 he again floated the idea of solid concrete.[475]

In 2017, the Mexico-U.S. border had 654 miles of primary fencing, 37 miles of secondary fencing and 14 miles of tertiary fencing.[476] Trump's target, from 2015 to 2017, was 1,000 miles of wall.[477] The Trump administration set a target of 450 miles of new or renovated barriers by December 2020, with an ultimate goal of 509 miles of new or renovated barriers by August 2021.[478] Even into 2020, Trump has repeatedly provided false assertions that Mexico is paying for the Trump wall, although American taxpayers are footing the bill from funds being diverted from the U.S. Department of Defense.[479]

In October 2018, the administration revealed two miles of replacement fences made of steel posts, which it called the first section of Trump's 'wall', although earlier that year Border Patrol had said the project was unrelated to the Trump wall and had been long planned (dating to 2009).[480][481] In December 2018 and January 2019, Trump tweeted out a design of a steel fence, and a picture of a fence, while declaring "the wall is coming."[477]

By November 2019, the Trump administration had replaced around 78 miles of the Mexico–United States barrier along the border; these replacement barriers were not walls, but fences made of bollards.[482][483] The administration in November 2019 said it had "just started breaking ground" to build new barriers in areas where no structure existed.[482] By May 2020, the Trump administration had replaced 172 miles of dilapidated or outdated design barriers, and constructed 15 miles of new border barriers.[484]

Foreign policy

Trump with Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and other leaders at the 45th G7 summit in France, 2019
Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the 2017 Riyadh summit in Saudi Arabia

Trump has been described as a non-interventionist[485][486] and an American nationalist.[487] He has repeatedly said he supports an "America First" foreign policy.[488] He supports increasing United States military defense spending,[487] but favors decreasing United States spending on NATO and in the Pacific region.[489] He says America should look inward, stop "nation building", and re-orient its resources toward domestic needs.[486]

His foreign policy has been marked by repeated praise and support of neo-nationalist and authoritarian strongmen and criticism of democratically-led governments.[490] Trump has cited China's president Xi Jinping,[491] Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte,[492] Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,[493] Turkey's president Tayyip Erdoğan,[494] Russia's president Vladimir Putin,[495] King Salman of Saudi Arabia,[496] Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte,[497] Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro,[498] Indian prime minister Narendra Modi,[499] Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán,[500] and Polish president Andrzej Duda as examples of good leaders.[501]

ISIS, Syria, and Afghanistan

In April 2017, Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian airfield in retaliation for the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack.[502] According to investigative journalist Bob Woodward, Trump had ordered his defense secretary James Mattis to assassinate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after the chemical attack, but Mattis declined; Trump denied doing so.[503] In April 2018, he announced missile strikes against Assad's regime, following a suspected chemical attack near Damascus.[504]

In December 2018, Trump declared "we have won against ISIS," and ordered the withdrawal of all troops from Syria, contradicting Department of Defense assessments.[505][506][507] Mattis resigned the next day over disagreements in foreign policy, calling this decision an abandonment of Kurd allies who had played a key role in fighting ISIS.[508] One week after his announcement, Trump said he would not approve any extension of the American deployment in Syria.[509] On January 6, 2019, national security advisor John Bolton announced America would remain in Syria until ISIS is eradicated and Turkey guarantees it will not strike America's Kurdish allies.[510]

Trump actively supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against the Houthis and signed a $110 billion agreement to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.[511][512][513] Trump also praised his relationship with Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.[511]

U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan increased from 8,500 to 14,000, as of January 2017,[514] reversing his pre-election position critical of further involvement in Afghanistan.[515] On February 29, 2020, the Trump administration signed a conditional peace agreement with the Taliban,[516] which calls for the withdrawal of foreign troops in 14 months if the Taliban uphold the terms of the agreement.[517]

Trump with Turkish president Erdoğan in November 2019

In October 2019, after Trump spoke to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House acknowledged Turkey would be carrying out a planned military offensive into northern Syria; as such, U.S. troops in northern Syria were withdrawn from the area to avoid interference with that operation. The statement also passed responsibility for the area's captured ISIS fighters to Turkey.[518] In the following days, Trump suggested the Kurds intentionally released ISIS prisoners in order to gain sympathy, suggested they were fighting only for their own financial interests, suggested some of them were worse than ISIS, and termed them "no angels".[519]

Congress members of both parties denounced the move, including Republican allies of Trump such as Senator Lindsey Graham. They argued that the move betrayed the American-allied Kurds, and would benefit ISIS, Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime.[520] Trump defended the move, citing the high cost of supporting the Kurds, and the lack of support from the Kurds in past U.S. wars.[521][522] After the U.S. pullout, Turkey proceeded to attack Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria.[523] On October 16, the United States House of Representatives, in a rare bipartisan vote of 354 to 60, "condemned" Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria for "abandoning U.S. allies, undermining the struggle against ISIS, and spurring a humanitarian catastrophe".[524][525]

Iran

Trump has described the regime in Iran as "the rogue regime", although he has also asserted he does not seek regime change.[526][527] He has repeatedly criticized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or "Iran nuclear deal") that was negotiated with the United States, Iran, and five other world powers in 2015.[528][529][530]

Following Iran's missile tests on January 29, 2017, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 Iranian individuals and entities in February 2017.[531][532][533] On August 2, 2017, Trump signed into law the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that grouped together sanctions against Iran, Russia, and North Korea.[534] On May 18, 2018, Trump announced the United States' unilateral departure from the JCPOA.[529]

In May 2017, strained relations between the U.S. and Iran escalated when Trump deployed military bombers and a carrier group to the Persian Gulf. Trump hinted at war on social media, provoking a response from Iran for what Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif called "genocidal taunts".[535][536][537] Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman are allies in the conflict with Iran.[538] Trump approved the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following the attack on Saudi oil facilities which the United States has blamed on Iran.[539]

Demonstrations in Iran over the death of Qasem Soleimani, January 3, 2020

The Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and moved forward with a policy of "maximum pressure" on Iran via economic sanctions, but without support of other parties to the deal.[540][541] The Trump State Department had certified Iran's compliance with the deal in July 2017, but Iran began breaching its terms in May 2020, and by September the IAEA reported the country had ten times the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the deal.[542][543][544] During the summer of 2020 the United States attempted to "snap back" pre-deal sanctions by asserting to the United Nations Security Council that it remained a participant in the deal, but only the Dominican Republic voted with the United States on the proposal.[545]

