Presidency of Donald Trump
Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States at noon EST on January 20, 2017, succeeding Barack Obama. Trump, the Republican nominee, was a businessman and reality television personality from New York City at the time of his victory in the 2016 presidential election over the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, to whom he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes while winning the electoral college. His running mate, former Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, took office as the 48th Vice President of the United States on the same day. Trump's term in office is set to end on January 20, 2021, though he is eligible for election to a second term and has declared his intention to run, announcing his re-election campaign on the day of his inauguration. Opinion polls have shown Trump to be the least popular President in the history of modern American presidential opinion polling, as of the end of his first year in office.
Upon taking office, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, issued a controversial executive order denying entry into the U.S. to citizens of certain countries, and nominated Neil Gorsuch to a vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch's nomination was confirmed by the Senate in April 2017. Trump worked with congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the repeal bill failed in the Senate in July. In December 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which cut corporate and estate taxes, and increased some income taxes while cutting others. In foreign policy, the Trump administration announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.
The Republican ticket of businessman Donald Trump of New York and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana won the 2016 election, defeating the Democratic ticket of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Trump won 304 electoral votes compared to Clinton's 227, though Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote.
Trump is the fifth person to win the presidency but lose the popular vote, after John Quincy Adams (1824),[a] Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), and George W. Bush (2000). He is also the fourth president to lose his home state in the election he won. He is the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state of Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan (1984) and the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania since George H. W. Bush (1988).
Although Republicans lost a net of two seats in the Senate elections and six seats in the House elections, they maintained their majorities in both houses for the 115th Congress. Trump claimed that massive amounts of voter fraud in Clinton's favor occurred during the election, and he called for a major investigation after taking office. A number of studies have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
After the election, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky retained his position as Senate Majority Leader, while Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York replaced the retiring Harry Reid of Nevada as Senate Minority Leader. Democrat Nancy Pelosi retained her position as House Minority Leader, while Republican Paul Ryan retained his position as Speaker of the House.
2018 midterm elections
Indications of 2020 presidential campaign
Trump signaled his intent to run for a second term by filing with the FEC within hours of assuming the presidency. 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 February 1, 2017, the campaign had already raised over $7 million.
Transition period and inauguration
Prior to the election, Trump named Chris Christie as the leader of his transition team. After the election, Vice President-elect Mike Pence replaced Christie as chairman of the transition team, while Christie became a vice-chairman alongside Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former presidential candidate Ben Carson, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Trump's transition team launched the website greatagain.gov.
Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, shortly after Pence was inaugurated as Vice President. Accompanied by his wife, Melania Trump, Donald Trump was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. In his seventeen-minute inaugural address, Trump struck a dark tone with a broad condemnation of contemporary America, pledging to end "American carnage" and saying that America's “wealth, strength and confidence has dissipated”. Trump repeated the "America First" slogan that he had used in the campaign and promised that "[e]very decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American factories". Aged seventy, Trump surpassed Ronald Reagan and became the oldest person to assume the presidency, and the first without any prior government or military experience.
Days after the presidential election, Trump announced that he had selected RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. Priebus and Senior Counselor Steve Bannon were named as "equal partners" within the White House power structure, although Bannon was not a member of the Cabinet. Aside from the vice president and the chief of staff, the remaining Cabinet-level positions required Senate confirmation.
On November 18, Trump announced his first Cabinet designee, choosing Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General. Trump continued to name designees for various positions in November, December, and January. Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue was announced as the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture on January 19, completing Trump's initial slate of Cabinet nominees. Trump is the first incoming president to benefit from the 2013 filibuster reform, which eased the use of cloture on executive and lower-level judicial nominees, reducing the amount required to invoke from an absolute supermajority of three-fifths to a bare majority.
By February 8, 2017, President Donald Trump had fewer cabinet nominees confirmed than any other president except George Washington by the same length of time into his presidency. His final initial Cabinet-level nominee, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was confirmed on May 12, 2017. In February 2017, Trump formally announced his cabinet structure, elevating the Director of National Intelligence and Director of the CIA to cabinet level. The Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, which had been added to the cabinet by Obama in 2009, was removed from the cabinet. Trump's cabinet consists of 24 members, more than Barack Obama at 23 or George W. Bush at 21.
In July 2017, John F. Kelly, who had served as Secretary of Homeland Security, replaced Priebus as Chief of Staff. Elaine Duke replaced Kelly as acting Secretary of Homeland Security. Kirstjen Nielsen was then sworn in as Secretary in December 2017.
In September 2017, Tom Price resigned as Secretary of Health and Human Services amid criticism over his use of private charter jets for his personal travel. Don J. Wright replaced Price as acting Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Notable non-Cabinet positions
White House staff
Security and international affairs
1Appointed by Barack Obama
In the first 13 months of the Trump administration, the White House staff had a higher turnover than the previous four presidents had in the first two years of their respective administrations. By March 2018, White House staff turnover was estimated at 43%.
|Name||Office/Role||Fired or Resigned||Date Announced||Days with Administration||Reasons Behind Departure|
|Andrew McCabe||Deputy Director of the FBI||Resigned/Fired||3/16/2018||Sessions fires McCabe before he can retire|
|Steve Goldstein||Under Secretary for State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs||Fired||3/13/2018||Top State Department Aide Fired after Contradicting White House Account of Tillerson Ouster|
|Rex Tillerson||Secretary of State||Fired||3/13/2018||Trump fires chief diplomat Tillerson after clashes, taps Pompeo|
|John McEntee||Personal Aide to President Trump||Fired||3/13/2018||Longtime Trump aide fired over security clearance issue|
|James Schawb||Spokesperson for ICE||Resigned||3/12/2018||ICE spokesman resigns, citing fabrications by agency chief, Sessions about Calif. immigrant arrests|
|Gary Cohen||Top Economic Advisor||Resigned||3/7/2018||Top economic adviser Gary Cohn leaves White House in wake of tariff rift|
|Hope Hicks||White House Communications Director||Resigned||2/27/2018||Hope Hicks, one of Trump's closest confidants and longest-tenured aide, is resigning|
|Josh Raffel||Spokesperson for Jared and Ivanka Trump||Resigned||2/27/2018||Top White House aide linked to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is leaving|
|David Sorensen||White House Speechwriter||Resigned||2/11/2018||Second WH official resigns over domestic abuse allegations|
|Rachel Brand||Justice Department Official||Resigned||2/10/2018||Rachel Brand, 3rd ranking official at Justice Dept., is stepping down|
|Rob Porter||White House Aide||Resigned||2/7/2018||385||White House aide denies abuse allegations but resigns|
|Brenda Fitzgerald||CDC Director||Resigned||1/31/2018||CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigns|
|Taylor Weyeneth||White House Drug Office Policy Official||Resigned||1/25/2018||340||Former Trump campaign aide leaving drug office after questions about credentials|
|Rick Dearborn||White House Deputy Chief of Staff||Resigned||12/21/2017||383||White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn is resigning|
|Carl Higbie||Chief of External Affairs, CNCS||Resigned||11/19/2018||153||Trump appointee Carl Higbie resigns as public face of agency that runs AmeriCorps after KFile review of racist, sexist, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments on the radio|
|Omarosa Manigault Newman||White House Aide||Resigned/Fired ||12/13/2017||364||Omarosa Is Leaving Her White House Role|
|Dina Powell||Deputy National Security Adviser||Resigned||12/8/2017||304||Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser, to depart Trump White House|
|Tom Price||HHS Secretary||Resigned||9/29/2017||232||HHS Secretary Tom Price resigns amid criticism for taking charter flights at taxpayer expense|
|Keith Schiller||Director of Oval Office Operations||Resigned||9/20/2017||244||Longtime Trump aide Keith Schiller tells people he intends to leave White House|
|Sebastian Gorka||White House Counterterrorism Adviser||Resigned/Fired ||8/25/2017||211||Sebastian Gorka Is Forced Out as White House Adviser, Officials Say|
|Carl Icahn||Special Adviser to the President on Regulatory Reform||Resigned||8/18/2017||209||Billionaire Carl Icahn steps down as adviser to President Trump|
|Steve Bannon||White House Chief Strategist||Fired||8/18/2017||209||Stephen Bannon Out at the White House After Turbulent Run
|Anthony Scaramucci||White House Communications Director||Fired||7/31/2017||11||Anthony Scaramucci removed as White House communications director|
|Reince Preibus||White House Chief of Staff||Fired||7/28/2017||188||Reince Priebus Is Ousted Amid Stormy Days for White House|
|Sean Spicer||White House Press Secretary||Resigned||7/21/2017||181||Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary|
|Walter Shaub||Office of Government Ethics Director||Resigned||7/19/2017||181||Ethics Office Director Walter Shaub Resigns, Saying Rules Need To Be Tougher|
|Tera Dahl||Deputy Chief of Staff, National Security Council||Resigned||7/6/2017||166||Bannon ally leaves the National Security Council after less than six months|
|Michael Dubke||White House Communications Director||Resigned||5/30/2017||89||Dubke resigns as White House communications director|
|James Comey||FBI Director||Fired||5/9/2017||110||F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump|
|Vivek Murthy||Surgeon General||Resigned*||4/24/2017||Trump Administration Dismisses Surgeon General Vivek Murthy|
|K.T. McFarland||Deputy National Security Advisor||Resigned||4/9/2017||118||F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump|
|Katie Walsh||Deputy Chief of Staff||Resigned||3/30/2017||68||McFarland to Exit White House as McMaster Consolidates Power|
|Michael Flynn||National Security Advider||Resigned /Fired ||2/13/2017||23||Flynn resigns amid controversy over Russia contacts
|Sally Yates||Acting Attorney General||Fired||1/31/2017||11||Trump fires acting AG after she declines to defend travel ban|
Firing of Michael Flynn
On February 13, 2017, Trump fired Michael Flynn from the post of National Security Adviser. The given reason for the termination was that he had lied to Vice President Pence about his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was fired amidst the ongoing controversy concerning Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections and accusations that Trump's electoral team colluded with Russian agents. In May 2017, Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, testified before the Senate Judiciary's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism that she had told White House Counsel Don McGahn in late January 2017 that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials and warned that Flynn was potentially compromised by Russia. Flynn remained in his post for another two weeks and was fired after The Washington Post broke the story. Yates was fired by Donald Trump on January 30 because "she defiantly refused to defend his executive order closing the nation's borders to refugees and people from predominantly Muslim countries".
