18 Photos That Defined a Chaotic and Unprecedented Year in Politics

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Extraordinary indictments, heartbreaking deaths, dramatic expulsion votes and devastating wars took center stage in 2023, a year like no other

Two thousand twenty-three was another year for the history books, as prominent politicians were indicted, legal precedent was challenged, leaders were lost and (sometimes physical) fights broke out in Congress. Shock, grief and fury took control of the political landscape — but amid tensions both at home and abroad, Americans managed to find occasional moments of inspiration and bipartisanship.

Eighteen photos helped define the state of politics in 2023, collectively painting a chaotic portrait of a year that will be remembered for generations to come. Before diving into the election year ahead, a look back.

It Began with a Brawl

<p>Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty</p> Reps. Richard Hudson and Mike Rogers on the House floor on Jan. 6

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

Reps. Richard Hudson and Mike Rogers on the House floor on Jan. 6

North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson restrains Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers as an altercation breaks out on the House floor during a historic deadlocked speaker election that required 15 rounds of voting.

Rogers was attempting to confront far-right Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose repeated opposition to Republican speaker candidate Kevin McCarthy delayed the House from beginning its session. The tense exchange foreshadowed an unprecedented year of House GOP infighting that led to a historically unproductive year in Congress.

The State of the Union

JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7
JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7

Midway through President Joe Biden's State of the Union address in February, controversial far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene jumps up, points and yells "Liar!" as the president claims that Republican-supported proposals would create cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Surprised by the outburst, Biden responded off script by saying, "Anyone who doubts me, contact my office ... I'll give you a copy of the proposal.”

Greene's interruption was one of many rowdy moments during Biden's 2023 address to a joint session of Congress, which drew fierce heckling from Republican politicians.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also had a newsworthy interaction with now-expelled Rep. George Santos at the event, telling the fellow Republican, "You don't belong here," as the representative passed by him in the chamber prior to the speech. Santos was, at the time, being investigated at the federal and local level, and by the House Ethics Committee.

Donald Trump Arraigned

John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock Donald Trump in New York City on April 4
John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock Donald Trump in New York City on April 4

Donald Trump arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court in April for a historic arraignment, surrendering to authorities after he was indicted on 34 felony counts. In doing so, he became the first sitting or former president in U.S. history to answer to criminal charges.

Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, was notably absent at the courthouse, where he entered a not guilty plea without loved ones at his side.

The charges stemmed from an alleged $130,000 hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, which was supposedly documented as "legal expenses" in the financial records of the Trump Organization. The payment was allegedly made in the final days of the 2016 presidential election to quiet Daniels about a sexual encounter she'd had with the real estate mogul years earlier.

The "Tennessee Three" Face Expulsion

<p>Seth Herald/Getty</p> State Rep. Justin Jones in the Tennessee State Capitol on April 6

Seth Herald/Getty

State Rep. Justin Jones in the Tennessee State Capitol on April 6

Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones, trailed by fellow Democratic lawmaker Justin Pearson, holds up his fist as he is expelled by the state's Republican-controlled House in April.

Jones and Pearson, who was also expelled, earned national prominence as members of the "Tennessee Three" — a group of state representatives who were targeted by Republicans for participating in a "disorderly" gun control protest on the House floor following a school shooting in Nashville. Thousands of Tennesseans arrived at the state Capitol ahead of expulsion proceedings to express support for the trio, but only state Rep. Gloria Johnson survived the vote.

After Jones and Pearson were ousted from the legislature, the 20-somethings were reinstated by voters in the special elections that followed. The Tennessee Three have used their now-elevated platforms to continue speaking up.

A Mental Health Milestone

<p>Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty</p> Sen. John Fetterman at the U.S. Capitol on April 17

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty

Sen. John Fetterman at the U.S. Capitol on April 17

Freshman Sen. John Fetterman returns to Capitol Hill after spending an extended period of time in the hospital to receive treatment for depression. His transparency about seeking treatment — in the first few months of his hard-won gig — sparked a national conversation about the importance of addressing mental health.

"The conversation I had with my team and my family [before admitting myself to the hospital] is that I've got to do something or it could end in the most awful way," Fetterman told PEOPLE during an exclusive at-home interview in April. Asked if he was referring to self-harm, he said: "I realized that that could be an option. I wasn't thinking about self-harm, but I was firmly indifferent to living."

Months before opening up about his depression, Fetterman found himself subject to personal attacks on the Senate campaign trail as he faced off with celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz while recovering from a stroke.

E. Jean Carroll Wins

<p>Spencer Platt/Getty</p> E. Jean Carroll in New York City on May 9

Spencer Platt/Getty

E. Jean Carroll in New York City on May 9

Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll made history in May when a jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming her. Carroll had launched the lawsuit with an allegation that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the '90s.

