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U.S. President Donald Trump is seeing more controversy than any other newly elected president in recent memory, and that might hurt his chances of passing his agenda.
Trump, who shocked the world last November when he beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to win the presidential race, has careened from one controversy to another since inauguration in January. Currently, he continues to be dogged by accusations of colluding with Russia.
The latest controversy involves his accusations of his predecessor Barack Obama for the alleged tapping of his phones ahead of last November's Election Day. Trump provided no evidence so far to support his charges, which were swiftly denied by Obama.
The jury remains out on what exactly happened, and about whether the accusations are true or false. But experts said the controversy may well hurt the new president and curb his ability to push his legislative agenda.
"These controversies hurt Trump because they take him off message and make it more difficult to pass the policy changes he has in mind," Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
Indeed, Trump was elected on a wave of hopes that he would finally fix a number of long-term problems, from joblessness to over-regulation to tax reform to perceived U.S. weakness in foreign policy. But critics say he's been distracted by one controversy after another, although supporters maintain it's still very early in his presidency.
"The scandals harm his personal reputation and are raising his negatives in public opinion surveys. This is very problematic for him and will make it harder to implement needed changes. People don't trust him and worry that he is not up to the job of being president," West said.
Despite fervent backing from his supporters, the fomer New York businessman overall has very low poll ratings.
Critics now describe Trump's wiretapping accusations against Obama as something out of a spy novel and quite unusual in the United States.
"Trump has provided no evidence that Obama wiretapped him. Even Republican leaders seem dubious of these claims," West said, adding that leading intelligence officials also say this is not true.
Another controversy is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who met with the Russian ambassador in the U.S. twice last year, did not disclose the meetings during his confirmation hearings. Critics say he should lose his job, although supporters say the controversy can be chalked up to a political witch hunt.
Sessions has recused himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia.
"The Sessions' recusal means that all investigations of the Trump campaign will go to someone who is less sympathetic to the president than the Attorney General," West said.
Decisions on whether to appoint a special prosecutor will go to a deputy and that person will not have the close personal relationship to the president that Sessions has. The result is riskier for Trump because he will no longer have a trusted ally protecting his legal flank, West said.
"It raises the risk that a special prosecutor will be appointed in the future and that Russia gate could engulf the president," West said of the Russia controversy.
Depending on what the FBI finds, this scandal has the potential to distract Trump from his policy agenda, West added.
"It is not a good way for any administration to start, under the cloud of legal and political scrutiny," West said.