|Occupations||Business magnate Investor Restaurateur Non-fiction writer Entrepreneur Politician Businessperson Property developer Game show host Real estate entrepreneur Television producer Film producer Writer Actor Film actor Chief executive officer Television presenter|
|Countries||United States of America|
|A.K.A.||Donald John Trump, Donald J. Trump, Trump, The Donald, POTUS 45, Donald J Trump, President Donald Trump, President Trump, President Donald J. Trump, President Donald John Trump, DJT|
|Birth||June 14, 1946 (Jamaica Hospital)|
|Residence||Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, White House, Manhattan, New York, Queens, Palm Beach, Jamaica Estates|
|Politics||Republican Party, Republican Party, Republican Party, Independence Party of America, Democratic Party, independent politician|
|Education||Fordham University, The Wharton School, The Kew-Forest School, New York Military Academy, University of Pennsylvania|
|Notable Works||Trump: The Art of the Deal, Crippled America, The Apprentice|
|Authority||Openlibrary id Goodreads id ISNI id Library of congress id Discogs id Britannica id Familypedia id BIBSYS id NNDB id VIAF id Wikitree id All Movie id Google News id Geni id Rotten Tomatoes id IMDB id Musicbrainz id|
Trump was born and raised in the New York City borough of Queens and received an economics degree from the Wharton School. He took charge of his family's real estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded it 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 managed the company until his 2017 inauguration. He co-authored several books, including The Art of the Deal. He owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015, and he produced and hosted The Apprentice, a reality television show, from 2003 to 2015. Forbes estimates his net worth to be $3.1 billion.
Trump entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and defeated sixteen candidates in the primaries. Commentators described his political positions as populist, protectionist, and nationalist. He was elected president in a surprise victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, although he lost the popular vote. He became the oldest and wealthiest person ever to assume the presidency, and the first without prior military or government service. His election and policies have sparked numerous protests. Trump has made many false or misleading statements during his campaign and presidency. The statements have been documented by fact-checkers, and the media have widely described the phenomenon as unprecedented in American politics. Many of his comments and actions have been characterized as racially charged or racist.
During his presidency, Trump ordered a travel ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries, citing security concerns; after legal challenges, the Supreme Court upheld the policy's third revision. He enacted a tax cut package for individuals and businesses, which also rescinded the individual health insurance mandate and allowed oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge. He appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He enacted a ban on most transgender applicants to the military. In foreign policy, Trump pursued his 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 on various goods, triggering a trade war with China; and started negotiations with North Korea seeking denuclearization.
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 parents were Frederick Christ Trump, a real estate developer, and Scottish-born housewife Mary Anne MacLeod. 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. After two years, he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. According to Trump biographer Gwenda Blair, Trump's grades at Fordham were "respectable" and he was able to transfer to Wharton after an interview with an admissions officer who was formerly a classmate of Trump's brother Freddy. While at Wharton, he worked at the family business, Elizabeth Trump & Son. He graduated in May 1968 with a B.S. in economics. The Boston Globe in 2015 contacted former Wharton classmates of Trump, who described Trump as a vocal but unexceptional student, who rarely partook in campus activities and instead often pursued his business career. By the age of 22, Trump had a sports background in football, squash and tennis, and was just starting to play golf.
When Trump was in college from 1964 to 1968, he 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. However in October 1968, he was given a medical deferment which resulted in a 1-Y classification: "Unqualified for duty except in the case of a national emergency." Trump said in July 2015 that his medical deferment was due to his "feet"; he "had a bone spur", but said he could not remember which foot was injured. Trump's presidential campaign then stated that Trump had bone spurs in both feet.
In the December 1969 draft lottery, Trump's birthday, June 14, received a high number that would have given him a low probability to be called to military service even without the 1-Y classification. In 1972, he was reclassified as 4-F, which permanently disqualified him from service.
In 1973 and 1976, The New York Times reported that Trump had graduated first in his class at Wharton. However, a 1984 Times profile of Trump noted that he had never made the honor roll. In 1988, New York magazine reported Trump conceding, "Okay, maybe not 'first,' as myth has it, but he had 'the highest grades possible.'"
Ancestry and parents
Trump's ancestors originated from the German village of Kallstadt in the Palatinate on his father's side, and from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland on his mother's side. All of his grandparents and his mother were born in Europe.
Trump's paternal grandfather, Frederick Trump, first immigrated to the United States in 1885 at the age of 16 and became a citizen in 1892. He amassed a fortune operating boomtown restaurants and boarding houses in the Seattle area and the Klondike region of Canada during its gold rush. On a visit to Kallstadt, he met Elisabeth Christ and married her in 1902. The couple permanently settled in New York in 1905. Frederick died from influenza during the 1918 pandemic.