On January 2, 2020, Trump ordered a targeted U.S. airstrike, which killed Iranian Major General and IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as eight other people.[546] Trump publicly threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites, or react "in a disproportionate manner" if Iran retaliated; though such attacks by the U.S. would violate international law as war crimes.[547] On January 8, Iran retaliated by launching airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq; initially the Trump administration claimed no Americans suffered injuries, then Trump said injuries were not "very serious", but by February 2020, more than a hundred traumatic brain injuries were diagnosed in U.S. troops.[548]

Israel

Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Yad Vashem, May 2017

Trump has supported the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[549] Congress had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 1995. After making the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem the embassy in December 2017, Trump opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018.[550][551] The United Nations General Assembly condemned the move, adopting a resolution that "calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem".[552][553] In March 2019, Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights,[554] a move condemned by the European Union and the Arab League.[555]

China

Before and during his presidency, Trump has repeatedly accused China of taking unfair advantage of the U.S.[556] During his presidency, Trump has launched a trade war against China, sanctioned Huawei for its alleged ties to Iran,[557] significantly increased visa restrictions on Chinese nationality students and scholars[558][559] and classified China as a "currency manipulator".[560]

Trump said he resisted punishing China for its human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region for fear of jeopardizing U.S.-China trade negotiations.[561] On July 9, 2020, Trump imposed sanctions and visa restrictions against senior Chinese officials, including Chen Quanguo,[562] a member of China's powerful Politburo of the Communist Party, who expanded mass detention camps holding more than a million members of the country's Uyghur Muslim minority.[563]

North Korea

Trump meets Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit, June 2018.

In 2017, North Korea's nuclear weapons were increasingly seen as a serious threat to the United States.[564] In August 2017, Trump escalated his rhetoric, warning that North Korean threats would be met with "fire and fury like the world has never seen".[565] North Korea responded by releasing plans for missile tests that would land near Guam.[566] In September 2017, Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly, saying the U.S. would "totally destroy North Korea" if "forced" to defend itself or its allies.[567] Also in September 2017, Trump increased sanctions on North Korea, declared that he wanted North Korea's "complete denuclearization", and engaged in name-calling with leader Kim Jong-un.[565][568]

In March 2018, Trump immediately agreed to Kim's proposal for a meeting.[569] On June 12, 2018, Trump and Kim met in Singapore, with Kim affirming his intention "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".[570]

A second Trump–Kim summit in Hanoi in February 2019 was terminated abruptly without an agreement; both countries blamed each other and offered differing accounts of the negotiations.[571] On June 30, 2019, Trump, Kim, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held brief talks in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president had set foot on North Korean soil. Trump and Kim agreed to resume negotiations.[572] Bilateral talks in October 2019 were unsuccessful.[573]

Russia

Putin and Trump at the G20 Osaka summit, June 2019

During his campaign and as president, Trump has repeatedly asserted that he desires better relations with Russia.[574][575] According to Putin and some political experts and diplomats, the U.S.–Russian relations, which were already at the lowest level since the end of the Cold War, have further deteriorated since Trump took office in January 2017.[576][577][578]

Trump has criticized Russia about Syria,[579] Ukraine,[580] North Korea,[581] Venezuela,[582] the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany,[583] and the Skripal poisoning,[584] but has sent mixed messages regarding Crimea.[585][586][587] He upheld sanctions prohibiting U.S. oil companies from drilling in Russia.[588]

Amid continuing growth of China's missile forces, Trump announced in October 2018 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty due to supposed Russian non-compliance.[589] Trump signed the Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which imposed new sanctions on Russia.[590] As a presidential candidate, Trump described Putin as a strong leader.[495] After he met Putin at the Helsinki Summit on July 16, 2018, Trump drew bipartisan criticism for siding with Putin's denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, rather than accepting the findings of the United States intelligence community.[591][592][593] Trump has repeatedly praised Russian president Vladimir Putin; according to The New York Times, criticism of Putin by Trump was uncommon.[594][579]

Venezuela

Trump with Venezuela's opposition leader and interim president, Juan Guaidó, at the White House, February 2020

On August 11, 2017, Trump said he is "not going to rule out a military option" to confront the government of Nicolás Maduro.[595] In September 2018, Trump called for "the restoration of democracy in Venezuela" and said that "socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty."[596] On January 23, 2019, Maduro announced that Venezuela was breaking ties with the United States following Trump's announcement of recognizing Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader, as the interim president of Venezuela.[597]

NATO

Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, April 2017

As a candidate, Trump questioned whether he, as president, would automatically extend security guarantees to NATO members,[598] and suggested he might leave NATO unless changes are made to the alliance.[599] As president, he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO in March 2017;[600] however, he has repeatedly accused fellow NATO members of paying less than their fair share of the expenses of the alliance.[601]

In January 2019, The New York Times quoted senior administration officials as saying Trump has privately suggested on multiple occasions that the United States should withdraw from NATO.[602] The next day Trump said the United States is going to "be with NATO one hundred percent" but repeated that the other countries have to "step up" and pay more.[603]

Personnel

Cabinet meeting, March 2017

The Trump administration has been characterized by high turnover, particularly among White House staff. By the end of Trump's first year in office, 34 percent of his original staff had resigned, been fired, or been reassigned.[604] As of early July 2018, 61 percent of Trump's senior aides had left[605] and 141 staffers had left in the past year.[606] Both figures set a record for recent presidents – more change in the first 13 months than his four immediate predecessors saw in their first two years.[607] Notable early departures included National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (after just 25 days in office), Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, replaced by retired Marine general John F. Kelly on July 28, 2017,[608] and Press Secretary Sean Spicer.[607] Close personal aides to Trump such as Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, John McEntee and Keith Schiller, have quit or been forced out.[609] Some, like Hicks and McEntee, later returned to the White House in different posts.[610] Trump has disparaged several of his former top officials as incompetent, stupid, or crazy.[611]

Trump's cabinet nominations included U.S. senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions as Attorney General,[612] financier Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury,[613] retired Marine Corps general James Mattis as Secretary of Defense,[614] and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.[615] Trump also brought on board politicians who had opposed him during the presidential campaign, such as neurosurgeon Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,[616] and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations.[617]

