An Olympics, an election and investigations: 2018’s biggest national stories

WASHINGTON — As 2018 comes to a close, take a look back at a wild ride of the year, featuring high-profile sexual assault allegations, an Olympics, an up-and-down Dow and a plethora of investigations and turnover in the Trump White House. See photos from some of 2018’s biggest stories.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Midterms

After a seemingly exhausting campaign season, November’s elections, widely seen as a referendum on the Trump administration, saw the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, gaining control of the chamber and eventually gaining 40 seats as votes were counted for weeks afterward. They also won seven governorships, while the Republicans picked up two seats to add to their majority in the Senate. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, pictured above, was only 28 when she knocked off longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in a primary and was elected in November. She’s become a symbol of the younger, progressive wing of the party – for both sides of the aisle. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP/Susan Walsh)
Jeff Sessions

Trump administration turnover

A record number of high-level officials departed the Trump administration over the course of 2018, a wave that only picked up speed after the midterm elections: Staff secretary Rob Porter and Communications Director Hope Hicks in February; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, in March; Marc Short, director of legislative affairs, in June; EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in July; White House Counsel Don McGahn and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in October; Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November; Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, on successive days in December; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who announced in December he’s be leaving in 2019. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves) (AP/Jay Reeves)
FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2018 file photo, a member of a Tennessee urban search and rescue team works a debris pile with a dog in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew in Mexico Beach, Fla.  The tropical weather that turned into monster Hurricane Michael began as a relatively humble storm before rapidly blossoming into the most powerful cyclone ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, causing wrenching scenes of widespread destruction.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Hurricanes

Tropical Storm Gordon never became a hurricane, but it hit Mississippi and Alabama in early September with 70 mph winds, caused three deaths and cost about $250 million in damages. Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina the hardest in mid-September. At least 37 people were killed; loses and damages reached into the tens of billions and thousands of people were in shelters for more than a week. And Hurricane Michael, in October, was the third-strongest hurricane to ever hit the continental U.S., causing 60 deaths and billions in damages. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) (AP/David Goldman)
The casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lies in state at the U.S. Capitol, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Deaths of note

There were several notable deaths in 2018. Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin died in August. Her funeral was a spiritual and musical celebration featuring Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, Ron Isley, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bill and Hillary Clinton and more. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., drew tributes from across the country when he died in August. Ceremonies were held in Arizona, D.C. (where he was only the 13th senator to life in state in the Capitol Rotunda) and Annapolis, where he was buried next to his best friend. In his final statement, McCain “implored Americans to put aside ‘tribal rivalries’ and focus on what unites,” The Associated Press reported. Two former presidents — Barack Obama and George W. Bush, both of whom McCain ran against, eulogized him. And two members of the Bush family died in 2018 — former first lady Barbara Bush in April and former President George H.W. Bush in November. His son, former President George W. Bush, delivered a moving eulogy at his father’s funeral, and the Obamas joined the Bushes at both events. See more prominent people who died in 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) ((AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool))
Donald Trump

The investigations of Donald Trump

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continued through President Donald Trump’s second year in office, touching on Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between members of the Trump campaign, transition and administration (including his children) with Russian officials and those working on their behalf. Other prosecutors have been investigating other allegations. Perhaps the biggest day of the year in this regard was Aug. 22, when former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted in Alexandria, Virginia, of financial crimes related to his work as a lobbyist for Ukraine’s pro-Russian faction, while Trump’s former personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in New York to eight criminal counts, including campaign finance violations, saying Trump directed him to pay hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. Meanwhile, former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with a Russian official during the transition. Mueller’s office delayed Flynn’s sentencing before recommending he serve no jail time, saying he was giving them important information. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, served 14 days in prison for lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian intermediaries – contacts that started the FBI counterintelligence investigation of links between the Trump campaign and Russia that is now being handled by Mueller. And in November, Cohen pleaded guilty in New York to lying to Congress about a potential Trump real estate deal in Moscow that, in fact, lasted well into the 2016 campaign. Separate investigations also began involving the use of money donated for the Trump inauguration as well as the president’s businesses and charitable organization. The latter was forced to shut down Dec. 18. Through it all, Trump has continued to deny any wrongdoing and characterize those who are cooperating with Mueller as “rats,” including Cohen, who months before he had called “a fine person with a wonderful family.” (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (AP/Evan Vucci)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 24, 2018 file photo, a crowd fills Pennsylvania Avenue during the "March for Our Lives" rally in support of gun control in Washington. More than five decades after Americans poured into the streets to demand civil rights and the end to a deeply unpopular war, thousands are embracing a culture of resistance unlike anything since. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Shootings

