Who Is Donald Trump?
Donald John Trump is the 45th and current President of the United States who took office January 20, 2017. Previously, he was a real estate mogul, and a former reality TV star. Born in Queens, New York, in 1971 Trump became involved in large, profitable building projects in Manhattan. In 1980, he opened the Grand Hyatt New York, 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.
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Donald Trump’s Birthday
Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York.
According to a September 2017 Forbes estimate, Donald Trump’s net worth is $3.1 billion. Of that, $1.6 billion is in New York real estate; $570 million is in golf clubs and resorts; $500 million is in non-New York real estate; $290 million is in cash and personal assets; and $200 million is in brand businesses. That’s down from $3.7 billion in 2016, according to Fortune, mostly due to declining New York real estate values.
Over the years, Trump’s net worth has been a subject of public debate. In 1990, Trump asserted his own net worth in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion. However the real estate market was in decline, reducing the value of and income from Trump's empire; 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.
Over the course of his 2016 presidential run, Trump’s net worth was questioned and he courted controversy after repeatedly refusing to release his tax returns while they were being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. He did not release his tax returns before the November election — the first time a major party candidate had not released such information to the public since Richard Nixon in 1972.
Donald Trump was raised Presbyterian by his mother, and he identifies as a mainline Protestant.
The fourth of five children, Donald Trump’s parents were Frederick C. and Mary Anne 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. Mary MacLeod immigrated from Tong, Scotland, in 1929 at the age of 17. She married Fred Trump in 1936, and the couple settled in Jamaica, Queens, a neighborhood that was, at the time, filled with Western European immigrants. In the 1950s the Trumps’ wealth increased with the postwar real estate boom, and Mary became a New York socialite and philanthropist. Fred died in 1999, and Mary passed away the following year.
Wives and Kids
Donald J. Trump has had three wives and is currently married to Slovenian model Melania Knauss (now Trump), over 23 years his junior. In January 2005, the couple married in a highly-publicized and lavish wedding. Among the many celebrity guests at the wedding were Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton. Melania gave birth to their son, Barron William Trump, in March 2006.
In 1977, Trump married his first wife 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 Trump (born in 1981) and Eric Trump (born in 1984) — and went through a highly publicized divorce which was finalized in 1992.
In 1993 Trump married his second wife, Marla Maples, an actress with whom he had been involved for some time and already had a daughter, Tiffany Trump (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 Maples.
Trump's sons — Donald Jr. and Eric— work as executive vice presidents for The Trump Organization, and took over the family business while their father serves as president. Trump's daughter Ivanka was also an executive vice president of The Trump Organization, but left the business and her own fashion label to join her father's administration and become an unpaid assistant to the president. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is also a senior adviser to President Trump.
Childhood & Education
Donald was an energetic, assertive child. 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 worked at his father’s real estate business during the summer. He also secured education deferments for the Vietnam War draft and ultimately a 1-Y medical deferment after he graduated.
Trump vs. Clinton: The 2016 Presidential Campaign
Trump began his political career by seeking the nomination for the Reform Party for the 2000 presidential race and withdrew; he again publicly announced he would be running for president in the 2012 election. However it wasn’t until the 2016 election that Trump became the official Republican nominee for president and, defying polls and media projections, won the majority of electoral college votes in a stunning victory on November 8, 2016. Despite losing the popular vote to Hillary 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, Trump said: “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans." About his supporters, he said: "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.”
GOP Presidential Nomination
On July 21, 2016, Trump accepted the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. In a speech lasting one hour and 15 minutes, one of the longest 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.
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.” He also promised supporters that he would renegotiate trade deals, reduce taxes and government regulations, repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, defend Second Amendment gun rights, and “rebuild our depleted military,” asking the countries the U.S. is protecting "to pay their fair share."
'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 then-married television personality Nancy O’Dell. The three-minute recording captured 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. 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. Trump remained defiant, tweeting that he would stay in the race.
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.
Throughout the election, Trump vehemently denied allegations he had a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and was tied to the hacking of the DNC emails. In January 2017, a U.S. intelligence report prepared by the CIA, FBI and NSA concluded that Putin had ordered a campaign to influence the U.S. election. “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," the report said.