Two of Trump's 15 original cabinet members were gone within 15 months: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in September 2017 due to excessive use of private charter jets and military aircraft, and Trump replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo in March 2018 over disagreements on foreign policy.[618][609] EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July 2018 amidst multiple investigations into his conduct,[619] while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned five months later as he also faced multiple investigations.[620]

Trump has been slow to appoint second-tier officials in the executive branch, saying many of the positions are unnecessary. In October 2017, there were still hundreds of sub-cabinet positions without a nominee.[621] By January 8, 2019, of 706 key positions, 433 had been filled (61%) and Trump had no nominee for 264 (37%).[622]

Dismissal of James Comey

On May 9, 2017, Trump dismissed FBI director James Comey. He first attributed this action to recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein,[623] which criticized Comey's conduct in the investigation about Hillary Clinton's emails.[624] On May 11, Trump said he was concerned with the ongoing "Russia thing"[625] and that he had intended to fire Comey earlier, regardless of DOJ advice.[626]

According to a Comey memo of a private conversation on February 14, 2017, Trump said he "hoped" Comey would drop the investigation into National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.[627] In March and April, Trump had told Comey the ongoing suspicions formed a "cloud" impairing his presidency,[628] and asked him to publicly state that he was not personally under investigation.[629] He also asked intelligence chiefs Dan Coats and Michael Rogers to issue statements saying there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.[630] Both refused, considering this an inappropriate request, although not illegal.[631] Comey eventually testified on June 8 that, while he was director, the FBI investigations had not targeted Trump himself.[628][632]

COVID-19 pandemic

In December 2019, an outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, spreading worldwide within weeks.[633][634] The first confirmed case in the United States was reported on January 20, 2020.[635] In a series of interviews with Bob Woodward, Trump described COVID-19 as "more deadly than even your strenuous flus"; at the same time he was publicly saying the virus was "very much under control". Later, Trump stated, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."[636][637]

Initial response

Trump was slow to address the spread of the disease, initially dismissing the imminent threat and ignoring calls for action from government health experts and Secretary Azar.[638][639] Throughout January and February, he rejected persistent public health warnings from officials within his administration, focusing instead on economic and political considerations of the outbreak.[640][639] By mid-March, most global financial markets had severely contracted in response to the emerging pandemic.[641][642] Trump continued to claim that a vaccine was months away, although Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials had repeatedly told him it would take 12–18 months to develop a vaccine.[643][644] Trump also falsely claimed that "anybody that wants a test can get a test," despite the availability of tests being severely limited.[645][646]

On March 6, Trump signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act into law, which provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies.[647] On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic,[633] and Trump announced partial travel restrictions for most of Europe, effective March 13.[648] That same day, he gave his first serious assessment of the virus in a nationwide Oval Office address, calling it "horrible". He also said the outbreak was "a temporary moment" and that there was no financial crisis.[649] On March 13, he declared a national emergency, freeing up federal resources.[650][651][652]

Trump conducts a COVID-19 press briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on March 15, 2020.

On April 22, Trump signed an executive order restricting some forms of immigration to the United States.[653] In late spring and early summer, with infections and death counts continuing to rise, he adopted a strategy of shifting the blame for his administration's failure to the states.[654]

White House Coronavirus Task Force

Trump established the White House Coronavirus Task Force on January 29, 2020.[655] Beginning in mid-March, Trump held a daily task force press conference, joined by medical experts and other administration officials,[656] sometimes disagreeing with them by promoting unproven treatments.[657] Trump was the main speaker at the briefings, where he praised his own response to the pandemic, frequently criticized rival presidential candidate Joe Biden, and denounced members of the White House press corps.[656][658] On March 16, he acknowledged for the first time that the pandemic was not under control and that months of disruption to daily lives and a recession might occur.[659] On April 3, Trump announced that the federal government would use funds from the CARES Act to pay hospitals for treatment of uninsured patients infected with the coronavirus.[660] His repeated use of the terms "Chinese virus" and "China virus" to describe COVID-19 drew criticism from the media, health experts, the WHO, and the Chinese government.[661][662][663]

By early April, as the pandemic worsened and amid criticism of his administration's response, Trump refused to admit any mistakes in his handling of the outbreak, instead blaming the media, Democratic state governors, the previous administration, China, and the World Health Organization.[664] By mid-April 2020, some national news agencies began limiting live coverage of his daily press briefings, with The Washington Post reporting that "propagandistic and false statements from Trump alternate with newsworthy pronouncements from members of his White House Coronavirus Task Force, particularly coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci."[665] The daily coronavirus task force briefings ended in late April, after a briefing at which Trump suggested the dangerous idea of ingesting bleach or injecting a disinfectant to treat COVID-19;[666] the comment was widely condemned by medical professionals.[667][668]

Poland's president Andrzej Duda was the first foreign leader to travel to the White House since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.[669]

In early May, Trump proposed that the coronavirus task force should be phased out, to accommodate another group centered on reopening the economy. Amid a backlash, Trump publicly said the task force would continue on "indefinitely".[670] By the end of May, the coronavirus task force's meetings were sharply reduced.[671]

Pandemic response program terminated

In September 2019, the Trump administration ended the PREDICT program, an epidemiological research program that had been initiated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2009.[672][673] The 200-million-dollar program provided for early warning of pandemics.[674] With its termination, dozens of epidemiologists and wildlife veterinarians working for partner organizations were laid off.[675][676][677] The program trained scientists in sixty foreign laboratories to detect and respond to viruses that have the potential to cause pandemics. One such laboratory was the Wuhan lab that first identified the virus that causes COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the USAID extended the PREDICT program for six months.[672][673]

Pressure to abandon pandemic shutdown mandates early

In April 2020, Republican-connected groups organized anti-lockdown protests against the measures state governments were taking to combat the pandemic;[678][679] Trump encouraged the protests on Twitter,[680] even though the targeted states did not meet the Trump administration's own guidelines for reopening.[681] He first supported, then later criticized Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's plan to reopen some nonessential businesses,[682] which was a key example of Trump often reversing his stances in his communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.[683] Throughout the spring he increasingly pushed for ending the restrictions as a way to reverse the damage to the country's economy.[684]

Despite record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. from mid-June onward and an increasing percentage of positive test results, Trump continued to mostly downplay the pandemic, including his claim in early July 2020 that 99% of COVID-19 cases are "totally harmless", a claim which contradicts health officials in the U.S.[685] He also began insisting that all states should open schools to in-person education in the fall, despite a July spike in reported cases.[686]