The unanimous verdict in Carroll's civil case required fewer than three hours of deliberations to reach, and marked the first time Trump — who has been accused of sexual assault by numerous women — was held legally responsible for sexual misconduct.

“It was not just for me. Every woman feels vindicated. At last, a woman was believed,” Carroll told PEOPLE months later, reflecting on the legal victory. "It took years, and the greatest attorney in America, and persistence through four different courts. ... Unfortunately, in this culture, the man who we triumphed over in court still has a very high status. As a matter of fact, his status was raised."

Mar-a-Lago Bathroom Docs

<p>US DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock</p> Classified documents in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom, pictured in evidence released on June 9


Classified documents in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom, pictured in evidence released on June 9

Trump was again indicted in June, this time by a federal grand jury for allegedly mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House at the end of his presidency.

The former president's indictment detailed that he had retained over 100 classified documents with some of the most sensitive topics originating from seven intelligence agencies, including the CIA, NSA and Department of Defense. The documents were stored in "a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, [Trump’s] bedroom, and a storage room" — all at Mar-a-Lago — per the document, which included unforgettable evidence photos for reference.

In the two months after Trump left office, dozens of boxes of documents were placed on stage in Mar-a-Lago’s White and Gold Ballroom, which was regularly the host of large-scale events, the indictment added.

SCOTUS Decisions Drop

<p>Ziyu Julian Zhu/Xinhua via Getty</p> Protestors at Harvard University on July 1

Ziyu Julian Zhu/Xinhua via Getty

Protestors at Harvard University on July 1

Students march at Harvard University in July to protest a Supreme Court decision that walked back a four-decade precedent and effectively eliminated affirmative action by deeming race-based admissions policies in higher education unconstitutional.

“Affirmative action affirms and sees our story as a framework for passions, ambitions and achievements,” Harvard student Michelle Jean-Louis declared at a protest, according to Harvard Magazine. “The decision might have been made, but the fight for visibility must remain.”

The court's conservative super-majority was felt for the second year in a row when its final batch of decisions before the summer recess were released in June. Two other landmark cases issued that week — which were also decided in 6-3 votes on ideological lines — opened the door for broader discrimination against LGBTQ people and axed President Joe Biden's highly anticipated student loan forgiveness plan. In the highly hypothetical LGBTQ rights case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the court sided with a Christian web designer who wanted permission to refuse building wedding websites for same-sex couples.

Congress' Shining Star

<p>Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty</p> Susan Cole on the House floor on Jan. 3

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Susan Cole on the House floor on Jan. 3

While Congress flexed its dysfunction throughout the year, one government official achieved unexpected internet fame for running an exceedingly tight ship through rocky waters.

C-SPAN viewers seemingly saw more of Republican House Reading Clerk Susan Cole than the actual House leaders in 2023, as she administered a shocking number of back-to-back roll call votes throughout the year amid House Republicans' neverending speakership battle.

Beginning with 15 rounds of voting to elect House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in January and picking it back up in October, when McCarthy was ousted from the role and weeks of subsequent votes were held to find his successor, a straight-faced Cole repeatedly took center stage and read each House members' name one by one to record their votes — no funny business.

Reacting to her unusual celebrity status in October, Cole expressed confusion to Scripps News reporter Nathaniel Reed: "I’m just Susan."

Inmate No. P01135809

<p>Fulton County Sheriff's Office</p>

Fulton County Sheriff's Office

In August, Trump’s Georgia mug shot was released, a historic moment that made him the only sitting or former United States president to pose for a booking photo.

The photo of Trump was made public by the Fulton County Sheriff's Office shortly after he surrendered at an Atlanta jail to face charges stemming from his fourth indictment of the year, which alleged that he and his allies had attempted to overturn Georgia's 2020 presidential election results.

Trump was processed as inmate number P01135809, with his height listed as 6'3", having "blond or strawberry hair" and blue eyes. His lawyers negotiated a $200,000 bond before he turned himself in.

California Loses a Pioneer

<p>AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez</p> Nancy Pelosi puts her arm around the casket of longtime friend Dianne Feinstein on Oct. 4

AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vasquez

Nancy Pelosi puts her arm around the casket of longtime friend Dianne Feinstein on Oct. 4

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi smiles and hugs Dianne Feinstein's casket as the late California senator lies in state at San Francisco City Hall in October.

In an essay for San Francisco Chronicle published shortly after Feinstein's death, Pelosi wrote about her "beautiful friendship" with the fellow San Francisco native, calling her an "iconic, indomitable leader" who made her hometown and state proud throughout her career.

