U.S. President, real estate mogul and former reality TV star Donald John Trump was born in 1946, in Queens, New York. In 1971, he became involved in large, profitable building projects in Manhattan. In 1980, he opened the Grand Hyatt, which made him the city's best-known developer. In 2004, Trump began starring in the hit NBC reality series The Apprentice, which also spawned the offshoot The Celebrity Apprentice. Trump turned his attention to politics, and in 2015 he announced his candidacy for president of the United States on the Republican ticket. After winning a majority of the primaries and caucuses, Trump became the official Republican candidate for president on July 19, 2016. That November, Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, after defeating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Early Life and Education
Donald John Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York, the fourth of five children of Frederick C. and Mary MacLeod Trump. Frederick Trump was a builder and real estate developer who specialized in constructing and operating middle-income apartments in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn. Donald was an energetic, assertive child, and his parents sent him to the New York Military Academy at age 13, hoping the discipline of the school would channel his energy in a positive manner.
Trump did well at the academy, both socially and academically, rising to become a star athlete and student leader by the time he graduated in 1964. He then entered Fordham University and two years later transferred to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1968 with a degree in economics. During his years at college, Trump secured education deferments for the Vietnam War draft and ultimately a 1-Y medical deferment after he graduated.
New York Real Estate Developer
Trump followed his father into a career in real estate development, bringing his grander ambitions to the family business. As a student, Trump worked with his father during the summer and then joined his father's company, Elizabeth Trump & Son, after graduation from college. He was able to finance an expansion of the company's holdings by convincing his father to be more liberal in the use of loans based on the equity in the Trump apartment complexes. However, business was very competitive and profit margins were narrow.
In 1971, Donald Trump was given control of the company, which he later renamed the Trump Organization. He also moved his residence to Manhattan, where he began to make important connections with influential people. Convinced of the city's economic opportunity, Trump soon became involved in large building projects in Manhattan that would offer opportunities for earning high profits, using attractive architectural design and winning public recognition.
When the Pennsylvania Central Railroad entered bankruptcy, Trump was able to obtain an option on the railroad's yards on the West Side of Manhattan. When initial plans for apartments proved unfeasible because of the poor economic climate, Trump promoted the property as the location of a city convention center, and the city government selected it over two other sites in 1978. Trump's offer to forego a fee if the center were named after his family, however, was turned down, along with his bid to build the complex, which was ultimately named in honor of Senator Jacob Javits.
Trump's business practices were called into question when, in 1973, the federal government filed a complaint against Trump, his father and their company alleging that they had discriminated against tenants and potential tenants based on their race, a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Trump responded to the case in an interview published in the New York Times. “They are absolutely ridiculous,” he said of the Justice Department which filed the case. “We never have discriminated, and we never would. There have been a number of local actions against us, and we've won them all. We were charged with discrimination, and we proved in court that we did not discriminate.”
After a lengthy legal battle, the case was settled in 1975. As part of the agreement, the Trump company had to train employees about the Fair Housing Act and inform the community about its fair housing practices. Trump wrote about the resolution of the case in his 1987 memoir Art of the Deal: "In the end, the government couldn’t prove its case, and we ended up taking a minor settlement without admitting any guilt."
Meanwhile Trump had set his sights on making a big splash in commercial real estate. In 1974, he obtained an option on one of Penn Central's hotels, the Commodore, which was unprofitable but in an excellent location adjacent to Grand Central Station. The next year he signed a partnership agreement with the Hyatt Hotel Corporation, which did not have a large downtown hotel. Trump then worked out a complex deal with the city to win a 40-year tax abatement, arranged financing and then completely renovated the building, constructing a striking new facade of reflective glass designed by architect Der Scutt. When the hotel, renamed the Grand Hyatt, opened in 1980, it was instantly popular and proved an economic success, making Donald Trump the city's best known developer in the process.
Donald Trump Photo Gallery
Trump Tower & Atlantic City
In 1979, Trump leased a site on Fifth Avenue adjacent to the famous Tiffany & Company as the location for a monumental $200-million apartment-retail complex designed by Der Scutt. Opened in 1982, it was dubbed Trump Tower. The 58-story building featured a six-story atrium lined with pink marble and included an 80-foot waterfall. The luxurious building attracted well-known retail stores and celebrity renters and brought Trump national attention.