Controversy over face masks as strategy for pandemic mitigation

For months, Trump refused to wear a face mask at press conferences and most public events, contrary to his own administration's April 2020 guidance that Americans should wear masks in public.[687] The importance of wearing a mask to stem the spread of the virus was nearly unanimously recognized by the medical community.[688] By June, Trump had said masks were a "double-edged sword", ridiculed Biden for wearing one, continually emphasized that mask-wearing was optional, and suggested that wearing a mask is a political statement against him personally.[688] Trump's contradictory example to medical recommendations weakened national pandemic mitigation efforts.[687][688] Trump first wore a face mask in public in July 2020, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.[687]

World Health Organization

Prior to the pandemic, Trump had been critical of the WHO and other international bodies as taking advantage of U.S. aid.[689] His administration's proposed 2021 federal budget, released in February, had reduced WHO funding by more than half.[689] In May and April, Trump accused the WHO of "severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus" and alleging without evidence that the organization was under Chinese control and had enabled the Chinese government's concealment of the origins of the pandemic.[689][690][691] He then announced that he was withdrawing funding for the organization.[689] Trump's criticisms and actions regarding the WHO were seen as attempts to distract attention from his own mishandling of the pandemic.[689][692][693] In July 2020, Trump announced the formal withdrawal of the United States from the WHO effective July 2021.[690][691] The decision was widely condemned by health and government officials as "short-sighted", "senseless", and "dangerous".[690][691]

Testing

In June and July Trump said several times that the U.S. would have fewer cases of coronavirus if it did less testing, that "if we did half the testing we would have half the cases," and that having a large number of reported cases "makes us look bad".[694][695] When he told a June rally that "I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please,'" the White House attempted to portray the statement as not serious and a joke.[696][697] Trump, however, contradicted the White House statements, saying that the request was serious, and that "I don't kid."[696][697] In August 2020 the CDC quietly lowered its recommendation for who should be tested, saying that people who have been exposed to the virus but are not showing symptoms "do not necessarily need a test". Their previous recommendation had been that people exposed to the virus should be "quickly identified and tested" even if they are not showing symptoms, because asymptomatic people can still spread the virus.[698][699] Multiple sources reported that the change in guidelines had been due to pressure from high up in the Trump administration – "from the top down".[700][701] On September 17 it was confirmed that the change had been made by political appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services against the wishes of CDC scientists. The next day the testing guideline was revised to its original recommendation, stressing that anyone who has been in contact with an infected person should be tested.[702]

Political pressure on health agencies

Trump repeatedly pressured federal health agencies to take particular actions that he favored,[700] alleging that a "deep state" at the Food and Drug Administration was delaying approval of vaccines and treatments to hurt him politically.[703] After Trump promoted the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency approval for it, only to reverse the approval.[703] As the 2020 Republican National Convention approached, he wanted to be able to announce the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment breakthrough, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had concerns about its effectiveness. On the Wednesday before the convention, he ordered Dr. Francis S. Collins, head of the NIH, to "get it done by Friday."[703] On the eve of the convention the NIH still had concerns, but Trump announced that the FDA had approved plasma therapy, while exaggerating its effectiveness.[703]

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is a weekly publication issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); it is the CDC's main vehicle for imparting current information and recommendations about public health to physicians, researchers, and the general public. In September 2020 it was reported that political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tried repeatedly to change, delay, or remove from MMWR any reports about COVID-19 which undermined Trump's claims that the outbreak was under control.[704] A report downplaying the benefit of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment was delayed for almost a month as the HHS team raised questions about the political leanings of the authors.[704] A report on the susceptibility of schoolchildren to the virus was also held up.[705] In emails to the head of CDC, officials at HHS accused MMWR scientists of attempting to "hurt the president" and writing "hit pieces on the administration". One official tried unsuccessfully to get all issues of MMWR held up until he personally approved them. CDC resisted many of the changes, but increasingly allowed HHS personnel to review articles and suggest changes before publication.[705] A spokesman for HHS confirmed that attempts to change MMWR content had been going on for ​3 12 months. He said it was because the MMWR reporting contained "political content" as well as scientific information, adding that the changes suggested by HHS were "infrequently" accepted by CDC.[705]

Effect of Trump's pandemic response on the 2020 presidential campaign

By July 2020 Trump's handling of the pandemic became a major issue for the 2020 presidential election.[706] Democratic challenger Joe Biden sought to make the election a referendum on Trump's performance on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.[707] Polls indicated voters blamed Trump for continued pandemic problems[706] and disbelieved his rhetoric concerning the virus,[708] with an Ipsos/ABC News poll indicating 65% of Americans disapproving of his pandemic response. The book about the presidency of Donald Trump by the American journalist Bob Woodward entitled Rage, published six weeks before the election,[709] only served to strengthen negative public sentiment towards Trump.[710] In recorded interviews with Woodward, Trump acknowledged that he knew of the dangers of the COVID-19 virus early on but deliberately downplayed those dangers to the American public.[710] Trump attempted to explain his rhetoric by invoking the historic strengths of Roosevelt and Churchill during World War II,[711] though such comparisons were widely panned.[711][712]

Lafayette Square protester removal and photo op

External video
A video timeline of the crackdown on protesters before Trump's photo op on YouTube (The Washington Post) (12:12)
Trump Stands In Front of Church Holding Bible After Threatening Military Action Against Protesters on YouTube (NBC) (2:40)
President Trump walks across Lafayette Park to St. John's Church on YouTube (C-SPAN) (7:46)

In a Rose Garden speech on June 1, 2020, Trump said he would deploy the U.S. military to stop violence if a city or state refused to do so, and declared himself the ally of peaceful protestors, following the police killing of George Floyd.[713][714][715] While he was speaking, federal law enforcement officials used batons, rubber bullets, pepper spray projectiles,[716] stun grenades, and smoke to remove a largely peaceful crowd from Lafayette Square, outside the White House. The removal had been ordered by Attorney General William Barr.[716][717] Trump then walked to St. John's Episcopal Church where the night before a small fire had been set in the basement nursery of its parish house.[718] He posed for photographs holding a Bible, with Cabinet members and other officials later joining him in photos.[716][717][719] Trump, who had attended services at the church three times since taking office, did not enter the church or inspect the damage to the basement.[720][721][722]

