Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is the 45th and current President of the United States, in office since January 20, 2017. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality.
Trump was born and grew up in the New York City borough of Queens. He earned an economics degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He followed in the footsteps of his grandmother Elizabeth and father Fred in running the family’s real estate company, which he renamed The Trump Organization; he managed the business from 1971 until his 2017 inauguration as president. Trump’s real estate career focused on building or renovating skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. He also started multiple side ventures and branded and licensed his name for real estate and various products.
Trump gained notoriety for his business deals, branding, and television roles. He co-authored several books (most notably The Art of the Deal), and from 2003 to 2015 he was a producer and the host of The Apprentice, a reality television game show. Trump also owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015. According to Forbes magazine, he was the world’s 544th richest person as of May 2017, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion.
Trump expressed interest in politics as early as 1987. He entered the 2016 presidential race as a Republican and defeated sixteen opponents in the primaries. Commentators described his political positions as populist, protectionist, and nationalist. His campaign received extensive free media coverage; many of his public statements were controversial or false. Trump won the general election on November 8, 2016 against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. He became the oldest and wealthiest person ever to assume the presidency, the first without prior military or government service, and the fifth to have won the election despite losing the popular vote. His election, opinions, comments, and policies have sparked numerous protests.
In domestic policy, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and nominated many federal judges. Citing security concerns, he ordered a travel ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries; a revised version was implemented after legal challenges. In December 2017 he signed tax reform legislation which cut rates and eliminated the Obamacare insurance mandate.
In foreign policy, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and the Paris Agreement on climate change, partially reversed the Cuban Thaw, pressured North Korea over the acceleration of their missile tests and nuclear program, and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
After Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to continue the investigation into links between Russia and Trump campaign associates and any related matters.
Family and personal life
Trump’s ancestors originated from the German village of Kallstadt in the Palatinate on his father’s side, and from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland on his mother’s side. His grandparents and his mother were born in Europe.
Trump’s paternal grandfather, Friedrich Trump, first emigrated to the United States in 1885 at the age of 16 and became a citizen in 1892. He amassed a fortune operating boom-town restaurants and boarding houses in the Seattle area and the Klondike region of Canada during its gold rush. On a visit to Kallstadt, he met Elisabeth Christ and married her in 1902. The couple settled in New York permanently in 1905. Frederick died from influenza during the 1918 pandemic.
Trump’s father Fred was born in 1905 in The Bronx. Fred started working with his mother in real estate when he was 15, shortly after his father’s death. Their company, Elizabeth Trump & Son, was primarily active in the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. Fred eventually built and sold thousands of houses, barracks, and apartments. The company later became The Trump Organization after Donald Trump took over in 1971.
Trump’s mother Mary Anne was born in Tong, Lewis, Scotland. At age 18 in 1930, she emigrated to New York, where she worked as a maid. Fred and Mary were married in 1936 and raised their family in Queens.
Trump’s uncle John was an electrical engineer, physicist, and inventor. He worked as a professor at MIT from 1936 to 1973. During World War II, he was involved in radar research for the Allies and helped design X-ray machines that were used to treat cancer.
Early life and education
Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, at the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, Queens, New York City, the fourth of five children. Trump grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and attended the Kew-Forest School from kindergarten through seventh grade. At age 13, he enrolled in the New York Military Academy, a private boarding school, after his parents discovered that he had made frequent trips into Manhattan without their permission.
In 1964, Trump began his higher education at Fordham University. After two years, he transferred to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, because it offered one of the few real-estate studies departments in United States academia at the time. In addition to his father, Trump was inspired by Manhattan developer William Zeckendorf, vowing to be “even bigger and better”. While at Wharton, he worked at the family business, Elizabeth Trump & Son, graduating in May 1968 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.
Trump did not serve in the military during the Vietnam War. While in college from 1964 to 1968, he obtained four student deferments. In 1966, he was deemed fit for service based upon a military medical examination, and in 1968 was briefly classified as fit by a local draft board. In September of that year, he was given a medical deferment, which he later attributed to heel spurs. In 1969, he received a high number in the draft lottery, which gave him a low probability to be called to military service.
Trump has had three elder siblings—Maryanne, Fred Jr. (1938–1981), and Elizabeth—as well as a younger brother named Robert. Maryanne is an inactive Federal Appeals Court judge on the Third Circuit.
Trump has five children by three marriages, as well as nine grandchildren. His first two marriages ended in widely publicized divorces. He is the second divorced American president, after Ronald Reagan.
In 1977, Trump married his first wife, Czech model Ivana Zelníčková, at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan in a ceremony performed by the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. They had three children: Donald Jr. (b. 1977), Ivanka (b. 1981), and Eric (b. 1984). Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump’s affair with actress Marla Maples.
In October 1993, Maples gave birth to Trump’s daughter, who was named Tiffany after high-end retailer Tiffany & Company. Maples and Trump were married two months later in December 1993. They divorced in 1999, and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California.
In 2005, Trump married his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. The ceremony was followed by a reception at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. In 2006, Melania became a United States citizen and gave birth to a son, Barron. Melania became First Lady of the United States upon Trump’s inauguration as president in January 2017.
Upon his inauguration as president, Trump delegated the management of his real estate business to his two adult sons, Eric and Don Jr. His daughter Ivanka resigned from The Trump Organization and moved to Washington, D.C. with her husband Jared Kushner. She serves as an assistant to the president, and he is a Senior Advisor in the White House.
Trump’s ancestors were Lutheran on his father’s side in Germany and Presbyterian on his mother’s side in Scotland. His parents married in a Manhattan Presbyterian church in 1936. As a child, he attended the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, and had his Confirmation there. In the 1970s, his family joined the Marble Collegiate Church (an affiliate of the Reformed Church in America) in Manhattan. The pastor at that church, Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking and The Art of Living, ministered to Trump’s family and mentored him until Peale’s death in 1993. Trump, who is Presbyterian, has cited Peale and his works during interviews when asked about the role of religion in his personal life.
Trump receives Holy Communion, but he has said that he does not ask God for forgiveness. He stated: “I think if I do something wrong, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture….I guess that [Communion] is a form of asking for forgiveness”. On the campaign trail, Trump has referred to The Art of the Deal as his second favorite book after the Bible, saying, “Nothing beats the Bible.” The New York Times reported that Evangelical Christians nationwide thought “that his heart was in the right place, that his intentions for the country were pure”.
Trump has had associations with a number of Christian spiritual leaders, including Florida pastor Paula White, who has been called his “closest spiritual confidant.” In 2015, he received a blessing from Greek Orthodox priest Emmanuel Lemelson and in 2016, he released a list of his religious advisers, including James Dobson, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed, and others. Referring to his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism before her marriage to Jared Kushner, Trump said: “I have a Jewish daughter; and I am very honored by that.”
In 2016, Trump’s personal physician, Harold Bornstein, issued a medical report that showed Trump’s blood pressure and liver and thyroid function to be in normal ranges. It also showed that he is overweight and takes statins to lower his cholesterol.
Trump does not drink alcohol; this decision arose in part from watching his older brother Fred Jr. suffer from alcoholism that contributed to his early death in 1981. He also said that he has never smoked cigarettes or consumed drugs, including marijuana.
Trump said that he began his career with “a small loan of one million dollars” from his father. He appeared on the initial Forbes 400 list of wealthy individuals in 1982 with an estimated $200 million fortune, including an “undefined” share of his parents’ estate. During the late 1980s he became a billionaire, and he made the Forbes World’s Billionaires list for the first time in 1989, but he was absent from the Forbes 400 list following business losses from 1990 to 1995; he reportedly borrowed from his siblings’ trusts in 1993. His father’s estate, valued at more than $20 million, was divided in 1999 among Trump, his three surviving siblings, and their children.
When Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency on June 16, 2015, he released a one-page financial summary that stated a net worth of $8,737,540,000. The following month, he filed a 92-page Federal Election Commission (FEC) financial disclosure form and declared his net worth was “in excess of ten billion dollars”. In his presidential announcement speech, he said “I’m really rich”, and said this would make him less indebted to large campaign donors. Forbes called his net worth estimate “a whopper”, setting their own estimate at $4.1 billion in 2015. Trump valued his “properties under development” at $293 million; Forbes said they could not evaluate those deals, and booked them for $0. Trump’s 2015 FEC disclosure reported $362 million in total income for the year 2014.
After Trump made controversial remarks about illegal immigrants in 2015, he lost business contracts with several companies; this reduced his Forbes estimate by $125 million. Consumer boycotts and reduced bookings may have further affected his brand value during the presidential campaign. Trump’s 104-page FEC disclosure in May 2016 still claimed a total wealth over $10 billion, unchanged from 2015. The release of the Access Hollywood tapes in October 2016 put further pressure on his brand, but real estate experts predicted a positive rebound from becoming president.
In its 2017 billionaires’ ranking, Forbes estimated Trump’s net worth at $3.5 billion (544th in the world, 201st in the U.S.) making him one of the richest politicians in American history. These estimates fluctuate from year to year, and among various analysts. In July 2016 Bloomberg News had pegged his wealth at $3 billion, calling it an increase thanks to his presidential nomination, whereas Forbes had ranked him 324th in the world (113th in the U.S.) with $4.5 billion just a few months earlier. The discrepancies among these estimates and with Trump’s own figures stem mainly from the uncertain values of appraised property and of his personal brand.
In 1968, Trump began his career at his father’s real estate development company, Elizabeth Trump & Son, which, among other interests, owned middle-class rental housing in New York City’s outer boroughs. During his undergraduate study, Trump joined his father Fred in revitalizing the foreclosed Swifton Village apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio, boosting the occupancy rate from 66% to 100%.
When his father became chairman of the board in 1971, Trump was promoted to president of the company and renamed it The Trump Organization. In 1973, he and his father drew wider attention when the Justice Department contended that the organization systematically discriminated against African Americans who wished to rent apartments. The Department alleged that the Trump Organization had screened out people based on race and not low income as the Trumps had stated. Under an agreement reached in 1975, the Trumps made no admission of wrongdoing and made the Urban League an intermediary for qualified minority applicants. His adviser and attorney during (and after) that period was Roy Cohn, who responded to attacks by counterattacking with maximum force, who valued both positive and negative publicity, and who Trump emulated.
In 1978, Trump launched his Manhattan real estate business by purchasing a 50% stake in the financially troubled Commodore Hotel. The purchase was largely funded by a $70 million construction loan that was jointly guaranteed by Fred Trump and the Hyatt hotel chain. When the remodeling was finished, the hotel reopened as the Grand Hyatt Hotel, located next to Grand Central Terminal.
Also in 1978, Trump finished negotiations to develop Trump Tower, a 58-story, 202-meter (663-foot) skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan, which The New York Times attributed to his “persistence” and “skills as a negotiator”. To make way for the new building, a crew of undocumented Polish workers demolished an old Bonwit Teller store, including art deco features that had initially been marked for preservation. The building was completed in 1983 and houses both the primary penthouse condominium residence of Trump and the headquarters of The Trump Organization. Architectural critic Paul Goldberger said in 1983 that he was surprised to find the tower’s atrium was “the most pleasant interior public space to be completed in New York in some years”. Trump Tower was the setting of the NBC television show The Apprentice and includes a fully functional television studio set.
In 1980, a general contractor who was unconnected to Trump began repairs on Central Park‘s Wollman Rink. Despite an anticipated two and a half year construction timeframe, the repairs remained incomplete in 1986. Trump took over the project and completed it in three months for $1.95 million, which was $775,000 less than the initial budget. He operated the rink for a year and gave most of the profits to charity and public works projects in exchange for the rink’s concession rights.
In 1988 Trump acquired the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan for a record-setting $407 million and appointed his wife Ivana to manage its operation. Trump invested $50 million to restore the building, which he called “the Mona Lisa”. According to hotel expert Thomas McConnell, the Trumps boosted it from a three-star to a four-star ranking and sold it in 1995, by which time Ivana was no longer involved in the hotel’s day-to-day operations.
In 1994, Trump got involved with the refurbishing of the Gulf and Western Building on Columbus Circle. The former office building was remodeled with design and structural enhancements to become a luxury residential and hotel property. When the job was finished, Trump owned commercial space in a 44-story mixed-use tower (hotel and condominium) that he named Trump International Hotel and Tower.
In 1996, Trump acquired the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, which was a vacant seventy-one story skyscraper on Wall Street that had briefly been the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1930. After an extensive renovation, the high-rise was renamed the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street.
In 1997, he began construction on Riverside South, which he dubbed Trump Place, a multi-building development along the Hudson River. The project encountered delays the following year because a subcontractor had to replace defective concrete. He and the other investors in the project ultimately sold their interest for $1.8 billion in 2005 in what was then the biggest residential sale in the history of New York City.
In 2001, Trump completed Trump World Tower, which was across from the headquarters of the United Nations. For a while, the structure was the tallest all-residential tower in the world. In 2002, Trump acquired the former Hotel Delmonico, which was renovated and reopened in 2004 as the Trump Park Avenue; the building consisted of 35 stories of luxury condominiums. Meanwhile, he continued to own millions of square feet of other prime Manhattan real estate.
Palm Beach estate
In 1985, Trump acquired the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida for under $8 million. The home was built in the 1920s by heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post, who envisioned the house as a future winter retreat for American presidents.
Trump’s initial offer of $28 million had been rejected, and he was able to get the property at the much lower price by purchasing Jack C. Massey‘s beachfront property for $2 million and threatening to build a house on it that would block Mar-a-Lago’s ocean view. In addition to using the estate as a home, Trump also turned it into a private club open to everyone who could afford the initiation fee of $100,000 plus annual dues.
In 1986, Trump acquired a foreclosed 33-story, twin-tower condominium complex in nearby West Palm Beach for $40 million. Auto CEO Lee Iacocca invested in three of the condos. Trump spruced up the complex’s public areas and heavily promoted the property for years, but selling the units proved difficult, and the deal turned out to be unprofitable.
Atlantic City casinos
New Jersey legalized casino gambling in 1977, and Trump went to Atlantic City, New Jersey the following year in order to explore how he might get involved in a new business venture. Seven years later, Harrah’s at Trump Plaza hotel and casino opened there; the project was built by Trump with financing from Holiday Corporation, which also managed the operation. Renamed “Trump Plaza” soon after it opened, it was at the time the tallest building in Atlantic City. The casino’s poor financial results exacerbated disagreements between Trump and Holiday Corp., which led to Trump’s paying $70 million in May 1986 to buy out their interest in the property. Trump also acquired a partially completed building in Atlantic City from the Hilton Corporation for $320 million; when completed in 1985, that hotel and casino became Trump Castle, and Trump’s wife, Ivana, managed that property until Trump transferred her in 1988 to run the Trump Plaza Hotel in New York.