During the same period Trump was investigating the profitable casino gambling business, which was approved in New Jersey in 1977, and in 1980 he was able to acquire a piece of property in Atlantic City. Trump brought in his younger brother Robert to head up the complex project of acquiring the land, winning a gambling license and obtaining permits and financing. Holiday Inn Corporation, the parent company of Harrah's casino hotels, offered a partnership, and the $250 million complex opened in 1984 as Harrah's at Trump Plaza. Trump bought out Holiday Inn soon thereafter and renamed the facility Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino. Trump also purchased a Hilton Hotels casino-hotel in Atlantic City when the corporation failed to obtain a gambling license and renamed the $320 million complex Trump's Castle. Later, while it was under construction, he was able to acquire the largest hotel-casino in the world, the Taj Mahal at Atlantic City, which opened in 1990. Following multiple bankruptcies throughout the years and a lengthy strike by workers, it was announced in 2016 that the Trump Taj Mahal would be closing its doors. Trump himself had lost his last remaining 10 percent interest in the company for the licensing of his name in March when Carl Icahn took over hoping to save the casino.
Back in New York City, Donald Trump had purchased an apartment building and the adjacent Barbizon-Plaza Hotel in New York City, which faced Central Park, with plans to build a large condominium tower on the site. The tenants of the apartment building, however, who were protected by the city's rent-control and rent-stabilization programs, fought Trump's plans and won. Trump then renovated the Barbizon, renaming it Trump Parc. In 1985 he purchased 76 acres on the West Side of Manhattan for $88 million to build a complex to be called Television City, which was to include a dozen skyscrapers, a mall and a riverfront park. The huge development was to invite television production and feature the world's tallest building, but community opposition and a long city-approval process delayed construction on the project. In 1988, Trump acquired the Plaza Hotel for $407 million and spent $50 million refurbishing it.
Ups and Downs of Business
Expanding his empire to the south, around this time Trump developed a condominium project in West Palm Beach, Florida, and in 1989 he branched out to purchase the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle for $365 million, which he later renamed the Trump Shuttle. After failing to be profitable, Trump defaulted on the loans and the airline venture ended in 1992 after a merger. In January 1990, Trump flew to Los Angeles to unveil a plan to build a $1 billion commercial and residential project featuring a 125-story office building.
It was in 1990, however, that the real estate market declined, reducing the value of and income from Trump's empire; though he had asserted his own net worth in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion at that time, a Forbes magazine investigation into his assets revealed that his existing debt likely brought the number closer to $500 million. In any event, the Trump Organization required a massive infusion of loans to keep it from collapsing, a situation which raised questions as to whether the corporation could survive bankruptcy. Some observers saw Trump's decline as symbolic of many of the business, economic and social excesses that had arisen in the 1980s.
Donald Trump eventually managed to climb back from a reported deficit of nearly $900 million, claiming to have reached a zenith of more than $2 billion. However, independent sources again questioned his math, estimating his worth at something closer to $500 million by 1997.
In 2000, Trump construction made headlines again when a state appeals court ruled that he had the right to finish an 856-foot-tall condominium. The Coalition for Responsible Development had sued the city, charging it was violating zoning laws by letting the building reach heights that towered over everything in the neighborhood. The city has since moved to revise its rules to prevent similar projects, but the failure of Trump's opponents to obtain an injunction allowed him to continue construction.
'The Apprentice' & Political Ambitions
On October 7, 1999, Trump announced the formation of an exploratory committee to inform his decision whether or not to seek the Reform Party's nomination for the presidential race of 2000. However, after a poor showing during the California primary, Trump withdrew his candidacy. It would not quell his political aspirations, however.
In 2004 Trump took advantage of his high-profile persona when he began producing and starring in the NBC reality series The Apprentice, in which contestants competed for a management position within the Trump Organization. The show quickly became a hit and made famous Trump's television catchphrase "You're fired." The success of the show resulted in numerous spin-offs, including The Celebrity Apprentice that showcased well-known figures as contestants.
In 2012, Trump's flirtation with politics resumed when he publicly announced he was considering running for president again. However, his prior association with the "Birther" movement, a fringe group that staunchly believed President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, seemingly discredited his political reputation.
Beginning in early 2011, Trump expressed doubts about the validity of Obama’s birth country to media outlets. To quell the staunch outcry from birtherists, Obama eventually released his birth certificate in April 2011, verifying that he was born in the United States. Regardless, Trump continued to be a vocal critic of President Obama—not only regarding his place of birth—but also on a variety of his policies. In the years since, Trump continued to question the president's birthplace through his 2012 reelection.
In 2013, Trump tweeted that a Hawaiian State Health Director, who died of cardiac arrhythmia following a plane crash, was somehow connected to a cover-up of the president's birth certificate. In 2016, as he began to clinch his own nomination as the GOP candidate for president, Trump toned down his stance, telling CNN, “I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I will write a book.” Later that fall, feeling pressure from his campaign advisors to put the conspiracy theory to rest as part of a strategy to appeal to minority voters, Trump issued a statement conceding that the president was indeed born in the U.S. In his statement, Trump also blamed his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, on the matter: "Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean," Trump stated. "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”
On June 16, 2015, Trump made his White House ambitions official when he announced his run for president on the Republican ticket for the 2016 elections, joining a crowded field of more than a dozen major candidates. "I am officially running for president of the United States," Trump said during his announcement at Trump Towers in New York City, "and we are going to make our country great again." He added with his signature bravado: "I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
Upon Trump's announcement to run for president, his derogatory remarks about Mexicans and immigration caused NBC to sever business ties with him. “Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump,” NBC responded in a statement. "To that end, the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants, which are part of a joint venture between NBC and Trump, will no longer air on NBC."
