10 controversies that rocked the Trump White House in 2019

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President Trump had a tumultuous 2019, starting the year with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and ending with his impeachment. 

While finishing up his third year as president, the House impeached Trump on two articles, with the president expected to face a trial in the Senate in the new year.

Through it all, Trump has maintained consistent support throughout 2019, with his approval rating rising from 37 percent in January to 45 percent in December, according to Gallup.

Before we turn the page to the coming election year, here are 10 controversies that rocked the Trump White House in 2019:


1. Trump sparks the longest government shutdown in U.S. history 

President Trump started the year in the midst of a partial government shutdown that carried over from December. The president initiated the shutdown after Congress’ did not appropriate any funding for constructing Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

After 35 days and some contentious meetings between Democratic leaders and the president, Trump agreed to allow the Senate to reopen government agencies on Jan. 25 even though he did not get his requested $5.7 billion. About 800,000 workers were furloughed or forced work without pay during the shutdown. 

In February, Trump would declare a national emergency at the border to bypass lawmakers and try to redirect $8 billion in funding.


2. Trump says ‘I didn’t get a thank you’ for McCain’s funeral 

During an official White House event in March, the president went after the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for five minutes, complaining that he “didn’t get a thank you” for his funeral.

Trump insisted that he gave his approval to allow the funeral to proceed, but the National Cathedral later said the president’s approval was not needed for McCain’s service. 

The president did not attend McCain’s funeral in 2018 at the family’s request.

Several Republican lawmakers called out Trump for his remarks, and others including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended McCain without naming Trump.


3. Trump tells ‘The Squad’ to ‘go back’ to where they came from

In a controversial tweet in July, the president told “the Squad,” a group of four progressive female lawmakers, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” 

The Squad consists of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who are all U.S. citizens. All but Omar were born in the U.S. 

The president’s remarks sparked bipartisan backlash, and the House passed a resolution condemning his comments and calling them “racist,” days after his initial tweet. Trump would continue to attack with the Squad throughout the rest of the month.


4. Trump calls Baltimore a ‘rat and rodent infested mess’

Trump sent out more than a dozen tweets at the end of July targeting Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and his Baltimore district, calling it a “rat and rodent infested mess.” 

Cummings, as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, was a vocal critic of the president. Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called the president’s tweets racist.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, though, defended Trump, saying the attacks, which came on the heels of the controversy involving the Squad, were not racist and had “absolutely nothing to do with race.” Trump later defended his comments saying Cummings had done “little” for the city he represented.

When Cummings died in October, Trump offered his condolences, saying the distinguished lawmaker would be “hard, if not impossible, to replace.”


5. Trump talks about buying Greenland

The Wall Street Journal reported in August that the president was in private discussions with White House officials about possibly offering to buy Greenland from Denmark. 

Trump later called the potential purchase “strategically” interesting when he talked to reporters.

But officials from the self-autonomous Greenland and Denmark largely turned down the proposal, with Ane Lone Bagger, Greenland’s foreign minister, saying the territory was “open for business” but “not for sale.” The Danish prime minister stood behind Greenland’s rejection of the deal, calling it “absurd.”

The president responded by postponing a scheduled meeting between him and the Danish prime minister.


6. Trump alters hurricane map with a Sharpie

As Hurricane Dorian barreled toward the U.S. coast in early September, Trump sparked controversy by claiming in a tweet that the storm would affect Alabama. That led the National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham to respond that the state was not in danger and that forecasts predicted the storm was headed east.

Trump defended his tweet, though, claiming that original forecasts had said Alabama could also be hit. And during a press conference, he showed a map of the hurricane’s original path that appeared to be altered with a Sharpie marker, to show the storm’s reach extending to Alabama.

Trump told reporters at the time he did not know about the changed map, but a White House official later told The Washington Post that the president was the one who changed it. 

The then-acting chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration later jumped into the fray, defending the president over the agency’s own scientists and rejecting the NWS tweet. In a statement, the NOAA said the weather service tweet “spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.”


7. Trump says he will host G-7 Summit at his Doral resort

In October, the president said the U.S. would host international leaders in 2020 for the Group of 7 (G-7) Summit next year at his golf resort, the Trump National Doral, in Florida.

That sparked a firestorm of criticism, as Democrats and watchdog groups questioned whether Trump would be violating the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution by profiting from the foreign leaders’ stay at one of his own businesses.

After Republicans joined in on the criticism, the president backed down on hosting the summit at his resort, two days after the initial announcement. Trump tweeted it was “too bad” the G-7 wouldn’t be held at the Florida resort and attacked his critics as “very stupid people.” 



8. Trump announces surprise pullout of troops from Syria

The White House announced in early October that U.S. troops would be removed from Syria ahead of a Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces that teamed up with the U.S. to fight ISIS in the region. 

The move appeared to catch the Pentagon and lawmakers, including many of Trump’s closest allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) off guard.

Lawmakers from both parties, including Graham blasted the president’s decision, saying it was a betrayal of Kurdish troops that had fought with the U.S. against ISIS for years and warning of a resurgence of the group and a new humanitarian crisis in Syria. Just days after Trump’s announcement, Turkey launched a military operation against the U.S.-allied Kurdish forces.

Amid the backlash, Trump tried to distance himself from the crisis saying that he thought Turkey’s operation was a “bad idea” and urging the country to protect civilians caught in the fight. But Trump also defended his move, saying he was against fighting “endless, senseless wars.”

The president ultimately decided to leave behind about 500 to 600 troops in Syria after the Turkish invasion.


9. Trump suggests the late Rep. John Dingell may be in hell

On the same night that the House officially impeached the president in December, Trump spoke at a reelection campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., where he hinted that the late Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) was “maybe…looking up” instead of down from heaven.

The president’s comments came as he was criticizing Dingell’s wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), for voting for impeachment after Trump said he had given her husband “A-plus treatment” after his death. 

Trump received backlash from lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, who called on him to apologize. 

John Dingell, the longest serving congressman and a World War II veteran, died in February at 92. 


10. Trump’s Ukraine phone call leads to his impeachment 

Last but not least, the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which sparked a congressional investigation and ended with the House voting to impeach Trump in December on two charges.

The call first came under public scrutiny in September, after reports of a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump had pressured Zelensky on the call to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who sat on a Ukrainian company’s board. The president’s request came days after the White House ordered military aid be withheld from the country.

The growing firestorm led Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry in the House in late September, which led to months of closed-door and public testimony with former and current Trump officials.

The House ended up impeaching the president in December, mostly along party lines, sending Trump’s fate to be decided in a Senate trial in January. The GOP-controlled Senate is expected to acquit the president.

Tags 2019 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Debbie Dingell Donald Trump Elijah Cummings Government shutdown Ilhan Omar Impeachment Joe Biden John Dingell John McCain Lindsey Graham Mick Mulvaney Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib the squad

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