2017 changed American politics forever — here are the biggest stories of the year

Donald Trump
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An unpredictable new White House and a rush to pass a sprawling Republican policy agenda characterized a chaotic 2017 in Washington.

Here are 12 of the biggest stories from the year in politics.

Trump vs. the press and the truth

Attendees partake in the inauguration ceremonies to swear in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters

President Donald Trump took an antagonistic stance with journalists as soon as he took office in January. His then-press secretary, Sean Spicer, blasted the media on Trump's first full day in office, asserting the media lied about the size of the inauguration crowd (pictured below). Trump also claimed reporters misrepresented the crowd size, and continued his outbursts at what he called "fake news." In tweets this year, he particularly targeted The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC News. The White House also made several unfounded or misleading claims, including Trump's contention that President Barack Obama had his "wires tapped" at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election.

GOP fails to repeal Obamacare

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) casts his no vote to the GOP health care bill on July 27th, 2017.
Source: CSPAN

After gaining control of Congress and the White House in January, Republicans turned to their long-held goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act. The House GOP passed a bill to overhaul the American health care system in May, but the Senate failed to approve its own repeal legislation in a few tries. The most dramatic moment came in July, when Sen. John McCain (pictured in the circle) and two other Republicans voted to sink a partial Obamacare repeal measure in a late-night Senate floor vote.

GOP tax overhaul

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) (C) holds up a tax filing 'postcard' as Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) looks on during a press event on tax reform September 27, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC.
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Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured below) overcame party fractures to meet their goal of passing an overhaul of the tax system by the end of the year. Trump signed the bill into law last week. The plan permanently slashes the tax rate for corporations while temporarily reducing the tax burden on most, but not all, individuals. Republicans argue that it will unlock economic growth and boost wages, while Democrats criticize it as a giveaway to corporations at the expense of the middle class.

The Russia investigation

James Comey and Robert Mueller at the White House in 2013.
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In March, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed the agency was investigating Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. In May, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the probe days after Trump fired Comey. At every step, Trump has called the investigation a witch hunt designed to discredit his electoral victory. The probe has led to charges filed against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn, though the charges are unrelated to collusion with Moscow during the campaign. (The picture below shows Comey, left, and Mueller at the White House in June 2013, when Obama picked Comey to succeed Mueller as head of the FBI.)

North Korea tensions rise

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017.
KCNA | Reuters

Kim Jong Un's rogue regime pursued its nuclear and missile programs aggressively in 2017 in the face of international backlash and sanctions. A missile tested in late November traveled higher and for longer than Pyongyang's previous devices did. North Korea says its latest missile can reach anywhere in the continental United States. The United States and United Nations have put more economic pressure on North Korea throughout the year and pushed China — Pyongyang's major ally — to do more to isolate the regime.

Sexual harassment in Congress

Sexual harassment scandals rocks Congress this year. (L-R): Rep. John Conyers, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Blake Farenthold and Rep. Trent Franks.
Getty Images | Reuters

A national reckoning over sexual misconduct in recent months has swept up multiple members of Congress. Sexual harassment claims have led to the resignation or planned departure of members of Congress including Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz. (left to right in this photo).

Charlottesville and the political divide

Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists encircle and chant at counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017.
Samuel Corum | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Trump's response to violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked more backlash to the president than just about any other action he took in 2017. After a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi rammed a car into a crowd of counter protesters, killing a woman and injuring numerous others, the president blamed both sides for the violence. Trump's comments prompted the disbandment of White House business advisory councils and harsh criticism from Gary Cohn, his Jewish chief economic advisor.

Special elections

Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore departs on horseback after he cast his ballot in Gallant, Alabama, U.S., December 12, 2017.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Six House seats and one Senate seat were up for grabs in 2017 special elections. Five of those contests chose a replacement for an official who left to join the Trump administration. Republicans won five of the House races in red districts in Kansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Montana and Utah, though some Democrats in those elections outperformed 2016 results. A Democrat won a special election in largely blue California. The biggest shockwave came this month, when Democrat Doug Jones won a Senate seat in deep-red Alabama over Trump-backed candidate Roy Moore (pictured below).

The Trump economy and stock market

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 30, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

In the face of repeated challenges this year, Trump has cited the American economy as evidence of his success. U.S. stock markets — already roaring during Obama's administration — enjoyed more success after Trump took office. The president has promoted recent hiring and gross domestic product numbers as evidence of his success, though job growth has not changed significantly from the months before he took office.

U.S. withdraws from Paris agreement

A man wearing a mask portraying newly elected US president-elect Donald Trump poses with a sign during a demonstration against Trump's vow to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord outside the US Embassy in central London in November 18, 2016.
Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP | Getty Images

In June, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accords, which call on nearly 200 countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. Trump contended that adhering to the deal could harm the American economy, saying the U.S. could re-enter it on better terms. His decision drew criticism from most major American businesses. When Syria and Nicaragua signed on to the agreement later this year, the U.S. became the only country not to be a part of it.

Trump administration departures

President Donald Trump (L-R), is joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as he speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The resignation or firing of major officials marked the early months of the Trump administration. So far, departed administration officials include: national security advisor Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, press secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus, communications director Anthony Scaramucci, chief strategist Steve Bannon, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and deputy national security advisor Dina Powell. (Pictured below, L-R: Trump, Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, Bannon, Spicer and Flynn, as the president speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 28.)

Trump's Middle East policy

President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City on May 22, 2017.
Ronen Zvulun | AFP | Getty Images

Trump made two major moves in the Middle East within his first year in office. First, in October, he said the Iran nuclear deal was not in America's best interest and threatened to scrap it barring changes. This month, he said the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and promised to move the U.S. Embassy to the disputed holy city, angering leaders in the Arab world.