Also in 1988, Trump acquired his third casino in Atlantic City, the Taj Mahal (then halfway through construction), through a complex transaction with television host and entertainer Merv Griffin as well as the resort and casino company Resorts International. In October 1989, three of his top Atlantic City executives were killed in a helicopter accident, which both stymied and delayed the planned opening of the Taj Mahal. The Taj finally opened in April 1990 and was built at a total cost of $1.1 billion, which at the time made it the most expensive casino ever. The project was financed with $675 million in junk bonds and was a major gamble by Trump. The project underwent debt restructuring the following year, leaving Trump with 50% ownership. He also sold his 282-foot (86 m) megayacht, the Trump Princess, which had been indefinitely docked in Atlantic City while leased to his casinos for use by wealthy gamblers.
In 1995, Trump founded Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (THCR), which assumed ownership of Trump Plaza, Trump Castle, and the Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana. THCR purchased Taj Mahal in 1996 and underwent bankruptcy restructuring in 2004 and 2009, leaving Trump with 10% ownership in the Trump Taj Mahal and other Trump casino properties. From mid 1995 until early 2009, he served as chairman of the publicly-traded THCR organization—which was renamed Trump Entertainment Resorts—and served as CEO from mid 2000 to mid 2005.
During the 1990s, Trump’s casino ventures faced competition from Native American gaming at the Foxwoods casino located on an Indian reservation in Connecticut, where it was exempt from the state’s anti-gambling laws. Trump stated in 1993 that the casino owners did not look like real Indians to him or to other Indians. Subsequent to that well-publicized remark about the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, Trump became a key investor backing the Paucatuck Eastern Pequots, who were also seeking state recognition.
The Trump Organization operates many golf courses and resorts in the United States and around the world. According to Golfweek, Trump owns or manages about 18 golf courses. His personal financial disclosure with the Federal Elections Commission stated that his golf and resort revenue for the year 2015 was roughly $382 million, while his three European golf courses did not show a profit.
In 2006, Trump bought 1,400 acres (570 ha), including the Menie Estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and created a golf resort there. Scottish supporters emphasized potential economic benefits, and opponents emphasized potential environmental harm to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). A spokesperson for the golf course has said 95% of the SSSI is untouched. A 2011 independent documentary, You’ve Been Trumped, chronicled the golf resort’s construction and struggles. In 2015, an offshore windfarm being built within sight of the golf course prompted a legal challenge by Trump, which was dismissed by the U.K. Supreme Court. In the wake of the 2008 recession, Trump greatly scaled back development of this property, and as of December 2016 Scottish officials were pushing for completion of the far larger development as originally approved.
In April 2014, Trump purchased the Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire, Scotland, which hosted the Open Championship four times between 1977 and 2009. After extensive renovations and a remodeling of the course by golf architect Martin Ebert, Turnberry was re-opened in June 2016.
Hotels outside New York
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, The Trump Organization expanded its footprint beyond New York with the co-development and management of hotel towers in Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Panama City, Toronto, and Vancouver. There are also Trump-branded buildings in Dubai, Honolulu, Istanbul, Manila, Mumbai, and Indonesia.
Branding and licensing
Trump has marketed his name on a large number of building projects that are owned and operated by other people and companies. He has also licensed his name for various commercial products and services. In doing so, he achieved mixed success for himself, his partners, and investors in the projects. In 2011, Forbes‘ financial experts estimated the value of the Trump brand at $200 million. Trump disputed this valuation, saying his brand was worth about $3 billion. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, there are more than 50 licensing or management deals involving Trump’s name, which have generated at least 59 million dollars in revenue for his companies.
Legal affairs and bankruptcies
As of 2016, Trump and his businesses had been involved in more than 3,500 state and federal legal actions. He or one of his companies was the plaintiff in 1,900 cases and the defendant in 1,450. With Trump or his company as plaintiff, more than half the cases have been against gamblers at his casinos who had failed to pay off their debts. With Trump or his company as a defendant, the most common type of case involved personal injury cases at his hotels. In cases where there was a clear resolution, Trump’s side won 451 times and lost 38.
Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but his hotel and casino businesses have been declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds. Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded. Trump was quoted by Newsweek in 2011 saying, “I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they’re very good for me” as a tool for trimming debt.
The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009). Trump said, “I’ve used the laws of this country to pare debt … We’ll have the company. We’ll throw it into a chapter. We’ll negotiate with the banks. We’ll make a fantastic deal. You know, it’s like on The Apprentice. It’s not personal. It’s just business.”
A 2016 analysis of Trump’s business career by The Economist concluded that his “… performance [from 1985 to 2016] has been mediocre compared with the stock market and property in New York”, noting both his successes and bankruptcies. A subsequent analysis by The Washington Post concluded that “Trump is a mix of braggadocio, business failures, and real success”, calling his casino bankruptcies the “most infamous flop” of his business career.
After Trump took over the family real estate firm in 1971 and renamed it The Trump Organization, he greatly expanded its real estate operations, and also ventured into numerous other business activities. The company eventually became the umbrella organization for several hundred individual business ventures and partnerships.
In September 1983, Trump purchased the New Jersey Generals—an American football team that played in the United States Football League (USFL)—from oil magnate J. Walter Duncan. The USFL played three seasons during the spring and summer. After the 1985 season, the organization folded due to continuous financial difficulties, despite winning an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.
After the Generals folded, Trump remained involved with other sports; he operated golf courses in several countries. At the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, he hosted several boxing matches, which included Mike Tyson’s 1988 heavyweight championship fight against Michael Spinks. He also acted as a financial advisor to Mike Tyson. In 1989 and 1990, Trump lent his name to the Tour de Trump cycling stage race, which was an attempt to create an American equivalent of European races such as the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia.
From 1996 to 2015, Trump owned part or all of the Miss Universe pageants. The Miss Universe pageants include Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, and his management of this business involved his family members; for example, daughter Ivanka once hosted Miss Teen USA. Trump hired the first female president of the Miss Universe business in 1997. He became dissatisfied with how CBS scheduled the pageants, and took both Miss Universe and Miss USA to NBC in 2002.
In his 2015 U.S. presidential campaign kickoff speech, Trump made statements about illegal immigrants who crossed the border from Mexico. NBC then decided to end its business relationship with him and stated that it would no longer air the Miss Universe or Miss USA pageants on its networks. In September 2015, Trump bought NBC’s share of the Miss Universe Organization and became its sole owner for three days. He then sold the entire company to the WME/IMG talent agency.
Trump University was a for-profit education company that was founded by Trump and his associates, Michael Sexton and Jonathan Spitalny. The company ran a real estate training program and charged between $1,500 and $35,000 per course. In 2005, New York State authorities notified the operation that its use of the word “university” was misleading and violated state law. After a second such notification in 2010, the name of the company was changed to the “Trump Entrepreneurial Institute”. Trump was also found personally liable for failing to obtain a business license for the operation.
In 2013, New York State filed a $40 million civil suit against Trump University; the suit alleged that the company made false statements and defrauded consumers. In addition, two class-action civil lawsuits were filed in federal court relating to Trump University; they named Trump personally as well as his companies. During the presidential campaign, Trump criticized presiding Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, alleging bias in his rulings because of his Mexican heritage. Shortly after Trump won the presidency, the parties agreed to a settlement of all three pending cases, whereby Trump paid a total of $25 million and denied any wrongdoing.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation is a U.S.-based private foundation that was established in 1988 for the initial purpose of giving away proceeds from the book Trump: The Art of the Deal. The foundation’s funds have mostly come from donors other than Trump, who has not given personally to the charity since 2008.
