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Donald J. Trump came into office touting his business acumen and "political outsider" status, but he left office shunned by many members of both political parties, business leaders, former government officials and others for his inability to concede the election and his role in the Capital riots on January 6, 2021. He served one term, from 2017 until 2021.
There is no doubt that Trump will leave his mark as an unconventional and controversial figure in American politics. He pushed a nationalistic agenda for the U.S. both abroad and domestically. He was known for his brash style of speaking and tweeting, self-ascribed nationalistic views, consistent and prolific use of false statements, and attacks on all branches of the government and press.
Politically, he ran for office as a Republican, but his legislation and politics at times ran counter to current Republican views in Congress. Political analysts and legal scholars have called his philosophy and rhetoric “Trumpism” because the combination of populist, nationalistic, nativist, and authoritarian tendencies has not been practiced by a U.S. president in modern times.
His speeches often depicted a dystopian view of the current state of the U.S., contrasted with his views of what a utopian view of America could look like under his leadership.
“Sadly, the American dream is dead.” Trump said in his speech he gave at Trump Tower in 2015 when he announced his presidential bid. “But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.”
While in office, he amassed an enthusiastic and loyal following, often attracting thousands of people to his “rallies,” but he also disenfranchised many others. His supporters cite his "America First" policies that include tax cuts, trade protectionism, immigration restriction, energy/financial/environmental deregulation, and the appointment of many perceived conservative judges.His detractors cite his disregard for ethics and traditions of the office of president, his praise of authoritarian leaders and resistance to denounce white supremacy, his policy on separation of migrant children from their families, his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic (including his own disregard of public health guidelines and his inability to support his scientific advisors), and his false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and inability to concede as a failure in leadership.
In 2019, Trump became the third sitting president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. At the end of his term, he was impeached again by the House of Representatives for his part in inciting riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. He is the only President in the history of the U.S. to be impeached twice.
Trump lost the presidential election of 2020 to Joe Biden and became the tenth president in U.S. history to lose a re-election bid.
Early Life and Career
Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946 in Queens, New York to Fred and Mary Anne Trump. Fred Trump was a real estate developer whose wealth afforded Donald a privileged young life that included education at private schools. Donald Trump graduated high school at the New York Military Academy and earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. He then returned to New York to work with his father and in 1971 became president of the family-owned businesses (later known as the Trump Organization). He continued investing in real estate and developing other business ventures in New York and eventually across the world.
Donald Trump ran for president in 2000 as a third-party candidate, but dropped out of the race. In 2015 he entered the presidential race again, this time as a Republican candidate.
Trump was the host of fourteen seasons of the reality television show, The Apprentice, which ran on NBC from 2004 to 2017. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books, including his most well-known book, Trump: The Art of the Deal.
The race for president in 2016 started with an unprecedented number of Republican candidates: 17, in total. The Republican race was largely between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. On the Democratic side, the race was between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
After the primary elections, the race for president narrowed to between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. In the election, held on November 8, 2016, Clinton won the popular vote with 48 percent to 46 percent for Trump (65,853,514 votes for Clinton and 62,984,828 votes for Trump), but Trump won the electoral college votes with 304 votes to 227 for Hillary Clinton, so Donald Trump was announced the winner. Donald Trump is one of five presidents in U.S. history who have lost the popular vote but won the presidency with electoral votes. The other four include John Quincy Adams in 1824 (who actually lost both the popular vote and the electoral college vote), Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000.
First Lady Melania Trump
First Lady Melania Trump (born Melanija Knavs) was born in Slovenia on April 26, 1970 to Viktor and Amalija Knavs. She studied architecture and design at the University of Ljubljana but left to focus on a career in modeling which took her to Paris, Milan, and eventually to the United States in 1996.
In an interview with People magazine in 2015, Melania described her background in fashion. “I always loved fashion. My mother was a fashion designer so it was always in my blood.”
Melania married Donald Trump in 2005 and became a U.S. citizen in 2006. She is the second First Lady born outside of the United States and the first to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Melania served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the American Red Cross from 2005 to 2009 and served five years as Honorary Chairwoman for the Boys’ Club of New York. Melania also served as chairwomen for the American Heart Association in 2010.
Melania has described her approach as First Lady as “very traditional.” She took only a small part in Donald Trump’s election in 2016, she says, to focus on her and Trump’s son, Barron. She made few appearances in his 2020 re-election bid, but supported him throughout his presidency."I'm choosing not to go political in public because that is my husband's job," Melania said in an interview with Harper's Bazaar in 2016 about why she stays out of the limelight during campaigns.She used her platform as First Lady to primarily focus on issues affecting children. The goals of her program, Be Best, were to raise awareness on the well-being of children, the effects of social media on children, and how parental opioid abuse can affect infants.
Domestic Policies, Actions, & Legislation
During his tenure in office, Trump re-shaped the Supreme Court with his nomination and eventual seating of three justices, established the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces—the Space Force—the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947, passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the first major re-haul of the tax code in three decades), and signed bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation called the First Step Act. His administration is credited with building and/or replacing hundreds of miles of wall at the border with Mexico. It was a controversial effort, but was a campaign promise he made and considered a major motivator for voters in his election.
Supreme Court Judges
During his time as president, Trump selected three judges to sit on the Supreme Court: Neil Gorsuch in 2017, Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. All three justices were confirmed after the Republican-led Senate invoked the “nuclear option,” which means they eliminated the super-majority of 60 votes required to confirm Supreme Court nominees in favor of a simple majority of 51 votes. The result was that all three nominees were confirmed largely along party lines.
In August of 2019, a whistleblower complaint alleged that they had received information from several government officials that “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The complaint was later corroborated by other whistleblowers.
In response to the complaint, the House of Representatives opened an inquiry into the matter, and by December of 2019 approved two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. Article I included Abuse of Power, stating that “President Trump—acting both directly and through his agents within and outside the United States Government—corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into—(A) a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; and (B) a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine—rather than Russia—interfered in the 2016 United States Presidential election.”
The second article, Obstruction of Congress, states “President Trump abused the powers of his high office" by defying lawful subpoenas when directing the White House and other executive branch offices to withhold documents and records and directing current and former executive branch officials not to cooperate with House Committees.
The House of Representative approved the articles of impeachment on December 18, 2019, but Trump was acquitted of all charges by the Senate on February 5, 2020. Trump is the only president to date where a member of his own party voted for impeachment in the Senate trial.
Capital Riots & Second Impeachment
Trump left the White House in the early morning on January 20, 2021. In a break with tradition, he did not attend the inauguration of Joe Biden nor was he escorted out by the incoming president. Trump and Melania currently live in Florida.
Sources and Further Reading
Bausum, Ann. (2017) Our Country’s President’s: A Complete Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Partners
Be Best. White House archives. www.trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/bebest
BBC. (August 26, 2020) Melania Trump: The unusual, traditional First Lady. www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37256893
Cagle, Jess and Triggs, Charlotte. (2016) Melania Trump's First Interview! Plus: Why Donald Trump Says His Wife Would Be an 'Amazing' First Lady. Peoplewww.people.com/celebrity/melania-trumps-first-interview
Eckhart, Robert. (October 22, 2018) "I am a nationalist," Trump proclaims at Houston rally. www.apnews.com/article/90049489b3584332bd8263aa0ef4b353
Federal Election Commission. (2017). Federal Elections 2016: Election Results for the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. www.fec.gov/resources/cms-content/documents/federalelections2016.pdf
Kuczynski, Alex. (Jan 6, 2016) Melania Trump's American Dream. Harper's Bazaar www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a13529/melania-trump-interview-0216Pastan, Ann. (2017) First Ladies (Eyewitness). New York: DK Publishing.Supreme Court Justices and Rulings. www.supremecourt.gov
Trump, Donald J. and Schwartz, Tony. (1988) Trump: The Art of the Deal. New York: Random House
Donald Trump and the verdict of history: ANALYSIS
Trump's place in history is bound to be debated for years to come.
How Donald Trump has transformed the presidency
Claire Booth Luce, the renowned 20th century politician and playwright, was fond of lecturing many of the presidents she knew -- from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan -- that history would remember them in one sentence.
"History has no time for more than one sentence, and it is always a sentence with an active verb," she said. Then she would illustrate, "Lincoln, he freed the slaves and saved the union," before challenging them: "What will your sentence be?"
Barely out of office a week and still a political force, Donald Trump's place in history, let alone his sentence, is bound to be debated for years to come.
Under any circumstances, it takes a generation or more for historians to sort out a presidency with any degree of objectivity. The distance of years -- as passions recede, presidential records are declassified and evaluated and perspective is offered -- allows more reasoned and detached judgment to take hold.
Harry Truman, now widely considered one of the United States' top 10 presidents, left office with a paltry public approval rating of 32%. Likewise, Lyndon Johnson's legacy was shrouded by the failed war in Vietnam before history shined its light on his mammoth domestic accomplishments, including the fruition of landmark civil rights legislation. And Reagan, a year after leaving the presidency, was grouped in the bottom quintile of all U.S. presidents in a decennial poll among historians before ascending like a rocket in future rankings. That said, it doesn't look good for the 45th president.
Trump would like to be remembered for his handling of the economy, including instituting a massive tax cut for corporations and the country's wealthiest citizens and lifting regulations that had held many corporations back. Or by the number of conservative judges he appointed to the bench, including, by sheer luck of attrition, three justices on the Supreme Court. Or, by his telling, the fact that America is respected in the world again. He'd like to be remembered for advancing prison reform and negotiating renewed relations between Israel and several Arab nations.
But while Trump has been a master at controlling the narrative in his time, history runs its own course.
Especially in cursory evaluations, presidents are measured by the most consequential aspects of their tenure in office, those that align with the major issues and concerns of their times. Presidents facing major crises, for instance, are invariably judged by how they rose to the challenge of resolving them.
Character also comes into play. How did a president's disposition reflect in his leadership in those pivotal times? Franklin Roosevelt, for instance, gets high marks not only for innovatively devising solutions to combat the ills of the Great Depression, but for his ebullient spirit in rallying a ravaged nation. Neither of this bodes well for Donald J. Trump.
Given the patterns of history, it is likely that Trump will be remembered primarily for the central crises of his administration. The first is the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst health calamity to befall the nation in over a century. While Trump can't be blamed for creating the pandemic, he will be held to account for allowing it to spread unchecked with no coherent plan in place as he played it down for fear of it putting a damper on a roaring economy, ignoring science and insisting that the virus would magically go away.
How many of the now over 400,000 Americans who perished from COVID-19 during Trump's watch would have been spared if he had accepted responsibility and implemented policies and procedures toward its mitigation? It was his colossal mishandling of the pandemic more than anything that led to Trump's reelection loss to Joe Biden by over 7 million votes.
But even more so, Trump will be remembered for the other crisis of his administration, one very much of his own doing: baselessly challenging the integrity of a presidential election that led to the seditious siege on the Capitol on Jan. 6. The commander-in-chief stirred up a mob to take down the federal government as lawmakers convened to certify the election in an attempt to overturn the will of the people and, antithetically, "take back our country," resulting in the deaths of five people including a police officer who was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. The attempted coup is a black mark that even the Teflon Trump can't dodge.
First Generation (Conjugal Family)
1. Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in New York City.
Donald John Trump and Ivana Zelnickova Winklmayr were married on April 7, 1977, in New York City. They divorced on March 22, 1992. They had the following children:
i. Donald Trump Jr.: Born December 31, 1977, in New York City. He was married to Vanessa Kay Haydon from 2005 to 2018. Their five children are Chloe Sophia Trump, Kai Madison Trump, Tristan Milos Trump, Donald Trump III, and Spencer Frederick Trump.
ii. Ivanka Trump: Born October 30, 1981, in New York City. She is married to Jared Corey Kushner. Their three children are Arabella Rose Kushner, Joseph Frederick Kushner, and Theodore James Kushner.
iii. Eric Trump: Born January 6, 1984, in New York City. He is married to Lara Lea Yunaska.
Donald Trump and Marla Maples married on December 20, 1993, in New York City. They divorced on June 8, 1999. Their only child was:
i. Tiffany Trump: Born October 13, 1993, in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Donald Trump married Melania Knauss (born Melanija Knavs) on January 22, 2005, in Palm Beach, Florida. They have one child:
i. Barron William Trump: Born March 20, 2006, in New York City.
Second Generation (Parents)
2. Frederick Christ (Fred) Trump was born on October 11, 1905, in New York City. He died on June 25, 1999, in New Hyde Park, New York.
3. Mary Anne MacLeod was born on May 10, 1912, in Isle of Lewis, Scotland. She died on August 7, 2000, in New Hyde Park, New York.
Fred Trump and Mary MacLeod were married in January 1936 in New York City. They had the following children:
i. Maryanne Trump: Born April 5, 1937, in New York City.
ii. Fred Trump Jr.: Born in 1938 in New York City and died in 1981.
iii. Elizabeth Trump: Born in 1942 in New York City.
1. iv. Donald John Trump.
v. Robert Trump: Born in August 1948 in New York City.
Third Generation (Grandparents)
4. Friederich (Fred) Trump was born on March 14, 1869, in Kallstadt, Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1885 from Hamburg, Germany aboard the ship "Eider" and acquired United States citizenship in 1892 in Seattle. He died on March 30, 1918, in New York City.
5. Elizabeth Christ was born on October 10, 1880, in Kallstadt and died on June 6, 1966, in New York City.
Fred Trump and Elizabeth Christ were married on August 26, 1902, in Kallstadt. Fred and Elizabeth had the following children:
i. Elizabeth (Betty) Trump: Born April 30, 1904, in New York City and died on December 3, 1961, in New York City.
2. ii. Frederick Christ (Fred) Trump.
iii. John George Trump: Born August 21, 1907, in New York City and died on February 21, 1985, in Boston, Massachusetts.
6. Malcolm MacLeod was born on December 27, 1866, in Stornoway, Scotland to Alexander and Anne MacLeod. He was a fisherman and crofter and also served as the compulsory officer in charge of enforcing attendance at a local school beginning in 1919 (end date unknown). He died on June 22, 1954, in Tong, Scotland.
7. Mary Smith was born on July 11, 1867, in Tong, Scotland to Donald Smith and Henrietta McSwane. Her father died when she was just over one year old, and she and her three siblings were raised by their mother. Mary died on December 27, 1963.
Malcolm MacLeod and Mary Smith were married in the Back Free Church of Scotland a few miles from Stornoway, the only town on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Their marriage was witnessed by Murdo MacLeod and Peter Smith. Malcolm and Mary had the following children:
i. Malcolm M. MacLeod Jr.: Born September 23, 1891, in Tong, Scotland and died Jan. 20, 1983, on Lopez Island, Washington.
ii. Donald MacLeod: Born in 1894.
iii. Christina MacLeod: Born in 1896.
iv. Katie Ann MacLeod: Born in 1898.
v. William MacLeod: Born in 1898.
vi. Annie MacLeod: Born in 1900.
vii. Catherine MacLeod: Born in 1901.
viii. Mary Johann MacLeod: Born in 1905.
ix. Alexander MacLeod: Born in 1909.
3. x. Mary Anne MacLeod.
Fourth Generation (Great-Grandparents)
8. Christian Johannes Trump was born in June 1829 in Kallstadt, Germany and died July 6, 1877, in Kallstadt.
9. Katherina Kober was born in 1836 in Kallstadt, Germany and died in November 1922 in Kallstadt.
Christian Johannes Trump and Katherina Kober were married on September 29, 1859, in Kallstadt. They had one child:
4. i. Friederich (Fred) Trump.
