Presidency of Donald Trump
Presidency of Donald Trump
|January 20, 2017 – present|
|Seal of the President|
The presidency of Donald Trump began at noon EST on January 20, 2017, when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, succeeding Barack Obama. A Republican, Trump was a businessman and reality television personality from New York City at the time of his 2016 presidential election victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, he won the Electoral College vote, 304 to 227, in a presidential contest that American intelligence agencies concluded was targeted by a Russian interference campaign. Trump has made many false or misleading statements during his campaign and presidency. The statements have been documented by fact-checkers, with political scientists and historians widely describing the phenomenon as unprecedented in modern American politics. Trump's approval rating has been stable, hovering in the high-30 percent to mid-40 percent range throughout his presidency.
Trump repealed environmental protections intended to address anthropogenic climate change. He ended the Clean Power Plan, withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation, and urged for subsidies to increase fossil fuel production, calling man-made climate change a hoax. Trump failed in his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but signed legislation eliminating the individual mandate provision. He enacted a partial repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act that had previously imposed stricter constraints on banks in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which lowered corporate and estate taxes, and most individual income tax rates on a temporary basis. He enacted tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and other goods, triggering retaliatory tariffs from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, and a trade war with China.
Trump's interventionist and unilateralist foreign policy drew the United States closer to Saudi Arabia and Israel. He agreed to sell 110 billion dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, withdrew the United States from the Iran Deal, and issued a controversial executive order denying entry into the U.S. to citizens from several Muslim-majority countries. Trump's demand for federal funding of a U.S.–Mexico border wall resulted in the 2018–2019 government shutdown (the longest in American history) and followed with Trump's declaration of a national emergency regarding the U.S. southern border. He ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Trump also appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Trump administration enforced a "zero tolerance" policy of detaining families entering the U.S at the U.S.–Mexico border and controversially separating parents from their children, resulting in national and international outcry.
After Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey in 2017, a former FBI director, Robert Mueller, was appointed as special counsel to take over a prior FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and related matters, including coordination or links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Of Trump campaign advisors and staff, six were indicted and five pled guilty to criminal charges. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion or obstruction of justice, and has often criticized the investigation, calling it a politically motivated "witch hunt".
Mueller concluded his investigation on March 22, 2019 by submitting his report to Attorney General William Barr. On March 24, Barr sent a letter to Congress with his conclusions and on April 18 released a partially redacted version of the full Mueller Report. In the report's first volume, Mueller confirmed that Russia interfered to favor Trump's candidacy and hinder Clinton's, and concluded that the prevailing evidence "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government". In the report's second volume, the investigators documented ten actions by the Trump presidency that could be construed as obstruction of justice. The Mueller team refrained from charging Trump because investigators abided by an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that a sitting president cannot stand trial, and did not exonerate Trump on this issue. Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then said they believed the evidence was not sufficient to demonstrate a criminal offense of obstruction. The Trump administration has rebuffed requests for testimony and documents, including by subpoena, in several ongoing investigations by committees of both house of Congress.
- 1 2016 presidential election
- 2 Transition period and inauguration
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Judicial nominees
- 5 First year
- 6 Leadership style and philosophy
- 7 Domestic policy
- 7.1 Abortion and fetal tissue research
- 7.2 Agriculture
- 7.3 Consumer protections
- 7.4 Criminal justice
- 7.5 Defense
- 7.6 Drug policy
- 7.7 Economy
- 7.8 Education
- 7.9 Election integrity
- 7.10 Environment and energy
- 7.11 Government size and regulations
- 7.12 Guns
- 7.13 Health care
- 7.14 Housing and urban policy
- 7.15 Disaster relief
- 7.16 Immigration
- 7.17 LGBT rights
- 7.18 Science
- 7.19 Veterans affairs
- 7.20 Voting rights
- 7.21 White nationalists and Charlottesville rally
- 8 Foreign policy
- 9 Russia and related investigations
- 10 Ethics
- 11 Elections during the Trump presidency
- 12 Historical evaluations and public opinion
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes
- 15 References
2016 presidential election
On November 9, 2016, Republicans Donald Trump of New York and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana won the 2016 election, defeating Democrats 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, receiving nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump. Trump thus became the fifth person to win the presidency while losing the popular vote. In the concurrent congressional elections, Republicans maintained majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Trump made false claims that massive amounts of voter fraud – up to 5 million illegal votes – in Clinton's favor occurred during the election, and he called for a major investigation after taking office. Numerous studies have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
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 was inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Accompanied by his wife, Melania Trump, he was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. In his seventeen-minute inaugural address, Trump made a broad condemnation of contemporary America, pledging to end "American carnage" and saying that America's "wealth, strength and confidence has dissipated". He 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". At the age of seventy, Trump surpassed Ronald Reagan and became the oldest person to assume the presidency, and the first without any prior government or military experience.
The Trump administration has been characterized by record turnover, particularly among White House staff. By the end of his first year in office, 34 percent of Trump's original staff had resigned, been fired, or been reassigned. As of early March 2018[update], 43 percent of senior White House positions had turned over.
On September 5, 2018, The New York Times published an article entitled "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration", written by an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration. The author asserted that "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."
Days after the presidential election, Trump selected RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff. Priebus and Senior Counselor Steve Bannon were named as "equal partners" within the White House power structure, although Bannon was not an official member of the Cabinet. On November 18, Trump announced that he had chosen Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General.
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. His final initial Cabinet-level nominee, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was confirmed on May 12, 2017.
In July 2017, John F. Kelly, who had served as Secretary of Homeland Security, replaced Priebus as Chief of Staff. Bannon was fired in August 2017, leaving Kelly as one of the most powerful individuals in the White House. 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. Kirstjen Nielsen succeeded Kelly as Secretary in December 2017. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired via a tweet in March 2018; Trump appointed Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson and Gina Haspel to succeed Pompeo as the Director of the CIA. In the wake of a series of controversies, Scott Pruitt resigned as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in July 2018. Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler is slated to serve as acting administrator beginning July 9, 2018. At the time of Pruitt's resignation, he is the fifth member of Trump's cabinet to resign or be fired since Trump took office.
Since taking office, Trump has made two unsuccessful cabinet nominations. Andrew Puzder was nominated for the position of Secretary of Labor in 2017, while Ronny Jackson, who had previously served as the President's physician, was nominated as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in 2018. Each withdrew their name from consideration after facing opposition in the Senate.
In the first 13 months of the administration of Donald Trump, 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%.
Firing of Michael Flynn
On February 13, 2017, Trump fired Michael Flynn from the post of National Security Adviser on grounds 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 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".
Firing of James Comey
On May 9, 2017, Trump dismissed FBI director James Comey, stating that he had accepted the recommendations of the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to dismiss Comey. Sessions' recommendation was based on Rosenstein's, while Rosenstein wrote that Comey should be dismissed for his handling of the conclusion of the FBI investigation into the Hillary Clinton email controversy.
On May 10, Trump met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Based on White House notes of the meeting, Trump told the Russians: "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job ... I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." On May 11, Trump said in a videoed interview: "... regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey ... in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story." On May 18, Rosenstein told members of the U.S. Senate that he recommended Comey's dismissal while knowing that Trump had already decided to fire Comey. On May 31, Trump wrote on Twitter: "I never fired James Comey because of Russia!"
In the aftermath of Comey's firing, the events were compared with those of the "Saturday Night Massacre" during Richard Nixon's administration, and there was debate over whether Trump had provoked a constitutional crisis as he had dismissed the man leading an investigation into Trump's associates.
Comey had previously prepared seven detailed memos, four of which contained classified information, documenting most of his meetings and telephone conversations with President Trump. He provided some of the memos to his friend Daniel Richman, who then released the substance of the memos to the press. Comey later 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". 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.
Resignation of Jim Mattis
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis informed Trump of his resignation following Trump's abrupt December 19, 2018 announcement that the remaining 2,000 American troops in Syria would be withdrawn, against the recommendations of his military and civilian advisors. In his resignation letter, Mattis appeared to criticize Trump's worldview, praising NATO, which Trump has often derided, as well as the Defeat-ISIS coalition that Trump had just decided to abandon. Mattis' resignation became effective on February 28, 2019
On January 31, 2017, Trump nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy which arose after the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia and which had not been filled under the then-president Obama because of Republican obstruction. Gorsuch's appointment was confirmed on April 7, 2017, in a 54–45 vote. Prior to this nomination, the support of three-fifths of the Senate had effectively been required for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees due to the Senate filibuster. However, the Senate's Republican majority changed the rules for the filibuster via the so-called "nuclear option," and the confirmation of Supreme Court justices now requires only a simple majority vote.
In June 2018, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely considered to be the key swing vote on the Supreme Court, announced his retirement. On July 9, 2018, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy caused by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy impending retirement. During the confirmation process, Kavanaugh was accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, currently a professor in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University, while they were both in high school. On October 6, the Senate voted 50–48 to confirm Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.
By November 2018, Trump had appointed 29 judges to the United States courts of appeals, more than any other president in the first two years of a presidential term. Compared to President Obama, Trump has nominated fewer non-white and female judges. Bloomberg News noted that Trump's judicial nominees tended to be young and favored by the conservative Federalist Society.
One of Trump's major first year accomplishments, made as part of a "100-day pledge", was the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Structurally, President Trump had the advantage of a Republican Party majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, but was unable to fulfill his major pledges in his first 100 days and had an approval rating of between 40 and 42 percent, "the lowest for any first-term president at this point in his tenure". Although he tried to make progress on one of his key economic policies—the dismantling of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—his failure to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the first 100 days was a major setback. He reversed his position on a number of issues including labeling China as a currency manipulator, NATO, launching the 2017 Shayrat missile strike without congressional approval, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), renomination of Janet Yellen as Chair of the Federal Reserve, and the nomination of Export-Import Bank directors. Supporters claimed that as the first person in history to have been elected president who has never held any military, political, or government office of any type, he therefore faced a steep learning curve.