Trump's father Fred was born in 1905 in the Bronx. Fred started working with his mother in real estate when he was 15, shortly after his father's death. Their company, "E. Trump & Son", founded in 1923, was primarily active in the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. Fred eventually built and sold thousands of houses, barracks, and apartments. In spite of his German ancestry, Fred claimed to be Swedish amid anti-German sentiment sparked by World War II. Donald Trump repeated this claim in The Art of the Deal.
Trump's mother Mary Anne MacLeod was born in Tong, Lewis, Scotland in Gaelic-speaking family. At age 18 in 1930, she immigrated to New York, where she worked as a maid. Fred and Mary were married in 1936 and raised their family in Queens.
Wives, siblings, and descendants
Trump grew up with three elder siblings – Maryanne, Fred Jr., and Elizabeth – as well as a younger brother named Robert. Maryanne was a Federal Appeals Court judge on the Third Circuit, inactive since February 2017; she retired in February 2019, rendering moot a judicial conduct investigation into her alleged participation in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.
Trump has five children by three marriages, as well as nine grandchildren. In 1977, Trump married Czech model Ivana Winklmayr (née Zelníčková), at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, in a ceremony performed by the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. They had three children: Donald Jr. (b. 1977), Ivanka (b. 1981), and Eric (b. 1984). Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump's affair with actress Marla Maples. In October 1993, Maples gave birth to Trump's daughter, who was named Tiffany in honor of high-end retailer Tiffany & Company. Maples and Trump were married two months later in December 1993 in Manhattan's Trump-owned (at that time) Plaza Hotel. They divorced in 1999, and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California.
In 1998, Trump met Slovenian model Melania Knauss. She became his third wife when they married in 2005 at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. In 2006, she gained United States citizenship and gave birth to a son, Barron. Melania became First Lady when Trump took office as president in January 2017.
Upon his inauguration, Trump delegated the management of his real estate business to his two adult 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.
Trump is a Presbyterian. His ancestors were Lutheran on his paternal grandfather's side in Germany and Presbyterian on his mother's side in Scotland. His parents married in a Presbyterian church in Manhattan in 1936. 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 said he was "not sure" whether he ever asked God for forgiveness, stating "If I do something wrong, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture." He said 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 after the Bible, 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
Since the early days of Trump's presidential campaign, his physical and mental health have been a subject of public debate. Trump was seventy years old when he took office, surpassing Ronald Reagan as the oldest person to assume the presidency. Comments on his age, weight and lifestyle have raised questions about his physical health.
Trump does not drink alcohol, a reaction to his older brother Fred Trump Jr.'s alcoholism and early death. He has stated that he has never smoked cigarettes or used drugs, including marijuana. He avoids tea and coffee, but fast food is a favorite cuisine of his. Trump has said he prefers three to four hours of sleep per night.
In December 2015, Trump's personal physician, Harold Bornstein, released a superlative-laden letter of health, which stated that, if elected, Trump "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency". Bornstein noted that Trump had an appendectomy at age 10, but made no mention of the bone spurs that Trump and his campaign said caused his medical deferment from the military at age 22. According to Bornstein in 2018, Trump himself had dictated the contents of the December 2015 letter. A follow-up letter by Bornstein in September 2016 showed Trump's blood pressure, liver and thyroid functions to be in normal ranges, and that he takes a statin for high cholesterol levels. Bornstein, who had been Trump's physician since 1980, later said that three Trump representatives, including Trump's longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller, had taken all of Trump's medical records from Bornstein's office in February 2017.
In January 2018, Trump was examined by White House physician Ronny Jackson, who stated that he was in excellent health and that his cardiac assessment revealed no medical issues, although his weight and cholesterol level were higher than recommended. Several outside cardiologists commented that Trump's weight, lifestyle, and LDL cholesterol level ought to have raised serious concerns about his cardiac health. In February 2019, Trump underwent another physical examination; White House physician Sean Conley said Trump was in "very good health overall", although Trump at 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and 243 lb (110 kg) was clinically obese with a BMI of 30.4. Trump's 2019 coronary CT calcium scan score indicates he has a form of heart disease called coronary artery disease, which is common for white males at his age.
Numerous public figures, media sources, and mental health professionals have speculated that Trump may have mental health challenges. The most common diagnosis cited is narcissistic personality disorder; some cite delusional disorder; some suggest early dementia. In April 2017 more than 25,000 mental health professionals signed a letter stating they believe Trump "manifests serious mental illness". In October 2017, psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee published The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, containing essays from 27 psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals on the danger they believe that Trump's mental health poses to the nation and to individual well-being. Trump has dismissed questions regarding his mental health, saying that he is a "very stable genius" and that he has "one of the great memories of all time".
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, and reportedly obliged him to borrow from his siblings' trusts in 1993. In its 2019 billionaires ranking, Forbes estimated Trump's net worth at $3.1 billion (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 reported hundreds of millions of dollars of yearly income from 2014 to 2018. 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 he then owned "in excess of 90 percent" of the Trump family's business in an effort to secure a higher ranking on the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans.
