The year of Trump
Politics | Five political stories that flipped this year’s narrative
by Evan Wilt
Posted 12/28/17, 10:00 am
WASHINGTON—The Trump era began in 2017, ushering in thousands of significant stories. Below are five monumental political flashpoints—news events that shifted the tide and changed the country’s course.
Thousands of voters traveled across the country on Jan. 20 to the nation’s capital to witness the peaceful transfer of power and the inception of Donald Trump’s presidency. In many ways, Trump’s Inauguration Day was a microcosm of his first year in office. Many Americans expressed joy to see Trump take the oath of office and deliver his first speech as president using campaign-style rhetoric. But across town, groups of angry protesters incited violence. The same day, Trump issued a directive reigning in the power of the Affordable Care Act. Executive orders have been Trump’s only lasting imprint on Obamacare this year after Congress failed to pass healthcare reform legislation. Then, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave reporters a taste of what they would be dealing with during the next four years. He walked into the briefing room the next day with a prepared statement about the media’s “dishonest” reporting of how many people attended Trump’s inauguration. Side-by-side photos appear to show more people attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 than Trump’s in 2017. But Trump claimed the photos were misleading and labeled it as “fake news.” It was the first of many media wars between reporters and the new administration and set the tone for a contentious year to come.
Neil Gorsuch confirmed
The Senate confirmation of Neil Gorsuch on April 7 to the Supreme Court validated many conservatives who decided to vote for Trump in 2016. Exit polls showed voters thought about the Supreme Court more than anything else as they filled out their ballots. Eight months later, the president continues to tout Gorsuch as one of his major victories in 2017. But the Gorsuch confirmation revealed more than just Trump following through on a promise. Early on, Democrats showed they were unwilling to consider Gorsuch in good faith. Despite performing well during his confirmation hearing, Democrats plotted to filibuster his nomination. In the end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., decided to change Senate rules to lower the threshold for Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes to 51. Gorsuch earned confirmation 55-45. The process set the precedent for Democrats to handcuff confirmation votes and teed up Republicans to attempt to ram through their agenda along partisan lines. Despite the ups and downs of Trump’s first year, many voters still breathed a sigh of relief: Gorsuch made it to the court and he’s there to stay.
Trump fires James Comey
The president likes to critique the media for covering the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with his campaign, but Trump is partly to blame. The Russia investigation didn’t begin when the president fired former FBI Director James Comey, but it’s never been the same since. Comey announced in March the FBI’s inquiry included investigating Trump and his associates. Up to that point, Comey had wide bipartisan support from lawmakers. And when Trump fired him on May 9, it displeased many on both sides. The president cited several reasons for the dismissal, including Comey’s handling of the 2016 inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s email use, but he noted the Russia investigation contributed to the decision. That led the Justice Department to take a dramatic step. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as an outside special counsel to oversee the investigation. Since then, Mueller’s work has generated a steady stream of stories as his team digs into what happened in 2016. FBI investigations typically stay close to the vest, but that’s not the case with Mueller’s team. It’s become a national spectacle of intrigue and gossip, with investigators constantly leaking details to reporters. That all came after Trump’s decision to fire Comey, who led the probe from July 2016 to May 2017 with very few leaks. People even bought Mueller-themed Christmas ornaments for their trees this year.
McCain’s big ‘no’
Republicans campaigned for seven years on repealing and replacing Obamacare, but 2017 revealed the GOP was not up to the task. With Trump in the White House, Republicans finally had the ability to follow through on that promise. In the end, one photo summed up the move to gut Obamacare: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., giving the bill a thumbs down. Moderate Republicans like Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine also refused to ram through a healthcare overhaul along partisan lines. Together, the three tanked the effort on July 28. As Republicans battled for most of the year, Trump grew irritated and warned Congress he wouldn’t tolerate inaction. But some took umbrage with the thought of a binary choice. McCain became a flashpoint of GOP discontent when he delivered an emotional rebuke of the Senate’s political climate a week after announced his brain cancer diagnosis. McCain wanted regular order and members working across the aisle, not making backroom deals to satisfy campaign promises. McCain’s speech foreshadowed his “no” vote on Obamacare repeal. His decision to side with Democrats surprised everyone and delivered an indefinite blow to the GOP agenda.
Roy Moore accused
Republicans revealed division within the party in myriad ways in 2017, but the Roy Moore sexual misconduct scandal showed how deep the fissures really went. On Nov. 10, The Washington Post published the first report documenting accusations against the GOP Senate candidate from Alabama. Immediately, Republican leaders showed a rift in response. President Trump stayed silent while most Senate Republicans said if the accusations were true, Moore should step aside. Days later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked Moore to quit his campaign, and others in the GOP followed suit. Over the next month, more reports detailed accounts of Moore’s past questionable behavior. He emphatically denied all accusations and many of his supporters remained faithful. As the campaign raged on, religious leaders friendly to Moore in the past stayed by the candidate’s side—some, like James Dobson, even recorded pro-Moore ads. Fearful of losing a Senate seat to Democrats, Trump jumped in to give Moore a full-throated endorsement on Dec. 4 —further dividing the GOP. Moore wasn’t the first man accused and he won’t be the last. But Nov. 10 changed the climate on Capitol Hill and made it OK for Republicans to root against one of their own in a crucial race—even if some voters will never forgive them.
Evan is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Washington, D.C.