Trump signed 24 executive orders in his first 100 days, the most executive orders of any president since World War II. He also signed 22 presidential memoranda, 20 presidential proclamations, and 28 bills. About a dozen of those bills roll-back regulations finalized during the last months of his immediate predecessor Barack Obama's presidency using the Congressional Review Act. Most of the other bills are "small-scale measures that appoint personnel, name federal facilities or modify existing programs." None of Trump's bills are considered to be "major bills"—based on a "longstanding political-science standard for 'major bills'." Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that "based on a legislative standard"—which is what the first 100 days has been judged on since the tenure of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who enacted 76 laws in 100 days including nine that were "major"—"Trump is really pretty low down on the list."
On January 31, Trump nominated U.S. Appeals Court judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat on the Supreme Court previous held by Justice Antonin Scalia until his death in 2016. Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate on April 7, 2017.
In December 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, lowered personal tax brackets, increased child tax credit, doubled the estate tax threshold to $11.2 million, and limited the state and local tax deduction to $10,000. The reduction in individual tax rates ends in 2025. While people would generally get a tax cut, those with higher incomes would see the most benefit. Households in the lower or middle class would also see a small tax increase after the tax cuts expire. The bill is estimated to increase deficits by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
Leadership style and philosophy
Trump reportedly eschews reading detailed briefing documents, including the President's Daily Brief, in favor of receiving oral briefings. Intelligence briefers reportedly repeat the President's name and title in order to keep his attention. He is also known to acquire information by watching up to eight hours of television each day, most notably Fox News programs such as Fox & Friends and Hannity, whose broadcast talking points Trump sometimes repeats in public statements, particularly in early morning tweets. Trump reportedly expresses anger if intelligence analysis contradicts his beliefs or public statements, with two briefers stating they have been instructed by superiors to not provide Trump with information that contradicts his public statements.
Trump has reportedly fostered chaos as a management technique, resulting in low morale and policy confusion among his staff, although he has maintained his White House runs like a "well-oiled machine." Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, noted that Trump possesses several management qualities that are prevalent among many leaders, including narcissism and dishonesty, but added, "With a modicum of management skill he could have gotten his wall, and he would probably be on the path to re-election. But he has very few accomplishments to his credit." Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin found Trump lacks several traits of an effective leader, including "humility, acknowledging errors, shouldering blame and learning from mistakes, empathy, resilience, collaboration, connecting with people and controlling unproductive emotions." The New York Times reported that "before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals."
In January 2018, Axios reported that Trump's working hours were typically around 11am to 6pm (a later start and an earlier end compared to the beginning of his presidency) and that he was holding fewer meetings during his working hours, in order to accommodate Trump's desire for more unstructured free time (labelled as "executive time"). Later that year, Politico reported Trump's schedule for October 22–26 that he never started work earlier than 11am, had large amounts of "executive time" and only a total of two hours of policy briefings in five days. In 2019, Axios published Trump's schedule from November 7, 2018 to February 1, 2019, and calculated that around 60% of the time between 8am to 5pm was "executive time".
False and misleading statements
As president, Trump has made so many false statements in public speeches, remarks, and in tweets, that media commentators and fact-checkers have described the rate of his falsehoods as unprecedented for an American president or even unprecedented in politics. This trait of his was similarly observed when he was a presidential candidate. His falsehoods have become a distinctive part of his political identity, and they have also described as part of a gaslighting tactic. His White House has dismissed the idea of objective truth, and his campaign and presidency have been described as being "post-truth" and hyper-Orwellian, Trump's rhetorical signature includes disregarding data from federal institutions which are incompatible to his arguments, quoting hearsay, anecdotal evidence and questionable claims in partisan media, denying reality (including his own statements), and distracting when falsehoods are exposed.
During the first year of Trump's presidency, The Washington Post's fact-checker 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." By August 2018, the pace of the false statements increased substantially. In June and July alone 968 new incidences had been noted, and a total of 4,229 "false or misleading" statements had by then been recorded in his tenure. Immigration issues led the subject list at that point, with 538 recorded mendacities.
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.
Trump's presidency started out with a series of falsehoods initiated by Trump himself. The day after his inauguration, he falsely accused the media of lying about the size of the inauguration crowd. Then he proceeded to exaggerate the size, and Sean Spicer backed up his claims. When Spicer was accused of intentionally misstating the figures, Kellyanne Conway, in an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, defended Spicer by stating that he merely presented "alternative facts". Other notable claims by Trump which fact checkers rated false include the claim that his electoral college victory was a "landslide" and that Hillary Clinton received 3-5 million illegal votes.
In the seven weeks leading up to the midterm elections—it had risen to an average of 30 per day from 4.9 during his first 100 days in office. The Washington Post found that Trump averaged 15 false statements per day during 2018. As of May 2019, Trump had made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims.
Rule of law
Shortly before Trump secured the 2016 Republican nomination, The New York Times reported that "legal experts across the political spectrum say" Trump's rhetoric reflected "a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law," adding "many conservative and libertarian legal scholars warn that electing Mr. Trump is a recipe for a constitutional crisis." A group named "Originalists Against Trump" declared in October 2016, "Trump's long record of statements and conduct have shown him indifferent or hostile to the Constitution's basic features." As the Trump presidency unfolded, numerous prominent conservative Republicans expressed similar concerns that Trump's perceived disregard for the rule of law betrayed conservative principles. The Times reported in November 2018 that more than a dozen members of the conservative-libertarian Federalist Society — which had been instrumental in selecting Trump's appointments to federal courts — "are urging their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration's betrayals of bedrock legal norms."
During the first two years of his presidency, Trump repeatedly sought to influence the Justice Department to investigate those he saw as his political adversaries — including Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, James Comey and the FBI — regarding a variety of persistent allegations, at least some of which had already been investigated or debunked. In spring 2018, Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn that he wanted to order the DOJ to prosecute Clinton and Comey, but McGahn advised Trump that such action would constitute abuse of power and invite possible impeachment. In May 2018 Trump demanded the DOJ to investigate "whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes," which the DOJ referred to its inspector general. Although it is not unlawful for a president to exert influence on the DOJ to open an investigation, presidents have assiduously avoided doing so to prevent perceptions of political interference. Some of Trump's congressional allies asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the FBI and an alleged Uranium One controversy involving Clinton; Sessions instead appointed in May 2018 federal prosecutor John Huber to examine the matters and make a recommendation as to whether a special counsel was justified. Sessions otherwise resisted demands by Trump and his allies for investigations, causing Trump to repeatedly express frustration, saying at one point, "I don't have an attorney general." Matthew Whitaker, a Trump loyalist whom the President appointed to succeed Sessions as Acting Attorney General in November 2018, had in 2017 reportedly provided private advice to Trump on how the White House might pressure the Justice Department to investigate the President's adversaries, including appointing a special counsel to investigate the FBI and Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Whitaker criticized Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 landmark Supreme Court decision that established the bedrock principle of judicial review that empowered courts to strike down statutes and government actions that contravene the Constitution.
In an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting president, in November 2018 Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts responded to Trump's characterization of a judge who had ruled against his policies as an "Obama judge," adding "That's not law." Roberts wrote, "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
Relationship with the press
Early into his presidency, the administration developed a highly contentious relationship with the media, repeatedly describing it as the "fake news media" and "the enemy of the people". Through August 2018, at least three journalists received threatening phone calls from men calling them the enemy of the people, with one suspect being arrested by the FBI for making death threats. Trump both privately and publicly mused about taking away critical reporters' White House press credentials (despite, during his campaign, promising not to do so once he became president). At the same time, the Trump White House gave temporary press passes to far-right pro-Trump fringe outlets, such as InfoWars and The Gateway Pundit, which are known for publishing hoaxes and conspiracy theories.
On his first day in office, Trump falsely accused journalists of understating the size of the crowd at his inauguration, and called the media "among the most dishonest human beings on earth". Trump's claims were notably defended by Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, who claimed that the inauguration crowd had been the biggest in history, a claim disproven by photographs. Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway then defended Sean Spicer when asked about the falsehood, saying that it was an "alternative fact", not a falsehood.
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. On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted, "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"  Trump's first press conference was also the last (as of January 2019). 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. Later in the month, the 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 2017, 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 "requested that the advertiser remove the false graphic that the 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", and "an unprecedented act of censorship in America that should concern every freedom-loving citizen".
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: "People got vastly more misinformation from Donald Trump than they did from fake news websites".
In May 2018, Trump tweeted that "91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake)." The Washington Post described this Trump making it "explicit" that negative coverage on him has to be fake. Also that month, journalist Lesley Stahl recounted that after Trump won the 2016 presidential election, he had told her that he kept attacking the media to "demean" and "discredit", "so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you". Trump also attacked The New York Times on their coverage of a White House briefing on the 2018 North Korea–United States summit. Trump claimed that the anonymous "senior White House official" that the newspaper quoted "doesn't exist", instructing: "Use real people, not phony sources". Following Trump's claim, journalists provided audio evidence of the official being introduced as Matt Pottinger of the National Security Council, with White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah insisting that Pottinger's anonymity was required. The White House's invitation for the briefing to journalists also surfaced.
The Boston Globe called for a nationwide refutation of Trump's "dirty war" against the media, with the hashtag #EnemyOfNone. Over 300 news outlets joined the campaign. The New York Times called Trump's attacks "dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy" and published excerpts from dozens of further publications. The New York Post wrote, "It may be frustrating to argue that just because we print inconvenient truths doesn't mean that we're fake news, but being a journalist isn't a popularity contest. All we can do is to keep reporting." The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, "If the press is not free from reprisal, punishment or suspicion for unpopular views or information, neither is the country. Neither are its people"
On August 16, 2018 the Senate unanimously passed a resolution affirming that "the press is not the enemy of the people," marking the second time the Senate had unanimously rebuked Trump within a month.
In October 2018, Trump praised US representative Greg Gianforte for assaulting political reporter Ben Jacobs in 2017. According to analysts, the incident marked the first time the President has "openly and directly praised a violent act against a journalist on American soil". Later that month, as CNN and prominent Democrats were targeted with bombs, Trump initially condemned the bomb attempts but shortly thereafter blamed the "Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News" for causing "a very big part of the Anger we see today in our society."
