2017 in review: The biggest stories of the year
It was a year we won't soon forget.
From Donald Trump's inauguration to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, these were the biggest stories of the year.
Trump's first year in the White House
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20 after his stunning upset over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Setting the tone for Trump's tumultuous first year in office and the administration's tense relationship with the press, Sean Spicer berated reporters over the crowd size at Trump's inauguration two days later in his debut as White House press secretary.
"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration —- period —- both in person and around the globe," Spicer said.
"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong." he added, taking no questions from reporters after reading the brief statement.
Spicer announced his resignation from as the White House press secretary in July after just six months on the job.
The controversies persisted throughout the year, from Trump's relentless tweeting at all hours of the day to the ousting, resignation and job changes of more than a dozen administration officials. And who can forget Trump's coining of a new word, "covfefe"?
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The Russia investigation
While testifying before the House Committee on Intelligence in March, then-FBI director James Comey confirmed the bureau was investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election and "any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."
Trump fired Comey suddenly in May after the president allegedly spoke to Comey about dropping the FBI's investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Comey wrote about his Feb. 14 meeting with the president in a memo, details of which were first reported by The New York Times and were later confirmed to ABC News by sources close to the former FBI director.
According to a source who read the memo, which Comey shared with top FBI associates, Comey wrote that Trump said, "I hope you can let this go," referring to the inquiry into Flynn's conduct. "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," said Trump, according to the source who read the memo. "He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
Trump's alleged request to Comey about the investigation came the day after Flynn was forced to resign after misleading the administration about his contacts with Russian officials.
Trump has repeatedly denied asking Comey to halt an investigation into Flynn. “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn,” he tweeted in December. “Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
After Comey's termination, the U.S. Department of Justice appointed Robert Mueller, a former FBI chief, in May as special counsel to lead the probe into Russian election interference and potential ties to the Trump campaign. By mid-December, Mueller's team of investigators had brought federal charges against four people — including Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia's ambassador.
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London high-rise fire
A massive fire engulfed a residential high-rise building in London in the early morning hours of July 14.
Since then, London's Metropolitan Police Service said they have searched every apartment on every floor and every communal area of the 24-story Grenfell Tower and examined 15.5 tons of debris on each floor.
Police said the death toll stands at 71 after recovering and identifying all those believed to have died in the blaze.
Police previously estimated that about 80 people had died in the fire, which started in a refrigerator on the fourth floor and raced all the way to the top within minutes. Many of the survivors remain displaced without permanent housing.
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Three monster hurricanes ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands within a four-week span.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on Aug. 25, killing more than 80 people in the Lone Star State and causing an estimated $150 billion in damage.
Hurricane Irma made landfall twice in southern Florida on Sept. 10, killing scores of people there and elsewhere in the United States as well as in the Caribbean.
Among those killed were residents of a nursing home that lost its air conditioning in Hollywood, Florida.
Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, damaging thousands of homes and wiped out power to the entire U.S. territory. Nearly three months after the storm hit, the island's power grid was operating at only 70 percent of capacity.
The Puerto Rican government said the number of deaths traceable to the calamitous storm was 64. But independent analyses by several news organizations found that the death toll was likely far higher than the official count, prompting Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello on Dec. 18 to order a review of every death on the island since Maria.
“This is about more than numbers, these are lives: real people, leaving behind loved ones and families,” Rossello said in a statement, acknowledging that the death toll "may be higher than the official count certified to date."
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Las Vegas mass shooting
Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant and high-stakes video poker player, opened fire on an outdoor music festival crowd along the Las Vegas Strip from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Oct. 1. Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds more were wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Authorities found Paddock dead inside his two-room suite alongside an arsenal of weapons.
The Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner later determined that Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada, had committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth.
Questions about the gunman's motive for the shooting remain unanswered.
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Sexual misconduct allegations
A deluge of sexual misconduct allegations were made against some of the most powerful men in politics, media and the entertainment industry. The issues are nothing new, but this year's worldwide wave of accusations was unprecedented and seemed to pour out after reports surfaced in early October that movie magnate Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting numerous women for decades.
Weinstein has acknowledged inappropriate behavior but has denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. “Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances,” his spokesman previously said.
The hashtag #MeToo went viral on social media in the wake of the allegations, as countless women — and some men — around the world were emboldened to share their own stories.
Along with Weinstein, many of the accused men have suffered consequences.
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North Korea weapons testing
Tensions between the United States and North Korea were sky-high this year, with the leaders of the two countries exchanging threats and schoolyard taunts, like "dotard" and "Little Rocket Man." But the tensions were exacerbated by North Korea's tests of a hydrogen bomb and of ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the U.S. mainland.
North Korea conducted over a dozen ballistic missile tests in 2017.
The latest was Nov. 29, when North Korea said it launched a new, nuclear-capable weapon that could allegedly reach the entire continental United States. North Korean state television said the new intercontinental ballistic missile, which it called a Hwasong 15, was "significantly more" powerful than the previous long-range ICBM the country had tested.
The Hwasong 15 reached an altitude of 2,800 miles, making it the highest North Korean missile test to date, two U.S. officials confirmed.
It traveled for an estimated 50 minutes, the longest of the country's missile flights, an official said.
"The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 kilometers [about 621 miles] before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)," Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Defense said the missile did not pose a threat to North America, its territories or its allies.
Trump later addressed the ICBM launch while appearing before reporters at the White House, pledging, "We will take care of it. … It is a situation that we will handle."
In response to the Nov. 29 launch, the United Nations Security Council adopted strong new sanctions against North Korea.
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NFL players protest during national anthem
The phenomenon began during the 2016 NFL preseason when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling before games to raise awareness of social injustice, including police brutality against black Americans. But the protests really took off over the next year, with players from across the league joining Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media after taking a knee. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
In early March, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers, making him a free agent. Kaepernick remains unsigned, and some have accused the NFL of blacklisting him, according to ESPN.
In late September, Trump slammed the NFL for what he called the league's tolerance of players showing disrespect to the United States.
"Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'Get that son of a b—- off the field right now?'" the president said amid thunderous applause and cheers from a crowd in Huntsville, Alabama.
"You know, some owner … is going to say, 'That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired,'" he said.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, one of the first players to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem, defended the ongoing silent protests in an Oct. 10 interview on ABC's "The View."
"We have a constitutional right to protest. And that's all we're doing — exercising it," Reid said. "It's a peaceful protest…. We're simply trying to raise awareness around the issues that our country face[s]."
Reid said he was first inspired to join his teammate's protest after the death of Alton Sterling, a black man who was shot several times by police while being held on the ground in Reid's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
"At that point, I knew I needed to do something," he said. "I need[ed] to use my platform to speak out for people who didn't have a voice."
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