The Gun Violence Archive has counted 334 mass shootings (four or more injuries or deaths) in the U.S. as of mid-December, which puts it neck-and-neck with 2017’s 345. This year’s list was  led by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. The toll was 17 dead and 17 injured, and some of the survivors formed a powerful political force, reaching its high point in the March For Our Lives on March 24 (pictured above). Other mass shootings in 2018: A bar in Thousand Oaks, California, Nov. 7, which killed 13 and injured 2; The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Oct. 27, which killed 11 and injured 7; Santa Fe High School, in Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, which killed 10 and injured 13; T&T Trucking, in Bakersfield, California, Sept. 12, which killed 6. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who lived in Virginia, wrote for The Washington Post and was publicly critical of the Saudi regime, went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct. 2 ostensibly to fill out some marriage-related paperwork. He was killed and dismembered there. Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman first denied that Khashoggi was killed, then denied he had anything to do with it. U.S. intelligence has concluded that he at least knew about it, while some say he ordered it. The U.S. sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected in the killing, but members of Congress pushed for more sanctions, including against bin Salman himself, and the canceling of arms sales. President Trump roiled many Americans and allies when he issued an exclamation point-laden statement refusing to accept the conclusion that bin Salman knew about the killing — “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” — and saying that he wouldn’t further sanction Saudi Arabia. He cited billions of dollars in arms sales he said would go do Russia or China instead. Members of both parties have accused Trump of putting America’s foreign policy for sale. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File) (AP/Hasan Jamali)
FILE- In this Feb. 13, 2018, file photo, Chloe Kim, of the United States, jumps during the women's halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Before Kim won gold in the snowboarding halfpipe event, her infectious personality and heartwarming origin story had already won her sponsorships from Toyota, Samsung, Visa and others. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

Sports

The year in sports included a World Cup and a stunning Super Bowl ending with the first-ever championship for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Olympics featured gold medals for the U.S. women’s hockey team and the first-ever gold for men’s curling, as well as snowboarder and all-around bundle of energy Chloe Kim. The U.S. finished fourth in the overall medal standings, less than the USOC had predicted. There were plenty of sports heroes in 2018, but among the two unlikeliest for pure entertainment value was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith, who joined the pantheon of sports blunderers by forgetting the score in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (eventually won by the Golden State Warriors). But no recap of the year can leave out NFL defensive back Vontae Davis, who retired at halftime of a game. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) (AP/Gregory Bull)
Participants in the Women's March gather near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. On the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, people participating in rallies and marches in the U.S. and around the world Saturday denounced his views on immigration, abortion, LGBT rights, women's rights and more. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Sex abuse

In 2018, the #meToo movement entered its second year, and more well-known and powerful men were exposed by women’s accusations of sexual assault, with several of them winding up in court: Film mogul Harvey Weinstein turned himself in on rape charges May 25, while comedian Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault April 26 and was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison on Sept. 25. They were hardly the only men who became household names in relation to sexual misconduct: CBS chairman Les Moonves resigned in September; in December, CBS announced that he had lied to them about allegations and would not be paid his agreed-upon $120 million severance. James Levine, the musical director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, was fired in March over allegations he had molested young artists. And Larry Nassar, a doctor who worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, was convicted and sentenced to decades in prison after hundreds of women said he had abused them under the guise of medical treatment. More than a dozen officials at both organizations, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee, have also resigned after being accused of not doing enough to stop Nassar. For the second straight year, a Women’s March filled the streets in D.C. and across the country in January (pictured above). (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) (AP/Cliff Owen)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, conducts Mass at St. Mathews Cathedral, Wednesday, August 15, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Catholic sex abuse