Religious leaders condemned the treatment of protesters and the photo opportunity itself.[723][721] Many retired military leaders and defense officials condemned Trump's proposal to use the U.S. military against the protesters.[721][724] The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, later apologized for accompanying Trump on the walk and thereby "creat[ing] the perception of the military involved in domestic politics".[725]

Investigations

The Crossfire Hurricane FBI investigation into possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign was launched in mid-2016 during the campaign season. Since he assumed the presidency, Trump has been the subject of increasing Justice Department and congressional scrutiny, with investigations covering his election campaign, transition and inauguration, actions taken during his presidency, along with his private businesses, personal taxes, and charitable foundation.[69] The New York Times reported in May 2019 that there were 29 open investigations of Trump, including ten federal criminal investigations, eight state and local investigations, and eleven Congressional investigations.[726] In 2020, Jeffrey Toobin authored a book entitled, True Crimes and Misdemeanors, the Investigation of Donald Trump, which is described as a condensation of evidence against Trump, as if he were on trial.[727]

Hush payments

American Media, Inc. (AMI) paid $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal in August 2016,[728] and Trump's attorney Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016.[729] Both women were paid for non-disclosure agreements regarding their alleged affairs with Trump between 2006 and 2007.[730] Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to breaking campaign finance laws, saying he had arranged both payments at the direction of Trump in order to influence the presidential election.[731] AMI admitted paying McDougal to prevent publication of stories that might damage Trump's electoral chances.[732] Trump denied the affairs, and claimed he was not aware of Cohen's payment to Daniels, but reimbursed him in 2017.[733][734] Federal prosecutors asserted that Trump had been involved in discussions regarding non-disclosure payments as early as 2014.[735] Court documents showed that the FBI believed Trump was directly involved in the payment to Daniels, based on calls he had with Cohen in October 2016.[736][737] In July 2019, a federal judge disclosed that prosecutors had stated in a court filing they had closed the investigation,[738] but days later the Manhattan District Attorney subpoenaed the Trump Organization and AMI for records related to the hush payments[739] and in August subpoenaed eight years of tax returns for Trump and the Trump Organization.[740]

Russian election interference

In January 2017, American intelligence agencies – the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA, represented by the Director of National Intelligence – jointly stated with "high confidence" that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election to favor the election of Trump.[741][742] In March 2017, FBI Director James Comey told Congress "the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."[743]

The connections between Trump associates and Russia have been widely reported by the press.[744][745] One of Trump's campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked from December 2004 until February 2010 to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych win the Ukrainian presidency.[746] Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials.[747][748] Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump.[749] Members of Trump's campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn, were in contact with Russian officials both before and after the November election.[750][751] On December 29, 2016, Flynn talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions that had been imposed the same day; Flynn later resigned in the midst of controversy over whether he misled Pence.[752] Trump had told Kislyak and Sergei Lavrov in May 2017 he was unconcerned about Russian interference in U.S. elections.[753]

Trump and his allies have promoted a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 election – which has also been promoted by Russia to frame Ukraine.[754] After the Democratic National Committee was hacked, Trump firstly claimed it withheld "its server" from the FBI (in actuality there were more than 140 servers, of which digital copies were given to the FBI); secondly that CrowdStrike, the company which investigated the servers, was Ukraine-based and Ukrainian-owned (in actuality, CrowdStrike is U.S.-based, with the largest owners being American companies); and thirdly that "the server" was hidden in Ukraine. Members of the Trump administration have spoken out against the conspiracy theories.[755]

2017 FBI counterintelligence inquiry

The New York Times reported in August 2020 that after Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s personal and business dealings with Russia. Within days of its opening, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein curtailed the inquiry, giving the bureau the impression that the incipient Mueller investigation would pursue it, though Rosenstein instructed Mueller not to, effectively ending the inquiry. Former FBI counterespionage chief Peter Strzok confirmed the opening of the investigation in a September 2020 television interview, citing FBI concerns over Trump's "financial entanglements" with Russia.[756][757]

Special counsel investigation

The redacted version of the Mueller report released by the Department of Justice on April 18, 2019

On May 17, 2017, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, to serve as special counsel for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) investigating "any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation",[758][759] thus taking over the existing "Crossfire Hurricane" FBI investigation into the matter.[759] The special counsel also investigated whether Trump's dismissal of James Comey as FBI director constituted obstruction of justice, and possible campaign ties to other national governments.[760] Trump repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.[761] Mueller also investigated the Trump campaign's possible ties to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, and China.[762]

Trump sought to fire Mueller on several occasions – in June 2017, December 2017, and April 2018 – and close the investigation but backed down after his staff objected or after changing his mind.[763] He bemoaned the recusal of his first Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding Russia matters, and believed Sessions should have stopped the investigation.[764]

On March 22, 2019, Mueller concluded his investigation and gave his report to Attorney General William Barr.[765] On March 24, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress summarizing the "principal conclusions" in the report. He quoted Mueller as stating "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." Barr further wrote that he and Rosenstein did not see sufficient evidence to prove obstruction of justice.[766] Trump interpreted Mueller's report as a "complete exoneration", a phrase he repeated multiple times in the ensuing weeks.[767] Mueller privately complained to Barr on March 27 that his summary did not accurately reflect what the report said,[768] and some legal analysts called the Barr letter misleading.[769]

A redacted version of the report was released to the public on April 18, 2019. The first volume found that Russia interfered to favor Trump's candidacy and hinder Clinton's.[770] Despite "numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign", the prevailing evidence "did not establish" that Trump campaign members conspired or coordinated with Russian interference.[771][772] The report states that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was illegal and occurred "in sweeping and systematic fashion",[758] and it details how Trump and his campaign welcomed and encouraged foreign interference believing they would politically benefit.[773][774][775]

The second volume of the Mueller report dealt with possible obstruction of justice by Trump.[776] The report did not exonerate Trump of obstruction inasmuch as investigators were not confident of his innocence after examining his intent and actions.[777] Investigators decided they could not "apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes", as they could not indict a sitting president per an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion, and would not accuse him of a crime when he cannot clear his name in court.[778] The report concluded that Congress, having the authority to take action against a president for wrongdoing, "may apply the obstruction laws".[779] Congress subsequently launched an impeachment inquiry following the Trump–Ukraine scandal, albeit it ultimately did not press charges related to the Mueller investigation.