Trump has often said that 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 have under-performed 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. In 1995 his reported losses were $915.7 million.
In 1968, Trump began his career at his father Fred's real estate development company, E. Trump & Son, which, among other interests, owned middle-class rental housing in New York City's outer boroughs. Trump worked for his father to revitalize the Swifton Village apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio, which the elder Trump had bought in 1964. The management of the property was sued for racial discrimination in 1969; the suit "was quietly settled at Fred Trump's direction." The Trumps sold the property in 1972, with vacancy on the rise.
When his father became chairman of the board in 1971, Trump was promoted to president of the company and renamed it The Trump Organization. In 1973, he and his father drew wider attention when the Justice Department contended in a lawsuit that their company systematically discriminated against African Americans who wished to rent apartments. The Department alleged that the Trump Organization had screened out people based on race and not low income as the Trumps had stated. Under an agreement reached in 1975, the Trumps made no admission of wrongdoing and made the Urban League an intermediary for qualified minority applicants. Trump's attorney at the time was Roy Cohn, who valued both positive and negative publicity, and responded to attacks with forceful counterattacks; Trump later emulated Cohn's style.
In 1978, Trump launched his Manhattan real estate business by purchasing a 50 percent stake in the derelict Commodore Hotel, located next to Grand Central Terminal. The purchase was funded largely by a $70 million construction loan that was guaranteed jointly by Fred Trump and the Hyatt hotel chain. When the remodeling was finished, the hotel reopened in 1980 as the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The same year, Trump obtained the rights to develop Trump Tower, a 58-story, 664-foot-high (202 m) mixed-use skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. To make way for the new building, a crew of undocumented Polish workers demolished the historic Bonwit Teller store, including art deco features that had initially been marked for preservation. Trump Tower was completed in 1983 and houses Trump's primary penthouse condominium residence and the headquarters of The Trump Organization.
A general contractor unconnected to Trump started a repair job on the Wollman Rink in Central Park in 1980. The project had an expected 2 ⁄2-year construction schedule but was not completed by 1986. Trump took over the project and completed the work in three months for $1.95 million, which was $775,000 less than the initial budget. He then operated the rink for one year with some profits going to charity in exchange for the rink's concession rights. According to journalist Joyce Purnick, Trump's "Wollman success was also the stuff of a carefully crafted, self-promotional legend."
In 1988, Trump acquired the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan for $407 million and appointed his wife Ivana to manage its operation. Trump invested $50 million to restore the building, which he called "the Mona Lisa". According to hotel expert Thomas McConnell, the Trumps boosted it from a three-star to a four-star ranking. They sold it in 1995, by which time Ivana was no longer involved in the hotel's day-to-day operations.
In 1994, Trump's company refurbished the Gulf and Western Building on Columbus Circle with design and structural enhancements, turning it into a 44-story luxury residential and hotel property known as Trump International Hotel and Tower.
In 1996, Trump acquired the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, which was a vacant seventy-one story skyscraper on Wall Street. After an extensive renovation, the high-rise was renamed the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street. In 1997, he began construction on Riverside South, which he dubbed Trump Place, a multi-building development along the Hudson River. He and the other investors in the project ultimately sold their interest for $1.8 billion in 2005 in what was then the biggest residential sale in the history of New York City. From 1994 to 2002, Trump owned a 50 percent share of the Empire State Building. He intended to rename it "Trump Empire State Building Tower Apartments" if he had been able to boost his share. In 2001, Trump completed Trump World Tower. In 2002, Trump acquired the former Hotel Delmonico, which was renovated and reopened in 2004 as the Trump Park Avenue; the building consisted of 35 stories of luxury condominiums.
Palm Beach estate
In 1985, Trump acquired the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, for $10 million, $7 million for the real estate and $3 million for the furnishings. His initial offer of $28 million had been rejected, and he was able to obtain the property for the lower price after a real-estate market "slump". The home was built in the 1920s by heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. After her death, her heirs unsuccessfully tried to donate the property to the government before putting it up for sale. In addition to using a wing of the estate as a home, Trump turned Mar-a-Lago into a private club. In order to join, prospective members had to pay an initiation fee and annual dues. The initiation fee was $100,000 until 2016; it was doubled to $200,000 in January 2017.
Atlantic City casinos
After New Jersey legalized casino gambling in 1977, Trump traveled to Atlantic City to explore new business opportunities. Seven years later, he opened Harrah's at Trump Plaza hotel and casino; the project was built by Trump with financing from the Holiday Corporation, who also managed its operation. It was renamed "Trump Plaza" soon after it opened. The casino's poor financial results exacerbated disagreements between Trump and Holiday Corporation, which led to Trump paying $70 million in May 1986 to buy out their interest in the property. Trump also acquired a partially completed building in Atlantic City from the Hilton Corporation for $320 million; when completed in 1985, that hotel and casino became Trump Castle, and Trump's wife Ivana managed the property until 1988.
