2017's top political feuds

2017 was a year of bitter feuding in the political world.

The hyperpartisan atmosphere led to nasty fights across Washington, D.C., and even into sports and pop culture. Many of the clashes were driven by President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE, who never missed a chance to punch or counterpunch at his many critics and enemies.

Here is a look back at 10 of the most bitter feuds from 2017:

ADVERTISEMENT

 

Trump vs. the media

The bad blood between the press and the president was one of the defining storylines of 2017, and the contentious relationship figures to play a major role in shaping Trump's second year in office.

Many top media outlets and reporters have taken a more adversarial approach to covering the White House, leading to charges of bias from Trump and his allies. Tensions at White House press briefings have frequently boiled over with explosive exchanges between reporters and administration officials.

The news media has been saturated with coverage of Trump and several studies have found that the coverage has been overwhelmingly negative. Some critics of the media have alleged that news outlets are loosening their standards in an effort to discredit the president and there is a debate about whether Trump — an unconventional president by any measure — deserves to be covered neutrally.

The president and his allies have relished the fight, launching near-daily attacks on the media and seizing on every correction or retraction to dismiss the mainstream media as “fake news.”

Preferring Twitter and brief, informal gaggles, Trump has almost entirely avoided interacting with the media. The president held only one official press conference in his first year and largely sticks with Fox News in the rare event that he gives an interview.

 

Bannon vs. McConnell

Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon and Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Senate to vote Monday on Trump's VA nominee MORE (R-Ky.) despise one another. Their grudge match will play out in 2018 with major implications for the balance of power in the Senate.

Bannon has vowed to run primary challengers against almost all of the Republicans seeking reelection in the Senate, believing the anger at the Washington establishment will propel a new class of pro-Trump conservatives into office.

McConnell is committed to protecting the incumbents and fearful that Bannon’s motley recruits are primed to lose winnable general election races, potentially costing Republicans a majority in the upper chamber.

The first round of this fight went to McConnell. Bannon stuck by embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism Once a Trump critic, Ala. rep faces runoff with his support Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE, who lost in a stunning fashion to Democrat Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama, a costly upset for Republicans.

 

Trump vs. the NFL

Perhaps no issue better reflects Trump’s eagerness to engage in the culture wars than his attacks on the NFL players that have taken a knee during the national anthem.

Many of the players say they’re kneeling to protest racial inequality and police brutality, but Trump has sought to turn the controversy into a debate about patriotism and support for the troops.


The president has repeatedly attacked the NFL players, saying they should be cut or suspended for their actions. Vice President Pence staged a walkout at one Indianapolis Colts game and Trump returned fire at an ESPN anchor who called him a racist. 

The season-long controversy has dogged the NFL, and Trump has basked in the league’s declining ratings.

Polls show the public is frustrated with both sides — voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the matter but would like to see players stand for the national anthem.

 

The GOP vs. the special counsel

The White House has largely sought to steer clear of public attacks on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE and his team, preferring instead to cooperate with the hope that the investigation will wrap up soon and clear the president.

Conservative media and Republican lawmakers have taken up the effort in its stead, launching attacks aimed at discrediting the special counsel before the investigation concludes.

Fox News’s Sean Hannity has been leading the charge in right-wing media, using his highly-rated nightly show to allege political bias and corruption on Mueller’s team.

That effort has spread to Capitol Hill, where angry Republicans are increasingly demanding the investigation be shut down and the FBI and Justice Department investigated. Pressure is growing on attorney general Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors Key GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum MORE — GOP lawmakers are demanding he fire Mueller or step aside for someone who will.

 

Trump vs. Republicans

Trump and McConnell ended the year on a high note, each showering the other with praise on the steps of the White House after Republicans passed a massive tax overhaul.

But Trump spent much of the year feuding with McConnell and some other Republicans, expressing frustration at the Senate’s failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare or secure any meaningful legislative victories until the end of the year.

Trump does not have many allies in Washington and his attacks against McConnell, who needs to move his agenda through Congress, puzzled many political watchers.

Less puzzling were Trump’s attacks against his GOP critics on Capitol Hill. Two Republicans senators who are not seeking reelection in 2018 — Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials McConnell calls for Senate hearings on Russia sanctions MORE (Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Flake: Trump's Russia summit ‘truly an Orwellian moment’ MORE (Ariz.) — have freely unloaded on the president and earned his ire in return.

In late October, Trump and Corker exchanged blows ahead of a critical meeting between the president and the GOP conference on Capitol Hill about tax reform. Trump got personal, disparaging Corker as “liddle’ Bob.”

Flake wrote a book about how Republicans have lost their way and need to reclaim conservatism from Trump. The steady attacks against Flake by Trump and his allies are part of the reason why Flake struggled to gain traction for his reelection efforts and will instead leave Washington in 2018.

