Stepien, a 40-year-old New Jersey operative, is an Establishment Republican out of central casting: trim, well dressed, and with impeccable hair. He was recruited to join the Trump campaign in August 2016, after befriending Kushner, and his current job is to effectively reverse-engineer a method to Trump’s madness. Despite the gloomy outlook for Republicans—a recent Real Clear Politics poll average showed Democrats with a six-point advantage—Stepien did his best to spin the White House’s message that Republicans could limit the damage in the midterms. “This is not an easy time to run and win as a Republican,” Stepien conceded. “[Trump] is trying to get all the people who voted for him in 2016 back out to the polls in 2018. The goal is to make those people who are presidential-year voters into midterm-election voters.”
In 1985, Trump acquired the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, for $10 million, $7 million for the real estate and $3 million for the furnishings.[142][143] His initial offer of $28 million had been rejected, and he was able to obtain the property for the lower price after a real-estate market "slump".[144] The home was built in the 1920s by heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post.[145] After her death, her heirs unsuccessfully tried to donate the property to the government before putting it up for sale.[145][146] In addition to using a wing of the estate as a home, Trump turned Mar-a-Lago into a private club. In order to join, prospective members had to pay an initiation fee[147] and annual dues.[148] The initiation fee was $100,000 until 2016; it was doubled to $200,000 in January 2017.[149][150]
A Honduran migrant girl kneels in front of a police checkpoint at the Agua Caliente border crossing in Ocotepeque, Honduras on Oct. 19, 2018. Honduran authorities intensified immigration control measures at the Agua Caliente point, bordering Guatemala, to prevent hundreds of Hondurans seeking to reach the USA from crossing into the neighboring country. Gustavo Amador, EPA-EFE
In 1995, Trump founded Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (THCR), which assumed ownership of Trump Plaza, Trump Castle, and the Trump Casino in Gary, Indiana.[167] THCR purchased Taj Mahal in 1996 and underwent bankruptcy restructuring in 2004 and 2009, leaving Trump with 10 percent ownership in the Trump Taj Mahal and other Trump casino properties.[168] Trump remained chairman of THCR until 2009.[169]
And yet, in the 1980s, there were still limits to what needed to be said about America. Surveying the planet, you didn’t yet have to refer to us as the “greatest” country of all or as the planet’s sole truly “exceptional” country. Think of such repeated superlatives of our own moment as defensive markers on the declinist slope. The now commonplace adjective “indispensable” as a stand-in for American greatness globally, for instance, didn’t even arrive until Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, began using it in 1996. It only became an indispensable part of the rhetorical arsenal of American politicians, from President Obama on down, a decade-plus into the 21st century when the country’s eerie dispensability (unless you were a junkie for failed states and regional chaos) became ever more apparent.