Trump acquired his third casino in Atlantic City, the Taj Mahal, in 1988 while it was under construction, through a complex transaction with Merv Griffin and Resorts International. It was completed at a cost of $1.1 billion and opened in April 1990. The project was financed with $675 million in junk bonds and was a major gamble by Trump. The project underwent debt restructuring the following year, leaving Trump with 50 percent ownership. Facing "enormous debt", he gave up control of his money-losing airline, Trump Shuttle, and sold his 282-foot (86 m) megayacht, 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 Taj Mahal in 1996 and underwent bankruptcy restructuring in 2004 and 2009, leaving Trump with 10 percent ownership in the Trump Taj Mahal and other Trump casino properties. Trump remained chairman of THCR until 2009.
As of December 2016, 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 11 times during his first eight weeks in office.Trump visited one of his golf resorts on 187 of his first 848 days in office, 22 percent of the time.
Branding and licensing
The Trump Organization expanded its business into branding and management by licensing the Trump name for a large number of building projects that are owned and operated by other people and companies. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, The Trump Organization 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, foodstuffs, apparel, adult learning courses, and home furnishings. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, there are more than 50 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 continue to license his name.
Lawsuits and bankruptcies
As of April 2018, Trump and his businesses had been involved in more than 4,000 state and federal legal actions, according to a running tally by USA Today. As of 2016, 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, although in 1990 he came within one missed bank loan payment of doing so, agreeing to a deal that temporarily ceded management control of his company to his banks and put him on a spending allowance. Trump claimed to have initiated this deal with his banks as he saw the downturn in the real estate market, but bankers involved in the matter stated they initiated the negotiations before Trump had realized there was a problem. 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 70 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.
Trump in April 2019 sued Deutsche Bank, bank Capital One, his accounting firm Mazars USA, and House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings, in an attempt to prevent congressional subpoenas revealing information about Trump's finances. On May 20, 2019, DC District Court judge Amit Mehta ruled that Mazars must comply with the subpoena. Trump's attorneys filed notice to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit the next day; the appeal was filed on June 10, 2019, arguing that Congress was attempting to usurp the "exercise of law-enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch." On May 22, 2019, judge Edgardo Ramos of the federal District Court in Manhattan rejected the Trump suits against Deutsche Bank and Capital One, ruling the banks must comply with congressional subpoenas. On May 28, Ramos granted Trump's attorneys their request for a stay so they could pursue an expedited appeal through the courts.
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, some more successful than others.
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 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 Airlines, costing $380 million financed from 22 banks. The airline operated from 1989 to 1992, offering charter services in addition to scheduled shuttle flights. Never operating at a profit, it was eventually sold to USAir Group in 1992.
From 1996 to 2015, Trump owned part or all of the Miss Universe pageants, including Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. Originally broadcast on CBS, he became dissatisfied with their scheduling and took both Miss Universe and Miss USA to NBC in 2002. In 2007, Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work as producer of Miss Universe. NBC ended its business relationship with him and ceased airing the Miss Universe or Miss USA pageants after controversial statements about illegal Mexican immigrants during his 2015 presidential campaign. In September 2015, Trump bought NBC's share of the Miss Universe Organization and then sold the entire company to the WME/IMG talent agency.
Trump University was a for-profit education company that was founded by Trump and his associates, Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny. The company ran a real estate training program and charged between $1,500 and $35,000 per course. In 2005, New York State authorities notified the operation that its use of the word "university" was misleading and violated state law. After a second such notification in 2010, the name of the company was changed to the "Trump Entrepreneurial Institute". Trump was also found personally liable for failing to obtain a business license for the operation.
Ronald Schnackenberg, a sales manager for Trump University, said in a testimony that he was reprimanded for not trying harder to sell a $35,000 real estate class to a couple who could not afford it. Schnackenberg said that he believed "Trump University was a fraudulent scheme" which "preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money."
In 2013, New York State 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 relating to Trump University; they named Trump personally as well as his companies. During the presidential campaign, Trump criticized presiding Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, alleging bias in his rulings because of his Mexican heritage. Shortly after Trump won the presidency, the parties agreed to a settlement of all three pending cases, whereby Trump paid a total of $25 million and denied any wrongdoing.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is a U.S.-based private foundation that was 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 40 groups, with the biggest donations going to the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation ($100,000), the New York–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 of its assets. Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who oversaw the investigation and lawsuit, said the investigation uncovered a "shocking pattern of illegality".
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 that 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.
A lawsuit, D.C. and Maryland v. Trump, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia in June 2017, cleared three judicial hurdles to proceed to the discovery phase during 2018. Prosecutors issued 38 subpoenas to Trump's businesses and cabinet departments in December 2018 before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay days later at the behest of the Justice Department, pending hearings in March 2019. In a March 18, 2019 hearing, a three-judge panel was sharply skeptical of the legal basis of the suit, while the plaintiffs appeared confident they would prevail; the panel did not indicate when they would make their ruling. On April 30, 2019 judge Emmet Sullivan, who had been presiding over another related suit filed by congressional Democrats in the DC District Court, declined a request from Trump's attorneys to dismiss the case. On June 25, Sullivan denied a request by Trump's attorneys to stay the suit pending an appeal, allowing Democrats to seek some of Trump's financial records.