In a May 2017 interview with NBC News anchorman Lester Holt, Trump stated he was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey. Trump's statement raised concerns of potential obstruction of justice. In May 2018 Trump denied firing Comey because of the Russia investigation. In August 2018 Trump tweeted that "Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia," followed by his attorney Jay Sekulow asserting in September 2018 that NBC had edited the Trump interview. Neither Trump nor Sekulow produced evidence that the tape had been modified.
Following a contentious Trump press conference on November 7, 2018 in which CNN reporter Jim Acosta was criticized by Trump and press secretary Sarah Sanders for perceived disruptive behavior, including an alleged assault on a White House intern as she attempted to take a microphone from Acosta, the White House revoked Acosta's press pass. CNN sued Trump and several of his aides six days later, asserting that Acosta's due process and First Amendment rights had been violated. The case was heard by Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee to the District Court for the District of Columbia who ruled on November 16 that Acosta's due process rights had been violated and his press pass must be restored. Kelly made no ruling on the First Amendment issue. Sanders faced criticism for tweeting a video clip that originated from Paul Joseph Watson of Infowars purporting to prove the alleged assault, which differed from original video of the incident, resulting in a misleading impression that Acosta had aggressively thrust his hand at the intern. Later asked if the video had been altered, Trump aide Kellyanne Conway replied, "That's not altered, that's sped up," likening it to a television replay of a sporting event.
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". A federal judge ruled in May 2018 that Trump's blocking of other Twitter users due to opposing political views violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and that he must unblock them; however, according to a plaintiff, Trump has yet to comply with the unblocking order. The administration has appealed the court's ruling.
His tweets have been reported as ill-considered, impulsive, vengeful, and bullying, often being made late at night or in the early hours of the morning. His tweets about a Muslim ban were successfully turned 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.
Many tweets appear to be based on stories that Trump has seen in the media, including far-right news websites such as Breitbart, and television shows such as Fox & Friends. One notable example is the Trump Tower wiretapping allegations which appeared to originate in an unsubstantiated claim by Andrew Napolitano on Fox News. Despite a lack of evidence for the claims, Trump continued to push the claim in media and through Twitter.
Trump has used Twitter to attack federal judges who have ruled against him in court cases and to criticize officials within his own administration, including then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then-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!" In August 2018, Trump used Twitter to write that Attorney General Jeff Sessions "should stop" the special counsel investigation immediately; he also referred to it as "rigged" and its investigators as biased.
Abortion and fetal tissue research
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. In 2018, the United States was the only country to oppose a nonbinding draft resolution in the United Nations designed to combat violence against women; the administration raised concern about a reference to "sexual and reproductive health", which it believed could be interpreted as support for abortion rights. The administration also argued that resolution might conflate "physical violence against women with sexual harassment." In 2018, the Trump administration prohibited scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from acquiring new fetal tissue for research.
The administration geared HHS funding towards abstinence education programs for teens rather than the comprehensive sexual education programs that the Obama administration funded.
Criticizing late-term abortion, in his January 2019 State of the Union Address Trump falsely asserted that a New York law would allow "a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth." At an April 2019 rally he falsely contended, "The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”
Farmers have been a large component of Trump's political base. Trump's fiscal 2020 budget proposed a 15% funding cut for the Agriculture Department, calling farm subsidies "overly generous," at a time when American farmers were in their worst crisis in decades because of Trump's trade tariffs combined with depressed commodities prices. Richard Guebert, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, which describes itself as "the voice of agricultural producers at all levels," remarked, "We are very concerned and disappointed with the administration's proposed budget."
The New York Times reported in April 2019 that Wisconsin dairy farmers were facing "extinction" because Trump trade policies had exacerbated years of depressed prices caused by a production glut. Although the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) Trump had negotiated would have given dairy farmers better access to Canadian markets, the expected benefits had not materialized because the treaty had not been approved by the Senate. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a farm state, wrote an April 2019 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled "Trump’s Tariffs End or His Trade Deal Dies," stating "Congress won’t approve USMCA while constituents pay the price for Mexican and Canadian retaliation." Trump announced three weeks later that the steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada would be lifted.
Politico reported in May 2019 that some economists in the Economic Research Service of the Agriculture Department felt they were being punished for presenting analysis showing that farmers were being harmed by Trump's trade and tax policies, with six economists having more than 50 years of combined experience at the Service resigning on the same day of April 2019.
In October 2017, Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate 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. Financial firms lobbied for years against the rule; the Associated Press characterized the reversal as a victory for Wall Street banks.
In December 2017, the Trump administration scrapped a proposed rule from the Obama administration that airlines disclose baggage fees. The Trump administration reduced enforcement of regulations against airlines; the fines levied by the administration in 2017 were less than half of what the Obama administration did the year before.
Under Mick Mulvaney's tenure the CFPB reduced enforcement of rules that protected consumers from predatory payday lenders. Center for Responsive Politics data showed Mulvaney ranked ninth among all members of Congress in campaign donations from the payday lending industry during the 2015-16 election cycle.
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", and overhauling "programs that the Obama administration used to ease tensions between communities and the police."
In July 2017, the Department of Justice reinstated the use of asset forfeiture, which is the practice of seizing the property of crime suspects who have not been charged or convicted with a crime. This meant that local authorities in the 24 states that banned the practice or limited its use so that it could now seize property from individuals who have not even been charged with a crime if the property is forwarded to the federal government. Previously, in February 2017, when a sheriff complained about a state senator who proposed legislation to end asset forfeiture, Trump responded, "Who is the state senator? Do you want to give his name? We'll destroy his career."
In December 2017, Trump signed into law the bipartisan First Step Act, as part of several government efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system. The act seeks help with prisoner reinsertion and reduce recidivism, notably by expanding job training and early-release programs, and lowering mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's April 2019 report documented that Trump pressured Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department to re-open the investigation into the Hillary Clinton email controversy.
Presidential pardons and commutations
Trump has issued a number of presidential pardons. In August 2017, he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of contempt of court for failing to comply with court orders to stop racially profiling Hispanics. In March 2018 he pardoned Kristian Saucier, a sailor convicted for taking pictures aboard a nuclear submarine. In April 2018, Trump pardoned Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in the investigation of the leak of the covert identity of Central Intelligence Agency officer Valerie Plame Wilson. In May 2018, Trump granted a posthumous pardon to black heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, who had been convicted in 1913 for taking his white girlfriend across state lines, per the "moral purity" Mann Act of 1910. That same month, Trump pardoned conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza, who was convicted of illegal campaign contributions in a 2012 Senate race. The New York Times remarked that Trump took no action on more than 10,000 pending applications and that he solely used his pardon power on "public figures whose cases resonated with him given his own grievances with investigators." In June 2018, Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson, a 63-year old who was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, after Kim Kardashian met Trump to lobby for her cause. In July 2018, Trump pardoned two Oregon ranchers who were convicted of intentionally setting fires on public land in Oregon, and whose prison sentences prompted armed protestors led by Clive Bundy to violently seize the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for 41 days in 2016. In May 2019, Trump pardoned Conrad Black, a billionaire fraudster who had written a fawning book about Trump, and Pat Nolan, a Republican politician who pleaded guilty to public corruption.
During 2018, Trump asserted he had secured the largest defense budget authorization ever, the first military pay raise in ten years, and that military spending was at least 4.0% of GDP, "which got a lot bigger since I became your president." These statements were false.
As a candidate and as president, Trump called for a major build-up of American military capabilities, including increasing the nuclear arsenal tenfold. He stated he was open to allowing Japan and South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. He announced in October 2018 that America would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia to enable America to counter increasing Chinese intermediate nuclear missile capabilities in the Pacific. In December 2018, Trump complained about the amount America spends on an "uncontrollable arms race" with Russia and China. Trump stated the $716 billion America is now spending on the "arms race" was "Crazy!," after praising his increased defense spending five months earlier. The total fiscal 2019 defense budget authorization was $716 billion, although missile defense and nuclear programs comprised about $10 billion of the total.
In a May 2017 departure from the Obama DOJ's policy to reduce long jail sentencing for minor drug offenses, Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek maximum sentencing for drug offenses. 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 a January 2018 move that created uncertainty regarding the legality of recreational and medical marijuana, 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 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.
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Prior to Trump's election, the American economy had been expanding for over seven years, with steady growth in employment, a declining unemployment rate, and steadily rising home values, stock values and household income/wealth. Trump's economic policies centered around tax cuts, deregulation, trade protectionism and immigration reduction. As candidate and president, Trump claimed his policies would spur much higher GDP growth, stating in December 2017, "I see no reason why we don't go to 4, 5, even 6 percent," figures that economists generally consider impossible to achieve on a sustained basis. In July 2018, Trump stated, "We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election, a number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it." During the 19 months since the election, nearly 3.7 million jobs were created; during the 19 months prior to the election, 4.3 million jobs were created. Trump also stated, "More than 10 million additional Americans had been added to food stamps, past years. But we've turned it all around." SNAP participation had been steadily declining since December 2012.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump proposed $1 trillion in infrastructure investments. In February 2018, Trump released a $1.5 trillion federal infrastructure plan, but left the details of the plan for Congress to solve, including how to pay for it. Congress showed little enthusiasm for the plan.
One of the administration's first actions was to indefinitely suspend a cut in fee rates for HUD mortgages implemented by 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 DOJ announced it would not defend in courts a mandate that would have extended overtime benefits to more than 4 million workers.
In September 2017, the 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).
According to The New York Times, the plan would result in a "huge windfall" for the very wealthy but would not benefit those in the bottom third of the income distribution. 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. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argued that the corporate income tax cut will benefit workers the most; however, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, Congressional Budget Office and many economists estimated that owners of capital would benefit vastly more than workers. 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 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 dollars; "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's 2017 tax reform.
