For months, Trump refused to wear a face mask at press conferences and most public events, contrary to his own administration's April 2020 guidance that Americans should wear masks in public. By June, Trump had stated that masks were a "double-edged sword", ridiculed Biden for wearing one, continually emphasized that mask-wearing was optional, and suggested that wearing a mask is a political statement against him personally. Trump first wore a face mask in public in July 2020, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. In late spring and early summer, with infections and death counts continuing to rise, he adopted a strategy of shifting the blame for his administration's failure to the states.
Congress members of both parties denounced the move, including Republican allies of Trump such as Senator Lindsey Graham. They argued that the move betrayed the American-allied Kurds, and would benefit ISIS, Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime. Trump defended the move, citing the high cost of supporting the Kurds, and the lack of support from the Kurds in past U.S. wars. After the U.S. pullout, Turkey proceeded to attack Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria. On October 16, the United States House of Representatives, in a rare bipartisan vote of 354 to 60, "condemned" Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria for "abandoning U.S. allies, undermining the struggle against ISIS, and spurring a humanitarian catastrophe".More Info
In December 2018, Trump declared "we have won against ISIS," and ordered the withdrawal of all troops from Syria, contradicting Department of Defense assessments. Mattis resigned the next day over disagreements in foreign policy, calling this decision an abandonment of Kurd allies who had played a key role in fighting ISIS. One week after his announcement, Trump said he would not approve any extension of the American deployment in Syria. On January 6, 2019, national security advisor John Bolton announced America would remain in Syria until ISIS is eradicated and Turkey guarantees it will not strike America's Kurdish allies.More Info
Trump has repeatedly praised Russian president Vladimir Putin; criticism of Putin by Trump was uncommon. As a presidential candidate, Trump continually reiterated that Putin is a strong leader. When Putin in August 2017 expelled over half of the staff of the American embassy in Russia in retaliation for Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which imposed new sanctions on Russia, President Trump responded by thanking Putin, saying "We'll save a lot of money," instead of criticizing him. After Trump met Putin at the Helsinki Summit on July 16, 2018, Trump drew bipartisan criticism for siding with Putin's denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, rather than accepting the findings of the United States intelligence community.More Info
In May 2017, strained relations between the U.S. and Iran escalated when Trump deployed military bombers and a carrier group to the Persian Gulf. Trump hinted at war on social media, provoking a response from Iran for what Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif called "genocidal taunts". Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman are allies in the conflict with Iran. Trump approved the deployment of additional U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates following the attack on Saudi oil facilities which the United States has blamed on Iran.More Info
On April 1, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) extended the PREDICT program for six months. In September 2019, the Trump administration had ended the 200-million-dollar early-warning program initiated by USAID in 2009; dozens of epidemiologists and wildlife veterinarians working for partner organizations were laid off. The program trained scientists in sixty foreign laboratories, including the Wuhan lab that first identified the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to detect and respond to viruses that have the potential to cause pandemics.More Info
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