Trump has published numerous books. His first published book in 1987 was Trump: The Art of the Deal, in which Trump is credited as co-author with Tony Schwartz, who has stated that he did all the writing for the book. 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.
Film and television
In 1988 and 1989, Trump hosted WrestleMania IV and V at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. Trump headlined WrestleMania 23 in 2007 and a Monday Night Raw in 2009; the catchphrase "You're fired" he used on The Apprentice was also used by WWE owner Vince McMahon. In 2013, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during WrestleMania 29.
In July 2017, Trump posted an altered video clip with the hashtag "FraudNewsCnn" to his personal Twitter account. The clip, which was retweeted by the official @POTUS Twitter account, showed a WrestleMania 23 move of Trump seeming to knock McMahon to the ground and punch him; in the edited version, a CNN logo is superimposed on McMahon's head. Following months of Trump attacking the media and particularly CNN as fake news and enemies of the people, the tweet was widely criticized as appearing to incite violence against journalists.
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 went on to be co-host of The Celebrity Apprentice, in which celebrities compete to win money for their charities.
In February 2015, Trump stated that 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 they were going ahead with production of a 15th season. In June, after widespread negative reaction stemming from Trump's campaign announcement speech, NBC released a statement saying, "Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump."
Trump has made cameo appearances in 12 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.
Radio and television commentary
Starting in the 1990s, Trump was a guest about 24 times on the nationally syndicated Howard Stern Show, but he has made no appearances since he became president. Trump also had his own short-form talk radio program called Trumped! (one to two minutes on weekdays) from 2004 to 2008. In 2011, Trump was given a weekly unpaid guest commentator spot on Fox & Friends that continued until he started his presidential candidacy in 2015.
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 44% at the same time in his presidency, and one point above Ronald Reagan. 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 30 per day from 4.9 during his first 100 days in office. The Post found that Trump averaged 15 false statements per day during 2018.
Many of Trump's comments and actions since 1973 have been characterized as racially charged or racist. In 1975, he settled a 1973 Department of Justice lawsuit that alleged housing discrimination against black renters. He was accused of racism for insisting that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the 1989 Central Park jogger attack, even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002. He continued to maintain this position as late as 2019.
Starting in 2011, Trump was a major proponent of "birther" conspiracy theories alleging that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and questioned his eligibility to serve as president. Trump later took credit for pushing the White House to release the "long-form" birth certificate from Hawaii, and he stated during his presidential campaign that his stance had made him "very popular". In September 2016, he publicly acknowledged that Obama was born in the United States, and falsely asserted that the rumors had been started by Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign.
According to an analysis in Political Science Quarterly, Trump made "explicitly racist appeals to whites" during his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump launched his campaign with a speech in which he stated: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people." Later, his attacks on a Mexican-American judge were criticized as racist. His comments following a 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, were seen as implying a moral equivalence between the white supremacist marchers and those who protested them. In a January 2018 Oval Office meeting to discuss immigration legislation with Congressional leaders, Trump reportedly referred to El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and African countries as "shitholes". His remarks were condemned as racist worldwide, as well as by many members of Congress. Trump has denied accusations of racism multiple times, saying he is the "least racist person".
Trump's racially insensitive statements and actions have been condemned by many observers in the U.S. and around the world, but accepted by his supporters either as a rejection of political correctness or because they harbor similar racial sentiments. Several studies and surveys have stated that racist attitudes and racial resentment have fueled Trump's political ascendance, and have become more significant than economic factors in determining party allegiance of voters. In a June 2018 Quinnipiac University poll, 49 percent of respondents believed that Trump is racist while 47 percent believed he is not. Additionally, 55 percent said he "has emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly."
Sexual misconduct allegations
Twenty-two women have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct as of June 2019. 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 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." In the tape, Trump also spoke about trying 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 wide-spread 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, and 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 referred to allegations of inappropriate behavior by Bill and Hillary Clinton.
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. After winning the election, Trump told journalist Lesley Stahl that 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.
A study found that between October 7 and November 14, 2016, while one in four Americans visited a fake news website, Trump's supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump and that close to 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10 percent of people who tended to read the most conservative material online. On the other hand, Brendan Nyhan, one of the authors of the study, said that people received far more misinformation from Trump than from fake news websites.
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 2015, Robert Gordon University revoked the honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) it had granted Trump in 2010, stating that "Mr. Trump has made a number of statements that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university." Liberty University awarded Trump an honorary Doctorate of Business in 2012 and an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2017, which was awarded during his first college commencement speech as President. In December 2016, Time named Trump as its "Person of the Year". In an interview on The Today Show, he said he was honored by the "award", but he 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.
