A Look at Donald Trump’s First Term in Office
During his first term 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 allegations 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 had requested) and declared a state of emergency to free up $3.6 billion more funding for the wall.
President Trump has followed through on campaign promises to roll back government regulations and to repeal a large part of former President Barack Obama’s signatures 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.
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 indices soared. But that success ended without warning as the coronavirus pandemic spread from China across the globe in early 2020, with Trump voicing constant scepticism of its lethality and its effect on the United States. The president shut down travel from China at the end of January to try to protect the United States, but otherwise expressed certainty that it would not be a problem—he himself was tested positive for Covid-19 in October, though.
The virus spread to all 50 states, causing massive disruptions. Soon the nation was engulfed in an economic disaster as well. Trump held daily news briefings about the coronavirus for weeks, but often downplayed the severity of the coronavirus.
While health experts urged Americans to wear face masks to limit the spread of the virus, Trump has said wearing a mask is a personal choice, and did not publicly wear one until July.
While the coronavirus swept across the US, the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in police custody sparked nationwide protests against the police treatment of Black Americans and propelled the “Black Lives Matter” movement to address systemic racism to international prominence.
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.” As the US celebrated the 244th anniversary of its independence on the July 4 weekend, Trump described 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 US 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 (NAFTA) 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 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.”
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 US 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.
The writer is a member of staff.