The statement added: "In addition, as Mr. Trump has already indicated, he will not be participating in The Celebrity Apprentice on NBC. Celebrity Apprentice is licensed from Mark Burnett's United Artists Media Group and that relationship will continue."
In response to NBC, Trump was unapologetic and defiant, filing a $500 million dollar lawsuit against the company, with his daughter Ivanka stating that her father's comments were distorted by the media. Yet among great social outcry, other organizations withdrew from associations with Trump as well: The Professional Golfers Association of America pulled plans for its fall Grand Slam tournament to be held at Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles, while representatives for Macy's announced that the retail chain would no longer carry Trump's menswear collection.
On July 18, 2015, Trump set off another media maelstrom with comments made at the Christian-oriented Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, calling out Senator and one-time Republican presidential nominee John McCain's reputation as a military hero. "He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured," Trump said, referring to McCain having been detained during the Vietnam War for several years after being gunned down as an airman, surviving multiple broken limbs and torture. Military veteran groups and advocates have generally denounced Trump's statements.
Despite these and his many other controversial remarks, a national phone poll completed by late July 2015 saw Trump in the lead for the Republican nomination, with ex-governor of Florida Jeb Bush slightly behind and within the poll's margin of error. More than half of Republican voters polled said that they were still unsure about which candidate from the large pool of contenders they would ultimately support.
Nonetheless, having garnered major media attention and growing support from his base, Trump was one of the top 10 candidates who participated in a Fox News presidential debate in early August. While the mogul continued a tone set in earlier appearances, he was critiqued and questioned on everything from his business practices to demeaning, sexist comments made about women via television and social media. After the debate, Trump made headlines for making offensive remarks about debate moderator Megyn Kelly due to what he perceived as her unfair line of questioning. He also initially maintained that he might opt for a third-party candidacy if running on the Republican ticket wasn't viable, but later signed a loyalty pledge stating he wouldn't do so.
As of March 2016, Trump appeared to be the likely Republican presidential nominee, with only Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich holding out hope for their campaigns. Trump maintained a commanding lead over his opponents despite ongoing criticisms and controversies, including his proposal to ban the immigration of Muslims to the United States, an apparent endorsement of waterboarding, and widespread protests at his political rallies.
Trump University & Taxes
As the campaign rolled on, so did further controversy, this time about the lawsuits filed against Trump University. In 2005, Trump launched his for-profit Trump University offering classes in real estate and acquiring and managing wealth. The venture had been under scrutiny almost since its inception and at the time of his presidential bid, it remained the subject of multiple law suits. In the cases, claimants accused Trump of fraud, false advertising and breach of contract. Controversy about the suits made headlines when Trump suggested that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, could not be impartial in overseeing two class action cases because of his Mexican heritage. Trump described the judge as “a hater of Donald Trump. . .” On November 18, 2016, Trump, who had previously vowed to take the matter to trial, settled three of the lawsuits for $25 million without admission of liability. In a statement from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, he called the settlement, “a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
Later, in a separate incident related to Trump University, it was reported that Florida attorney general Pam Bondi decided not to join the existing New York fraud lawsuit, just days after she had received a sizable campaign donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation. It was reported in November 2016 that Bondi's name was on Trump's list as a possible U.S. Attorney General contender. Founded in 1988, the Donald J. Trump Foundation is a private charity organization designed to make donations to non-profit groups. As a result of the improper donation to the attorney general's campaign, Trump was required to pay the IRS a penalty and his foundation came under scrutiny about the use of its funds for non-charitable activities. Additionally, according to tax records, The Trump Foundation itself was found to have no charitable gifts from Donald Trump since 2008 and that all donations since that time have come from outside donations to the Trump Foundation.
Trump also courted controversy over the course of his presidential run when he repeatedly said he would not release his tax returns while they were being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. In August 2016, he confirmed that he would not release his tax returns before the November election. It was the first time a major party candidate had not released such information to the public since Richard Nixon in 1972.
GOP Presidential Nominee
As the campaign rolled on, Trump's unorthodox style spoke to Republicans voters, propelling him to a decisive Indiana primary victory in May 2016. He won 53% of the vote in a three-way race, a pivotal moment when he clinched the Republican presidential nomination and laid to rest any notions of a contested convention. On May 26, 2016, 29 unbound delegates told the Associated Press that they would support him at the GOP convention. With their backing, Trump pulled in the support of 1,238 delegates, slightly above the 1,237 delegate count needed to secure the nomination. Senator Cruz's defeat in Indiana, after a previous string of losses, prompted him to suspend his campaign.