Political activities up to 2015
Trump's political party affiliation has changed numerous times over the years. 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 party, 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 that "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.
2000 presidential campaign
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, Trump left the party due to the involvement of David Duke, Pat Buchanan, and Lenora Fulani. Trump also considered running for president in 2004. In 2005, Trump said that he voted for George W. Bush. In 2008, he endorsed Republican John McCain for president.
2012 presidential speculation
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 that 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. In February 2015, Trump told NBC that he was not prepared to sign on for another season of The Apprentice, as he mulled his political future.
Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed during a congressional hearing that Trump 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 vying 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 won the plurality of the vote, and he remained the front-runner throughout the remainder of 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.
General election campaign
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 on July 19, Trump and Pence 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.
Two days later, Trump officially accepted the nomination in a 76-minute speech. The historically long speech received mixed reviews, with net negative viewer reactions according to CNN and Gallup polls.
On September 26, 2016, Trump and Clinton faced off in their first presidential debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and moderated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt. The TV broadcast was the most watched presidential debate in United States history. 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 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 that he disdained political correctness; he also stated that 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 that 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.
Support from the far right
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 that he would first need to "do research" because he knew nothing about Duke or white supremacists. Duke himself was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump throughout the 2016 primary and election, and has stated that he and like-minded people voted for Trump because of his promises to "take our country back".
After repeated questioning by reporters, Trump said that 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 did not release his tax returns during his presidential campaign or afterward, contrary to usual practice by every candidate since Gerald Ford in 1976 and to his promise in 2014 to do so if he ran for office. Trump's refusal led to speculation that he was hiding something. He said that his tax returns were being audited, and his lawyers had advised him against releasing them. Trump has told the press that 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. He said that he did use the tax code to avoid paying taxes.
On March 14, 2017, the first two pages of Trump's 2005 federal income tax returns were leaked to Rachel Maddow and shown on 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 these documents and stated: "Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns."
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 stated the deadline would not be met, and the deadline was extended to April 23, which also was not honored, and on May 6 Mnuchin stated 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. 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 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. $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.
Economy and trade
The economic expansion that began in June 2009 continued through Trump's first two years in office, although it did not accelerate as Trump had promised during his campaign. Trump had asserted that a policy of tax cuts and deregulation would result in 3% annualized GDP growth, and perhaps much higher, but it reached a high of 2.9% in his second year, while the average growth rates of job creation and inflation-adjusted weekly earnings were considerably lower than during the preceding four years. Economists were nevertheless impressed with the continued strength of the economy nearly ten years into its expansion, as the unemployment rate continued declining, to below 4%, amid only modest inflation. The Dow increased 25.9% during Trump's first two years in office, the second best performance of any president since Gerald Ford, exceeded only by Barack Obama's 48.6% gain. Through his first 28 months in office, Trump repeatedly and falsely characterized the economy during his presidency 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 threshold to $11.2 million, and limited the state and local tax deduction to $10,000. Lower to middle-income households get a tax cut of 0.1 to 1.6 percent while higher incomes receive 1.8 to 4.3 percent. While corporate tax cuts are permanent, many individual tax reductions will expire in 2025, resulting in lower after-tax incomes of −0.1 to −0.2 percent for lower to middle income households and higher after-tax incomes of 0.1 to 0.9 percent for higher income brackets. In 2018, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill will increase deficits by $1.854 trillion over 11 years.
Trump adopted his current views on trade issues in the 1980s. Trump has been described as a protectionist because he criticized NAFTA, cancelled negotiations towards the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, and proposed to significantly raise tariffs on Chinese and Mexican exports to the United States. He has also been critical of the World Trade Organization, threatening to leave unless his proposed tariffs are accepted.
Trump initiated a series of trade actions in January 2018, beginning with tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, followed in March by tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from most countries, later including economic allies Canada, Mexico and the European Union in May. In July, Trump imposed tariffs on 818 categories of Chinese goods worth $50 billion, triggering a series of escalating tariffs between the countries over ensuing months that became characterized as a trade war. Several countries, including China, Mexico, Canada, the European Union, India and Turkey imposed retaliatory tariffs on American exports – in some cases specifically targeted at Trump's political base. After negotiations between China and the United States failed to resolve the trade conflict, Trump in May 2019 carried out his earlier threat to impose tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese goods.
Although Trump has repeatedly asserted that his tariffs contribute to GDP growth, the consensus among analysts – including Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow – is that the Trump tariffs have had a small to moderately negative effect on GDP growth. On several occasions, Trump also falsely said that import tariffs are paid by China into the U.S. Treasury.
While campaigning, Trump advocated domestic support for both carbon and renewable energy sources in order to reduce the necessity for oil imports. Subsequent to the election, Trump's "America First Energy Plan" focussed heavily on non-renewable sources of energy.
Environmentalists expressed concerns after he announced plans to make large budget cuts to programs that research renewable energy and to roll back Obama-era policies directed at curbing climate change and limiting environmental pollution.
