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Before taking the political world by storm, Donald Trump was a real estate mogul, author and former host of reality show The Apprentice and its spin-off The Celebrity Apprentice. He has appeared on numerous television shows, usually playing himself, and both participated in and hosted World Wrestling Entertainment events. Prior to the spread of his entertainment persona, Trump was best known as the larger-than-life owner of a casino-hotel empire.
According to his press office, Trump filed a personal financial disclosure statement with the FEC indicating he is worth “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS,” (emphasis theirs). Lest you see the report and underestimate Trump’s immense fortune, the release explained: “This report was not designed for a man of Mr. Trump’s massive wealth. For instance, they have boxes once a certain number is reached that simply state $50 million or more. Many of these boxes have been checked. As an example, if a building owned by Mr. Trump is worth $1.5 billion, the box checked is ‘$50,000,000 or more.’”
Trump’s businesses have gone through bankruptcy multiple times. Four times in 18 years, to be exact, though always restructuring through Chapter 11 rather than the more disastrous liquidation through Chapter 7. He often dipped extensively into his personal fortune and agreed to give up significant ownership stakes to creditors to see his companies through the process, though has never filed for personal bankruptcy. The most recent financial troubles for his empire during the recession resulted in his stepping away from the properties as his lenders took over.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a businessman in New York, much of Trump’s political contributions – and constituting a majority until five years ago – have gone to Democrats, though in recent years he has more strongly favored Republicans. He has donated around $1.4 million (adjusted) since 1989, excluding any potential anonymous donations to super PACs, with roughly two-thirds going to Republicans. In 2014 alone Trump gave to 34 Republicans. Overall, prominent recipients include everyone from Democrats Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, to fellow Republican candidate Lindsey Graham, to Tea Party favorites Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy. Trump explained, “As a businessman, you wanna be friendly with everybody.”
He’s flirted with Presidential campaigns in the past, including when he announced that he was quitting the Republican Party in 1999 to consider running for the Reform Party nomination. He tore into fellow defector Pat Buchanan as a representative of the “really staunch right wacko vote.” He added of Buchanan, “Look, he’s a Hitler lover. I guess he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays.” In the lead up to the 2012 election, Trump again stoked interest in a possible campaign before ultimately deciding not to jump in the water, and then went on a multi-month quest to uncover President Obama’s birth records.
Trump’s tag line for the 2016 campaign is “Make America Great Again,” for which he filed trademark paperwork shortly after the 2012 election and is accusing other Republicans of ripping off. He has provided few specifics on most issues and, where he has taken a position, often simply declares support for an outcome without explaining how he would get there, while also frequently contradicting himself. Nevertheless, below are his views as best they can be determined.
Trump made waves during his announcement speech when he described Mexican immigrants as less than desirable: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The comments led NBC to cut ties with the candidate, dropping its coverage of the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants that were a co-venture with Trump.
Trump didn’t back down, however, and released a plan that consisted of, among other things, nationwide use of e-verify, a controversial government enforcement system designed to ensure employees hire only legal citizens; mandatory deportation of criminal aliens; detention over ‘catch-and-release’; ending federal grants to sanctuary cities; tougher penalties for those overstaying visas; and an end to birthright citizenship.
On Foreign Policy and Security
“Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump,” said Donald Trump. “Nobody. I will find, within our military, I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur. I will find the right guy.”
If his intricate plan to “find the right guy” fails, Trump has a fall back strategy of being “big into the military.”
“I would be strongest by far on security, because I’m very big into the military, very big into the vets,” assessed Trump, though he’s much more impressed by vets who don’t get caught by the enemy. “[John McCain's] not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
On Putin, Trump promises to be not-Obama: “I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite. We have a president who doesn’t have a clue. I would say he’s incompetent, but I don’t want to do that because that’s not nice.” He’s also criticized the Iran deal, and said instead he would “double-up and triple-up the sanctions, and I would make [the Iranians] want to make a deal…I would have waited for them to call us.”
Finally, no one is a better friend to Israel than Donald Trump, according to Donald Trump: “The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me. The rest of them are all talk, no action. They’re politicians. I’ve been loyal to Israel from the day I was born. My father, Fred Trump, was loyal to Israel before me. The only one that’s going to give Israel the kind of support it needs is Donald Trump.”
“I would be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” Trump modestly said in the run-up to his official announcement.
He opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguing on Twitter that it “will increase our trade deficits & send even more jobs overseas. This is a bad deal. Time for smart trade!”