In December 2017, Trump tweeted, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies." As lying to the FBI is a crime, and given that Trump allegedly requested then-FBI director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn a day after Flynn was fired, The Toronto Star described four law professors (from Duke, Harvard, Texas and Yale) as agreeing that Trump's tweet "helps to establish his corrupt purpose — an attempt to protect an ally he knew had done something illegal."
Firing of James Comey
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. In explaining his decision to fire Comey, the Trump administration cited Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy. In firing Comey, Trump relied on a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey for publicly announcing that the case involving Hillary Clinton's emails would not be prosecuted. Rosenstein argued that Comey overstepped his role and that the Justice Department determines whether a case should be prosecuted. However, many critics of Trump accused him of using Comey's handling of the Clinton investigation as a pretext for Comey's dismissal; instead, these critics argue that Comey was dismissed due to his investigation into the Trump administration's ties with Russia. Governance experts said that the firing of Comey was highly significant and abnormal, with the action raising concerns about checks and balances in American democracy broadly. Days after firing Comey, Trump stated that he would have fired Comey regardless of Rosenstein's recommendations, describing Comey as a "showboat". In a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the US, Trump asserted Comey was a "nut job" and that this would relieve pressure off of him regarding his relationship with Russia. In the aftermath of Comey's firing, various news outlets compared the firing to the "Saturday Night Massacre", a constitutional crisis that occurred during Richard Nixon's administration.
Comey had prepared detailed memos, some of which classified information, documenting most of his meetings and telephone conversations with President Trump. He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he created written records immediately after his conversations with Trump because he "was honestly concerned that he [Trump] might lie about the nature of our meeting". The Times noted that contemporaneous notes created by FBI agents are frequently relied upon "in court as credible evidence of conversations". In his memo about a February 14, 2017, Oval Office meeting, Comey says Trump attempted to persuade him to abort the investigation into General Flynn.
Trump took office with a Supreme Court of the United States vacancy, which arose after the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia. During his campaign, Trump released two lists of potential nominees to fill the vacancy caused by Scalia's death.
Prior to this nomination, 60 votes had been required for Supreme Court nominees to be moved to a confirmation vote over a filibuster, via invoking cloture. The 60-vote total previously needed to advance the vote was not met due to Democratic opposition. To allow the nomination to proceed, the "nuclear option" was deployed, requiring only a simple majority, 51 votes, for cloture for a nominee.
Trump had announced around 50 judges by September 15, 2017, which was much more than that of any recent president at that point in their presidency.
Leadership style and philosophy
False and misleading statements
As president, Trump has made a large number of false statements in public speeches and remarks. 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 1,628 total in his first 298 days in office according to the "Fact Checker" analysis of The Washington Post, or an average of 5.5 per day. The Post fact-checker also wrote, "President Trump is the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered... the pace and volume of the president's misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up." In October 2017, Trump falsely claimed that President Obama and other past presidents had failed to write or call the families of U.S. troops who were killed in the line of duty during their tenures.
Senior administration officials have also regularly given false, misleading or tortured statements to the media. By May 2017, Politico reported that the repeated untruths by senior officials made it difficult for the media to take official statements seriously.
In March 2018, The Washington Post reported that Trump at a fundraising speech had recounted the following incident: in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump insisted to Trudeau that the United States ran a trade deficit with Canada even though Trump had "no idea" whether that was really the case. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.
Relationship with the media
Early into the presidency, the Trump administration developed a highly contentious relationship with the media, repeatedly describing the "fake news media" as "the enemy of the people".
On his first day in office, Trump falsely accused journalists of understating the size of the crowd at his inauguration. At a media event at CIA headquarters on his first day in office, Trump called the media "among the most dishonest human beings on earth". Trump's Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, later held a press conference at the White House where he scolded reporters and said that the inauguration crowd had been the biggest in history, a claim disproven by photographs. The following day Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was interviewed by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. When Todd asked Conway why the president's press secretary told a falsehood during his first press conference she replied that it was an "alternative fact", not a falsehood.
On February 16, less than a month into his presidency, Trump held a press conference claiming that the media was not speaking for the people, but for special interests. He claimed that they were dishonest, out of control and doing a disservice to the American people. The following day he called The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN "the enemy of the American People" on Twitter. Trump's first press conference was also the last of his first year in office. For comparison, Barack Obama had held 11 solo press conferences by the end of his first year, George W. Bush held five, and Bill Clinton held 12.
Also in February, Trump objected to news media's reliance on anonymous sources for some of its news. Four days later, a BuzzFeed report detailed Trump's own request to be quoted only as a "senior administration official" at a "private meeting with national news anchors", with the internet media website citing "attendees at the meeting".
On February 24, the Trump administration blocked reporters from The New York Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, Los Angeles Times and Politico from attending an off-camera briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press chose not to attend the briefing in protest at the White House’s actions. The New York Times described the move as "a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps", and the White House Correspondents' Association issued a statement of protest.
In March, all major U.S. television networks declined to air a paid campaign ad placed by the 2020 Trump campaign which included a graphic claiming that mainstream media is "fake news". In a statement, CNN said that they refused the ad per policy because it was false to state that mainstream media is fake news. Lara Trump, daughter-in-law to Trump and adviser for his campaign, called the rejection a "chilling precedent against free speech rights" saying, "It's a great ad and it highlights all the wonderful things that have happened that you don’t hear about everyday because some people don't watch Fox News. If you don't watch Fox, you probably aren't hearing all the great things the president has done."
The relationship between Trump, the media, and fake news has been studied. One study found that between October 7 and November 14, 2016, while 1 in 4 Americans visited a fake news website, "Trump supporters visited the most fake news websites, which were overwhelmingly pro-Trump" and "almost 6 in 10 visits to fake news websites came from the 10% of people with the most conservative online information diets". Brendan Nyhan, one of the authors of the study by researchers from Princeton University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Exeter, stated in an interview on NBC News: "People got vastly more misinformation from Donald Trump than they did from fake news websites".
Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune mentioned Trump's "obsession with (his own) 'fake news'" and Trump's February 6, 2017, tweet that "Any negative polls are fake news..." Page ridiculed the tweet: "'Fake news'? Look who's talking." Brian Stelter responded to Trump's tweet: "No, President Trump, negative polls are not 'fake news'." Stelter noted that DeRay Mckesson's response was: "'Negative news = fake news' is the beginning of tyranny."
Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New York Times, described Trump as a source of fake news: "Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories. As he rages in the storm, Lear-like, howling about poisonous fake news, he is spewing poisonous fake news.... He trusts his beliefs more than facts. So many secrets, so many plots, so many shards of gossip swirl in his head, there seems to be no room for reality...." He prefers "living in his own warped world."
Use of Twitter
Trump continued the use of Twitter from the presidential campaign. Trump has continued to personally tweet from @realDonaldTrump, his personal account, while his staff tweet on his behalf using the official @POTUS account. His use of Twitter has been unconventional for a president initiating controversy and becoming news in their own right. The Trump administration has described Trump's tweets as "official statements by the President of the United States".
His tweets have been reported as ill-considered, impulsive and vengeful, often being made late at night or in the early hours of the morning. His tweets about a Muslim ban were successfully used against his administration to halt two versions of travel restrictions from Muslim-majority countries. He has used Twitter to threaten and intimidate his political opponents and potential political allies needed to pass bills. While trying to pass the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, Trump attacked the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose votes he needed. At times his tweets have been frivolous, such as when he mocked Arnold Schwarzenegger's ratings on The Celebrity Apprentice. Trump repeatedly used belittling nicknames such as Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, and Crooked Hillary for his opponents during his campaign and continued the practice once elected. He used the nickname "Rocket Man" for Kim Jong Un of North Korea both in tweets and at a United Nations meeting.
Many tweets appear to be based on stories that Trump has seen in the media, including conservative news agencies such as Breitbart and television shows such as Fox & Friends. One notable example is the Trump Tower wiretapping allegations which appeared to come from a rumor in the media. Despite a lack of evidence for the claims, Trump continued to push the claim in the media and through Twitter.
