Presents were exchanged, carols were sung and the political news cycle kept on churning over the Christmas holiday.
The days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day saw the partial government shutdown begin, the stock market take a tumble (then recover) and President Trump make a secret holiday visit to U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
As 2019 begins, here’s a look at what you may have missed over the holidays.
Saturday, Dec. 22
Just after midnight, the partial government shutdown began after Congress failed to reach a deal on a spending bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said it was up to Democratic leaders to cut a deal with Trump, who is demanding $5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The partial shutdown is the third time the government was shuttered in 2018.
Monday, Dec. 24
The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst Christmas Eve performance in history, dropping 2.9 percent in just half a day of trading. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 index fell more than 2 percent on the day.
The volatile day on Wall Street followed an unusual public statement from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in which he said he spoke with the CEOs of the six largest banks in the country and was assured of their lending capacity.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Trump spent the day posting a flurry of tweets, including an attack on the Federal Reserve, a thank-you message to Saudi Arabia and several tweets about the border wall.
Trump also tweeted that he was “alone” in the White House and “waiting” on Democrats to make a deal with him on funding the southern border wall.
That evening, Trump and first lady Melania Trump participated in NORAD’s annual Santa tracking event.
In a clip that soon went viral on Twitter, Trump could be heard asking one young girl calling for an update on Santa’s whereabouts: “Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at 7 it’s marginal, right?”
The girl, later identified by the Charleston Post and Courier as 7-year-old Collman Lloyd of Lexington, S.C., said she still believes in Santa after the phone call with Trump — while noting she had never heard the word “marginal” before.
Tuesday, Dec. 25
Trump took to Twitter Christmas evening to wish a Merry Christmas to “everyone, even the Fake News Media.” Earlier in the day he made phone calls to U.S. service members stationed overseas, and afterward vented to reporters about Democrats and his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
“It’s a disgrace, what’s happening in our country,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “But other than that, I wish everybody a very Merry Christmas.”
On the same day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced an 8-year-old boy from Guatemala had died in U.S. custody, the second child in December to die in custody after being apprehended by the CBP.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement also drew attention as the agency continued releasing hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants near a bus station in El Paso, Texas. Outgoing Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke responded to ICE’s action by tweeting a call for donations for the families the agency released.
Wednesday, Dec. 26
The day after Christmas was a busy one. Here are the highlights:
- Trump and the first lady made a secret visit to U.S. troops in Iraq. It was the first such visit for Trump since he took office nearly two years ago, and it followed his order to pull out troops from Syria days before. NPR’s Tamara Keith was one of the reporters on the trip and recounted her experience keeping the secret from everyone but two people: her husband and her editor.
- After the death of a second migrant child in U.S. custody, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced a series of new medical checks for migrants detained at the U.S. border and an increase in medical staffing along the border.
- The stock market roared back after its historic Christmas Eve losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared more than 1,000 points, the largest single-day point gain in its history. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also saw big gains.
- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital after she underwent surgery for early stage lung cancer.
Thursday, Dec. 27
It became clear the partial government shutdown would last into the new year after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., advised members that no votes were expected in the House for the remainder of the week. Neither Trump nor Democratic leaders showed signs of backing down, each issuing statements blaming the other for the shutdown.
One consequence of the continued shutdown: the Smithsonian announced it would close all of its museums and the National Zoo on Jan. 2 unless a spending deal could be reached.
Friday, Dec. 28
Nielsen traveled to the southern U.S. border after the death of two migrant children in U.S. custody, citing an “unprecedented” increase in the number of families and children being apprehended.
On Twitter, Trump again threatened to close the border with Mexico; the president also said he will cut off aid to a trio of Central American countries. O’Rourke also took to Twitter to take on Trump’s proposed border wall in a video that racked up 5 million views in 72 hours.
The partial government shutdown stretched into its sixth day on Friday, and government workers living paycheck to paycheck began worrying about their ability to pay the bills should the shutdown continue.
Saturday, Dec. 29
Trump again took to Twitter to chide Democrats for not agreeing to his demands for border wall funding. The president also said on Twitter that “Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies….”
Trump also claimed “big progress” was being made on a trade deal with China as the trade war between the two countries continues.
As New Year’s Day approached, more impacts of the partial shutdown became apparent. For example, a group of volunteers descended on Joshua Tree National Park to scrub toilets, restock toilet paper and clean trash in place of the National Park Service. Among many other impacts, the Environmental Protection Agency also announced it would halt its operations.
Monday, Dec. 31
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she would form an exploratory committee — essentially launching her 2020 presidential campaign. She made the announcement in a video emailed to supporters, touting her work on consumer financial protections and vowing that Trump could be defeated in 2020.
In Capitol Hill news, a Democratic leadership aide said the House of Representatives will vote on a bill to end the partial government shutdown on Thursday — the day Democrats take control of the chamber. The bill will include full-year appropriations for six of the seven outstanding funding bills and temporary stopgap funding for the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8.
And on Wall Street, all three major stock market indexes closed 2018 down for the year.
As 2018 drew to a close, our political journalists looked back on some of the most important stories of the year, including:
- The year in scandals, which saw three Cabinet secretaries depart over ethics concerns and two Republican lawmakers charged with crimes.
- Politicians in some states working to remain in control of the redistricting process despite voters and courts rejecting the practice of gerrymandering.
- A look at the security of U.S. election systems, which saw no major hacking attempts in the 2018 midterms but remain vulnerable heading into the 2020 presidential race.
- A big year for political nonfiction books, including tell-alls from the Trump White House and a memoir from Michelle Obama.
- The top 10 most important political stories of the year as chosen by you, our readers.
Tuesday, Jan. 1
As 2019 begins, there are multiple big cases still unresolved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — and more charges could be on the way.
President Trump begins the new year with a host of key advisers and top administration officials departing from their positions, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, chief of staff John Kelly, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and chief of staff to the vice president Nick Ayers.
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