Leading up to Trump's official nomination at the Republican convention in July 2016, there was much speculation about his selection of a running mate. He narrowed his decision down to three candidates — New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Indiana governor Mike Pence. On July 15, 2016, Trump officially announced that Pence was his choice for vice presidential nominee.
Soon after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland got underway, Trump was officially voted in as the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.
On July 21, 2016, Trump accepted the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. In a one-hour-and-15-minute long speech, one of the longest acceptance speeches in recent history, Trump outlined the issues he would tackle as president including violence in America, the economy, immigration, trade, terrorism and the appointment of Supreme Court Justices.
"My plan will begin with safety at home – which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism," he told his supporters. "There can be no prosperity without law and order."
On immigration, he said: “We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”
Trump also promised supporters that he would renegotiate trade deals, reduce taxes and government regulations, repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, defend 2nd Amendment gun rights, and “rebuild our depleted military,” asking the countries the U.S. is protecting “to pay their fair share.”
In an historic moment, he became the first Republican nominee to mention LGBTQ Americans in an acceptance speech. After speaking of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, Trump said: "As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology."
Following this remark, he received a standing ovation from the crowd in the convention hall. Trump also criticized his Democratic opponent saying: “the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”
“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponent, is that our plan will put America first,” he added. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America first, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. The respect that we deserve.”
As the Democratic National Convention convened, Trump wasted no time responding to the speeches made against him as well as the allegations he was some how tied to Vladimir Putin and a recent hacking of the DNC emails linked to Russia. Of Putin, he vehemently denied having a relationship with the Russian leader.
Trump also came under fire when he attacked Khizr Khan, the father of fallen soldier Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who had given a speech at the Democratic National Convention in tribute to his son who had been killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Asserting Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan called the billionaire out on a number of policies including his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.; he also questioned whether Trump had read the Constitution. The emotional speech struck a chord with the nation on all social and traditional media outlets.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos following the convention, Trump responded to Khan’s assertion about his lack of sacrifice stating, “I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I've [sic] work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've done— I've had tremendous success.” Trump also questioned why Mrs. Khan, who stood silent at her husband’s side, didn’t speak and later insinuated that perhaps it was her religion that forbid her to talk. “His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me, but plenty of people have written that.”
As the presidential race heated up in September 2016, Trump received a long awaited endorsement from Ted Cruz, his rival in the Republican primary. Cruz posted his endorsement on Facebook just days before Trump’s first presidential debate with his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.”
'Access Hollywood' Controversy
On October 7, 2016, just two days before the second presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, the Republican presidential nominee was embroiled in another scandal when The Washington Post released a 2005 recording in which he lewdly described kissing and groping women, and trying to have sex with television personality Nancy O’Dell, who was married at the time. The three-minute recording captures Trump speaking to Billy Bush, co-anchor of Access Hollywood, as they prepared to meet soap opera actress Arianne Zucker for a segment of the show. "I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said in the recording which was caught on a microphone that had not been turned off. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything."
He also said that because of his celebrity status he could grab women by their genitals. In response, Trump released a statement saying: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”
Trump later posted a videotaped apology on Facebook in which he said: “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”
The backlash was immediate with some top Republicans including Senators John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Mike Crapo, Shelley Moore Capito and Martha Roby withdrawing their support for Trump. Although he did not withdraw his endorsement of Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly told fellow GOP lawmakers that he would not campaign with or defend the presidential candidate. Some GOP critics also called for Trump to withdraw from the race, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who wrote on Facebook: "Enough! Donald Trump should not be President. He should withdraw."
Trump remained defiant, tweeting that he would stay in the race. “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I will never drop out of the race, will never let my supporters down!”
Around the same time as the video leak, numerous women began speaking publicly about their past experiences with Trump, alleging he had either sexually assaulted or harassed them based on their looks.
Historic Presidential Election
Defying polls and media projections, Trump won the majority of electoral college votes in a stunning victory on November 8, 2016. Despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by almost 2.9 million votes, Trump's electoral win —306 votes to Clinton's 232 votes — clinched his election as the 45th president of the United States.
After one of the most contentious presidential races in U.S. history, Trump's rise to the office of president was considered a resounding rejection of establishment politics by blue-collar and working class Americans. In his victory speech delivered at 2:30 am the following morning at the Hilton Hotel in New York City, Trump said: “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans."
"As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign, but rather an incredible and great movement made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their families," Trump said about his supporters.
He also spoke to the Americans who did not vote for him. "For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country.”
Trump acknowledged his opponent, who called him to concede, saying: “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely.”
He ended his victory speech with a promise to the country. "We’re going to get to work immediately for the American people," he said. "And we’re going to be doing a job that hopefully you will be so proud of your president. You’ll be so proud. Again, it’s my honor. It was an amazing evening. It’s been an amazing two-year period. And I love this country."
