2017’s top ten news stories

The last year was extraordinary when it comes to news — chiefly because of one person: President Trump.

Trump’s actions, from his Twitter account to his executive actions to the various controversies that swirled around the White House, dominated headlines throughout the year.

Here’s a look back at the biggest 10 stories of the year, many of which had something to do with the U.S. president.

  1. Donald Trump’s presidency.

The Trump presidency itself is the biggest story of the year.

Since inauguration day, Trump has been the top story of the year, and he has seemingly delighted in providing copy for the nation’s media — even as he has feuded with them.

The day after the inauguration, White House press secretary Sean Spicerslammed news reports that suggested inauguration crowds were not the largest in history — a point refuted by photographic evidence.

The performance was a sign of what was to come.

A week later, Trump announced a ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations, sparking an uproar that continued for months.

The initial weeks of the year featured large protests against the new president. Marches on Washington became weekly events.

White House aides surrounding the president became celebrities themselves, from Spicer and counselor Kellyanne Conway to former White House strategist Stephen Bannon and Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci, whose career as White House communications director was short-lived.

In a normal year, Scaramucci’s tenure and Bannon’s firing — to say nothing of the firing of former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus — might have been their own entries on this list.

Not this year. It all leaves one wondering what year two of the Trump presidency will bring.

Trump himself took credit for stimulating the news business in an interview Thursday with The New York Times, predicting that he’ll win reelection in 2020 because without him, “all forms of media will tank.”

The president may be right, but he’ll want to improve his approval ratings by then. The constant controversy appeared to make its mark.

As of Dec. 29, Trump sits at 39.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

  1. Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

Trump’s abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May was the stunner of the year.

It rocked Washington and threw into uncertainty the ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

It also led to one of the most dramatic congressional hearings in U.S. history, when Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence panel in June. Much of the nation stood transfixed, with bars filling in the middle of the day so that people could watch.

Comey’s ouster set into motion a series of events, including the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head up the criminal investigation into Russian interference. Some Trump loyalists see the firing as Trump’s biggest mistake, because it birthed the Mueller probe.

The reverberations will be felt in 2018, and perhaps for a lot longer. 

  1. The Trump tax cuts are passed

Trump got a huge Christmas present from the GOP Congress when it passed a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax bill days before the holiday.

It capped a difficult year in Congress, but many of the disappointments were forgotten following the tax bill’s passage, the biggest such legislation to be approved since the Reagan era.

Households and businesses across the country will be affected by the legislation, which chopped the corporate rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

It was also a huge victory for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

  1. ObamaCare repeal fails as McCain casts dramatic, deciding vote.

Congressional Republicans scrambled all summer to repeal ObamaCare.

But in an early morning July vote on a slimmed-down version of a repeal bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sided with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and the chamber’s Democrats in rejecting the measure, throwing a wrench into the GOP’s efforts to do away with former President Obama’s signature health-care law.

McCain did so in the most dramatic way possible.

Days earlier, he had returned to Washington after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. In a speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican admonished his party for abandoning what he called “regular order” in its pursuit of an ObamaCare repeal.

As the clock ticked down to the Senate vote, all eyes were on McCain, whose decision remained unclear until the very end. He eventually signaled his vote with a thumbs-down gesture as McConnell looked on. The vote failed, 51-49.

The GOP did repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate as part of the tax vote. McCain supported that bill, but missed the vote as he continued to battle his cancer diagnosis and his colleagues contemplated his future. 

  1. Charlottesville

Trump’s words blaming “both sides” for the violence in this Virginia college town last August between white supremacists and those protesting them led to criticism of the president from most of his party — a low point for the White House.

Trump offered his take hours after a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer was killed after a man drove a car through a crowd marching against white supremacists.

A few days later at Trump Tower, he doubled down, stunning Republicans.

“I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about that,” Trump said on Aug. 15.

  1. Mueller indicts Manafort and Flynn

For months, Mueller worked behind the scenes, with little if anything leaking out about his team’s activities.

Then, in October, came the sudden news that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and one of his associates, Richard Gates, had been indicted on charges of money laundering, among other things.

Even bigger news dropped minutes later when court documents revealed that George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents and was now cooperating with the probe.

Weeks later came even worse news for Trump. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was cooperating with Mueller.

The indictments and guilty pleas have everyone, from the White House to Congress to the nation, wondering what will come next.

  1. Sexual harassment rocks the political world.

The #MeToo movement unleashed by the storm surrounding movie mogul Harvey Weinstein hit Washington in December when Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who had been considered a presidential contender, and Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the longest-serving member of the House, both resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) also resigned after it became public that he had discussed the possibility of female staffers serving his his surrogate.

Two other members, Reps. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), have announced they will not run for reelection after allegations of sexual misconduct.

As December closed, many lawmakers were wondering who would be next.

  1. Democrats win Alabama Senate seat after Roy Moore controversy

Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a stunning win in Alabama’s special Senate election on Dec. 12, capping off a bitter race marked by sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Roy Moore.