Feinstein, the longest-serving female senator who led the early charge for gun violence prevention, died in office in late September at the age of 90. She was soon replaced by EMILY's List President Laphonza Butler, the first LGBTQ+ Black senator.

War Erupts in the Middle East

<p>JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty</p>


A meticulously planned terrorist attack in southern Israel at the hands of Palestinian militant group Hamas launched the Middle East into a heightened state of unrest as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his country "at war."

Above, a scene from the wreckage of a music festival that was targeted on Oct. 7, leading to mass casualties. In all, an estimated 1,200 people were killed in Israel during the attack, with more than 200 more taken as hostages. Israel's military took an aggressive response, launching retaliatory strikes across the Gaza Strip that have since killed upwards of 20,000 Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza's health ministry.

A New Speaker Emerges

<p>TOM BRENNER/AFP via Getty</p>


Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson is sworn in as the 56th speaker of the House in October, emerging victorious after a dramatic election to become second in line to the presidency. Johnson’s successful candidacy put an end to an unprecedented three weeks of infighting among House Republicans that effectively froze Congress after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the role in a first-of-its-kind recall earlier that same month.

Johnson — an election denier and far-right Trump ally whose congressional tenure has been characterized by his strong opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights — was far from the party's first choice for speaker, though GOP members failed to unite behind its previous three speaker candidates, each of whom was ultimately removed from the ballot.

The Carters Say Goodbye

<p>ALEX BRANDON/POOL/AFP via Getty</p>


When former President Jimmy Carter attended the funeral service for his wife of 77 years, Rosalynn Carter, in November, he was offering the nation a perhaps-final glimpse of its 35th president.

Jimmy, 99, entered hospice care in February, staying out of public view until his powerful appearance to mourn the former first lady nine months later. Before leaving her funeral at Maranatha Baptist Church, where he taught Sunday School for many years, he was greeted by congregants and smiled at the familiar faces.

Rosalynn was buried on the Carters' longtime property in Plains, Georgia, that same afternoon. When Jimmy dies he will be buried beside her, and the family home will be placed in the National Park Service's care.

George Santos Faces the Music

<p>Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty </p>

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

New York Rep. George Santos takes his last elevator ride as an elected official through the U.S. Capitol in December. The House convened to expel him after the Ethics Committee declared that he "cannot be trusted" based on apparent evidence of fraudulent behavior it uncovered during a monthslong probe into his conduct.

Santos was expelled in an overwhelming 311-114 vote, becoming only the sixth House member in history ousted from Congress by their colleagues. On top of damning allegations by the House Ethics Committee, he faces 23 federal criminal charges — including identity theft, money laundering and falsification of records. He pleaded not guilty to each charge and has not yet gone to trial.

A Joint Plea for Ukraine

<p>Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty </p>

Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty

In late 2022 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a historic visit to the White House, wearing his trademark green military fatigues for a meeting with the president and first lady. Zelenskyy then visited Congress, where he delivered a speech urging continued U.S. financial support of Ukraine's defense against Russia, receiving standing ovations from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Then 2023 arrived, and pleas for more Ukraine funding fell on plugged ears in a Republican-controlled House. In October Biden delivered a primetime address to make the case for more aid to Ukraine, and in mid-December he welcomed Zelenskyy back to Washington, D.C., to make another in-person appeal to lawmakers.

Pictured above in December, Zelenskyy and Biden arrive at a treaty room to publicly reaffirm the U.S.-Ukraine partnership. Nearing the two-year anniversary since Russia's invasion, Biden pledged that he will continue to fight for Ukraine.

"Without supplemental funding, we’re rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond to the urgent operational demands that it has," Biden said in pointed remarks about House Republicans' opposition. "History will judge harshly those who turn their back on freedom’s cause."

The Most Powerful Women in the World

<p>Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty</p>

Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty

Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, walk past a portrait of late Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as they pay their respects in the Supreme Court's Great Hall in December.

O'Connor, who died at age 93 on Dec. 1, was once hailed as the "most powerful woman in the world" after she became the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court in 1981. Forty years later, the same descriptor was bestowed upon Harris when she was sworn in as the nation's first female vice president.

The Gaza Humanitarian Crisis

<p>Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty </p>

Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty

A Palestinian family travels to the Gaza-Egypt border in late December in hopes of seeking refuge amid continuous air strikes from Israel Defense Forces. Since tensions flared between Israel and Hamas following an Oct. 7 attack, civilians in the Gaza Strip have been trapped in a humanitarian crisis that has so far killed an estimated 22,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials.

The Israel-Hamas war has heightened tensions globally, including in the United States where reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia have seen a dramatic increase.

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