10. Christian Christ, birth date unknown.
11. Anna Maria Rathon, birth date unknown.
Christian Christ and Anna Maria Rathon were married. They had the following child:
5. i. Elizabeth Christ.
12. Alexander MacLeod, a crofter and fisherman, was born on May 10, 1830, in Stornoway, Scotland to William MacLeod and Catherine/Christian MacLeod. He died in Tong, Scotland on January 12, 1900.
13. Anne MacLeod was born in 1833 in Tong, Scotland.
Alexander MacLeod and Anne MacLeod were married in Tong on December 3, 1853. They had the following children:
i. Catherine MacLeod: Born in 1856.
ii. Jessie MacLeod: Born in 1857.
iii. Alexander MacLeod: Born in 1859.
iv. Ann MacLeod: Born in 1865.
6. v. Malcolm MacLeod.
vi. Donald MacLeod. Born June 11, 1869.
vii. William MacLeod: Born January 21, 1874.
14. Donald Smith was born on January 1, 1835, to Duncan Smith and Henrietta MacSwane and was the second of their nine children. He was a woolen weaver and cottar (peasant farmer). Donald died on October 26, 1868, off the coast Broadbay, Scotland when a squall of wind overturned his boat.
15. Mary Macauley was born in 1841 in Barvas, Scotland.
Donald Smith and Mary Macauley were married on December 16, 1858, in Garrabost on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. They had the following children:
i. Ann Smith: Born November 8, 1859, in Stornoway, Scotland.
ii. John Smith: Born December 31, 1861, in Stornoway.
iii. Duncan Smith: Born September 2, 1864, in Stornoway and died October 29, 1937, in Seattle.
The Worst President in History
Three particular failures secure Trump’s status as the worst chief executive ever to hold the office.
About the author: Tim Naftali is a clinical associate professor of history at NYU. He was the first director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.
In December 2019, he became the third president to be impeached. Last week, Trump entered a category all his own, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. But impeachment, which depends in part on the makeup of Congress, is not the most objective standard. What does being the worst president actually mean? And is there even any value, at the bitter end of a bad presidency, in spending energy on judging a pageant of failed presidencies?
It is helpful to think of the responsibilities of a president in terms of the two elements of the oath of office set forth in the Constitution. In the first part, presidents swear to “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States.” This is a pledge to properly perform the three jobs the presidency combines into one: head of state, head of government, and commander in chief. In the second part, they promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Trump was a serial violator of his oath—as evidenced by his continual use of his office for personal financial gain—but focusing on three crucial ways in which he betrayed it helps clarify his singular historical status. First, he failed to put the national-security interests of the United States ahead of his own political needs. Second, in the face of a devastating pandemic, he was grossly derelict, unable or unwilling to marshal the requisite resources to save lives while actively encouraging public behavior that spread the disease. And third, held to account by voters for his failures, he refused to concede defeat and instead instigated an insurrection, stirring a mob that stormed the Capitol.
Many chief executives have failed, in one way or another, to live up to the demands of the job, or to competently discharge them. But historians now tend to agree that our worst presidents are those who fall short in the second part of their pledge, in some way endangering the Constitution. And if you want to understand why these three failures make Trump the worst of all our presidents, the place to begin is in the basement of the presidential rankings, where dwell his rivals for that singular dishonor.
For decades in the 20th century, many historians agreed that the title Trump has recently earned properly belonged to Warren G. Harding, a president they remembered. The journalist H. L. Mencken, master of the acidic bon mot, listened to Harding’s inaugural address and despaired. “No other such complete and dreadful nitwit is to be found in the pages of American history,” he wrote.
Poor Harding. Our 29th president popularized the word normalcy and self-deprecatingly described himself as a “bloviator,” before dying in office of natural causes in 1923. Although mourned by an entire nation—9 million people are said to have viewed his funeral train, many singing his favorite hymn, “Nearer, My God, to Thee”—he was never respected by people of letters when he was alive. An avalanche of posthumous revelations about corruption in his administration made him an object of scorn among most historians. In 1948, Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. began the tradition of regularly ranking our presidents, which his son, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. continued—for decades Harding consistently came in dead last, dominating a category entitled “failure.”
The scandal that prompted Harding’s descent to presidential hell involved the leasing of private drilling rights on federal lands in California and under a Wyoming rock resembling a teapot Teapot Dome would serve as the shorthand for a terrible presidential scandal until it was displaced by Watergate. In April 1922, the Republican-controlled Senate began an investigation of the Republican administration, with Harding promising cooperation. Public hearings began only after Harding’s death the next year. The secretary of the interior was ultimately found guilty of bribery, becoming the first person to go from the Cabinet to jail. Other scandals engulfed the director of the Veterans’ Bureau and the attorney general.
Although Harding had some warning of the corruption in his administration, no evidence suggests that he personally profited from it, or that he was guilty of more than incompetence. John W. Dean, the former White House counsel who pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in Watergate, later concluded that Harding’s reputation was unfairly tainted: “The fact that Harding had done nothing wrong and had not been involved in any criminal activities became irrelevant.” And, regardless of Harding’s role in the widespread corruption in his administration, he didn’t ever threaten our constitutional system.
On the other side of the ledger, Harding had a number of positive achievements: the Washington Naval Conference to discuss disarmament, the implementation of presidential authority over executive-branch budgeting, the commutation of Eugene V. Debs’s sentence. These, combined with his own lack of direct involvement in the scandals of his administration and the absence of any attack on our republic (which no positive administrative achievements could ever balance out), ought to allow him to be happily forgotten as a mediocre president.
Harding’s reputation has hardly improved, but in recent presidential surveys organized by C-SPAN, his tenure has been eclipsed by the failures of three men who were implicated in the breakup of the Union or who hindered the tortuous effort to reconstruct it.
The first two are Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Pierce, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Buchanan, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, abetted and at times amplified the forces that drove the Union asunder. Although neither was from the South, both men sympathized with southern slaveholders. They considered the rising tide of abolitionism an abomination, and sought ways to increase the power of slaveholders.
Pierce and Buchanan opposed the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which had calmed political tensions by prohibiting slavery above a certain line in the Louisiana Territory. As president, Pierce helped overturn it, adding the pernicious sentence to the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act that declared the Compromise “inoperative and void.” The Kansas-Nebraska Act not only allowed the people of the Kansas and Nebraska territories to determine themselves whether their respective states were to be slave or free but opened all unorganized territory to slavery.
Buchanan then used federal power in Kansas to ensure that slaveholders and their supporters, though a minority, would win. He authorized the granting of an $80,000 contract to a pro-slavery editor in the territory and “contracts, commissions, and in some cases cold cash” to northern Democrats in the House of Representatives to press them to admit Kansas as a slave state.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected to replace him in November 1860, and states began to secede, Buchanan effectively abdicated his responsibilities as president of the United States. He blamed Lincoln’s Republicans for causing all the problems he faced, and promised southerners a constitutional amendment protecting slavery forever if they returned. When secessionists in South Carolina set siege to a federal fort, Buchanan collapsed. “Like … Nixon in the summer of 1974 before his resignation,” wrote the Buchanan biographer Jean H. Baker, “Buchanan gave every indication of severe mental strain affecting both his health and his judgment.”
During the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, President George Washington had led the militia against the Pennsylvania rebels. Buchanan’s Cabinet didn’t expect him to personally lead U.S. troops to protect the federal forts and customhouses being seized by southern secessionists, but he shocked them by doing effectively nothing. When federal officeholders resigned in the South, Buchanan did not use his authority to replace them. He even had to be deterred by his Cabinet from simply surrendering Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, and ultimately made only a feeble effort to defend the fort, sending an unarmed merchant ship as relief. Meanwhile, former President Pierce, who had been asked to speak in Alabama, instead wrote in a public letter, “If we cannot live together in peace, then in peace and on just terms let us separate.” After the Civil War ended, Pierce offered his services as a defense lawyer to his friend Jefferson Davis. (Pierce might not have been our worst president, but he’s in the running against John Tyler, who left office in 1845 and 16 years later joined the Confederacy, for leading the worst post-presidency.)
The next great presidential failure in U.S. history involved the management of the victory over the South. Enter the third of the three men who eclipsed Harding: Andrew Johnson. Lincoln had picked Johnson as his running mate in 1864 to forge a unity ticket for what he expected to be a tough reelection bid. A pro-Union Democrat, Johnson had been the sole southern senator in 1861 not to leave Congress when his state seceded.
But Johnson’s fidelity to Lincoln and to the nation ended with Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865. While Lincoln had not left detailed plans for how to “bind up the nation’s wounds” after the war, Johnson certainly violated the spirit of what Lincoln had envisioned. An unrepentant white supremacist, he opposed efforts to give freedmen the vote, and when Congress did so over his objections, Johnson impeded their enjoyment of that right. He wanted slavery by another name in the South, undermining the broad consensus in the victorious North. “What he had in mind all along for the south,” as his biographer Annette Gordon-Reed wrote, “was a restoration rather than reconstruction.”
Johnson used his pulpit to bully those who believed in equal rights for formerly enslaved people and to encourage a culture of grievance in the South, spreading myths about why the Civil War had occurred in the first place. Many people are responsible for the toxic views and policies that have so long denied Black Americans basic human rights, but Andrew Johnson was the first to use the office of the presidency to give that project national legitimacy and federal support. Having inherited Lincoln’s Cabinet, Johnson was forced to maneuver around Lincoln’s men to impose his own mean-spirited and racist vision of how to reintegrate the South. That got him impeached by the House. A Republican Senate then fell one vote short of removing him from office.
All three of these 19th-century presidents compiled awful records, but Buchanan stands apart because—besides undermining the Union, using his office to promote white supremacy, and demonstrating dereliction of duty in the decisive crisis of secession—he led an outrageously corrupt administration. He violated not just the second part of his oath, betraying the Constitution, but also the first part. Buchanan managed to be more corrupt than the low standard set by his contemporaries in Congress, which is saying something.
In 1858, members of Congress tried to curtail a routine source of graft, described by the historian Michael Holt as the “public printing rake-off.” At the time, there was no Government Printing Office, so contracts for printing the reams of congressional and executive-branch proceedings and statements went to private printers. In the 1820s, President Andrew Jackson had started steering these lucrative contracts to friends. By the 1850s, congressional investigators found that bribes were being extorted from would-be government printers, and that those who won contracts were kicking back a portion of their profits to the Democratic Party. Buchanan directly benefited from this system in the 1856 election. Although he signed reforms into law in 1858, he swiftly subverted them by permitting a subterfuge that allowed his key contributor—who owned a prominent pro-administration newspaper—to continue profiting from government printing.
Does Trump have any modern competitors for the title of worst president? Like Harding, a number of presidents were poor executors of the office. President Woodrow Wilson was an awful man who presided over an apartheid system in the nation’s capital, largely confined his support for democracy abroad to white nations, and then mishandled a pandemic. President Herbert Hoover helped drive the U.S. economy into the ground during the Great Depression, because the economics he learned as a young man proved fundamentally wrong.
President George W. Bush’s impulse after 9/11 to weaken American civil liberties in the name of protecting them, and his blanket approval of interrogation techniques universally considered torture, left Americans disillusioned and impeded the struggle to deradicalize Islamists. His invasion of Iraq in 2003, like Thomas Jefferson’s embargo on foreign trade during the Napoleonic Wars, had disastrous consequences for American power, and undermined unity at home and abroad.
These presidents were each deeply flawed, but not in the same league as their predecessors who steered the country into Civil War or did their utmost to deprive formerly enslaved people of their hard-won rights while rewarding those who betrayed their country.
And then there’s Richard Nixon.
Before Trump, Nixon set the standard for modern presidential failure as the first president forced from office, who resigned ahead of impeachment. And in many ways, their presidencies have been eerily parallel. But the comparison to Nixon reveals the ways in which Trump’s presidency has been not merely bad, but the very worst we have ever seen.
Like the 45th president, Nixon ascended to office by committing an original sin. As the Republican presidential nominee, Nixon intervened indirectly to scuttle peace negotiations in Paris over the Vietnam War. He was worried that a diplomatic breakthrough in the 11th hour of the campaign would help his Democratic rival, Hubert Humphrey. For Nixon, it set the pattern for future presidential lies and cover-ups.
Trump, too, put his political prospects ahead of any sense of duty. As a candidate, Trump openly appealed to Russia to steal his opponent’s emails. Then, as Russia dumped hacked emails from her campaign chair, he seized on the pilfered materials to suggest wrongdoing and amplified Russian disinformation efforts. Extensive investigations during his administration by then–Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee didn’t produce any evidence suggesting that he directly abetted Russian hacking, but those investigations were impeded by a pattern of obstructive conduct that Mueller carefully outlined in his report.
Trump’s heartless and incompetent approach to immigration, his use of tax policy to punish states that didn’t vote for him, his diversion of public funds to properties owned by him and his family, his impulsive and self-defeating approach to trade, and his petulance toward traditional allies assured on their own that he would not be seen as a successful modern president. But those failures have more to do with the first part of his oath. The case that Trump is not just the worst of our modern presidents but the worst of them all rests on three other pillars, not all of which have a Nixonian parallel.
Trump is the first president since America became a superpower to subordinate national-security interests to his political needs. Nixon’s mishandling of renewed peace negotiations with Hanoi in the 1972 election campaign led to the commission of a war crime, the unnecessary “Christmas bombing” at the end of that year. But it cannot compare, in terms of the harm to U.S. national interests, to Trump’s serial subservience to foreign strongmen such as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and, of course, Russia’s Vladimir Putin—none of whom act out of a sense of shared interests with the United States. Trump’s effort to squeeze the Ukrainians to get dirt on his likely opponent in 2020, the cause of his first impeachment, was just the best-documented instance of a form of corruption that characterized his entire foreign policy.
The second pillar is Trump’s dereliction of duty during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will have killed at least 400,000 Americans by the time he leaves office. In his inaugural address, Trump vowed an end to “American carnage,” but in office, he presided over needless death and suffering. Trump’s failure to anticipate and then respond to the pandemic has no equivalent in Nixon’s tenure when Nixon wasn’t plotting political subversion and revenge against his perceived enemies, he could be a good administrator.
Trump, of course, is not the first president to have been surprised by a threat to our country. Franklin D. Roosevelt was caught off guard by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Trump, like FDR, could have tried to redeem himself by his management of the response. But Trump lacked FDR’s intellectual and leadership skills. Instead of adapting, he dug in, denying the severity of the challenge and the importance of mask wearing and social distancing while bemoaning the likely damage to his beloved economy.
Trump continued to insist that he was in charge of America’s coronavirus response, but when being in charge required him to actively oversee plans—or at least to read and approve them—he punted on the tough issues of ramping up testing, and was painfully slow to secure sufficient protective equipment and ventilators. FDR didn’t directly manage the Liberty ship program, but he grasped its necessity and understood how to empower subordinates. Trump, instead, ignored his own experts and advisers, searching constantly for some silver bullet that would relieve him of the necessity of making hard choices. He threw money at pharmaceutical and biotech firms to accelerate work on vaccines, with good results, but went AWOL on the massive logistical effort administering those vaccines requires.
In doubling down on his opposition to basic public-health measures, the president crossed a new line of awfulness. Three of Trump’s tweets on April 17, 2020—“LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!,” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”—moved him into Pierce and Buchanan territory for the first time: The president was promoting disunity. The “liberation” he was advocating was civil disobedience against stay-at-home rules put in place by governors who were listening to public-health experts. Trump then organized a series of in-person rallies that sickened audience members and encouraged a wider public to put themselves at risk.
Trump channeled the same divisive spirit that Pierce and Buchanan had tapped by turning requests from the governors of the states that had been the hardest hit by the coronavirus into opportunities for partisan and sectarian attack.