Associates

On August 21, 2018, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight felony counts of false tax filing and bank fraud.[780] Trump said he felt very badly for Manafort and praised him for resisting the pressure to make a deal with prosecutors. According to Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, Trump had sought advice about pardoning Manafort but was counseled against it.[781]

On November 29, Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump's 2016 attempts to reach a deal with Russia to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen said he had made the false statements on behalf of Trump, who was identified as "Individual-1" in the court documents.[782]

The five Trump associates who have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in Mueller's investigation or related cases include Paul Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen.[783][784]

In February 2020, Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone was sentenced to over three years in jail, after being convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering regarding his attempts to learn more about hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election. The sentencing judge said Stone "was prosecuted for covering up for the president".[785]

2019 congressional investigation

In March 2019, the House Judiciary Committee launched a broad investigation of Trump for possible obstruction of justice, corruption, and abuse of power.[786] Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler sent letters demanding documents to 81 individuals and organizations associated with Trump's presidency, business, and private life, saying it is "very clear that the president obstructed justice".[787][788] Three other committee chairmen wrote the White House and State Department requesting details of Trump's communications with Putin, including any efforts to conceal the content of those communications.[788] The White House refused to comply, asserting that presidential communications with foreign leaders are protected and confidential.[789]

Impeachment

Impeachment by the House of Representatives

Members of House of Representatives vote on two articles of impeachment (H.Res. 755), December 18, 2019

During much of Trump's presidency, Democrats were divided on the question of impeachment.[790] Fewer than 20 representatives in the House supported impeachment by January 2019; after the Mueller Report was released in April and special counsel Robert Mueller testified in July, this number grew to around 140 representatives.[791]

In August 2019, a whistleblower filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community about a July 25 phone call between Trump and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump had pressured Zelensky to investigate CrowdStrike and Democratic presidential primary candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, adding that the White House had attempted to "lock down" the call records in a cover-up.[792] The whistleblower further stated that the call was part of a wider pressure campaign by Giuliani and the Trump administration which may have included withholding financial aid from Ukraine in July 2019 and canceling Vice President Pence's May 2019 Ukraine trip.[793] Trump later confirmed having withheld military aid from Ukraine and offered contradictory reasons for the decision.[794][795][796]

After the whistleblower complaint became known in September 2019, House speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated a formal impeachment inquiry on September 24.[797][798] The Trump administration subsequently released a memorandum of the July 25 phone call, confirming that after Zelensky mentioned purchasing American anti-tank missiles, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate and to discuss these matters with Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.[792][799] According to the testimony of multiple administration officials and former officials, the events were part of a broader effort to further Trump's personal interests by giving him an advantage in the upcoming presidential election.[800]

Among several State Department employees testifying to congressional committees in October 2019, William B. Taylor Jr., the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, testified that soon after arriving in Ukraine in June 2019, he found that Zelensky was being subjected to pressure from a private initiative directed by Trump and led by Giuliani. According to Taylor and others, the goal was to coerce Zelensky into making a public commitment to investigate the company that employed Hunter Biden, as well as rumors about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[801] He said it was made clear that until Zelensky made such an announcement, the administration would not release scheduled military aid for Ukraine and not invite Zelensky to the White House.[802][803] Zelensky denied that he felt pressured by Trump.[804]

On December 3, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee published a report authored by Democrats on the committee, stating that "the impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection." The report said Trump had withheld military aid and a White House invitation to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals. Furthermore, the report described Trump as the only U.S. president thus far to have "openly and indiscriminately" defied impeachment proceedings by telling his administration officials to ignore subpoenas for documents and testimony.[805][806][807]:8,208 The Republicans of the House Committees had released a draft of a countering report the previous day, saying in part that the evidence "does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats' witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor."[808][809]

On December 13, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to pass two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.[810] After debate, the House of Representatives impeached Trump with both articles on December 18.[811]

Impeachment trial in the Senate

The Senate impeachment trial began on January 16, 2020.[812] On January 22, the Republican Senate majority rejected amendments proposed by the Democratic minority to call witnesses and subpoena documents; evidence collected during the House impeachment proceedings will be entered into the Senate record automatically unless objected to on a case-by-case basis.[813]

For three days, January 22–24, the impeachment managers for the House presented their case to the Senate. They cited evidence to support charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and asserted that Trump's actions were exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when they included an impeachment process in the Constitution.[814]

President Trump Delivers Remarks (49498772251).jpg

Responding over the next three days, the Trump legal team did not deny the facts as presented in the charges but said Trump had not broken any laws or obstructed Congress.[815] They argued that the impeachment was "constitutionally and legally invalid" because Trump was not charged with a crime and that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense.[815]

On January 31, the Senate voted against allowing subpoenas to call witnesses or documents; 51 Republicans formed the majority for this vote.[816] Thus, this became the first impeachment trial in U.S. history without witness testimony.[817] On February 5, Trump was acquitted of both charges in a vote nearly along party lines, with Republican Mitt Romney voting to convict on one of the charges.[818]

Following his acquittal, Trump began removing impeachment witnesses and political appointees and career officials he deemed insufficiently loyal.[819]

Public profile

Approval ratings

At the end of his second year, his two-year average Gallup approval rating was the lowest of any president since World War II.[820] As of February 2020, his Gallup rating has ranged from a low of 35% approval to a high of 49%.[821][822] His approval and disapproval ratings have been unusually stable.[823][824]

In Gallup's end-of-year poll asking Americans to name the man they admire the most, Trump placed second to Obama in 2017 and 2018, and tied with Obama for most admired man in 2019.[825] Since Gallup started conducting the poll in 1948,[826] Trump is the first elected president not to be named most admired in his first year in office.[826]

Internationally, only 16% of respondents across 13 countries had confidence in Trump to do the right thing regarding world affairs, according to 2020 Pew Research polling. Confidence in Trump was lower than that of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.[827]

Social media

Trump's presence on social media has attracted attention worldwide since he joined Twitter in March 2009. He communicated heavily on Twitter during the 2016 election campaign and has continued to use this channel during his presidency. The attention on Trump's Twitter activity has significantly increased since he was sworn in as president. As of May 2019, he is in the top 15 for most Twitter followers at more than 60 million.[828]

By the end of May 2020, Trump had written about 52,000 tweets.[829] These include 22,115 tweets over seven years before his presidential candidacy, 8,159 tweets during the ​1 12 years of his candidacy and transition period, and 14,186 tweets over the first three years of his presidency.[830]

Trump has frequently used Twitter as a direct means of communication with the public, sidelining the press.[831] Since early in his presidency, his tweets have been considered official statements by the president of the United States,[832] employed for announcing policy or personnel changes. In March 2018, Trump fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by Twitter.[833]

Many of the assertions he has tweeted have been proven false.[834][835][836] In May 2020, Twitter began tagging some Trump tweets with fact-checking warnings[829][837][838] and labels for violations of Twitter rules.[839] Trump responded by threatening to "strongly regulate" or even "close down" social media platforms.[829][840]

False statements

Fact-checkers from The Washington Post,[841] the Toronto Star,[842] and CNN[843] compiled data on "false or misleading claims" (orange background), and "false claims" (violet foreground), respectively.