Prior to the release of the report, President-elect Trump had cast doubt on Russian interference and the intelligence community’s assessment. 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. However, in subsequent comments he again refused to condemn Russia for such activity, notably saying on multiple occasions that he believed Putin's denials.
In March 2018, the Trump administration formally acknowledged the charges by issuing sanctions on 19 Russians for interference in the 2016 presidential election and alleged cyberattacks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin delivered the announcement, with the president remaining silent on the matter.
In July, days before President Trump was to meet with Putin in Finland, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced additional charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the DNC and the Clinton campaign.
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 on January 20th, 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.”
He went on to paint a bleak picture of an America that had failed many of its citizens, describing families trapped in poverty, an ineffective education system, and crime, drugs and gangs. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now," he said.
The day after Trump's inauguration, millions of protesters demonstrated across the United States and around the world. The Women's March on Washington drew over half a million people to protest 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. The president tweeted in response:
First 100 Days
The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency lasted from January 20, 2017 until April 29, 2017. In the first days of his presidency, President Trump issued a number of back-to-back executive orders to make good on some of his campaign promises, as well as several orders aimed at rolling back policies and regulations that were put into place during the Obama administration. Several of Trump’s key policies that got rolling during Trump’s first 100 days in office include his supreme court nomination; steps toward building a wall on the Mexico border; a travel ban for several predominantly Muslim countries; the first moves to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare); and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
In addition, Trump 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. He 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. And he called for a lifetime foreign-lobbying ban for members of his administration and a five-year ban for all other lobbying.
On March 16, 2017, the president released his proposed budget. The budget outlined his plans for increased spending for the military, veterans affairs and national security, including building a wall on the border with Mexico. It also made 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.
Trump’s Supreme Court Nominations
On January 31, 2017, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The 49-year-old conservative judge was appointed by 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 the late Antonin Scalia, was denied a confirmation hearing by Senate Republicans.
As Gorsuch's legal philosophy was considered to be similar to Scalia's, the choice drew strong praise from the conservative side of the aisle. "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. On April 7, Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate to become the 113th justice of the Supreme Court.
The following year, President Trump had another opportunity to continue the rightward push of the Supreme Court with the retirement of Justice Kennedy. On July 9, 2018, he nominated Brett Kavanaugh, another textualist and orginalist in the mold of Scalia. Democrats vowed to fight the nomination, though their options remained limited as the minority party.
The Wall with Mexico
Trump issued an executive order to build a wall at the United States’ border with Mexico. In his first televised interview as president, 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 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.
After funding for the wall failed to materialize, from either Mexico or Congress, Trump in April 2018 announced that he would reinforce security along the U.S. border with Mexico by using American troops because of the "horrible, unsafe laws" that left the country vulnerable. The following day, the president signed a proclamation that directed National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security said that the deployment would be in coordination with governors, that the troops would "support federal law enforcement personnel, including [Customs and Border Protection]," and that federal immigration authorities would "direct enforcement efforts." The exact number of troops and duration of deployment had yet to be determined.
Border Separation Policy
As part of attempts to seal the U.S. border with Mexico, the Trump administration in 2018 began following through on a "zero-tolerance" policy to prosecute anybody found to have crossed the border illegally. As children were legally not allowed to be detained with their parents, this meant that they were to be held separately as family cases wound through immigration courts.
A furor ensued after reports surfaced that nearly 2,000 children had been separated from their parents over a six-week period that ended in May 2018, compounded by photos of toddlers crying in cages. President Trump initially deflected blame for the situation, insisting it resulted from the efforts of predecessors and political opponents. "The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda," he tweeted.
The president ultimately caved to pressure from the bad PR, and on June 20 he signed an executive order that directed the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together. "I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated," he said, adding that it remained important to have "zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally" and for Congress to find a permanent solution to the problem. In the meantime, the DHS essentially revived the "catch-and-release" system that the zero-tolerance policy was meant to eradicate, while dealing with the logistics of reuniting families.
President Trump’s 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.
