President Donald Trump officially kicked off his reelection campaign Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, Florida, nearly four years to the day that he launched his first White House bid with a speech in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.
Back in 2015, Trump was a real estate developer-turned-reality television star making his first run for elected office. His campaign centered on immigration, trade and the economy. Those topics have dominated Trump’s presidency as well, and will figure prominently in the 2020 general election, when he faces whichever Democrat emerges from the crowded primary field.
As president, Trump has been known to switch positions, making it hard to pin down where he stands on an issue at any given time. But Trump does have a track record on a broad range of topics, from immigration to health care, climate change to foreign affairs.
Immigration: Reduce illegal immigration, reform legal immigration system
Trump has said undocumented migrants drain social services, take jobs away from Americans, and bring crime to the United States, though many experts disagree, and he has taken numerous steps as president to fulfill his 2016 campaign promises to reduce both legal and illegal immigration. The Trump administration changed the rules to make it harder for people to claim asylum in the U.S., and instituted a “zero-tolerance” policy that resulted in the separation of thousands of families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president forced a federal government shutdown and declared a national emergency to obtain funding to start building a wall on the southern border, a signature issue that he claims will strengthen security and deter people from trying to sneak across the border. Trump has threatened to shut the border down entirely and impose tariffs on Mexico in response to the rise in illegal immigration, though he has not followed through on either threat.
Law enforcement agencies under Trump have also stepped up enforcement efforts in the interior of the country, including workplace raids targeting undocumented migrants for deportation. On Monday night, ahead of his official 2020 reelection kickoff in Florida, Trump announced on Twitter that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement would begin removing “millions of illegal aliens” from the country, though he didn’t offer details.
The president has also taken steps to remake the legal immigration system. Soon after taking office, Trump blocked visitors from several majority-Muslim countries by executive order; after a lengthy legal battle, the courts ultimately upheld a limited version of the plan. Critics argued that the travel ban was an unconstitutional policy targeting immigrants by race, ethnicity and religion, while Trump argued the move would protect the country from potential terrorism, despite the fact that there was no history of terrorists coming to the U.S. from any of the banned nations.
Earlier this year, Trump proposed creating a “merit-based” system that would prioritize accepting migrants who have specific jobs skills, instead of those with “family ties” who have relatives living in the U.S. The proposal would fundamentally transform immigration policy, but has not gained traction in Congress. Still, it underscores Trump’s belief that unchecked immigration represents a threat to U.S. prosperity and security.
Trump’s immigration policies and statements have often been criticized for being racist or xenophobic. In his presidential campaign announcement in 2015, Trump claimed without evidence that illegal immigrants brought crime and drugs to the U.S. and called Mexican immigrants “rapists.” The remark set the tone for the rest of the campaign, which included an attack on a federal judge’s Mexican heritage that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan said was the “textbook definition of a racist comment.” Later, after taking office, Trump questioned at a White House meeting why the U.S. would want immigrants from “sh*thole countries” in Africa and nations like Haiti.
Economy: Lower individual and corporate taxes, cut regulations, end trade deficits
Strengthening the economy by driving economic growth was a key part of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message in 2016. Trump pledged to eliminate Obama-era regulations on businesses, cut taxes, revive the manufacturing sector, boost domestic energy production, renegotiate trade agreements and take other steps to create new jobs.
As president, Trump has followed through on many of those pledges. His administration has slashed regulations on the financial, agricultural and energy sectors, among others, arguing that deregulation spurs economic growth. Manufacturing jobs have gone up under Trump, though there are signs the boom is slowing. The coal industry is no longer shedding jobs after years of decline under President Barack Obama, though it hasn’t grown as more energy companies shift away from coal. In late 2017, Trump signed into law a Republican tax reform bill that slashed taxes for corporations, high-income earners and many middle-class families.
The economy grew by roughly 3 percent last year, and has added more than 5 million jobs since Trump took office, according to the White House. The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent last month, down from 4.7 percent the month Trump became president. The stock market has made record gains under Trump. The president has taken credit for the positive financial numbers on his watch — but while the economy is doing well, his claims that the economy is the “strongest” or “best” in U.S. history are false.
But Trump’s approach to trade policy has drawn more criticism, including from members of his own party. Trump has consistently argued since the 1980s that trade deficits hurt the U.S. economy, and urged politicians to strike new deals with America’s leading trade partners, like China, Mexico and Canada. In office, Trump has followed through on his long-held views on trade, despite warnings from some economists, U.S. companies and lawmakers from both parties. Trump has placed tariffs on Chinese imports, sparking a protracted trade dispute, as well as imported steel and aluminum. His administration has renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, though Congress has not yet ratified the NAFTA replacement.
Health care: Undo Obamacare, cut drug prices, reform Medicaid
Though he recently declared “I understand health care now,” Trump has never offered concrete details about how exactly he would reform the U.S. health care system.. As a candidate and early on in his presidency, Trump adopted the Republican Party’s position, which has centered on repealing President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, and replacing it with a new health care system. The party’s broad goals include fewer regulations on insurance companies, offering consumers more freedom in choosing their health care options, lowering insurance premiums, and in general limiting the federal government’s role in the health care sector.