Trump has used Twitter to attack federal judges who have ruled against him in court cases. Trump has also used Twitter to criticize officials within his own administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and at various times Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Tillerson was eventually fired via a tweet by Trump. Trump has also tweeted that his Justice Department is part of the American "deep state", that "there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State" Departments, and that the special counsel investigation is a "witch hunt".
Trump, in his first few days in office, signed an executive order reinstating the Mexico City policy that requires all foreign non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.
On February 7, 2017, during a meeting with sheriffs, Trump reiterated false assertions he made during the campaign about crime rates in the United States such as "the murder rate ... is the highest it's been in 47 years.” In that same meeting, when a sheriff complained about how "a state senator in Texas... was talking about legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money", Trump responded to laughter, "Who is the state senator? Do you want to give his name? We'll destroy his career." The next day, President Trump correctly said that the crime rate had increased "by double digits" in American cities in 2016.
On February 9, 2017, Trump signed 3 executive orders pertaining to criminal justice: one calling for a reduction in crime (particularly illegal immigration, illegal drug trade and violent crime), one calling for the Department of Homeland Security to combat drug cartels, and another prosecuting those who commit crimes against law enforcement. Critics of the executive orders emphasized that they would disproportionately affect people of color, by encouraging racial profiling and targeting undocumented immigrants.
In July 2017, the Department of Justice announced that it planned to reinstate the use of asset forfeiture, namely to seize the property of crime suspects. This would reintroduce asset forfeiture even to 24 states that have banned the practice or limited its use so that it could only be used upon conviction, as local authorities can now seize property from individuals who have not even been charged with a crime if the property is forwarded to the federal government.
In a speech to police officers on Long Island, New York, in July 2017, Trump appeared to advocate police brutality, stating "And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, 'Please don’t be too nice'", and, "Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put your hand over. I said, 'You can take the hand away, O.K.?'" His remarks drew loud applause and laughter. The speech was condemned by law enforcement authorities.
In November 2017, the New York Times summarized the Trump administration's "general approach to law enforcement" as "cracking down on violent crime, not regulating the police departments that fight it. The changes to collaborative reform reflect the administration’s broader effort to overhaul programs that the Obama administration used to ease tensions between communities and the police." The response from law enforcement to these changes were mixed.
In February 2017, Sean Spicer during a White House press conference stated that Trump supports the legalization of medical marijuana for those who are suffering with a medical condition. He also stated that the administration believed there was a link between recreational marijuana use and opiate abuse.
In May 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek maximum sentencing for drug offenses. According to NBC News, "the move is an abrupt departure from policy made by President Barack Obama's Attorney General, to reduce the number of people convicted of certain lower-level drug crimes being given long jail terms." According to The New York Times, the action ran "contrary to the growing bipartisan consensus coursing through Washington and many state capitals in recent years — a view that America was guilty of excessive incarceration and that large prison populations were too costly in tax dollars and the toll on families and communities."
In January 2018, Sessions rescinded federal policy that had barred federal law enforcement officials from aggressively enforcing federal cannabis law in states where the drug is legal. The decision created uncertainty as to the legality of recreational and medical marijuana. The decision was harshly criticized by Cory Gardner, Republican Senator of Colorado, who said that Sessions' decision "directly contradicts" what Sessions told Gardner prior to his confirmation as Attorney General; Gardner threatened to hold up the confirmation of Justice Department nominees unless Sessions backed down. The Trump administration's decision contradicted then-candidate Trump's statement that marijuana legalization should be "up to the states".
That same month, the Department of Veterans Affairs said that it would not research cannabis as a potential treatment against PTSD and chronic pain; veterans organizations had pushed for such a study.
Shortly before Trump's election, the United States had an unemployment rate of 4.9% and a Federal Reserve-projected GDP growth rate of 1.8% for 2016 (adjusted for inflation). With a GDP of $17.9 trillion according to a 2015 World Bank estimate, the US represented just under a quarter of the GDP of the world economy. After hovering around 18,000 on election day 2016, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached 20,000 shortly after Trump took office.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump proposed $1 trillion in investments in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and airports.
One of the Trump administration's first actions was to indefinitely suspend a cut in fee rates for mortgages that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had announced under the Obama administration. The cut in fee rates would have saved individuals with lower credit scores around $500 per year on a typical loan.
In September 2017, the Department of Justice said that it would not defend in courts a mandate that would have extended overtime benefits to more than 4 million workers.
In late September 2017, the Trump administration proposed a tax overhaul. The proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 20% (from 35%) and eliminate the estate tax. On individual tax returns it would change the number of tax brackets from seven to three, with tax rates of 12%, 25%, and 35%; apply a 25% tax rate to business income reported on a personal tax return; eliminate the alternative minimum tax; eliminate personal exemptions; double the standard deduction; and eliminate many itemized deductions (specifically retaining the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions). It is unclear from the details offered whether a middle-class couple with children would see tax increase or tax decrease.
According to fact-checkers, Trump's assertion that the plan would not benefit wealthy people such as himself was false, as the elimination of the estate tax (which only applies to inherited wealth greater than $11 million for a married couple) benefits only the heirs of the very rich (such as Trump's children), and there is a reduced tax rate for people who report business income on their individual returns (as Trump does). If Trump's tax plan had been in place in 2005 (the one recent year in which his tax returns were leaked), he would have saved $31 million in taxes from the alternative minimum tax cut alone. If the most recent estimate of the value of Trump's assets is correct, the repeal of the estate tax could save his family about $1.1 billion. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argued that the corporate income tax cut will benefit workers the most; however, many economists and the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office estimate that owners of capital benefit vastly more than workers.
According to The New York Times, the plan would result in a "huge windfall" for the very wealthy, it would not benefit those in the bottom third of the income distribution and it lacked sufficient details to ascertain if middle class Americans will see their taxes rise or fall. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that the richest 0.1% and 1% would benefit the most in raw dollar amounts and percentage terms from the tax plan, earning 10.2% and 8.5% more income after taxes respectively. Middle-class households would on average earn 1.2% more after tax, but 13.5% of middle class households would see their tax burden increase. The poorest fifth of Americans would earn 0.5% more. A preliminary estimate by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that the tax plan would add more than $2 trillion over the next decade to the federal debt, while the Tax Policy Center found that it would add $2.4 trillion to the debt.
In October 2017, after the Senate deadlocked 50-50, Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to reverse a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that placed limits on mandatory arbitration and made it easier for aggrieved consumers to pursue class actions against banks. The rule would have become effective in 2019. Democrats and other supporters of the rule argued that it provided consumer protection against mistreatment by banks; however, under the rules, individuals with individual complaints would still be subject to arbitration. Financial firms lobbied for years against the rule whereas voter surveys indicated bipartisan support. The Associated Press characterized the decision to end the regulation as a victory for Wall Street banks. The Treasury Department, as well as acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika and other officials have challenged the CFPB rule and how it was created. Noreika said that the reversal stopped a ruling that likely would have "increased the cost of credit for hardworking Americans and made it more difficult for small community banks to resolve differences with their customers without achieving the rule's goal of deterring future financial abuse". A statement issued by the White House said, "By repealing this rule, Congress is standing up for everyday consumers and community banks and credit unions, instead of the trial lawyers, who would have benefited the most from the CFPB's uninformed and ineffective policy."
In December 2017, the Trump administration scrapped a proposed rule from the Obama administration that airlines disclose baggage fees, saying that rule would have "limited public benefit". Consumer advocates had said that the lack of transparency among airlines about prices made it difficult for consumers to compare prices and rules. According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration dramatically reduced enforcement of regulations; the fines levied by the administration in 2017 were less than half of what the Obama administration did the year before.
In January and March 2018, ProPublica and the Associated Press reported that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau had under Mick Mulvaney's tenure reduced enforcement of rules that protected consumers from predatory payday lenders.
In January 2018, ProPublica analyzed specific claims made by President Trump about job creation in companies during the first year of his presidency; Trump claimed that 2.4 million jobs had been or would be created as a result of his policies. ProPublica found that only 136,000 new jobs were created, and that only 63,000 of those jobs could be potentially attributed to Trump's policies.
For the first year when the Trump administration was fully in charge of the budget, the fiscal year of 2018, the federal government was on track to borrow nearly a trillion dollar; "this is the first time borrowing has jumped this much (as a share of GDP) in a non-recession time since Ronald Reagan was president." The budget shortfall was primarily due to the GOP tax bill of 2017.
In March 2017, the Trump administration revoked a memo issued by the Obama administration, which provided protections for people in default on student loans.
In September 2017, the Education Department announced that it would cancel agreements with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to police student loan fraud. The Education Department said that the CFPB had over-stepped its boundaries by addressing student loan fraud on its own, without directing the cases to the Education Department: the CFPB said that it was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision, and it had not overstepped its boundaries.
In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would rewrite a guidance by the Obama administration that instructed schools and universities to combat sexual harassment and sexual violence. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had previously criticized the guidance for undermining the rights of those accused of sexual harassment.
Environment and energy
While President-elect, Trump sought quick ways to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a 2015 climate change accord reached by 200 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, defying broad global backing for the plan. The agreement was signed by the Obama administration.