After facing multiple legal hurdles, President Trump signed a revised executive order on March 6, 2017, 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.”
Judge Theodore D. Chuang of Maryland also blocked the ban the following day, and in subsequent months, the ban was impeded in decisions handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals once again.
However, on June 26, 2017, Trump won a partial victory when the Supreme Court announced it was allowing the controversial ban to go into effect for foreign nationals who lacked a "bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States." The court agreed to hear oral arguments for the case in October, but with the 90-to-120-day timeline in place for the administration to conduct its reviews, it was believed the case would be rendered moot by that point.
On September 24, 2017, Trump issued a new presidential proclamation, which permanently bans travel to the United States for most citizens from seven countries. Most were on the original list, including Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, while the new order included Chad, North Korea and some citizens of Venezuela (certain government officials and their families). The tweak did little to pacify critics, who argued that the order was still heavily biased toward Islam. “The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the U.S. — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
On October 10, the Supreme Court cancelled a planned hearing on an appeal of the original travel ban. On October 17, the day before the order was to take effect, Judge Watson of Hawaii issued a nationwide order freezing the Trump administration’s new travel ban, writing that the order was a “poor fit for the issues regarding the sharing of ‘public-safety and terrorism-related information that the president identifies.”
On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban to go into effect despite the ongoing legal challenges. The court’s orders urged appeals courts to determine as quickly as possible whether the ban was lawful.
Under the ruling, the administration could fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim. Citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, along with some groups of people from Venezuela, would be unable to unable to emigrate to the United States permanently, with many barred from also working, studying or vacationing in the country.
On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the president's travel ban by a 5-4 vote. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that Trump had the executive authority to make national security judgments in the realm of immigration, regardless of his previous statements about Islam. In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the outcome was equivalent to that of Korematsu v. United States, which permitted the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The Valentine's Day 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left a total of 17 students and faculty dead, sparked a strong response from President Trump. He ordered the Justice Department to issue regulations banning bump stocks, and suggested he was willing to consider a range of measures, from strengthening background checks to raising the minimum age for buying rifles. He also backed an NRA-fueled proposal for arming teachers, which drew backlash from many in the profession.
The president remained invested in the issue even as the usual cycle of outrage began diminishing: In a televised February 28 meeting with lawmakers, he called for gun control legislation that would expand background checks to gun shows and internet transactions, secure schools and restrict sales for some young adults. At one point he called out Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey for being "afraid of the NRA," and at another he suggested that authorities should seize guns from mentally ill or other potentially dangerous people without first going to court. "I like taking the guns early," he said. "Take the guns first, go through due process second."
His stances seemingly stunned the Republican lawmakers at the meeting, as well as the NRA, which previously considered the president as a strong supporter. However, within a few days, Trump was walking back his proposal to raise the age limit and mainly pushing for arming select teachers.
Tensions with North Korea
In early August 2017, intelligence experts confirmed that North Korea successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that fits inside its missiles, putting it one step closer to becoming a nuclear power. Around the same time, the North Korean state news agency said they were "examining the operational plan" to strike areas around the U.S. territory of Guam with medium-to-long-range strategic ballistic missiles. U.S. experts estimated North Korea’s nuclear warheads at 60 and that the country could soon have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. Trump responded that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if the threats continued and that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded.”
On August 15, Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he’d "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees," which Trump tweeted was “a very wise and well reasoned decision.” However on August 20, North Korea warned that the U.S. was risking an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war" by following through with military drills with South Korea.
On August 28, North Korea launched a missile over Japan. The following day, Trump said “all options were on the table.” At the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, Trump pejoratively called Kim Jong-un “Rocketman” and said he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the United States or its allies, hours after the group voted to enact additional sanctions against the country.
Two days later, Trump widened American economic sanctions; three days later North Korea threatened to shoot down American airplanes even if they were not in its airspace, calling Trump’s comments “a declaration of war.” A week later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. and North Korea were in “direct communication” and looking for a non-militarized path forward.
On October 20, CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned that North Korea was in the "final step" of being able to strike mainland America with nuclear warheads and the U.S. should react accordingly. However some foreign policy experts were concerned that war between the U.S. and North Korea was increasingly possible.