As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks.[834][835][844] The misinformation has been documented by fact-checkers; academics and the media have widely described the phenomenon as unprecedented in American politics.[845][846][250] This behavior was similarly observed when he was a presidential candidate.[847][244] His falsehoods have also become a distinctive part of his political identity.[846]

Trump uttered "at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days" in office, according to The New York Times,[834] and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office, according to the "Fact Checker" political analysis column of The Washington Post.[848] By the Post's tally, it took Trump 601 days to reach 5,000 false or misleading statements and another 226 days to reach the 10,000 mark.[849] For the seven weeks leading up to the midterm elections, it rose to an average of thirty per day[850] from 4.9 during his first hundred days in office.[851] The Post's reported tally is 20,055 as of July 9, 2020,[841] with the 2019 total more than double the cumulative total of 2017 and 2018.[852]

Some of Trump's falsehoods are inconsequential, such as his claims of a large crowd size during his inauguration.[853][854] Others have had more far-reaching effects, such as Trump's promotion of unproven antimalarial drugs as a treatment for COVID‑19 in a press conference and on Twitter in March 2020.[855][856][857] The claims had consequences worldwide, such as a shortage of these drugs in the United States and panic-buying in Africa and South Asia.[858][859] The state of Florida obtained nearly a million doses for its hospitals, even though most of them did not want the drug.[860] Other misinformation, such as Trump's retweet of unverified videos of a far-right British nationalist group in November 2017, serves a domestic political purpose, promoting policies on immigration and border security.[861] As a matter of principle, Trump does not apologize for his falsehoods.[862]

Despite the frequency of Trump's falsehoods, the media have rarely referred to them as "lies".[863][864] The word suggests an attempt to deceive, hence if used could be construed as conveying an opinion as to the intent behind the statement.[863][864] The word is fraught with political peril and has usually been avoided out of respect for the presidential office.[863][864] Nevertheless, in August 2018 The Washington Post declared for the first time that some of Trump's misstatements (statements concerning hush money paid to Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal) were lies.[865][864]

Some view the nature and frequency of Trump's falsehoods as having profound and corrosive consequences on democracy.[866] James Pfiffner, professor of policy and government at George Mason University, wrote in 2019 that Trump lies differently from previous presidents, because he offers "egregious false statements that are demonstrably contrary to well-known facts"; these lies are the "most important" of all Trump lies. By calling facts into question, people will be unable to properly evaluate their government, with beliefs irrationally settled by "political power"; this erodes liberal democracy, wrote Pfiffner.[867]

Promotion of conspiracy theories

Before and throughout his presidency, Trump has promoted numerous conspiracy theories, including "birtherism", the Clinton Body Count theory, and alleged Ukrainian interference in U.S. elections.[868][869][870][871][872] Trump retweeted a July 2020 video by Stella Immanuel, a Texas physician, promoting an unproven cure for the coronavirus. Her post was subsequently removed from several social networks because it violated their rules on misinformation.[873]

Relationship with the press

Trump talking to the press, March 2017

Throughout his career, Trump has sought media attention. His interactions with the press turned into what some sources called a "love-hate" relationship.[874][875][876] Trump began promoting himself in the press in the 1970s.[877] Fox News anchor Bret Baier and former House speaker Paul Ryan have characterized Trump as a "troll" who makes controversial statements to see people's "heads explode".[878][879]

In the campaign, Trump benefited from a record amount of free media coverage, elevating his standing in the Republican primaries.[243] New York Times writer Amy Chozick wrote in September 2018 that one of the reasons for Trump's appeal was his media dominance, which enthralls the public. Chozick endorsed the view that with Trump "feeding something every night" there is a "can't miss" nature for media coverage of him, akin to a reality show.[880]

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign and his presidency, Trump has repeatedly accused the press of intentionally misinterpreting his words and of being biased, calling them "fake news media" and "the enemy of the people".[240][881] After winning the election, journalist Lesley Stahl recounted Trump's saying he intentionally demeaned and discredited the media "so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you."[882]

Trump has privately and publicly mused about taking away critical reporters' White House press credentials.[883] His administration moved to revoke the press passes of two White House reporters, which were restored by the courts.[884] In 2019, a member of the foreign press reported many of the same concerns as those of media in the U.S., expressing concern that a normalization process by reporters and media results in an inaccurate characterization of Trump.[885] The Trump White House held about a hundred formal press briefings in 2017, declining by half during 2018 and to two in 2019.[884]

In early 2020, the Trump campaign sued The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN for alleged defamation.[886][887]

Racial views

Many of Trump's comments and actions have been characterized, both within the U.S. and abroad, as racially charged.[888] He has repeatedly denied he is racist, asserting: "I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world."[889] Many of his supporters say the way he speaks reflects his rejection of political correctness, while others accept it because they share such beliefs.[890][891] Scholars have discussed Trump's rhetoric in the context of white supremacy.[897]

Several studies and surveys have found that racist attitudes fueled Trump's political ascendance and have been more important than economic factors in determining the allegiance of Trump voters.[891][898] Racist and islamophobic attitudes have been shown to be a powerful indicator of support for Trump.[899] In a June 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 49 percent of respondents believed he was racist, while 47 percent believed he was not.[900] Additionally, 55 percent said he "has emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly".[901]

In 1975, he settled a 1973 Department of Justice lawsuit that alleged housing discrimination against black renters.[77] He has also been accused of racism for insisting a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the 1989 Central Park jogger case, even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002. He has maintained his position on the matter into 2019.[902]