In its first few days, the Trump administration instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "to remove the website's climate change page, which contains links to scientific global warming research, as well as detailed data on emissions". Anticipating political interference that could result in loss of government data on climate, scientists had already started to source links and copy the data into independent servers. They also collaborated with the Internet Archive on its End of Term 2016 project, an effort, that runs during every presidential transition, that finds and archives valuable pages on federal websites. Following the National Park Service's retweets of messages that negatively compared the crowd sizes at Obama's 2009 inauguration to Trump's inauguration, the new administration asked the Interior Department's digital team to temporarily stop using Twitter, which the agency later stated was because of hacking concerns. In addition, on January 24, 2017, the Trump administration instituted a temporary media blackout for the EPA, which prevents EPA staff from issuing press releases or blog updates, posting to official EPA social media, or awarding new contracts or grants. The transition team clarified that this was to make sure the messages going out reflect the new administration's priorities. On February 3, the Trump administration ended its earlier freeze on EPA contract and grant approvals, and the appearance of some EPA press releases that week indicated the media blackout was partially lifted.
In February 2017, Trump and Congress removed a rule that required the oil, gas and mining industries to disclose how much they paid foreign governments. The industries claimed the rule gave global rivals a competitive edge, although EU, Canadian, Russian, Chinese and Brazilian energy firms are bound by similar requirements. Supporters of the rule claimed it kept payments to foreign nations in government coffers, not private pockets, and generally avoided bribes and graft.
A few days later, Trump signed into law a Congressional Review Act resolution invalidating the Stream Protection Rule implemented by the Obama administration a few months prior. The regulation was intended to prevent coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams, and to lessen the impact of coal mining on groundwater and surface waters. Trump declared that he was "continuing to keep my promise to the American people to get rid of wasteful regulations".
On March 28, Trump issued an executive order aimed at reversing multiple Obama administration policies meant to tackle climate change. Trump said he was "putting an end to the war on coal", removing "job-killing regulations" and "restrictions on American energy" to make "America wealthy again". Trump ended the moratorium on federal coal leasing, revoked several Obama executive orders including the Presidential Climate Action Plan, and also removed guidance for federal agencies on taking climate change into account during National Environmental Policy Act action reviews. Trump also ordered reviews and possibly modifications to several directives, such as the Clean Power Plan, the estimate for the "social cost of carbon" emissions, carbon dioxide emission standards for new coal plants, methane emissions standards from oil and natural gas extraction, as well as any regulations inhibiting domestic energy production.
In April 2017, the Trump administration halted a rule which limited dumping by power plants of toxic wastewater containing metals like arsenic and mercury into public waterways. The move drew condemnation from environmental groups.
In August 2017, the Trump administration ordered the National Academy of Sciences to stop conducting a study on the public health effects of mountaintop removal coal-mining. The study began in 2016, with U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement committing more than $1 million to the study. The study was launched at the request of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the state Bureau for Public Health to better understand the health effects of mountaintop removal coal-mining in Appalachia. In December 2017, the Interior Department suspended a $580,000 study by the National Academy intended to make offshore drilling safer.
In August 2017, the Trump administration rolled back regulations that required the federal government to account for climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.
In October 2017, The New York Times reported that the chemical industry was satisfied with changes done at the EPA which expedited the process for approving new chemicals and made the process of evaluating the safety of those chemicals less stringent. Officials and longtime scientists at the EPA expressed concerns that the agency's ability to stop hazardous chemicals was being compromised.
Also in October 2017, the Trump administration withdrew from the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), citing that it "does not fully account for the U.S. legal framework". EITI was aimed at fighting corruption by requiring the disclosure of payments and donations made by oil, gas and mining companies to governments. The withdrawal drew criticism describing a lack of transparency.
In December 2017, the Trump administration sharply reduced the size of two national monuments in Utah by approximately two million acres, making it the largest reduction of public land protections in American history. Shortly afterwards, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke advocated for downsizing four additional national monuments and change the way that six additional monuments were managed.
In December 2017, a New York Times analysis of EPA enforcement data found that the Trump administration had adopted a far more lenient approach to enforcing federal pollution laws than the Obama and Bush administrations. The Trump administration has brought fewer cases against polluters, sought a lower total of civil penalties and made fewer requests of companies to retrofit facilities to curb pollution. According to the New York Times, "confidential internal E.P.A. documents show that the enforcement slowdown coincides with major policy changes ordered by Mr. Pruitt’s team after pleas from oil and gas industry executives."
In December 2017, the New York Times reported that the EPA had in a no-bid contract hired an opposition research firm associated with the Republican Party for $120,000 to investigate EPA employees who had expressed criticism of the management of the EPA under Pruitt's tenure or the Trump administration.
In December 2017, President Trump - who had repeatedly called scientific consensus on climate a "hoax" before becoming President - for the first time as President called into question climate change by falsely implying that cold weather at the end of December meant that climate change was not occurring.
At the end of 2017, The Washington Post summarized Pruitt's leadership of the EPA in 2017 as follows, "In legal maneuvers and executive actions, in public speeches and closed-door meetings with industry groups, he has moved to shrink the agency’s reach, alter its focus, and pause or reverse numerous environmental rules. The effect has been to steer the EPA in the direction sought by those being regulated. Along the way, Pruitt has begun to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s environmental legacy, halting the agency’s efforts to combat climate change and to shift the nation away from its reliance on fossil fuels."
In January 2018, the Trump administration singled out the state of Florida as an exemption from the administration's offshore drilling plan. The move stirred controversy because it came after the Governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott (who is considering a 2018 Senate run), complained about the offshore drilling plan. The move raised ethical questions because Trump owns a resort in Florida and because Florida is a swing state that Trump would like to win in the 2020 presidential election. NBC News said that the decision had the appearance of "transactional favoritism" and that it was likely to lead to lawsuits.
That same month, the Trump administration enacted 30% tariffs on solar panels. The American solar energy industry is highly reliant on foreign parts (80% of parts are made abroad); as a result, the tariffs could raise the costs of solar energy, reduce innovation and reduce jobs in the industry. Bloomberg News described the move as the Trump administration "most targeted strike on the [renewables] industry" in a series of actions taken to undermine renewables.
In February 2018, it was reported that Pruitt had, as head of the EPA, fought to retain a loophole which allowed one trucking company to skirt emissions rules, allowing the firm to produce trucks that emit 40 to 55 times the air pollutants of other new trucks. That same month, Pruitt ended a multimillion-dollar program that distributed grants for research the effects of chemical exposure on children.
Government size and deregulation
Trump has strongly favored a smaller-sized federal government and deregulation through his policies as president. In the first six weeks of his tenure, Trump rescinded over 90 regulations. On February 14, 2017, Trump became the first president in sixteen years to sign into law a Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution. The Act had only been used once before. The administration's Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon stated that "the deconstruction of the administrative state" by deregulation is a top priority of the Trump Administration.
On January 23, 2017, in a Presidential Memorandum, Trump ordered a temporary government-wide hiring freeze of the civilian work force in the executive branch, which is managed by the Office of Personnel Management. This prevented federal agencies, except for the offices of the new presidential appointees, national security, the military and public safety, from filling vacant positions.
On January 30, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13771, which directed federal agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every one new regulation, and to do so in such a way that the total cost of regulations does not increase. On February 24, 2017, as part of an effort to undo many of the actions of former President Obama, Trump signed an order requiring all federal agencies to create task forces to look at and determine which regulations hurt the U.S. economy. Reuters described the order as "what may be the most far reaching effort to pare back U.S. red tape in recent decades". In a September 2017 review of the effects of EO 13771, Cheryl Bolen of Bloomberg BNA found that due to unclear wording in the order and the large proportion of regulations that it exempts, the order had had little effect since it was signed. Peter Boyer of The Weekly Standard stated in October 2017 that Trump's Executive Order 13771 was "a clever ploy" which, along with a companion Order, had delayed new regulations due to the complexity of the Orders and the burdens of implementing them. Boyer cited a Mercatus Center study that showed no net increase in the number of federal regulations during the first nine months of Trump's presidency.
On February 28, 2017, Trump announced he did not intend on filling many of the governmental positions that were still vacant, as he considered them unnecessary. According to CNN on February 25, nearly 2,000 vacant governmental positions existed.
In February 2017, the Trump administration signed into law a bill that weakened restrictions on the ability of mentally ill individuals to obtain guns, rolling back a regulation implemented by the Obama administration. The White House has refused to publish existing photos of Trump signing the bill despite multiple requests by CBS News.
In April 2017, Trump told a crowd of National Rifle Association members: "You are my friends ... I will never, ever infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms." The association had previously given $30 million to Trump's presidential campaign.
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as "Obamacare" or the ACA) elicited major opposition from the Republican Party from its inception, and Trump called for a repeal of the law during the 2016 election campaign. On taking office, Trump promised to pass a healthcare bill that would result in better and less expensive insurance that would cover everyone.
In March 2017, Trump endorsed the American Health Care Act, a bill proposed by House Republicans that would repeal the individual mandate and make several other major changes to the ACA. Opposition from several House Republicans, including members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the centrist Tuesday Group, led to the defeat of the bill on March 24, 2017. After Trump and Speaker Ryan canceled a House vote on the AHCA, Trump stated that the "best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode". Several weeks later on May 4 the House of Representatives voted in favor of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and passing the American Health Care Act with a narrow vote, sending the bill to the Senate for deliberation. Over the next months the Senate made several attempts to create a repeal bill; however, all the proposals were ultimately rejected in a series of Senate votes in late July. Trump reacted by alternately urging Congress to keep trying and threatening to "let Obamacare implode", although Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said he would not actually allow that to happen.
Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to "let Obamacare fail", and the Trump administration has been accused of trying to "sabotage Obamacare" by various actions. The open enrollment period was cut from 12 weeks to 6, and the advertising budget for enrollment was cut by 90%. Organizations helping people shop for coverage, known as navigators, will get 39% less money. In late September the administration ordered HHS regional directors not to participate in state open enrollment events, as they have in previous years. In September 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report estimating that enrollment in the Affordable Care Act health care exchanges will be lower in 2018 and future years than its previous forecasts, due to the Trump administration's cuts to advertisement spending for enrollment, a smaller enrollment window, and less outreach. The CBO also found that insurance premiums will rise sharply in 2018 due to the Trump administration's refusal to commit to continuing paying Affordable Care Act subsidies, which has added uncertainty to the insurance market and led insurers to raise premiums for fear they will not get subsidized.
In October 2017, the Trump administration ended subsidy payments to health insurance companies based on the findings of a 2014 lawsuit filed by House Republicans in a US District Court in Washington. The findings of Judge Rosemary M. Collyer agreed that Congress failed to appropriate any money for the cost-sharing subsidies. Speaker Paul Ryan said "the Obama administration had usurped the authority of Congress by paying the subsidies" and further explained, "the power of the purse belongs to Congress, not the executive branch". A report by NPR said, "insurance companies still have to give the discounts to low-income customers". According to NPR, the decision is expected to raise premiums in 2018 for middle-class families by an average of about 20 percent nationwide and cost the federal government nearly $200 billion more than it saves over a ten-year period. People with lower incomes will be unaffected because the Affordable Care Act provides government subsidies — in the form of tax credits — that ensure their out-of-pocket insurance costs remain stable. During a White House ceremony, Trump explained that they are "moving toward lower costs and more options in the health care market". There was a mixed response from health insurers, many of whom remained silent while some voiced concerns over possible destabilization of the market.
In October 2017, the Trump administration modified a requirement that employer-provided health insurance policies had to cover birth control methods free of charge to women. Any company or nonprofit could opt out of the requirement if they had religious or moral objections to birth control. Survey results indicate that more than 10% of companies with more than 200 employees would opt out of birth control coverage if they had the option to whereas the Trump administration said that no more than 120,000 women would be affected. The Trump administration in justifying the action said that contraceptive use caused harms, such as risky sex behavior, cited the potential side effects of contraceptives, and asserted that the relationship between contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy was uncertain and complex. Indiana University professor of pediatrics Aaron E. Carroll noted "there is ample evidence that contraception works, that reducing its expense leads to more women who use it appropriately, and that using it doesn't lead to riskier sexual behavior."
In December 2017, the Trump administration reduced the enforcement of penalties against nursing homes that harm residents. The nursing home industry had called for the change whereas advocates for nursing home residents said that the Trump administration had weakened a valuable patient-safety tool.
In February 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it would cut 80% of its efforts to stop infectious-disease epidemics worldwide due to budget cuts.
In September 2017, Trump nominated Representative Tom Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy and become the nation's drug czar. In October 2017, Marino withdrew his name from consideration after a joint Washington Post and 60 Minutes investigation found that Marino had been the chief architect of a bill that crippled the enforcement powers of the DEA and worsened the opioid crisis in the United States. In November 2017, it was announced that Kellyanne Conway would lead White House efforts to combat the opioid epidemic; Conway had no experience or expertise on matters of public health, substance abuse, or law enforcement. By November 2017, the White House had yet to name another person to head its Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and had not released a strategy to combat the opioid epidemic.
In October 2017, the Trump administration declared a 90-day public health emergency over the opioid epidemic and pledged to urgently mobilize the federal government in response to the crisis. On January 11, 2018, 12 days before the declaration ran out, Politico noted that "beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done." The administration had not proposed any new resources or spending, had not started the promised advertising campaign to spread awareness about addiction, and had yet to fill key public health and drug positions in the administration. In January 2018, The Washington Post reported that one of the top officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which is tasked with multibillion-dollar anti-drug initiatives and curbing the opioid epidemic, was a 24-year old campaign staffer from the Trump 2016 campaign who lied on his CV and whose stepfather went to jail for manufacturing illegal drugs; after the administration was contacted about the official's qualifications and CV, the administration gave him a job with different tasks in the ONDCP.
In February 2018, Politico reported that Kellyanne Conway had sidelined drug experts and opted instead for the use of political staff. In dealing with the opioid crisis, the Trump administration's "main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a "just say no” campaign."
Housing and urban policy
In December 2017, The Economist described the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) led by Ben Carson as "directionless". Most of the top positions on HUD were still unfilled and Carson's leadership was "inconspicuous and inscrutable". Of the policies that HUD was enacting, The Economist wrote, "it is hard not to conclude that the governing principle at HUD is to take whatever the Obama administration was doing, and do the opposite."
In June 2017, the Trump administration designated Lynne Patton, an event planner, who had worked on the Trump campaign and planned Eric Trump's wedding as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New York and New Jersey office (which oversees billions of federal dollars).
On August 28, 2017, the Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeastern Texas, then stalled causing 40 to 60 inch rainfall and massive flooding in the Houston area. On the same day Trump announced his pardon of Joe Arpaio. Trump said he assumed the pardon would attract higher ratings than is usual on a Friday evening, since television viewers were glued to storm coverage. On August 29, Trump, Melania, and cabinet officials visited Corpus Christi, Texas near where Harvey made landfall, and then visited the Austin, Texas Emergency Operations Center. During the Corpus Chritsti visit he praised the work of FEMA administrator Brock Long, Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and praised the crowd size. Politico wrote that during his visit, "the president didn't meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street." In September Trump personally donated $1 million designated for hurricane relief to twelve organizations, in what Glenn Thrush called "one of the largest financial commitments made by a sitting president to a charitable cause". On September 8 President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 601, which among other spending actions designated $15 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief.
On September 10, two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana, the Category 4 Hurricane Irma hit the southwestern tip of Florida and then moved up Florida Gulf coast causing extensive damage and prolonged power outages. Trump, Pence, and their wives visited the damage area and relief efforts on September 14. Trump toured the damage while promising full financial backing for the state's recovery.
Ten days later, on September 20, Puerto Rico was struck by Category 4 Hurricane Maria, causing widespread devastation, knocking out the power system and phone towers, destroying buildings, and causing widespread flooding. The Trump administration came under criticism for a delayed response to the humanitarian crisis on the island. Politicians on both sides of the aisle had called for immediate aid for Puerto Rico, and criticized Trump for focusing on a feud with the NFL instead. Trump did not comment on Puerto Rico for several days while the crisis was unfolding. According to The Washington Post, the White House did not feel a sense of urgency until "images of the utter destruction and desperation — and criticism of the administration's response — began to appear on television." Trump later dismissed the criticism, saying he was "very proud" of an "amazing" response and that efforts to distribute necessary supplies and services were "doing well". The Washington Post noted, "on the ground in Puerto Rico, nothing could be further from the truth." Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital San Juan, repeatedly criticized US relief efforts, saying that they were not reaching the people who needed the aid; on September 29 she made a desperate plea for help, saying that people are "dying, starving, thirsty". Trump responded by criticizing Puerto Rico officials, saying that they had "poor leadership ability" and "want everything to be done for them", and repeatedly pointing out Puerto Rico's debt crisis. On September 28 the Army dispatched Lt.Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan to Puerto Rico to assess the situation and see how the military can be more effective in helping, particularly in dealing with the thousands of containers of supplies that are stuck in port because of "red tape, lack of drivers, and a crippling power outage". In January 2018, FEMA officially ended its humanitarian mission in Puerto Rico; at the time of FEMA's departure, one third of Puerto Rico residents still lacked electricity and some places lacked running water.
Prior to taking office, Trump promised to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States and to build a wall along the Mexico–United States border. Trump later stated that in certain areas fencing would be acceptable. On January 25, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13767 Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, which directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to begin work on a wall. In February 2017, Reuters reported that an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security estimated that Trump's proposed border wall would cost $21.6 billion and take 3.5 years to build. This estimate is far higher than estimates by Trump during the campaign ($12 billion) and the $15 billion estimate from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Other experts and analyses have estimated a total cost of up to $25 billion, with the cost of private land acquisitions and fence maintenance pushing up the total cost further. In August 2017, the transcript of the January 2017 phone call between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was leaked; in the phone call, Trump conceded that he would fund the border wall, not by charging Mexico as he promised during the campaign, but through other ways and implored the Mexican President to stop saying publicly that the Mexican government would not pay for the border wall.
About 100 species of flora and fauna are threatened by the barrier, many already endangered, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to use the REAL ID Act to sidestep environmental impact statements.
In May 2017, it was reported that there had been a 40 percent increase in arrests of undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration. Arrests of undocumented immigrants without criminal records rose 150 percent.
The Trump administration embraced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act in August 2017. The RAISE Act seeks to reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year and would end the visa diversity lottery. A study by Penn Wharton economists found that the legislation would by 2027 "reduce GDP by 0.7 percent relative to current law, and reduce jobs by 1.3 million. By 2040, GDP will be about 2 percent lower and jobs will fall by 4.6 million. Despite changes to population size, jobs and GDP, there is very little change to per capita GDP, increasing slightly in the short run and then eventually falling."
