Since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he has been embroiled in a series of legal issues related to his business dealings, political activities and personal finances. From lawsuits brought by the Department of Justice concerning his alleged violation of the emoluments clause to investigations into possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, Trump’s presidency has been a flashpoint for controversy and debate over presidential accountability. While many questions remain unanswered regarding these matters, it is clear that President Trump’s legal troubles will continue to be one of the defining aspects of his administration.
Donald Trump’s presidency has seen its fair share of scandals, but perhaps none as notable and widely discussed as his involvement in attempting to extort Ukraine for political favors. The incident began in July 2019 when news first broke that Trump had pushed for a quid pro quo with the president of Ukraine. Reports indicated that Trump had encouraged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden in exchange for nearly $400 million in military aid.
The extortion attempt was part of a larger narrative surrounding Trump’s foreign policy approach during his time in office. Many political pundits argued that Trump was attempting to use foreign policy as a tool to benefit himself politically and discredit his opponents. This allegation was further supported by reports indicating that the White House withheld its military aid from Ukraine until pressure was applied by Congress and the media.
In response to these allegations, congressional Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry into the president’s behavior. During the inquiry, it was revealed that several senior members of the administration were aware of Trump’s scheme and had attempted to cover it up or withhold information pertaining to it from Congress. Additionally, testimony from various former and current officials suggested that other countries such as China were also being asked by Trump to interfere in domestic US politics.
Despite multiple witnesses providing damning testimony throughout the impeachment process, Donald Trump was ultimately acquitted on two charges brought against him: abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Despite this outcome, however, many legal experts are still arguing about whether or not he committed impeachable offenses before leaving office. Furthermore, some observers argue that this attempt at extortion may have lasting implications for presidential powers moving forward if proper measures are not implemented to prevent similar abuses from happening again in the future.
On January 6th, 2021, Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the United States Capitol Building in a violent attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election results. In response to this unprecedented event, President Trump has been largely condemned for encouraging and inciting this dangerous behavior.
In the days leading up to the storming of the United States Capitol building, President Trump made multiple attempts to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, despite lacking any evidence or legal basis. He began by asking state legislatures to override the outcome in states he lost, and then tried to influence Georgia’s Secretary of State to “find” votes that would reverse his loss there. When these efforts failed, he made public declarations that he had won and called on supporters to oppose the certification of electors by Congress.
President Trump also sought assistance from allies in an attempt to pressure election officials in key battleground states. This included repeatedly calling on Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results while presiding over a Joint Session of Congress on January 6th. Further attempts were made with allies from both inside and outside of government such as Republican House members pressuring Vice President Pence not to certify some electoral votes and Rudy Giuliani claiming he had evidence of voter fraud which has since been disproven.
All these attempts culminated with President Trump urging his supporters to march on Washington D.C on January 6th saying “We’re going to have to fight much harder…You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” This encouragement led thousands of Trump supporters into a mob scene at the Capitol Building where they violently clashed with law enforcement resulting in five deaths including a police officer.
One little-known scandal that occurred during Donald Trump’s presidency involved his decision to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. This decision sparked a lengthy legal battle, with environmental advocacy groups fighting against Trump’s executive order to reduce the protected land size by 85%, from 1.9 million acres to 243,000 acres.
The president argued that the two monuments were too large, causing economic hardship for local communities, as well as preventing access to natural resources such as oil, gas, and coal reserves. However, many conservationists saw this move as part of an agenda to restrict public access to outdoor recreation areas and open up protected land for mining and drilling activities.
In 2020, the Supreme Court issued a ruling which ultimately upheld Trump’s executive order and allowed him to shrink the protected land area of both national monuments. This ruling caused an outcry amongst some lawmakers who strongly opposed the decision and accused the president of disregarding the importance of preserving public lands and their ecological value. Additionally, some Native American tribes argued that shrinking these monuments would also mean losing access to important cultural sites with spiritual significance that had been protected for centuries by these lands.
Environmental activists have continued fighting against Trump’s actions even after he left office; they are currently advocating for Congress to restore full protections on both monuments so that future generations can continue enjoying their beauty and ecological value undisturbed.
Donald Trump’s presidency has been mired in scandal outside of the Oval Office as well.
The most notable non-presidential scandal occurred in 2018 when it was revealed that Michael Cohen, Trump’s then-personal lawyer, had paid off adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an affair she claimed to have had with the president more than a decade earlier. This hush money payment violated campaign finance laws and sparked an investigation into Cohen by the FBI. When Trump was asked whether or not he knew about the payments, he denied any knowledge or involvement. Ultimately, Cohen pleaded guilty to several charges related to the scandal and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Donald Trump has been embroiled in numerous allegations of racism during his Presidency. His remarks and policies have often been associated with supremacist or discriminatory sentiments, leading some to condemn him as a racist. One such scandal began in 2017 when he reportedly referred to various countries including Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “shithole countries” in an Oval Office meeting about immigration reform. The comments were widely criticized as offensive and ignorant by both domestic and international leaders.
The following year, Trump sparked more controversy when he described white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 as having “very fine people on both sides”. This comment was interpreted by many to suggest that neo-Nazis protesting the removal of a Confederate statue were no different than those who opposed them. His refusal to explicitly denounce white supremacy was seen by many as proof of his own complicity in its promotion.
Trump’s tendency towards xenophobia has also manifested itself through several other scandals throughout his tenure. In 2018, he signed an executive order banning immigrants from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States–a move widely viewed as Islamophobic. The same year also saw thousands of migrant children separated from their families at the US-Mexico border due to the President’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy–an act that human rights organizations denounced as cruel and inhumane.
At various points throughout his Presidency, Donald Trump has used inflammatory language towards minority groups like Mexicans (“they are bringing drugs… they are rapists”), Native Americans (“Pocahontas”), Black NFL players (“get that son of a bitch off the field”), and even members of Congress (“go back where you came from”). Such comments have been regularly condemned by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for perpetuating harmful stereotypes about minority communities.
In sum, Donald Trump’s tenure in office has seen multiple scandalous incidents — whether it be through words or actions — that have earned him widespread condemnation around the world. His rhetoric has especially taken aim at minority communities like immigrants, Muslims, and African-Americans while simultaneously promoting white supremacy or nationalism in subtle yet unmistakable ways. Consequently, Donald Trump will likely leave behind a legacy tarnished by a series of scandals during his Presidency.