During his tenure, Trump repeatedly sought to intervene in the economy in ways to determine corporate winners and losers. This was a shift from Republican orthodoxy. Trump, for example, sought to compel power grid operators to buy coal and nuclear energy, and sought tariffs on metals to protect domestic metal producers. Trump also publicly attacked Boeing and Lockheed Martin, sending their stocks tumbling. Trump repeatedly singled out Amazon for criticism and advocated steps that would harm the company, such as ending a mutually lucrative arrangement between Amazon and the US Postal Service and raising taxes on Amazon. Trump linked his criticism of Amazon to the fact that Amazon is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, which Trump has derided as "fake news". Trump expressed vociferous opposition to the merger between Time Warner (the parent company of CNN) and AT&T.
In March 2018, Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, triggering a series of tit for tat tariffs and threatened additional tariffs from multiple nations, which by June 2018 had escalated into what some characterized as a trade war The trade dispute disrupted global commerce, with the New York Times noting that "shipments are slowing at ports and airfreight terminals around the world. Prices for crucial raw materials are rising. At factories from Germany to Mexico, orders are being cut and investments delayed. American farmers are losing sales as trading partners hit back with duties of their own." By June 2018, negative effects of the Trump tariffs policy had begun to ripple through the American economy, in particular the agriculture sector. In July 2018, China retaliated with a $34 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods. Trump had signaled that he might impose an additional $200 billion in tariffs if China imposed their own tariffs, with the potential for a further $200 billion, in an escalating trade war. China and the United States entered into negotiations in the summer of 2018 to seek a comprehensive solution to their trade conflict, but the talks ended without agreement on May 10, 2019, and that day Trump carried out his earlier threat to impose additional tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. Some economists estimated that the cumulative effect of the continuing trade conflict could raise costs for the average American household by several hundreds of dollars per year.
Upon taking office, Trump halted trade negotiations with the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which had been under way since 2013. In May 2018, Trump initiated a trade conflict with the EU by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum, for which the EU retaliated in June with tariffs of their own, with Trump threatening to escalate the conflict with additional tariffs. In July 2018, Trump and the EU declared a truce of sorts, announcing they would enter into negotiations for an agreement similar to the TTIP.
The New York Times reported on August 5, 2018 that two major American steel companies with close ties to senior Trump administration officials had succeeded in blocking requests from 1,600 American manufacturing companies for waivers of the steel tariffs, compelling them to purchase more expensive American steel. Nucor had financed a documentary made by Peter Navarro, Trump's Director of the White House National Trade Council, and US Steel had previously been represented in legal matters by Trump's trade representative Robert Lighthizer and his deputy Jeffrey Gerrish.
Analysis conducted by Bloomberg News at the end of Trump's second year in office found that his economy ranked sixth among the last seven presidents, based on fourteen metrics of economic activity and financial performance.
During his February 2019 State of the Union Address, Trump asserted, "Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades, and growing for blue collar workers, who I promised to fight for, faster than anyone else." However, nominal wage growth for production and nonsupervisory workers averaged 3.0% during 2018, the highest rate since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, the 2018 average growth rate for such workers was 0.5%, the highest rate since 2016, when real wages rose 1.2%. Real wage growth was lower during both of Trump's first two years in office than during any of the preceding four years.
The Trump campaign economic policy, as expressed by Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross in a September 2016 white paper, included a priority of "eliminating America's chronic trade deficit," particularly with China. However, the overall trade deficit increased in both of Trump's first two years in office, up 10% in 2017 and 13% in 2018, compared to single-digit increases during each of the preceding three years. The deficit in goods, Trump's preferred trade balance measure, increased 8% in 2017 and 10% in 2018, reaching a record high of $891 billion in 2018. The goods deficit with China reached a record high for the second consecutive year in 2018, up 12% from 2017. The overall deficits were mitigated somewhat by surpluses in services, continuing a trend of many years.
According to two 2019 studies, Trump's trade war harmed the U.S. economy, with U.S. consumers bearing the brunt of the cost.
Shortly after being elected, Trump cited a handful of anecdotes to assert that foreign investment had begun pouring into America because of his election. However, aggregate statistical data showed that foreign direct investment—the total flow of investment capital into the United States from the rest of the world—declined sharply during Trump's first two years in office, down 40% compared to the two years immediately preceding his presidency.
In April 2019, one week after asserting, "the economy is roaring" and "our country has never done better economically," Trump called for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates and renew quantitative easing to stimulate economic growth. Trump has been repeatedly critical of the Fed's use of low interest rates and quantitative easing to boost the economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession during the Obama presidency.
Analysis conducted by CNBC in May 2019 found that Trump "enacted tariffs equivalent to one of the largest tax increases in decades," while Tax Foundation and Tax Policy Center analyses found the tariffs could wipe out the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 for many households. While Trump has repeatedly asserted that his tariffs contribute to GDP growth, the consensus among analysts — including Trump's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow — is that the Trump tariffs have had a small to moderately negative effect on GDP growth. Kudlow was also quoted as being in support of the administrations efforts to renegotiate tariffs with China, stating that this is, “a risk we should and can take without damaging our economy in any appreciable way” in order “to correct 20 years plus of unfair trading practices with China.” Kudlow went on to state that, “We have had unfair trading practices all these years, and so in my judgment, the economic consequences are so small that the possible improvement in trade and exports and open markets for the United States, this is worthwhile doing,”.
In March 2017, the Trump administration revoked an Obama administration memo which provided protections for people in default on student loans. In September 2017, the Department of Education announced that it would cancel agreements with the CFPB to police student loan fraud. In August 2018, Seth Frotman, the CFPB student loan ombudsman, resigned, accusing the Trump administration of undermining the CFPB's work on protecting student borrowers.
In September 2017, the Trump administration scrapped an Obama administration guidance on how schools and universities should combat sexual harassment and sexual violence. DeVos criticized the guidance for undermining the rights of those accused of sexual harassment.
In May 2018, a New York Times investigation found that DeVos had marginalized an investigative unit within the Department of Education which under Obama investigated predatory activities by for-profit colleges. The unit had been scaled down from a dozen employees to three, and had been repurposed to process student loan forgiveness applications and focus on smaller compliance cases. An investigation started under Obama into the practices of DeVry Education Group, which operates for-profit colleges, was halted in early 2017, and the former dean at DeVry was made into the supervisor for the investigative unit later that summer. DeVry paid a $100 million fine in 2016 for defrauding students. In August 2018, the administration rescinded a regulation that restricted federal funding and financial aid to for-profit colleges unable to demonstrate that college graduates had a reasonable debt-to-earnings ratio after entering the job market.
On the eve of the 2018 mid-term elections, Politico described the Trump administration's efforts to combat election propaganda as "rudderless". At the same time, U.S. intelligence agencies warned about "on-going campaigns" by Russia, China and Iran to influence American elections.
Environment and energy
By December 2018, the administration had overturned or was in process of rolling back 78 environmental regulations. A 2018 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that that in the first six months of Pruitt's tenure as EPA head the agency adopted a pro-business attitude unlike that of any previous administration. The study argued that the EPA "moved away from the public interest and explicitly favored the interests of the regulated industries." The study found that the agency was vulnerable to regulatory capture and that the consequences for public and environmental health could be far-reaching. 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 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 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 2018, the Trump administration referred the lowest number of pollution cases for criminal prosecution in 30 years. Two years into Trump's presidency, The New York Times wrote he had "unleashed a regulatory rollback, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, with little parallel in the past half-century."
Moments after Trump's inauguration, the White House removed all references to climate change on its website, with the sole exception of mentioning Trump's intention to eliminate the Obama administration's climate change policies. By April, the EPA had removed climate change material on its website, including detailed climate data and scientific information. Anticipating political interference that could result in loss of government data on climate, scientists had already sourced links and copied the data into independent servers.
In January 2017, the administration instituted a temporary media blackout for the EPA, saying that this was to make sure the messages going out reflected the new administration's priorities. In February 2017, the 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. The EPA hired an opposition research firm associated with the Republican Party for $120,000 in a no-bid contract to investigate EPA employees who had expressed criticism of the management of the EPA under Pruitt's tenure. In March 2018, leaked memos showed that EPA employees had been issued guidelines to use climate change denial talking points in official communications about climate change. In October 2018, the EPA disbanded a 20-expert panel on pollution which advised the EPA on the appropriate threshold levels to set for air quality standards.
In February 2017, Trump and Congress removed a rule that required oil, gas and mining firms 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. The administration withdrew from the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI was aimed at fighting corruption by requiring the disclosure of payments and donations made by oil, gas and mining companies to governments.
The administration invalidated the Stream Protection Rule, a regulation 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. The administration rolled back regulations which limited dumping by power plants of toxic wastewater containing metals like arsenic and mercury into public waterways, Obama-era regulations on coal ash (carcinogenic leftover waste produced by coal plants), and an Obama-era executive order on protections for oceans, coastlines and lakes which was enacted after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The EPA sought to repeal a regulation which required oil and gas companies to restrict emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In July 2018, the EPA granted a loophole allowing a small set of trucking companies to skirt emissions rules, allowing the firms to produce trucks that emit 40 to 55 times the air pollutants of other new trucks.
In March 2017, Trump issued an executive order 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 (CPP), 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. A 2019 projection by the Energy Information Administration estimated that coal production without CPP would decline over coming decades at a faster rate than indicated in the agency's 2017 projection, which had assumed the CPP was in effect.
That same month, the EPA rejected a ban on the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, which the EPA's own agency staff had recommended banning due to extensive research showing adverse health effects on children. In August 2018, a federal court ordered the EPA to ban the pesticide, because EPA heads had ignored conclusions of the EPA's own scientists.
In June 2017, Trump announced U.S. withdrawal 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 administration suspended a number of large research programs, such as a $1 million National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on the public health effects of mountaintop removal coal-mining, a $580,000 NAS study intended to make offshore drilling safer, a multimillion-dollar program that distributed grants for research the effects of chemical exposure on children, and $10-million-a-year research line for NASA's Carbon Monitoring System. The administration unsuccessfully sought to kill aspects of NASA's climate science program.
In August 2017, the administration rolled back regulations requiring the federal government to account for climate change and sea-level rise when building infrastructure.
