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|45th President of the United States|
January 20, 2017
|Vice President||Mike Pence|
|Preceded by||Barack Obama|
Donald John Trump
(1946-06-14) June 14, 1946
Queens, New York City
|Political party||Republican (1987–1999, 2009–2011, 2012–present)|
|Alma mater||The Wharton School (BS in Econ.)|
|Net worth||US$3.1 billion (March 2019)[a]|
|Awards||List of honors and awards|
Trump was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens, and received a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He took charge of his family's real-estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded its operations from Queens and Brooklyn into Manhattan. The company built or renovated skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. Trump later started various side ventures, mostly by licensing his name. He owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015, and produced and hosted The Apprentice, a reality television show, from 2003 to 2015. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $3.1 billion.[a]
Trump entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and defeated 16 other candidates in the primaries. His political positions have been described as populist, protectionist, and nationalist. Despite being disfavored in most forecasts, he 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 also 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. 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 recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imposed import tariffs triggering a trade war with China, and started negotiations with North Korea toward their denuclearization.
A special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller found that Trump and his campaign welcomed and encouraged Russian foreign 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[d] with Russia. Mueller also investigated Trump for obstruction of justice, and his report neither indicted nor exonerated Trump on that score. A 2019 House impeachment inquiry found that in the Trump–Ukraine scandal, Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to help his re-election bid, and then obstructed the inquiry itself. The inquiry reported that Trump withheld military aid and a White House invitation in order to influence Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals. Two potential articles of impeachment were announced: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Family and personal life
Early life and education
Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946, at the Jamaica Hospital in the borough of Queens, New York City. His father was Frederick Christ Trump, a Bronx-born real estate developer, whose own parents were German immigrants. His mother was Scottish-born housewife and socialite 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. At age 13, he was enrolled in the New York Military Academy, a private boarding school. In 1964, Trump enrolled at Fordham University. Two years later he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. While at Wharton, he worked at the family business, Elizabeth Trump & Son, graduating in May 1968 with a B.S. in economics. 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. However, he had never made the school's honor roll.
While in college, Trump obtained four student draft deferments. 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. In October 1968, he was medically deferred and classified 1-Y (unqualified for duty except in the case of a national emergency). Trump said in 2015 that the medical deferment was due to a bone spur in a foot, though he could not remember which foot had been afflicted; his presidential campaign stated that the spurs were in both heels, a minor issue expected to be temporary. In 1972, he was reclassified 4-F, which permanently disqualified him from service.
Trump's father Fred was born in 1905 in the Bronx. He started working with his mother in real estate when he was 15. Their company, "E. Trump & Son", founded in 1923, was active in the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, building and selling thousands of houses, barracks, and apartments. In spite of his German ancestry, Fred claimed to be Swedish amid the anti-German sentiment sparked by World War II; Trump repeated this claim until the 1990s. Trump's mother Mary Anne MacLeod was born in Scotland. Fred and Mary were married in 1936 and raised their family in Queens. Trump grew up with three elder siblings—Maryanne, Fred Jr., and Elizabeth—and younger brother Robert.
In 1977, Trump married Czech model Ivana Zelníčková. They have three children, Donald Jr. (born 1977), Ivanka (born 1981), and Eric (born 1984), and ten grandchildren. Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump's affair with actress Marla Maples. Maples and Trump married in 1993 and had one daughter, Tiffany (born 1993). They were divorced in 1999, and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California. In 2005, Trump married Slovenian model Melania Knauss. They have one son, Barron (born 2006). Melania gained U.S. citizenship in 2006.
Trump is a Presbyterian. As a child, he attended the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, where he had his confirmation. In the 1970s, his parents joined the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, part of the Reformed Church. The pastor at Marble, Norman Vincent Peale, ministered to Trump's family and mentored him until Peale's death in 1993.
Trump says he is "not sure" whether he ever asked God for forgiveness: "If I do something wrong, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture." He tries to take Holy Communion as often as possible because it makes him "feel cleansed". While campaigning, Trump referred to The Art of the Deal as his second favorite book saying, "Nothing beats the Bible."
Trump has associations with a number of Christian spiritual leaders, including Florida pastor Paula White, who has been called his "closest spiritual confidant". In 2015, he released a list of religious advisers, which included James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed, Michele Bachmann, and Robert Jeffress.
Health and lifestyle
Trump abstains from alcohol, a reaction to his older brother Fred Trump Jr.'s alcoholism and early death, and says he has never smoked cigarettes or cannabis. He likes fast food. He has said he prefers three to four hours of sleep per night. He has called golfing his "primary form of exercise", although he usually does not walk the course. He considers exercise a waste of energy, because he believes the body is "like a battery, with a finite amount of energy".
In December 2015, Harold Bornstein, who had been Trump's personal physician since 1980, wrote in a letter that he would "be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency". In May 2018, Bornstein said Trump himself had dictated the contents of the letter, and that Trump's representatives had taken away his medical records in February 2017.
In January 2018, White House physician Ronny Jackson said Trump was in excellent health and that his cardiac assessment revealed no issues, although his weight and cholesterol level were higher than recommended. Several outside cardiologists commented that Trump's 2018 LDL cholesterol level of 143 did not indicate excellent health. 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. His 2019 coronary CT calcium scan score indicates he suffers from coronary artery disease, which is common for white men at his age.
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. In its 2019 billionaires ranking, Forbes estimated Trump's net worth at $3.1 billion[a] (715th in the world, 259th in the U.S.) making him one of the richest politicians in American history and the first billionaire American president. 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. 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; 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. Trump stated in a 2007 deposition, "My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings."
Journalist Jonathan Greenberg reported in April 2018 that Trump, using a pseudonym "John Barron", called him in 1984 to falsely assert that he owned "in excess of ninety percent" of the Trump family's business, in an effort 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.
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. 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. According to the report, Trump and his family committed tax fraud, which a lawyer for Trump denied. The tax department of New York says it is "vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation" into it. Analyses by The Economist and The Washington Post have concluded that Trump's investments underperformed the stock market. Forbes estimated in October 2018 that the value of Trump's personal brand licensing business had declined by 88% since 2015, to $3 million.
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.
Trump began his career in 1968 at his father Fred's real estate development company, E. Trump & Son, which owned middle-class rental housing in New York City's outer boroughs. He assisted his father in the attempted turnaround of the troubled Swifton Village apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio, which the elder Trump had bought at foreclosure in 1964. In 1971, when his father promoted him to president of the family company, he renamed it The Trump Organization.