Historic Summit with Kim Jong-un
Following the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, during which North Korea made a show of unity with the host country, its officials also relayed interest in opening up communications with Washington. President Trump leaped at the opportunity, announcing that he was willing to sit down with Kim.
On June 12, 2018, Trump and Kim met at the secluded Capella resort in Singapore, marking the first such encounter between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader. The two held private talks with their interpreters, before expanding the meeting to include such top staffers as Pompeo (now U.S. secretary of state), National Security Adviser John Bolton and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Afterward, in a televised ceremony, the leaders signed a joint statement in which Trump "committed to provide security guarantees" to North Korea and Kim "reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Although their talks marked an early step in a diplomatic process that some predicted could take years to complete, the president said he believed denuclearization on the peninsula would begin "very quickly."
"We're very proud of what took place today," Trump said. "I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past."
Meeting with Vladimir Putin
Two weeks after the meeting with Kim, the White House announced that Trump would hold his first formal discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018.
The two men met on the heels of Trump's heavily scrutinized summit with NATO leaders, and shortly after the Justice Department announced the indictment of 12 Russian operatives for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Prompted to address the issue of election hacking in a joint news conference for the two leaders, President Trump refused to point a finger at his counterpart. "I think we've all been foolish. I think we're all to blame," he said, adding that "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."
The comments drew a harsh response stateside, with several notable Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues to question why the president was siding with Putin over his intelligence agencies. Senator McCain called it "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory," and even Trump ally Newt Gingrich weighed in with strong words, tweeting, "It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately."
Trump sought to quiet the furor after returning to the White House, insisting that he had misspoken when saying he didn't see why Russia should be blamed and reminding that he has "on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections," though he again suggested that other parties could be responsible.
Around that time, it was revealed that Trump had instructed Bolton, his national security adviser, to invite Putin to the White House that fall, news that caught Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats off guard. Bolton soon disclosed that he would postpone the invitation until the conclusion of the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Additionally, it was learned that the soccer ball gifted to President Trump from Putin, to commemorate the recently completed World Cup, was embedded with a transmitter chip. It turned out that the chip was a standard feature for the product, designed to provide access to player videos and other content for people using their mobile devices near the ball.
Hardline Stance on Iran
In May 2018, over the objections of European allies, President Trump announced that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal enacted by his predecessor and reimposing sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.
The announcement initially drew a tepid response from Iran, but President Hassan Rouhani had stronger words on the issue while addressing diplomats in July, noting that "war with Iran is the mother of all wars" and warning his American counterpart to "not play with the lion's tail, because you will regret it eternally."
That seemingly enraged Trump, who fired off an all-caps tweet addressed to Rouhani: "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before," he wrote. "We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence & death. Be cautious!"
Health Care Under President Trump
One of President Trump’s first executive orders in office 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.
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). However, the controversial bill ultimately didn't have enough Republican votes and was withdrawn a few weeks later, representing a major legislative setback for Speaker Ryan and President Trump.
After intense negotiations among party factions, a new Republican health care plan was brought to a vote in the House of Representatives on May 4, 2017, and passed by a slim margin of 217 to 213. That passed the buck to the Senate. Almost immediately after a draft was unveiled on June 22, conservative senators such as Ted Cruz declared they could not support the bill's failure to significantly lower premiums, while moderates like Susan Collins voiced concerns over its steep cuts to Medicaid. On June 27, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell elected to delay his planned vote for the bill. When the third, so-called “skinny repeal,” bill finally went to a vote on in the Senate July 28, it failed by three votes.
In September, a new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was put forth by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. However on September 26, Senate republicans announced they would not move forward with the current plan, as they were short of the required votes. “We are disappointed in certain so-called Republicans,” Trump responded.
On October 12, 2017 Trump signed an executive order in a move that could dismantle the ACA without Congress’s approval, expanding health insurance products — mostly less comprehensive plans through associations of small employers and more short-term medical coverage. He also announced that he would get rid of health insurance subsidies. Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, which lower the cost of deductibles for low-income Americans, they were expected to cost $9 billion in 2018 and $100 billion over the next decade.