The foundation’s tax returns show that it has given to health care and sports-related charities, as well as conservative groups. In 2009, for example, the foundation gave $926,750 to about 40 groups, with the biggest donations going to the Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation ($100,000), the New York–Presbyterian Hospital ($125,000), the Police Athletic League ($156,000), and the Clinton Foundation ($100,000). From 2004 to 2014, the top donors to the foundation were Vince and Linda McMahon of WWE, who donated $5 million to the foundation after Trump appeared at WrestleMania in 2007. Linda McMahon later became Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
In 2016, The Washington Post conducted investigations that revealed how the charity had committed several potential legal and ethical violations; those violations included alleged self-dealing and possible tax evasion. After beginning an investigation into the foundation, the New York State Attorney General‘s office notified the Trump Foundation that it was allegedly in violation of New York laws regarding charities and ordered it to immediately cease its fundraising activities in New York. A Trump spokesman called the investigation a “partisan hit job”. In response to mounting complaints, Trump’s team announced in late December 2016 that the Trump Foundation would be dissolved to remove “even the appearance of any conflict with [his] role as President.” According to an IRS filing in November 2017, the foundation intends to shut down and distribute its assets (about $970,000) to other charities. However, a spokesperson for the New York Attorney General’s office said the foundation cannot legally shut down until an ongoing investigation of the charity is completed.
Conflicts of interest
There were questions about how Trump would avoid conflicts of interest between his work in the White House and his business activities. At a press conference on January 10, 2017, Trump said that he and his daughter Ivanka would resign all roles with The Trump Organization, while his two adult sons Don Jr. and Eric would run the business, together with chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
Trump retained his financial stake in the business. His attorney Sherri Dillon said that before the January 20 inauguration, Trump would put those business assets into a trust, which would hire an ethics advisor and a compliance counsel. She added that The Trump Organization would not enter any new foreign business deals, while continuing to pursue domestic opportunities. As of April 2017, Trump companies owned more than 400 condo units and home lots in the United States, valued at over $250 million in total ($200,000 to $35 million each).
Trump has published numerous books. His first published book in 1987 was Trump: The Art of the Deal, co-written by Tony Schwartz, who is sometimes called a ghostwriter of that book. It reached number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, stayed there for 13 weeks, and altogether held a position on the list for 48 weeks. According to The New Yorker, “The book expanded Trump’s renown far beyond New York City, making him an emblem of the successful tycoon.” Trump’s published writings shifted post-2000, from generally memoirs about himself, to books giving advice about finance.
Trump is a World Wrestling Entertainment fan and a friend of WWE chairman Vince McMahon. In 1988–89 Trump hosted WrestleMania IV and V at Boardwalk Hall (dubbed “Trump Plaza” for storyline purposes) and has been an active participant in several of the shows. He also appeared in WrestleMania VII, and was interviewed ringside at WrestleMania XX, in 1991 and 2004, respectively. Trump appeared at 2007’s WrestleMania 23 in a match called “The Battle of the Billionaires”. In 2013, Trump was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame at Madison Square Garden for his contributions to the promotion. He made his sixth WrestleMania appearance the following night at WrestleMania 29. As president, Trump appointed WWE CEO Linda McMahon to his Cabinet as Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
In 2003, Trump became the executive producer and host of the NBC reality show The Apprentice in which contestants competed for a high-level management job in one of Trump’s businesses, and were successively “fired” and eliminated from the game. During the first year of the show, Trump earned $50,000 per episode (roughly $700,000 for the first season), but following the show’s initial success, he was paid $1 million per episode. In 2007, Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to television on The Apprentice.
Along with British TV producer Mark Burnett, Trump was hired as host of The Celebrity Apprentice, in which celebrities compete to win money for their charities. While Trump and Burnett co-produced the show, Trump stayed in the forefront, deciding winners and “firing” losers. International versions of The Apprentice franchise were co-produced by Burnett and Trump.
On February 16, 2015, NBC announced that they would be renewing The Apprentice for a 15th season. On February 27, Trump stated that he was “not ready” to sign on for another season because of the possibility of a presidential run. Despite this, on March 18, NBC announced they were going ahead with production. On June 29, after widespread negative reaction stemming from Trump’s campaign announcement speech, NBC released a statement saying, “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump.” Actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced Trump as host for the fifteenth season. Trump is still credited as an executive producer for the show.
Trump has made cameo appearances in 12 films and 14 television series. He played an oil tycoon in The Little Rascals, and had a singing role at the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006. Trump is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and receives an annual pension of more than $110,000. His television reality show The Apprentice was twice (2004 and 2005) nominated for an Emmy Award.
Trump has a history of making racially-charged statements and taking actions perceived as racially motivated. In 1973, Trump settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged housing discrimination against black renters. The suit was settled without any admission of wrongdoing. In 1989, he was accused of racism for insisting that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the Central Park jogger case even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence. He continued to maintain this position as late as 2016.
Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. Later, his comments about a Mexican-American judge were criticized as racist. During his first year as president, comments he made following a Charlottesville, Virginia rally were seen as implying a moral equivalence between the white supremacist marchers and those who protested them. In 2018 comments he made during an Oval Office meeting about immigration in which he referred to African countries, El Salvador, and Haiti as “shithole countries” were internationally condemned as racist. Trump has denied multiple times that he is racist; he has said that he is the “least racist person there is”.
Trump’s racially insensitive statements have been condemned by many observers in the U.S. and around the world, but accepted by his supporters either as a rejection of political correctness or because they harbor similar racial sentiments. Numerous studies and surveys have shown that since Trump’s ascendance in the Republican Party, racist attitudes and racial resentment have become more significant than economic factors in determining voters’ party allegiance.
Popular culture image
Trump has been the subject of comedians, flash cartoon artists, and online caricature artists. He has been parodied regularly on Saturday Night Live by Phil Hartman, Darrell Hammond, and Alec Baldwin, and in South Park as Mr. Garrison. The Simpsons episode “Bart to the Future“, written during his 2000 campaign for the Reform party, anticipated a future Trump presidency. A dedicated parody series called The President Show debuted in April 2017.
Starting in the 1990s, Trump was a guest about 24 times on the nationally syndicated Howard Stern Show on talk radio. Trump also had his own daily talk radio program called Trumped!, from 2004 to 2008. Since the 1980s, Trump’s wealth and lifestyle have been a fixture of hip hop lyrics, his name quoted by more than 50 artists.
Presidential approval ratings for Trump have shown him to be the least popular U.S. president in the history of modern opinion polling as of the first ten months of the term. A Pew Research Center global poll conducted in July 2017, found “a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs.” This compares to a median of 64% rate of confidence for his predecessor Barack Obama. Trump received a higher rating in only two countries: Russia and Israel.  An August 2017 POLITICO/Morning consult poll found on some measures “that majorities of voters have low opinions of his character and competence.”
False and misleading statements
As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. Trump uttered “at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days” in office according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office according to the “Fact Checker” political analysis column of The Washington Post, which also wrote, “President Trump is the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered… the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.”
Political career up to 2015
In 1987 Trump vaguely expressed interest in running for the presidency when he spent almost $100,000 to place full-page advertisements in three major newspapers. In his view at that time, “America should stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves”, and “should present Western Europe and Japan with a bill for America’s efforts to safeguard the passage of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.” The advertisements had also advocated for “reducing the budget deficit, working for peace in Central America, and speeding up nuclear disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union.” According to a Gallup poll in December 1988, Trump was the tenth most admired person in America.
In 1999, Trump filed an exploratory committee to seek the presidential nomination of the Reform Party in 2000. A July 1999 poll matching him against likely Republican nominee George W. Bush and likely Democratic nominee Al Gore showed Trump with seven percent support. Trump eventually dropped out of the race due to party infighting, but still went on to win the party’s California and Michigan primaries. He considered running for president in 2004.