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, who also joined Hyatt in guaranteeing $70 million in bank construction financing. The hotel reopened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and that same year, Trump obtained rights to develop Trump Tower, a mixed-use skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. That building was formerly Trump's primary residence and now houses the headquarters of the Trump Organization.
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. In 1995, Trump lost the hotel to Citibank and investors from Singapore and Saudi Arabia, who assumed $300 million of the debt.
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. 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. Trump, along with other investors, retained an interest in adjacent properties that they sold in 2005 for $1.8 billion, at that time the biggest residential sale in New York City history.
In 1985, Trump acquired the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. 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. The initiation fee was $100,000 until 2016; it was doubled to $200,000 in January 2017. On September 27, 2019, Trump declared Mar-a-Lago his primary residence.
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 in an effort to revitalize the once-popular seaside destination. Soon after it opened the casino was renamed "Trump Plaza", but 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. 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 was called Trump Castle. Trump's then-wife Ivana managed it until 1988.
Trump acquired a third casino in Atlantic City, the Taj Mahal, in 1988 in a highly leveraged transaction. It was financed with $675 million in junk bonds and completed at a cost of $1.1 billion, opening in April 1990. The project went bankrupt the following year, and the reorganization left Trump with only half his initial ownership stake and required him to pledge personal guarantees of future performance. 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.
In 1995, Trump founded Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (THCR), which assumed ownership of Trump Plaza, Trump Castle, and the Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana. THCR purchased the Taj Mahal in 1996 and underwent successive bankruptcies in 2004, 2009, and 2014, leaving Trump with only ten percent ownership. He remained chairman of THCR until 2009.
As of December 2016[update], the Trump Organization owns or operates 18 golf course and golf resorts in the United States and abroad. According to Trump's FEC personal financial disclosure, his 2015 golf and resort revenue amounted to $382 million, while his three European golf courses did not show a profit.
Trump began acquiring and constructing golf courses in 1999; his first property was the Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach in Florida. By 2007, he owned four courses around the U.S. Following the financial crisis of 2007–2008, he began purchasing existing golf courses and re-designing them. His use of these courses during his presidency was controversial. Despite frequently criticizing his predecessor Barack Obama for his numerous golf outings, Trump golfed eleven times during his first eight weeks in office. He visited one of his golf resorts on 187 of his first 848 days in office, 22 percent of the time.
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 building projects that are owned and operated by other people and companies. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, it expanded its footprint beyond New York with the branding and management of various developers' hotel towers around the world. These included projects in Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Panama City, Toronto, and Vancouver. There are also Trump-branded buildings in Dubai, Honolulu, Istanbul, Manila, Mumbai, and Indonesia.
The Trump name has also been licensed for various consumer products and services, including the short-lived Cadillac Trump Series,[dubious ] foodstuffs, apparel, adult learning courses, and home furnishings. 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. By 2018 only two consumer goods companies continued to license his name.
Lawsuits and bankruptcies
As of April 2018[update], 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. As of 2016[update], he or one of his companies had been the plaintiff in 1,900 cases and the defendant in 1,450. With Trump or his company as plaintiff, more than half the cases have been against gamblers at his casinos who had failed to pay off their debts. With Trump or his company as a defendant, the most common type of case involved personal injury cases at his hotels. In cases where there was a clear resolution, Trump's side won 451 times and lost 38.
Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy. His hotel and casino businesses have been declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds. Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded. Trump was quoted by Newsweek in 2011 saying, "I do play with the bankruptcy laws—they're very good for me" as a tool for trimming debt. The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).
During the 1980s, more than seventy banks had lent Trump $4 billion, but in the aftermath of his corporate bankruptcies of the early 1990s, most major banks declined to lend to him, with a notable exception of Deutsche Bank.
In April 2019, the House Oversight Committee (HOC) 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 HOC chairman Elijah Cummings to prevent the disclosures. In May, DC District Court judge Amit Mehta ruled that Mazars must comply with the subpoena, and judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District Court of New York ruled that the banks must also comply. Trump's attorneys appealed the rulings, arguing that Congress was attempting to usurp the "exercise of law-enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch".
After taking over control of the Trump Organization in 1971, Trump expanded its real estate operations and ventured into other business activities. The company eventually became the umbrella organization for several hundred individual business ventures and partnerships.
In September 1983, Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals, an American football team that played in the United States Football League (USFL). 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 lawsuit against the organization.
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, including Mike Tyson's 1988 heavyweight championship fight against Michael Spinks. 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.
In 1988, Trump founded Trump Shuttle, purchasing 21 planes and landing rights at three airports in New York City, Boston, and the Washington, D.C., area, from the defunct Eastern Air Lines, costing $380 million financed from 22 banks. The airline offered charter services in addition to scheduled shuttle flights, and was eventually sold to USAir Group in 1992 after failing to operate at a profit.
From 1996 to 2015, Trump owned part of or all the Miss Universe pageants, including Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. Due to disagreements with CBS about scheduling, he took both pageants to NBC in 2002. In 2007, Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work as producer of Miss Universe. In September 2015, Trump bought NBC's share of the Miss Universe Organization, and sold the entire company to the William Morris talent agency.
In 2004, Trump co-founded a company called Trump University that sold real estate training courses priced at between $1,500 and $35,000. After New York State authorities twice notified the company that its use of the word "university" violated state law, its name was changed to the "Trump Entrepreneurial Institute" in 2010.
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. In addition, two class-action civil lawsuits were filed in federal court; they named Trump personally as well as his companies. Internal documents of the company 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. Shortly after he won the presidency, Trump agreed to a settlement of all three pending cases and agreed to pay a total of $25 million. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the settlement and payment "a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university". Trump denied any wrongdoing.
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. The foundation's funds have mostly come from donors other than Trump, who has not given personally to the charity since 2008.
The foundation's tax returns show that it has given to health care and sports-related charities, as well as conservative groups. In 2009, for example, the foundation gave $926,750 to about forty groups, with the biggest donations going to the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation ($100,000), the NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital ($125,000), the Police Athletic League ($156,000), and the Clinton Foundation ($100,000). From 2004 to 2014, the top donors to the foundation were Vince and Linda McMahon of WWE, who donated $5 million to the foundation after Trump appeared at WrestleMania in 2007.