In August 2017, the Trump administration terminated a program that granted temporary legal residence to unaccompanied Central American minors. 2,714 individuals would have to renew their legal residence status through other more difficult immigrant channels. In November 2017, the Temporary Protected Status of 60,000 Haitians after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which gave them temporary residency permits, was revoked. In January 2018, the Trump administration announced that approximately 200,000 Salvadorans, who were given Temporary Protected Status in the U.S. after a series of devastating earthquakes in 2001, would have their residency permits revoked; which means that they would have to leave the country, seek new permits or stay as undocumented immigrants. The Salvadorans are parents to an estimated 190,000 U.S.-born children.
In December 2017, the Trump administration announced that it would make it illegal for spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States.
In January 2018, the Trump administration proposed spending $18 billion over the next 10 years on a wall on the Mexican border, more than half of the $33 billion spending blueprint for border security. Trump's plan would reduce funding for border surveillance, radar technology, patrol boats and customs agents; experts and officials say that these are more effective at curbing illegal immigration and preventing terrorism and smuggling than a border wall.
Later that month, Trump was widely criticized after referring to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations in general as "shithole countries" at a bipartisan meeting on immigration. Multiple international leaders condemned his remarks as racist.
By February 2018, arrests of undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased by 40% during Trump's tenure. The arrests of noncriminal undocumented immigrants were twice as high as during Obama's final year in office. Arrests of undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions only increased slightly.
During his first nine months in office, Trump issued several directives aimed at restricting entry of certain people into the United States. After each of those directives there have been respective legal challenges.
On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order which indefinitely suspended admission of asylum seekers fleeing the Syrian Civil War, suspended admission of all other refugees for 120 days, and denied entry to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. The order also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations by giving priority to refugees of other religions over Muslim refugees. Later, the administration seemed to reverse a portion of part of the order, effectively exempting visitors with a green card. After the order was challenged in the federal courts, several federal judges issued rulings enjoining the government from enforcing the order. On January 30, Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she stated she would not defend the order in court; Yates was replaced by Dana Boente, who stated the Justice Department would defend the order.
A new executive order was signed in March which places limits on travel to the U.S. from six different countries for 90 days, and by all refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents for 120 days. The new executive order revoked and replaced the former Executive Order 13769 issued in January.
On June 26, the Supreme Court partially stayed certain injunctions that were put on the order by two federal appeals courts earlier, allowing the executive order to mostly go into effect. Oral argument concerning the legality of the order were scheduled to be held in October 2017. However, on October 10 the Court dismissed the case, saying that the orders had been replaced by a new proclamation, so challenges to the previous executive orders are moot.
On September 24, 2017, Trump signed a proclamation that placed limits on the six countries in the second executive order and added Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. On October 17, 2017, Judge Derrick Watson, of the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii issued another temporary restraining order in response to a petition by the state of Hawaii.
On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed the September 2017 travel restrictions to go into effect while legal challenges in Hawaii and Maryland are heard. The decision effectively bars most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea from entry into the United States along with some groups of people from Venezuela.
On January 31, 2017, Trump announced that his administration would keep intact the 2014 executive order that protects employees from anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination while working for federal contractors. However, in March 2017, the Trump administration rolled back key components of the Obama administration's workplace protections for LGBT people. The Trump administration rescinded requirements that federal contractors prove that they are complying with the LGBT workplace protections, which makes it difficult to tell if a contractor had refrained from discriminatory practices against LGBT individuals. LGBT advocates have argued that this is a signal that the Trump administration will not enforce workplace violations against LGBT people.
In February 2017, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama directive (interpreting gender identity under Title IX) that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity.
In March 2017, the Trump administration rolled back efforts to collect data on LGBT Americans. The Health and Human Services removed a question about sexual orientation in a survey of the elderly. The U.S. Census Bureau, which had planned to ask about sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey, scrapped those plans in March 2017. In December 2017, the Center for Disease Control was prohibited from using the term "transgender".
On July 26, 2017, Trump tweeted that the "United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Trump cited the alleged "disruption" and "tremendous medical costs" of having transgender service members. However, a RAND study of 18 countries that allow transgender individuals to serve in the military found "little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness". Also, according to Scientific American, studies have shown that the medical costs for transgender service members would be "minimal". According to the Rand Corporation, about 4,000 active-duty and reserve service members were transgender in 2016.
That same day, the Department of Justice argued in court that federal civil rights law does not ban employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. The Obama administration had decided that it did.
In September 2017, the Department of Justice filed a brief on behalf of a baker who was found to have violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex couple. The Washington Post described the decision as part of "a series of steps the Trump administration has taken to rescind Obama administration positions favorable to gay rights".
In October 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the Department of Justice to no longer side with transgender plaintiffs in workplace discrimination lawsuits invoking the Civil Rights Act.
In March 2017, the Energy Department prohibited the use of the term "climate change". In December 2017, the Trump administration sent a list to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on words that the agency that was prohibited from using in its official communications. These words included “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” and “diversity.”
President Trump has accused video games of causing violence and school shootings, citing series such as Fallout, Wolfenstein, and Call of Duty.
In March 2018, Trump held a meeting urging video game companies to reduce violence in games.
In May 2017, the Trump administration created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, more commonly referred to as the Voter Fraud Commission. Its stated purpose was to review the extent of voter fraud; the commission was created in the wake of Trump's false claim that millions of unauthorized votes cost him the popular vote in the 2016 United States presidential election. It was chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, while the vice chair and day-to-day administrator was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, best known for promoting restrictions on access to voting. The commission began its work by requesting each state to turn over detailed information about all registered voters in their database. Most states rejected the request, citing privacy concerns or state laws.
Multiple lawsuits were filed against the commission. In November 2017, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democratic member of the commission, said that Kobach was refusing to share working documents and scheduling information with him and the other Democrats on the commission. He filed suit, and in December a federal judge ordered the commission to hand over the documents. Two weeks later, in January 2018, the Trump administration disbanded the commission, and informed Dunlap that it would not obey the court order to provide the documents because the commission no longer existed. In the announcement disbanding the commission, Trump blamed states for not handing over requested voter information to the commission, while still maintaining that there was "substantial evidence of voter fraud", an assertion which is contrary to existing research and expert assessments, which have shown voter fraud to be extremely rare. Election integrity experts argued that the commission was disbanded because of the lawsuits, which would have led to greater transparency and accountability in the commission and thus prevented the Republican members of the commission from producing a sham report to justify restrictions on voting rights. In January 2018, it was revealed that the Commission had, in its requests for Texas voter data, specifically asked for data that identifies voters with Hispanic surnames.
White nationalists and Charlottesville rally
On August 13, 2017, Trump condemned violence "on many sides" after a gathering of hundreds of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, the previous day (August 12) turned deadly. A white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 others. According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that action met the definition of domestic terrorism. During the rally there had been other violence, as some counter-protesters charged at the white nationalists with swinging clubs and mace, throwing bottles, rocks, and paint. Trump did not expressly mention Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or the alt-right movement in his remarks on August 13, but the following day (August 14) he did denounce white supremacists as he had done as a candidate the previous year. He condemned "the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups". Then the next day (August 15), he again blamed "both sides".
Many Republican and Democratic elected officials condemned the violence and hatred of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists. Trump came under criticism from world leaders and politicians, as well as a variety of religious groups and anti-hate organizations for his remarks, which were seen as muted and equivocal. The New York Times reported that Trump "was the only national political figure to spread blame for the 'hatred, bigotry and violence' that resulted in the death of one person to 'many sides'", and said that Trump had "buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations". White nationalist groups felt "emboldened" after the rally and planned additional demonstrations.
East Asia and Oceania
Trump's first phone call as President with the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, took place in February and lasted around twenty-five minutes. During the call, Trump disagreed with Turnbull about a deal made during Barack Obama's presidency. The agreement called for the United States to review approximately 1,250 asylum seekers for entry into the United States. The refugees are currently held on Nauru and Manus Island by Australian authorities. On February 2, 2017, Trump tweeted that the refugee agreement was a "dumb deal". Notwithstanding the disagreement, Vice President Mike Pence, while on a visit to Australia in April 2017, stated the United States will abide by the deal. Trump and Turnbull met on May 4 in New York City aboard USS Intrepid to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. This was their first face-to-face meeting.
During the transition phase, Trump became the first president or president-elect since 1979 to speak directly to the President of Taiwan. This called into question whether Trump would continue to follow the long-standing one-China policy of the United States regarding the political status of Taiwan.
At the end of January 2017, China moved its long-range nuclear-capable missiles closer to the Russian border, where they would be in reach of the United States. The Independent wrote that the action was "apparently in response to President Donald Trump's 'aggression.'"
On August 14, 2017, Trump directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to investigate whether China is stealing U.S. technology and intellectual property. The investigation would look at Chinese practices that force American companies to disclose their proprietary intellectual information so they can do business in China. In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying suggested prospects of a trade war would emerge if the U.S. decided to pursue the case, stating, "There is no future and no winner in a trade war and both sides will be the losers".