Trump launched his political career in 2011 as a leading proponent of "birther" conspiracy theories alleging that Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, was not born in the United States.[903][904] In April 2011, Trump claimed credit for pressuring the White House to publish the "long-form" birth certificate, which he considered fraudulent, and later saying this made him "very popular".[905][906] In September 2016, amid pressure, he acknowledged that Obama was born in the U.S. and falsely claimed the rumors had been started by Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign.[907] In 2017, he reportedly still expressed birther views in private.[908]

According to an analysis in Political Science Quarterly, Trump made "explicitly racist appeals to whites" during his 2016 presidential campaign.[909] In particular, his campaign launch speech drew widespread criticism for claiming Mexican immigrants were "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists."[910][911] His later comments about a Mexican-American judge presiding over a civil suit regarding Trump University were also criticized as racist.[912]

Trump answers questions from reporters about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Trump's comments in reaction to the 2017 Charlottesville far-right rally were interpreted, by some, as implying a moral equivalence between white supremacist demonstrators and counter-protesters.[913]

In a January 2018 Oval Office meeting to discuss immigration legislation, he reportedly referred to El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and African nations as "shithole countries".[914] His remarks were condemned as racist worldwide, as well as by many members of Congress.[915][916]

In July 2019, Trump tweeted that four Democratic members of Congress – all four minority women, three of them native-born Americans – should "go back" to the countries they "came from".[917] Two days later the House of Representatives voted 240–187, mostly along party lines, to condemn his "racist comments".[918] White nationalist publications and social media sites praised his remarks, which continued over the following days.[919]

Comments about women

Trump has a history of insulting or demeaning women through comments on appearance or bodily functions, comparisons to animals, or other sexist language.[920][921][922][923] Trump's behavior became a campaign issue when he was questioned about it during the Republican Party presidential debate by Fox News journalist and debate host Megyn Kelly on August 6, 2015. Trump brushed off her question, implying she was treating him unfairly, but then on CNN the following day said about Kelly, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever."[924][925] The comment was widely viewed as referring to menstrual blood.[925] Trump denied the comment was about menstruation and insisted that what he said was appropriate.[926][925] Trump incurred bipartisan condemnation for his comments.[925]

Allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct

At least twenty-three women have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct as of October 2019, including his then-wife Ivana. There were allegations of rape, violence, being kissed and groped without consent, looking under women's skirts, and walking in on naked women.[927][928] In 2016, he denied all accusations, calling them "false smears", and alleged there was a conspiracy against him.[929]

In October 2016, two days before the second presidential debate, a 2005 "hot mic" recording surfaced in which Trump was heard bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent, saying "when you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything ... grab 'em by the pussy."[930] The incident's widespread media exposure led to Trump's first public apology during the campaign[931] and caused outrage across the political spectrum.[932]

Allegations of inciting violence

Some research suggests Trump's rhetoric causes an increased incidence of hate crimes.[933][934][935] During the 2016 campaign, he sometimes urged or praised physical attacks against protesters or reporters.[936][937] Since then, some individuals or their attorneys have cited Trump's rhetoric as a defense for their hate speech or violent actions.[938] In August 2019 it was reported that a man who allegedly assaulted a minor for perceived disrespect toward the national anthem had cited Trump's rhetoric in his own defense.[939] It was also reported in August 2019 that a nationwide review conducted by ABC News had identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violence or threats of violence. Of these, 29 were based around someone echoing presidential rhetoric, while the other seven were someone protesting it or not having direct linkage.[940]

Popular culture

Trump has been the subject of comedians, Flash cartoon artists, and online caricature artists. He has been parodied regularly on Saturday Night Live by Phil Hartman, Darrell Hammond, and Alec Baldwin, and in South Park as Mr. Garrison. The Simpsons episode "Bart to the Future", written during his 2000 campaign for the Reform party, anticipated a future Trump presidency. A dedicated parody series called The President Show debuted in April 2017 on Comedy Central, while another one called Our Cartoon President debuted on Showtime in February 2018.[941]

Trump's wealth and lifestyle had been a fixture of hip hop lyrics since the 1980s, as he was named in hundreds of songs, most often in a positive tone.[942][943] Mentions of Trump in hip-hop turned negative and pejorative after he ran for office in 2015.[942]

Recognition

In 1983, Trump received the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life Award, after he helped fund two playgrounds, a park, and a reservoir in Israel.[944][945] In 1986, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in recognition of "patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity",[946] and in 1995 was awarded the President's Medal from the Freedoms Foundation for his support of youth programs.[947] He has been awarded five honorary doctorates, but one was revoked by Robert Gordon University in 2015 after Trump called for a Muslim ban, citing Trump's speech being "wholly incompatible ... with the ethos and values of the university". The remaining awards are Lehigh University's honorary doctorate of laws in 1988, Wagner College's honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2004, and Liberty University's honorary doctorates of business and law in 2012 and 2017 respectively.[948]

In December 2016, Time named Trump as its "Person of the Year",[949] but Trump took issue with the magazine for referring to him as the "President of the Divided States of America".[950] In the same month, he was named Financial Times Person of the Year[951] and was ranked by Forbes the second most powerful person in the world after Vladimir Putin.[952] As president, Trump received the Collar of The Order of Abdulaziz al Saud from Saudi Arabia in 2017.[953]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c This estimate is by Forbes in their annual ranking. Bloomberg Billionaires Index listed Trump's net worth as $2.97 billion in June 2019,[58] and Wealth-X listed it as at least $3.2 billion in April 2019.[59]
  2. ^ Presidential elections in the United States are decided by the Electoral College. Each state names a number of electors equal to its representation in Congress, and (in most states) all delegates vote for the winner of the local state vote. Consequently, it is possible for the president-elect to have received fewer votes from the country's total population (the popular vote). This situation has occurred five times since 1824.
  3. ^ Ronald Reagan was older upon his second-term inauguration.
  4. ^ "In connection with that analysis, we addressed the factual question whether members of the Trump Campaign 'coordinat[ed]' – a term that appears in the appointment order – with Russian election interference activities. Like collusion, 'coordination' does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other's actions or interests. We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." Mueller Report, vol. I, p. 2
  5. ^ Records on this matter date from the year 1824. The number "five" includes the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016. Despite their similarities, some of these five elections had peculiar results; e.g. John Quincy Adams trailed in both the national popular vote and the electoral college in 1824 (since no one had a majority in the electoral college, Adams was chosen by the House of Representatives), and Samuel Tilden in 1876 remains the only losing candidate to win an actual majority of the popular vote (rather than just a plurality).[288][289]

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