Fifty-eight thousand Americans had already died of the virus when Trump signaled that ignoring or actively violating public-health mandates was a patriotic act. Over the summer, even as the death toll from COVID mounted, Trump never stopped bullying civic leaders who promoted mask wearing, and continued to hold large in-person rallies, despite the risk of spreading the virus. When the president himself became sick in the fall, rather than being sobered by his personal brush with serious illness, the president chose to turn a potential teachable moment for many Americans into a grotesque carnival. He used his presidential access to experimental treatment to argue that ordinary Americans need not fear the disease. He even took a joyride around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in his closed, armored SUV to bask in the glow of his supporters’ adulation while endangering the health of his Secret Service detail.
American presidents have a mixed record with epidemics. For every Barack Obama, whose administration professionally managed the threats from Ebola and the H1N1 virus, or George W. Bush, who tackled AIDS in Africa, there’s been a Woodrow Wilson, who mishandled the influenza pandemic, or a Ronald Reagan, who was derelict in the face of AIDS. But neither Reagan nor Wilson actively promoted risky behavior for political purposes, nor did they personally obstruct federal-state partnerships that had been intended to control the spread of disease. On those points, Trump stands alone.
The third pillar of the case against Trump is his role as the chief instigator of the attempted insurrection of January 6. Although racism and violent nativism preceded Trump, the seeds of what happened on January 6 were planted by his use of the presidential bully pulpit. No president since Andrew Johnson had so publicly sympathized with the sense of victimhood among racists. In important ways, Nixon prefigured Trump by conspiring with his top lieutenants to use race, covertly, to bring about a realignment in U.S. politics. Nixon’s goal was to lure racists away from the Democratic Party and so transform the Republican Party into a governing majority. Trump has gone much further. From his remarks after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to his effort to set the U.S. military against the Black Lives Matter movement, Trump has openly used race in an effort to transform the Republican Party into an agitated, cult-like, white-supremacist minority movement that could win elections only through fear, disenfranchisement, and disinformation.
Both Trump and Nixon sought to subvert any serious efforts to deny them reelection. Nixon approved a dirty-tricks campaign, and his chief of staff Bob Haldeman approved the details of an illegal espionage program against the eventual Democratic nominee. Nixon won his election but ultimately left office in the middle of his second term because the press, the Department of Justice, and Congress uncovered his efforts to hide his role in this subversion. They were helped in large part by Nixon’s absentminded taping of his own conversations.
Trump never won reelection. Instead, he mounted the first effort by a defeated incumbent to use the power of his office to overturn a presidential election. Both men looked for weaknesses in the system to retain power. But Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election put him in a class of awfulness all by himself.
Holding a national election during a pandemic was a test of the resilience of American democracy. State and local election officials looked for ways to boost participation without boosting the virus’s spread. In practical terms, this meant taking the pressure off same-day voting—limiting crowds at booths—by encouraging voting by mail and advance voting. Every candidate in the 2020 elections understood that tallying ballots would be slow in states that started counting only on Election Day. Even before voting began, Trump planted poisonous seeds of doubt about the fairness of this COVID-19 election. When the numbers didn’t go his way, Trump accelerated his disinformation campaign, alleging fraud in states that he had won in 2016 but lost four years later. The campaign was vigorous and widespread. Trump’s allies sought court injunctions and relief from Republican state officials. Lacking any actual evidence of widespread fraud, they lost in the courts. Despite having exploited every constitutional option, Trump refused to give up.
It was at this point that Trump went far beyond Nixon, or any of his other predecessors. In 1974, when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in U.S. v. Nixon that Nixon had to turn over his White House tapes to a special prosecutor, Nixon also ran out of constitutional options. He knew that the tapes proved his guilt, and would likely lead to his impeachment and then to his conviction in the Senate. On July 24, Nixon said he would comply with the order from a coequal branch of our government, and ultimately accepted his political fate. In the end, even our most awful presidents before 2017 believed in the continuation of the system they had taken an oath to defend.
But not Trump. Heading into January 6, 2021, when Congress would ritually certify the election, Trump knew that he lacked the Electoral College votes to win or the congressional votes to prevent certification. He had only two cards left to play—neither one of which was consistent with his oath. He pushed Vice President Mike Pence to use his formal constitutional role as the play-by-play announcer of the count to unconstitutionally obstruct it, sending it back to the states for recertification. Meanwhile, to maintain pressure on Pence and Republicans in Congress, he gathered some of his most radicalized followers on the Mall and pointed the way to the Capitol, where the electoral count was about to begin. When Pence refused to exceed his constitutional authority, Trump unleashed his mob. He clearly wanted the count to be disrupted.
On January 6, Trump’s legacy was on a knife’s edge. Trump likely knew Pence’s intentions when he began to speak to the mob. He knew that the vice president would disappoint his hopes. In riling up the mob and sending it down Pennsylvania Avenue, he was imperiling the safety of his vice president and members of Congress. If there was any doubt that he was willing to countenance violence to get his way, it disappeared in the face of the president’s long inaction, as he sat in the White House watching live footage of the spreading assault.
And he may do still more damage before he departs.
Andrew Johnson left a political time bomb behind him in the nation’s capital. After the Democratic Party refused to nominate Johnson for a second term and Ulysses S. Grant won the election as a Republican, Johnson issued a broad political amnesty for many Confederates, including leaders who were under indictment such as the former president of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis.
So much of the pain and suffering this country experienced in the Trump years started with that amnesty. Had Davis and top Confederate generals been tried and convicted, polite society in the South could not have viewed these traitors as heroes. Now Trump is hinting that he wishes to pardon those who aided and abetted him in office, and perhaps even pardon himself—similarly attempting to escape accountability, and to delay a reckoning.
As Trump prepares to leave Washington, the capital is more agitated than during any previous presidential transition since 1861, with thousands of National Guard troops deployed around the city. There have been serious threats to previous inaugurations. But for the first time in the modern era, those threats are internal. An incumbent president is being asked to discourage terrorism by supporters acting in his name.
There are many verdicts on Donald Trump still to come, from the Senate, from juries of private citizens, from scholars and historians. But as a result of his subversion of national security, his reckless endangerment of every American in the pandemic, and his failed insurrection on January 6, one thing seems abundantly clear: Trump is the worst president in the 232-year history of the United States.
So, why does this matter? If we have experienced an unprecedented political trauma, we should be prepared to act to prevent any recurrence. Nixon’s fall introduced an era of government reform—expanded privacy rights, overhauled campaign-finance rules, presidential-records preservation, and enhanced congressional oversight of covert operations.
Managing the pandemic must be the incoming Biden administration’s principal focus, but it needn’t be its only focus. Steps can be taken to ensure that the worst president ever is held to account, and to forestall a man like Trump ever abusing his power in this way again.
The first is to ensure that we preserve the record of what has taken place. As was done after the Nixon administration, Congress should pass a law establishing guidelines for the preservation of and access to the materials of the Trump presidency. Those guidelines should also protect nonpartisan public history at any public facility associated with the Trump era. The Presidential Records Act already puts those documents under the control of the archivist of the United States, but Congress should mandate that they be held in the D.C. area and that the National Archives should not partner with the Trump Foundation in any public-history efforts. Disentangling the federal Nixon Presidential Library from Nixon’s poisonous myths about Watergate took an enormous effort. The pressure on the National Archives to, in some way, enable and legitimate Trump’s own Lost Cause is likely to be even greater.
Trump’s documented relationship with the truth also ensures that his presidential records will necessarily be incomplete. His presidency has revealed gaping loopholes in the process of public disclosure, which the president deftly exploited. Congress should mandate that future candidates and presidents release their tax returns. Congress should also seek to tightly constrict the definition of privacy regarding presidential medical records. It should also require presidents to fully disclose their own business activities, and those of members of their immediate family, conducted while in office. Congress should also claim, as public records, the transition materials of 2016–17 and 2020–21 and those of future transitions.
Finally, Congress must tend to American memory. It should establish a Joint Congressional Committee to study January 6 and the events and activities leading up to it, have public hearings, and issue a report. And it should bar the naming of federal buildings, installations, and vessels after Trump his presidency should be remembered, but not commemorated.
Because this, ultimately, is the point of this entire exercise. If Trump is now the worst president we have ever had, it’s up to every American to ensure that no future chief executive ever exceeds him.
Trump's Criminal History Should Be Front and Center
What gets lost amidst all the outrageous things Donald Trump says is his record of criminal activity and alleged criminal activity. It is as if the media and public assume that Trump cannot be both an outrageous buffoon and a criminal. Here is a summary of the most notable allegations against Donald Trump, conveniently all in one place.
-Trump and his father were sued by the federal government for housing discrimination in the 1970's for refusing to rent to blacks after an uncover investigation. They lost, signed a consent decree, and were forced to desegregate their properties, which they later violated.
-He is being charged with fraud in connection with Trump University. Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, who is prosecuting Trump, told CNN, "If you look at the facts of this case, this shows someone who was absolutely shameless in his willingness to lie to people, to say whatever it took to induce them into his phony seminars. Telling people who are in hard economic times -- we're talking about 2008, 2009 -- people desperate to hold onto their homes, to make some money, convincing them that he will teach them his entrepreneurial secrets."
- Trump Tower was built using undocumented Polish laborers to demolish the building that previously stood on the site. At trial, the workers testified they worked without basic safety equipment like hardhats and gloves and they were supposed to earn $5 an hour from Trump's low-bid contractor. But court documents show that for weeks, they were paid nothing. An NBC News story in which numerous witnesses were interviewed showed that Trump knew about the undocumented, unpaid workers. Yet under oath, Trump testified that he knew nothing, thus adding perjury allegations to the labor law violations.
-Trump is alleged to have violated immigration laws in hiring foreign models for Trump Model Management. These models worked illegally, and he failed to pay them fairly. Two of the former Trump models said Trump's agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. "It's like modern-day slavery," one model told Mother Jones. Senator Barbara Boxer has called for the Department of Homeland Security to investigate Trump for human trafficking in relation to Trump Model Management.
- Trump's charitable foundation appears to have repeatedly broken IRS rules, according to the Washington Post. In five cases, the Trump Foundation told the IRS that it had given a gift to a charity whose leaders told The Post that they had never received it. In two other cases, companies listed as donors to the Trump Foundation told The Post that those listings were incorrect.
-His charitable foundation violated tax laws by giving a $25,000 political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida's attorney general, Pam Bondi, in 2013. As a registered nonprofit, the Trump Foundation was not allowed to make political donations. He paid a $2,500 fine.
-Trump is accused of bribing the Attorney General of Florida, Pam Bondi to drop her investigation of Trump University. She successfully solicited a donation from him before the fraud case, and afterward, he held a fundraiser for her at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
-In 2007 and in 2012, Trump and his wife bought two gifts for themselves at charity events for his foundation, totaling $32,000, breaking IRS rules. One gift was a $20,000 painting of himself.
-A deposition describes him raping his first wife Ivana, pulling out fistfuls of her hair in a fit of rage, stripping off her clothes, then penetrating her forcefully without her consent, after which she hid in a locked room and cried all night, as revealed in the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump, and described in a Daily Beast article. The divorce was granted on grounds of Donald's "cruel and inhuman treatment" of Ivana.
-He is currently being charged with child rape in a case for which there is an eyewitness and credible information to support the claim. The woman filing suit in April 2016 claims that as a 13-year-old in 1994, she was enticed to attend parties with the promise of money and modeling jobs at the home of Jeffrey Epstein, a Level 3 registered sex offender (the most dangerous kind), after Epstein was convicted of misconduct with another underage girl.
The woman alleges Trump initiated sexual contact with her on four separate occasions, with the fourth being a "savage sexual attack" in which he tied her to a bed and forcibly raped her while she pleaded with him to stop. He threatened that she and her family would be "physically harmed if not killed" if she ever revealed what was done. The eyewitness, Epstein's party planner wrote, "I am coming forward to swear to the truthfulness of the physical and sexual abuse that I personally witnessed of minor females at the hands of Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein . . . I swear to these facts under the penalty for perjury even though I fully understand that the life of myself and my family is now in grave danger." Trump told a reporter a few years ago: "I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side . . ."
In sum, this history and these allegations alone would disqualify someone from a job as a camp counselor, bank teller, or any position of trust. Imagine what Human Resources would say to this record. Perhaps Trump could get a job pumping gas. But President of the United States? I don't think so. Many have served prison time for doing a lot less.
My Lawyers Got Trump to Admit 30 Lies Under Oath
Donald Trump closed out last week by rumbling back into his battle against James Comey, who was FBI director until POTUS fired him. In the morning, he celebrated Comey’s Senate testimony as a 𠇌omplete vindication" on Twitter. In the afternoon, Trump flat out called him a liar — in the Rose Garden no less.
When a reporter asked Trump if he would testify about his version of events “under oath” with the Justice Department’s special counsel in the Russia probe, Robert Mueller, the president said, percent.” And Trump elaborated: “I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.”
A decade ago, my lawyers questioned Trump under oath during a deposition in a libel case he filed against me for a biography I wrote, “TrumpNation.” (Trump lost the case in 2011.) Trump had to acknowledge 30 times during that deposition that he had lied over the years about a wide range of issues: his ownership stake in a large Manhattan real estate development the cost of a membership to one of his golf clubs the size of the Trump Organization his wealth the rate for his speaking appearances how many condos he had sold the debt he owed, and whether he borrowed money from his family to stave off personal bankruptcy.
Trumpਊlso lied during the deposition about his business relationships with organized crime figures.
When my lawyers asked him whether he planned to sever his partnership with a developer named Felix Sater because of Sater’s mob ties, Trump said he hadn’t decided.
"Have you previously associated with people you knew were members of organized crime?" one of my lawyers asked.
That wasn&apost true, however. Trump, despite what he said in the deposition, had knowingly associated with mob figures before.
When Trumpntered the Atlantic City casino market in the late 1970s, two of his partners were men he knew to have organized crime ties: Kenneth Shapiro, who was a bag man for the Philadelphia mob, and Daniel Sullivan, who was a Mafia associate and a labor negotiator.
Trump originally told casino regulators in Atlantic City in 1982 that his partners were reputable people.ut when Trump later chatted with me aboard his jet about his troubled gambling career -- almost 25 yearsꂯter he entered Atlantic City -- his memories of Shapiro and Sullivan had changed again.
"They were tough guys," Trump told me. "In fact, they say that Dan Sullivan was the guy that killed Jimmy Hoffa." Sullivan "probably wasn&apost an honest guy," Trump added, and Shapiro "was like a third-rate, local real estate Mafia."
Trump’s propensity for lying was also on display throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. He said that he had opposed the Iraq War when he hadn’t he lied about his stances on climate change and the national debt he lied about various insults he had hurled at women he lied about who had endorsed him he lied about how much money his father had given him over the years, and on, and on.
A loose relationship with the facts has also plagued Team Trump in the White House. Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Stephen Miller, Mick Mulvaney, Reince Preibus and, of course, Michael Flynn, have all been caught peddling blather or lies in the course of carrying out their civic duties.
Trump’s own lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has had problems getting his facts straight, too. (Kasowitz represented Trump when the president sued me in 2006.) In a press release littered with errors and a misspelled title for Trump (“Predisent”), Kasowitz accused Comey last week of trying to undermine the White House by leaking information about his conversations with the president.
Kasowitz also said that Comey lied when testifying that he shared information about hisonversations with the president only after Trump tweeted that he might have made tapes of the same conversations. Yet, Kasowitz claimed, the New York Times had published an article about the Comey-Trump conversations prior to Trump’s tweet. Kasowitz was wrong, however. The Times&aposਏirst article about the conversations appeared on May 16, four days after Trump tweeted.