In February 2009, Trump appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, and spoke about the automotive industry crisis of 2008–10. He said that “instead of asking for money”, General Motors “should go into bankruptcy and work that stuff out in a deal.”
Trump publicly speculated about seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and a Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll released in March 2011 found Trump leading among potential contenders; he was one point ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. A Newsweek poll conducted in February 2011 showed Trump within a few points of incumbent president Barack Obama, with many voters undecided in the November 2012 general election for president. A poll released in April 2011 by Public Policy Polling showed Trump having a nine-point lead in a potential contest for the Republican nomination for president while he was still actively considering a run. His moves were interpreted by some media as possible promotional tools for his reality show The Apprentice.
Trump played a leading role in “birther” conspiracy theories that had been circulating since President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Beginning in March 2011, Trump publicly questioned Obama’s citizenship and eligibility to serve as president. Although the Obama campaign had released a copy of the short-form birth certificate in 2008, Trump demanded to see the original “long-form” certificate. He mentioned having sent investigators to Hawaii to research the question, but he did not follow up with any findings. He also repeated a debunked allegation that Obama’s grandmother said she had witnessed his birth in Kenya. When the White House later released Obama’s long-form birth certificate, Trump took credit for obtaining the document, saying “I hope it checks out.” His official biography mentions his purported role in forcing Obama’s hand, and he has defended his pursuit of the issue when prompted, later saying that his promotion of the conspiracy made him “very popular”. In 2011, Trump had called for Obama to release his student records, questioning whether his grades warranted entry into an Ivy League school. When asked in 2015 whether he believed Obama was born in the United States, Trump said he did not want to discuss the matter further. In September 2016, Trump publicly acknowledged that Obama was born in the United States, and said that the rumors had been started by Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign.
Trump made his first speaking appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February 2011. His appearance at CPAC was organized by GOProud, an LGBT conservative organization, in conjunction with GOProud supporter Roger Stone, who was close with Trump. GOProud pushed for a write-in campaign for Trump at CPAC’s presidential straw poll. The 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party.
In the 2012 Republican primaries, Trump generally had polled at or below 17 percent among the crowded field of possible candidates. On May 16, 2011, Trump announced he would not run for president in the 2012 election, while also saying he would have become the president of the United States, had he run.
In 2013, Trump was a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). During the lightly attended early-morning speech, Trump spoke out against illegal immigration, then-President Obama’s “unprecedented media protection”, and advised against harming Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Additionally, Trump spent over $1 million in 2013 to research a possible run for president. In October 2013, New York Republicans circulated a memo suggesting Trump should run for governor of the state in 2014 against Andrew Cuomo. In response to the memo, Trump said that while New York had problems and that its taxes were too high, running for governor was not of great interest to him. A February 2014 Quinnipiac poll had shown Trump losing to the more popular Cuomo by 37 points in a hypothetical election. In February 2015, Trump told NBC that he was not prepared to sign on for another season of The Apprentice, as he mulled his political future.
Trump’s political party affiliation has changed numerous times over the years. Trump was a Democrat prior to 1987. In 1987, Trump registered as a Republican in Manhattan. After rumors of a presidential run, he was then invited by Democratic senators Jim Wright and John Kerry, and Arkansas congressman Beryl Anthony Jr., to host a fundraising dinner for Democratic Congressional candidates—and to switch parties. Anthony told The New York Times that “the message Trump has been preaching is a Democratic message,” referring to the newspaper advertisements Trump had bought. Asked whether the rumors were true, Trump denied he was a candidate and said, “I believe that if I did run for President, I’d win.”
In 1999, Trump switched to the Reform Party and ran a presidential exploratory campaign for its nomination. After his run, Trump left the party in 2001 due to the involvement of David Duke, Pat Buchanan, and Lenora Fulani.
From 2001 to 2008, Trump identified himself as a Democrat, but, in 2008, he endorsed Republican John McCain for president. In 2009, he officially changed his party registration to Republican. In December 2011, Trump became an independent for five months before returning to the Republican Party.
In February 2012, Trump endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for president. When asked in 2015 which of the last four presidents he prefers, Trump picked Democrat Bill Clinton over the Republican Bushes.
According to a New York state report, Trump circumvented corporate and personal campaign donation limits in the 1980s—although no laws were broken—by donating money to candidates from 18 different business subsidiaries, rather than donating primarily in his own name. Trump told investigators he did so on the advice of his lawyers. He also said the contributions were not to gain favor with business-friendly candidates, but simply to satisfy requests from friends.
Trump has made contributions to campaigns of both Republican Party and Democratic Party candidates, with the top ten recipients of his political contributions being six Democrats and four Republicans. After 2011, his campaign contributions were more favorable to Republicans than to Democrats.
2016 presidential campaign
On June 16, 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States at Trump Tower in Manhattan. In the speech, Trump drew attention to illegal immigration, offshoring of American jobs, the U.S. national debt, and Islamic terrorism, which all remained large priorities during the campaign. He also announced his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again“.
In the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries, Trump entered a field of 17 major candidates who were vying for the 2016 Republican nomination; this was the largest presidential field in American history.
Trump participated in eleven of the twelve Republican debates, skipping only the January 28 seventh debate, which was the last debate before primary voting began on the first of February. The debates received historically high television ratings, which increased the visibility of Trump’s campaign. Republican leaders were hesitant to support him. They doubted his chances of winning the general election and feared that he could harm the image of the Republican Party.
By early 2016, the race had focused on Trump and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. On Super Tuesday, Trump won the plurality of the vote, and he remained the front-runner throughout the remainder of the primaries. By March 2016, Trump became poised to win the Republican nomination. After a landslide win in Indiana on May 3, 2016—which prompted the remaining candidates Cruz and John Kasich to suspend their presidential campaigns—RNC Chairman Reince Priebus declared Trump the presumptive Republican nominee. With 14,015,993 votes, Trump broke the all-time record in the history of the Republican Party for winning the most primary votes. He also set the record for the largest number of votes cast against the front runner. He won a total of 1441 delegates (58.3% of the total) and 44.9% of the vote versus 25.1% for the runner-up, Cruz.
General election campaign
After becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump shifted his focus to the general election. Trump began campaigning against Hillary Clinton, who became the presumptive Democratic nominee on June 6, 2016.
Clinton had established a significant lead over Trump in national polls throughout most of 2016. In early July, Clinton’s lead narrowed in national polling averages following the FBI‘s re-opening of its investigation into her ongoing email controversy.
On July 15, 2016, Trump announced his selection of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Four days later on July 19, Trump and Pence were officially nominated by the Republican Party at the Republican National Convention. The list of convention speakers and attendees included former presidential nominee Bob Dole, but the other prior nominees did not attend.
Two days later, Trump officially accepted the nomination in a 76-minute speech that was inspired by Richard Nixon‘s 1968 acceptance speech. The historically long speech was watched by nearly 35 million people and received mixed reviews, with net negative viewer reactions according to CNN and Gallup polls.
On September 26, 2016, Trump and Clinton faced off in their first presidential debate, which was held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York and moderated by NBC News anchor Lester Holt. The TV broadcast was the most watched presidential debate in United States history. The second presidential debate was held at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. The beginning of that debate was dominated by references to a recently leaked tape of Trump making sexually explicit comments, which Trump countered by referring to alleged sexual misconduct on the part of Bill Clinton. Prior to the debate, Trump had invited four women who had accused Clinton of impropriety to a press conference. The final presidential debate was held on October 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Trump’s refusal to say whether he would accept the result of the election, regardless of the outcome, drew particular press attention.
