The biggest political moments of 2019

by Editorial Team

This year could go down as one of the most politically toxic in modern U.S. history — and 2020 will likely only further deepen the nation’s partisan wounds, as it’s set to start with Trump’s Senate impeachment trial and conclude with an acrimonious presidential election. Here’s a look at the most significant political moments of 2019.

Trump’s border wall obsession triggers longest shutdown in history

The year started with a crippling government shutdown that spanned Dec. 22, 2018 through Jan. 25, clocking in as the longest federal stoppage in American history.

The shutdown, which complicated the lives of 800,000 federal workers and hampered everything from FBI investigations to food stamp programs, was caused by Trump’s refusal to sign any spending legislation that didn’t include taxpayer funding for the southern border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.

After 35 days, Trump approved a wall-free spending package ending the shutdown.

On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, federal employees rally at the Capitol to protest the impasse between Congress and President Trump over his demand to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Trump declares national emergency that prompts first veto of his presidency

Unable to convince Congress to pay for his long-promised wall, Trump declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 in an unprecedented attempt to use national security funds to bankroll his behemoth border barrier.

But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were outraged and easily passed a resolution rescinding Trump’s order on the grounds that it was overstepping presidential authority.

Trump issued the first veto of his presidency on March 15 to reject the resolution and keep his emergency alive.

President Trump signs the first veto of his presidency in the White House on March 15, overruling Congress to protect his emergency declaration for border wall funding.

Trump’s ex-fixer calls him a criminal ‘con man’ before the nation

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former loyalist fixer, broke with the president in spectacular fashion by telling lawmakers in a nationally-televised hearing that his ex-boss committed fraud while in office.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” Cohen testified at the House Oversight Committee hearing on Feb. 27.

The damning testimony prompted several congressional actions, including subpoenas seeking Trump’s tax returns. Cohen said the long-sought financial records would corroborate allegations that Trump has committed bank and tax fraud.

Cohen is imprisoned for pleading guilty to a string of crimes, including facilitating an illegal hush payment on Trump’s behalf to a porn star who claims that she had sex with the president in 2006.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer, testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill, Feb. 27.

The Mueller report

Special counsel Robert Mueller wrapped up his Russia investigation on March 24, marking the end of a process the resulted in prison time for several of Trump’s closest allies.

The 22-month probe officially ended when Mueller submitted a 448-page report to the Justice Department summarizing his findings about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Mueller concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between the campaign and the Kremlin, though his report listed a string of peculiar connections. Mueller also held off on an absolute determination about whether or not Trump obstructed justice by thwarting his investigation, though he included a list of potential offenses on that front as well.

Six people in Trump’s inner circle were convicted of crimes, including ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The probe also led to indictments against dozens of Russians and recovered millions in stolen funds.

In this May 29 photo, Special counsel Robert Mueller speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington about the Russia investigation.

Democratic 2020 race becomes largest ever as Biden joins the fray

The Democratic Party’s 2020 primary field became the largest in history when Joe Biden announced his presidential campaign on April 25.

After the former vice president threw his hat in the ring, there were soon 29 White House hopefuls. The crammed primary contest is now trimmed down to 10 viable contenders.

Democratic presidential candidates debate in Detroit.

De Blasio launches short-lived 2020 bid

Eager to escape his day job, Mayor de Blasio announced a 2020 campaign on May 16, hoping to defy the pundits and the polls, both of which suggested he had little to no chance of clinching the Democratic nomination.

Over the next four months, de Blasio jetted around the country, sipping beer with voters in the Midwest and speaking at sparsely-attended town halls. He looked like he was having the time of his life in photos posted to Instagram and Twitter.

But he struggled to raise cash and languished in the polls, rarely scoring more than 1%. He pulled the plug on Sept. 20, admitting that it was “clearly not my time.”

Mayor de Blasio walks at the Fourth of July parade in Independence, Iowa. De Blasio ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sept. 20.

Trump’s ‘go back’ tweets rebuked as racist

Trump was formally rebuked by the House in July after he tweeted that four Democratic congresswomen of color should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested” countries “from which they came.”

In a 240-187 vote that fell mostly along partisan lines, the House passed a resolution on July 16 that condemned Trump’s tweet as “racist” and charged it “legitimized increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

Trump’s slight was directed at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Omar, who’s an American citizen, is the only foreign-born congresswoman of the quartet.

On July 15, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., respond to remarks by President Trump after his call for the four Democratic congresswomen to go back to their "broken" countries.

Whistleblower sounds alarm

A still-anonymous administration official filed a whistleblower complaint with the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general on Aug. 12, raising concern that Trump jeopardized national security by pressuring Ukraine’s president for investigations into Joe Biden and other Democrats before the 2020 election.

The whistleblower, who’s believed to be a CIA employee, didn’t listen in on a July 25 phone call between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky, but heard about it from other concerned officials. The complaint has since been almost entirely substantiated by public testimony from first-hand witnesses.

Pelosi officially announces Trump impeachment inquiry

Acting on the whistleblower complaint, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed Trump she meant business on Sept. 24 when she formally announced an impeachment inquiry into his attempts to pressure Ukraine to do his political bidding.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces a formal impeachment inquiry at the Capitol Building Sept. 24.

Trump pulls U.S. forces out of war-torn Syrian territory, faces bipartisan backlash

Trump appeared to blindside his own military leaders and hung a longtime U.S. ally out to dry in October when he ordered a withdrawal of hundreds of American troops from a volatile region in northern Syria.

The order mandated the troops relocate to other parts of Syria and Iraq, clearing the way for a bloody Turkish assault on American-allied Kurdish forces.

Both Republicans and Democrats were outraged and said Trump’s order amounted to a betrayal of the Kurds, who helped the U.S. stamp out ISIS in the region and keep the Islamic terrorists in check.

U.S. military vehicles travel down a main road in northeast Syria, Monday, Oct. 7.

Death of brutal ISIS leader

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid at his hideout in Syria in late October.

American troops and dogs chased al-Baghdadi into an underground tunnel where he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children, according to U.S. officials.

Al-Baghdadi was known for urging his fundamentalist followers to commit so-called “lone wolf” attacks against soft targets in Western countries.

Leader of the Islamic State group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Bloomberg mounts last-minute 2020 bid

After one New York mayor dropped out, another stepped up. Michael Bloomberg announced a 2020 presidential campaign on Nov 24.

The last-minute entry rubbed some Democrats the wrong way, as Bloomberg was likely to steer some moderate voters away from front-runner Joe Biden and give progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren an upper hand.

The announcement came a week after the 77-year-old billionaire said he was “wrong” to defend stop-and-frisk for years despite a federal judge ruling the police tactic was used to unconstitutionally target blacks and Hispanics.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a press conference to discuss his presidential run on Nov. 25 in Norfolk, Virginia.

Trump impeached

The House of Representatives impeached President Trump on Dec. 19, charging him with abusing his power and obstructing Congress by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and then blocking a House investigation.

The two articles of impeachment against Trump passed the Democratically-controlled chamber in votes that fell almost entirely along party lines. Trump is just the third president in American history to have his record besmirched by the indelible stain of impeachment.

The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to put Trump on trial in January and weigh whether the impeachment articles warrant Trump’s conviction and removal from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the passage of the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, against President Trump by the House of Representatives, Wednesday, Dec. 18.


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