On October 6, 2017, the Trump administration announced a rollback of the birth control mandate put in place by the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which required insurers to cover birth control at no cost without copayments as a preventive service. For years, the mandate was threatened by lawsuits from conservative and religious groups.
The Trump administration said the new exemption applies to any employer that objects to covering contraception services on the basis of “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The change is in line with Trump’s promises as a candidate to ensure that religious groups “are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs.” Opponents of the measure say that it could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of women, and that access to the affordable contraception the mandate provided prevents unintended pregnancies and saves women’s lives.
Trump’s Tax Plan
On April 26, 2017, just days away from his 100th day in office, President Trump announced his tax plan in a one-page outline that would dramatically change tax codes. The plan called for streamlining seven income tax brackets to three — 10, 25 and 35 percent. However, the initial outline did not specify which income ranges would fall under those brackets. The plan also proposed to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, eliminate the alternative-minimum tax and estate tax, and simplify the process for filing tax returns. The proposal did not address how the tax cuts might reduce federal revenue and increase debt.
On December 2, 2017, Trump achieved the first major legislative victory of his administration when the Senate passed a sweeping tax reform bill. Approved along party lines by a 51-49 vote, the bill drew criticism for extensive last-minute rewrites, with frustrated Democrats posting photos of pages filled with crossed-out text and handwriting crammed into the margins.
Among other measures, the Senate bill called for the slashing of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent, doubling personal deductions and ending the Obamacare mandate. It also included a controversial provision that allowed for "unborn children" to be named as beneficiaries of college savings accounts, which critics called an attempt to support the pro-life movement. Despite estimates by the Congressional Budget Office that the bill would cost $1.5 trillion over a decade, GOP senators insisted that charges would be offset by a growing economy.
After the bill's passage, President Trump tweeted: “Biggest Tax Bill and Tax Cuts in history just passed in the Senate. Now these great Republicans will be going for final passage. Thank you to House and Senate Republicans for your hard work and commitment!” On December 20, the final tax bill formally passed both chambers of Congress, needing only the president's signature to give him his first major legislative victory.
Following partisan battles over a spending bill in early 2018, which resulted in a brief government shutdown and stopgap measures, President Trump threatened to torpedo a $1.3 trillion spending bill with a last-minute veto. Reportedly angry that the bill did not fully fund his long-promised Mexican border wall, he nevertheless signed the bill into law on March 23, hours before another government shutdown would have gone into effect.
On March 1, 2018, after the conclusion of a Commerce Department investigation, President Trump announced that he was imposing tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum. The following month, the administration said it was adding a 25 percent tariff on more than 1,000 Chinese products to penalize the country for its trade practices, though Trump ultimately granted temporary exemptions to China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico as he sought to renegotiate deals.
His actions resulted in new agreements with South Korea and multiple South American countries to restrain their metal exports, but talks with China, the E.U. and the border countries stalled. In late May, the administration announced that it was moving forward with all tariffs, including a tax on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods that went into effect in July.
The move drew a harsh response from the E.U., Canada and Mexico, which announced retaliatory measures. With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemning Trump's "unacceptable actions" and French President Emmanuel Macron threatening to isolate the U.S. from the Group of 7, the president faced a frosty reception at the G-7 summit in Quebec in June. He ultimately left the summit early, making headlines on the way out by announcing he would not sign a communique between the seven nations and taking shots at Trudeau on Twitter. In July, Trump again had harsh words for allies at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, including accusations that Germany was "captive" to Russia for its dependence on Russian natural gas, and followed with criticism of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of Brexit.
Back home, the president attempted to head off the political fallout of a potentially costly trade war with the announcement that the administration would provide up to $12 billion in emergency relief funds for U.S. farmers.
On February 22, 2017 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, 2017 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.
Recognition of Jerusalem
On December 6, 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. was formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and would move the American embassy there from its current location in Tel Aviv. The declaration broke decades of precedent, in which the U.S. refused to take sides in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over territorial rights to the city.