A grand jury report released Aug. 14 alleged that more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 children starting in the 1940s, and that church and police authorities systematically covered up the abuse. One of the church officials named in the report was Cardinal Donald Wuerl of D.C., who was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. He denied the allegations but asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation later in the year. In late December, the pope’s Christmas message to Vatican bureaucrats included a demand for accused priests to turn themselves in and a vow that the church will “never again” hide priests’ crimes. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) (AP/Kevin Wolf)
FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2018, file photo, students rally for clean energy in front of San Francisco City Hall. A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention has thrown out the underlying lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the role of fossil fuels in the Earth's warming environment. Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said Monday, June 25, 2018, that Congress and the president, not a federal judge, were best suited to address fossil fuels' contribution to global warming. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Climate report

The National Climate Assessment, released in November, said that natural disasters “have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration,” and that extreme weather and wildfires have cost the country nearly $400 billion since 2015. President Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese, tweeted days before the release of the report about a cold snap on the East Coast of the U.S. – “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” – and later said “I don’t believe” the part about the economic effects. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (AP/Jeff Chiu)
FILE - In this Saturday, May 19, 2018 file photo Meghan Markle and Britain's Prince Harry stand on the steps of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle following their wedding in Windsor, near London, England. (Jane Barlow/pool photo via AP, File)

The royal wedding

American actress Meghan Markle and Britain’s Prince Harry met on a blind date in 2016, and their wedding in May made two countries swoon. The Associated Press described it as “British reserve crisscrossed with American verve” featuring “choirboys and a gospel choir; the archbishop of Canterbury and the African-American leader of the Episcopal church; a horse-drawn carriage and flowers hand-picked by the groom.” The wedding at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle included a roof-raising sermon from the Most Rev. Michael Curry and a guest list that included Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Elton John, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, James Corden and David and Victoria Beckham. There was drama  — Markle’s father couldn’t attend — but in the end the sunny weather for the wedding was a reflection of a charming and thoroughly modern love. (Jane Barlow/pool photo via AP, File) (AP/Jane Barlow)
Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Wildfires

Fires in California wreaked havoc on Northern California in the second half of this year, topped by the Camp Fire, which killed at least 84 people, the most in state history; destroyed 19,000 buildings, including the entire town of Paradise, and caused billions of dollars in damage. The Mendocino Complex Fire, also this year, burned more than 459,000 acres – the biggest area in state history. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) (AP/Noah Berger)
Donald Trump

Iran nuclear deal exit

Against the advice of virtually every other country in the agreement and in a statement filled with falsehoods, President Trump in May announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear deal that was one of President Barack Obama’s biggest diplomatic achievements. In November, he announced that sanctions against Iran that had been lifted by the deal would be reimposed – with exceptions for eight countries. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP/Evan Vucci)
Claudia Maquin, 27, shows a photo of her daughter, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin in Raxruha, Guatemala, on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The 7-year-old girl died in a Texas hospital, two days after being taken into custody by border patrol agents in a remote stretch of New Mexico desert. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)

The border

The southern border of the United States – the people trying to cross it and those trying to keep them out – was a prominent topic throughout 2018. In spring, the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from parents who were charged with illegally entering the country raised an outcry all over the world. Trump eventually dialed back the policy, but it’s unclear how many families have been reunited. Several caravans of migrants from Central America headed north in the fall, the largest believed to have formed in Honduras in mid-October. President Trump made them a feature of the last month or so of his campaign push, both in person and on Twitter, claiming without evidence that the caravan included “very bad thugs and gang members.” He sent active-duty troops to border areas in late October, leaving Democratic senators to call it a “politically inspired mission.” In late November, with migrants stuck at the border in Tijuana, Mexico, U.S. border agents fired tear gas on a protest march of migrants, some of whom were trying to breach the border crossing. And in December, two children died in Border Patrol custody: 7-year-old Jakelyn Caal Maquin (seen in cellphone image above), an indigenous Guatemalan girl who had traveled 2,000 miles with her father, died after about 48 hours in custody, while Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8, died Christmas morning after being in Customs and Border Patrol custody for a week. The White House called Maquin’s death “tragic” but called for “commonsense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border” crossing illegally. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said in a statement that “We can do better as a nation. [W]e have a moral obligation to ensure these vulnerable families can safely seek asylum, which is legal under immigration and international law at our borders.” After Gómez’s death, the Department of Homeland Security called for medical checks of every child in custody. They wouldn’t say how many children that is. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros) (AP/Oliver de Ros)
The U.S. Capitol Building Dome is seen before the sun rises in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Shutdown politics