Transition to Power
Two days after the election, Trump met with President Obama for the first time at the White House for a 90-minute meeting in the Oval Office. The two men, who had bitterly disparaged each other during the campaign, struck a note of civility for the peaceful transition of power. “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds,” President Obama told Trump in front of reporters.
“I have great respect,” Trump said to the president. “We discussed a lot of different situations, some wonderful, and some difficulties. I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel.”
Wile the meeting at the White House showed opposing sides coming together, Americans appeared divided in the days following the election with tens of thousands of anti-Trump protestors taking to the streets in cities across the country and on social media. There were also various acts of racist harassment and vandalism tied to Trump supporters that were reported around the country and online.
In his first televised interview as president-elect on CBS's 60 Minutes, Trump called some of the people demonstrating against him “professional protestors,” and said he was surprised to hear about the racist incidents tied to his campaign. When interviewer Lesley Stahl asked if he wanted to say anything to supporters who may be perpetrating hate, Trump responded: "I would say don't do it, that's terrible, because I'm going to bring this country together . . . I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it’ . . . if it helps. I will say this, and I will say it right to the cameras: Stop it.”
As Trump prepared to take office, he put vice-president elect Pence in charge of his transition team, replacing New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was made a vice chair. His children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and son-in-law Jared Kushner were named to his 16-member executive team, which also includes various advisers and lobbyists. When questioned in the 60 Minutes interview about why various lobbyists were included on his team when he had spoke out against them as powerful Washington insiders during his campaign, Trump said “that they know the system right now, but we’re going to phase that out. You have to phase it out.”
Two days later, Pence reportedly removed the lobbyists from Trump's transition team. The president-elect also named Reince Priebus, the Republican Party Chairman, to be his chief of staff and Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and executive chairman of Breitbart News, as his chief strategist and senior counselor. During the following, weeks, the president-elect invited various candidates for cabinet positions to meetings at Trump Tower in New York.
In December 2016, Time magazine named Trump its Person of the Year, calling him “president of the divided states of America.” In response, Trump said: “When you say divided states of America, I didn’t divide them. They’re divided now. I mean there’s a lot of division, and we’re going to put it back together and we’re going to have a country that’s very well healed.”
In January 2017, a U.S. intelligence report, prepared by the CIA, FBI and NSA, concluded that Russian president Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to influence the U.S. election. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report said. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."
Prior to the release of the report, President-elect Trump had cast doubt on Russian interference and the intelligence community’s assessment. "I just want them to be sure, because it's a pretty serious charge, and I want them to be sure,” he told reporters and then referred to the failed intelligence assessment that led to the Iraq War. “And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong."
Trump received an intelligence briefing on the matter, and in his first press conference as president-elect on January 11, he acknowledged Russia’s interference. "As far as hacking, I think it's Russia,” he said. “But we also get hacked by other countries and other people and I can say that."
On January 19, 2017, the president-elect, his wife Melania and family attended a pre-inauguration concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Actor Jon Voight spoke and musicians Sam Moore, Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith, The Piano Guys and the band 3 Doors Down performed. Trump addressed the crowd of thousands at the end of the concert, saying: "This journey began 18 months ago. I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it than I did. I’m the messenger. I'm just the messenger. We all got tired of seeing what was happening, and we wanted change, but we wanted real change."
He continued: “We're going to do things that haven't been done for our country for many, many decades. It's going to change.” He ended with a twist on his campaign slogan: "And we are going to Make America Great Again — and I'll add: greater than ever before.”
The following day, on January 20, 2017, Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. Trump took the oath of office placing his hand on the Bible that was used at Abraham Lincoln's inauguration and his own family Bible, which was presented to him by his mother in 1955 when he graduated from Sunday school at his family's Presbyterian church.
In his inaugural speech, Trump sent a populist message that he would put the American people above politics. “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people,” he said. “January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” he continued. “Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”
He went on to paint a bleak picture of an America that had failed many of its citizens. "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves," he said. "These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public. But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
He also asserted that he would put "America first." “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” he said. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before.”
The day after Trump's inauguration millions of protestors demonstrated across the United States and around the world. The Women's March on Washington drew over half a million people who demonstrated in support of women's rights and equality for all, and protested against President Trump's stance on a variety issues ranging from immigration to environmental protection. Activists and celebrities including Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Madonna, Cher, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, America Ferrera, Alicia Keys and Janelle Monáe participated in the March. The president tweeted in response to the massive protests:
First 100 Days
In the first days of his presidency, President Trump took swift action to make good on some of his campaign promises, issuing a number of back-to-back executive orders. One of his first orders was calling on federal agencies to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay" aspects of the Affordable Care Act to minimize financial burden on states, insurers and individuals. He also signed orders to implement a federal hiring freeze, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and reinstate the Mexico City policy that bans federal funding of nongovernmental organizations abroad that promote or perform abortions.