Trump rejects the scientific consensus on climate change and his first Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, does not believe that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming. While acknowledging the climate is warming, Pruitt claimed this warming is not necessarily harmful and could be beneficial. Based on numerous studies, climate experts disagree with his position. On June 1, 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.
Government size and deregulation
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 23, 2017, Trump ordered a temporary government-wide hiring freeze, except for those working in certain areas. Unlike some past freezes, it barred agencies from adding contractors to make up for employees leaving. The Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office told a House committee that hiring freezes have not proven to be effective in reducing costs. The hiring freeze was lifted in April 2017.
A week later 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 that the bureaucracy exists to protect people against well-organized, well-funded interest groups.
In 1999, Trump told Larry King Live: "I believe in universal healthcare." Trump's 2000 book, The America We Deserve, argued strongly for a single-payer healthcare system based on the Canadian model, and he has voiced admiration for the Scottish National Health Service.
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 tax reform Trump signed into law at the end of his first year in office effectively repealed the individual health insurance mandate that was a major element of the Obamacare health insurance system; this repeal is scheduled to be implemented 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 that 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 that 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 that deportation would focus on criminals, visa overstays, and security threats.
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. The administration then clarified that visitors with a green card were exempt from the ban.
On January 30, 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. 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, and certain Venezuelan officials. After lower courts partially blocked the new restrictions with injunctions, the Supreme Court allowed the September version to go into full effect on December 4. In January 2018, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a challenge to the travel ban. The Court heard oral arguments on April 25, and ultimately upheld the travel ban in a June ruling.
While running for president, Trump said that he intended to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on "day one" of his presidency. The program, introduced in 2012, allowed people who had either entered or remained in the United States illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and be eligible for a work permit.
In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DACA program would be repealed after six months. Trump argued that "top legal experts" believed that 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, 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; this would go into effect after 90 days.
Family separation at border
In April 2018, Trump enacted a "zero tolerance" immigration policy that took adults irregularly entering the U.S. into custody for criminal prosecution and forcibly separated children from parents, eliminating the policy of previous administrations that made exceptions for families with children. By mid-June, more than 2,300 children had been placed in shelters, including "tender age" shelters for babies and toddlers, 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 immigrants parents separately from their minor children, and to reunite family groups that had been separated at the border.
2018–2019 federal government shutdown
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".
On January 25, 2019, Congress passed and Trump signed a 3-week appropriation bill to fund the government while negotiations on border security funding took place. This ended the 31-day shutdown, the longest such shutdown in U.S. history. On February 14 both houses of Congress passed, and on February 15 Trump signed, a bill to fund the government until September 30, the balance of the fiscal year.
Trump has been described as a non-interventionist and as an American nationalist. He has repeatedly stated that 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. Trump has repeatedly praised authoritarian strongmen such as China's president Xi Jinping, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Trump also praised Poland under the EU-skeptic, anti-immigrant Law and Justice party (PiS) as a defender of Western civilization.
ISIS and foreign wars
In order to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in 2015 Trump called for seizing the oil in ISIS-occupied areas, using U.S. air power and ground troops. In 2016, Trump advocated sending 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops to the region, a position he later retracted.
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 that 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 guaranteed it would 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. 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.
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 that the Obama administration 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 May 18, 2018, Trump announced the United States' unilateral departure 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".
Regarding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Trump as a candidate stressed the importance of being a neutral party during potential negotiations, while also stating that he is "a big fan of Israel". During the campaign he also said that if elected he would relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from its current location, Tel Aviv.
On May 22, 2017, Trump was the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, during his first foreign trip, which included Israel, Italy, the Vatican, and Belgium. Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017, despite criticism and warnings from world leaders. Trump added that he would initiate the process of establishing a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which was later opened on May 14, 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 an emergency session on December 21, 2017.
In March 2019, Trump proposed reversal of decades of U.S. policy and announced that the United States will recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, a move condemned by the European Union and Arab League.
On August 11, 2017, Trump said that 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.
During the campaign and the early months of his presidency, Trump said he hoped that China would help to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions and missile tests. However, North Korea accelerated their missile and nuclear tests leading to increased tension. In July, the country tested two long-range missiles identified by Western observers as intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. 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 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.
During his campaign and as president, Trump repeatedly said that he wants better relations with Russia, and he has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin as a strong leader. Trump had pledged to hold a summit meeting with Putin, stating that Russia could help the U.S. in fighting 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.
Trump and Putin met in a 2018 Russia–United States summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018. Trump drew harsh bipartisan criticism in the United States for appearing to side with Putin's denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, rather than accepting the findings of the United States intelligence community. His comments were strongly criticized by many congressional Republicans and most media commentators, even those who normally support him.
In November 2017, the Trump administration tightened the rules on trade with Cuba and individual visits to the county, 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.