The federal government shut down – albeit briefly – twice in 2018. The first time came on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration, Jan. 20, and lasted until the evening of Monday, Jan. 22. The second lasted only nine hours in the overnight hours of Feb. 8-9. Several other spending bills sneaked in under shutdown deadlines, but in mid-December another shutdown loomed over Trump’s insistence on $5 billion for a border wall – which he had said as a candidate that Mexico would pay for. In a wild meeting with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is likely to take the speaker’s chair in January, Trump pronounced that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over the issue. And that’s exactly what happened, with parts of the federal government shutting down at midnight Saturday, Dec. 22. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and are working unpaid, while an additional 380,000 have been furloughed, the Associated Press reports. As of Dec. 27, there was no progress on negotiations. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Peter Tuchman

The Dow roller coaster

It’s hard to believe that the Dow finished at an all-time record high for two straight days as recently as September, but it did. “Finally, the market has shrugged off all the trade war fears,” Karyn Cavanaugh, senior markets strategist at Voya Investment Management, told The Associated Press at the time. “The robustness of the economy just won’t be put down.” Not so much. October was the worst month for the Dow in seven years, and by mid-December the Dow was solidly down for the year. In all, the Dow recorded five of its 10 biggest one-day point gains, and five of its 10 biggest one-day point losses, in 2018. Case in point: On Christmas Eve, the Dow dropped about 650 points. The day after the holiday, it jumped more than 1,000 points — its biggest one-day point gain in history. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) (AP/Richard Drew)
(1/17)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Jeff Sessions
FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2018 file photo, a member of a Tennessee urban search and rescue team works a debris pile with a dog in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew in Mexico Beach, Fla.  The tropical weather that turned into monster Hurricane Michael began as a relatively humble storm before rapidly blossoming into the most powerful cyclone ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, causing wrenching scenes of widespread destruction.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
The casket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lies in state at the U.S. Capitol, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Donald Trump
FILE - In this Saturday, March 24, 2018 file photo, a crowd fills Pennsylvania Avenue during the "March for Our Lives" rally in support of gun control in Washington. More than five decades after Americans poured into the streets to demand civil rights and the end to a deeply unpopular war, thousands are embracing a culture of resistance unlike anything since. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Jamal Khashoggi
FILE- In this Feb. 13, 2018, file photo, Chloe Kim, of the United States, jumps during the women's halfpipe finals at Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Before Kim won gold in the snowboarding halfpipe event, her infectious personality and heartwarming origin story had already won her sponsorships from Toyota, Samsung, Visa and others. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
Participants in the Women's March gather near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. On the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, people participating in rallies and marches in the U.S. and around the world Saturday denounced his views on immigration, abortion, LGBT rights, women's rights and more. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, conducts Mass at St. Mathews Cathedral, Wednesday, August 15, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2018, file photo, students rally for clean energy in front of San Francisco City Hall. A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention has thrown out the underlying lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the role of fossil fuels in the Earth's warming environment. Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said Monday, June 25, 2018, that Congress and the president, not a federal judge, were best suited to address fossil fuels' contribution to global warming. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, May 19, 2018 file photo Meghan Markle and Britain's Prince Harry stand on the steps of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle following their wedding in Windsor, near London, England. (Jane Barlow/pool photo via AP, File)
Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Donald Trump
Claudia Maquin, 27, shows a photo of her daughter, Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin in Raxruha, Guatemala, on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The 7-year-old girl died in a Texas hospital, two days after being taken into custody by border patrol agents in a remote stretch of New Mexico desert. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)
The U.S. Capitol Building Dome is seen before the sun rises in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Peter Tuchman

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