While you were all enjoying summer holidays, Donald Trump was enduring a torrid winter in the White House.
His high-stakes government shutdown, then subsequent backdown, achieved little except to hurt his poll numbers, anger some allies and disappoint staunch supporters of his multi-billion dollar Mexico border wall.
Even though the wheels of bureaucracy are now turning temporarily again, the record budget crisis has also emboldened his opponents.
They feel they had a big win, and the political theatre surrounding the scheduling of this week’s (delayed) State of the Union address is likely just a taste of the polarised and deeply personal politics that’s to come.
As the 2020 election campaign lurches into gear, the Trump administration is facing its biggest challenges yet.
Challenge 1: A new Democratic-held House
The new US House of Representatives will now be a constant thorn in the President’s side.
When the Democrats won control of it in November’s midterms their greatest prize was probably the power of the subpoena.
Led by veteran insider Nancy Pelosi, they can now compel witnesses to cooperate with the many investigations they’re currently setting up.
To put the first-term President under constant pressure.
“The tactic is called presidential harassment,” former Trump administration Commerce Department official Chris Garcia said.
“They will investigate him from all directions to try to make the administration get distracted or look bad.”
Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle has an unsurprisingly different take.
“It’s called putting basic checks and balances in place,” the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden said.
“This administration needs scrutiny and proper oversight.”
By any measure, there is a fair bit of material for the Democrats to work with.
Payments to women who claimed to have had affairs with Donald Trump, the President’s past financial dealings and his tax returns may be examined.
Some controversial policy decisions will be scrutinised by the Democrats too, like the separation of asylum seeker families.
They may even force the President’s children, Ivanka or Don Jr to appear before Congress, paving the way for testimony on live TV and an acrimonious few years in Washington.
Challenge 2: Legislative gridlock
In that environment, will any serious bipartisan legislation see the light of day?
Donald Trump may market himself as a dealmaker but if the shutdown is any guide, reserves of goodwill are low on both sides.
“They [the Democrats] want to obstruct the President’s agenda and try to deny him more big wins,” Mr Garcia said.
“I think they are doing this with one eye on 2020 because they are worried about how much he’s already achieved.”
The President could try to use more executive orders to go around Congress or spend extra time focusing on foreign policy issues — North Korea is just one example.
“But the thing is, for the most part the President is going to have to run [in 2020] on his policy achievements of the past two year,” Ms Solis Doyle said.
“And as we saw in the midterms, a lot of people aren’t happy with what’s going on.”
“Americans, even his base, are starting to say, ‘wait a minute, this is not what we voted for’.”
Challenge 3: The Mueller inquiry
Of course, several previous presidents have survived, and yes thrived, politically, despite clashes with Congress.
The biggest unknown hanging over Donald Trump (and friends) is the Russia investigation.
There’s plenty of speculation and an on-the-record suggestion from Acting Attorney-General Matthew Whitaker that special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Kremlin meddling in the 2016 election is “close to being completed”.
The President’s supporters, like Mr Garcia, say it’s ridiculous to suggest Mr Trump worked with Moscow to win office or that he will be ensnared in the final report.
“I think if [he] was going to it would have leaked,” Mr Garcia said.
“The reports so far is that there’s nothing to [the Mueller report]. I think that voters will forget about that by the time the election comes.”
That last claim seems dubious.
Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, his former campaign director, Paul Manafort, and his long-time informal adviser, Roger Stone, are just a few of those caught up so far.
The President’s son and son-in-law are also thought to be under the microscope, after meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in Trump Tower.
“How that translates into collusion is yet to be explained,” Mr Garcia said.
“There’s no discussion about how those meetings directly influenced the American people to go cast their ballots for President Trump.
“Americans know from history that if investigators come for you, they will try to find something to charge you with. None of the charges relate to collusion.”
Challenge 4: The threat of impeachment
With the Russia probe coming towards a conclusion, impeachment is a topic that’s moved from the margins slightly closer to the mainstream.
“If Bob Mueller comes to the American people … with concrete evidence that the President committed crimes then it is the duty of the Congress to impeach him and try him,” Ms Solis Doyle said.
A few newly elected Democrats have caused controversy by demanding Mr Trump be impeached soon.
Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress, notably used impolite language to express her views, outraging some right-wing cable news hosts as a result.
But the party’s leaders and most Democrats would much rather bide their time.
Republicans control the Senate, meaning unless there is hard evidence, the President is highly unlikely to be convicted if he is eventually put on trial.
“There has to be evidence of some kind of high crime or misdemeanour,” Mr Garcia said.
“We haven’t seen any evidence of that nor do I believe we will ever see any evidence of that.”
There’s also the chance impeachment proceedings could backfire for the Democrats.
Many in Washington think it could galvanise wavering Republicans behind the President.
“I would much rather beat him at the ballot box,” Ms Solis Doyle said.
“I don’t want anyone crying foul and saying, ‘Oh, it was a hoax, they tried to delegitimise a legitimately elected president’.”
Observers of American politics should certainly now strap themselves in.
A large, diverse and growing field of Democratic contenders keen to run against Donald Trump in 2020 is already hitting the hustings.
The trappings of office usually give the White House occupant an advantage.
But much will depend on how the President navigates the big challenges and steady stream of fire he’ll face between now and polling day.