By October 2017, the EPA 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. Internal emails showed that Pruitt's aides in early 2018 prevented the publication of a health study showing that some toxic chemicals endanger humans at far lower levels than the EPA previously characterized as safe. The aides said that the study would be a "potential public relations nightmare" and would attract the attention of the public, media and Congress. The chemical in question was present in high quantities around a number of military bases, including in the ground water. The non-disclosure of the study and the delay in public knowledge of the findings may have prevented the government from updating the infrastructure at the bases and individuals who lived near the bases from avoiding the tap water. In June 2018, the EPA scaled back its health and safety risk assessments of chemicals.
In December 2017, the 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 Zinke advocated for downsizing four additional national monuments and change the way that six additional monuments were managed.
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.
In January 2018, the 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 was 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 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 — which in 2017 employed nearly four times as many American workers as the coal 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 April 2018, Pruitt announced a policy change within the EPA whereby EPA regulators would be prohibited from considering scientific research unless the raw data of the research was made publicly available. This would limit EPA regulators' use of much environmental research, given that participants in many such studies provide personal health information which is kept confidential. The EPA cited two bipartisan reports and various nonpartisan studies about the use of science in government to defend the decision. However, the authors of those reports dismissed that the EPA followed their instructions, with one author saying, "They don't adopt any of our recommendations, and they go in a direction that's completely opposite, completely different. They don't adopt any of the recommendations of any of the sources they cite."
In June 2018, David Cutler and Francesca Dominici of Harvard University estimated conservatively that the Trump administration's modifications to environmental rules could result in over 80 000 additional U.S. deaths and widespread respiratory ailments. In August 2018, the Trump administration's own analysis showed that the administration's loosening of restrictions on coal plants could cause up to 1,400 premature deaths and 15,000 new cases of respiratory problems.
In July 2018, the administration proposed to change the Endangered Species Act to eliminate automatic protections for threatened plant and animal species, and make it easier to remove species from the list.
The day after Thanksgiving 2018, the administration released the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a long-awaited study conducted by numerous federal agencies that found "the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans' physical, social, and economic well-being are rising." Two days earlier, Trump had repeated his many previous assertions that a current cold weather spell calls global warming science into question, a notion that has been repeatedly debunked by climate scientists. Steven Milloy, a climate-change denier who served on Trump's EPA transition team, called the report a product of the so-called deep state, adding "We don't care. In our view, this is made-up hysteria anyway." He noted that the Administration did not alter the report's findings but rather chose to release it the day after Thanksgiving "on a day when nobody cares, and hope it gets swept away by the next day's news."
In December 2018, the administration joined Russia and the gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in stopping the Katowice climate change conference from welcoming an October 2018 IPCC report on the dangers of climate change.
That same month, the administration rolled back major Clean Water Act protections. Studies by the Obama-era EPA suggest that up to two-thirds of California's inland freshwater streams would lose protections under the rule change.
Government size and regulations
The New York Times found in November 2018 that the administration had "presided over a sharp decline in financial penalties against banks and big companies accused of malfeasance," relative to the Obama administration.
In the first six weeks of his tenure, Trump suspended — or in a few cases, revoked — over 90 regulations. In January 2017, Trump ordered a temporary government-wide hiring freeze of the civilian work force (excluding staff in the military, national security, public safety and offices of new presidential appointees). In February 2017, said he did not intend to fill many of the governmental positions that were still vacant, as he considered them unnecessary; there were nearly 2,000 vacant government positions. The hiring freeze was lifted in April 2017.
In early 2017, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to slash two existing regulations for every new one (without spending on regulations going up). A September 2017 Bloomberg BNA review 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. The Trump OMB released an analysis in February 2018 indicating that the economic benefits of regulations significantly outweigh the economic costs.
In July 2018, the administration ended the requirement that nonprofits, including political advocacy groups who collect so-called "dark money", disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service. Later that year, the Senate voted to overturn the administration's rule change.
In February 2017, the administration rolled back an Obama-era regulation prohibiting gun ownership among the approximately 75,000 individuals who received Social Security checks due to mental illness and who were deemed unfit to handle their financial affairs.
During an address before the National Rifle Association on April 26, 2019, Trump signed a letter that ended American involvement in the Arms Trade Treaty, a United Nations agreement to curb the international trade of conventional arms, including guns, with countries having poor human rights records. America had been abiding by the treaty since 2014, although it had not yet been ratified. A White House statement quoted Trump saying, "We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy." The Arms Trade Treaty explicitly preserves "the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory."
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 cover everyone and result in better and less expensive insurance.
Congressional Republicans made two serious efforts to repeal the ACA. First, in March 2017, Trump endorsed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a Republican bill to repeal and replace the ACA. Opposition from several House Republicans, including both moderate and conservatives, led to the defeat of this version of the bill on March 24, 2017. At the time, Trump stated that the "best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode". Several weeks later on May 4, the House narrowly voted in favor of a new version of the AHCA to repeal the ACA, sending the bill to the Senate for deliberation. Over the next weeks 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". The individual mandate was ultimately repealed in December 2017 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The CBO estimated in May 2018 that the repeal of the individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured by 8 million and that individual healthcare insurance premiums increased by 10% between 2017 and 2018.
Trump 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, the advertising budget for enrollment was cut by 90%, and organizations helping people shop for coverage got 39% less money. In September 2017, the administration ordered HHS regional directors not to participate in state open enrollment events, as they had in previous years. A September 2017 report by the (CBO) found that ACA enrollment at health care exchanges would 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 would rise sharply in 2018 due to the Trump administration's refusal to commit to continuing paying ACA subsidies, which added uncertainty to the insurance market and led insurers to raise premiums for fear they will not get subsidized. In June 2018, the administration sided with a lawsuit to overturn the ACA, including protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. In October 2018, Trump stated "Some of the Democrats have been talking about ending (coverage for) pre-existing conditions," and 20 days later he tweeted "Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not!" Politifact rated Trump's statement about Democrats as "Pants on Fire," also noting that eighteen attorneys general and two governors, all Republicans, filed a federal lawsuit in February 2018 that would end coverage for pre-existing conditions, and that the Trump administration had chosen to not challenge the suit.
In October 2017, the administration ended subsidy payments to health insurance companies, saying that they are "moving toward lower costs and more options in the health care market". The decision was expected to raise premiums in 2018 for middle-class families by an average of about 20% nationwide and cost the federal government nearly $200 billion more than it saved over a ten-year period. People with lower incomes would be unaffected because the ACA provides tax credits that ensure their out-of-pocket insurance costs remain stable. The administration made it easier for businesses to use health insurance plans that are not covered by several of the ACA's protections, such as to protect individuals with preexisting conditions. During the 2018 mid-term election campaign, Trump said that "all Republicans", him included, supported protections for individuals with preexisting conditions; at the time, the administration had supported attempts both in Congress and in the courts to roll back the ACA (and its protections for preexisting conditions).
In October 2017, the administration modified a requirement that employer-provided health insurance policies had to cover birth control methods free of charge to women so that 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 administration said that no more than 120,000 women would be affected. In justifying the action, the administration 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 administration reduced enforcement of penalties against nursing homes that harm residents.
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.
As a candidate and throughout his presidency, Trump said he would cut the costs of pharmaceuticals. During his first seven months in office, there were 96 price hikes for every drug price cut. In May 2018, Trump announced that he would not allow Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices from pharmaceutical companies, abandoning a promise he made as candidate. Shortly after the 2018 mid-term elections, the large pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced a price increase for dozens of drugs, after it had reportedly bowed to pressure not to do so earlier by the Trump administration.
The administration's proposed March 2019 budget called for substantial spending cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance. Trump had previously vowed to protect Medicare and Medicaid.
In March 2019, the Justice Department changed its position on the ACA (previously arguing that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional, but could be severed from the whole healthcare law) to argue that the entire law is unconstitutional. In May 2019, the department conducted a filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to nullify the entire ACA, arguing that the removal of the provision on individual mandate results in the entire law becoming unconstitutional. As of that day, President Donald Trump has promised to produce a replacement health insurance plan only after he wins reelection in 2020.
In September 2017, Trump nominated 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. Conway sidelined drug experts and opted instead for the use of political staff. In February 2018, Politico wrote that the administration's "main response" to the opioid crisis had "so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a "just say no" campaign."
In October 2017, the 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, 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.
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 HUD positions were 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." Under Carson's tenure, HUD scaled back the enforcement of fair housing laws, and halted several fair housing investigations started by the Obama administration. In March 2018, HUD removed the words "inclusive" and "free from discrimination" from its mission statement.
In June 2017, the administration designated Lynne Patton, an event planner who had worked on the Trump campaign and planned Eric Trump's wedding, to lead HUD's New York and New Jersey office (which oversees billions of federal dollars).
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma
On August 28, 2017, the Category 4 Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeastern Texas, caused 40-60 inches of rainfall and massive flooding in the Houston area. The next day, Trump visited Corpus Christi near where Harvey made landfall, and the Austin, Texas Emergency Operations Center. On September 8, Trump signed into law H.R. 601, which among other spending actions designated $15 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief. Two weeks later, on September 10, Category 4 Hurricane Irma struck the southwestern tip of Florida and then moved up Florida Gulf coast causing extensive damage and prolonged power outages. Trump visited the impacted area and reviewed relief efforts, promising full financial backing for the state's recovery.
On September 20, 2017, 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 its delayed response to the humanitarian crisis on the island. Politicians of both parties 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 could be more effective in helping.
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. A March 2018 Politico analysis of the administration's response indicated that the administration and Trump himself showed far more attention to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and that the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was slower and weaker. An academic study by the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that the number of hurricane-related deaths during the period September 20, 2017 to December 31, 2017 was around 4,600 (range 793-8,498) The official death rate due to Maria reported by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is 2,975; the figure was based on an independent investigation by George Washington University commissioned by the governor of Puerto Rico. Trump falsely claimed that the official death rate was wrong, and said that the Democrats were trying to make him "look as bad as possible".