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
And what about those tapes? Trump revived speculation about hidden White House tapes again on Friday, suggesting in the Rose Garden that he will advise the world about whether they exist in the “very near future.”
As I noted last month, I don’t think any tapes exist. Trump told me and other reporters over the years that he had a taping system in his Trump Tower office that he used to record journalists meeting with him. But when he testified under oath in the deposition for his suit against me, Trump acknowledged that he was “not equipped to tape-record.”
There’s another odd aspect to all of the back-and-forth about Trump’s multiple conversations with Comey: The president apparently never inquired about the substance of the FBI&aposs Russia investigation. That has prompted a former law enforcement professional and others to say that it reveals a troubling disregard for national security on the president’s part (which it does). Others noted that it also suggests that Trump may have already known quite a bit about the Russian affair -- and therefore didn&apost have many questions for Comey.
“The innocent ask a multitude of questions about what the detectives know, or why the cops might think X or Y or whether Z happened to the victim,” noted the former police reporter and creator of “The Wire,” David Simon, in a pair of Twitter posts. “The guilty forget to inquire. They know.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump deserves a pass for strong-arming Comey because “the president is new at this” in Washington and he’s “learning as he goes.” But positioning the nation’s capital as a complicated place for unwary newcomers doesn’t hold much water for the president, who turns 71 in two days. In fact, Trump is not new at this at all — he’s been directly lobbying and strong-arming regulators and law enforcement officials for decades.
Trump is the man, after all, who coined the term “truthful hyperbole” as a euphemism for lying in his 1987 non-fiction work of fiction, “The Art of the Deal.” Thirty years later, he’s still up to his old tricks.
The difference now, of course, is that Trump is president. And in James Comey he’s collided with a seasoned, wily law enforcement official who opened the investigative door for Robert Mueller and cleared a path for him to bring the full force of the law to bear on the White House.
“I can definitively say the president is not a liar,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said on Friday in response to a question about whether it is Trump or Comey who is lying.
But now that the president himself has invited the broader Russia probe and the Justice Department into the Oval Office we won’t have to take Sanders’ word for it -- Mueller is going to help answer the question.
Trump registered as a Republican in Manhattan in 1987 and since that time has changed his party affiliation five times. In 1999, Trump changed his party affiliation to the Independence Party of New York. In August 2001, Trump changed his party affiliation to Democratic. In September 2009, Trump changed his party affiliation back to the Republican Party. In December 2011, Trump changed to "no party affiliation" (independent). In April 2012, Trump again returned to the Republican Party. 
In a 2004 interview, Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat", explaining: "It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, I mean it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats. But certainly we had some very good economies under Democrats, as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disaster under the Republicans."  In a July 2015 interview, Trump said that he has a broad range of political positions and that "I identify with some things as a Democrat." 
During his 2016 campaign for the presidency, Trump consistently described the state of the United States in bleak terms, referring to it as a nation in dire peril that is plagued by lawlessness, poverty, and violence, constantly under threat, and at risk of having "nothing, absolutely nothing, left".   In accepting the Republican nomination for president, Trump said that "I alone can fix" the system,  and pledged that if elected, "Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo."  He described himself as a "law and order" candidate and "the voice" of "the forgotten men and women".  Trump's inaugural address on January 20, 2017, focused on his campaign theme of America in crisis and decline.  He pledged to end what he referred to as "American carnage",   depicting the United States in a dystopian light—as a "land of abandoned factories, economic angst, rising crime"—while pledging "a new era in American politics". 
Although Trump was the Republican nominee, he has signaled that the official party platform, adopted at the 2016 Republican National Convention, diverges from his own views.  According to a Washington Post tally, Trump made some 282 campaign promises over the course of his 2016 campaign. 
In February 2017, Trump stated that he was a "total nationalist" in a "true sense".  In October 2018, Trump again described himself as a nationalist.  
During the last week of his presidential term, Trump was reportedly considering founding a new political party and wanted to call it the Patriot Party. 
As described by others
Trump's political positions are viewed by some as populist.    Politicians and pundits alike have referred to Trump's populism, anti-free trade, and anti-immigrant stances as "Trumpism".  
Liberal economist and columnist Paul Krugman disputes that Trump is a populist, arguing that his policies favor the rich over those less well off.  Harvard Kennedy School political scientist Pippa Norris has described Trump as a "populist authoritarian" analogous to European parties such as the Swiss People's Party, Austrian Freedom Party, Swedish Democrats, and Danish People's Party.  Columnist Walter Shapiro and political commentator Jonathan Chait describe Trump as authoritarian.   Conservative commentator Mary Katharine Ham characterized Trump as a "casual authoritarian," saying "he is a candidate who has happily and proudly spurned the entire idea of limits on his power as an executive and doesn't have any interest in the Constitution and what it allows him to do and what [it] does not allow him to do. That is concerning for people who are interested in limited government."  Charles C. W. Cooke of the National Review has expressed similar views, terming Trump an "anti-constitutional authoritarian."  Libertarian journalist Nick Gillespie, by contrast, calls Trump "populist rather than an authoritarian".  Rich Benjamin refers to Trump and his ideology as fascist and a form of inverted totalitarianism. 
Legal experts spanning the political spectrum, including many conservative and libertarian scholars, have suggested that "Trump's blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law."  Law professors Randy E. Barnett, Richard Epstein, and David G. Post, for example, suggest that Trump has little or no awareness of, or commitment to, the constitutional principles of separation of powers and federalism.  Law professor Ilya Somin believes that Trump "poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment," citing Trump's proposal to expand defamation laws to make it easier to sue journalists and his remark that Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos would "have problems" if Trump was elected president.  Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post in July 2016 that "Trump's proposed policies, if carried out, would trigger a constitutional crisis. By our reckoning, a Trump administration would violate the First, Fourth, Fifth and Eighth amendments if it tried to implement his most controversial plans." 
Prior to his election as president, his views on social issues were often described as centrist or moderate. Political commentator Josh Barro termed Trump a "moderate Republican," saying that except on immigration, his views are "anything but ideologically rigid, and he certainly does not equate deal making with surrender."  MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Trump is essentially more like a "centrist Democrat" on social issues.  Journalist and political analyst John Heilemann characterized Trump as liberal on social issues,  while conservative talk radio host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh said that Heilemann is seeing in Trump what he wants to see.  Since he became president, commentators have generally characterized his policy agenda as socially conservative.   
Trump and his political views have often been described as nationalist.   John Cassidy of the New Yorker writes that Trump seeks to make the Republican Party "into a more populist, nativist, avowedly protectionist, and semi-isolationist party that is skeptical of immigration, free trade, and military interventionism."  Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt and College of the Holy Cross political scientist Donald Brand describe Trump as a nativist.   Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, instead calls Trump an "immigration hawk" and supports Trump's effort to return immigration levels to what Trump calls a "historically average level".  Trump is a protectionist, according to free-market advocate Stephen Moore and conservative economist Lawrence Kudlow.  Historian Joshua M. Zeitz wrote in 2016 that Trump's appeals to "law and order" and "the silent majority" were comparable to the dog-whistle and racially-coded terminology of Richard Nixon. 
According to a 2020 study, voters had the most difficulty assessing the ideology of Trump in the 2016 election out of all presidential candidates since 1972 and all contemporary legislators. 
Scales and rankings
In 2015, Crowdpac gave Trump a ranking of 0.4L out of 10, indicating moderate positions. In 2016, the ranking was changed to 5.1C out of 10, shifting him more to the conservative spectrum. 
On the Issues
The organization and website On the Issues has classified Trump in a variety of ways over time, showing the variance of his political beliefs:
- "Moderate populist" (2003) 
- "Liberal-leaning populist" (2003–2011) 
- "Moderate populist conservative" (2011–2012) 
- "Libertarian-leaning conservative" (2012–2013) 
- "Moderate conservative" (2013–2014) 
- "Libertarian-leaning conservative" (2014–2015) 
- "Hard-core conservative" (2015) 
- "Libertarian-leaning conservative" (2015–2016) 
- "Moderate conservative" (2016–2017) 
- "Hard-core conservative" (2017–present) 
As president, Trump has pursued sizable income tax cuts, deregulation, increased military spending, rollbacks of federal health-care protections, and the appointment of conservative judges consistent with conservative (Republican Party) policies.  However, his anti-globalization policies of trade protectionism cross party lines.  In foreign affairs he has described himself as a nationalist.  Trump has said that he is "totally flexible on very, very many issues." 
Trump's signature issue is immigration, especially illegal immigration,  and in particular building or expanding a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. 
In his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised significant infrastructure investment and protection for entitlements for the elderly, typically considered liberal (Democratic Party) policies. In October 2016, Trump's campaign posted fourteen categories of policy proposals on his website, which have been since removed.  During October 2016, Trump outlined a series of steps for his first 100 days in office. 
Trump's political positions, and his descriptions of his beliefs, have often been inconsistent.   Politico has described his positions as "eclectic, improvisational and often contradictory."  According to an NBC News count, over the course of his campaign Trump made "141 distinct shifts on 23 major issues."  Fact-checking organizations reported that during the campaign, Trump made a record number of false statements and lies compared to other candidates,  a pattern that has continued — and further increased — since in office.  
While Trump has repeatedly expressed support for "the idea of campaign finance reform,"   he has not outlined specifics of his actual views on campaign-finance regulation.    For example, Trump has not said whether he favors public financing of elections or caps on expenditures of campaigns, outside groups, and individuals. 
During the Republican primary race, Trump on several occasions accused his Republican opponents of being bound to their campaign financiers, and asserted that anyone (including Trump himself) could buy their policies with donations.  He called super PACs a "scam" and "a horrible thing".   In October 2015, he said, "All Presidential candidates should immediately disavow their Super PACs. They're not only breaking the spirit of the law but the law itself." 
Having previously touted the self-funding of his campaign as a sign of his independence from the political establishment and big donors, Trump reversed course and started to fundraise in early May 2016.    While Trump systematically disavowed pro-Trump super PACs earlier in the race, he stopped doing so from early May 2016. 
According to Chris Christie (who served briefly as leader of Trump's White House transition team), Trump will seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Obama and will ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers. 
Trump's former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, stated in February 2017 that Trump's goal is to "deconstruct the administrative state". 
Trump has provided "little detail regarding his positions on disability-related policies," and his campaign website made no mention of disabled people.    As of June 1, 2016, Trump had not responded to the issue questionnaire of the nonpartisan disability group RespectAbility. 
District of Columbia statehood
Donald Trump is opposed to DC statehood. In 2020, Donald Trump indicated that if the statehood legislation for Washington, D.C. passes both houses of Congress, he would veto the admission legislation. 
Trump has stated his support for school choice and local control for primary and secondary schools. On school choice he's commented, "Our public schools are capable of providing a more competitive product than they do today. Look at some of the high school tests from earlier in this century and you'll wonder if they weren't college-level tests. And we've got to bring on the competition—open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way." 
Trump has blasted the Common Core State Standards Initiative, calling it a "total disaster".   Trump has asserted that Common Core is "education through Washington, D.C.", a claim which Politifact and other journalists have rated "false", since the adoption and implementation of Common Core is a state choice, not a federal one.  
Trump has stated that Ben Carson will be "very much involved in education" under a Trump presidency.  Carson rejects the theory of evolution, believes that "home-schoolers do the best, private schoolers next best, charter schoolers next best, and public schoolers worst" he said that he wanted to "take the federal bureaucracy out of education." 
Trump has proposed redirecting $20 billion in existing federal spending to block grants to states to give poor children vouchers to attend a school of their family's choice (including a charter school, private school, or online school).   Trump did not explain where the $20 billion in the federal budget would come from.  Trump stated that "Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice and charter laws." 
As president, Trump chose Republican financier Betsy DeVos, a prominent Michigan charter school advocate, as Secretary of Education.  The nomination was highly controversial  Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss wrote that "DeVos was considered the most controversial education nominee in the history of the nearly 40-year-old Education Department."  On the confirmation vote the Senate split 50/50 (along party lines, with two Republican senators joining all Democratic senators to vote against confirmation). Vice President Mike Pence used his tie-breaking vote to confirm the nomination, the first time in U.S. history that this has occurred. 
In 2015 Trump called eminent domain "wonderful". He repeatedly asked the government to invoke it on his behalf during past development projects.  
In September 2016, Trump posted a list on his web site of regulations that he would eliminate. The list included what it called the "FDA Food Police" and mentioned the Food and Drug Administration's rules governing "farm and food production hygiene" and "food temperatures".  The factsheet provided by Trump mirrored a May report by the conservative Heritage Foundation.  It was replaced later that month and the new factsheet did not mention the FDA. 
Colman McCarthy of The Washington Post wrote in 1993 that in testimony given that year to the House Natural Resources subcommittee on Native American Affairs, Trump "devoted much of his testimony to bad-mouthing Indians and their casinos," asserted that "organized crime is rampant on Indian reservations" and that "if it continues it will be the biggest scandal ever." Trump offered no evidence in support of his claim, and testimony from the FBI's organized crime division, the Justice Department's criminal division, and the IRS's criminal investigation division did not support Trump's assertion.  Representative George Miller, a Democrat who was the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee at the time, stated: "In my 19 years in Congress, I've never heard more irresponsible testimony." 
Trump bankrolled in 2000 a set of anti-Indian gaming ads in upstate New York that featured "a dark photograph showing hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia," a warning that "violent criminals were coming to town," and an accusation that the St. Regis Mohawks had a "record of criminal activity."  The ad—aimed at stopping the construction of a casino in the Catskills that might hurt Trump's own Atlantic City casinos  —was viewed as "incendiary" and racially charged, and at the time local tribal leaders, in response, bought a newspaper ad of their own to denounce the "smear" and "racist and inflammatory rhetoric" of the earlier ad.  The ads attracted the attention of the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying because they failed to disclose Trump's sponsorship as required by state lobbying rules.    Trump acknowledged that he sponsored the ads and reached a settlement with the state in which he and his associates agreed to issue a public apology and pay $250,000 (the largest civil penalty ever levied by the commission) for evading state disclosure rules.   
In 2015, Trump defended the controversial team name and mascot of the Washington Redskins, saying that the NFL team should not change its name and he did not find the term to be offensive.   The "Change the Mascot" campaign, led by the Oneida Indian Nation and National Congress of American Indians, condemned Trump's stance. 
While campaigning in 2016, Trump has repeatedly belittled Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by calling her "Pocahontas" (a reference to Warren's claim, based on family lore, of Native American ancestry, which she has been unable to document).  Trump's comments were criticized by a number of public figures as racist and inappropriate.   Gyasi Ross of the Blackfeet Nation, a Native American activist and author, criticized Trump's "badgering of Elizabeth Warren as 'Pocahontas'" as "simply the continuation of his pattern of racist bullying." 
Questioning Obama's citizenship
For several years Trump promoted "birther" conspiracy theories about Barack Obama's citizenship.   
In March 2011, during an interview on Good Morning America, Trump said he was seriously considering running for president, that he was a "little" skeptical of Obama's citizenship and that someone who shares this view should not be so quickly dismissed as an "idiot." Trump added: "Growing up no one knew him"  —a claim ranked "Pants on Fire" by Politifact.  Later, Trump appeared on The View repeating several times that "I want him (Obama) to show his birth certificate" and speculating that "there's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like."  Although officials in Hawaii certified Obama's citizenship, Trump said in April 2011 he would not let go of the issue, because he was not satisfied that Obama had proved his citizenship. 