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. Also in 2016, the New York State Attorney General's office notified the Trump Foundation that the foundation appeared to be in violation of New York laws regarding charities, ordering it to immediately cease its fundraising activities in New York. A Trump spokesman called the Attorney General's investigation a "partisan hit job". In response to mounting complaints, Trump's team announced in late December 2016 that the Trump Foundation would be dissolved to remove "even the appearance of any conflict with [his] role as President". According to an IRS filing in November 2017, the foundation intended to shut down and distribute its assets (about $970,000) to other charities. However, the New York Attorney General's office had to complete their ongoing investigation before the foundation could legally shut down, and in June 2018 they filed a civil suit against the foundation for $2.8 million in restitution and additional penalties. The suit names Trump himself as well as his adult children Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka.
In December 2018, the foundation agreed to cease operation and disburse all its assets. Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who oversaw the investigation and lawsuit, said the investigation uncovered a "shocking pattern of illegality". Months later, a New York state judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million to a group of charities for "breaching his fiduciary duty to properly oversee the foundation that bears his name". The Foundation characterized the penalty as a "contribution," stating it was "pleased to donate an additional $2 million" to "worthy organizations." Trump acknowledged that a January 2016 fundraiser for veterans he organized had actually been a campaign event and the $2.8 million in raised funds were placed under the full control of his campaign.
Conflicts of interest
Before being inaugurated as president, Trump moved his businesses into a revocable trust run by his eldest sons and a business associate. According to ethics experts, as long as Trump continues to profit from his businesses, the measures taken by Trump do not help to avoid conflicts of interest. Because Trump would have knowledge of how his administration's policies would affect his businesses, ethics experts recommend that Trump sell off his businesses. While Trump has said his organization would eschew "new foreign deals", the Trump Organization has since pursued expansions of its operations in Dubai, Scotland, and the Dominican Republic.
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. Previous presidents in the modern era have either divested their holdings or put them in blind trusts, and he is the first president to be sued over the emoluments clause. 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."
In 2015, Trump said he "makes a lot of money with" the Saudis and that "they pay me millions and hundreds of millions." And at a political rally, Trump said about Saudi Arabia: "They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."
In December 2015, Trump said in a radio interview that he had a "conflict of interest" in dealing with Turkey and Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan because of his Trump Towers Istanbul, saying "I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul and it's a tremendously successful job ... It's called Trump Towers—two towers instead of one ... I've gotten to know Turkey very well".
Trump has published numerous books. His first published book in 1987 was Trump: The Art of the Deal, in which he is credited as co-author with Tony Schwartz, who has said he did all the writing. It reached the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, stayed there for 13 weeks, and altogether held a position on the 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's published writings shifted post-2000 from stylized memoirs to financial tips and political opinion.
Trump has had a sporadic relationship with professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment since the late 1980s; in 1988 and 1989, WrestleMania IV and V, which took place at the Atlantic City Convention Hall, were billed as taking place at the nearby Trump Plaza. He headlined the record-breaking WrestleMania 23 in 2007. In 2013, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the weekend festivities surrounding WrestleMania 29.
McMahon and his wife Linda—who later served under President Trump as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration—donated toward his endeavors, including a total of $5 million to the Donald Trump Foundation after WWE performances in 2007 and 2009, and $6 million to his presidential campaign in 2016.
In 2003, Trump became the executive producer and host of the NBC reality show The Apprentice, in which contestants competed for a one-year management job with the Trump Organization; applicants were successively eliminated from the game with the catchphrase "You're fired." He later co-hosted The Celebrity Apprentice, in which celebrities compete to win money for their charities.
In February 2015, Trump said he was "not ready" to sign on for another season of the show because of the possibility of a presidential run. Despite this, NBC announced production of a 15th season. In June, NBCUniversal announced the end of their deal, citing "recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants" in his announcement of his presidential campaign.
Trump has made cameo appearances in twelve films and 14 television series, including as the father of one of the characters in The Little Rascals. He performed a song with Megan Mullally at the 57th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2005. Trump receives a pension as a member of the Screen Actors Guild. His financial disclosure forms mentioned an annual pension of $110,000 in 2016 and $85,000 in 2017.
Starting in the 1990s, Trump was a guest about 24 times on the nationally syndicated Howard Stern Show. He also had his own short-form talk radio program called Trumped! (one to two minutes on weekdays) from 2004 to 2008. In 2011, he was given a weekly unpaid guest commentator spot on Fox & Friends that continued until he started his presidential candidacy in 2015.
Political activities up to 2015
Trump's political party affiliation has 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. He made donations to both the Democratic and the Republican parties, party committees, and candidates until 2010 when he stopped donating to Democrats and increased his donations to Republicans considerably.
In 1987, Trump spent $94,801 (equivalent to $209,068 in 2018) to place full-page advertisements in three major newspapers, proclaiming "America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves." The advertisements also advocated for "reducing the budget deficit, working for peace in Central America, and speeding up nuclear disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union". After rumors of a presidential run, Trump was invited by then U.S. senator John Kerry (Democrat from Massachusetts), House speaker Jim Wright of Texas, and Arkansas congressman Beryl Anthony Jr. to host a fundraising dinner for Democratic congressional candidates and to switch parties. Anthony told The New York Times that "the message Trump has been preaching is a Democratic message." Asked whether the rumors were true, Trump denied being a candidate, but said, "I believe that if I did run for President, I'd win." According to a Gallup poll in December 1988, Trump was the tenth most admired man in America.
In 1999, Trump filed an exploratory committee to seek the nomination of the Reform Party for the 2000 presidential election. 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. Trump eventually dropped out of the race, but still went on to win the Reform Party primaries in California and Michigan. After his run, he left the party due to the involvement of David Duke, Pat Buchanan, and Lenora Fulani. He also considered running for president in 2004. In 2008, he endorsed Republican John McCain for president.
Trump publicly speculated about running for president in the 2012 election, and made his first speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February 2011. The speech is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party. On May 16, 2011, Trump announced he would not run for president in the 2012 election. In February 2012, Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
Trump's presidential ambitions were generally not taken seriously at the time. Trump's moves were interpreted by some media as possible promotional tools for his reality show The Apprentice. 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.