North Korea first tested nuclear weapons in 2006, further straining U.S. and North Korean relations. Shortly after Trump took office, North Korea launched five ballistic missiles towards Japan, and North Korea claimed that the launches were practice strikes against U.S. bases in Japan. After the missile launches, the U.S. began installing a missile defense system in South Korea. During the campaign and the early days of his presidency, Trump advocated getting China to rein in its ally North Korea. In April 2017 he said, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you."
In July 2017, North Korea tested two long-range missiles, identified by observers as intercontinental ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland. In August Trump significantly escalated his rhetoric against North Korea, saying that further provocation against the U.S. will be met with "fire and fury like the world has never seen". In response Kim Jong-un threatened to direct its next missile test toward Guam. Trump doubled down on his "fire and fury" warning, saying, "maybe that statement wasn't tough enough" and adding that if North Korea took steps to attack Guam, "Things will happen to them like they never thought possible."
In June 2017, Rex Tillerson announced that North Korea had released Otto Warmbier, an American university student who had been detained by North Korea for 17 months prior. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement saying that the State Department secured Warmbier's release at the direction of Trump. When he was returned to the United States, Warmbier, age 22, was unresponsive and had suffered from extensive brain damage that he has sustained while in North Korea captivity; he died days later.
On May 24, 2017, Pope Francis met with Trump in Vatican City where they discussed the contributions of Catholics to the United States and to the world. Trump and the Pope discussed issues of mutual concern including how religious communities can combat human suffering in crisis regions, such as Syria, Libya, and ISIS-controlled territory. Trump and Pope Francis also discussed terrorism and the radicalization of young people.
In May 2017, Trump made his first presidential trip outside the United States when he traveled to Italy, where he met Pope Francis. Trump also met Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni; Gentiloni was also hosted by Trump few weeks before in April at the White House. Trump has often stated that Italy is a "key ally of America in Europe and the Mediterranean Sea and a strategic partner in the War on Terrorism".
President-elect Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over phone on November 14 to discuss future efforts to improve the U.S.-Russia ties and the settlement of Syrian crisis among others. It is widely believed that both leaders have intentions to cooperate on some strategic and regional issues. While Senators such as John McCain and Marco Rubio raised concerns, Representatives like Dana Rohrabacher defend this approach as some believe defeating radical Islam and deterring China are more urgent priorities.
In May 2017, German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europeans cannot rely on United States' help anymore. This came after Trump had said the Germans were "bad, very bad" and threatened to stop all car trade with Germany.
In January 2018, a Downing Street spokesperson said that the "strong and deep" relationship with the United States would continue despite Trump's cancellation of a visit to the UK in February 2018, where he was widely expected to open the new United States embassy in London. President Trump claimed that the reason he cancelled his trip to London was because he was not a "big fan of the Obama Administration" selling the previous embassy complex. However many sources claim that the real reason for the cancellation was because the White House was worried about the possibility of public protests, as the decision to move to the new location was actually made under the George W. Bush Administration.
On June 16, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he was cancelling the Obama administrations deals with Cuba, while also expressing that a new deal could be negotiated between Cuba and United States.
On January 26, 2017, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a meeting with Trump in Washington. Trump had tweeted earlier that morning that it would be better to skip the meeting if the Mexican government continued to insist that Mexico would not pay for a proposed United States-Mexico border wall Trump promised to build. This came amid existing tensions over the proposed wall.
In August 2017, Trump stated that he is "not going to rule out a military option" to confront the autocratic government of Nicolás Maduro and the deepening crisis in Venezuela. Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López immediately criticized Trump for his statement, calling it "an act of supreme extremism" and "an act of madness". President Maduro's son, Nicolás Maduro Guerra, stated during the 5th Constituent Assembly of Venezuela session that if the United States were to attack Venezuela, "the rifles would arrive in New York, Mr. Trump, we would arrive and take the White House".
When Trump took office in January 2017, the United States were involved in the War in Afghanistan since 2001, the longest war in American history. The US then had 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan. Most of them participated in the NATO mission Resolute Support, intended to train and advise the Afghan government troops (in their (civil) war against Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIL-in-Khorasan); 2,000 American troops were charged with fighting against terror groups such as ISIL-in-Khorasan. By August 2017, the American force in Afghanistan was estimated at 10,000 troops. On August 21, 2017, Trump announced expansion of the American presence in Afghanistan, without giving details on how.
Iraq and Syria
Trump took office while the United States remained involved in a military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS, the Islamic State or Daesh), a Salafi jidahist unrecognized state that gained control of parts of Iraq and Syria following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. There were roughly 4,500 American soldiers in Iraq as of February 2016. Under Obama, the United States also backed the Free Syrian Army against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
In the first unilateral military action by the United States targeting Ba'athist Syrian government forces during the Syrian Civil War, Trump authorizes a missile strike against Shayrat Airbase in direct response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack.
In August 2017, senior State Department official Brett H. McGurk stated that the Trump administration had "dramatically accelerated" the U.S.–led campaign against ISIL, citing estimates that almost one-third of the territory taken from ISIL "has been won in the last six months". McGurk favorably cited "steps President Trump has taken, including delegating decision–making authority from the White House to commanders in the field".
Military action in Syria
It was first reported on April 4, 2017, that the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad had launched a chemical attack on civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the rebel-held territory of Idlib Province. The Trump administration initially responded by saying the attacks were "not something that any civilized nation should sit back and accept or tolerate". The following day, April 5, Trump held a press conference with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Rose Garden of the White House where he stated his "attitude toward Syria and Assad, has changed very much". Trump also said "It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that was so lethal," then that "crosses many lines, beyond a red line, many many lines" referencing President Obama's ultimatum to the Syrian regime in 2013. On Thursday April 6, Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles toward Shayrat Air Base where the chemical attacks are believed to have been launched. Shortly after giving the order, Trump addressed the nation saying, "It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread or use of deadly chemical weapons." Although the attacks were met with praise and support by the most of the international community, several protests were held in the United States demonstrating against the attack.
Trump took office after Barack Obama signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or "Iran nuclear deal"), which Trump described as one of the "worst deals ever made". His concern has been shared by many Republicans in Congress, including Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.
On February 3, Trump and the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, "sparred on Twitter" over sanctions and Executive Order 13796. Trump tweeted that Iran was "playing with fire" after the country conducted a ballistic missile test earlier in the week.
The Trump administration stated that Trump personally lobbied dozens of European officials against doing business with Iran during the May 2017 Brussels summit; this likely violated the terms of the JCPOA, which expressly states that 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.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority
During the transition phase, Trump designated David Friedman, a strong supporter of Israeli settlements and a skeptic of the two-state solution, as his nominee for United States Ambassador to Israel.
On December 6, 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and promised to relocate the Israeli U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jersusalem, a move considered too risky by his predecessors.
In 2015, a multi-sided Yemeni Civil War commenced, and the Obama administration supported the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and launched drone strikes against AQAP, the branch of al-Qaeda active in Yemen. On January 29, 2017, the U.S. military conducted the Yakla raid against AQAP leaders stationed in Yemen. After the raid resulted in several civilian casualties, the Yemeni government asked that the United States do a reassessment of the raid and asked that Yemen be more involved in future military operations. A week-long bombing blitz by the United States in Yemen in March 2017 surpassed the annual bombing total for any year during Obama's presidency.
Trump administration voiced support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis asked President Trump to remove restrictions on U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump called for a re-negotiation of free trade agreements, including NAFTA, a free trade agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico that entered into force in 1994. Trump also strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed free trade agreement among several nations that border the Pacific Ocean. Shortly after taking office, Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the TPP. The Trump administration created the National Trade Council to advise the president regarding trade negotiations, and Trump named professor Peter Navarro as the first Director of the National Trade Council. In April 2017, Trump imposed a tariff on Canada's softwood lumber industry, following complaints from dairy farmers in Wisconsin about Canada's dairy pricing policy.
The Trump administration announced a deal with China in May 2017 where China would increase imports of US beef, speed up its approvals of genetically modified products and allow foreign-owned financial groups to offer credit rating services in China while the United States would allow imports of cooked poultry meat from China, encourage exports of liquid natural gas to China, and tacitly endorse Beijing's geopolitical and economic “Silk Road” plan. The deal was seen as evidence of a de-escalatory approach to China, unlike the rhetoric of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. The Trump administration described the deal as "gigantic" and "Herculean". However, according to Financial Times, "Close watchers of the US-China relationship quickly raised questions about the deal, pointing out that most of Beijing's key promises had been made before or were in line with China's existing international commitments." Financial Times noted, "To some former US officials, Trump advisers, business executives and other close watchers of the US-China relationship, however, this was a poor deal in which Beijing had simply reheated old promises. They say it raises questions about the Trump administration's strategic wherewithal and the very negotiating muscle the president has so often touted." Other experts criticized the deal for giving away too many concessions to China than what the United States got in return.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to "drain the swamp in Washington D.C.", and he proposed a series of ethics reforms.
Among his proposals was a five-year ban on serving as a lobbyist after working in the executive branch. Trump's transition team also announced that registered lobbyists would be barred from serving in the Trump administration. However, an Obama era ban on lobbyists taking administrative jobs was lifted and at least nine transition officials became lobbyists within the first 100 days.
One of Trump's campaign promises was that he would not accept a presidential salary. In keeping with this pledge, Trump donated the entirety of his first two quarterly salaries as president to government agencies.