Trump’s campaign platform emphasized renegotiating U.S.–China relations and free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, strongly enforcing immigration laws, and building a new wall along the U.S.–Mexico border. His other campaign positions included pursuing energy independence while opposing climate change regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement, modernizing and expediting services for veterans, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, abolishing Common Core education standards, investing in infrastructure, simplifying the tax code while reducing taxes for all economic classes, and imposing tariffs on imports by companies that offshore jobs. During the campaign, he also advocated a largely non-interventionist approach to foreign policy while increasing military spending, extreme vetting or a ban of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries to pre-empt domestic Islamic terrorism, and aggressive military action against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS or IS).
Media have described Trump’s political positions as “populist“, and some of his views cross party lines. For example, his economic campaign plan calls for large reductions in income taxes and deregulation, consistent with Republican Party policies, along with significant infrastructure investment, usually considered a Democratic Party policy. According to political writer Jack Shafer, Trump may be a “fairly conventional American populist when it comes to his policy views”, but he attracts free media attention, sometimes by making outrageous comments.
Trump has supported or leaned toward varying political positions over time. Politico has described his positions as “eclectic, improvisational and often contradictory”, while NBC News counted “141 distinct shifts on 23 major issues” during his campaign.
In his campaign, Trump said that he disdained political correctness; he also stated that the media had intentionally misinterpreted his words, and he made other claims of adverse media bias. In part due to his fame, and due to his willingness to say things other candidates would not, and because a candidate who is gaining ground automatically provides a compelling news story, Trump received an unprecedented amount of free media coverage during his run for the presidency, which elevated his standing in the Republican primaries.
Fact-checking organizations have denounced Trump for making a record number of false statements compared to other candidates. At least four major publications—Politico, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times—have pointed out lies or falsehoods in his campaign statements. NPR said that Trump’s campaign statements were often opaque or suggestive. Lucas Graves, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, opined that Trump “often speaks in a suggestive way that makes it unclear what exactly he meant, so that fact-checkers “have to be really careful” when picking claims to check, “to pick things that reflect what the speaker was clearly trying to communicate.”
Trump’s penchant for hyperbole is believed to have roots in the New York real estate scene, where Trump established his wealth and where puffery abounds. Trump has called his public speaking style “truthful hyperbole”, an effective political tactic that may, however, backfire for overpromising. Martin Medhurst, a Baylor University professor of communication and political science, analyzed Trump’s frequently used rhetorical devices, such as catchy slogans, hyperbole, insinuations, and preterition.
White nationalist support
The alt-right movement coalesced around Trump’s candidacy, due in part to its opposition to multiculturalism and immigration. Trump personally condemned the alt-right in an interview after the election.
During the campaign, Trump was accused of pandering to white nationalists. He gave an interview to far-right radio host Alex Jones, retweeted open racists, and refused to condemn the support of David Duke—a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan—in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper. Trump later said he “disavowed Duke the day before at a major conference.” In August 2016, he appointed Steve Bannon—the executive chairman of Breitbart News—as his campaign CEO; the website was described by Bannon as “the platform for the alt-right.” Bannon later told the Wall Street Journal that he was an “economic nationalist” but not “a supporter of ethno-nationalism.” In a CBS interview in 2017, Bannon said “there’s no room in American society” for White nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. According to Michael Barkun, the Trump campaign was remarkable for bringing fringe ideas, beliefs, and organizations into the mainstream.
In compliance with FEC regulations of all presidential candidates, Trump published a 92-page financial disclosure form in 2015. He did not release his tax returns, which was contrary to usual practice by every presidential candidate since Gerald Ford in 1976. Although it is tradition to do so, presidential candidates are not required by law to release their returns, and Trump’s refusal to do so led to speculation that he was hiding something. Trump said that his tax returns were being audited, and his lawyers had advised him against releasing the returns. However, no law prohibits release of tax returns during an audit. Tax attorneys differ about whether such a release is wise legal strategy. Trump has told the news media that his tax rate was none of their business, and that he tries to pay “as little tax as possible”.
In October 2016, portions of Trump’s state filings as part of Trump’s 1995 tax return were leaked to a reporter from The New York Times. They show that, using allowed deductions for losses, Trump claimed a loss of $916 million that year. During the second presidential debate, Trump acknowledged using the deduction, but declined to provide details such as the specific years it was applied. He said that he did use the tax code to avoid paying taxes.
On March 14, 2017, the first two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax returns were leaked to MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow. The two pages showed that Trump paid $38 million in federal taxes and had a gross adjusted income of $150 million. The White House confirmed the authenticity of the 2005 documents and stated: “Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.”
Sexual misconduct allegations
A total of 19 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct as of 2017. Trump and his campaign have denied all of the sexual misconduct accusations, which Trump has called “false smears”, and alleged a conspiracy against him.
Two days before the second presidential debate, a 2005 recording surfaced in which Trump was heard bragging about forcibly kissing and groping women. The hot mic recording was captured on a studio bus in which Trump and Billy Bush were preparing to film an episode of Access Hollywood. “I just start kissing them,” Trump said, “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything … grab them by the pussy.” During the recording, Trump also spoke of his efforts to seduce a married woman, saying he “moved on her very heavily.” These statements were recorded several months after Trump married his third and current wife, Melania, who was pregnant at the time.
Trump’s language on the tape was described by the media as “vulgar”, “sexist”, and descriptive of sexual assault. The incident prompted him to make his first public apology during the campaign, and caused outrage across the political spectrum, with many Republicans withdrawing their endorsements of his candidacy and some urging him to quit the race. Subsequently, at least 15 women came forward with new accusations of sexual misconduct, including unwanted kissing and groping, resulting in widespread media coverage. In his two public statements in response to the controversy, Trump responded by alleging that Bill Clinton, former president of the United States and husband of Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, had “abused women” and that Hillary had bullied her husband’s victims.
Election to the presidency
On November 8, 2016, Trump got 306 pledged electoral votes versus 232 for Clinton. The official counts were 304 and 227 respectively, after defections on both sides. Clinton conceded the election in the early hours of November 9. Trump then delivered his victory speech, which was conciliatory in contrast with some of his previous rhetoric.
Trump received a smaller share of the popular vote than Clinton, making him the fifth person to be elected president while losing the popular vote.[nb 1] Clinton finished ahead by 2.1 percentage points, with 48.04% of the vote and 65,844,954 votes to 46.09% of the vote and 62,979,879 votes, with neither candidate reaching a majority nationwide.
Trump’s victory was considered a stunning political upset, as polls consistently showed Hillary Clinton leading nationwide (which were consistent with her win in the popular vote) and in most battleground states, while Trump’s support had been underestimated throughout his campaign. The errors in some state polls were later partially attributed to pollsters overestimating Clinton’s support among well-educated and nonwhite voters, while underestimating Trump’s support among white working-class voters.
Trump won ME-02 and 30 states including the perennial swing states of Florida, Iowa, and Ohio, and Clinton’s “blue wall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which had been Democratic strongholds since the 1990s. Clinton won 20 states and the District of Columbia. Trump’s victory marked the return of a Republican White House combined with control of both chambers of Congress, as was the case during parts of George W. Bush‘s presidency from 2003 to 2007.
Trump is the wealthiest president in U.S. history. He is also the first president without prior government or military service. Of the 43[nb 2] previous presidents, 38 had held prior elective office, two had not held elective office but had served in the Cabinet, and three had never held public office but had been commanding generals.