Fulfilling one of his campaign pledges, Trump referred to the move as "a long overdue step to advance the peace process," noting it "would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result." He also stressed that the move would not interfere with any proposals for a two-state solution.
The announcement was praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but not as warmly received by American allies France, Britain and Germany, which called it disruptive to the peace process. Leaders of the predominantly Muslim countries Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon all condemned the move, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the U.S. could no longer be considered a mediator in the region.
On December 21, the U.N. General Assembly voted 128 to 9 to demand that the U.S. rescind its formal recognition of Jerusalem. Britain, France, Germany and Japan all voted for the resolution, though others, like Australia and Canada, abstained from the symbolic vote.
After dispatching Vice President Pence to help smooth things over with Arab leaders in the Middle East, Trump sought to reestablish ties with American allies at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2018. He praised U.K. Prime Minister May and enjoyed a friendly meeting with Netanyahu, though he also took a shot at the Palestinian Authority for refusing to meet with Pence.
Charlottesville Rally and “Blame on Both Sides”
On August 12, 2017 a group of white nationalists in Charlottesville, North Carolina, gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. People in favor of removing the statue felt that it was a symbol implicitly endorsing white supremacy, while the protesters believed removing it was an attempt at erasing history. The rally attracted Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, including former KKK leader David Duke, who told reporters that the protesters were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.” When counter-protesters arrived, the demonstration turned violent with racial slurs, pushing and brawling. Then a car, driven by a man who appeared to show marching earlier that day alongside Neo-Nazis in a CNN photo plowed into the crowd, killing a 32-year-old counter-protester and injuring at least 19 others.
In comments that day, Trump did not specifically criticize the white nationalists and blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” Two days later, following criticism about his refusal to denounce hate groups, Trump delivered a speech at the White House. “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” he said. However, the same day, Kevin Plank, the head of Under Armour, and Kenneth C. Frazier, the African-American head of Merck Pharmaceuticals, announced they were resigning from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in reaction to the events. President Trump tweeted: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” The next day, President Trump reaffirmed his initial comments, telling reporters: “I think there is blame on both sides.”
On September 15, Trump re-defended his comments after meeting with republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina: "I think especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. And essentially that's what I said." (Antifa is a protest movement that sometimes uses violent tactics to defend against neo-Nazis and white supremacists.)
President Trump on Energy and the Environment
Soon after taking office, President Trump 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.
Energy Independence Order
On March 28, 2017, 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.
Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement
On June 1, 2017, President Trump withdrew from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which President Obama had joined along with the leaders of 195 other countries. The accord requires all participating nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures over the ensuing century and also to allocate resources for the research and development of alternative energy sources. With President Trump’s decision, the United States joined Syria and Nicaragua as the only three countries to reject the accord. However, Nicaragua eventually joined the Paris Climate Agreement months later.
Trump’s Business Ventures
Trump followed his father into a career in real estate development, bringing his grander ambitions to the family business, which includes: The Trump Organization, Trump Tower, casinos in Atlantic City, television franchises like The Apprentice and Miss Universe, as well as business deals with the Javits Center, the Grand Hyatt New York and other real estate ventures in New York City, Florida and Los Angeles.
Walk of Fame Star
Awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, Trump later saw the star defaced by vandals following his polarizing run to the nation's highest office. After one such incident in July 2018, the city of West Hollywood's five-member city council approved a measure to remove the star, citing the costs of its repair and the president's treatment of women as two of the primary factors behind the proposal. The city council planned to send a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to formally request the action, with the Chamber of Commerce having the final say on whether or not to remove the star.
Fair Housing Act Discrimination Trial
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.
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."
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 2015 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.
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. This came just days after she had received a sizable campaign donation from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was founded in 1988 as a private charity organization designed to make donations to nonprofit groups. In November 2016, it was reported that Bondi's name was on Trump's list as a possible U.S. Attorney General contender.
As a result of the improper donation to Bondi'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. According to tax records, The Trump Foundation itself was found to have received no charitable gifts from Donald Trump since 2008, and that all donations since that time had come from outside contributors.