In November 2018, while California was experiencing was one of its most destructive wildfires, Trump blamed the fires on "gross" and "poor" "mismanagement" of forests by California, saying that there was no other reason for these wildfires. The New York Times described Trump's claims as misleading, noting that the fires in question were not "forest fires", that most of the forest was owned by federal agencies, and that climate change in part contributed to the fires.
Trump has repeatedly characterized illegal immigrants as criminals, although multiple studies have found they have lower crime and incarceration rates than native-born Americans. 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. In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order directing the DHS Secretary to begin work on a wall. An internal DHS report estimated that Trump's wall would cost $21.6 billion and take 3.5 years to build (far higher than the Trump 2016 campaign's estimate ($12 billion) and the $15 billion estimate from Republican congressional leaders). Other analyses estimated a total cost of up to $25 billion, with the cost of private land acquisitions and fence maintenance pushing the total cost up 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, and implored the Mexican president to stop saying publicly that the Mexican government would not pay for the border wall. In January 2018, the administration proposed spending $18 billion over the next 10 years on the wall, 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.
In February 2017, Trump stated, "According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country." Fact-checkers found that most of those convictions were for cases of terrorism that did not occur in America but were prosecuted in America, and many other cases involved non-violent offenses like fraud or immigration violations. Moreover, an April 2017 analysis by the Government Accountability Office found that between September 12, 2001 and December 31, 2016, 73% of violent extremist incidents resulting in deaths were perpetrated by far right wing violent extremist groups, while 27% were perpetrated by radical Islamist violent extremists.
The administration embraced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act in August 2017. The RAISE Act sought to reduce legal immigration levels to the U.S. by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued, capping refugee admissions at 50,000 a year and ending the visa diversity lottery.
In August 2017, the administration terminated a program that granted temporary legal residence to unaccompanied Central American minors. 2,714 individuals would need to renew their legal residence status through other more difficult immigrant channels. In November 2017, the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) granted to 60,000 Haitians following the 2010 Haiti earthquake was revoked. In January 2018, the 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 will 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 October 2018, a federal judge blocked the administration's attempt to deport the TPS recipients, citing what the judge said was Trump's racial "animus against non-white, non-European immigrants."
An analysis released by Trump's Department of Health and Human Services in September 2017 was found to have removed earlier findings that refugees entering America had a $63 billion net positive effect on tax revenues between 2005 and 2014, with the final report counting only the costs that refugees incur. In July 2018, Sessions rescinded a DOJ guidance on refugees and asylum seekers' right to work, thus prohibiting them from working in the United States.
In October 2017, Secretary of Defense Mattis added additional background checks for non-citizens who served in the military and extended the time that the service members had to serve before they could receive necessary paperwork to pursue US citizenship. As a result of these changes, the number of service members who applied for citizenship through their service declined by 65% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018.
In January 2018, 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 ICE increased by 40% during Trump's tenure. 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.
In March 2018, the Commerce Department announced that it would add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Experts noted that the inclusion of such a question would likely result in severe undercounting of the population and faulty data, as undocumented immigrants would be less likely to respond to the census. Blue states, especially California, are therefore likely to get less congressional apportionment and fund apportionment than they would otherwise get, because they have larger undocumented populations. In response, Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general, announced his attention to sue the administration over the decision. Similar suits were filed in New York, Washington D.C., and several cities. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and immigrants' rights organizations sued in June 2018. Federal District Court judge Jesse Furman blocked the administration plan on January 15, 2019.
In July 2018, experts noted that due to the administration's strict border security policy, there was an increase in criminality and lawlessness along the US-Mexico border. There was a strengthening of ties between human smugglers, organized crime and corrupt local law enforcement along the US-Mexico border, and that organized crime groups were preying on asylum seekers who were prevented by US authorities from filing for asylum.
During the 2018 mid-term election campaign, Trump sent nearly 5,600 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border for the stated purpose of protecting the United States against a caravan of Central American migrants. The Pentagon had previously concluded that the caravan posed no threat to the U.S. The border deployment was estimated to cost as much as $220 million by the end of the year. With daily warnings from Trump about the dangers of the caravan during the mid-terms, the frequency and intensity of the caravan rhetoric nearly stopped after election day.
During his February 2019 State of the Union address, Trump asserted that the border city of El Paso, Texas once had one of the highest violent crime rates in the nation but became one of America's safest cities after a border barrier was built there in 2009. He repeated a variation of that assertion at a rally in El Paso days later. Those assertions were false: El Paso never had one of the country's highest violent crime rates, its rate had long been lower than the average of comparably-sized cities, and the rate had been declining steadily since 1993. Also at that rally, large banners appeared over the stage declaring "Finish the Wall," in contrast to the previous slogan of "Build the Wall." The following day, Trump stated "we're building a lot of wall" and tweeted "it is being built as we speak!" No new barrier construction had yet begun during his presidency. Starting in February 2019 14 miles of new barriers are slated to be built.
Family separation policy
In May 2018, the administration announced it would separate children from parents caught unlawfully crossing the southern border into the United States. Parents were routinely charged with a misdemeanor and jailed; their children were placed in separate detention centers with no established procedure to track them or reunite them with their parent after they had served time for their offence, generally only a few hours or days. Later that month, Trump falsely accused Democrats of creating that policy, despite it originating from his own administration, and urged Congress to "get together" and pass an immigration bill. Members of Congress from both parties condemned the practice and pointed out that the White House could end the separations on its own; Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, "President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call." The Washington Post quoted a White House official as saying that Trump's decision to separate migrant families was to gain political leverage to force Democrats and moderate Republicans to accept hardline immigration legislation.
Six weeks into the implementation of the "zero tolerance" policy, at least 2,300 migrant children had been separated from their families. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association condemned the policy, with the American Academy of Pediatrics saying that the policy was causing "irreparable harm" to the children. The policy was extremely unpopular, more so than any major piece of legislation in recent memory. Images of children held in cage-like detention centers, interviews of sobbing mothers who had no idea where their children were and had not heard from them for weeks and months, and an audio of sobbing children resulted in an outrage calling the practice "inhumane," "cruel" and "evil." On June 30, a national protest drew hundreds of thousands of protesters from all 50 states to demonstrate in more than 600 towns and cities. All four living former First Ladies of the United States—Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama—condemned the policy of separating children from their parents. Amidst the growing outrage, DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen falsely claimed on June 17, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period."
On June 20, 2018, amid worldwide outrage and enormous political pressure to roll back his policy, Trump signed an executive order to end family separations at the U.S. border, unilaterally reversing his policy. He had earlier said that "you can't do it through an executive order." As the result of a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, on June 26, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the family-separation policy. In his opinion, Sabraw wrote that the federal government "readily keeps track of personal property of detainees in criminal and immigration proceedings", yet "has no system in place to keep track of, provide effective communication with, and promptly produce alien children." The injunction required the government to reunite separated families within 30 days except where not appropriate.
On July 26, the administration said that 1,442 children had been reunited with their parents while 711 remain in government shelters because their cases are still under review, their parents have criminal records, or they are no longer in the United States. Administration officials state that 431 parents of those children have already been deported without their children. Officials said they will work with the court to return the remaining children, including the children whose parents have been deported.
During his first nine months in office, Trump issued several directives aimed at restricting entry of certain people into the United States. Each directive was challenged in court.
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 DOJ 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. 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 government officials from Venezuela and their families.
2018–2019 federal government shutdown
On December 22, 2018 the federal government was partially shut down after Trump demanded $5.7 billion in federal funds for a U.S.–Mexico border wall to partly fulfill his campaign promise. The House and Senate lacked votes necessary to support his funding demand and to overcome Trump's refusal to sign the appropriations last passed by Congress into law. In negotiations with Democrat leaders leading up to the shutdown, Trump commented that he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security." The shutdown, which was ended on January 25, 2019, was the longest shutdown in U.S. history, and at over one month in duration it has surpassed the previously longest shutdown of the 21-day shutdown of 1995–96. By mid-January 2019, the White House Council of Economic Advisors estimated that each week of the shutdown reduced GDP by 0.1 percentage points, the equivalent of 1.2 points per quarter.
Reorganization of Department of Homeland Security
Saying he wanted to go in a "tougher direction," Trump began a major reorganization of the DHS on April 5, 2019, first by withdrawing his nomination of Ron Vitiello to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Two days later he forced the resignation of DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Trump named Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan to succeed Nielsen, although by law Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Management Claire Grady was in line to succeed Nielsen; Grady was reported to be leaving the administration. Also leaving were Director of Citizenship and Immigration Lee Cissna and DHS general counsel John Mitnick. The reorganization was reported to be on the recommendation of Trump advisor Stephen Miller, an anti-immigration hardliner. CNN reported that during March 2019 meetings Trump demanded that asylum seekers be denied entry into the country, which he was advised was contrary to law and could expose border agents to personal legal liability. He also demanded that the port of El Paso be closed by noon the next day. CNN quoted a senior administration official as saying, "At the end of the day, the President refuses to understand that the Department of Homeland Security is constrained by the laws." Trump denied reports he planned to renew and expand his family separation policy, asserting "President Obama had child separation. Take a look — the press knows it, you know it, we all know it. I'm the one that stopped it." In contrast to the Trump systematic family separation policy to deter migrants from entering the US, the Obama separation policy was used only in instances when the child's safety was in question or the adult had a prior criminal conviction.
In February 2017, the United States Departments of Justice and Education rescinded a federal bathroom policy for transgender students. In March 2017, the DOJ declined to appeal a nationwide preliminary court injunction temporarily halting enforcement of the Affordable Care Act's nondiscrimination protections on the basis of gender identity. That same month, the DOJ abandoned its request for a preliminary injunction against North Carolina's bathroom law. That same month, HUD announced it would withdraw purposed agency policies designed to protect LGBT homelessness people. The same month, HHS announced that its national survey of older adults would no longer collect information on LGBT participants, and the Census Bureau announced it would remove "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as proposed subjects for possible inclusion on the Decennial Census and/or American Community Survey in the future.