After Obama released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011, Trump said: "I am really honored and I am really proud, that I was able to do something that nobody else could do."  Trump continued to question Obama's birth certificate in the following years, as late as 2015.   In May 2012, Trump suggested that Obama might have been born in Kenya.  In October 2012, Trump offered to donate five million dollars to the charity of Obama's choice in return for the publication of his college and passport applications before the end of the month.  In a 2014 interview, Trump questioned whether Obama had produced his long-form birth certificate.  When asked in December 2015 if he still questioned Obama's legitimacy, Trump said that "I don't talk about that anymore." 
On September 14, 2016, Trump declined to acknowledge whether he believed Obama was born in the United States.  On September 15, 2016, Trump for the first time acknowledged that Obama was born in the United States.  He gave a terse statement, saying, "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period."  He falsely accused Hillary Clinton of having started the "Birther" movement.    He also asserted that he "finished" the birther controversy, apparently referring to Obama's 2011 release of his long-form birth certificate, despite the fact that he continued to question Obama's citizenship in the years that followed.    The next day, Trump tweeted a Washington Post story with the headline "Donald Trump's birther event is the greatest trick he's ever pulled".   The "greatest trick" of the headline referred to the fact that cable networks aired the event live, waiting for a "birther" statement, while Trump touted his new hotel and supporters gave testimonials.  In October 2016, Trump appeared to question the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency, referring to him at a rally as the "quote 'president' ". 
Social Security and Medicare
During his campaign Trump repeatedly promised "I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid."  For the first three years of his presidency he said nothing about cutting Social Security or Medicare. In a January 2020 interview he said he planned to "take a look" at entitlement programs like Medicare,  but he then said via Twitter "We will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget."  His proposed 2021 budget, unveiled in February 2020, included a $45 billion cut to the program within Social Security that supports disabled people,  as well as cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.  In August 2020, as part of a package of executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, he signed an order to postpone the collection of the payroll taxes that support Social Security and Medicare, paid by employees and employers, for the rest of 2020. He also said that if he wins re-election, he will forgive the postponed payroll taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax, saying he would "terminate the tax," although only Congress can change tax law.  Analysts said such an action would threaten Social Security and Medicare by eliminating the dedicated funding which pays for the programs.  
2016 presidential campaign
Trump caused a stir in July 2015 when he charged that Senator John McCain had "done nothing to help the vets," a statement ruled false by PolitiFact and the Chicago Tribune.   Trump added that McCain is "not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." 
As a presidential candidate, Trump was critical of the ways in which veterans are treated in the United States, saying "the vets are horribly treated in this country. they are living in hell."  He favored eliminating backlogs and wait-lists that had caused a Veterans Health Administration scandal the previous year. He claimed that "over 300,000 veterans have died waiting for care."  He said he believed Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities needed to be technologically upgraded, to hire more veterans to treat other veterans, to increase support of female veterans, and to create satellite clinics within hospitals in rural areas.  He proposed a plan for reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with provisions to allow veterans to obtain care from any doctor or facility that accepts Medicare, to increase funding for PTSD and suicide prevention services, and to provide ob/gyn services at every VA hospital.  Trump called for greater privatization of veterans' care,  although his plan made no direct reference to letting veterans get health care outside the VA system.  The Wall Street Journal noted that "such a plan is counter to recommendations from major veterans groups, the VA itself and from the Commission on Care, an independent body established by Congress that last week made recommendations for VA changes."  Trump's plan calls "for legislation making it easier to fire underperforming employees, increasing mental-health resources and adding a White House hotline so veterans can bypass the VA and bring problems directly to the president."  Trump opposed the current G.I. Bill.  
In January 2016, Trump hosted a fundraising rally for veterans (skipping a televised Republican debate to do so). Weeks later, after the Wall Street Journal inquired with the Trump campaign when veterans' groups would receive their checks, the funds began to be disbursed.  In April, the Journal reported that the funds had yet to be fully distributed.  In May, NPR confirmed directly with 30 recipient charities that they had received their funds, "accounting for $4.27 million of the $5.6 million total," while the remaining 11 charities did not answer the question. 
Presidency and 2020 campaign
In February 2018, the Trump administration initiated a policy known as ‘Deploy Or Get Out’ (DOGO), ordering the Pentagon to discharge any soldier who would be ineligible for deployment within the next 12 months. This mainly affected disabled soldiers. It also affected HIV-positive soldiers, who are allowed to serve within the US but cannot be deployed overseas the DOGO policy meant that they could no longer serve within the US, either. 
In August 2019, Trump credited himself for the passing the Veterans Choice Act, a law that had actually been passed under the previous president, Barack Obama, in 2014. Trump did sign an expansion of that act in 2018. 
In September 2020, The Atlantic reported that Trump referred to Americans who were casualties of war as "losers" and "suckers", citing multiple people who were present for the statements later reporting by the Associated Press and Fox News corroborated some of these stories.      Veterans expressed scorn over the report's allegations.  Trump denied these allegations and called them "disgraceful", adding: "I would be willing to swear on anything that I never said that about our fallen heroes".  John Bolton, who was present at the discussion, also said he never heard Trump make such comments. 
By March 2016, Trump had not released any plans to combat climate change or provided details regarding his approach to energy issues more broadly. 
In May 2016, Trump asked U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota—described by Reuters as "one of America's most ardent drilling advocates and climate change skeptics"—to draft Trump's energy policy.  
In May 2016, Trump said that he could solve the water crisis in California.  He declared that "there is no drought," a statement which the Associated Press noted is incorrect.  Trump accused California state officials of denying farmers of water so they can send it out to sea "to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish."  According to the AP, Trump appeared to be referring to a dispute between Central Valley farming interests and environmental interests California farmers accuse water authorities of short-changing them of the water in their efforts to protect endangered native fish species. 
Climate change and pollution
Trump rejects the scientific consensus on climate change,    repeatedly contending that global warming is a "hoax."   He has said that "the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive," a statement which Trump later said was a joke.  However, it was also pointed out that he often conflates weather with climate change. 
Trump criticized President Obama's description of climate change as "the greatest threat to future generations" for being "naive" and "one of the dumbest statements I've ever heard."   A 2016 report by the Sierra Club contended that, were he to be elected president, Trump would be the only head of state in the world to contend that climate change is a hoax.  In December 2009, Trump and his three adult children had signed a full-page advertisement from "business leaders" in The New York Times stating "If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet" and encouraging "investment in the clean energy economy" to "create new energy jobs and increase our energy security". 
Although "not a believer in climate change," Trump has stated that "clean air is a pressing problem" and has said: "There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of climate change. Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water." 
In May 2016, during his presidential campaign, Trump issued an energy plan focused on promoting fossil fuels and weakening environmental regulation.  Trump promised to "rescind" in his first 100 days in office a variety of Environmental Protection Agency regulations established during the Obama administration to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, which contribute to a warming global climate.  Trump has specifically pledged to revoke the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule, which he characterizes as two "job-destroying Obama executive actions." 
Trump has said "we're practically not allowed to use coal any more," a statement rated "mostly false" by PolitiFact.  Trump has criticized the Obama administration's coal policies, describing the administration's moves to phase out the use of coal-fired power plants are "stupid."  Trump has criticized the Obama administration for prohibiting "coal production on federal land" and states that it seeks to adopt "draconian climate rules that, unless stopped, would effectively bypass Congress to impose job-killing cap-and-trade."  Trump has vowed to revive the U.S. coal economy, a pledge that is viewed by experts as unlikely to be fulfilled because the decline of the coal industry is driven by market forces, and specifically by the U.S. natural gas boom.  An analysis by Scientific American found that Trump's promise to bring back closed coal mines would be difficult to fulfill, both because of environmental regulations and economic shifts.  An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance dismissed Trump's claims of a "war on coal": "U.S. coal's main problem has been cheap natural gas and renewable power, not a politically driven 'war on coal'. [coal] will continue being pushed out of the generating mix." 
Trump wrote in his 2011 book that he opposed a cap-and-trade system to control carbon emissions. 
According to FactCheck.org, over at least a five-year period, Trump has on several occasions made incorrect claims about the use of hair spray and its role in ozone depletion. At a rally in May 2016, "Trump implied that the regulations on hairspray and coal mining are both unwarranted" and incorrectly asserted that hairspray use in a "sealed" apartment prevents the spray's ozone-depleting substances from reaching the atmosphere. 
In June 2019, the Trump White House tried to prevent a State Department intelligence analyst from testifying to Congress about "possibly catastrophic" effects of human-caused climate change, and prevented his written testimony containing science from NASA and NOAA from being included in the official Congressional Record because it was not consistent with administration positions.  
In August 2019, Trump described America's coal production as "clean, beautiful", despite coal being a particularly polluting energy source. Although "clean coal" is a specific jargon used by the coal industry for certain technologies, Trump instead generally describes that coal itself is "clean". 
Opposition to international cooperation on climate change
Trump pledged in his May 2016 speech on energy policy to "cancel the Paris climate agreement"  adopted at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (in which 170 countries committed to reductions in carbon emissions).   Trump pledged to cancel the agreement in his first hundred days in office.   This pledge followed earlier comments by Trump, in which he said that as president, he would "at a minimum" seek to renegotiate the agreement and "at a maximum I may do something else."  Trump characterizes the Paris Agreement "one-sided" and "bad for the United States,"  believing that the agreement is too favorable to China and other countries.  In his May 2016 speech, Trump inaccurately said that the Paris Agreement "gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use on our land, in our country" in fact, the Paris Agreement is based on voluntary government pledges, and no country controls the emissions-reduction plan of any other country. 
Once the agreement is ratified by 55 nations representing 55 percent of global emissions (which has not yet occurred), a four-year waiting period goes into effect for any country wishing to withdraw from the agreement.  A U.S. move to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as Trump proposes is viewed as likely to unravel the agreement  according to Reuters, such a move would spell "potential doom for an agreement many view as a last chance to turn the tide on global warming." 
In Trump's May 2016 speech on energy policy, he declared that if elected president, he would "stop all payment of U.S. tax dollars to global warming programs."  This would be a reversal of the U.S. pledge to commit funds to developing countries to assist in climate change mitigation and could undermine the willingness of other countries to take action against climate change. 
In August 2016, 375 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, including 30 Nobel laureates, issued an open letter warning that Trump's plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Paris Agreement would have dire effects on the fight against climate change.   The scientists wrote, in part:
[I]t is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord. A "Parexit" would send a clear signal to the rest of the world: "The United States does not care about the global problem of human-caused climate change. You are on your own." Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting – for our planet's climate and for the international credibility of the United States. 
In his May 2016 speech on energy policy, Trump stated : "Under my presidency, we will accomplish complete American energy independence. We will become totally independent of the need to import energy from the oil cartel or any nation hostile to our interest."  The New York Times reported that "experts say that such remarks display a basic ignorance of the workings of the global oil markets." 
In January 2016, Trump vowed "tremendous cutting" of the budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if elected.  In an October 2015 interview with Chris Wallace, Trump explained, "what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations."  When Wallace asked, "Who's going to protect the environment?", Trump answered "we'll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can't destroy businesses." 
Trump has charged that the "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abuses the Endangered Species Act to restrict oil and gas exploration."  In 2011, Trump said that would permit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. 
In July 2016, Trump suggested that he was in favor of state and local bans on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), saying, "I'm in favor of fracking, but I think that voters should have a big say in it. I mean, there's some areas, maybe, they don't want to have fracking. And I think if the voters are voting for it, that's up to them. if a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking, I can understand that."  
Trump promised to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project to bring Canadian petroleum to the U.S.  Trump pledged that if elected, he would ask TransCanada Corp. to renew its permit application for the project within his first hundred days in office.  Trump claimed that Keystone XL pipeline will have "no impact on environment" and create "lots of jobs for U.S.,"  although in fact the pipeline is projected to create only 35 permanent jobs. 
In his first days in office, Trump revived the Keystone XL project, signing a presidential memorandum reversing the rejection of the proposed pipeline that President Obama had made. Trump "also signed a directive ordering an end to protracted environmental reviews," pledging to make environmental review " a very short process." 
Dakota Access Pipeline
After months of protest by thousands of protesters, including the largest gathering of Native Americans in 100 years, in December 2016 the United States Army Corps of Engineers under the Obama administration announced that it would not grant an easement for the pipeline, and the Corps of Engineers undertook an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.  However, in February 2017, newly elected President Donald Trump ended the environmental impact assessment and ordered for construction to continue.  Trump has financial ties to Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, who are both directly involved in the controversial project. The CEO of Energy Transfer Partners is a campaign donor for Donald Trump. 
In his 2015 book Crippled America, Trump is highly critical of the "big push" to develop renewable energy, arguing that the push is based on a mistaken belief that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change.  He writes, "There has been a big push to develop alternative forms of energy—so-called green energy—from renewable sources. That's a big mistake. To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don't buy that—and I don't—then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves." 
Despite criticizing wind farms in the past (calling them "ugly"), Trump has said that he does not oppose the wind production tax credit, saying: "I'm okay with subsidies, to an extent."  Trump has criticized wind energy for being expensive and for not working without "massive subsidies".  He added, "windmills are killing hundreds and hundreds of eagles. One of the most beautiful, one of the most treasured birds—and they're killing them by the hundreds and nothing happens,"  a claim rated as "mostly false" by PolitiFact since best estimates indicate that about one hundred golden eagles are killed each year by wind turbine blades. 
In his official platform, Trump claims that he will reduce bureaucracy which would then lead to greater innovation.  His platform mentions "renewable energies", including "nuclear, wind and solar energy" in that regard but adds that he would not support those "to the exclusion of other energy". 
Trump supports a higher ethanol mandate (the amount of ethanol required by federal regulation to be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply).  Trump vowed to protect the government's Renewable Fuel Standard and the corn-based ethanol. 
In August 2019, Trump falsely claimed: "if a windmill is within two miles of your house, your house is practically worthless" this claim is not supported by studies in the United States. 
Wildlife conservation and animal welfare
In October 2016, the Humane Society denounced Trump's campaign, saying that a "Trump presidency would be a threat to animals everywhere" and that he has "a team of advisors and financial supporters tied in with trophy hunting, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other abusive industries." 
In February 2017, under the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unexpectedly removed from its public website "all enforcement records related to horse soring and to animal welfare at dog breeding operations and other facilities."  The decision prompted criticism from animal welfare advocates (such as the Animal Welfare Institute), investigative journalists, and some of the regulated industries (the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the group Speaking of Research said that the move created an impression of non-transparency). 
Actions while in office
President Trump advocated repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"). The Republican-controlled House passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in May 2017, handing it to the Senate, which decided to write its own version of the bill rather than voting on the AHCA.  The Senate bill, called the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" (BCRA), failed on a vote of 45–55 in the Senate during July 2017. Other variations also failed to gather the required support, facing unanimous Democratic Party opposition and some Republican opposition.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bills would increase the number of uninsured by over 20 million persons, while reducing the budget deficit marginally. 
Actions to hinder implementation of ACA
President Trump continued Republican attacks on the ACA while in office,  including steps such as:
- Weakening the individual mandate through his first executive order, which resulted in limiting enforcement of mandate penalties by the IRS. For example, tax returns without indications of health insurance ("silent returns") will still be processed, overriding instructions from the Obama administration to the IRS to reject them. 
- Reducing funding for advertising for the 2017 and 2018 exchange enrollment periods by up to 90%, with other reductions to support resources used to answer questions and help people sign-up for coverage. This action could reduce ACA enrollment. 
- Cutting the enrollment period for 2018 by half, to 45 days. The NYT editorial board referred to this as part of a concerted "sabotage" effort. 
- Issuing public statements that the exchanges are unstable or in a death spiral.  CBO reported in May 2017 that the exchanges would remain stable under current law (ACA), but would be less stable if the AHCA were passed. 
