The insane news cycles of 2019

Data: Google News Lab; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The year started with a record-breaking government shutdown and is ending with the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history — in between an onslaught of investigations, conspiracies, scandals and memes.

Why it matters: The chart, based on search trends compiled by Google News Lab, highlights how short the public's attention span was as the media darted from one big thing to another.

  • In the era of President Trump and social media, surges of Google interest in the biggest events of the year only lasted about a week before the public's attention was drawn elsewhere.
  • Some issues, such as the 2020 election and the Mexico-U.S. border, drew more steady attention — but fewer of the dramatic spikes of interest that other topics had.

By the numbers: The news event that saw the largest single spike in Google interest compared to any other event on the list was Hurricane Dorian, which ravaged the Bahamas in early September.

The runners up:

  1. Game of Thrones final season
  2. Government shutdown
  3. Jeffrey Epstein and impeachment (tie)

For impeachment, the highest peaks of Google interest came the week of September 22 — when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry against Trump — and the week of December 15th, when Trump was impeached.

Greta Thunberg, who was unknown at the beginning of the year, received surges of interest in late September and mid-December, giving her more search interest in the last three months than the China trade war, the 2020 presidential election or Brexit.

Go deeper:

Additional Stories

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Driving the news: Asked why he hadn't yet enacted Treasury sanctions against Chinese Communist Party officials or entities tied to the camps where the Chinese government detains Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, Trump replied, "Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal."

Exclusive: Trump cold on Guaidó, would consider meeting Maduro

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In an Oval Office interview with Axios on Friday, President Trump suggested he's had second thoughts about his decision to recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela and said he is open to meeting with dictator Nicolás Maduro.

Driving the news: Asked whether he would meet with Maduro, Trump said, "I would maybe think about that. ... Maduro would like to meet. And I'm never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings.

Supreme Court expands religious freedoms in schools, employment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Supreme Court ended its term with a series of rulings on religion's role in schools, the workplace and access to health care.

Why it matters: The decisions elevated protections for people and employers of faith, while curtailing those of religion teachers, the nonreligious taxpayer and women who rely on their workplaces' health care plans for contraception.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
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  3. Public health: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: "Please wear a mask to save lives" Fauci hasn't briefed Trump on the coronavirus pandemic in at least two months — We're losing the war on the coronavirus.
  4. Food: How the coronavirus pandemic boosted alternative meat.
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Scoop: Don Jr. plans convention-week Biden book

Cover via Don Jr.

Donald Trump Jr., in quarantine since girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle tested positive for the coronavirus, says he's used the time to finish a book that he'll self-publish the week of the Republican convention, at the end of August.

What he's saying: Don Jr., whose controversial blasts connect with President Trump's base, told me in a phone interview that "Liberal Privilege" will be his effort to paint a picture of Joe Biden and his record that the press ignores.

Romney calls Stone commutation "historic corruption"

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Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Saturday tweeted a scathing response to President Trump's Friday night commutation of former associate Roger Stone's prison sentence, calling the move "[u]nprecedented, historic corruption."

Why it matters: Romney has emerged as the party's most prominent Trump critic. He sent shockwaves through Washington after announcing he would vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial — becoming the only Senate Republican to break ranks and vote for the president's removal from office. Now he is the first major GOP lawmaker to condemn Trump's Friday night call regarding Stone.

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Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

By any standard, no matter how you look at it, the U.S. is losing its war against the coronavirus.

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Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

Roger Stone arriving at his sentencing hearing on Feb. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

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