President Trump also revived the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines that had been halted by President Obama following protests from environmental and Native American groups. Trump owned shares of Energy Transfer Partners, the company in charge of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but sold his stake in the company in December 2016. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren also contributed to Trump’s presidential campaign raising concerns over conflict of interest.
Trump also addressed a controversial campaign promise, issuing an executive order to build a wall at the United States’ border with Mexico. In his first televised interview as president with ABC News, President Trump said the initial construction of the wall would be funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars, but that Mexico would reimburse the U.S. “100 percent” in a plan that has yet to be negotiated and might include a suggested import tax on Mexican goods. In response to the new administration's stance on a border wall, Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a planned visit to meet with President Trump. "Mexico does not believe in walls," the Mexican president said in a video statement. "I've said time again; Mexico will not pay for any wall." Trump and Peña Nieto spoke on the phone after their in-person meeting was cancelled, and "agreed at this point not to speak publicly about this controversial issue," according to a statement from the Mexican government.
In his first week in office, Trump also ordered the restriction of federal funds given to “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented immigrants. At the end of his first week in office, President Trump also met with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House, his first meeting with a world leader, and had phone calls with various other foreign leaders including Russian president Vladimir Putin. He also tweeted his support for pro-life Americans at the March for Life supporting their fight against abortion.
Surrounded by small business owners, Trump signed an executive order to cut regulations. He told reporters: "There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be a normalized control.” He also signed an order to scale back financial regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act, created by the Obama administration and passed by Congress after the financial crisis of 2008.
Another executive order called for a lifetime foreign-lobbying ban for members of his administration and a five-year ban for all other lobbying.
Taking to Twitter, the president who won the electoral college, but lost the popular vote by almost 2.9 million to Hillary Clinton, claimed that 3 to 5 million people had illegally voted in the election. Bipartisan officials and politicians including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan refuted the claim: “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect,” Ryan told reporters. “I’ve made that very, very clear.” However, President Trump put Vice President Pence in charge of a commission to investigate what he believes was voter fraud.
President Trump also reorganized the National Security Council, bringing his chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, on as a regular committee member, which his critics called an unprecedented move. On CBS’ Face the Nation, Republican Senator John McCain said: "The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which is a radical departure from any National Security Council in history. It's of concern this. . .reorganization." In April 2017, the Trump administration removed Bannon from his permanent seat on the National Security Council.
Bannon’s influential role in the White House landed him on the cover of Time magazine. He has also doubled down on the president’s attacks on the media, telling the New York Times: “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
In a controversial speech to enlisted service members at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Trump also questioned the media and its coverage of terror attacks. "Radical Islamic terrorists are determined to strike our homeland, as they did on 9/11, as they did from Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino and all across Europe," Trump said. "It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it."
Journalists widely refuted the president's claims and a list of attacks provided by the White House that were allegedly not covered, providing proof that, in fact, they were widely reported by news outlets.
During his first month in office, the president also authorized his first military action, a secret counter-terrorism raid in Yemen, which was carried out by U.S. Navy Seals and forces from the United Arab Emirates. American commando William Ryan Owens, approximately 14 al Qaeda militants, the 8-year-old daughter of an American-born al Qaeda leader and an unspecified number of civilians were killed in the battle which was aimed at gathering intelligence. Trump and his daughter Ivanka honored Navy Seal Owens by meeting his coffin at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Controversial Travel Ban
President Trump signed one of his most controversial executive orders on January 27, 2017 at the Pentagon, calling for "extreme vetting" to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America." The president's executive order was put into effect immediately, and refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries traveling to the U.S. were detained at U.S. airports. The order called for a ban on immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for at least 90 days, temporarily suspended the entry of refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, President Trump also said he would give priority to Christian refugees trying to gain entry into the United States.
In response to the executive order, thousands of protestors swarmed airports around the country to protest President Trump's travel ban. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other groups filed a lawsuit in New York on behalf of two Iraqi men who were en route to the United States with immigrant visas and, in response, a New York federal judge granted a temporary injunction blocking the deportation of people stranded at airports under the ban.
Following the New York federal judge's ruling, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement, which stated that it would comply with judicial orders, but would "continue to enforce all of President Trump’s Executive Orders in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the American people."
The acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an Obama administration appointee, also refused to defend the president’s executive order. The president responded by firing Yates and the White House issued a statement, saying she had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
The president's executive order faced more legal hurdles when Bob Ferguson, the attorney general of Washington State, filed a challenge to the president’s travel ban, and Judge James Robart of the Federal District Court in Seattle also filed a ruling that blocked President Trump’s executive order. The following day the Department of Homeland Security suspended its enforcement of the travel ban. The president criticized Judge Robart on Twitter:
On February 5th, the Department of Justice appealed the judge’s ruling to block the ban, but a federal appeals court rejected the request. More opposition to the ban surfaced including a dissent cable, signed by almost 1000 diplomats, which stated that the ban "runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination" and it "will not achieve its stated aim to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States."