Potential conflicts of interest
Donald Trump's presidency has been marked by significant potential for conflict of interest stemming from Trump's substantial business interests. In the lead up to his inauguration, Trump sought to assure voters that he would manage his conflicts of interest and removed himself from the day-to-day operations of his businesses. Trump placed his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at the head of this businesses claiming that they would not communicate with him regarding his interests. However critics noted that this would not prevent him from having input into his businesses and knowing how benefit himself, and Trump continued to receive quarterly updates on his businesses. As his presidency progressed, he failed to take steps or show interest in further distancing himself from his business interests resulting in numerous potential conflicts.
Many ethics experts found Trump's plan to address conflicts of interest between his position as president and his private business interests to be entirely inadequate; Norman L. Eisen and Richard W. Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyers for Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, stated that the plan "falls short in every respect". Unlike every other president in last 40 years, Trump did not put his business interests in a blind trust or equivalent arrangement "to cleanly sever himself from his business interests". Eisen stated that Trump's case is "an even more problematic situation because he's receiving foreign government payments and other benefits and things of value thats expressly prohibited by the Constitution of the United States" in the Foreign Emoluments Clause. In January 2018, a year into his presidency, a survey found that he "continues to own stakes in hundreds of businesses, both in this country and abroad."
Upon taking office, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued Trump. In the pending case of CREW v. Trump, the group, represented by a number of constitutional scholars, alleges that Trump is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause (a constitutional provision that bars the president or any other federal official from taking gifts or payments from foreign governments), because his hotels and other businesses accept payment from foreign governments. CREW separately filed a complaint with the General Services Administration (GSA) over Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.; the 2013 lease that Trump and the GSA signed "explicitly forbids any elected government official from holding the lease or benefiting from it". The GSA said that it was "reviewing the situation".
In February 2017, Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway, in an appearance from the White House briefing room to Fox & Friends, promoted the "wonderful" clothing line of Ivanka Trump, saying: "I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online." Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, in a letter to the White House Counsel's office, wrote, "there is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted.... Therefore, I recommend that the White House investigate Ms. Conway's actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her." Under federal ethics regulations, federal employees are barred from using their public office to endorse products. Conway's promotion of Ivanka Trump's product line was criticized by House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah (who said Conway's conduct was "absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong"), and the House Oversight Committee ranking Democratic member Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland (who said the conduct was "a textbook violation of federal ethics rules").
Since 2006, before he became president, Trump repeatedly lost cases in Chinese courts seeking to trademark his name, so as to brand it for construction services. Beginning in 2016, however, Trump's fortunes within the Chinese bureaucracy turned, and the Chinese Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, which had previously denied Trump's claim, granted it. In February 2017, the Associated Press reported, "Ethics lawyers from across the political spectrum say the trademarks present conflicts of interest for Trump and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress."
By May 2017, the CREW v. Trump lawsuit had grown with additional plaintiffs and alleged violations of the Domestic Emoluments Clause. In June 2017, attorneys from the Department of Justice filed a pending motion to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs had no right to sue and that the described conduct was not illegal. Also in June 2017, two more lawsuits, D.C. and Maryland v. Trump and Blumenthal v. Trump, were filed based on the Foreign Emoluments Clause, by state and local governments, and by more than one-third of the voting members of Congress, respectively.
American intelligence sources have stated with "high confidence" that the Russian government attempted to intervene in the 2016 presidential election to favor the election of Trump, and that members of Trump's campaign were in contact with Russian government officials both before and after the presidential election. In May 2017 the United States Department of Justice appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate "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". Because of the Russian interference and subsequent investigation, many members of Trump's administration have come under special scrutiny regarding past ties to Russia or actions during the campaign. Several of Trump's top advisers, including Paul Manafort and Michael T. Flynn, who had official positions before Trump replaced them, have strong ties to Russia. Several others had meetings with Russians during the campaign which they did not initially disclose.
Trump himself hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, in partnership with Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov. On many occasions since 1987, Trump and his children and other associates have traveled to Moscow to explore potential business opportunities, such as a failed attempt to build a Trump Tower Moscow. Between 1996 and 2008 Trump's company submitted at least eight trademark applications for potential real estate development deals in Russia. However, as of 2017 he has no known investments or businesses in Russia. Trump said in 2017, "I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia." In 2008, his son Donald Trump Jr. said "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets" and "we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia".
During his January 2017 confirmation hearings as the attorney general nominee before the Senate, then-Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was asked by Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) if he had been "in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" Sessions' single word response was "No", which raised questions about what appeared to be deliberate omission of two meetings he had in 2016 with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Sessions later amended his testimony saying he "never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign". He said that in March 2016, he had twice met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and "stood by his earlier remarks as an honest and correct answer to a question". Officials with the DOJ stated that when Sessions met with Kislyak, it was not as a Trump campaign surrogate, rather it was "in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel". Following his amended statement, Sessions recused himself from any investigation regarding connections between Trump and Russia.
In May 2017, Donald Trump discussed highly classified intelligence in an Oval Office meeting with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak, providing details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected. The intelligence was about an ISIS plot. A Middle Eastern ally provided the intelligence which had the highest level of classification and was not intended to be shared widely. The New York Times reported that "Mr. Trump's disclosure does not appear to have been illegal - the president has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship". The White House, through National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, issued a limited denial, saying that the story "as reported" was not correct, and stated that no "intelligence sources or methods" were discussed. McMaster did not deny that information had been disclosed. The following day Trump stated on Twitter that Russia is an important ally against terrorism and that he had an "absolute right" to share classified information with Russia.
In October 2017, former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with Russian agents. During the campaign he had tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to set up meetings in Russia between Trump campaign representatives and Russian officials. The guilty plea was part of a plea bargain whereby Papadopoulos cooperates with the Mueller investigation.
In February 2018 when Special Counsel Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russians and three entities for interference in the 2016 election, Trump's response was to assert that the indictment was proof that his campaign did not collude with the Russians. The New York Times noted that Trump "voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year." A day after the indictment, Trump used the FBI's alleged failure to stop the Stoneman Douglas High School shooter to call for the end to investigations of Russian interference in the 2016.
Transparency and data availability
The Washington Post reported in May 2017, "a wide variety of information that until recently was provided to the public, limiting access, for instance, to disclosures about workplace violations, energy efficiency, and animal welfare abuses" had been removed or tucked away. The Obama administration had used the publication of enforcement actions taken by federal agencies against companies as a way to name and shame companies that engaged in unethical and illegal behaviors.
The Trump administration stopped the Obama administration policy of logging visitors to the White House, making it difficult to tell who has visited the White House. Nathan Cortez of the Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law, who studies the handling of public data, said that the Trump administration, unlike the Obama administration, was taking transparency "in the opposite direction".
Cost of trips
According to several reports, Trump's and his family's trips in the first month of his presidency cost the US taxpayers nearly as much as former President Obama's travel expenses for an entire year. By mid-February, since his inauguration, the Trumps' trips have cost about $11.3 million, while Obama's average yearly expenses spent on travel was $12.1 million, according to the conservative group Judicial Watch. When Obama was president, Trump frequently criticized him for taking vacations which were paid for with public funds. Former Secret Service employees have described the task of protecting the Trump family's business and private travels as a "logistical nightmare".
The Washington Post reported that Trump's atypically lavish lifestyle is far more expensive to the taxpayers than what was typical of former presidents and could end up in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the whole of Trump's term.
At the time of the 2016 election, polls by Gallup found Trump had a favorable rating around 35% and an unfavorable rating around 60%, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton held a favorable rating of 40% and an unfavorable rating of 57%. 2016 was the first election cycle in modern presidential polling in which both major-party candidates were viewed so unfavorably. By January 20, 2017, Inauguration Day, Trump's approval rating average was 42%, the lowest rating average for an incoming president in the history of modern polling. After one week in office, RealClearPolitics gave Trump a polling average of 44 percent approval and 45 percent disapproval, with a Quinnipiac poll registering a low of 36 percent approval and a Rasmussen poll registering a high of 55 percent approval. On March 27, Donald Trump's approval rating fell to an all-time low of 36%, two points lower than the all-time low of Barack Obama.
Approximately three months into his presidency, President Donald Trump's approval rating had dropped in key swing states that helped him defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election. At the six-month mark in his presidency, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that Trump had the lowest approval numbers of any president during his first six months in office in 70 years. Bloomberg polling showed the President's approval rating was at 41 percent on July 18, 2017. According to a Gallup poll of November 30, 2017, Donald Trump's approval ratings matched the all-time low of Barack Obama's, at just 38%. A December 1, 2017, Rasmussen poll of the same date had Trump's approval rating at 42%. According to a February 9, 2018, Rasmussen poll, Trump's approval rating was at 49%.
In February 2018, Trump was ranked last and lowest for "Presidential Greatness" of all 44 USA Presidents (Abraham Lincoln was ranked first and highest), according to the Presidents and Executive Politics members of the American Political Science Association.
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- Efforts to impeach Donald Trump
- List of executive actions by Donald Trump
- Make America Great Again, Trump's 2016 campaign slogan
- Political positions of Donald Trump
- Protests against Donald Trump
- Fire and Fury (a controversial book by Michael Wolff which details the first year of the Trump presidency)
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