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 that 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 100 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, 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 has been slow to appoint second-tier officials in the executive branch, saying that many of the positions are unnecessary. As of October 2017, 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%).
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.
An 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 10 federal criminal investigations, 8 state and local investigations, and 11 Congressional investigations.
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.
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 stated that 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 that 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. In a statement on Twitter, Trump implied that he had "tapes" of conversations with Comey, before later stating that he did not in fact have such tapes.
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). In this capacity, Mueller oversaw the investigation into "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. Mueller also investigated the Trump campaign's possible ties to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, and China. As a result of Comey's dismissal the special counsel also investigated whether Trump had obstructed justice. Trump submitted written answers to the counsel's questions about Russia-related topics.
Trump repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. According to press reports, Trump tried to fire Mueller on several occasions – in June 2017, December 2017, and April 2018 – but backed down after his staff objected or he changed his mind. He tried repeatedly to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withdraw his recusal regarding Russia matters, believing that Sessions would put an end to the special counsel investigation. During and after the Mueller probe Trump repeatedly referred to it as a "rigged witch hunt" or a "hoax". As of February 2019, Trump had publicly criticized people or groups related to the investigations into links between Trump associates and Russia over 1,000 times during his presidency.
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 that the President committed any crimes, although it did not exonerate him for obstruction of justice. 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 that 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 second volume of the Mueller Report dealt with possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Each possible incident is described in detail along with a legal analysis of whether the incident meets the criteria for criminal obstruction. The report did not directly accuse him of obstruction, nor did it exonerate him, saying investigators were not confident of his innocence after examining his intent and actions. Investigators decided from the outset that they could not "apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes", because 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".
Following the completion of the report, 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 Barr's description of the report a "complete exoneration", a phrase he repeated multiple times in the ensuing weeks. Following the release of the redacted report, over 1,000 former federal prosecutors endorsed a statement that Trump's alleged obstruction was worthy of criminal charges. Mueller stated on May 29, 2019, upon the abolishment of his position, that: "the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing." Trump, Barr, Rudy Giuliani, and others have persistently and incorrectly maintained that an individual cannot obstruct justice unless the individual committed an underlying crime.
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 Giuliani, Trump had sought advice about pardoning Manafort but was counseled against it.
In September Manafort faced a second trial on multiple charges, but reached a plea bargain under which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and witness tampering and agreed to cooperate fully with investigators. In November, Mueller's office said in a court filing that Manafort had repeatedly lied to investigators, thus violating the terms of the plea agreement. It was also revealed that Manafort, through his attorney, had been briefing White House attorneys about his interactions with the special counsel's office. Trump publicly hinted that he might pardon Manafort, but the incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee warned that "dangling a pardon in front of Manafort" could lead to charges of obstruction of justice.
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 that 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.
Adult film actress Stormy Daniels has alleged that she and Trump had an affair in 2006, which Trump has denied. In January 2018 it was revealed that just before the 2016 presidential election, Daniels was paid $130,000 by Trump's attorney Michael Cohen as part of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) whereby she agreed not to go public with her allegation. In February 2018 Daniels sued Cohen's company, asking to be released from the NDA and be allowed to tell her story.
Cohen originally said he paid Daniels with his own money and was not reimbursed. In April 2018, Trump said that he did not know anything about Cohen paying Daniels, why Cohen had made the payment, or where Cohen got the money. Trump's annual financial disclosure in May 2018 revealed that he had reimbursed Cohen in 2017 for payments related to Daniels.
In November 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Playboy model Karen McDougal had told a friend that she had an affair with a married Trump from 2006 to 2007, with various sources quoting that it had lasted from ten months to a year. It also reported that American Media, Inc. (AMI), the owner of the National Enquirer, had paid McDougal $150,000 for exclusive rights to her story, but never published it.
In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to breaking campaign finance laws; he admitted he had paid hush money of $130,000 to Daniels, as well as $150,000 indirectly to McDougal, with the intention of influencing the presidential election. He said that he did it at the direction of Trump. Trump said that he hadn't known about the payments at the time. In a December 7, 2018 sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors said Trump had directed Cohen to commit the campaign finance law felonies for which Cohen had pleaded guilty. Shortly after the memorandum was filed, Trump tweeted, "Totally clears the president. Thank you!" Trump denied directing Cohen to make the payments.
Also on December 7, 2018, it was reported that Trump had been present in an August 2015 meeting with Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, at which they discussed how Pecker's American Media could help counter negative stories about Trump's relationships with women. According to Pecker, he offered to help the campaign by identifying such stories, buying the rights to them, and then not publishing them.
2019 House investigation
In March 2019 the House Judiciary Committee launched a broad investigation of Trump for possible obstruction of justice, corruption, and abuse of power. The Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler sent letters demanding documents to 81 individuals and organizations associated with both Trump's presidency, business, and private life, saying it's "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. According to Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, there is "enormous" evidence of the Trump campaign's involvement with Russia. Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, stated that there is "direct evidence" of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.