Over 100 leading tech companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Intel, Airbnb and Uber, among others, also joined together to file an amicus brief in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in support of the Washington attorney general's lawsuit challenging the travel ban.
On February 7th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments and reviewed the Seattle federal judge's decision to halt the ban. Two days later, in a major setback for President Trump, three judges on the panel unanimously ruled not to reinstate the ban. President Trump responded to the ruling on Twitter:
On March 6, 2017, President Trump signed a revised executive order, calling for a 90-day ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries including Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Iraq, which was included in the original executive order, was removed from the list. Travelers from the six listed countries, who hold green cards or have valid visas as of the signing of the order, will not be affected. Religious minorities would not get special preference, as was outlined in the original order, and an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees was reduced to 120 days.
On March 15, just hours before the revised ban was going to be put into effect, Derrick Watson, a federal judge in Hawaii, issued a temporary nationwide restraining order in a ruling that stated the executive order did not prove that a ban would protect the country from terrorism and that it was “issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.” At a rally in Nashville, President Trump responded to the ruling, saying: "This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach.”
The following day Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland also blocked the ban, a ruling the White House said it would appeal.
Supreme Court Nomination
On January 31, 2017, President Trump made good on another campaign promise when he nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The 49-year-old conservative judge was appointed President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver. Judge Gorsuch was educated at Columbia, Harvard and Oxford and clerked for Supreme Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. The nomination came after Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to replace Scalia, was denied a confirmation hearing by Senate Republicans.
Gorsuch's legal philosophy is considered to be similar to the late Antonin Scalia, who he will be replacing if he is confirmed. "Millions of voters said this was the single most important issue for them when they voted for me for president," President Trump said. "I am a man of my word. Today I am keeping another promise to the American people by nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court."
After Gorsuch gave three days of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, the Senate convened on April 6 to advance his nomination. Democrats mostly held firm to deny the 60 votes necessary to proceed, resulting in the first successful partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee. But Republicans quickly countered with another historic move, invoking the "nuclear option" to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority of 50, thereby eliminating the filibuster and clearing the path for confirmation. On April 7, Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate to become the 113th justice of the Supreme Court.
Classified Leaks & Flynn Resignation
During the second month of President Trump's administration, he lost one of his senior aides when National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned on February 13, 2017, after less than one month on the job. Flynn's resignation came after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Pence about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, prior to the inauguration.
According to The Washington Post, Flynn “privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials.” Vice President Pence had appeared on CBS News’ Face the Nation stating that Flynn had told him that he and Kislyak “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia."
In his letter of resignation Flynn said: “Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology.”
The Washington Post also reported that acting attorney general Sally Yates had informed the Trump administration at the end of January that “she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail.”
Following Flynn’s resignation, Trump said that he believed Flynn had “been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the ‘fake media’. . .”
President Trump appointed Army Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, a well-respected military leader and veteran of the Persian Gulf war and the second Iraq war, to replace Flynn as his national security adviser.
First Address to Congress
In his first address to Congress on February 28, 2017, President Trump outlined his agenda and asserted that a “new chapter of American greatness is now beginning.” He set a more optimistic tone than in his inaugural speech and avoided the contentiousness of his past tweets, calling for political parties to put aside "trivial fights" to work together on behalf of the American people. “My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clean water and rebuild our military infrastructure,” the president said.
In an emotional moment, President Trump recognized Carryn Owens, the widow of William Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL who was killed during the raid in Yemen that the president had authorized. “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity,” the president said as members of Congress gave Owens' widow a standing ovation for her sacrifice.
While Democrats remained skeptical whether President Trump would put his words into action, he received a generally favorable response to his speech, which ended with his call for all Americans to come together. "I am asking all citizens to embrace this renewal of the American spirit," he said. "I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold, and daring things for our country. I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment. Believe in yourselves. Believe in your future. And believe, once more, in America."
Wiretapping Allegations & FBI Investigation
Days after Trump's well-received address, he went on the offensive on March 4 in a series of tweets accusing former president Obama of wiretapping the campaign headquarters at Trump Tower, without citing specific evidence for the allegation.