Trump’s Cabinet and Advisors
As Trump prepared to take office in January 2016, he put vice-president elect Pence in charge of his transition team. His children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and son-in-law Jared Kushner were named to his 16-member executive team. The president-elect named Reince Priebus, the Republican Party Chairman, to be his chief of staff.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign CEO and executive chairman of Breitbart News, was named as his chief strategist and senior counselor. In his first 100 days in office, President Trump reorganized the National Security Council, bringing Steve Bannon on as a regular committee member, which his critics called an unprecedented move. In April 2017, the Trump administration removed Bannon from his permanent seat on the National Security Council.
Less than one month later, on February 13, 2017, Trump’s subsequent National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned. 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.” In his letter of resignation, Flynn said he had given Pence and others in the Trump administration “incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”
President Trump went on to appoint 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.
By July, the president had replaced Priebus with John Kelly as his chief of staff, and within a few weeks Bannon was also gone from the White House. In March 2018, following months of rumors of a rift between Trump and Tillerson, his initial secretary of state, the president announced that he was appointing Pompeo to take over the State Department.
Shortly afterward, Trump announced that he was replacing McMaster with John Bolton, a Fox News analyst and former ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush. Bolton had made waves in recent years for his hard-line views on terminating the Iraq nuclear deal and going to war with North Korea. At the end of March, the president also dismissed Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin, naming White House physician Ronny L. Jackson as his replacement.
Trump and Obama
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 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 President Obama'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: "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” At the same time, he also blamed his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and her campaign for starting the birther controversy.
On March 4, 2017 without citing specific evidence, Trump released a series of tweets accusing former president Obama of wiretapping the campaign headquarters at Trump Tower before the election.
FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department to issue a statement refuting President Trump’s allegation, while the White House called for a congressional investigation into Trump’s claims.
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, Comey addressed the wiretapping allegations, saying that he had “no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.” Comey also confirmed that the FBI was investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including links and coordination between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government as well as whether any crimes were committed.
Trump and Former FBI Director James Comey
On May 9, 2017, President Trump abruptly fired Comey, who was in the midst of leading the investigation into whether any Trump advisers colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the presidential election. The president said he based his decision on recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who asserted that Comey should be dismissed over his handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the government, with critics comparing Comey's dismissal to the 1973 "Saturday Night Massacre" when President Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate Scandal which eventually led to Nixon's resignation.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer told reporters at a press conference that “every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire Director Comey was part of a cover-up.” In response to his critics, the president took to Twitter to defend his decision:
Trump later told reporters at the White House that he had fired Comey “because he wasn’t doing a good job,” and he told Lester Holt in an NBC News interview that his decision was not solely based on recommendations from Sessions and Rosenstein. "Regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey," the president told Holt in the televised interview.
There was more fallout a week after Comey's firing when the New York Times reported that President Trump had asked Comey to shut down the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. According to the New York Times, Comey wrote in a memo that the president told him in a meeting a day after Flynn resigned: "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." The White House denied this claim in a statement.
On June 8, Comey made a highly anticipated appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He accused Trump of lying to the public about the nature of his tenure and dismissal, noting that he believed he was fired to affect the FBI probe into Russia's influence in the 2016 election.
On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein selected Robert Mueller, former federal prosecutor and FBI director, to serve as a special counsel to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
On October 30, Mueller announced the first indictments of his investigation, ensnaring former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates on charges of tax fraud, money laundering and foreign lobbying violations. On December 1, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI and said he was cooperating with Mueller's team.
In January 2018, news surfaced that Mueller was seeking an interview with Trump to inquire about his dismissal of Comey and Flynn, among other topics. The president publicly welcomed that idea, saying he was "looking forward to it." However, days later the New York Times reported that Trump had sought to fire Mueller the previous June, before backing off when the White House counsel protested.
On February 2, the president gave the go-ahead for House Republicans to release a controversial memo that summarized the FBI's attempts to obtain a warrant to wiretap a former Trump campaign associate named Carter Page. According to the memo, the FBI and DOJ had relied on information from an infamous dossier, whose author was commissioned by the Democratic Party to dig up dirt on Trump. House Democrats countered that the memo left out important information to make it seem that the FBI was biased against Trump, thereby discrediting the bureau's involvement in the Mueller probe, and eventually made their own account of events available to the public.