 

Trump vs. Sessions

Trump’s attack on Sessions was a brutal lesson in how the president can turn on his allies.
 
Sessions has been one of the president’s most loyal and enduring supporters, backing Trump’s outsider presidential candidacy from an early point. 

But Sessions has been in the doghouse since he recused himself from the Russia investigation, paving the way for deputy attorney general Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinRosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors Opinion: One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American Rand Paul blocks Sanders's Russia resolution, calls it 'crazy hatred' against Trump MORE to tap Mueller as special counsel.

The president has been venting his frustration at Sessions ever since, boiling with rage that he is being investigated by his own Justice Department and demanding his attorney general investigate Democrats as well.

Trump’s allies have since taken up the charge. Sessions is increasingly facing demands from GOP lawmakers to resign. 

 

Trump vs. 2020 Dems

“Life is a campaign,” Trump said before taking the stage at a rally in Florida, less than a month after he was sworn into office.

As such, it should be no surprise that Trump is already sizing-up his potential Democratic presidential challengers in 2020.

The president has repeatedly mocked Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Trump rips Fed over rate hikes | Dems fume as consumer agency pick refuses to discuss border policy | Senate panel clears Trump IRS nominee Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin MORE (D-Mass.) as “Pocahontas,” a reference to her disputed claim of Native American heritage. Trump recently sparked outrage for calling Warren by that name at an Oval Office event honoring Native American Code Talkers who served in World War II.

Earlier this month, Trump took aim at Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandTrump: ‘Dems have a death wish’ Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE MORE (D-N.Y.), another potential presidential candidate, for saying he should resign because of the allegations of sexual harassment against him. Trump called Gillibrand “a total flunky” and claimed that she had come to him “begging” for campaign contributions. 

Those attacks have boosted the Democrats’ 2020 prospects, giving them valuable national media attention, a windfall of donations and energizing grass-roots liberals.

 

Scaramucci vs. other White House aides

Anthony ScaramucciAnthony ScaramucciMegyn Kelly grills Sean Spicer over whether he stands by past White House claims Trump: Media only says I was 'rude' to NATO leaders, ignores 'the money' Trump criticizes media amid growing criticism of his handling of Putin MORE, a former investment banker, in July lasted only 10 days as White House communications director. It was a memorable stretch.

Then-White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerMegyn Kelly grills Sean Spicer over whether he stands by past White House claims Spicer: I believe Trump is a truthful person The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE decided to quit rather than report to the brash and foul-mouthed Scaramucci.

Scaramucci then leaked to the press that he intended to fire Michael Short, a low-level member of the White House press shop. Short had to read about his firing in the press.

Then-chief-of-staff Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusWisconsin GOP Senate candidate rips his own parents for donations to Dems Wisconsin GOP Senate hopeful hit by ad highlighting Democratic past Matt Drudge shares mock ‘Survivor’ cover suggesting more White House officials will leave this summer MORE was the next to go, ending the GOP establishment’s influence within the White House.

Scaramucci’s influence extended beyond personnel matters — he turned the cameras back on for the White House press briefings. His swagger and unfiltered rants briefly made him the object of media fascination in Washington. 

It also got him in trouble. Scaramucci gave an expletive-laden interview to the New Yorker, attacking Priebus and Bannon in vulgar terms. He later claimed he thought the conversation was off-the-record.

Priebus’s replacement as chief of staff, John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, had no patience for Scaramucci’s antics. Kelly fired Scaramucci his first day on the job.

   

Trump vs. Kim Jong Un

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been in an escalating game of name-calling and personal attacks.

The president has dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man” for ramping up the country’s missile testing program. Kim later called Trump a “dotard,” provoking Trump to call Kim short and fat.

Trump has at times undercut Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonUS steps up its game in Africa, a continent open for business Matt Drudge shares mock ‘Survivor’ cover suggesting more White House officials will leave this summer 'Daily Show' trolls Trump over Pruitt's resignation MORE’s efforts to engage China to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff with North Korea. Trump has tweeted that Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man” and that the U.S. will “do what has to be done.”

Trump’s preference for Twitter diplomacy — including tweeted threats against U.S. adversaries — has alarmed the foreign policy establishment and has many in Washington worried that he could inadvertently start a war with North Korea.

 

Trump vs. San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz

After being widely praised for recovery efforts following hurricanes that struck the U.S. mainland, Trump did not take kindly to criticism that the government responded too slowly to a hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico.

San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz emerged as one of the president’s most vocal critics on this front, wearing a shirt for a CNN interview that said “Help us, we are dying” and blasting the administration’s efforts as insufficient.

Trump fired back — disparaging Puerto Ricans even as the island territory was in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

Trump said Cruz had displayed “poor leadership” and suggested Puerto Ricans were too reliant on federal assistance and were not doing enough to help themselves.

Cruz called Trump the “hater in chief” and said he was “incapable of fulfilling the moral imperative” to help the people of Puerto Rico.