In April 2017, the DOJ and the Labor Department cancelled quarterly conference calls with LGBT organizations. In May 2017, HHS announced a plan to roll back regulations interpreting the Affordable Care Act's nondiscrimination provisions to protect gender identity status. In June 2017, the Department of Education withdrew its finding that an Ohio school district discriminated against a transgender girl. In July 2017, Trump said he would not allow "transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," citing disruptions and medical costs. That same day, the DOJ filed a legal brief on behalf of the United States in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, arguing that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or, implicitly, gender identity.
In September 2017, the DOJ filed a legal brief on behalf of the United States in the Supreme Court, arguing for a constitutional right for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and, implicitly, gender identity. In October 2017, the DOJ reversed an Obama-era policy explicitly that defines gender identity as protected under employment discrimination laws due to what qualifies as employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In October 2017, the DOJ released a memo allowing federal agencies, government contractors, government grantees, and private businesses to engage in discrimination, as long as they can cite religious reasons for doing so. In December 2017, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded that President Trump agrees that it should be possible for a baker to put a sign in their window saying, "We don't bake cakes for gay weddings.". In December 2017, the staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were, allegedly, instructed not to use the words "transgender", "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based" in official documents. In December 2017, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions under the Magnitsky Act on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and a Chechen law enforcement official, Ayub Katayev, citing "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights" in connection with anti-gay purges in Chechnya.
In January 2018, HHS's Office of Civil Rights opened a "Conscience and Religious Freedom Division" that will promote discrimination by health care providers who can cite religious or moral reasons for denying care. Also in January 2018, HHS proposed a rule that encourages medical providers to use religious grounds to deny treatment to transgender people. In February 2018, the United States Department of Education announced it will dismiss complaints from transgender students involving exclusion from school facilities and any other gender identity discrimination claims. In March 2018, President Trump signed Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security Regarding Military Service by Transgender Individuals. If it takes effect, it would prohibit transgender persons, whether transitioned or not, with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria are disqualified from military service, except for individuals who have had 36 consecutive months of stability "in their biological sex prior to accession" and currently serving transgender persons in military service.
In May 2018, the Bureau of Prisons in the DOJ adopted a policy of housing almost all transgender people in federal prison facilities that match their sex assigned at birth, rolling back existing protections for transgender people in federal prisons. In August 2018, the United States Department of Labor released a new directive for Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs staff encouraging religious exemptions to federal contractors with religious-based objections to complying with nondiscrimination laws. It also deleted material from an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs FAQ on nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity that previously clarified the limited scope of allowable religious exemptions. In November 2018, the United States Office of Personnel Management erased guidance that helped federal agency managers understand how to support transgender federal workers and their rights, replacing with a guidance hostile to transgender workers.
In February 2019, the Trump administration launched a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality, an initiative pushed by Richard Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The campaign was spurred by reports of the death of a gay man in Iran, one of the administration's main geopolitical enemies. Asked about the administration's campaign, Trump appeared to be unaware of it.
Trump has nominated two LGBT persons to the federal judiciary (Mary M. Rowland to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and Patrick J. Bumatay to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit). Other high-profile appointments of LGBT persons made by Trump are Richard Grenell as ambassador to Germany, James T. Abbott as a member of Federal Labor Relations Authority, and David Glawe as Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis.
The administration marginalized the role of science in policymaking. It was the first administration since 1941 not to name a White House science advisor. While preparing for talks with Kim Jong Un, the White House did not do so with the assistance of a White House science adviser or senior counselor trained in nuclear physics. The position of chief scientist in the State Department or the Department of Agriculture was not filled. The administration nominated Sam Clovis to be chief scientist in the Agriculture Department, but he had no scientific background and the White House later withdrew the nomination. The administration successfully nominated Jim Bridenstine, who had no background in science and rejected the scientific consensus on climate change, to lead NASA. The Interior Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Food and Drug Administration disbanded advisory committees.
In March 2017, the Energy Department prohibited the use of the term "climate change". In December 2017, the 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." The Director of the CDC denied these reports.
Prior to David Shulkin's firing in April 2018, The New York Times described the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a "rare spot of calm in the Trump administration". Shulkin built upon changes started under the Obama administration to do a long-term overhaul of the VA system. In May 2018, legislation to increase veterans' access to private care was stalled, as was a VA overhaul which sought to synchronize medical records. In May 2018, there were reports of a large number of resignations of senior staffers and a major re-shuffling.
In August 2018, ProPublica reported that a group of three wealthy Mar-a-Lago patrons, who had no experience in the military or the government, formed an "informal council" that strongly shaped VA decision-making, including involving a $10 billion contract to modernize veterans' health records. The trio, which VA staff referred to as "the Mar-a-Lago Crowd", spoke to VA staff daily, and provided instructions on policy and personnel decisions at the agency. The Government Accountability Office announced on November 19, 2018 that it would investigate the matter.
During the 2018 mid-term election campaign, Trump repeatedly and falsely took credit for the Veterans Choice Program, saying it was his "greatest idea" and that it took 44 years for the law to pass. The law in question was signed by President Obama in 2014.
Under the first 18 months of the administration, the DOJ "launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them."
Trump has repeatedly, without evidence, alleged that there is widespread voter fraud, and did so specifically for both the 2016 elections and the 2018 mid-term elections. In May 2017, the administration created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (commonly referred to as the Voter Fraud Commission), with the stated purpose 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. 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 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. 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.
The stated aims of the foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration include a focus on security, by fighting terrorists abroad and strengthening border defenses and immigration controls; an expansion of the U.S. military; an "America First" approach to trade; and diplomacy whereby "old enemies become friends". The foreign policy positions expressed by Trump during his presidential campaign changed frequently, so that it was "difficult to glean a political agenda, or even a set of clear, core policy values ahead of his presidency."
The New York Times reported on January 14, 2019 that on several occasions during 2018 Trump privately stated he wanted America to withdraw from NATO. Top defense and national security officials such as Jim Mattis and John R. Bolton reportedly "scrambled to keep American strategy on track without mention of a withdrawal that would drastically reduce Washington's influence in Europe and could embolden Russia for decades."
A January 2019 intelligence community assessment found that Iran was not pursuing nuclear weapons and North Korea was unlikely to relinquish its nuclear arsenal. Both assessments directly contradicted core tenets of Trump's stated foreign policy. The intelligence community also assessed that Trump's trade policies and unilateralism had damaged traditional alliances and induced foreign partners to seek new relationships. The day after the heads of the intelligence community presented their findings in public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Trump referred to them as "extremely passive and naive" and "wrong" in their assessments. The following day, Trump asserted the press had misquoted the intelligence chiefs' testimony to fabricate a conflict, claiming he and the intelligence community were "on the same page!" In a subsequent interview with The New York Times, Trump falsely asserted that the intelligence community had characterized Iran as "essentially, a wonderful place." 
On February 5, 2019 the Senate voted overwhelmingly to rebuke Trump for his decisions to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Drafted by majority leader Mitch McConnell, the measure was supported by nearly all Republicans and was the second time in two months that the Republican-controlled Senate had criticized the President's foreign policy.
After initially adopting a verbally hostile posture toward North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, Trump quickly pivoted to embrace the regime, stating that he and Kim "fell in love". Trump engaged Kim by meeting him at two summits, in June 2018 and February 2019, an unprecedented move by an American president, as previous policy had been that a president simply meeting with the North Korean leader would legitimize the regime on the world stage. During the June 2018 summit, the leaders signed a vague agreement to pursue denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, with Trump immediately declaring "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." Little progress was made toward that goal during the months before the February 2019 summit, which ended abruptly without an agreement, hours after the White House announced a signing ceremony was imminent. During the months between the summits, a growing body of evidence indicated that North Korea was continuing its nuclear fuel, bomb and missile development, including by redeveloping an ICBM site it was previously appearing to dismantle — even while the second summit was underway. In the aftermath of the February 2019 failed summit, the Treasury department imposed additional sanctions on North Korea. The following day, Trump tweeted, "It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!"
In April 2019 the Trump administration threatened to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the weaponization of rape in war zones unless all references to "sexual and reproductive health" were removed, because in the administration's view it suggested support for abortion.
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-Azerbaijani 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 Sergey 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 Ambassador 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 presidential election.
In July 2018, the special counsel's office indicted 12 Russian intelligence operatives and accused them of conspiring to interfere in the 2016 US elections, by hacking servers and emails of the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The indictments were made before Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki, in which Trump supported Putin's denial that Russia was involved and criticized American law enforcement and intelligence community (subsequently Trump partially walked back some of his comments). A few days later, it was reported that Trump had actually been briefed on the veracity and extent of Russian cyber-attacks two weeks before his inauguration, back in December 2016, including the fact that these were ordered by Putin himself. The evidence presented to him at the time included text and email conversations between Russian military officers as well as information from a source close to Putin. According to the report, at the time, in the classified meeting, Trump "sounded grudgingly convinced".
The Washington Post reported on January 12, 2019 that Trump had gone to "extraordinary lengths" to keep details of his private conversations with Russian president Putin secret, including in one case by retaining his interpreter's notes and instructing the linguist to not share the contents of the discussions with anyone in the administration. As a result, there were no detailed records, even in classified files, of Trump's conversations with Putin on five occasions. According to The Financial Times, there were no American aides present when Trump met privately with Putin at the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires summit in November 2018.
Of Trump's campaign advisors and staff, six of them were indicted by the special counsel's office; five of them (Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos) pleaded guilty, while one has pleaded not guilty (Roger Stone).
Special Counsel's report
Special Counsel Mueller submitted his report to the Justice Department on March 22, 2019. On March 24, 2019, Attorney General Barr sent Congress a four-page letter, describing what he said were the special counsel's principal conclusions in the Mueller Report. Barr added that since that the special counsel "did not draw a conclusion" on obstruction, this "leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime". Barr continued: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense".
On April 18, 2019, a two-volume redacted version of the Special Counsel's report titled Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, was released to Congress and the public. About one-eighth of the lines in the public version were redacted.