Some rallies during the primary season were accompanied by protests or violence, including attacks on Trump supporters and vice-versa both inside and outside the venues. Trump’s election victory sparked protests across the United States, in opposition to his policies and his inflammatory statements. Trump initially said on Twitter that these were “professional protesters, incited by the media”, and were “unfair”, but he later stated that he loves their passion for the country. After Obama’s re-election in 2012, Trump had tweeted “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
On the Saturday following Trump’s inauguration, massive anti-Trump demonstrations took place in the United States and worldwide, notably the Women Marches, which gathered 2,600,000 people worldwide. The Women’s March on Washington alone saw over 500,000 people marching to protest Trump’s election.
In January 2017, American intelligence agencies—the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA, represented by the Director of National Intelligence—jointly stated with “high confidence” that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election to favor the election of Trump. In March 2017, then FBI Director James Comey told Congress that “the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Later, in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, he affirmed he has “no doubt” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, adding “they did it with purpose and sophistication”.
One of Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked for several years to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovich win the Ukrainian presidency. Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials. Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump. Members of Trump’s campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn, were in contact with Russian officials both before and after the November election. In a December 29, 2016 conversation, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the recently imposed sanctions against Russia; Trump later fired Flynn for falsely claiming he had not discussed the sanctions.
In 2017, Trump and other senior White House officials asked the Director of National Intelligence, the NSA Director, the FBI Director, and two chairs of congressional committees to publicly dispute the news reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Trump called the Special Counsel investigation “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
Trump’s connections to Russia were intensely scrutinized by the media. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader. Former director of national intelligence James Clapper said Russia’s interference in the election “cast doubt on the legitimacy” of Trump’s electoral victory.
Two days after the election, Trump had his first-ever meeting with outgoing president Barack Obama to discuss plans for an orderly transition of power. The New York Times said “It was an extraordinary show of cordiality and respect between two men who have been political enemies and are stylistic opposites.” The BBC stated that “their antipathy was barely concealed” in “awkward photos” of the meeting.
On November 22, Trump outlined his plan for his first 100 days in office in a video posted on YouTube. The plan included the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and asking the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a plan to protect the U.S. from cyber-attack.
On December 7, Time named Trump as its “Person of the Year“. In an interview on The Today Show, he said he was honored by the award, but he took issue with the magazine for referring to him as the “President of the Divided States of America.” On December 13 he was named Financial Times Person of the Year. In December 2016, Forbes ranked Trump the second most powerful person in the world, after Vladimir Putin and before Angela Merkel.
White House appointments
In the White House, Trump chose RNC chairman Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff; he was replaced by retired Marine General John F. Kelly on July 28, 2017. He appointed his campaign CEO Steve Bannon as White House Chief Strategist; Bannon resigned on August 18, 2017 and no replacement has been named.
Trump’s cabinet nominations included Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, financier Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury, retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Trump also brought on board politicians who had opposed him during the presidential campaign, notably neurosurgeon Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations.
While most of Trump’s nominees were approved by the GOP majority in the Senate, the confirmation of education reform activist Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education required Vice President Pence to cast a rare tie-breaking vote, the first in a Cabinet nominee’s Senate confirmation.
Most cabinet members were unable to take office on Inauguration Day because of delays in the formal confirmation process. Part of the lateness was ascribed to delays in submitting background-check paperwork, and part to obstructionism by Senate Democrats. The last Cabinet member, Robert Lighthizer, took office as U.S. Trade Representative on May 11, 2017, more than four months after his nomination.
First 100 days
Trump was inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president on Friday, January 20, 2017. In his first week as president, Trump signed six executive orders. His first order as president set out interim procedures in anticipation of repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That same week, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, re-instated the Mexico City Policy, reopened the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline construction projects, and signed an executive order to begin planning, designing, and constructing a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and reinforce border security.
On January 31, Trump nominated U.S. Appeals Court judge Neil Gorsuch, described as a solid conservative, to fill the vacancy left on the Supreme Court by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia eleven months earlier. The Senate confirmed the nomination on April 7 with a 54–45 vote, after Republicans invoked the “nuclear option” which allowed confirmation by a simple majority.
Economy and trade
Trump’s campaign tax plan called for levelling the corporate tax rate to 15%, eliminating various business loopholes and deductions, and reducing the number of brackets for personal income tax: the top rate would be reduced from 39.6% to 25%, a large “zero bracket” would be created, and the alternative minimum tax and estate tax (which currently applies to individual estates over $5.45 million or $10.9 million per married couple) would both be eliminated. Trump’s comments about the minimum wage have been inconsistent.
In December 2017, the adopted tax reform eventually cut the corporate tax rate to 21%, lowered personal tax brackets, increased child tax credit, and doubled the estate tax threshold to $11.2 million.
Trump identifies as a “free trader“, but says that trade must be “reasonably fair”. He has often been called a “protectionist“ because of his criticism of NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and his proposal to significantly raise tariffs on Chinese and Mexican exports to the United States. He has also been critical of the World Trade Organization, threatening to leave unless his proposed tariffs are accepted. However, Trump has been very keen to support a “fair” post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom, which Trump says would be “good for both sides”.
Trump has stated his support for school choice and local control for primary and secondary schools. He opposes the Common Core State Standards Initiative for primary and secondary schools, and has called it “a disaster” that must be ended. He has stated he would abolish all or part of the Department of Education.
Energy and climate
Trump’s energy policy advocates domestic industrial support for both fossil and renewable energy sources in order to curb reliance on Middle-Eastern oil and possibly turn the U.S. into a net energy exporter. His appointed advisers favor a less regulated energy market and, because they do not consider climate change a threat, see no need for immediate action.
Trump rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2012, he said that global warming was a hoax invented by the Chinese, but later said that he was joking. He has called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a “disgrace” and has threatened to cut its budget. Trump pledged to eliminate the Clean Power Plan and withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, which calls for reductions in carbon emissions in more than 170 countries. On June 1, 2017, he announced the withdrawal, making the United States the only large nation to opt out.
Government size and deregulation
Trump’s early policies have favored deregulation and a smaller federal government. He became the first president in sixteen years to sign a Congressional Review Act disapproval resolution; the law had been used only once before. During his first six weeks in office, he abolished ninety federal regulations.
On January 23, 2017, Trump ordered a temporary government-wide hiring freeze, which allows for exceptions, primarily for jobs deemed vital for national security or public safety reasons. The Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office told a House committee that hiring freezes have not proven to be effective in reducing costs. Unlike some past freezes, the current freeze bars agencies from adding contractors to make up for employees leaving.
A week later Trump signed Executive Order 13771, directing administrative agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation they issue. Harvard Law professor Jody Freeman said that the order would do no more than slow the regulatory process, because it did not block rules required by statute.
On February 24, 2017, Trump ordered the agencies to create task forces to determine which regulations are deemed burdensome to the U.S. economy. Agency defenders expressed opposition to Trump’s criticisms, saying that the bureaucracy exists to protect people against well-organized, well-funded interest groups.
In 1999, Trump told Larry King Live that “I believe in universal healthcare.” Trump’s 2000 book, The America We Deserve, argued strongly for a single-payer healthcare system based on the Canadian model, and has voiced admiration for the Scottish National Health Service.
During his campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare. Shortly after taking office, he urged Congress to repeal and replace it. In May of that year, the United States House of Representatives voted to repeal the ACA. Over the course of several months’ effort, however, the Senate was unable to pass any version of a repeal bill. Trump has expressed a desire to “let Obamacare fail”, and the Trump administration has cut the ACA enrollment period in half and drastically reduced funding for advertising and other ways to encourage enrollment. The tax reform Trump signed into law at the end of his first year in office effectively repealed the individual health insurance mandate that was a major element of the Obamacare health insurance system; this repeal is scheduled to be implemented in 2019.
