CLOSE

People have been voting by mail in the U.S. for close to a hundred years, but it’s never been as big an issue as it is in the 2020 election. This is the start of a five-part animation series by The Associated Press, Election 2020 Facts (Sept. 21)

AP Domestic

WASHINGTON — The announcement of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged pressuring of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden seemed, at the time, as though it would be the biggest news out of his first term in office.

That was a year ago, and the country had no way of anticipating what has happened since. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that House Democrats would be launching an investigation into Trump’s conduct on Sept. 24, 2019, after a whistleblower said Trump had inappropriately used the power of his office. An investigation, testimony and Senate impeachment trial ensued.

But then, a pandemic hit, nationwide protests over racism and police brutality arose, and a Supreme Court seat became vacant. Here’s a look back at major events for the Trump White House in the last year as we enter the final weeks of the presidential campaign:

Trump impeached, then acquitted

Trump was impeached by the House on Dec. 18, 2019, with largely party-line votes on two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The vote stemmed from the testimony that alleged Trump presided over a “shadow” foreign relations operation in Ukraine with the assistance of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other nontraditional actors. He was accused of leveraging foreign aid money in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into Biden and the 2016 presidential election from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

In a July 25, 2019, phone call between the two leaders, Trump asked Zelensky to “look into” Biden and his son Hunter, who had been on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Trump maintained it was a “perfect” phone call and that he had not held up the aid as a quid pro quo. 

After a contentious Senate trial, the Republican-controlled chamber voted to acquit the president on Feb. 5, as expected due to the 67-vote threshold required for an impeachment conviction. The president’s allies accused Democrats of orchestrating a “witch hunt.”

Catch up:

Tougher than Teflon? Trump shows he is the most resilient politician in modern US history

Read senators’ handwritten notes during President Trump’s impeachment trial

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Troops withdrawn from northern Syria

As impeachment was heating up in the U.S. in October, the Trump administration was ordering the withdrawal of troops from northern Syria, effectively clearing the way for Turkish troops to invade areas controlled by Kurdish forces. His decision prompted bipartisan criticism from lawmakers who felt he was abandoning allies in fighting against the Islamic State.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the “impulsive” move would be a win for Iran to gain influence in the region and “eventually become a nightmare for Israel.”

Russian gained a foothold in the region as a tenuous ceasefire along the Turkey-Syria border took hold. Some ISIS fighters who had been imprisoned by the Kurds in the region were able to escape. There are still about 500 U.S. troops in Syria, after Trump ordered a total withdrawal from Syria during Turkey’s invasion last year but did not see it through.

Catch up:

What we know about Trump’s withdrawal from northern Syria as critics argue it abandons Kurdish allies

US cuts troop presence in Iraq as military expresses confidence in Iraqi security forces

Syria’s war turns 9: How barbarity, confusion and indifference helped Bashar Assad prosper

Campaign promise fulfilled with trade agreement

In late January, Trump signed a revamped trade deal with Mexico and Canada, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The USMCA gives American farmers greater access to Canada’s agriculture market and adds new e-commerce rules, modernizing NAFTA. It dictates that a higher percentage of autos be made from parts manufactured in North America and requires that at least 40% of vehicle production be done by workers earning at least $16 an hour.

Trump had called NAFTA the “worst trade deal ever” during his first run for office, making the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement a win for his administration. Democrats were also able to negotiate for stronger provisions on labor in the deal, though they were notably not invited to the signing ceremony.

The USMCA became effective July 1.

Catch up:

Trump signs revised trade deal with Mexico, Canada but shuts Democrats out of celebration

‘NAFTA lite’: Trump and Democrats’ trade deal is similar to pact president mocked as ‘worst ever’

Fear of war with Iran

When Trump announced that the U.S. had killed Iranian top general Qasem Soleimani, leader of the elite Quds Force, in a drone strike in early January, many feared retaliation. It was an escalation of the already tense relationship between the two countries since Trump took office and vowed to put “maximum pressure” on Iran.

Just days after the strike, Iran fired  missiles against U.S. and allied forces at military bases in Iraq.

Officials said Solemani was plotting attacks against Americans in the Middle East. But critics of the assassination said it was done without consulting Congress and questioned whether there was an “imminent” threat posed by Soleimani, who had already been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. service members.

Americans surveyed after Soleimani’s death said it increased the likelihood of potential attacks on U.S. interests in the Middle East, acts of terrorism on American soil or war with Iran. Congress passed a bipartisan resolution that would limit Trump’s power to unilaterally go to war with Iran, which he later vetoed.