In 2011, according to Evan Jones, the headmaster of the New York Military Academy at the time, the then-superintendent Jeffrey Coverdale had demanded Trump's academic records, to hand them over to "prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Mr. Trump's friends" at their request. Coverdale said he had refused to hand over Trump's records to trustees of the school, and instead sealed Trump's records on campus. Jones stated: "It was the only time in my education career that I ever heard of someone's record being removed," while Coverdale further said: "It's the only time I ever moved an alumnus's records." The incident reportedly happened days after Trump demanded President Barack Obama's academic records.
In 2013, Trump was a featured CPAC speaker. In a sparsely-attended speech, he railed against illegal immigration while seeming to encourage immigration from Europe, bemoaned Obama's "unprecedented media protection", advised against harming Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and suggested that the government "take" Iraq's oil and use the proceeds to pay a million dollars each to families of dead soldiers. He spent over $1 million that year to research a possible 2016 candidacy.
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. A February 2014 Quinnipiac poll had shown Trump losing to the more popular Cuomo by 37 points in a hypothetical election.
Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed during a congressional hearing that Trump had instructed him to threaten schools he attended not to release Trump's academic records, including Fordham University and the New York Military Academy. Cohen provided copies of a May 2015 letter threatening Fordham University with civil and criminal actions if any were released without Trump's permission which Fordham University confirmed receiving. A former dean of academics at the New York Military Academy, Mika Saarela, also acknowledged receiving a similar letter.
2016 presidential campaign
On June 16, 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Trump Tower in Manhattan. In the speech, Trump discussed illegal immigration, offshoring of American jobs, the U.S. national debt, and Islamic terrorism, which all remained large priorities during the campaign. He also announced his campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again". Trump said his wealth would make him immune to pressure from campaign donors. He declared that he was funding his own campaign, but according to The Atlantic, "Trump's claims of self-funding have always been dubious at best and actively misleading at worst."
In the primaries, Trump was one of seventeen candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination. This was the largest presidential field in American history. Trump's campaign was initially not taken seriously by political analysts, but he quickly rose to the top of opinion polls.
On Super Tuesday, Trump received the most votes, and he remained the front-runner throughout the primaries. By March 2016, Trump was poised to win the Republican nomination. 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.
After becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump shifted his focus to the general election. Trump began campaigning against Hillary Clinton, who became the presumptive Democratic nominee on June 6, 2016.
Clinton had established a significant lead over Trump in national polls throughout most of 2016. In early July, Clinton's lead narrowed in national polling averages following the FBI's re-opening of its investigation into her ongoing email controversy.
On July 15, 2016, Trump announced his selection of Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Four days later, the two were officially nominated by the Republican Party at the Republican National Convention. The list of convention speakers and attendees included former presidential nominee Bob Dole, but the other prior nominees did not attend.
On September 26, 2016, Trump and Clinton faced off in their first presidential debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. The second presidential debate was held at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. The beginning of that debate was dominated by references to a recently leaked tape of Trump making sexually explicit comments, which Trump countered by referring to alleged sexual misconduct on the part of Bill Clinton. Prior to the debate, Trump had invited four women who had accused Bill Clinton of impropriety to a press conference. 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.
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 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".
His political positions have been described as populist, and some of his views cross party lines. For example, his economic campaign plan calls for large reductions in income taxes and deregulation, consistent with Republican Party policies, along with significant infrastructure investment, usually considered a Democratic Party policy. According to political writer Jack Shafer, Trump may be a "fairly conventional American populist when it comes to his policy views", but he attracts free media attention, sometimes by making outrageous comments.
Trump has supported or leaned toward varying political positions over time. Politico has described his positions as "eclectic, improvisational and often contradictory", while NBC News counted "141 distinct shifts on 23 major issues" during his campaign.
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. In part due to his fame, and due to his willingness to say things other candidates would not, and because a candidate who is gaining ground automatically provides a compelling news story, Trump received an unprecedented amount of free media coverage during his run for the presidency, which elevated his standing in the Republican primaries.
Fact-checking organizations have denounced Trump for making a record number of false statements compared to other candidates. 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 that "Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has". NPR said Trump's campaign statements were often opaque or suggestive.
Trump's penchant for hyperbole is believed to have roots in the New York real estate scene, where Trump established his wealth and where puffery abounds. Trump adopted his ghostwriter's phrase "truthful hyperbole" to describe his public speaking style.
According to Michael Barkun, the Trump campaign was remarkable for bringing fringe ideas, beliefs, and organizations into the mainstream. During his presidential campaign, Trump was accused of pandering to white supremacists. He retweeted open racists, 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. 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".
After repeated questioning by reporters, Trump said he disavowed David Duke and the KKK. 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."
The alt-right movement coalesced around Trump's candidacy, due in part to its opposition to multiculturalism and immigration. Members of the alt-right enthusiastically supported Trump's campaign. 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". In an interview days after the election, Trump condemned supporters who celebrated his victory with Nazi salutes.
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. The 2016 form showed little change.
Trump has not released his tax returns, contrary to the practice of every major candidate since 1976 and his promise in 2014 to do so if he ran for office. He said his tax returns were being audited, and his lawyers had advised him against releasing them. Trump has told the press his tax rate was none of their business, and that he tries to pay "as little tax as possible".
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 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.
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.
On April 3, 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, setting a deadline of April 10. That day, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the deadline would not be met, and the deadline was extended to April 23, which also was not honored, and on May 6 Mnuchin said the request would be denied. On May 10, 2019, committee chairman Richard Neal subpoenaed the Treasury Department and the IRS for the returns and seven days later the subpoenas were defied. A fall 2018 draft IRS legal memo asserted that Trump must provide his tax returns to Congress unless he invokes executive privilege, contradicting the administration's justification for defying the earlier subpoena. Mnuchin asserted the memo actually addressed a different matter.
Election to the presidency
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. Trump received a smaller share of the popular vote than Clinton, which made him the fifth person to be elected president while losing the popular vote.[e] Clinton was ahead nationwide by 2.1 percentage points, with 65,853,514 votes (48.18%) to 62,984,828 votes (46.09%); neither candidate reached a majority.
Trump's victory was considered a stunning political upset by most observers, as polls had consistently showed 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, 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. The polls were relatively accurate, 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.
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.
Trump is the wealthiest president in U.S. history, even after adjusting for inflation, and the oldest person to take office as president. He is also the first president who did not serve in the military or hold elective or appointed government office prior to being elected. Of the 43[f] previous presidents, 38 had held prior elective office, two had not held elective office but had served in the Cabinet, and three had never held public office but had been commanding generals.
