Donald Trump’s first year in office was jam-packed. The US president attempted to turn Washington, DC, on its head, governing with the unpredictable, titillating and surreal style of a reality-show celebrity. And there’s no indication 2018 will be any different.
Here are some things to watch out for next year:
1. Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin during its successful presidential bid, has already charged four people who have ties to the president.
One of them, former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is reportedly cooperating with Mueller’s team.
But the FBI is not done yet.
There are others who have publicly provided evidence, raising serious questions about how high up potential collusion went and whether Mueller will go after them.
Both Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Trump’s son, Donald Jr, admitted they met a Russian lawyer with alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin in June 2016.
In the email setting up the meeting, the lawyer said she had damaging information on Trump’s election opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Trump and the White House maintain that “absolutely no collusion” took place, often describing the probe as a “political witch-hunt”.
The collusion investigation will get lots of attention in May when two Trump officials, former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his associate, Richard Gates, go on trial on charges that include conspiring against the United States, money laundering, and making false statements to investigators.
Trump had said both Manafort and Gates committed the alleged crimes before they worked for the campaign.
2. Travel ban goes to the Supreme Court?
No Trump order has drawn more scrutiny or controversy than his plan to ban people from a handful of Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the US.
The executive order was signed by Trump less than a week into his presidency.
But its subsequent rollout was an unmitigated disaster with protests across the country and legal challenges causing havoc at airports.
The initial order was blocked by some federal courts.
Since then, the Trump administration has found ways to sell the ban.
A modified “proclamation” in September removed some countries and added others, including two non-Muslim countries.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling that permits the revised ban to remain in place while legal challenges make their way through lower courts.
Last week, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that the latest travel ban was illegal, but delayed the enforcement of its ruling while the government appealed to the Supreme Court.
Many argue that decision will take place next year.
3. Midterm elections: Good news for the Democrats?
The new year will be a turning point in the Trump presidency for one very important reason. In November, voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of Congress.
At the moment, Trump’s party, the Republicans, controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
But recent elections in the United States have not boded well for his populist, ultra-conservative brand of politicking, which could be a warning sign for the midterm elections for Congressional seats.
Case in point: the recent special election in the deeply-conservative state of Alabama for the Senate seat left open when Jeff Sessions took the US attorney general job.
Following Trump’s endorsement of conservative firebrand Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers, Alabama voters showed up in droves to vote against Moore.
The Republican lost, and for the first time in 20 years, Alabama will have a Democratic senator, further tipping the balance in Congress.
Will Trump alter his rhetoric – which skews towards personalised attacks against his opponents – so Republicans can maintain control in Congress?
In a recent tweet, he said he’d be willing to work with Democrats in 2018, “for the good of the country”.
4. Will Trump get a royal welcome?
The White House has confirmed that Trump will head to the UK in 2018. While details are still being worked out, it could be one of his most contentious foreign trips yet.
Why? Some UK legislators have publicly asked him to stay home.
His quick tweets about a spate of violence in London has raised the ire of leading politicians as well.
After an attack in the London Underground in September, Trump blamed a “loser terrorist” before facts were made public.
In November, he raised the temperature when he retweeted a series of anti-Muslim videos posted by Britain First, a far-right group that’s been accused of racism and called “a hateful organisation” by the prime minister herself.
May called Trump’s retweeting, “the wrong thing to do”. British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called it “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our country”.
5. Trump’s first official State of the Union
It’s not the first time Trump will address Congress, but it will be his first official State of the Union speech as president, slated for January 30th.
The address is typically a time when presidents highlight their accomplishments and look at ahead to the future.
Trump has already given plenty of indication of what he’ll say: ISIL is defeated, the stock market is at an all-time high and jobs are coming back to the US.
His recent historic tax reform legislation, passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump before Christmas, will undoubtedly get plenty of airtime.
Although foreign policy sometimes gets fewer mentions than domestic priorities, he will have a lot to update Americans on, including the tension on the Korean Peninsula, his controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the border wall with Mexico.
6. Will the government shut down?
US lawmakers gave themselves a nice Christmas present.
Just two days before the holiday weekend began, Congress found some money to keep the government operating, allowing politicians to go home to their families rather than figure out a long-term solution.
But it’s not meant to last very long.
On January 19, funding for the US government’s operations will end.
What happens then? It’s anyone’s guess, and there is plenty to indicate the US government is headed for another shutdown.
It will come as no surprise that the issue of whether to keep it open is mired in politics. One of the key sticking points could be the fate of undocumented children in the US.
Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, many have been permitted to stay in the country as long as they were brought to the US before their 16th birthday.
But Trump has given Congress an ultimatum, ordering the programme’s end in March unless it can figure out a solution.
So far, there is nothing concrete on the horizon, and some Democratic legislators are pressuring their leadership to block any government funding bills until the issue gets resolved.
7. Iran deadline looms… again
In October, when Trump refused to recertify the international pact known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to keep Iran’s nuclear programme in check, he punted any decision on its future to Congress.
They were given 60 days to decide on whether to reimpose sanctions, suspended under the agreement implemented in 2016.
Congress did nothing. Now, a new deadline looms in January. If Trump does not waive the sanctions by mid-month, they will effectively go back into place, killing the deal.