Several insurers and actuary groups cited uncertainty created by President Trump, specifically non-enforcement of the individual mandate and not funding cost sharing reduction subsidies, as contributing 20-30 percentage points to premium increases for the 2018 plan year on the ACA exchanges. In other words, absent Trump's actions against the ACA, premium increases would have averaged 10% or less, rather than the estimated 28-40% under the uncertainty his actions created.  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) maintains a timeline of many "sabotage" efforts by the Trump Administration. 
Ending cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments
President Trump announced in October 2017 he would end the smaller of the two types of subsidies under the ACA, the cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies. This controversial decision significantly raised premiums on the ACA exchanges (as much as 20 percentage points) along with the premium tax credit subsidies that rise with them, with the CBO estimating a $200 billion increase in the budget deficit over a decade.  CBO also estimated that initially up to one million fewer would have health insurance coverage, although more might have it in the long-run as the subsidies expand. CBO expected the exchanges to remain stable (e.g., no "death spiral") as the premiums would increase and prices would stabilize at the higher (non-CSR) level. 
President Trump's argument that the CSR payments were a "bailout" for insurance companies and therefore should be stopped, actually results in the government paying more to insurance companies ($200B over a decade) due to increases in the premium tax credit subsidies. Journalist Sarah Kliff therefore described Trump's argument as "completely incoherent." 
In August 2019, at a campaign rally, Trump claimed that his administration "will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions, always." However, his administration had already repeatedly attempted to water down or repeal the ACA's protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, without any proposal on how to restore these protections if the ACA is rendered void. 
Prior to election
According to a report by the RAND Corporation, Trump's proposed health-care policy proposals, depending on specific elements implemented, would result in between 15 and 25 million fewer people with health insurance and increase the federal deficit in a range from zero to $41 billion in 2018. This was in contrast to Clinton's proposals, which would expand health insurance coverage for between zero and 10 million people while increasing the deficit in a range from zero to $90 billion in 2018.   According to the report, low-income individuals and sicker people would be most adversely affected by his proposed policies, although it was pointed out that not all policy proposals have been modeled. 
Affordable Care Act and health-care reform
As the 2016 campaign unfolded, Trump stated that he favors repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare")—which Trump refers to as a "complete disaster"  —and replacing it with a "free-market system."  On his campaign website, Trump says, "on day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare."   Trump's campaign has insisted that the candidate has "never supported socialized medicine." 
Trump has cited the rising costs of premiums and deductibles as a motivation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  However, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the after-subsidy premium costs to those with insurance coverage via the Affordable Care Act's exchanges did not change significantly on average from 2016 to 2017, as increases in the subsidies offset pre-subsidy insurance premium increases. For example, after-subsidy costs for a popular "silver plan" remained around $200/month in 2016 and 2017.  An estimated 70% of persons on the exchanges could purchase a plan for $75/month after subsidies.  Further, in the employer market, health insurance premium cost increases from 2015 to 2016 were an estimated 3% on average, low by historical standards. While deductibles rose 12% on average from 2015 to 2016, more workers are pairing higher-deductible plans with tax-preferred health savings accounts (HSAs), offsetting some of the deductible increase (i.e., lowering their effective deductible). 
The Congressional Budget Office reported in March 2016 that there were approximately 23 million people with insurance due to the law, with 12 million people covered by the exchanges (10 million of whom received subsidies to help pay for insurance) and 11 million made eligible for Medicaid.  The CBO also reported in June 2015 that: "Including the budgetary effects of macroeconomic feedback, repealing the ACA would increase federal budget deficits by $137 billion over the 2016–2025 period."  CBO also estimated that excluding the effects of macroeconomic feedback, repeal of the ACA would increase the deficit by $353 billion over that same period. 
In the early part of his campaign, Trump responded to questions about his plan to replace the ACA by saying that it would be "something terrific!"   Trump subsequently said at various points that he believes that the government should have limited involvement of health care, but has also said that "at the lower end, where people have no money, I want to try and help those people," by "work[ing] out some sort of a really smart deal with hospitals across the country."  and has said "everybody's got to be covered."  At a February 2016 town hall on CNN, Trump said that he supported the individual health insurance mandate of the ACA, which requires all Americans to have health insurance, saying "I like the mandate. So here's where I'm a little bit different [from other Republican candidates]."   In March 2016, Trump reversed himself, saying that "Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to." 
In March 2016, Trump released his health care plan, which called for allowing health-insurance companies to compete across state lines and for making Medicaid into a block grant system for the states. He also called for elimination of the individual mandate for health insurance, for allowing health insurance premiums to be deducted on tax returns, and for international competition in the drug market. In the same document, Trump acknowledged that mental health care in the U.S. is often inadequate but offered no immediate solution to the problem, instead stating that "there are promising reforms being developed in Congress."  Trump also emphasized the removal of market entry barriers for drug providers and improved access to imported medication corresponding to safety standards. 
Explaining how he would address the problem of ensuring the people that would lose their insurance coverage if Obamacare were repealed, Trump said, "We have to come up, and we can come up with many different plans. In fact, plans you don't even know about will be devised because we're going to come up with plans—health care plans—that will be so good. And so much less expensive both for the country and for the people. And so much better."  His plan has been criticized by Republican health experts as "a jumbled hodgepodge of old Republican ideas, randomly selected, that don't fit together" (Robert Laszewski)  providing nothing that "would do anything more than cover a couple million people," (Gail R. Wilensky). 
In 1999, during his abortive 2000 Reform Party presidential campaign, Trump told TV interviewer Larry King, "I believe in universal health care."  In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump reiterated his call for universal health care and focused on a Canadian-style single-payer health care system as a means to achieve it.  Though he characterized the Canadian health-care system as "catastrophic in certain ways" in October 2016 during the second presidential debate, the Trump campaign website wrote in June 2015 about his support for "a system that would mirror Canada's government-run healthcare service" under the title "What does Donald Trump believe? Where the candidate stands on 10 issues".   In 2015, Trump also expressed admiration for the Scottish health-care system, which is single payer. 
In 2014, after a New York physician returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa and showed symptoms of the disease, Trump tweeted that if the doctor had Ebola, "Obama should apologize to the American people & resign!"  When the doctor was later confirmed to have developed Ebola in New York, Trump tweeted that it was "Obama's fault" and "I have been saying for weeks for President Obama to stop the flights from West Africa. So simple, but he refused. A TOTAL incompetent!"  Trump also criticized President Obama's decision to send 3,000 U.S. troops to affected regions to help combat the outbreak (see Operation United Assistance). 
As Dr. Kent Brantly returned to the U.S. for treatment, Trump tweeted that U.S. doctors who went abroad to treat Ebola were "great" but "must suffer the consequences" if they became infected and insisted that "the U.S. must immediately stop all flights from EBOLA infected countries or the plague will start and spread inside our 'borders.'"  When an Ebola patient was scheduled to come to the U.S. for treatment, Trump tweeted, "now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!" 
Trump's suggestion on the Ebola crisis "would go against all the expert advice being offered," with doctors warning "that isolating West Africa would only make the Ebola outbreak much worse, potentially denying help and supplies from getting in," and possibly destabilizing the countries and contributing to the disease's spread outside West Africa. 
On August 3, 2016, Trump called the Zika virus outbreak in Florida "a big problem".  He expressed his support for Florida Governor Rick Scott's handling of the crisis, saying that he's "doing a fantastic job".  When asked if Congress should convene an emergency session to approve Zika funding, Trump answered, "I would say that it's up to Rick Scott."  On August 11, 2016, Trump said that he was in favor of Congress setting aside money to combat the Zika virus. 
Trump believed that childhood vaccinations were related to autism, a hypothesis which has been repeatedly debunked.   The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Autism Speaks patient-advocacy group have "decried Trump's remarks as false and potentially dangerous." 
In 2010, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy's nonprofit organization that advocates the incorrect view that autism and related disorders are primarily caused by vaccines. 
Despite his prior views, however, Trump did drop his claims of vaccines being related to autism in 2019 after the 2019 measles outbreaks, in saying: "They have to get those shots," as well as ". vaccinations are so important".  
Illegal immigration was a signature issue of Trump's presidential campaign, and his proposed reforms and controversial remarks about this issue have generated headlines.  Trump has also expressed support for a variety of "limits on legal immigration and guest-worker visas,"   including a "pause" on granting green cards, which Trump says will "allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages."   
Trump in August 2019 criticized Democrats for supporting "open borders", but no Democrat has actually proposed instituting such a thing. He also claimed that his administration is "building the wall faster and better than ever", but no new barriers were erected by June 2019 at the Mexico-U.S. border unlike what Trump promised during his 2016 campaign. The only installations have been replacement fencing of old barriers. Trump also falsely claimed that only 02% of who were released instead of detained eventually returned for their immigration hearings. The 2017 statistic is 72% for migrants, and 89% of migrants applying for asylum. 
Trump has long advocated for capital punishment in the United States.  In May 1989, shortly after the Central Park jogger case received widespread media attention, Trump purchased a full-page ad in four New York City newspapers with the title "BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY!" Five defendants (the "Central Park Five") were wrongfully convicted in the case and were subsequently exonerated.     By October 2016, Trump still maintained that the "Central Park Five" were guilty. 
In December 2015, in a speech accepting the endorsement of the New England Police Benevolent Association, Trump said that "One of the first things I do [if elected President] in terms of executive order if I win will be to sign a strong, strong statement that will go out to the country, out to the world, that. anybody killing a police officer—death penalty. It's going to happen, O.K.?"     However, the president has no authority over these prosecutions as they usually take place in state court under state law,   and over one-third of U.S. states have already abolished the death penalty. Furthermore, mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional, as held by the Supreme Court in Woodson v. North Carolina (1976).  
Trump has said that he believes that "torture absolutely works". During his campaign, Trump said that "I would bring back waterboarding, and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding". However, since becoming president, he has not brought back waterboarding. 
As of May 2016, Trump's campaign website makes no mention of criminal justice reform, and Trump rarely talks specifics.   Trump has stated that he would be "tough on crime" and criticized Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's criminal justice reform proposals.  When asked about specific criminal justice reforms, Trump reportedly often changes the subject back to supporting police or vague answers about needing to be "tough."  In January 2016, Trump said that along with veterans, "the most mistreated people in this country are police." 
Trump supports the use of "stop and frisk" tactics, of the kind once used in New York City.   In 2000, Trump also rejected as elitist and naive the arguments of criminal justice reformers that the U.S. criminal justice system puts too many criminals in jail.  Trump is in favor of at least one mandatory sentence, where using a gun to commit a crime results in a five-year sentence.  
Trump has on several occasions asserted that crime is rising in the United States.       Trump's assertion that crime is rising is false in fact, both violent crime and property declined consistently declining in the U.S. from the early 1990s until 2014.  Trump's claim that "inner-city crime is reaching record levels" received a "pants-on-fire" rating from PolitiFact.  As President, Trump reiterated in February 2017 the false claim that crime was rising, saying, "the murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years." 
In May 2016, Trump stated that the cities of Oakland and Ferguson are "among the most dangerous in the world".  In response, CBS News in San Francisco reported that the murder rates in Oakland and Baghdad are comparable,  but PolitiFact rated Trump's claim false given that "homicide rates alone are not enough to gauge whether a city is dangerous or not". 
On November 22, 2015, Trump retweeted a graphic with purported statistics—cited to a nonexistent "Crime Statistics Bureau"—which claimed that African Americans were responsible for 81% of the homicides of White Americans and that police were responsible for 1% of black homicides compared to 4% of white homicides. Trump's retweet earned PolitiFact's "Pants on Fire" rating and was called "grossly inaccurate" by FactCheck.org the next day.   Blacks were actually responsible for only 15% of white homicides according to FBI data for 2014.  The breakdown of the racial differences in police killings in Trump's retweet was also inaccurate. Based on the percentages, the number of whites killed by police would be almost 4 times greater than the number of blacks. Data from the Washington Post for 2009 to 2013 showed a ratio of 1.5 white deaths by police for each black death.  A separate estimate by Peter Moskos, associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice attributed 10% of white homicides to police and 4% to police for blacks.  When asked about the statistics, Trump maintained that the statistics came "from sources that are very credible." 
Trump's views on drug policy have shifted dramatically over time. 
At a luncheon hosted by the Miami Herald in April 1990, Trump told a crowd of 700 people that U.S. drug enforcement policy was "a joke," and that: "We're losing badly the war on drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."  
In his campaign for the presidency in 2015 and 2016, however, Trump adopted "drug warrior" positions  and has sought advice on the issue from William J. Bennett, who served as the U.S. first "drug czar" in the 1980s "and has remained a proponent of harsh 1980s-style drug war tactics."  Trump told Sean Hannity in June 2015 that he opposes marijuana legalization and that "I feel strongly about that."  Trump also claims to have personally never used controlled substances of any kind. 
Trump has voiced support for medical marijuana,  saying that he is "a hundred percent in favor" because "I know people that have serious problems. and. it really, really does help them."  When asked about Colorado (where recreational use of marijuana is legal), Trump softened his previously expressed views and essentially said that states should be able to decide on whether marijuana for recreational purposes should be legal.  
In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Trump wrote that he generally opposed gun control, but supported the ban on assault weapons and supported a "slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."     In his book, Trump also criticized the gun lobby, saying: "The Republicans walk the N.R.A. line and refuse even limited restrictions."  In 2008, Trump opposed hunting-education classes in schools and called the "thought of voluntarily putting guns in the classroom. a really bad plan." 
While campaigning for the presidency Trump reversed some of his positions on gun issues, calling for the expansion of gun rights.  In 2015 he described himself as a staunch advocate of the Second Amendment   and said concealed carry "is a right, not a privilege."  He proposed eliminating prohibitions on assault weapons, military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines (which Trump described as "scary sounding phrases" used by gun control advocates "to confuse people"), as well as making concealed carry permits valid nationwide, rather than on the current state-to-state basis.  At his campaign website he called for an overhaul of the current federal background check system, arguing that "Too many states are failing to put criminal and mental health records into the system."  
On the campaign trail in 2015, Trump praised the National Rifle Association (NRA),  and received the group's endorsement after becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.  He asserted that the presence of more guns in schools and public places could have stopped mass shootings such as those in Paris, San Bernardino, California, and Umpqua Community College.   Trump supported barring people on the government's terrorist watch list from purchasing weapons, saying in 2015: "If somebody is on a watch list and an enemy of state and we know it's an enemy of state, I would keep them away, absolutely."  This is one position where Trump departs from the position of gun-rights groups and most of his Republican rivals for the presidency and supports a stance backed by Senate Democrats.  Trump said that he holds a New York concealed carry permit   and that "I carry on occasion, sometimes a lot. I like to be unpredictable."  A 1987 Associated Press story said that he held a handgun permit at that time. 
In January 2016, Trump said: "I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and—you have to—and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There's no more gun-free zones."  Trump could not eliminate gun-free school zones by executive order, however, since such zones were created by a federal law that can only be reversed by Congress.  In May 2016, Trump made ambiguous comments on guns in classrooms, saying: "I don't want to have guns in classrooms. Although, in some cases, teachers should have guns in classrooms."  In May 2016, Trump accused Hillary Clinton of lying when she claimed that "Donald Trump would force schools to allow guns in classrooms on his first day in office."  According to the Washington Post fact-checker, Clinton's statement was accurate. 