But a closer look at conservative rhetoric in recent years reveals that “Make America Great Again” was not Trump’s invention. It evolved from a phrase that became central to the Republican establishment during the Obama years: “American exceptionalism.” People often equate the expression with the notion that God made America “a city upon a hill,” in the words of the Puritan colonist John Winthrop. However, as University of California-Berkeley sociology professor Jerome Karabel noted in a 2011 article, this usage only came into vogue after Barack Obama became president. Previously it was mainly used by academics to mean that America is an exception compared with other Western democracies, for better or worse, as illustrated by its top-notch universities or its bare-bones gun control.
According to a Comey memo of a private conversation on February 14, 2017, Trump said he "hoped" Comey would drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.[713] In March and April, Trump had told Comey that the ongoing suspicions formed a "cloud" impairing his presidency,[714] and asked him to publicly state that he was not personally under investigation.[715] He also asked intelligence chiefs Dan Coats and Michael Rogers to issue statements saying there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.[716] Both refused, considering this an inappropriate request, although not illegal.[717] Comey eventually testified on June 8 that while he was director, the FBI investigations did not target Trump himself.[714][718] In a statement on Twitter Trump implied that he had "tapes" of conversations with Comey, before later stating that he did not in fact have such tapes.[719]
Obama has talked more about American exceptionalism than Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush combined: a search on UC Santa Barbara’s exhaustive presidential records library finds that no president from 1981 to today uttered the phrase ‘American exceptionalism’ except Obama. As U.S. News’ Robert Schlesinger wrote, ‘American exceptionalism’ is not a traditional part of presidential vocabulary. According to Schlesinger’s search of public records, Obama is the only president in 82 years to use the term.
Ms. Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, claimed national attention as a sort of thinking man’s Sarah Palin. A Yale and University of Chicago Law grad, she is quick with a “Fargo”-accented quip. She’s burnished her liberal bona fides by becoming a reliably lefty voice, just last week teaming up with Mr. Sanders to debate health care on prime-time CNN against the most recent Republican senators trying to repeal Obamacare, Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. But not that lefty. She hasn’t signed on to Medicare for All and, on CNN, spoke in favor of a bipartisan approach. What’s more, her voting record from 10 years in the Senate — including, most recently her thumbs up to a handful of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees — will cling to her like barnacles.
In 1996, Trump acquired the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, which was a vacant seventy-one story skyscraper on Wall Street. After an extensive renovation, the high-rise was renamed the Trump Building at 40 Wall Street.[136] In 1997, he began construction on Riverside South, which he dubbed Trump Place, a multi-building development along the Hudson River. He and the other investors in the project ultimately sold their interest for $1.8 billion in 2005 in what was then the biggest residential sale in the history of New York City.[137] From 1994 to 2002, Trump owned a 50 percent share of the Empire State Building. He intended to rename it "Trump Empire State Building Tower Apartments" if he had been able to boost his share.[138][139] In 2001, Trump completed Trump World Tower.[140] In 2002, Trump acquired the former Hotel Delmonico, which was renovated and reopened in 2004 as the Trump Park Avenue; the building consisted of 35 stories of luxury condominiums.[141]
On June 12, 2018, after several rounds of preliminary staff-level meetings, Trump and Kim held a bilateral summit in Singapore.[663] In a joint declaration, both countries vowed to "join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula", while North Korea repeated its April 2018 promise to "work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."[664][665]

On March 17, 2017 the campaign saw what was its highest single-day contribution total, with the campaign and its joint-fundraising-committee raising a combined total of $314,000.[246][247] By the end of May the RNC had raised more than $62 million in 2017. The RNC had already received more online donations than they had in the entire year of 2016.[137]


By the time Donald Trump stepped onstage during Lee Greenwood’s rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.” at the Make America Great Again rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on the evening of June 20, he was confronting the first crisis of his re-election campaign. Wrenching reports of federal agents ripping infants from their parents’ arms—the result of Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration crackdown at the southern border—had been playing in a constant loop on cable news. Chaos had engulfed the West Wing, too, as officials offered shifting and conflicting explanations for the policy: Trump blamed Democrats; Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it a “deterrent”; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said it wasn’t. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to appear on-camera to defend the separations, according to two sources close to her. Melania Trump issued a rare statement critiquing her husband’s policy without first clearing it with White House officials, a source said; she even asked her press secretary to call a Trump surrogate and thank him after he derided the policy on CNN.
Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, although in 1990 he came within one missed bank loan payment of doing so, agreeing to a deal that temporarily ceded management control of his company to his banks and put him on a spending allowance.[183] Trump claimed to have initiated this deal with his banks as he saw the downturn in the real estate market, but bankers involved in the matter stated they initiated the negotiations before Trump had realized there was a problem.[184] His hotel and casino businesses have been declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds.[185][186] Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded. Trump was quoted by Newsweek in 2011 saying, "I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they're very good for me" as a tool for trimming debt.[187][188] The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).[189][190]

A Honduran migrant girl kneels in front of a police checkpoint at the Agua Caliente border crossing in Ocotepeque, Honduras on Oct. 19, 2018. Honduran authorities intensified immigration control measures at the Agua Caliente point, bordering Guatemala, to prevent hundreds of Hondurans seeking to reach the USA from crossing into the neighboring country. Gustavo Amador, EPA-EFE
Nell Scovell, a veteran comedy writer and author of “Just the Funny Parts: … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking Into the Hollywood Boys’ Club,” has another theory. She remembers a cab ride in Boston  before the 2016 election. The driver told her he would be voting for Mr. Trump. Why? she asked. “He said, ‘Because he makes me laugh,’” Ms. Scovell told me. “There is entertainment value in the chaos.”

While previous presidents had held rallies in the early days of their presidency to garner support for legislation, such rallies differed from those held by Trump in that they were funded by the White House rather than by campaign committees.[24][25] One of the advantages of having his campaign committee fund the events is that organizers can more discriminately screen attendees, refusing entry to non-supporters.[26] Trump's February rally in Melbourne, Florida was the earliest campaign rally for an incumbent president.[27][28]
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