The first volume was about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, concluding that interference occurred "in sweeping and systematic fashion" and "violated U.S. criminal law." The report detailed activities by the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked Russian troll farm, to create a "social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton" and to "provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States". The report also described how the Russian intelligence service, the GRU, performed computer hacking and strategic releasing of damaging material from the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations. To establish whether a crime was committed by members of the Trump campaign with regard to Russian interference, investigators used the legal standard for criminal conspiracy rather than the popular concept of "collusion", because a crime of "collusion" is not found in criminal law or the United States Code.
According to the report, the investigation "identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign," and found that Russia "perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency" and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign "expected it would benefit electorally" from Russian hacking efforts. Ultimately, "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." However, investigators had an incomplete picture of what had really occurred during the 2016 campaign, due to some associates of Trump campaign providing either false, incomplete or declined testimony, as well as having deleted, unsaved or encrypted communications. As such, the Mueller Report "cannot rule out the possibility" that information then unavailable to investigators would have presented different findings.
The second volume covered obstruction of justice. The report described ten instances where Trump may have obstructed justice as president, plus one instance before he was elected. The report said that in addition to Trump's public attacks on the investigation and its subjects, Trump also privately tried to "control the investigation" in multiple ways, but mostly failed to influence it because his subordinates or associates refused to carry out his instructions. For that reason, no charges against the Trump's aides and associates were recommended "beyond those already filed". The Mueller team refrained from charging Trump himself because investigators abided by an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion that a sitting president cannot stand trial, and they feared that charges would affect Trump's governing and possibly preempt his impeachment. In addition, investigators felt it would be unfair to accuse Trump of a crime without charges and without a trial in which he could clear his name, hence investigators "determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes". Since the special counsel's office had decided "not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether to "initiate or decline a prosecution," they "did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President's conduct." The report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime", but specifically did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice, because investigators were not confident that Trump was innocent after examining his intent and actions. The report concluded "that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice" and "that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law".
On May 1, 2019, following publication of the Special Counsel's report, Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He declined to testify before the House Judiciary Committee the following day because he objected to the committee's plan to use staff lawyers during questioning. Barr also repeatedly failed to give the unredacted Special Counsel's report to the Judiciary Committee by its deadline of May 6, 2019. On May 8, 2019, the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress, which refers the matter to entire House for resolution. Concurrently, Trump asserted executive privilege via the Department of Justice in an effort to prevent the redacted portions of the Special Counsel's report and the underlying evidence from being disclosed. Committee chairman Jerry Nadler stated that the U.S. is in a constitutional crisis, "because the President is disobeying the law, is refusing all information to Congress." Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed with Nadler's characterization and told fellow Democrats that Trump was “self-impeaching” by stonewalling Congress, with some Democrats and analysts noting that refusing to comply with subpoenas was the third article of impeachment for Richard Nixon.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to "drain the swamp in Washington D.C." - a phrase that usually refers to entrenched corruption and lobbying in D.C. - and he proposed a series of ethics reforms. However, according to federal records and interviews, there has been a dramatic increase in lobbying by corporations and hired interests during Trump's tenure, particularly through the office of the Vice-President Mike Pence. About twice as many lobbying firms contacted Pence, compared to previous presidencies, among them representatives of major energy firms and drug companies. In many cases, the lobbyists have charged their clients millions of dollars for access to the vice president, and then have turned around and donated the money to Pence's political causes.
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
Trump's presidency has been marked by significant public concern about conflict of interest stemming from his diverse business ventures. In the lead up to his inauguration, Trump promised to remove himself from the day-to-day operations of his businesses. Trump placed his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at the head of his 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 to 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 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 the 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 that's 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."
After Trump took office, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, represented by a number of constitutional scholars, sued him for violations 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". 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 motion to dismiss the case 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 were filed based on the Foreign Emoluments Clause: D.C. and Maryland v. Trump, and Blumenthal v. Trump, which was signed by more than one-third of the voting members of Congress. United States District Judge George B. Daniels dismissed the CREW case on December 21, 2017, holding that plaintiffs lacked standing. D.C. and Maryland v. Trump cleared three judicial hurdles to proceed to the discovery phase during 2018, with prosecutors issuing 38 subpoenas to Trump's businesses and cabinet departments in December before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay days later at the behest of the Justice Department, pending hearings in March 2019.
In February 2017, Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway promoted the clothing line of Ivanka Trump in a TV appearance from the White House briefing room. Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub requested disciplinary action in a letter to the White House Counsel's office. Under federal ethics regulations, federal employees are barred from using their public office to endorse products.
In March 2018, The New York Times reported that George Nader turned Trump's major fundraiser Elliott Broidy "into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates...High on the agenda of the two men...was pushing the White House to remove Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson", a top defender of the Iran nuclear deal in Donald Trump's administration, and "backing confrontational approaches to Iran and Qatar".
Trump actively supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against the Houthis. Trump also praised his relationship with Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. On May 20, 2017, Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the United States totaling US$110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years. The transfer was widely seen as a counterbalance against the influence of Iran in the region and a "significant" and "historic" expansion of United States relations with Saudi Arabia.
In October 2018, amid widespread condemnation of Saudi Arabia for the murder of prominent Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, the Trump administration pushed back on the condemnation. After the CIA assessed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder of Khashoggi, Trump rejected the assessment and said that the CIA only had "feelings" on the matter.
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. When Obama was president, Trump frequently criticized him for taking vacations which were paid for with public funds. 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.
In March 2019, Tricia Newbold, a White House employee working on security clearances, spoke privately to the House Oversight Committee, claiming that at least 25 Trump administration officials were granted security clearances over the objections of career staffers. Newbold also asserted that some of these officials had previously had their applications rejected for "disqualifying issues", only for those rejections to be overturned with inadequate explanation.
The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Carl Kline, the former head of White House security clearances to testify on April 23. However White House deputy counsel Michael Purpura instructed Kline not to appear at the deposition, citing constitutional concerns. Kline eventually appeared before the committee on May 1.
Elections during the Trump presidency
2018 mid-term elections
In the 2018 mid-term elections, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate.
Historical evaluations and public opinion
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. Trump's approval rating during his first term has been "incredibly stable (and also historically low)" within a band from about 36% to 44%.
Historians and political scientists
Political scientist Norman Ornstein states that many writers have tried to put Trump in perspective:
- Among President Trump's major accomplishments is the booming industry in books about him, his administration, the state of democracy in America, the rise of autocracy in America and abroad, the reasons for his rise, the bases of his support, the state of the Republican Party, the state of his mental health or lack thereof, the chaos in his White House and so on.
- Not all are strictly about Trump — the fact is the conditions and dynamics that brought us Trump long preceded him, and the changes in the fabric of our Republic are paralleled by changes in other longstanding democracies around the globe.
According to the 2018 Varieties of Democracy Annual Democracy Report, there has been "a significant democratic backsliding in the United States [since the Inauguration of Donald Trump] ... attributable to weakening constraints on the executive." Independent assessments by Freedom House and Bright Line Watch found a similar significant decline in overall democratic functioning.
A 2018 poll administered by the American Political Science Association (APSA) among political scientists specializing in the American presidency ranked Donald Trump in last place. Republican survey respondents rated him 40th out of 44th, Independents/Other respondents rated him 43rd out of 44th, while Democratic historians rated him 44th out of 44th. Siena College Research Institute's 6th presidential expert poll, released in February 2019, placed Donald Trump 42nd out of 44th — ahead of Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan.
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- Efforts to impeach Donald Trump
- List of executive actions by Donald Trump
- Make America Great Again – 2016 campaign slogan
- Political positions of Donald Trump
- Protests against Donald Trump
- Timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2017)
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2018)
- Timeline of investigations into Trump and Russia (2019)
- Black Mirror: The Waldo Moment
- ^ A small portion of the 115th Congress (January 3, 2017 – January 19, 2017) took place under President Obama.
- ^ In 1824, there were six states in which electors were legislatively appointed, rather than popularly elected, so it is uncertain what the national popular vote would have been if all presidential electors had been popularly elected.
- "2016 Presidential Electoral and Popular Vote" (PDF). Federal Election Commission. March 1, 2018. Retrieved May 28, 2018.
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- Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (August 7, 2017). "Many Politicians Lie. But Trump Has Elevated the Art of Fabrication". The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2019. President Trump, historians and consultants in both political parties agree, appears to have taken what the writer Hannah Arendt once called "the conflict between truth and politics" to an entirely new level.
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- Konnikova, Maria. "Trump's Lies vs. Your Brain". Politico. Retrieved March 4, 2019. All presidents lie ... But Donald Trump is in a different category. The sheer frequency, spontaneity and seeming irrelevance of his lies have no precedent."
- Barabak, Mark (February 6, 2017). "There's a long history of presidential untruths. Here's why Donald Trump is 'in a class by himself'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 11, 2019. White House scholars and other students of government agree there has never been a president like Donald Trump, whose volume of falsehoods, misstatements and serial exaggerations — on matters large and wincingly small — place him "in a class by himself," as Texas A&M;'s George Edwards put it.
- Glasser, Susan (August 3, 2018). "It's True: Trump Is Lying More, and He's Doing It on Purpose". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 10, 2019. for the President's unprecedented record of untruths ... the previous gold standard in Presidential lying was, of course, Richard Nixon ... the falsehoods are as much a part of his political identity as his floppy orange hair and the "Make America Great Again" slogan.
- Dale, Daniel (December 22, 2017). "Donald Trump has spent a year lying shamelessly. It hasn't worked". The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 4, 2019. "We've had presidents that have lied or misled the country, but we've never had a serial liar before. And that's what we're dealing with here," said Douglas Brinkley, the prominent Rice University presidential historian.
- Cillizza, Chris (May 9, 2018). "President Trump lied more than 3,000 times in 466 days". CNN. Retrieved March 4, 2019. We've never had a president with such a casual relationship to the truth ... The sheer rate of Trump's untruth-telling is staggering. It is unprecedented.
- Skjeseth, Heidi Taksdal (2017). "All the president's lies: Media coverage of lies in the US and France" (PDF). Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Trump is not the first president to be at odds with the press, but the amount of lies he delivers and his aggressive attacks on and constant undermining of the legitimacy of the media, is unprecedented.
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