In June 2016, Trump said "it would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight" to see Omar Mateen shot in the head by an armed patron in the Orlando nightclub shooting, reiterating his stance that more people should be armed in public places.  A few days later, after two top officials of the NRA challenged the notion that drinking clubgoers should be armed, Trump reversed his position, saying that he "obviously" meant that additional guards or employees should have been armed in the nightclub.   Security personnel and other staffers at a number of Trump's hotels and golf courses told ABC News that patrons are not permitted to carry guns on the property. A Trump spokesman denied this, saying that licensed persons are permitted to carry guns on the premises. 
At a rally on August 9, 2016, Trump accused his opponent of wanting to "essentially abolish the Second Amendment", and went on: "By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know." These comments were interpreted by critics as suggesting violence against Clinton or her appointees, but Trump's campaign stated that he was referring to gun rights advocates' "great political power" as a voting bloc. 
One month after his inauguration, Trump reversed an Obama-era regulation that had been intended to prevent weapons purchases by certain people with mental health problems. Had the regulation been allowed to take effect, it would have added 75,000 names, including the names of those whose receive federal financial assistance due to a mental illness or who have financial proxies due to a mental illness, to a background check database. 
Following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, Trump met with students and others at the White House for a "listening session." Trump suggested arming up to 20% of the teachers to stop "maniacs" from attacking students. The following day Trump called a "gun free" school a "magnet" for criminals and tweeted, "Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!"  
In August 2019, following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Trump declined to support universal background checks, saying that existing background checks are already "very, very strong," even though "we have sort of missing areas and areas that don’t complete the whole circle.” He also indicated that he was not interested in working on bipartisan compromises. 
According to The New York Times, many of Trump's statements on legal topics are "extemporaneous and resist conventional legal analysis," with some appearing "to betray ignorance of fundamental legal concepts." 
Trump has stated that he wants to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court with "a person of similar views and principles".  He has released a list of eleven potential picks to replace Scalia.  The jurists are widely considered to be conservative.     All are white, and eight of the eleven are men.  The list includes five out of the eight individuals recommended by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.  Trump had previously insisted that he would seek guidance from conservative groups such as the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation when it came to picking Supreme Court candidates.  Several of the judges listed by Trump have questioned abortion rights.  Six of the eleven judges have clerked for conservative Supreme Court justices. 
Trump has claimed that he "would probably appoint" justices to the Supreme Court who "would look very seriously" at the Hillary Clinton email controversy "because it's a criminal activity."  However, under the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court justices "are neither investigators nor prosecutors." 
Trump has criticized Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, as a "nightmare for conservatives," citing Roberts' vote in the 2015 decision in King v. Burwell, which upheld provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  He has also blamed Roberts for the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, apparently in error, since in that case Roberts actually dissented from the majority opinion. 
In February 2016, Trump called on the Senate to stop Obama from filling the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. 
An analysis by FiveThirtyEight shows that, under the assumption that Scalia's vacant seat on the Court will not be filled, and taking account of the advanced age of three of the sitting justices, that a Trump presidency would move the Supreme Court "rightward toward its most conservative position in recent memory". 
Comments on judges and judicial decisions
Since taking office, Trump has made a series of "escalating attacks on the federal judiciary" in response to judicial decisions against him.  After a federal district judge issued a stay of Trump's executive order on travel, immigration, and refugees, Trump disparaged the judge on Twitter, referring to him as a "the so-called judge" and writing: "[He] put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!"  
While presidents in the past have sometimes offered muted criticism of judicial opinions, Trump's personal attacks on individual judges are seen as unprecedented in American history.  Trump's remarks prompted criticism from his own Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who told Senator Richard Blumenthal that Trump's statements were "disheartening" and "demoralizing" to the federal judiciary.  A number of legal scholars feared that Trump's conduct could undermine public confidence in the courts and endanger the independence of the judiciary. 
Term limits and ethics regulations
In October 2016, Trump said that he would push for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress, so that members of the House of Representatives could serve for a maximum of six years and Senators for a maximum of twelve years. Trump also pledged to re-institute a ban on executive branch officials from lobbying for five years after leaving government service and said that he supported Congress instituting a similar five-year lobbying ban of its own, applicable to former members and staff.     Under current "cooling-off period" regulations, former U.S. Representatives are required to wait one year before they can lobby Congress, former U.S. Senators are required to two years, and former executive-branch officials "must wait either two years or one year before lobbying their former agency, depending on how senior they were." 
On multiple occasions since taking office in 2017, Trump has questioned presidential term limits and in public remarks has talked about serving beyond the limits of the 22nd Amendment. For instance, during an April 2019 White House event for the Wounded Warrior Project, he joked that he would remain president "at least for 10 or 14 years".  
During a rally in June 2020, President Trump told supporters that he thinks flag burning should be punishable by one year in prison. 
Video game violence
Trump has voiced his opposition to video game violence. After it was erroneously reported that the Sandy Hook shooter frequently played violent video games, Trump tweeted, "Video game violence & glorification must be stopped—it is creating monsters!"  
After the 2019 El Paso shooting, Trump said in a speech, "We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately." 
Trump supports online gambling, based on the following reasoning: "This has to happen because many other countries are doing it and like usual the U.S. is just missing out." 
A 2016 report in Scientific American graded Trump and three other top presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein—on science policy, based on their responses to a twenty-question ScienceDebate.org survey. Trump "came in last on all counts" in grading, with scientists and researchers faulting him for a lack of knowledge or appreciation of scientific issues. 
As of October 2016, one of Trump's policy advisors declared that, under Trump, NASA would recreate the National Space Council and pursue a goal of "human exploration of the solar system by the end of the century", to drive technology developments to a stronger degree than a manned mission to Mars. Other goals would include shifting budget to deep space exploration from Earth science and climate research, and pursuit of small satellites and hypersonic technology.  A possibility of China joining the International Space Station program was also considered.  A stronger role of manned Lunar exploration is possible in NASA's quest for a manned mission to Mars.  Prior to that statement, the Trump campaign appeared to have little to no space policy at all. 
Technology and net neutrality
As of June 2016, Trump has published no tech policy proposals.  On the campaign trail, Trump frequently antagonized Silicon Valley figures,  using his Twitter account to lambast tech leaders such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, and Brian Chesky of Airbnb over a series of months.  He is particularly concerned about the social breakdown of American culture caused by technology, and said, "the Internet and the whole computer age is really a mixed bag,"  having "complicated lives very greatly." 
Trump is opposed to net neutrality, asserting that it is "Obama's attack on the internet" and saying that it "will target the conservative media." 
Trump has suggested closing "certain areas" of the Internet. Regarding how this relates to freedom of speech, he added "Somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people." 
The tech publication Recode reports that Trump has made no public statements on the issues of patent reform or broadband access. 
The Free Press Action Fund, a group of tech policy activists, rated Trump the worst 2016 presidential candidate for "citizens' digital lives," citing his positions opposing reforming the Patriot Act, favoring Internet censorship, and opposing net neutrality. 
Trump describes himself as pro-life and generally opposes abortion with some exceptions: rape, incest, and circumstances endangering the health of the mother.  He has said that he is committed to appointing justices who may overturn the ruling in Roe v. Wade. 
The Trump administration has rolled back many existing LGBT protections and has also introduced new policies that undermine LGBT rights.  
In early 2017, Trump reversed an Obama-era directive that had required companies with large federal contracts to prove their compliance with LGBT protections. 
In 2018, Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement with a footnote exempting the United States from complying with the agreement's call for an end to "sex-based discrimination". 
The Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to eliminate nondiscrimination protections at the level of the Supreme Court, where the Justice Department intervened in three employment lawsuits—Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda and Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC—arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation   or "transgender status."  However, despite the Trump administration's intervention, the Supreme Court ruled on these three cases on June 15, 2020, that sexual orientation and gender identity are indeed covered under existing protections for "sex discrimination."
The Affordable Care Act included an Obama-era nondiscrimination provision that explicitly entitled people to receive care regardless of sex or gender identity, but the Trump administration reversed it. On June 12, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized and revealed its replacement rule. Now, health care providers and insurers may decide whether to serve transgender people.  
One month after taking office, Trump reversed a directive from the Obama administration that had allowed transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity this reversal allowed public schools to make their own rules about gendered bathrooms.  In 2020, the Department of Education threatened to withhold funding from Connecticut school districts that allow transgender girls to compete on girls' teams, claiming that the transgender students' participation is a violation of Title IX. 
Six months into his presidency, Trump tweeted that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve "in any capacity" in the U.S. military, an order that took Pentagon officials by surprise.  Eventually, in 2019, the Supreme Court—without hearing arguments or explaining its own decision—allowed the Trump administration to move ahead with the ban.  
In 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote a memo planning to establish a definition of gender based on sex assignment at birth. The memo argued in favor of a definition of gender "on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable" and the government's prerogative to genetically test individuals to determine their sex. If approved by the Justice Department, the definition would apply across federal agencies, notably the departments of Education, Justice, and Labor, which, along with Health and Human Services, are responsible for enforcing Title IX nondiscrimination statutes. 
The Trump administration also reversed Obama-era guidance on transgender prisoners, ordering the Bureau of Prisons instead to house them according to their "biological sex." 
In 2019, HUD proposed a new rule  to weaken the 2012 Equal Access Rule, which requires equal access to housing regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This could allow homeless shelters to place transgender women in men's housing or to deny transgender people admission altogether. 
In April 2021 Donald Trump attacked Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson after he vetoed legislation that would ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender people younger than 18, which was later overturned. 
After several decades of national debate, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015 in the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. After his election, Trump acknowledged that the court had already "settled" the issue.   Trump has not, however, been a personal proponent of same-sex marriage, saying as recently as 2011 that he was "not in favor of gay marriage  and saying during his 2016 campaign that he would "strongly consider" appointing Supreme Court justices who were inclined to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges.   
The Trump administration has made efforts to remove questions about LGBT identity and relationships from the 2020 Census,   the American Community Survey,   the annual National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP),  and the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. 
In 2017, Trump dissolved the Office of National AIDS Policy and the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, both of which had existed since the 1990s. Every year on World AIDS Day—2017, 2018, 2019—Trump's proclamations have omitted mention of LGBT people.     
In 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division.  Its purpose is to enforce federal laws that related to "conscience and religious freedom" that is, to enable individuals and businesses to exempt themselves from obeying nondiscrimination laws.
In 2019, HHS granted an exemption from an Obama-era nondiscrimination regulation to a foster care agency in South Carolina. HHS cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a basis for allowing federally funded Christian groups to discriminate against non-Christians.   Later that year, the Department of Labor, also referencing the RFRA, proposed a new rule to exempt "religious organizations" from obeying employment nondiscrimination law if they invoke "sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs" as their reason to discriminate.  In 2020, the Justice Department filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of another foster care agency in Pennsylvania, defending the agency's right to turn away same-sex couples as part of its “free exercise of religion.” 
In 2019, the State Department created the Commission on Unalienable Rights to initiate philosophical discussions of human rights that are grounded in the Catholic concept of "natural law" rather than modern identities based on gender and sexuality. Most of the twelve members of the commission have a history of anti-LGBT comments. 
The Trump administration eliminated the State Department's position for a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons. 
In 2018, the Trump administration denied visas to the unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats, even if they were from countries that recognize only civil partnership or that ban same-sex marriage. 
Richard Grenell, nominated by Trump as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, is openly gay. In February 2019, Grenell was announced as the leader of a new campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide, and he hosted a meeting with 11 European activists.  Trump seemed unaware of the initiative when he was asked about it the next day.  Several months later, Trump tweeted that, "as we celebrate LGBT Pride Month," Americans should "stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute" people for their sexual orientation. However, that same week, the Trump administration instructed U.S. embassies not to fly the Pride flag during Pride Month. 
About one-third of Trump's judicial nominees have anti-LGBT records.   The U.S. Senate has, as of May 2020, confirmed nearly 400 of Trump's nominees to their new roles. At least one of the confirmed judges, Patrick Bumatay, is openly gay.  
Trump's nominees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett have been confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Marijuana and the rights of individual states to legalize recreational and medical marijuana was an issue of Trump's presidential campaign, and he formally stated during his campaign that he believed states should have the right to manage their own policies with regard to medical and recreational marijuana.   Following his election, he reversed his position on recreational marijuana and stated he believed medical marijuana should be allowed but stated the Federal Government may seek legal resolutions for those states which regulate the growth and sale of recreational marijuana.   However, in April 2018, he once again reversed himself, endorsing leaving the issue to the states  and in June 2018, Trump backed a bill introduced by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts that would leave the decision to the states. 
Trump has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for his companies six times. Three of the casino bankruptcies came during the recession of the early 1990s and the Gulf War, both of which contributed to hard times in Atlantic City, New Jersey's gambling facilities. He also entered a Manhattan hotel and two casino holding companies into bankruptcy.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows companies to restructure or wipe away much of their debt to other companies, creditors, and shareholders while remaining in business but under the supervision of a bankruptcy court. Chapter 11 is often called "reorganization" because it allows the business to emerge from the process more efficient and on good terms with its creditors.
Let’s go over the different types of fraud discussed in this article: those that have been allegedly committed by the 45th President of the United States according to the Times’ exposé:
- Gift tax fraud, where IRS fees on gifts are avoided by disguising them as loans or legitimate business transactions.
- Securities fraud, where the value of stocks and investments are misrepresented in order to deceive investors or the IRS.
- Loans fraud, where a loan is disguised as a different transaction in order to avoid involving a financial institution and setting fair interest rates.
- Appraisal fraud, where the value of a property is misrepresented in order to manipulate mortgage rates or deceive the IRS.
- Estate tax fraud, where the value of an individual’s estate is misrepresented in order to avoid paying a high percentage to the IRS.
- Expense reports fraud, where business expenses are misrepresented in order to deceive a business or the IRS.
Not all of these fraudulent activities are specifically tax fraud, but they can all be used for the purpose of committing tax fraud. This is because they involve misrepresenting the value or existence of properties and expenses in order to deceive individuals, businesses, accountants, and tax auditors.
So what does this teach us about tax law? Well, by understanding what we aren’t supposed to do, we should be able to figure out what we are supposed to do, at least in the eyes of the IRS.
- We’re supposed to pay a portion of anything inherited or received as a gift if it’s worth a significant amount.
- If we’re taking out a loan instead of receiving a gift, we have to go through proper channels in order to ensure that the payment schedules and interest rates are set fairly.
- And we’re not supposed to lie about the values of our properties, investments, or business expenses.
Sounds pretty simple, right? The truth is, most of our lengthy and confusing tax code can be distilled to these core values:
Share All sharing options for: Donald Trump’s long history of racism, from the 1970s to 2020
President Donald Trump at a press conference. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
If you ask President Donald Trump, he isn’t racist. To the contrary, he’s repeatedly said that he’s “the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered.”
Trump’s actual record, however, tells a very different story.
On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly made explicitly racist and otherwise bigoted remarks, from calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, to proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the US, to suggesting a judge should recuse himself from a case solely because of the judge’s Mexican heritage.
The trend has continued into his presidency. From stereotyping a Black reporter to pandering to white supremacists after they held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to making a joke about the Trail of Tears, Trump hasn’t stopped with racist acts after his 2016 election.
Most recently, Trump has called the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” — racist terms that tap into the kind of xenophobia that he latched onto during his 2016 presidential campaign Trump’s own adviser, Kellyanne Conway, previously called “kung flu” a “highly offensive” term. And Trump insinuated that Sen. Kamala Harris, who’s Black, “doesn’t meet the requirements” to run for vice president — a repeat of the birther conspiracy theory that he perpetuated about former President Barack Obama.
This is nothing new for Trump. In fact, the very first time Trump appeared in the pages of the New York Times, back in the 1970s, was when the US Department of Justice sued him for racial discrimination. Since then, he has repeatedly appeared in newspaper pages across the world as he inspired more similar controversies.