In late March, Mueller's office released a document which noted that Gates had repeated communications with an associate tied to Russian intelligence during the closing stretch of the 2016 presidential race. Additionally, The New York Times reported that Trump's recently resigned lawyer, John Dowd, had broached the idea of pardoning both Flynn and Manafort, raising questions about whether he intended to influence their cooperation with the special counsel.
In April, The Times obtained and published a list of four dozen questions that Mueller hoped to ask Trump, ranging from the president's contacts with Manafort, to his understanding of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower conducted by his oldest son, to the intentions behind some of his tweets as related to possible obstruction of justice.
Trump subsequently slammed the "leaked" list on Twitter the following day, while also expressing his disdain for the ongoing "Russian Witch Hunt" and investigations into the "phony crime" of collusion. With the president already said to be less enthusiastic about cooperating with Mueller for an interview, his legal team reportedly was preparing for a possible subpoena from the special counsel's office.
Along with the women who alleged they had been sexually assaulted by Trump before his run to the White House, some stepped forward with claims of romantic liaisons with the married billionaire. The most notable was adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, also known by her stage name of Stormy Daniels, who reportedly signed a nondisclosure agreement just before the 2016 election to remain silent on her affair with Trump.
After the Wall Street Journal reported on the situation in early 2018, the Daniels saga became part of the news cycle, leading to a much-publicized appearance on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show in which she played coy on the issue. In February, Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, admitted to paying Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket, though he did not say what the payment was for. In March, Daniels broke her silence on the subject, insisting that the nondisclosure agreement was invalid because Trump had never signed it.
Late March brought a 60 Minutes interview with Daniels, in which she described her alleged tryst with Trump, as well as a parking lot encounter with an unknown man who warned her to stop discussing the affair in public. The piece aired shortly after a televised interview with another alleged Trump mistress, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said she had fallen in love with Trump during their time together.
The president delivered his first public remarks on the issue aboard Air Force One in early April, saying he knew nothing about the payment to Daniels. When asked why Cohen felt compelled to shell out $130,000 for what the White House was calling false allegations, Trump responded, "Michael's my attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael."
Later in the month, McDougal reached a settlement with American Media Inc (AMI) that allowed her to speak freely about her alleged affair with Trump. The model had signed $150,000 deal in 2016 that gave AMI's The National Enquirer exclusive story rights, though the tabloid never reported on the matter. Under terms of the new contract, McDougal was allowed to keep the $150,000, though she would have to share the profits if she sold or licensed the story to a new party.
Shortly afterward, Daniels filed a defamation lawsuit against the president, after he dismissed a composite sketch of a man who allegedly confronted her in a parking lot as a "con job." The suit claimed that Trump had recklessly accused her of being a liar and breaking the law, resulting in more than $75,000 in damages.
In July, after Cohen found himself under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, the lawyer released a two-year-old secret recording of a conversation with Trump about payments to AMI for the McDougal story, indicating that the president was aware of the situation dating back to his days as a candidate.
Military Strikes on Syria
On April 6, 2017, President Trump ordered a military strike, to which he had tweeted opposition to when Obama was in office, on a Syrian government airfield. The strike was in response to a chemical attack by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Syrian civilians that had led to the horrific deaths of dozens of men, women and children. Navy destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat airfield, from where the attack was launched. It was the first direct military action by the United States against Syrian military forces during the the country's ongoing civil war.
One year later, evidence surfaced of another chemical attack on Syrians, with dozens reported dead in the rebel-held city of Douma. Although Syria and its ally, Russia, referred to the situation as a "hoax" perpetrated by terrorists, Trump wasn't having it: "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming," he tweeted, adding, "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
The U.S. subsequently joined forces with Britain and France for coordinated strikes on Syria early in the morning of April 14, 2018. Larger than the previous year's operation, this one hit two chemical weapons facilities and a scientific research center. Afterward, the president took to Twitter to thank his military allies for their efforts, declaring, "Mission Accomplished!"
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