Trump has maintained a protectionist stance in recent years and frequently rails against China, going so far as to say that he’d “love to have a trade war with China.” He’s proposed a 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports that he would break to them by saying, “Listen you motherfuckers we’re going to tax you 25 percent!” He’s also said that American companies manufacturing abroad should pay a 35 percent tax to ship their goods back into the US.
In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump similarly asserted that, “we are being taken to the cleaners by our trading partners,” though he rejected the type of solutions he now pushes. “We need tougher negotiations, not protectionist walls around America,” he wrote.
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Single-payer is a long preferred policy of Trump. In a 1999 interview with Larry King, he described himself as “very liberal when it comes to health care,” and believer in “universal healthcare.”
At the first Republican primary debate he again praised single-payer. “As far as single payer – it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland.” Yet after praising the centralized, government controlled single-payer model, Trump went on to complain about lack of choice in insurers: “What I’d like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state. I have a big company with thousands and thousands of employees. And if I’m negotiating in New York or in New Jersey or in California, I have like one bidder. Nobody can bid. You know why? Because the insurance companies are making a fortune because they have control of the politicians, of course, with the exception of the politicians on this stage. But they have total control of the politicians. They’re making a fortune.”
He pledges to replace Obamacare with “something terrific.”
On Criminal Justice
Way back in 1990 Trump criticized the war on drugs as “a joke,” and said that, “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
Yet speaking at CPAC this year, Trump said he thought Colorado’s policy on marijuana was bad. “I feel strongly about that,” he said, though he drew a distinction with his support for medical marijuana.
Trump also supports capital punishment, harsher sentencing, and tougher policing. “I’m a big fan of the police, but I think the police now are afraid to act. They’re afraid to be tough.”
On Gun Rights
In The America We Deserve, Trump lamented the “extremes of the two existing major parties.” He noted, “Democrats want to confiscate all guns, which is a dumb idea because only the law-abiding citizens would turn in their guns and the bad guys would be the only ones left armed. The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions. I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”
At the 2015 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, Trump promised that, “the 2nd Amendment will be totally protected,” if he were to become President.
On Eminent Domain
A frequent benefactor of eminent domain, Trump said he agrees “100 percent” with the reviled Kelo v. New London decision holding that government could take private property on behalf of another private entity as a “public use.” He justified kicking an elderly widow out of her home because it was ugly, and that without his Atlantic City developments, “senior citizens get a lot less money and a lot less taxes and a lot less this and that.”
“Common core is a disaster,” he says. “Education has to be local.” He’s also argued the Department of Education could be cut “way, way down.”
On Budget and Taxes
In The America We Deserve, Trump argued for wealth confiscation in the form of a one-time “net worth tax” of 14.25 percent tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth over $10 million. He said this would provide enough to pay down the debt and shore up Social Security. He also said it was not unfair to the wealthy because “it is only reasonable to shift the burden to those most able to pay.”
Trump said in an interview with Sean Hannity that, “I am traditional. I am for traditional – and it’s a changing, it’s a changing format – but I am very much of a traditional man.” He says that he personally believes marriage is between a man and a woman, but sees it as a state issue.
In 2011 Trump said he was pro-life after previously being pro-choice, though he always acknowledged being “uncomfortable with abortion procedures.” This year he offered support for a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
On Energy and the Environment
“I’m not a believer in manmade – look, this planet is so massive. And when I hear Obama saying that climate change is the number one problem it is just madness,” he said to Hannity. Trump also pledges to immediately approve the Keystone pipeline if elected President, which he says would have no impact on the environment.
On Heidi Klum
“Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.”
On Other Republican Candidates
Read more about Election 2016.
This report is for informational purposes only. Nothing within should be construed as endorsement by the author of either the candidate or his positions on the issues.
Click through the gallery below to see where some of the other Republican presidential candidates stand on the issues that Americans care about.
Donald TrumpLearn more about where Donald Trump stands on the issues.
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Ben CarsonLearn more about where Ben Carson stands on the issues.
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Ted CruzLearn more about where Ted Cruz stands on the issues.
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Marco RubioLearn more about where Marco Rubio stands on the issues.
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Scott WalkerLearn more about where Scott Walker stands on the issues.
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Jeb BushLearn more about where Jeb Bush stands on the issues.
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Rand PaulLearn more about where Rand Paul stands on the issues.
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Mike HuckabeeLearn more about where Mike Huckabee stands on the issues.
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Carly FiorinaLearn more about where Carly Fiorina stands on the issues.
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