Some rallies during the primary season were accompanied by protests or violence, including attacks on Trump supporters and vice versa both inside and outside the venues. Trump's election victory sparked protests across the United States, in opposition to his policies and his inflammatory statements. Trump initially said on Twitter that these were "professional protesters, incited by the media", and were "unfair", but he later tweeted, "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country."
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, including 500,000 in Washington alone. Moreover, marches against his travel ban began across the country on January 29, 2017, just nine days after his inauguration.
2020 presidential campaign
Trump signaled his intention to run for a second term by filing with the FEC within hours of assuming the presidency. This transformed his 2016 election committee into a 2020 reelection one. 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. By January 2018, Trump's reelection committee had $22 million in hand, and it had raised a total amount exceeding $67 million as of December 2018[update]. $23 million were spent in the fourth quarter of 2018, as Trump supported various Republican candidates for the 2018 midterm elections.
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.
Upon inauguration, Trump delegated the management of his real estate business to his sons Eric and Don Jr. 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, and he is a Senior Advisor in the White House.
The economic expansion that began in June 2009 continued through Trump's first three years in office. Throughout his presidency, he has repeatedly and falsely characterized the economy as the best in American history.
In December 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, lowered personal tax brackets, increased child tax credit, doubled the estate tax exemption to $11.2 million, and limited the state and local tax deduction to $10,000.
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. He withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, 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. On several occasions, Trump has said incorrectly that these import tariffs are paid by China into the U.S. Treasury.
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 and limiting environmental pollution. 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. Trump attended the 44th G7 summit held in Canada in 2018 and the 45th G7 summit held in France in 2019, but he skipped the discussions related to the environment and climate. He held a press conference following the 2019 summit in which he said he is "an environmentalist" adding, "I think I know more about the environment than most people."
Trump's early policies have favored rollback and dismantling of government regulations. He signed a Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution, the first in 16 years and second overall. During his first six weeks in office, he delayed, suspended or reversed ninety federal regulations.
On January 30, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13771, which directed administrative agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation they issue. Agency defenders expressed opposition to Trump's criticisms, saying the bureaucracy exists to protect people against well-organized, well-funded interest groups.
During his campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal and replace Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"). Shortly after taking office, he urged Congress to repeal and replace it. In May of that year, the House of Representatives voted to repeal it. Over the course of several months' effort, however, the Senate was unable to pass any version of a repeal bill. 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. The 2017 tax bill effectively repealed the ACA's individual health insurance mandate in 2019.
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. He has said he is committed to appointing pro-life justices. He says he personally supports "traditional marriage" but considers the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage a "settled" issue. 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, in March 2017, the Trump administration rolled back key components of the Obama administration's workplace protections for LGBT people.
Trump supports a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment and says he is opposed to gun control in general, although his views have shifted over time. Trump opposes legalizing recreational marijuana but supports legalizing medical marijuana. He favors capital punishment, as well as the use of waterboarding and "a hell of a lot worse" methods.
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. He pledged to massively deport illegal immigrants residing in the United States, and criticized birthright citizenship for creating "anchor babies". He said deportation would focus on criminals, visa overstays, and security threats. As president, he frequently described illegal immigration as an "invasion" and conflated immigrants with the gang MS-13, even though research shows undocumented immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans.
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. He later reframed the proposed ban to apply to countries with a "proven history of terrorism".
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 was imposed without warning and took effect immediately. Confusion and protests caused chaos at airports. Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, directed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the executive order, which she deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional; Trump immediately dismissed her. Multiple legal challenges were filed against the order, and on February 5 a federal judge in Seattle blocked its implementation nationwide. On March 6, Trump issued a revised order, which excluded Iraq, gave specific exemptions for permanent residents, and removed priorities for Christian minorities. Again federal judges in three states blocked its implementation. 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".
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. After lower courts partially blocked the new restrictions, the Supreme Court allowed the September version to go into full effect on December 4, and ultimately upheld the travel ban in a June 2019 ruling.
In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA would be repealed after six months. Trump argued that "top legal experts" believed DACA was unconstitutional, and called on Congress to use the six-month delay to pass legislation solving the "Dreamers" issue permanently. As of March 2018[update], when the delay expired, no legislation had been agreed on DACA. Several states immediately challenged the DACA rescission in court. Two injunctions in January and February 2018 allowed renewals of applications and stopped the rolling back of DACA, and in April 2018 a federal judge ordered the acceptance of new applications. In August 2018, United States District Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that DACA is likely unconstitutional, but left the program in place as litigation proceeds.
In April 2018, Trump enacted a "zero tolerance" immigration policy that temporarily took adults irregularly entering the U.S. into custody for criminal prosecution and forcibly separated children from parents, eliminating the policy of previous administrations, which had made exceptions for families with children. By mid-June, more than 2,300 children had been placed in shelters, including Department of Health and Human Services-designated "tender age" shelters for children under thirteen, culminating in demands from Democrats, Republicans, Trump allies, and religious groups that the policy be rescinded. Trump falsely asserted that his administration was merely following the law. On June 20, Trump signed an executive order to end family separations at the U.S. border. On June 26 a federal judge in San Diego issued a preliminary injunction requiring the Trump administration to stop detaining immigrant parents separately from their minor children, and to reunite family groups who had been separated at the border.
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. The shutdown was caused by a lapse in funding for nine federal departments, affecting about one-fourth of federal government activities. Trump said he would not accept any bill that does 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 that Trump would not sign. In earlier negotiations with Democratic leaders, Trump commented that he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security".
Trump has been described as a non-interventionist and as an American nationalist. In 2019, Trump gave a speech at the UN General Assembly calling for world leaders to look after their own interests. He has repeatedly said he supports an "America First" foreign policy. He supports increasing United States military defense spending, but favors decreasing United States spending on NATO and in the Pacific region. He says America should look inward, stop "nation building", and re-orient its resources toward domestic needs.
His foreign policy has been marked by repeated praise and support of authoritarian strongmen and criticism of democratically-led governments. Trump has cited China's president Xi Jinping, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Turkey's president Tayyip Erdoğan, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán as examples of good leaders. Trump has also praised Poland under the EU-skeptic, anti-immigrant Law and Justice party (PiS) as a defender of Western civilization.
In April 2017, Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian airfield in retaliation for the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. 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. In April 2018, he announced missile strikes against Assad's regime, following a suspected chemical attack near Damascus.