Trump says he aims to streamline the Department of Veterans Affairs, get rid of backlogs and waitlists, and upgrade relevant facilities. On his first Monday in office, Trump issued a federal hiring freeze on the VA.
Trump’s immigration policies were a topic of intense discussion during the campaign. He promised to build a more substantial wall on the Mexico–United States border to keep out illegal immigrants and vowed that Mexico would pay for it. He pledged to massively deport illegal immigrants residing in the United States, and criticized birthright citizenship for creating “anchor babies“. He said that deportation would focus on criminals, visa overstays, and security threats.
Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, Trump made a controversial proposal to ban Muslim non-citizens from entering the United States until stronger vetting systems could be implemented. He later restrained the proposed ban to countries with a “proven history of terrorism”.
On January 27, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13769, which suspended admission of refugees for 120 days and denied entry to citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days, citing security concerns. The order was imposed without warning and took effect immediately. Confusion and protests caused chaos at many airports, as travelers were detained on arriving in the United States or barred from boarding U.S.-bound planes. The administration then clarified that visitors with a green card were exempt from the ban.
On January 30, Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, directed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the executive order and was promptly dismissed. She was replaced as acting Attorney General by Dana Boente, who agreed to enforce the order. Multiple legal challenges were filed against the order, and on February 5 a federal judge in Seattle blocked its implementation.
On March 6, Trump issued a revised order, which excluded Iraq, gave specific exemptions for permanent residents, and removed priorities for Christian minorities. Again federal judges in Hawaii, Maryland, and Virginia blocked its implementation. On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban could be enforced on visitors who lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The court scheduled full hearings in October.
On September 24, 2017, the temporary order was replaced by Presidential Proclamation 9645, which permanently restricts travel from the originally targeted countries except Iraq and Sudan, and further bans travelers from North Korea and Chad and certain Venezuelan officials. These provisions were slated to take effect on October 18, and the Supreme Court cancelled the hearing that was planned for October 10. On October 17, a federal judge in Hawaii blocked the new restrictions, except for North Korea and Venezuela. On October 24, 2017, the Supreme Court dismissed a March appeal as moot, while expressing “no views on the merits” of the case. On December 4, the Supreme Court allowed the September version to go into full effect, while legal challenges continued in lower courts.
Trump is conservative, describes himself as pro-life, and opposes abortion except for cases of rape, incest, and circumstances endangering the health of the mother. He has said that he is committed to appointing justices who would try to overturn the ruling in Roe v. Wade. He personally supports “traditional marriage” but considers the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage a “settled” issue.
Trump supports a broad interpretation of the Second Amendment and says he is opposed to gun control in general, although his views have shifted over time. Trump opposes legalizing recreational marijuana but supports legalizing medical marijuana. He favors capital punishment, as well as the use of waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse” methods of torture.
Trump has been described as non-interventionist and nationalist. He repeatedly stated that he supports “America First” foreign policy. He supports increasing United States military defense spending, but favors decreasing United States spending on NATO and in the Pacific region. He says America should look inward, stop “nation building”, and re-orient its resources toward domestic needs. As a candidate he questioned whether he, as president, would automatically extend security guarantees to NATO members, and suggested that he might leave NATO unless changes are made to the alliance. But as president he has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO.
In order to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Trump in 2015 called for seizing the oil in ISIS-occupied areas, using U.S. air power and ground troops. In 2016, Trump advocated sending 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops to the region, a position he later retracted.
During his campaign and as president, Trump repeatedly said that he wants a good relationship with Russia. Trump has pledged to hold a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin. He added that Russia could help the U.S. in fighting ISIS militants. On April 7, 2017, Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian airfield in retaliation for the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack.
Regarding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Trump has stated the importance of being a neutral party during potential negotiations, while also having stated that he is “a big fan of Israel”. During the campaign he said he would relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from its current location, Tel Aviv. On May 22, 2017, Trump was the first U.S. president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, during his first foreign trip, visiting Israel, Italy, the Vatican, and Belgium. On December 6, 2017, Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite objections from Palestinian and world leaders. Trump added that he would initiate the process of establishing a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. In an emergency session on December 21, 2017, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the move by adopting a resolution that “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”
Relations with Cuba
On June 16, 2017, Trump announced that he was cancelling the Obama administrations deals with Cuba, while also expressing hope that a new deal could be negotiated between Cuba and the United States.
North Korea became a major issue in mid-2017. During the campaign and the early months of his presidency, Trump had hoped that China would help to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and missile tests. However, North Korea accelerated their missile and nuclear tests, leading to increased tension. In July, the country tested two long-range missiles identified by Western observers as intercontinental ballistic missiles, potentially capable of reaching Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland. In August, Trump dramatically escalated his rhetoric against North Korea, warning that further provocation against the U.S. will be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un then threatened to direct the country’s next missile test toward Guam. Trump warned Kim of strong retaliation if North Korea attacked Guam or U.S. allies. In January 2018, South Korean president Moon Jae-in praised Trump’s tough stance toward the North, stating that Trump deserved “big” credit for his efforts in facilitating talks between North and South Korea.
Dismissal of James Comey
On May 9, 2017, Trump dismissed FBI Director James Comey. He attributed the action to recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, which criticized Comey’s conduct in the investigation about Hillary Clinton’s emails. On May 11, Trump stated that he was concerned with the ongoing “Russia thing” and that he had intended to fire Comey earlier.
According to a Comey memo of a private conversation on February 14, 2017, Trump said he “hoped” Comey would drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, who had been forced to resign as National Security Advisor after it was discovered that he had misled the vice president about communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
In March and April, Trump had told Comey that the ongoing suspicions formed a “cloud” impairing his presidency, and asked him to publicly state that he was not personally under investigation. He also asked DNI Dan Coats and NSA Director Michael Rogers to issue statements saying there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Both refused, considering this an inappropriate request, although not illegal. Comey eventually testified on June 8 that while he was director, the FBI investigations did not target Trump himself. In a statement on Twitter Trump implied that he had “tapes” of conversations with Comey, before later stating that he did not in fact have such tapes.
On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller, a former Director of the FBI, to serve as special counsel for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). In this capacity, Mueller oversees the investigation into “any links and/or coordination between Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”.
The Washington Post reported that days after Comey’s dismissal the special counsel had started investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice. Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow stated that he had not been notified of any such investigation. ABC News later reported that the special counsel is gathering preliminary information about possible obstruction of justice but has not launched a full-scale investigation.
In July 2017, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced an article of impeachment. In November 2017 six other Democratic representatives introduced five articles of impeachment citing “obstruction of justice”, “violation of the foreign emoluments clause“, “violation of the domestic emoluments clause”, “undermining the independence of the federal judiciary,” and “undermining the freedom of the press”.
In December 2017, an impeachment resolution was put to a vote. Introduced by Congressman Al Green (D-TX), it comprised two articles of impeachment titled “Associating the Presidency with White Nationalism, Neo-Nazism and Hatred” and “Inciting Hatred and Hostility”. It was defeated 364 to 58.
2020 presidential campaign
Trump signaled his intention to run for a second term by filing with the FEC within hours of assuming the presidency. This transformed his 2016 election committee into a 2020 reelection one. Trump marked the official start of the campaign with a campaign rally in Melbourne, Florida, on February 18, 2017, less than a month after taking office. By February 1, 2017, the campaign had already raised over $7 million.