With his narrow victory over Moore, Jones became the first Democrat to be elected to the Senate in Alabama in 25 years.

Moore, an insurgent former Alabama Supreme Court justice, was largely considered the favorite to win after defeating incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in the state’s GOP runoff in September. Strange had been backed by both McConnell and Trump.

But allegations emerged in November that Moore pursued sexual and romantic relations with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, prompting calls by many Republican officials and lawmakers for Moore to withdraw from the race.

Moore rebuffed those pleas, and denied the allegations against him, insisting that they were politically motivated. In the days before the election, he received a boost from Trump, who offered him a full-throated endorsement.

But Jones ultimately emerged victorious over Moore, propelled by a strong turnout among black voters. The Democratic victory dealt a blow to Bannon, the Breitbart News chief and former White House chief strategist, who backed Moore in the race.

  1. Trump’s travel ban

President Trump introduced his controversial travel ban just one week after taking office, sparking widespread protests fueled by social media at airports across the country after several refugees were detained.

The ban, which called for the U.S. to restrict travelers from selected Muslim-majority countries, triggered a court battle that lasted throughout the year.

But on Dec. 4, the Supreme Court provided the president with a major victory by granting the administration’s request to fully reinstate a revised version of his travel ban.

The ban will now likely be an issue in the midterms — and in the presidential race of 2020.

  1. Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court.

More than a year after Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left by the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Trump had his own pick, Neil Gorsuch, confirmed to the court.

Gorsuch’s confirmation amounted to one of Trump’s biggest wins of his first year in office. It was also a huge win for McConnell, who devised the strategy to block Obama’s pick.

Gorsuch was just one of Trump’s judicial appointees. In his first year in office, the real estate mogul has filled seats on federal courts across the country with conservative judges, reshaping the judiciary for decades to come.

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Straight out of a spy novel: How Robert Mueller is unraveling the Russian deep state mystery

Straight out of a spy novel: How Robert Mueller is unraveling the Russian deep state mystery
© Getty Images

 

As the attacks against Robert Mueller, his special counsel team and the FBI are escalated by a faction of defenders of President Trump, and the president strangely and malevolently tweets that his own Justice Department is part of the “deep state” investigating him, let’s consider what is happening.

Once the Russians began their covert program seeking to fix the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump, and to wage a cyber war, info war and espionage war against American democracy that continues today, a great battle began that pits Russia against America.

The Russian team is led by Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who gives the orders and runs the Russian deep state operation that includes the successor groups to the KGB and others who operate in secret in this attack against American democracy.

The American team is not led by President Trump, who calls the investigations of the Russian attack fake news, has repeatedly fired leaders of investigations of the Russian attack, and has repeatedly criticized or outright attacked agencies of the U.S. government whose agents and officers are fighting on behalf of the American team against Russia. For practical purposes the current captain of the American team is Robert Mueller, who is supported by a dedicated team of highly patriotic professionals in various government agencies entrusted with defending America against foreign attacks by hostile nations — in this case, Russia.

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What is happening is that there was an aggressive and multi-faceted operation by the Russian team to penetrate, infiltrate and influence the Trump team on behalf of Russian interests. Robert Mueller and his special counsel team, and at least the Senate Intelligence Committee, are investigating first the scope and magnitude of the Russian operation and second, whether or not there was anyone associated with Trump who was acting in concert with, and in furtherance of, the offensive by the Russian deep state against America. 

Robert Mueller is, in large measure, playing a role similar to the “good guys” in the John le Carré spy novels about espionage and counterintelligence during the Cold War battles with the Soviet Union. He is working with agencies of the U.S. government who defend our security to unravel exactly what the Russians were doing, exactly how they were doing it, and whether — or not — there were any Americans conspiring with the Russians while they did it. Once he nails down the facts, Mueller will decide whether and how to apply the law, a process that has begun with cases now pending.

Those defenders of Trump who attack Mueller or the FBI should give heartfelt thought to exactly what they are doing and the implications of their words and actions, which hurt key players on the American team who are defending our country from a foreign attack.

What is striking about Trump is that, if he were convinced of his innocence, it would not make sense for him to repeatedly launch attacks against those investigating the Russian operation. He would be virtually silent about the case, condemn the Russian attack against America and simply state that he looks forward to the conclusion of the investigations that he knows will clear him and others associated with him.

There was one particularly revealing assertion in the groundbreaking New York Times op-ed titled “The Republicans’ Fake Inquiry,” by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the founders of Fusion GPS, which hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who wrote the dossier that is now so widely discussed.

Simpson and Fritsch assert that they were told that the dossier was taken so seriously by the FBI “because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.” There are a number of key matters included in the dossier that were independently corroborated before and after the FBI first learned of its existence, while other matters in the dossier remain under investigation.

Considering Trump’s latest deluge of bizarre Twitter tirades, perhaps he knows or believes that more blockbuster news is coming soon. Until the facts are resolved once and for all, Mueller and the rest of the American team will continue unraveling the mysteries of the Russian deep state operation, and following the facts and the law wherever they lead.

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