In December 2018, Trump declared "we have won against ISIS," and ordered the withdrawal of all troops from Syria, contradicting Department of Defense assessments. 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. One week after his announcement, Trump said he would not approve any extension of the American deployment in Syria. 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.
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. Trump also praised his relationship with Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan increased from 8,500 to 14,000, as of January 2017[update], reversing Trump's pre-election position critical of further involvement in Afghanistan. U.S. officials said then that they aimed to "force the Taliban to negotiate a political settlement"; in January 2018, however, Trump spoke against talks with the Taliban.
In October 2019, after Trump spoke to Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House acknowledged that 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. In the following days, Trump suggested that the Kurds intentionally released ISIS prisoners in order to gain sympathy, suggested that they were only fighting for their own financial interests, suggested that some of them were worse than ISIS, and termed them "no angels".
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. 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. After the U.S. pullout, Turkey proceeded to attack Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria. 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, in the view of both parties, "abandoning U.S. allies, undermining the struggle against ISIS, and spurring a humanitarian catastrophe".
From 2011, a reward of $10 million was offered for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by the U.S. State Department, increasing to $25 million in 2017, for information or intelligence on his whereabouts to enable capture, dead or alive. On October 27, 2019, he killed himself and three children by detonating a suicide vest during the Barisha raid conducted by the U.S. Delta Force in Syria's northwestern Idlib Province, according to a statement by Trump.
Trump has described the regime in Iran as "the rogue regime". 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, calling it "terrible" and saying the Obama administration had negotiated the agreement "from desperation". At one point Trump said that, despite opposing the content of the deal, he would attempt to enforce it rather than abrogate it.
Following Iran's ballistic missile tests on January 29, 2017, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 25 Iranian individuals and entities in February 2017. Trump reportedly lobbied "dozens" of European officials against doing business with Iran during the May 2017 Brussels summit; this likely violated the terms of the JCPOA, under which the U.S. may not pursue "any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran". The Trump administration certified in July 2017 that Iran had upheld its end of the agreement. 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. On May 18, 2018, Trump announced the unilateral departure of the U.S. from the JCPOA.
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". Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman are allies in the conflict with Iran. Trump has 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.
Trump has supported the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On May 22, 2017, he was the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, during his first foreign trip. Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017, despite criticism and warnings from world leaders. He subsequently opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018. 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". In March 2019, Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, a move condemned by the European Union and Arab League.
Before and during his presidency, Trump has repeatedly accused China of taking unfair advantage of the U.S. During his presidency, Trump has launched a trade war against China, sanctioned Huawei for its alleged ties to Iran, significantly increased visa restrictions on Chinese nationality students and scholars and classified China as a "currency manipulator". In the wake of the significant deterioration of relations, many political observers have warned against a new cold war between China and the U.S.
Nuclear and missile tests conducted by North Korea in 2017 indicated that its nuclear weapons were a serious threat to the United States. In August, Trump dramatically escalated his rhetoric against North Korea, warning that further provocation against the U.S. would be met with "fire and fury like the world has never seen". In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to direct the country's next missile test toward Guam.
On June 12, 2018, Trump and Kim held their first summit in Singapore, resulting in North Korea affirming its April 2018 promise to South Korea to work toward complete denuclearization. Six months later, North Korea said they would not cease their nuclear weapons program until the U.S. removed its nuclear threat from the Korean peninsula and the surrounding areas. A second summit took place in February 2019, in Hanoi, Vietnam. It ended abruptly without an agreement, both sides blaming each other and offering differing accounts of the negotiations. On June 30, 2019, Trump and Kim held brief talks at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), along with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president had set foot on North Korean soil. They agreed to resume negotiations "in the coming weeks".
On October 6, 2019, the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced that it was withdrawing from negotiations calling them sickening and stating that "The U.S. has actually not made any preparations for the negotiations but sought to meet its political goal of abusing the D.P.R.K.-U.S. dialogue for its domestic political interests".
During his campaign and as president, Trump repeatedly said he wants better relations with Russia, and he has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin as a strong leader. He also said Russia could help the U.S. in its fight against ISIS. 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.
After Trump 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.
Trump has made both pro- and anti-Russia statements regarding Crimea, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, Venezuela, election meddling, and Skripal poisoning. Trump also said U.S. oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, cannot resume oil drilling in Russia.
In November 2017, the Trump administration tightened the rules on trade with Cuba and individual visits to the country, undoing the Obama administration's loosening of restrictions. According to an administration official, the new rules were intended to hinder trade with businesses with ties to the Cuban military, intelligence and security services.
On August 11, 2017, Trump said he is "not going to rule out a military option" to confront the government of Nicolás Maduro. 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." 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.
As a candidate, Trump questioned whether he, as president, would automatically extend security guarantees to NATO members, and suggested that he might leave NATO unless changes are made to the alliance. As president, he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO in March 2017. However, he has repeatedly accused fellow NATO members of paying less than their fair share of the expenses of the alliance.
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. 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.
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. As of early July 2018[update], 61 percent of Trump's senior aides had left and 141 staffers had left in the past year. 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. Notable early departures included National Security Advisor Mike Flynn (after just 25 days in office), Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, replaced by retired Marine general John F. Kelly on July 28, 2017, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Close personal aides to Trump such as Steve Bannon, Hope Hicks, John McEntee and Keith Schiller, have quit or been forced out.
Trump's cabinet nominations included U.S. senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, financier Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury, retired Marine Corps general James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. 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, and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations.
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. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July 2018 amidst multiple investigations into his conduct, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned five months later as he also faced multiple investigations.
Trump has been slow to appoint second-tier officials in the executive branch, saying that many of the positions are unnecessary. As of October 2017[update], there were hundreds of sub-cabinet positions without a nominee. By January 8, 2019, of 706 key positions, 433 had been filled (61%) and Trump had no nominee for 264 (37%).
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, which criticized Comey's conduct in the investigation about Hillary Clinton's emails. On May 11, Trump said he was concerned with the ongoing "Russia thing" and that he had intended to fire Comey earlier, regardless of DOJ advice.
According to a Comey memo of a private conversation on February 14, 2017, Trump said he "hoped" Comey would drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. In March and April, Trump had told Comey the ongoing suspicions formed a "cloud" impairing his presidency, and asked him to publicly state that he was not personally under investigation. 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. Both refused, considering this an inappropriate request, although not illegal. Comey eventually testified on June 8 that while he was director, the FBI investigations did not target Trump himself.
