2018 year in politics: Tariffs, Supreme Court fight, Russia probe among highlights

Tariffs, Supreme Court fight, Russia probe among political highlights of 2018

(CNN) - 2018 ushered in the second year of President Donald Trump’s leadership.

It was a volatile year that saw some economic highs and political in-fighting lows around a Supreme Court nominee, all under the microscope of a special counsel investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election and capped off by a blue wave in the House of Representatives' midterm elections.

The businessman-turned-president put his stamp on the economy in 2018.

The Capitol is seen on the first morning of a partial government shutdown, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers are at a standoff with President Donald Trump on spending for his border wall, in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Government operations will be disrupted during the shutdown and hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed or forced to work without pay just days before Christmas.
The Capitol is seen on the first morning of a partial government shutdown, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers are at a standoff with President Donald Trump on spending for his border wall, in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Government operations will be disrupted during the shutdown and hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be furloughed or forced to work without pay just days before Christmas. (Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

"We are the economic envy of the entire world," Trump said on July 27, citing strong job numbers and a boost in wages and gross domestic product.

The administration’s aggressive trade policies featured the threat and implementation of tariffs.

The president negotiated new trade deals with Canada, Mexico and China, but some analysts fear the bubble may burst in 2019, particularly since the stock market sustained massive losses in Decembers.

FILE - In this April 9, 2018, file photo, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, right, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, in Washington. A U.S. administration official says that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will leave his post Jan. 1, 2019, as Trump is expected to name Shanahan as acting secretary. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this April 9, 2018, file photo, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, right, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, in Washington. A U.S. administration official says that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will leave his post Jan. 1, 2019, as Trump is expected to name Shanahan as acting secretary. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Source: Evan Vucci)

Key domestic issues also took center stage.

There was initial optimism for bipartisan action after the horrific Parkland, FL, school shooting in February that killed 17. That soon faded.

Speaking about legislation addressing gun violence, Sen. John Cornyn, R - TX. “If we can get 60 votes for it, Mr. President, I’m all for it.”

The administration banned bump stocks later in the year. Bump stocks had been used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2018 file photo. students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In more than 600 pages of interviews with investigators, released Dec. 19, officers each gave their individual tale of how a peaceful Valentine’s Day suddenly turned to horror when they learned of the shooting at the high school. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2018 file photo. students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In more than 600 pages of interviews with investigators, released Dec. 19, officers each gave their individual tale of how a peaceful Valentine’s Day suddenly turned to horror when they learned of the shooting at the high school. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) (Source: Mike Stocker)

Perhaps the most heated showdown on Capitol Hill of 2018 was the battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

It included emotional confirmation hearings that included accusations of sexual assault from years ago by women, including Christine Blasey Ford.

“I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me,” she testified.

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP)
Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP) (Source: Win McNamee)

Kavanaugh strongly denied the accusations and was ultimately confirmed by a 50 to 48 vote.

"I've never sexually assaulted anyone," he said.

On North Korea, the president went from tough talk in 2017 - “fire and fury” - to a warm embrace in June after meeting face-to-face with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

FILE - In this June. 12, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. North Korea says it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States removes its nuclear threat first. The statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, comes amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea. It raises further doubts on whether leader Kim Jong Un will ever relinquish an arsenal he may see as his greatest guarantee of survival. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this June. 12, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, in Singapore. North Korea says it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States removes its nuclear threat first. The statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, comes amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea. It raises further doubts on whether leader Kim Jong Un will ever relinquish an arsenal he may see as his greatest guarantee of survival. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Source: Evan Vucci)

"We have developed a very special bond," Trump said.

North Korea said in December it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States removes its nuclear threat first. Negotiations remain deadlocked.

Another high-profile sitdown in July between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shocked both Democrats and Republicans.

The two held a private meeting before addressing reporters, with 2016 election meddling front and center.

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The U.S. president cast doubt on his own intelligence agencies by offering a stunning defense of Putin.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.

Back home, special counsel Robert Mueller saw it differently, charging 13 Russian nationals in February with conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

President Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his wife Lori Andrade arrive at federal court in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his wife Lori Andrade arrive at federal court in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Source: Carolyn Kaster)

Former Trump allies Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort also faced varying charges.

Trump insisted he and his family did nothing wrong, focusing his rage on Mueller’s team and his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who he fired in November.

Sessions was one of several top administration officials who were let go or resigned in 2018 - including Jim Mattis, Nikki Haley, Rex Tillerson and Scott Pruitt.

Trump’s signature campaign issues - immigration and the funding for a border wall - became the theme of the 2018 midterms, and funding for the wall fueled a government shutdown in place over the Christmas holidays.

The president called a migrant caravan from Central America one of the biggest threats to the U.S.

Republicans managed to hold on to the Senate, but as for the House, Democrats rode a blue wave to the majority, setting up what should be a contentious atmosphere in Washington in 2019 and beyond.

Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of "I Voted" stickers given each person after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of "I Voted" stickers given each person after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Source: Rogelio V. Solis)

“Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader. She is expected to become Speaker of the House in 2019.

Copyright 2018 CNN. All rights reserved. Raycom News Network contributed to this report.