No, Trump hasn’t been the best president for Black America since Lincoln
This long history is important. It would be one thing if Trump misspoke one or two times. But when you take all of his actions and comments together, a clear pattern emerges — one that suggests that bigotry is not just political opportunism on Trump’s part but a real element of his personality, character, and career.
Trump has a long history of racist controversies
Here’s a breakdown of Trump’s history, taken largely from Dara Lind’s list for Vox and an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times:
- 1973: The US Department of Justice — under the Nixon administration, out of all administrations — sued the Trump Management Corporation for violating the Fair Housing Act. Federal officials found evidence that Trump had refused to rent to Black tenants and lied to Black applicants about whether apartments were available, among other accusations. Trump said the federal government was trying to get him to rent to welfare recipients. In the aftermath, he signed an agreement in 1975 agreeing not to discriminate to renters of color without admitting to previous discrimination.
- 1980s: Kip Brown, a former employee at Trump’s Castle, accused another one of Trump’s businesses of discrimination. “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor,” Brown said. “It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it: They put us all in the back.”
- 1989: In a controversial case that’s been characterized as a modern-day lynching, four Black teenagers and one Latino teenager — the “Central Park Five” — were accused of attacking and raping a jogger in New York City. Trump immediately took charge in the case, running an ad in local papers demanding, “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” The teens’ convictions were later vacated after they spent seven to 13 years in prison, and the city paid $41 million in a settlement to the teens. But Trump in October 2016 said he still believes they’re guilty, despite the DNA evidence to the contrary.
- 1991: A book by John O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump’s criticism of a Black accountant: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” Trump later said in a 1997 Playboy interview that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
- 1992: The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino had to pay a $200,000 fine because it transferred Black and women dealers off tables to accommodate a big-time gambler’s prejudices.
- 1993: In congressional testimony, Trump said that some Native American reservations operating casinos shouldn’t be allowed because “they don’t look like Indians to me.”
- 2000: In opposition to a casino proposed by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, which he saw as a financial threat to his casinos in Atlantic City, Trump secretly ran a series of ads suggesting the tribe had a “record of criminal activity [that] is well documented.”
- 2004: In season two of The Apprentice, Trump fired Kevin Allen, a Black contestant, for being overeducated. “You’re an unbelievably talented guy in terms of education, and you haven’t done anything,” Trump said on the show. “At some point you have to say, ‘That’s enough.’”
- 2005: Trump publicly pitched what was essentially The Apprentice: White People vs. Black People. He said he “wasn’t particularly happy” with the most recent season of his show, so he was considering “an idea that is fairly controversial — creating a team of successful African Americans versus a team of successful whites. Whether people like that idea or not, it is somewhat reflective of our very vicious world.”
- 2010: In 2010, there was a huge national controversy over the “Ground Zero Mosque” — a proposal to build a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks. Trump opposed the project, calling it “insensitive,” and offered to buy out one of the investors in the project. On The Late Show With David Letterman, Trump argued, referring to Muslims, “Well, somebody’s blowing us up. Somebody’s blowing up buildings, and somebody’s doing lots of bad stuff.”
- 2011: Trump played a big role in pushing false rumors that Obama — the country’s first Black president — was not born in the US. He claimed to send investigators to Hawaii to look into Obama’s birth certificate. Obama later released his birth certificate, calling Trump a “carnival barker.” The research has found a strong correlation between birtherism, as the conspiracy theory is called, and racism. But Trump has reportedly continued pushing this conspiracy theory in private.
- 2011: While Trump suggested that Obama wasn’t born in the US, he also argued that maybe Obama wasn’t a good enough student to have gotten into Columbia or Harvard Law School, and demanded Obama release his university transcripts. Trump claimed, “I heard he was a terrible student. Terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?”
For many people, none of these incidents, individually, may be damning: One of these alone might suggest that Trump is simply a bad speaker and perhaps racially insensitive (“politically incorrect,” as he would put it), but not overtly racist.
Donald Trump’s history of encouraging hate groups and violence, from 2015 to 2020
But when you put all these events together, a clear pattern emerges. At the very least, Trump has a history of playing into people’s racism to bolster himself — and that likely says something about him, too.
And, of course, there’s everything that’s happened through and since his presidential campaign.
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As a candidate and president, Trump has made many more racist comments
On top of all that history, Trump has repeatedly made racist — often explicitly so — remarks on the campaign trail and as president:
- Trump launched his campaign in 2015 by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” who are “bringing crime” and “bringing drugs” to the US. His campaign was largely built on building a wall to keep these immigrants out of the US.
- As a candidate in 2015, Trump called for a ban on all Muslims coming into the US. His administration eventually implemented a significantly watered-down version of the policy.
- When asked at a 2016 Republican debate whether all 1.6 billion Muslims hate the US, Trump said, “I mean a lot of them. I mean a lot of them.”
- He argued in 2016 that Judge Gonzalo Curiel — who was overseeing the Trump University lawsuit — should recuse himself from the case because of his Mexican heritage and membership in a Latino lawyers association. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump, later called such comments “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
- Trump has been repeatedly slow to condemn white supremacists who endorse him, and he regularly retweeted messages from white supremacists and neo-Nazis during his presidential campaign.
- He tweeted and later deleted an image that showed Hillary Clinton in front of a pile of money and by a Jewish Star of David that said, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” The tweet had some very obvious anti-Semitic imagery, but Trump insisted that the star was a sheriff’s badge, and said his campaign shouldn’t have deleted it.
- Trump has repeatedly referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas,” using her controversial — and later walked-back — claims to Native American heritage as a punchline.
- At the 2016 Republican convention, Trump officially seized the mantle of the “law and order” candidate — an obvious dog whistle playing to white fears of Black crime, even though crime in the US is historically low. His speeches, comments, and executive actions after he took office have continued this line of messaging.
- In a pitch to Black voters in 2016, Trump said, “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”
- Trump stereotyped a Black reporter at a press conference in February 2017. When April Ryan asked him if he plans to meet and work with the Congressional Black Caucus, he repeatedly asked her to set up the meeting — even as she insisted that she’s “just a reporter.”
- In the week after white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Trump repeatedly said that “many sides” and “both sides” were to blame for the violence and chaos that ensued — suggesting that the white supremacist protesters were morally equivalent to counterprotesters who stood against racism. He also said that there were “some very fine people” among the white supremacists. All of this seemed like a dog whistle to white supremacists — and many of them took it as one, with white nationalist Richard Spencer praising Trump for “defending the truth.”
- Throughout 2017, Trump repeatedly attacked NFL players who, by kneeling or otherwise silently protesting during the national anthem, demonstrated against systemic racism in America.
- Trump reportedly said in 2017 that people who came to the US from Haiti “all have AIDS,” and he lamented that people who came to the US from Nigeria would never “go back to their huts” once they saw America. The White House denied that Trump ever made these comments.
- Speaking about immigration in a bipartisan meeting in January 2018, Trump reportedly asked, in reference to Haiti and African countries, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then reportedly suggested that the US should take more people from countries like Norway. The implication: Immigrants from predominantly white countries are good, while immigrants from predominantly Black countries are bad.
- Trump denied making the “shithole” comments, although some senators present at the meeting said they happened. The White House, meanwhile, suggested that the comments, like Trump’s remarks about the NFL protests, will play well to his base. The only connection between Trump’s remarks about the NFL protests and his “shithole” comments is race.
- Trump mocked Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, again calling her “Pocahontas” in a 2019 tweet before adding, “See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” The capitalized “TRAIL” is seemingly a reference to the Trail of Tears — a horrific act of ethnic cleansing in the 19th century in which Native Americans were forcibly relocated, causing thousands of deaths.
- Trump tweeted later that year that several Black and brown members of Congress — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — are “from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and that they should “go back” to those countries. It’s a common racist trope to say that Black and brown people, particularly immigrants, should go back to their countries of origin. Three of the four members of Congress whom Trump targeted were born in the US.
- Trump has called the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.” The World Health Organization advises against linking a virus to any particular region, since it can lead to stigma. Trump’s adviser, Kellyanne Conway, previously described the term “kung flu” as “highly offensive.” Meanwhile, Asian Americans have reported hateful incidents targeting them due to the spread of the coronavirus.
- Trump suggested that Kamala Harris, who’s Black and South Asian, “doesn’t meet the requirements” to be former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate — yet another example of birtherism.
This list is not comprehensive, instead relying on some of the major examples since Trump announced his candidacy. But once again, there’s a pattern of racism and bigotry here that suggests Trump isn’t just misspeaking it is who he is.
Are Trump’s actions and comments “racist”? Or are they “bigoted”?
One of the common defenses for Trump is that he’s not necessarily racist, because the Muslim and Mexican people he often targets don’t actually comprise a race.
Disgraced journalist Mark Halperin, for example, said as much when Trump argued Judge Curiel should recuse himself from the Trump University case because of his Mexican heritage, making the astute observation that “Mexico isn’t a race.”
Kristof made a similar point in the New York Times: “My view is that ‘racist’ can be a loaded word, a conversation stopper more than a clarifier, and that we should be careful not to use it simply as an epithet. Moreover, Muslims and Latinos can be of any race, so some of those statements technically reflect not so much racism as bigotry. It’s also true that with any single statement, it is possible that Trump misspoke or was misconstrued.”
This critique misses the point on two levels.
For one, the argument is tremendously semantic. It’s essentially probing the question: Is Trump racist or is he bigoted? But who cares? Neither is a trait that anyone should want in a president — and either label essentially communicates the same criticism.
Another issue is that race is socially malleable. Over the years, Americans considered Germans, Greeks, Irish, Italians, and Spaniards as nonwhite people of different races. That’s changed. Similarly, some Americans today consider Latinos and, to a lesser degree, some people with Muslim and Jewish backgrounds as part of a nonwhite race too. (As a Latin man, I certainly consider myself to be of a different race, and the treatment I’ve received in the course of my life validates that.) So under current definitions, comments against these groups are, indeed, racist.
This is all possible because, as Jenée Desmond-Harris explained for Vox, race is entirely a social construct with no biological basis. This doesn’t mean race and people’s views of race don’t have real effects on many people — of course they do — but it means that people’s definitions of race can change over time.
But really, whatever you want to call it, Trump has made racist and bigoted comments in the past. That much should be clear in the long lists above.
Trump’s bigotry was a key part of his campaign
Regardless of how one labels it, Trump’s racism or bigotry was a big part of his campaign — by giving a candidate to the many white Americans who harbor racial resentment.
One paper, published in January 2017 by political scientists Brian Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta, found that voters’ measures of sexism and racism correlated much more closely with support for Trump than economic dissatisfaction, after controlling for factors like partisanship and political ideology.
Another study, conducted by researchers Brenda Major, Alison Blodorn, and Gregory Major Blascovich shortly before the 2016 election, found that if people who strongly identified as white were told that nonwhite groups will outnumber white people in 2042, they became more likely to support Trump.
And a study, published in November 2017 by researchers Matthew Luttig, Christopher Federico, and Howard Lavine, found that Trump supporters were much more likely to change their views on housing policy based on race. In this study, respondents were randomly assigned “a subtle image of either a black or a white man.” Then they were asked about views on housing policy.
The researchers found that Trump supporters were much more likely to be impacted by the image of a Black man. After the exposure, they were not only less supportive of housing assistance programs, but they also expressed higher levels of anger that some people receive government assistance, and they were more likely to say that individuals who receive assistance are to blame for their situation.
In contrast, favorability toward Hillary Clinton did not significantly change respondents’ views on any of these issues when primed with racial cues.
“These findings indicate that responses to the racial cue varied as a function of feelings about Donald Trump — but not feelings about Hillary Clinton — during the 2016 presidential election,” the researchers concluded.
There is also a lot of other research showing that people’s racial attitudes can change their views on politics and policy, as Dylan Matthews and researchers Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel previously explained for Vox.
Simply put, racial attitudes were a big driver of Trump’s election — just as they long have been for general beliefs about politics and policy. (Much more on all the research in Vox’s explainer.)
Meanwhile, white supremacist groups have openly embraced Trump. As Sarah Posner and David Neiwert reported at Mother Jones, what the media largely treated as gaffes — Trump retweeting white nationalists, Trump describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and criminals — were to white supremacists real signals approving of their racist causes. One white supremacist wrote, “Our Glorious Leader and ULTIMATE SAVIOR has gone full-wink-wink-wink to his most aggressive supporters.”
Some of them even argued that Trump has softened the greater public to their racist messaging. “The success of the Trump campaign just proves that our views resonate with millions,” said Rachel Pendergraft, a national organizer for the Knights Party, which succeeded David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “They may not be ready for the Ku Klux Klan yet, but as anti-white hatred escalates, they will.”
And at the 2017 white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard, said that the rally was meant “to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”
So while Trump may deny his racism and bigotry, at some level his supporters seem to get it. As much as his history of racism shows that he’s racist, perhaps who supported him and why is just as revealing — and it doesn’t paint a favorable picture for Trump.
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Donald Trump's Military Cowardice Goes Beyond His 5 Draft Deferrals
When I look at President Donald Trump, I see a pot-bellied, 71-year-old man with a doughy frame. But in 1968, when he was a 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate, Trump was a tall, fit athlete who played football, tennis, and golf. His age and clean medical history qualified Trump as a perfect candidate for the draft to serve in the United States Army and fight in the Vietnam War, but he avoided combat after receiving a 1-Y medical deferment, which he has said was due to "bone spurs in his heels." More than half a million American men were stationed in Vietnam by the end of that year, which was the bloodiest 12 months of the conflict. On the day of Trump's graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, 40 Americans were killed in Vietnam, according to The New York Times.
The son of Fred Trump, a wealthy New York real estate developer, Donald Trump did what many other wealthy young men were allowed to do: He dodged the draft. Between 1964 and 1972, a few months before the draft ended, he received five deferments — in addition to his "bone spurs" claim, the other four were based on his educational status. He received two deferments while he attended Fordham University from 1964 to 1966, and two more after transferring to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
As a draft dodger, Trump never knew the horrors of war, but in 1997, he laughed when telling radio host Howard Stern that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was like his "personal Vietnam." "It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam era,” Trump said to Stern, discussing his sex life. "I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
Today, Trump struggles to recall the most basic facts about the medical condition that was the basis for his final deferment. He doesn't remember the name of the doctor who provided him with the note of proof and has repeatedly failed to provide a copy of it to The New York Times. He's also forgotten which of his heels had the spurs, now just claiming it was both. (During the 2016 presidential election, the affliction wasn't noted by Dr. Harold Bornstein, a physician who performed a physical on Trump and found that he had "no significant medical problems." in his medical history)
Unlike the 2,709,918 soldiers who fought in Vietnam, Trump never served. He wasn't injured like the 304,000 Americans who fought in the war, or among the more than 58,000 killed in combat. Despite this inexperience, he is now in charge of the U.S. armed forces, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Marine Corps as commander-in-chief. As president, he is tasked with dictating to all military generals and admirals which battles should be fought, where they should be fought, and who gets to fight in them on behalf of the United States.
He is certainly not the first American leader to receive draft deferments. Former vice president Joe Biden received five student deferments, former VP Dick Cheney received five deferments, and former president Bill Clinton received deferments and even penned a letter to an ROTC officer thanking him for "saving me from the draft." (It should also be noted that before Clinton's administration, LGBTQ servicemen and women were banned from serving. In his time, the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy began, which forced them to conceal their identities or risk being discharged, effectively condoning discrimination.) This column will afford these men no absolution for their decisions, but what makes Trump's behavior obscene is that despite having never served, he has fashioned himself as the arbiter of military courage.
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