During Trump’s first year in office in 2017, congressional Republicans tried to undo Obamacare but fell short, dealing Trump one of his biggest legislative setbacks as president. Still, the GOP under Trump has succeeded in undoing key parts of the health care law. The 2017 tax overhaul eliminated Obamacare’s individual mandate. The Trump administration also ended subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance, and cut payments to insurance companies to cover sick patients.
Last year, the Trump administration also gave states permission to place work requirements on recipients of Medicaid, the government’s health care program for low-income people. Several states have implemented the change, fulfilling a decades-long Republican goal of scaling back Medicaid spending. The move doubled as an attack on the Affordable Care Act, which had allowed states to expand Medicaid coverage to millions of Americans. Trump has also promised to lower drug prices, and the administration has taken some steps to address the issue, such as requiring pharmaceutical companies to list drug prices in T.V. ads.
Foreign policy: Challenging international alliances, embracing adversaries
Trump’s approach to foreign affairs has followed his “America first” worldview, which holds that the country should prioritize its economic interests abroad instead of playing a leadership role in global affairs that don’t directly benefit the U.S. To that end, Trump has demanded that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spend more on defense, and even weighed leaving the NATO alliance altogether. In another departure from presidential norms, Trump has sparred with traditional U.S. allies like Britain and France, while embracing authoritarian leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
On Russia, Trump has drawn criticism for accepting Putin’s denial of the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election during his visit to Russia last year, though he’s wavered on the question since. U.S. intelligence agencies and special counsel Robert Mueller have concluded that Russia meddled in the election to try to help Trump win the White House. On North Korea, Trump garnered some praise for holding two high-profile summits with Kim. Trump claimed success after the first meeting, which took place in Singapore last year, though the talks did not produce a final deal for North Korean denuclearization. The second summit, in Vietnam earlier this year, also failed to result in an agreement between the two countries.
Trump’s stance on Iran and the Middle East has also sparked controversy. Last year, Trump made good on a campaign promise by withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, which lifted economic sanctions on the country in return for Iran suspending its uranium enrichment program. The move angered America’s allies and ratcheted up tensions with Tehran, leading to Trump’s recent decision to deploy troops to the region to counteract Iranian influence.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump has continued a decades-long push by the U.S. to broker a final peace agreement. But Trump has also taken controversial steps that have complicated the U.S. effort to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, including moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2018, recognizing the contested Golan Heights region as part of Israel earlier this year, and forming a close alliance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Syria provides another example of Trump’s unpredictable foreign policy shifts. As a candidate, Trump called the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “stupid” and criticized Obama’s approach to the Syrian civil war. As president, Trump ordered strikes on Syria on two occasions, in 2017 and last year, in response to reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. Trump also announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria in December, but then reversed course two months later and decided to leave several hundred peacekeeping troops in the country.
Social issues: Limit access to abortion, ban on transgender troops in the military
Trump said in an NBC interview in 1999 that he was “very pro-choice” in supporting abortion rights. In 2016, Trump ran as an anti-abortion candidate, and as president has sided with conservatives who oppose abortion. The Trump administration has tried to limit abortion access for detained immigrant teenagers, and restricted federal research that uses fetal tissue. Under Trump, the Department of Health and Human Services also barred federally funded health clinics from issuing referalls for abortion.
Additionally, opponents argue Trump has fulfilled a 2016 campaign promise to appoint “pro-life judges.” Trump has put dozens of conservative judges on the bench, including two Supreme Court justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The high court additions gave Republican appointees a 5-4 majority, and has given conservatives hope of potentially overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Candidate Trump said in his presidential nomination speech that he would “do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens.” The line drew praise for breaking with Republican Party orthodoxy. But Trump has faced criticism in office for several actions on the issue, including his ban on transgender people serving in the military. The ban on transgender troops is one of several issues that critics have argued that Trump’s policies discriminate against minorities. Under Trump, the Department of Justice has changed its approach to civil rights, shifting the focus away from protecting traditionally marginalized people and increasing protections for religious freedom, a popular cause among conservatives. Trump’s rhetoric on race has also come under fire, perhaps most famously when he said there were “fine people on both sides” of a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in a number of injuries and the death of a counter protester.
Energy and climate change: Withdraw from Paris climate accord, boost fossil fuel development
Less than six months after taking office, Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the international agreement aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The withdrawal cannot be formally completed until after the 2020 election. Still, it symbolized Trump’s skepticism about climate change, which he called a hoax before taking office and has continued to question as president. It was also part of a broader effort to roll back Obama-era energy and environmental regulations.
In 2018, the Trump administration announced plans to end the Clean Power Plan, an ambitious overhaul put in place by Obama to curb carbon emissions from power plants and push states to shift toward renewable energy. Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency also eliminated, delayed or suspended regulations for methane emissions, water pollution and pesticide use, as well as new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.
Trump has promoted oil, gas and coal production, something many of his supporters and Republicans argue is necessary to grow the economy and make the U.S. energy independent. Earlier this year, the Trump administration finalized plans to open new public land to oil and gas drilling. The Interior Department has also signaled support for offshore drilling. At the same time, the administration has dismissed findings by federal agencies and scientists about the dangers of climate change.