A spokesman for Obama responded in a statement: “A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
FBI director James Comey asked the Justice Department to issue a statement refuting President Trump’s allegation that Obama had ordered a wiretap before the election, while the White House called for a congressional investigation into Trump’s claims. In an interview with Fox News, President Trump spoke about the wiretapping allegations. “‘Wiretap' covers a lot of different things,” he said in the interview. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Days later, on March 16, 2017, bipartisan leaders from the Senate Intelligence Committee said there was no evidence to support the president’s claim that Trump Tower had been wiretapped. On March 20, 2017, FBI director James Comey also addressed the wiretapping allegations when he testified at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. “With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” he said. “The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”
Comey also confirmed that the FBI is "investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
Health Care Bill & Budget
On March 7, 2017, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, introduced the American Health Care Act, a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed bill would maintain the ACA’s coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and its allowance for children to stay on their parents' plans until the age of 26, but repeal the individual mandate. Some of the bill’s provisions included offering individuals refundable tax credits to purchase health insurance, restructuring Medicaid with the federal government sending states a fixed amount of money, allowing insurers to charge older enrollees five times more than younger people compared to three times more under the ACA, and preventing government funding for abortion.
President Trump endorsed the bill on Twitter, referring to it as "our wonderful new Healthcare Bill." However, many organizations including the AARP and the American Medical Association released statements opposing the bill, and some conservative Republicans, including members of the House Freedom Caucus, also voiced opposition calling it "Obamacare 2.0."
The House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the bill on March 22, but it was delayed because Republicans did not have enough votes to pass. The Trump White House, Speaker Ryan and Republican lawmakers held meetings to arrive at a majority of votes, ultimately without success. On March 23, the president issued an ultimatum for Republicans to vote on the bill or the ACA would stand and he would move on to other initiatives. Unable to galvanize enough support, Republicans withdrew the bill on March 24 in major legislative setback for Speaker Ryan and President Trump.
On March 16, the president also released a proposed budget, outlining his plans for increased spending for the military, veterans affairs and national security, including building a wall on the border with Mexico, and drastic cuts to many government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department, as well as the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Community Development Block Grant program which supports Meals on Wheels.
Dismantling Obama Era Policies
During President Trump’s first 100 days in office, he signed several executive orders aimed at rolling back policies and regulations that were put into place during the Obama administration. On February 22, the Trump administration rolled back federal protection for transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, allowing states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law. On March 27, President Trump signed several measures under the Congressional Review Act to reverse regulations related to education, land use and a "blacklisting rule" requiring federal contractors to disclose violations of federal labor, wage and workplace safety laws.
The following day the president, surrounded by American coal miners, signed the "Energy Independence" executive order, calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back Obama's Clean Power Plan, curb climate and carbon emissions regulations and to rescind a moratorium on coal mining on U.S. federal lands. The executive order signaled the Trump administration’s focus on prioritizing energy independence and job creation over environmental regulations related to climate change. "My action today is [the] latest in steps to grow American jobs," Trump commented, saying his executive order would "eliminate federal overreach."
Military Strike on Syrian Airbase
On April 6, 2017, President Trump ordered a military strike on a Syrian government airfield in response to a chemical attack on Syrian civilians earlier in the week that led to the horrific deaths of dozens of men, women and children. Navy destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross, stationed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat airfield, a government base where it was believed warplanes had launched the chemical attack. It was the first direct military action by the United States against Syrian military forces during the the country's ongoing civil war.
In 2012, then president Obama had drawn “a red line,” stating that if Syrian president Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, his action would warrant U.S. military intervention. A year later in 2013, al-Assad crossed that red line, launching a chemical attack near Damascus that killed thousands of people. At the time, Trump, who was a private citizen, tweeted: “President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your "powder" for another (and more important) day!”
After al-Assad agreed to allow a multinational coalition to remove and destroy the country’s chemical weapons program, President Obama backed down from military action. In 2014, the U.S. began leading coalition airstrikes in Syria against the terrorist group ISIS, but did not target Syrian forces, which are backed by Russia.
Following the military strike, President Trump explained why he had ordered the action in a televised speech. “On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” he said. “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” the president continued. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies. Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types."
In 1977, Trump married Ivana Zelnickova Winklmayr, a New York fashion model who had been an alternate on the 1972 Czech Olympic Ski Team. After the 1977 birth of the couple's first of three children, Donald John Trump Jr., Ivana Trump was named vice president in charge of design in the Trump Organization and played a major role in supervising the renovation of the Commodore and the Plaza Hotel. The couple had two more children together — Ivanka (born in 1981) and Eric (born in 1984) — and went through a highly publicized divorce which was finalized in 1992.
In 1993 Trump married Marla Maples, an actress with whom he had been involved for some time and already had a daughter, Tiffany (born in 1993). Trump would ultimately file for a highly publicized divorce from Maples in 1997, which became final in June 1999. A prenuptial agreement allotted $2 million to Maple
In January 2005, Trump married for a third time in another highly publicized and lavish wedding, this time to Slovenian model Melania Knauss, more than twenty years his junior. Among the many celebrity guests at the wedding were Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton. She gave birth to their son, Barron William Trump, in March 2006.
Trump's children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric— work as executive vice presidents for The Trump Organization.
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