Major controversies during the Trump presidency in 2017

Credit: Creative Commons. Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit.

There were whispers of Russian collusion at the beginning of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Adding to the list of controversies, there are three failed travel ban attempts, complaints about his comments to a military widow and issues with the way he responded to a neo-Nazi rally with counter-protestors.

According to James Thurber, professor of government at American University, one unique aspect to the Trump presidency – and the controversies surrounding it – are his tweets.

Thurber said the tweets gave Trump over $6.8 billion in free media during the campaign. That was unique because instead of having the media spread Trump’s ideas and actions, Trump did that himself on Twitter, Thurber said.

“He uses the tweets as a way to get involved with things he shouldn’t get involved with,” Thurber said.

According to Thurber, Trump’s election was among the biggest controversies, since it was so unexpected by most experts. Thurber said he was among the experts who predicted Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election.

“It was a populist election, there were lots of people that were very angry,” Thurber said. “The depth of that anger was a shock.”

However, it isn’t the worst of the problem, according to Thurber. The biggest problem he has encountered since the election is the change in perception of America as a country.

As someone who has been an educator since 1966, Thurber also worries about the children learning about government during the Trump presidency.

“As a supporter of our democracy, I’m very worried and ashamed,” Thurber said. “They are going to come of age thinking the presidency is what he does, and that’s not good.”

On the chances of impeachment for any one of the controversies, Thurber said it is very unlikely in a Republican-majority Congress.

“We’re going to have to bear with him,” Thurber said of Trump’s presidency. “I’m sure there’s going to be some very embarrassing things that come out.”

Below are four of the major controversies that mark Trump’s first year in office.


President Trump’s connections to Russia have been one of the biggest and longest-lasting controversies of his presidency.

On Nov. 8, 2016, the U.S. presidential election went against the predictions to display a clear winner: Donald Trump.

Two days later, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of Russia said the Kremlin had been communicating with Trump and his “entourage” during the campaign.

Credit: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov

What followed was a spiral of new information and doubts about Trump’s relationship with Russia, leading back decades of suspicious business arrangements. From campaign contact to possible Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

James Comey, then-director of the FBI, started an investigation into Trump’s Russia connections.

Trump attempted to stop or delay Comey’s investigation. Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Comey, claimed Comey was “disgusted” by Trump’s actions toward Comey.

The president even went so far as to ask his own intelligence chiefs to testify that Trump had no collusion with Russia.

On May 3, 2017, Comey testified to Congress about the investigation into Trump and Russia.

On May 6-7, 2017, Trump drafted a four-page-long letter to Comey detailing the reasons he wanted to fire him. On May 9, 2017, Trump fired Comey as the FBI director.

The investigation continued as Trump and his associates changed their stories about Comey and meetings with Russia.

In May 2017, following Trump’s firing of Comey, the Justice Department hired former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to continue investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

Throughout the six months he’s been working, Mueller has gotten two indictments and one guilty plea for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

In June 2017, attorneys general in D.C. and Maryland sued Trump over breaking the anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution. The lawsuit is directly related to his involvement with Russia.

As of Nov. 17, 2017, Trump has started paying his own legal bills related to the Russia investigation, which is still ongoing.

Steven Harper, an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, created an interactive timeline that tracks every instance of involvement between Trump and Russia.

“Up to and including the firing of James Comey, Trump did everything he could to try to shut down, slow down or stop the investigation,” Harper said in an interview.

Harper’s theory is that Russia probed Trump during his first trip to the Soviet Union in 1988, looking to make him into an operative for Russia. The first mention of Trump running for president occurred right after he returned from this trip, Harper said.

“The most damning explanation is that the Russians launched a sophisticated intelligence operation,” Harper said. “They found willing partners up and down the line throughout the Trump organization. And up and down throughout the Trump organization, as the details of that intelligence operation became known, the participants lied about it, lied about its existence, lied about their personal involvement in it and now they are all facing serious criminal jeopardy as a result.”

Travel Ban/Immigration

Less than a week after his inauguration, Trump created a U.S. travel ban.

The ban was in effect from Jan. 27, 2017 to Mar. 16, 2017. It blocked travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Many called it the “Muslim Ban” given the population of people the ban would affect.

On Oct. 17, 2017, a federal judge blocked the third travel ban Trump attempted to pass. Courts already blocked his first two attempts, including the one from Jan. 27 and a revised version from March.

On Nov. 25, Trump tweeted that the U.S. “need[s] the BAN!” after an attack on an Egyptian mosque.

Charlottesville protests

Credit: Scenes from the Charlottesville, Virginia protest.

On Aug. 15, Trump was under fire for failing to condemn a neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Instead, Trump said there were “many sides” to the issue, even after the death of counter-protestor Heather Heyer.

Heyer was killed and many others were injured in a car attack that could be classified as terrorism.

Trump called Heyer’s mother, who did not want to speak to him after his comments. She said she missed his call because it occurred during Heather’s funeral. 

Sergeant La David Johnson

Credit: Sergeant La David Johnson

After Sgt. Johnson was killed in Niger, his family – including his pregnant wife – held his funeral on Oct. 1, 2017. In mid-November, more of his remains were discovered.

Trump first claimed that he did not “specifically” order the strike Johnson was involved in when he was killed.

Then, Johnson’s widow said Trump could not even remember her husband’s name when he called with his condolences.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fl.) supported the family’s claims, saying she heard the conversation and agreed with the account of what he said.

Wilson called the incident “Trump’s Benghazi” in reference to the scandal involving Hillary Clinton in the 2012 Benghazi attack.

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