Catch up:

How we got here: Rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran after Soleimani death

Assassination or legitimate act in the war on terror? Legal debate rages as Iran retaliates against US for Soleimani killing

Trump threatens Iran – again – if it attacks U.S. interests in Iraq

Coronavirus comes to the U.S.

For more than six months, the U.S. has contended with a deadly pandemic that led to large sectors of the economy shutting down and an economic downturn that followed. To date, the coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 Americans and infected nearly 7 million.

Trump, who early this year predicted that the U.S. would not be hit hard by the virus, has led the country with mixed messages and a controversial national response. He has resisted wearing a mask, though has at times been pictured wearing one, and resumed large campaign events despite recommended distancing guidelines, while blaming Democratic-run states and cities for caseloads.

Earlier this month, it was revealed in journalist Bob Woodward’s book that Trump had acknowledged the severity of the coronavirus in interviews dating back to February and said in March that he wanted to “play it down” to prevent panic.

The administration is touting its oversight of a fast vaccine production. Trump still claims the virus will “disappear” and maintains he did everything he could to combat the virus, placing the blame on China for its spread. But Trump’s campaign message of a strong economy was threatened with the toll taken by the coronavirus, which resulted in the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

Read more:

Coronavirus updates: Missouri city bans dancing a la ‘Footloose’; Is virus getting more contagious?; infecting volunteers on purpose mulled

Protests and unrest spotlight racial injustice and police brutality

The moment Trump held up a Bible for photos in front of a church adjacent to the White House, having just walked through a park that had been forcefully cleared of protesters, was a defining one in the national debate over race and law enforcement.

Protests have continued over several months in cities across the country after several high-profile deaths of Black people in police custody, sparked in the wake of the death of George Floyd, whose died after a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Trump has escalated his rhetoric, particularly regarding cities where there has been unrest and violence. He has used the moment to portray himself as a “law and order” president, calling for a crackdown on protesters and “thugs.” He claims unrest will be a characteristic of “Biden’s America,” while Biden points out the current environment is happening under Trump’s leadership right now.

Read more:

USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll: A majority of Americans say cities under siege by protesters

‘Absolutely heartbreaking’ ruling in Breonna Taylor shooting sparks new wave of national protests for justice, racial equality

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Trump heralds accords between Israel, UAE and Bahrain

A pair of historic agreements formalized diplomatic relations between Israel and the two Gulf Arab nations, signed at the White House earlier this month, gave Trump an opportunity to promote himself as dealmaker.

The agreements were a sign of the Arab nations, once devoted to Palestinian statehood, solidifying diplomatic relations with Israel instead by establishing embassies and exchanging ambassadors.Israel also agreed to temporarily suspend its plan to annex parts of the West Bank in its deal with the UAE. Trump’s pro-Israel message has been successful with his base. 

Though Trump has implied the achievement advances peace to the region, UAE and Bahrain were never at war with Israel.

Read more: Israel signs accords with United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at White House ceremony

Battle over Supreme Court after justice’s death

After Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Sept. 18, Trump was given the opportunity to put forth a nominee to fill her seat, who if confirmed would solidify the conservative majority on the court at 6-3. 

His nominee won’t succeed without a fight from Democrats, but because Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Democrats likely do not have the votes to block a nominee. Only two Republican senators have publicly said they would not support a vote on a nominee before Election Day. Democrats have little chance of stopping a confirmation from going through before the next inauguration.

Trump said he’ll announce his nomination on Saturday, and his short list includes federal appeals court Judge Barbara Lagoa of Florida and appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Read more:

Trump eyes Cuban American judge from Florida for Supreme Court

Republicans likely have enough support for a vote on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee after Romney backs push to fill vacancy

Trump says he wants to fill Supreme Court seat quickly in case justices need to settle election dispute

Looking ahead to Election Day and beyond

There are just weeks left until  Nov. 3, and many voters have already begun casting their ballots, either in person or by mail. Experts warn results may not solidify on the night of the election. 

Amid the pandemic, Trump has called into question the integrity of mail-in voting by claiming for months, without evidence, that it is rife with fraud. He singled out states that automatically send ballots to registered voters, as opposed to those in which voters have to request a ballot. 

Trump has also said he wants to fill the Supreme Court quickly in case the justices have to decide cases challenging election results, and declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses.

Trump and Biden will face off for their first general election debate on Tuesday, with anticipated topics including the coronavirus, race and the Supreme Court. Biden currently leads in national polling by seven points, according to RealClearPolitics averages.

Read more:

What’s true and what’s false about voting by mail in 2020

When early voting and mail voting for president begins in every state

USA TODAY’s voter guide

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/09/24/one-year-since-trump-impeachment-began-major-moments-presidency/5770781002/