Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States and only the third president to have been impeached but then acquitted, is seeking election to a second term in November.
Trump officially launched his re-election campaign in June 2019 in Orlando, Florida, unveiling the slogan, “Keep America Great,” a variation of his 2016 slogan “Make America Great Again.” He told supporters, “We did it once and now we will do it again and this time we’re going to finish the job.”
Previous accomplishments: Before becoming president, Trump was a prominent and controversial New York real estate developer and television personality. Soon after graduating from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, he took over his family’s real estate business, expanding it and building hotels, casinos and golf courses around the world. In the early 1990s, Trump was forced to file several bankruptcies involving properties in Atlantic City and New York. However, he later rebuilt his businesses and, in 2016, Forbes estimated his net worth at $3.7 billion. In 2004, Trump became a widely known media figure for producing and starring in the reality television show “The Apprentice,” which became a hit for NBC. He left the show in 2015 as he prepared to run for president.
Trump’s presidency: During his 3 1/2 years in office, President Trump has passed a major tax reform bill, drawn down troop levels in Syria, and won Senate confirmation for two Supreme Court appointments, conservative jurists Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to fill vacancies on the nine-member court. He also won approval for nearly 200 other judges to lower federal courts. Kavanaugh’s nomination proved particularly contentious, with public hearings focusing on his youthful beer-drinking days and an allegation of sexual misconduct. In the end, the Senate narrowly approved Kavanaugh’s appointment to the country’s highest court.
Trump has pushed forward policies to crack down on illegal immigration, including winning approval of nearly $1.4 billion from Congress for a border wall (though far less than the amount he requested) and declared a state of emergency to free up $3.6 billion more funding for the wall. The president has followed through on campaign promises to roll back government regulations and to repeal a large part of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, popularly known as Obamacare. Even as millions of Americans lost their jobs and health insurance when the worldwide coronavirus pandemic engulfed the United States this year, Trump appealed to the Supreme Court to invalidate Obamacare in its entirety. Trump has often expressed his dislike of the policies of Obama, his Democratic predecessor and the country’s only African American chief executive.
For three years, Trump presided over an economic boom that included an unemployment rate that fell to just 3.5%, the lowest for the world’s largest economy in five decades, and the country’s major stock indexes soared. But that success ended without warning as the coronavirus pandemic spread from China across the globe in early 2020, with Trump voicing constant skepticism of its lethality and its effect on the United States.
In late February, in a television clip often replayed on news shows, Trump predicted, "It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear."
Instead, the virus spread to all 50 states, causing massive disruptions. Soon the nation was engulfed in an economic disaster as well. More than 48 million workers lost their jobs – more than a quarter of the U.S. labor force – as state governors ordered businesses to close in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. Schools and universities shut down classroom instruction in favor of online learning from home. Professional and collegiate sports leagues stopped playing games, while hospitals postponed elective surgeries and restaurants resorted to curbside food pickups while inhouse dining was prohibited in much of the U.S.
Trump staged daily news briefings about the coronavirus for weeks, but often downplayed the severity of the coronavirus, seemingly fearful that any acknowledgment of its effects would hurt his re-election chances in the November 3 contest. He constantly promised that a vaccine for the virus would be found in the coming months even as health experts said that at best mass-inoculation would not happen until early 2021. For a while, Trump touted the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all for the coronavirus and said he himself had taken it. But health studies in several countries said it was worthless to treat the virus and Trump mostly stopped talking about it. At another point, he startled Americans by suggesting that the virus could be cured by consuming poisonous bleach. While health experts urged Americans to wear face masks to limit the spread of the virus, Trump resisted, saying he did not think it was for him, and belittled some who did wear them.
Gradually, over weeks and weeks, the death toll climbed to more than 131,000 in the U.S. by mid-year and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to more than 3 million, bigger figures than in any other country in the world. Health experts are predicting tens of thousands more Americans will die in the coming months. As the number of cases ebbed in the northern U.S. states, there were new outbreaks in a southern tier of states where governors were among the first to reopen their economies and then had to order bars and some businesses to again shut down.
The U.S. jobless rate peaked at 14.7% in April, then dropped to 11.1% in June as the economy added nearly 5 million jobs. Trump, acting as his own cheerleader, said much better days were ahead for the American economy in the second half of 2020 and into 2021.
While the coronavirus swept silently across the U.S., Trump was forced to deal with boisterous, sometimes violent protests across the country following the May 25 death of an African American man, George Floyd, who was pinned face down on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a white police officer who pressed his knee on his neck even as Floyd gasped that he could not breathe. Trump sent mixed messages about the unrest that followed, expressing support for peaceful demonstrations but also saying that street chants of “Black Lives Matter” were a “symbol of hate.” He voiced his approval of a video of one of his political supporters who shouted, “White power!” But he removed the clip from his Twitter account after critics vocally admonished him, while Trump aides said he had not heard the racist exclamation. As the U.S. celebrated the 244th anniversary of its independence on the July 4 weekend, Trump ramped up his rhetoric, decrying racial justice protesters as “evil” representatives of a “new far-left fascism” whose ultimate goal is “the end of America.”
With the turn of events in the first half of 2020, Trump’s political fate was uncertain at best, with numerous national polls showing him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by about 9 percentage points four months ahead of the quadrennial presidential election. But only two U.S. presidents have lost bids for re-election in the last four decades and Trump supporters noted that he also trailed in polling ahead of the 2016 election, when he unexpectedly defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Foreign policy: Trump’s foreign policy has been defined by his “America First” agenda in which he has put what he regards as America’s interests above all else. He withdrew from several international agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal; the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal. On trade, Trump fulfilled a campaign pledge to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, while launching a trade war with China. He has repeatedly questioned the amount of money the United States spends to defend other countries and has publicly criticized NATO, the Western military alliance crafted after World War II. The president has had a volatile relationship with many foreign leaders, including traditional allies such as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, but embraced such historical foes such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump called Kim “little rocket man” but later met with him on three occasions and declared, “We’ve developed a very good relationship.”
Presidential challenges: Trump, aside from the coronavirus and economic crises of 2020, has faced major challenges as president, including an impeachment inquiry Democrats launched over allegations that Trump sought Ukraine’s help to dig up incriminating information about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, that could hurt Biden’s prospects of trying to challenge Trump in the 2020 U.S. election. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached him in late 2019, but the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him in early 2020, with only one Republican senator voting to convict and remove him from office. Trump also faced a nearly two-year investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller’s final report found that the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia to affect the outcome of the race. However, it reached no conclusion on whether Trump should be charged with obstruction of justice for instances in which he may have tried to sidetrack Mueller’s probe. In any event, there is a long-held tradition in the U.S. that sitting presidents cannot be charged with criminal offenses while in office.