Presidential approval polls taken during the first ten months of Trump's term have shown him to be the least popular U.S. president in the history of modern opinion polls. A Pew Research Center global poll conducted in July 2017, found "a median of just 22 percent has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs". This compares to a median of 64 percent rate of confidence for his predecessor Barack Obama. Trump received a higher rating in only two countries: Russia and Israel. An August 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll found on some measures "that majorities of voters have low opinions of his character and competence". By December 2018, Trump's approval ratings, averaged over many polls, stood at roughly 42%, two points below Obama's at the same time in his presidency, and one point above Ronald Reagan's. Trump's two-year average Gallup approval rating was the lowest of any president since World War II.
Trump is the only elected president who did not place first on Gallup's poll of Americans' most admired men in his first year in office, coming in second behind Obama. The Gallup poll near the end of Trump's second year in office named him the second most admired man in America—behind Obama—for the fourth consecutive year.
As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. The statements have been documented by fact-checkers; academics and the media have widely described the phenomenon as unprecedented in American politics. This trait of his was similarly observed when he was a presidential candidate. His falsehoods have also become a distinctive part of his political identity.
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, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office, according to the "Fact Checker" political analysis column of The Washington Post. 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. For the seven weeks leading up to the midterm elections, it rose to an average of thirty per day from 4.9 during his first hundred days in office. The Post's reported tally is 13,435 as of October 9, 2019.
Trump has made numerous comments and taken certain actions that have been characterized as racially charged or racist, both by those within the U.S. and by those abroad. Trump has repeatedly denied he is a racist. Many of his supporters say the way he speaks reflects his general rejection of political correctness, while others accept it simply because they share such beliefs.
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. In a June 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 49 percent of respondents believed he was racist, while 47 percent believed he was not. Additionally, 55 percent said he "has emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly". Trump has asserted "I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world."
In 1975, he settled a 1973 Department of Justice lawsuit that alleged housing discrimination against black renters. 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 maintained his position on the matter into 2019.
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 born in Kenya. In April 2011, Trump claimed credit for pushing the White House to publish the "long-form" birth certificate, which he considered fraudulent, and later said his stance had made him "very popular". In September 2016, he acknowledged that Obama was born in the U.S.
According to an analysis in Political Science Quarterly, Trump made "explicitly racist appeals to whites" during his 2016 presidential campaign. In particular, his campaign launch speech drew widespread criticism for saying Mexican immigrants were "bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists". His later comments about a Mexican-American judge presiding over a civil suit regarding Trump University were also criticized as racist.
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". His remarks were condemned as racist worldwide, as well as by many members of Congress.
In July 2019, Trump tweeted that four Democratic members of Congress—all of whom are women of color and three of whom are native-born Americans—should "go back" to the countries they came from. Two days later the House of Representatives voted 240–187, mostly along party lines, to condemn his "racist comments". White nationalist publications and social media sites praised his remarks, which continued over the following days.
Allegations of sexual misconduct
Twenty-two women have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct as of June 2019[update]. There were allegations of rape, violence, being kissed and groped without consent, looking under women's skirts, and walking in on naked women. In 2016, he denied all accusations, calling them "false smears", and alleged there was a conspiracy against him.
In October 2016, two days before the second presidential debate, a 2005 recording surfaced in which Trump was recorded bragging about forcibly kissing and groping women. The hot mic recording was captured on a studio bus in which Trump and Billy Bush were preparing to film an episode of Access Hollywood. In the tape, Trump said: "I just start kissing them ... I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything ... grab 'em by the pussy." During the recording, Trump also spoke of his efforts to seduce a married woman, saying he "moved on her very heavily".
Trump's language on the tape has been described as vulgar, sexist, and descriptive of sexual assault. The incident's widespread media exposure led to Trump's first public apology during the campaign, and caused outrage across the political spectrum, resulting in a group of GOP senators and representatives withdrawing their support for his candidacy, some requesting that he step aside. In addition to the two women who had previously alleged sexual misconduct against Trump, fifteen more came forward in 2016, during the aftermath of the tape's release with new accusations of sexual misconduct, including unwanted kissing and groping. Trump publicly apologized for his inappropriate boasting on the tape but also defended it as "locker room talk", and instead deflected his actions by asserting allegations of inappropriate behavior by Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Allegations of inciting violence
Some research suggests Trump's rhetoric causes an increased incidence of hate crimes. During the 2016 campaign, he sometimes urged or praised physical attacks against protesters or reporters. Since then, some individuals or their attorneys have cited Trump's rhetoric as a defense for their hate speech or violent actions. 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. 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.
Relationship with the press
Throughout his career, Trump has sought media attention. His interactions with the press turned into what some sources called a "love-hate" relationship. Trump began promoting himself in the press in the 1970s. 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".
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". In the campaign, Trump benefited from a record amount of free media coverage, elevating his standing in the Republican primaries. New York Times writer Amy Chozick wrote in September 2018 that one of the reasons for Trump's appeal was his media dominance. To answer the question of why the U.S. public could not stop being enthralled by his actions, she wrote "Even in the so-called golden age of TV, Mr. Trump hasn't just dominated water-cooler conversation; he's sucked the water right out, making all other entertainment from N.F.L. games to awards shows pale in comparison." Chozick quoted Brent Montgomery, the creator of the reality TV show Pawn Stars, saying "Part of what he's doing that makes it feel like a reality show is that he is feeding you something every night. You can't afford to miss one episode or you're left behind."
After winning the election, Trump told journalist Lesley Stahl he intentionally demeaned and discredited the media "so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you". Into his presidency, Trump has described negative media coverage as "fake news". Trump has privately and publicly mused about taking away critical reporters' White House press credentials. 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.
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.
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. Mentions of Trump turned negative and pejorative after he ran for office in 2015.
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 over 60 million. Trump has frequently used Twitter as a direct means of communication with the public, sidelining the press. Many of the assertions he tweeted have been proven false.
In 1983, Trump received the Jewish National Fund Tree of Life Award, after he helped fund the building of two playgrounds, a park, and a reservoir in Israel. In 1986, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in recognition of "patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity", and in 1995 was awarded the President's Medal from the Freedoms Foundation for his support of youth programs. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. Liberty University awarded Trump an honorary Doctorate of Business in 2012 and an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2017, during his first college commencement speech as president. In 2015, Robert Gordon University revoked the honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) they had granted him in 2010, stating that "Mr. Trump has made a number of statements that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university."
