Well into his third year in the White House, President Donald Trump celebrated his 73rd birthday on Friday.
What would normally be a celebratory occasion, the 45th president’s birthday is, for political rivals and critics, another excuse to protest a tense year under the Trump administration. This year, while Trump appeared on Fox and Friends, some Twitter users turned the occasion into #JohnMcCainDay, instead preferring to honor the late Republican senator Trump has repeatedly criticized even after McCain’s death, and a celebration of former President Barack Obama ‘s birthday, which actually falls on Aug. 4.
Meanwhile, Trump received a tribute from his daughter Ivanka Trump, 37, who posted a photo of the president walking hand in hand with her daughter Arabella, 7, and Joseph, 5, with whom she shares with husband Jared Kushner, 38.
“Happy Birthday, Dad!” wrote Ivanka, including a cake emoji.
Even after a weight lifted following the release of the long-awaited Mueller report, Trump has continued to battle talks of impeachment. He’s also attacked impending (and dead) political rivals, bragged about friendships with dictators, and been praised for his gains in criminal justice reform – even as migrant families remain separated from their children (some of whom have died) at the U.S.-Mexico border. Throughout and in between these big moments, Trump has repeatedly offended rivals and everyday citizens with racist, misogynistic and hateful comments.
Here’s a look at President Trump’s biggest controversies and accomplishments since his last birthday.
The release of the Mueller report and its aftermath
After a nearly two-year investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not find evidence that President Trump conspired with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter summarizing the highly anticipated report in March. Barr went on to explain that despite the findings, the report did not fully exonerate the president. In May, Trump stirred up even more controversy when he claimed executive privilege to block Congressional Democrats from obtaining the un-redacted version of Robert Mueller’s Russia report, as well as its underlying evidence. After Democrats took over control of the House, there has been heated debate about pursuing impeachment.
President Trump’s verbal attacks on John McCain and Joe Biden
President Trump and McCain had a tempestuous relationship prior to the senator’s death from brain cancer. The president called McCain’s war hero status into question and labeled him “evil.” McCain famously voted against Trump’s efforts to dismantle Obamacare, essentially dooming the effort at the last second. Trump’s disparagement of McCain continued even after the latter’s death, to much criticism from Republicans and Democrats. Just last month, Trump said he “wasn’t a fan” of the war veteran.
The president’s attack on former Vice President Joe Biden, the forerunner of the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, has been just as aggressive. On May 29, Trump criticized Biden over his support of a controversial 1994 federal crime bill. But Trump quickly got a wave of backlash from other Twitter users who noted his hypocrisy given his history with race. As part of his continued attack on Biden, the president told reporters on May 27 that he agreed with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un that Biden is “a low-I.Q. individual.”
President Trump’s financial history revealed
On May 8, the president was quick to hit back after a lengthy New York Times investigation showed he racked up more than a billion dollars in business losses in the ’80s and ’90s. The report challenged Trump’s perceived acumen as a billionaire businessman, which has been key to his success as a reality TV personality, author and as president and was a central part of his campaign pitch to voters in 2016.
Trump defended significant lost sums cited by the Times in a roundabout way, casting them as “massive write offs and depreciation” while simultaneously claiming the Times piece was “highly inaccurate Fake News.”
The president’s former associates get jail time
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former “fixer,” was sent to jail to serve his three-year sentence. In December, Cohen was sentenced to federal prison after he pleaded guilty to crimes including tax evasion, lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings with Russia and the illegal “hush money” he paid during the 2016 presidential election to Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal – who both claimed they had affairs with Trump – for their silence. (Trump has denied the affairs.)
And in March, Paul Manafort, an ex-Trump campaign chairman, was sentenced to 47 months in prison for tax and bank fraud. In September 2018, he pled guilty to two criminal charges as part of a deal that required him to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation. Manafort pled guilty to one count of conspiracy against the U.S. and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses, CNN reported, citing court documents. The two men are the latest in a string of former Trump associates who became legally entangled during the Mueller investigation.
President Trump joined forces with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West for criminal justice reform
A month after President Trump passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan federal criminal justice reform legislation which he signed into law in December 2018, he tweeted out his thanks to Kanye West, who passionately pushed the legislation.
“Criminal Justice Reform is now law,” Trump wrote in his tweet on January 5, 2019, adding that it was “passed in a very bipartisan way!”
West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, has also been vocal about the issue, having first met with the president to discuss the topic at the White House last May. Those conversations led the former Celebrity Apprentice host to commute the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother who was given a life sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense after she helped facilitate communications in a drug trafficking case. She was released from a federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama, in June 2018, after serving her sentence for more than 20 years.
The longest government shutdown in American history
On Jan. 25, the president finally put an end to the longest shutdown in U.S. history – a historic closure begun by his demand for a border wall, which Congressional Democrats, empowered in the midterms, roundly rejected.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has said Trump’s insistence on a wall with Mexico amounted to “holding Americans hostage.” She called such a wall “immoral” and “ineffective.”
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Despair and death at the southern border, as the president pushes for a wall
In February, President Trump declared there was a “national emergency” at the southern border – a move that was immediately contested by Democrats.
“It’s very simple: We want to stop drugs from going into our country, we want to stop criminals and gangs from going into our country,” the president said, returning to a familiar argument for his border wall which is not broadly supported by the data.
“They say walls don’t work,” Trump said. “Walls work 100 percent.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is facing intense scrutiny as families remain detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. In June 2018, Trump signed an executive order reversing the practice of separating migrant children from their parents. But the order hasn’t spared many families that were separated and detained before the legislation passed. According to a recent report by the New York Times, approximately 13,200 migrant children (who crossed the border alone or were separated from their families) are housed in more than 100 shelters across the U.S., even as the Trump administration is reducing or canceling school and legal aid.