The Year 2019: Politics and the presidency

From the U.S.-Mexico border wall stalemate to U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria to an initial trade deal with China to impeachment, President Trump’s year was marked by policy and controversy.
8:07 | 12/23/19

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Transcript for The Year 2019: Politics and the presidency
Now, the year in politics with George Stephanopoulos. Ready? Do you have the cameras rolling? Year three in the trump presidency. You know I'm totally off script right now. Another series of dizzying days. Greenland was just an idea. Just a thought. Free-wheeling speeches. Wind. Wind. Darling, is the wind blowing I'd like to watch television. Trump's third year in office was 10,000 years long. Last week felt like a decade. It was entertaining. It was frustrating. What surprises me most is how many people are still surprised about things in the trump presidency. The president, combative as ever. I'm not relishing the fight, Facing a democratic house for the first time. Is there a tiny chance that president trump will work with Democrats in congress? Probably the same tiny chance that Democrats will work with president trump. The year began with a stalemate over his border wall. I said I was going to build a wall. We are not doing a wall. You could call it a steel fence. Then he says he's gonna stop half the crime and 90% of the heroin with something called slats, which as you can see is a wall without all the wall. Hear that, Mexico? Good luck trying to crack this code. The president's demand forced the longest ever government shutdown, but after 35 days of crippling dysfunction, trump backed down. The president completely gave up on the wall for now. Then tried another tack. I'm going to be signing a national emergency. Every day of this presidency is a national emergency. Inside the white house, the revolving door continued to spin. There's so much drama that you're like, "At what point in the day does anyone sit down at their desk and do some work?" Thanks so much, guys. And with Sarah Sanders' departure, the death of the white house press conference as we know it. If the president of the United States is engaging with the media on a daily basis, that trumps the idea of a press secretary going out and speaking on their behalf. Across the globe -- Everybody was saying I'm a warmonger. Now they say I'm a dove. I'm a man with common sense. Trump upended our relationships, disrupted diplomatic ties. He has an America first policy. His troop withdrawal from northern Syria blindsided our allies. The president made it clear that he would not stand in the way of president erdogan of Turkey going in to move the kurds out. Put America's credibility on the line. Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand. The big headline is the pushback, the blowback he has faced over this from his own allies on capitol hill. This is the most screwed-up decision I've seen since I've been in congress. Back at home -- Hello, Louisiana. Hello, Kentucky. The commander in chief racked up miles as campaigner in chief. Stumping for a second term. Is there anything cooler than being at a trump rally? Scorching his political rivals. These partisan lunatics. Crazy. Crazy. The civility and the respect and the character of this country is at a real, real low. And the president did make strides. Reaching an initial trade deal with China, another deal with Canada and Mexico, set to be ratified by congress. And the economy, still pretty strong. Record highs on Wall Street. But this year, more than anything else, a tale of two investigations. The president careened from crisis to crisis, consumed by controversy. The collusion delusion. Russia, Russia, Russia. Robert Mueller's Russia probe culminated in 37 indictments, including 6 associates of trump. At least five prison sentences. And seven guilty pleas. But no legal case against the president. His final report now in the hands of attorney general William Barr. Congress has been notified. There was no evidence of the trump campaign collusion. I haven't seen the report. Beautiful conclusion. There's no way trump has ever read anything that long in his life. If he gets a fortune cookie, he hands it to one of his aides, "Just give me the gist." Caught in Mueller's cross-hairs, the president's former fixer flipped. I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. And he is a cheat. And the man at the center of it all finally broke his silence. Mueller's day on the hill. No drama, circumspect. The testimony tested the president's key defenses. It's all a big hoax. It was not a hoax. I've been totally exonerated. Did you actually totally exonerate the president? Are you worried about impeachment, Mr. President? Not even a little bit. That response, maybe a bit premature. When I caught up with trump in June, he'd already previewed what would later lead to an impeachment investigation. First, defending his son don junior, who attended that now infamous trump tower meeting during the 2016 election. "We have information on your oh, let me call the FBI. Give me a break, life doesn't work that way. The FBI director says that's what should happen. The FBI director is wrong. Then I asked him about foreign help in an election. Something he would later solicit. Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI? I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't, there's nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, "We have information on your opponent." Oh, I think I'd want to hear it. You want that kind of interference in our elections? It's not an interference, they have information. I think I'd take it. Fast forward just a few months -- The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law. Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened an impeachment inquiry. Impeachment is kind of a break only in case of emergency kind of instrument. You were so reluctant to take this step. We don't have a choice. The spark for impeachment, a bombshell whistle-blower complaint that detailed a phone call between trump and the Ukrainian president. The white house memo of that call revealed trump asked for a favor. Investigations into Joe Biden and the Democrats. While $400 million in military aid and a white house meeting were being withheld. As trump always does, he put his own foot in his own mouth, and here we are. I knew that if he got in trouble, it would be his mouth that got him there. He has blown through issue after issue after issue, and he's going to keep going forward in that way. In true trump style, the president has remained defiant. If you punch him, he punches back twice, or three times, or four times. Unwavering even after his own chief of staff undercut one of his main defenses. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy. Denying the emerging evidence every step of the way. No quid pro quo. No quid pro quo. The call was perfect. Perfecto. The perfect call would've been, "Congress approved this money. I'm giving it to you, and then Zelinsky says, "Oh, that's a great idea. Thank you. Here's a great recipe for chicken kiev." Democrats put their investigation on the fast track. A dozen witnesses offering damaging testimony, detailing the president's pressure campaign on Ukraine. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Everyone was in the loop. Trump pounced on a witness in real time. As we sit here testifying, the president is attacking you on Twitter. You can see her recoiling. It was a huge moment. The historic hearings exposed bitter partisan divides, the raw politics of our time. I watched it and honestly I really hope it doesn't get picked up for another season. And on December 18th, trump became the third American president in history impeached by the house. No matter what you think about whether Donald Trump should be impeached, these proceedings will become a defining moment. Republicans now gearing up for a trial in the senate. The eyes of history watching, as congress and the public, debate the uncertain future of an unpredictable president.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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