In December 2016, Time named Trump as its "Person of the Year", but Trump took issue with the magazine for referring to him as the "President of the Divided States of America". In the same month, he was named Financial Times Person of the Year and was ranked by Forbes the second most powerful person in the world after Vladimir Putin. As president, Trump received the Collar of The Order of Abdulaziz al Saud from Saudi Arabia in 2017.
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. 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.
American Media, Inc. (AMI) paid $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal in August 2016, and Trump's attorney Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in October 2016. Both women were paid for non-disclosure agreements regarding their alleged affairs with Trump between 2006 and 2007. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to breaking campaign finance laws, saying he had arranged the payments at the direction of Trump in order to influence the presidential election. AMI admitted paying McDougal to prevent publication of stories that might damage Trump's electoral chances. Trump denied the affairs, and claimed he was not aware of Cohen's payment to Daniels, but reimbursed him in 2017. Federal prosecutors asserted that Trump had been involved in discussions regarding non-disclosure payments as early as 2014. 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. The closure of the federal investigation into the matter was announced in July 2019, but days later the Manhattan District Attorney subpoenaed the Trump Organization and AMI for records related to the hush payments and in August subpoenaed eight years of tax returns for Trump and the Trump Organization.
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. In March 2017, FBI Director James Comey told Congress that "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."
The connections between Trump associates and Russia have been widely reported by the press. One of Trump's campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked for several years to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych win the Ukrainian presidency. Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials. Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump. 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. On December 29, 2016, Flynn talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions that had been imposed the same day; Trump later fired Flynn for falsely claiming he had not discussed the sanctions. The Washington Post reported that Trump had told Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak in May 2017 he was unconcerned about Russian interference in U.S. elections.
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 in an effort to frame Ukraine.
Special counsel investigation
On May 17, 2017, 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", taking over the existing FBI investigation into the matter. 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. Trump repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. Mueller also investigated the Trump campaign's possible ties to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, and China.
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. He tried repeatedly to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withdraw his recusal regarding Russia matters, believing Sessions would then put an end to the special counsel investigation.
On March 22, 2019, the special counsel concluded his investigation and gave his report to Attorney General William Barr. On March 24, Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress summarizing what he said were the "principal conclusions" in the report. He said the report did not conclude the President had committed any crimes, although it did not exonerate him for obstruction of justice. Barr wrote on March 24 that, given his authority to decide whether Trump had committed a crime, he and Rosenstein felt there was insufficient evidence to establish obstruction by Trump. Trump interpreted Mueller's report a "complete exoneration", a phrase he repeated multiple times in the ensuing weeks. Mueller privately complained to Barr on March 27 that his summary did not accurately reflect what the report said and there was now "public confusion". Some legal analysts said Barr's description of the report's contents was misleading.
A redacted version of the final Mueller Report was released to the public on April 18, 2019, with the first volume finding that Russia interfered to favor Trump's candidacy and hinder Clinton's. 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. The evidence was incomplete due to encrypted, deleted, or unsaved communications as well as false, incomplete, or declined testimony. The report states that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was illegal and occurred "in sweeping and systematic fashion" and details how Trump and his campaign "welcomed and encouraged" Russian foreign interference under the belief that they would politically benefit.
The second volume of the Mueller Report dealt with possible obstruction of justice by Trump. The report did not exonerate him of obstruction, saying investigators were not confident of his innocence after examining his intent and actions. 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. The report concluded that Congress, having the authority to take action against a president for wrongdoing, "may apply the obstruction laws".
On August 21, 2018, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on eight felony counts of false tax filing and bank fraud. Trump said he felt very badly for Manafort and praised him for resisting the pressure to make a deal with prosecutors, saying "Such respect for a brave man!" According to Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, Trump had sought advice about pardoning Manafort but was counseled against it.
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.
The five Trump associates who have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in Mueller's investigation or related cases include Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen. On January 25, 2019, Trump adviser Roger Stone was arrested at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and indicted on seven criminal charges.
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. 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". 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. The White House refused to comply with that request, asserting that presidential communications with foreign leaders are protected and confidential.
During much of Trump's presidency, Democrats were divided on the question of impeachment. Fewer than 20 representatives in the House supported impeachment by January 2019, but this number grew, after the Mueller Report was released in April and after special counsel Robert Mueller testified in July, to around 140 representatives.
In September 2019, a revelation emerged that Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated a formal impeachment inquiry on September 24. The Trump administration subsequently released a non-verbatim transcript of a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky, confirming that after Zelensky discussed the possibility of buying American anti-tank missiles to defend Ukraine, Trump then asked Zelensky to look into investigating the Bidens, and to discuss these matters with Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr. According to the testimony of multiple White House officials, the events were a part of a broader pressure campaign to further Trump's "personal interests" by abusing the power of the presidency. Zelensky denied that he felt pressured by Trump.
The impeachment inquiry came in the wake of a whistleblower complaint alleging abuse of power involving the Trump-Zelensky call, as well as other allegations: that the White House attempted to "lock down" the call records in a cover-up, and that the call was part of a wider pressure campaign by Giuliani and the Trump administration to urge Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The whistleblower further alleged that the pressure campaign may have included Trump's canceling Vice President Pence's May 2019 Ukraine trip, and Trump's withholding financial aid from Ukraine in July 2019. Trump confirmed he had indeed temporarily withheld military aid from Ukraine, while offering contradicting reasons for his decision.
Among several State Department employees testifying to Congressional committees in October 2019, William Taylor, 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. 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. 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 give Zelensky a coveted invitation to the White House.
As part of the impeachment inquiry, the House Judiciary Committee asked to see secret grand jury information which had been used in compiling the Mueller Report. The Department of Justice (DOJ) refused to turn it over, arguing that secrecy of grand jury material must be preserved and that the impeachment inquiry was invalid. On October 25, 2019, federal judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that the inquiry is valid and that the DOJ must forward the information to the committee within the week. On October 31, the House passed a resolution, by a 232–196 vote, establishing rules for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. Trump continued to try to appear to fulfill presidential duties.
On December 3, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee published a report 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 stated that Trump withheld military aid and a White House invitation in order to influence Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals. Furthermore, the report described Trump was 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.:8,208 On December 10, the House Judiciary Committee announced their intentions to charge Trump with firstly abuse of power, and secondly obstruction of Congress.
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