The year 2019 is over in a few short hours. And as we look back on what transpired over the past 12 months, what better way than to do it in the words of the politicians themselves?
— President Trump to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a later-released rough transcript of their July 25 phone call. Trump followed it up by asking Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and a conspiracy theory Trump harbored about Ukraine and 2016 election interference. (Trump would also later suggest that China investigate Hunter Biden.)
2. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
-William B. Taylor Jr., the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, in a Sept. 9 text message to Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. The text, which was released in early October, was the first concrete proof that officials believed there to be a potentially corrupt quid pro quo between the Trump administration and Ukraine.
3. “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”
-Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in an October White House news briefing, briefly confirming there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine involving military aid in exchange for Ukraine launching Trump’s preferred investigations. Mulvaney later recanted his admission.
4. “The DNC server and that conspiracy theory has got to go. If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.”
-Former White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert in September on Trump’s theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, might have interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since been impeached over the push for the probes.
5. “The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
6. “We’re gonna go in and we’re gonna impeach the motherf‐‐‐er.”
-Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), in comments shortly after she and other freshman Democrats were sworn in January. Most other congressional Democrats weren’t onboard at the time, but Republicans have argued the quote showed Democrats were bent on impeaching Trump from the start of the year.
7. “He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security, foreign policy.”
-Former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill, referring to Sondland’s efforts to secure the investigations in Ukraine for Trump.
8. “It is impossible that the whistleblower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons — when this is over, I will be the hero.”
-Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to the Atlantic. Giuliani added: “Anything I did should be praised.”
9. “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
-Trump on Jewish Democrats, in comments widely criticized as circulating an anti-Semitic trope. Trump later doubled down, saying, “If you vote for a Democrat, you’re very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.”
10. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
-Trump, in a July tweet referring to the four members of “the Squad” — Reps. Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Trump made the comment about the four minority congresswomen, although only one of them (Omar) is an immigrant. The others are African American, Palestinian American and of Puerto Rican ancestry. The racist tweet was labeled as such far and wide, including by some Republicans.
11. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
-Pelosi, in a New York Times Magazine interview published in July, playing down the influence of “the Squad,” which occasionally clashed with party leaders this year.
12. “I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat.”
-Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, in his testimony to Congress.
13. “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
-Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in a statement to the press about his report on the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia and Trump’s potential obstruction of justice. The quote referred to the latter part, in which Mueller declined to accuse Trump of a crime because of Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president. Attorney General William P. Barr, nonetheless, opted to clear Trump of obstruction and provided a misleading summary of Mueller’s conclusions, which prompted Mueller to speak.
14. “Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.”
-The Mueller report on former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Sanders had baselessly said that there was extensive opposition to former FBI director James B. Comey within the bureau, but she apparently wasn’t willing to double down on that under penalty of perjury.
15. “Number one: She’s not my type.”
-Trump on journalist E. Jean Carroll, who in a new book accused him of raping her.
16. “So, I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals.”
-Former defense secretary Jim Mattis, responding to Trump calling him overrated. Mattis noted Trump had also called Streep overrated. Mattis departed over Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from Syria.
17. “Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand.”
-Trump on his more recent decision to withdraw from Syria.
18. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”
-Trump, in a tweet, responding to Turkey’s aggression against the Kurds following the U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria. Even Republicans suggested Trump was leaving the U.S. allies to be slaughtered.
19. “That little girl was me.”
-Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) at a 2020 Democratic presidential debate while attacking former vice president Joe Biden for his past opposition to mandatory school busing. She began the quote by saying, “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day.” Harris got the 2020 Democratic primary’s first big bump from the moment, but it was soon revealed that her position wasn’t much different from Biden’s. The momentum soon disappeared, and Harris has now dropped out of the race.
20. “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”
-Biden, in perhaps his most high-profile flub on the campaign trail. Biden soon corrected himself to say: “wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids.”
21. “She said her goal was to make New Zealand the place where it’s the best place in the world for a child to grow up. I would tell her, ‘Girlfriend, you are so on,’ because the United States of America is going to be the best place in the world for a child to grow up.”
-Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, referring in a debate to comments by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The candidates were asked what they would do first as president. Williamson’s response went viral and was instant fodder for late-night comedians.
22. “I just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”
23. “It’s never a tough vote for me when I’m standing on principle.”
-Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) to The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim, explaining his opposition to Trump using a national emergency declaration to fund his border wall. Tillis, though, wound up voting to support the decision in the face of a conservative backlash back home.
24. “To my knowledge, CBP never purposely put a child in a cage.”
-Then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, responding to questions about the administration’s family separation policy, which resulted in children being housed inside chain-link fences on the border.
25. “Well, first of all, Kellyanne is great, but she’s married to a total whack job. I think she must have done some number on him, Ainsley.”
-Trump to “Fox and Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt, on White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Conway’s husband, George Conway, has become one of Trump’s most outspoken critics.
26. “Her defiant attitude is inimical to the law, and her continued pattern of misconduct is unacceptable.”
-A U.S. government watchdog report on Conway’s repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using their official capacities to weigh in on political matters.
27. “I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump, and I thought it was damaging for the presidency over the long haul.”
-Barr explaining why he came back to occupy a job he held three decades before in the George H.W. Bush administration. Barr has repeatedly come under fire for using Trump’s talking points and taking Trump-friendly actions, most notably with regard to the Mueller report.
28. “I thought it was not a nice statement, the way she blew me off. She shouldn’t treat the United States that way. … She said ‘absurd.’ That’s not the right word to use.”
-Trump on Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who strongly rebuffed his efforts to purchase Greenland from Denmark.
29. “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great president.”
-White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who often channels her boss in her public comments, on former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly’s criticisms of Trump.
30. “Unlike a typical case in which an agency may have both stated and unstated reasons for a decision, here the [Voting Rights Act] enforcement rationale — the sole stated reason — seems to have been contrived. … The explanation provided here was more of a distraction.”
-The Supreme Court, rebuking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for a bogus justification for trying to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The decision, which critics charged was meant to discourage undocumented immigrants from filling out the census and could be used to gerrymander more effectively, was soon abandoned, even though the Supreme Court didn’t completely strike it down.
31. “He sees what’s going on, I guess, if you look at what’s happening in Los Angeles, where it’s so sad to look, and what’s happening in San Francisco and a couple of other cities, which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people.”
-Trump, when asked to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying Western-style liberalism was “obsolete.” Trump apparently thought Putin was referring to liberal politicians in the western United States, rather than the Western world’s belief in the freedom of the individual.
32. “Well, O.K., from my point of view, if you know anything about me, it’d be odd not to do this.”
-Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), explaining his conversion from a harsh Trump critic in the 2016 campaign to one of his most dogged allies today. Graham added at another point: “President Trump has been good to me in the sense that he’s allowed me in his world.”
33. “Comey’s actions with respect to the Memos violated Department and FBI policies concerning the retention, handling, and dissemination of FBI records and information, and violated the requirements of Comey’s FBI Employment Agreement.”
-Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Comey leaking memos of his talks with Trump. Horowitz also found, though, that there was “no evidence that Comey or his attorneys released any of the classified information contained in any of the Memos to members of the media,” which Republicans including Trump had accused him of doing.
34. “That so many basic and fundamental errors were made on four FISA applications by three separate, handpicked teams, on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process.”
-Horowitz on the Justice Department’s FISA applications to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, in which it found 17 significant errors and omissions.
35. “Which one?”
-Outgoing Kentucky governor Matt Bevin (R), on his decision to pardon a convicted child rapist. Bevin also said: “Both their hymens were intact. This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me: If you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.” Bevin, who lost reelection to Democrat Andy Beshear, has been widely criticized for his pardons.
36. “He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”
-Trump on the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The account still has not been verified, and other officials reportedly have no idea what he was referring to.
37. “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
-Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), responding to the publishing of a yearbook page that included a photo showing a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe. He initially said he was in the photo but later said he wasn’t. Northam declined widespread calls for his resignation and has since revitalized his political career.