Political news emerged from Washington, D.C. and beyond in 2017 at a seemingly breakneck pace. A new president, major congressional legislation, contentious elections, and widespread controversies turned over news cycles at record speeds, resulting in major stories emerging on a near-weekly basis.
With the calendar set to turn to 2018 on Monday, here’s a recap of the major political news of the last 12 months:
Inauguration, Women’s March, travel ban
The year in politics began in earnest with the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20. In the immediate aftermath, White House press secretary Sean Spicer bickered with reporters over the size of the audience that witnessed the event, and thousands of people opposed to the new president took to the streets of major cities around the world for Women’s March protests.
One week into his term, Trump signed the first in a succession of executive orders restricting entry into the U.S. by people from seven majority-Muslim countries, which critics derided as a “Muslim ban.” That sparked more protests and the president’s subsequent firing of then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates over her instructions that the Department of Justice refrain from defending the order.
Michael Flynn fired
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign on Feb. 13 after he admitted to misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States prior to Trump’s inauguration. Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty in December 2017 to a single felony count of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.
Wiretapping claims, Sessions recusal
Trump made headlines when he made the unsubstantiated claim that President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during his 2016 campaign for president. Current and former Justice Department and intelligence community officials ruled out such an operation and said there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim. An investigation led by Trump’s Republican allies later revealed incidental information collection on some Trump associates who were caught up in surveillance of other foreign US intelligence targets.
In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all investigations related to the 2016 election – which ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to oversee the FBI’s investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Trump later and repeatedly slammed Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the probe.
Syrian air strike, ‘mother of all bombs’
On April 7, Trump directed the U.S. military to launch airstrikes against a Syrian airport from which a chemical weapon attack was initiated in the days prior according to US intelligence. It was his first major military action ordered as president. A week later, U.S. military action in the Middle East continued with the dropping of a 22,000-pound “Mother of All Bombs” on an ISIS cave complex in Afghanistan. The strike killed 36 militants in the blast, equivalent to one of 11 tons of TNT.
James Comey firing, Robert Mueller appointment
In a month that altered the course of the Russia investigation, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9 — a decision he first said was made on the recommendation of Sessions and Rosenstein but later conceded was entirely his own, made prior to their input. Trump said in an interview three days later that the FBI’s Russia investigation was on his mind when deciding to fire the director. Over the summer, Comey would go on to describe his multiple conversations with Trump in the aftermath of the election, including one in which he said the president told him he hoped the FBI would let go of its investigation of Flynn.
On May 17, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller special counsel, giving him the reigns of the investigation that would continue to expand as it looked into the potential of Trump campaign collusion with Russia and related matters.
Paris Climate Agreement withdrawal, Congressional baseball shooting
In June, Trump announced that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, arguing that the requirements of the accord were burdensome upon the country. He would later leave open the possibility a return to the deal, incumbent upon more favorable terms.
On June 14, a gunman opened fire on a practice for the Republican Congressional baseball team in Alexandria, Virginia, seriously injuring Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and wounding three others. After an arduous recovery, Scalise returned to work at the Capitol in September.
Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus’ resignation, John Kelly’s ascension, healthcare vote
In the whirlwind final weeks of July, financier Anthony Scaramucci was named White House communications director and left the position after a little over a week later following comments critical of fellow administration officials. Among those officials was Chief of Staff Reince Priebus who announced his resignation the same week. He was replaced by then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
Meanwhile, Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act reached a dramatic climax on Capitol Hill when Sen. John McCain cast a deciding, late-night “no” vote on new legislation, joining party colleagues Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala. and Susan Collins, R-Maine as the only Republicans to oppose the bill.
That same month, Trump tweeted transgender individuals would be unable to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. military,” a move that effectively sought to reverse an Obama-era policy. As of Monday, transgender individuals will be allowed to enlist as a result of a federal court ruling.
A white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee turned deadly on Aug. 12 when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman. In the aftermath, Trump faced criticism for what many viewed as a weak condemnation of those who took part in the event, particularly after he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Trump faced the first major natural disasters of his presidency when, over the final weeks of August and into September, three major hurricanes battered the U.S. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria left billions of dollars in destruction across Texas, the Gulf Coast, Florida and Puerto Rico. The president would later tangle with Puerto Rican officials, including San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who criticized the administration’s response to Maria. Power outages on the island persist, now three months later.
In September, Trump also announced his administration would end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, and pledged to “revisit” the matter if Congress can’t craft a solution.
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
That same month, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Trump sternly criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un saying “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”
Las Vegas shooting, indictments
The deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history left 58 people dead at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, relaunching the nation’s gun control debate after it was revealed that the gunman used bump stock devices to alter semi-automatic rifles and fire over 1,000 rounds from his hotel room down into the crowd below.
At the end of the month, the Russia investigation would deliver its first indictments when former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate and Trump campaign aide Rick Gates were charged with conspiracy and money laundering, among other crimes. A third former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Politicians were swept up in the #MeToo movement throughout November as women across the country publicly shared stories of sexual harassment. Among those who announced their resignations from Congress were Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. Accusations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore by several women contributed to his special election defeat in December to Democrat Doug Jones.
Republicans landed a major legislative victory to close out the year, passing a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code that included modest income tax cuts for most Americans in the short-term and a major, permanent reduction in the corporate tax rate. The president touted the bill as a “Christmas present” for the American people and promptly signed the legislation and celebrated with Republicans at the White House before leaving for a vacation in Florida to close out the year.