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17 stories that defined 2017

As each year comes to an end, news outlets across the globe inevitably look back on the months that have passed and reflect on the stories that most impacted our lives. In 2016, those retrospectives were dominated by the presidential election and political strife that consumed not only the United States, but the world. 

But in 2017, it's nearly impossible to pinpoint any one defining story -- or even to remember all the high and low points of this whirlwind of a year. We saw the after-effects of last year play out in real time, at almost too fast a pace to keep up. Not only was the bombardment of news relentless, the headlines quite literally multiplied in magnitude and scope. We witnessed not one massively destructive hurricane, but three in a row; two horrific massacres back to back; a spate of vehicle attacks in Europe and at home; and endless political infighting at the speed of Twitter.

Through it all, we also saw the resiliency of the human spirit. Neighbors and strangers alike stepped in to help someone in need, whether they had lost their home in Houston or a loved one in Las Vegas. And as we head into 2018, we're sure to see more of the same compassion and care.

Here are 17 stories that dominated 2017, and whose impact will continue to be felt in the years to come.

1. President Donald Trump's tweets

"I'm going to be very restrained, if I use [Twitter] at all, I'm going to be very restrained," then President-elect Donald Trump told 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl in his first TV interview just days after winning the U.S. election. But his activity on the social media site was anything but restrained during his first year in office.

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Mr. Trump has poked fun at world leaders including the dictator of North Korea, railed against the mainstream media, and sent out dozens of typos like the infamous "covfefe" to nearly 45 million followers. He implied there might be tapes of his White House conversations, attacked numerous sitting lawmakers, shocked global allies, and announced major policy changes. He's gotten into hot water over retweets from accounts belonging to alt-right activists and anti-Muslim extremist groups.

Each Trump tweet seemed to spark a frenzied media cycle analyzing their meaning and impact. The president says he likes using Twitter because it allows him to speak directly to the American people, without the involvement of the press. "The tweet speaks for itself" became a predictable response from first White House press secretary Sean Spicer and his successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. One year in, there are no signs President Trump plans on slowing down.

2. The Women's March

One day after President Trump's inauguration, hundreds of thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C. for the Women's March, and many more took to the streets in cities across all 50 states as well as dozens of countries abroad.

At the flagship march in D.C., a star-studded line up kicked off the day's events. Many marchers wore pink "pussy hats," designed to reclaim the president's vulgar use of the term on the 2005 Access Hollywood tape. While organizers said the day was not about being anti-Trump, critics felt it excluded conservative women and would lead to little positive change. But for one day at least, the turnout was a massive show of solidarity among women (and men) across the globe.

3. Harvey Weinstein allegations and the #MeToo movement

Bombshell reports in October from The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed allegations of Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct in Hollywood. Although he has denied any nonconsensual encounters, dozens of women have accused the producer of sexual harassment and assault. 

The revelations revealed a deeply rooted problem in Hollywood and beyond of men using their power and influence to take advantage of women. As more women felt empowered to come forward, more prominent men lost their jobs -- including actor Kevin Spacey; comedian Louis C.K.; journalists Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer; and politicians Al Franken and John Conyers. 

This watershed moment sparked an ongoing national conversation about sexual misconduct and power dynamics in the workplace. The hashtag #MeToo went viral as millions of people took to social media to share their experiences.

4. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

Hurricane season in 2017 was particularly brutal for the southeastern U.S. and Caribbean. Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in Houston and surrounding areas of Texas as well as Louisiana. Record-breaking downpours left entire towns underwater, including small farm communities like Winnie, Texas.

The nation barely had time to rally around the victims before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, also causing severe damage in Puerto Rico on the way. 

Then when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico at the end of September, power was knocked out to the entire U.S. territory and millions of residents -- who are U.S. citizens -- struggled to find clean drinking water and safe shelter. With communications down and major roadways destroyed, aid couldn't reach large portions of the population.

Three months later, 30 percent of the island is still without electricity and nearly 250,000 people have sought refuge in Florida, CBS News' David Begnaud reports.

5. The Russia investigation

U.S. intelligence agencies determined last year that Russians interfered with the presidential election. But the question lingers, was there any collusion with the Trump campaign? The resulting investigation has been a cloud hovering over the Trump administration since Day 1. Then-FBI Director James Comey was leading a probe into the matter when Trump suddenly fired him. As a result, special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to oversee the investigation.

Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security advisor Michael Flynn have both been criminally charged (Flynn pleaded guilty), along with two other campaign aides. 

And let's not forget the time Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out his email exchanges setting up a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Trump and his team continue to insist there was no collusion with Russia, but the investigation is likely nowhere near over.

6. James Comey's firing and testimony

The former FBI director was fired in May after months of investigating possible Russia connections. It was a nearly unprecedented political drama that left many government figures questioning the president's motives. The White House's first explanation was a letter from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein saying Comey had poorly handled the probe into Hillary Clinton's emails. 

Then President Trump undermined that argument by telling NBC's Lester Holt that he'd planned to fire Comey all along, and he "had the Russia thing" on his mind when he did it. 

Shortly after he left the FBI, Comey leaked a memo on his conversations with Mr. Trump about the investigation into Flynn -- leading to speculation about whether or not the president's actions amounted to obstruction of justice. 

All of this built up over a matter of weeks, so when Comey was called to testify on Capitol Hill, anticipation was running high. Bars in Washington, D.C. opened early for testimony watch parties. The major networks all carried special reports. 

Ultimately, Comey's public testimony didn't reveal any smoking guns, but there were some shocking moments. He explained he took notes during his conversations with the president because he was afraid Trump might "lie about the nature of our meeting." He revealed that the Justice Department asked him to use softer language about the probe into Clinton's emails during the campaign. And he left social media with a one-liner that will be immortalized in meme-dom forever: "Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

7. White House hirings and firings

President Trump's administration has seen a considerable amount of high-profile staff turnover during its first year. The first to go was former national security advisor Mike Flynn in February, just 25 days into the term, after it was revealed he lied about his contact with the Russian government. He was also a registered foreign agent for the government of Turkey. He recently plead guilty to lying to the FBI. 

Next was James Comey's firing in May.

Then, a whirlwind series of exits over the course of 10 days in July, when Anthony Scaramucci was brought in as the new communications director and press secretary Sean Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus quickly left the White House. Then Scaramucci himself got the boot after an explosive phone call to a high-profile journalist reportedly angered the new chief of staff, General John Kelly. 

Chief strategist Steve Bannon resigned in August, returning to his post at Breitbart. In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over his use of private charter planes. Most recently, reality star Omarosa Manigualt Newman left her White House public liaison job, reportedly in dramatic fashion.

8. The solar eclipse

In a year that was particularly polarizing, the sun and moon provided a welcome distraction this summer when the solar eclipse captivated the nation. Millions of Americans traveled and camped out to be within the path of totality, which stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. 

Although the event itself only lasted for one hour and 33 minutes, the weeks and days of excitement leading up to it gave Americans something positive and uplifting to look forward to. Gone for a moment were the Twitter hot-takes and political bickering. The eclipse was just cool, and that's something we could all agree on -- even if only for a day.

9. Violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia 

In August, groups of neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park at the University of Virginia. A rally was planned for Saturday, August 12th, but the night before hundreds of men marched through the school's grounds with tiki torches chanting phrases like "Jews will not replace us" and the Nazi slogan, "blood and soil." The demonstration only foreshadowed the dark events of the next day, when the supremacist groups clashed violently with anti-fascists and counter-protesters.

Police called off the event, and as protesters left the scene a white supremacist drove a car into the crowd, injuring dozens and killing a peaceful protester named Heather Heyer.

The events of the weekend left the country shaken and searching for answers. When President Trump finally addressed what happened, his words did little to promote healing. "I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said in a press conference three days later. He soon added there were "very fine people on both sides." His choice of words ignited a firestorm of criticism, and left the country once again grappling with how to talk about race, bigotry, and the legacy of segregation in America today.

10. NFL players kneel during national anthem

Colin Kaepernick's protest on the NFL sidelines had mostly faded from the national spotlight until September, when President Trump spoke about it at a rally in Alabama. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a b---- off the field right now,'" Trump asked the crowd, which responded with loud cheers.

Players, coaches, and team owners across the league denounced the president's statement and defended players' rights to express their views.

The next weekend, the national anthem at the start of each game was almost more hyped than the games themselves. More than 200 NFL players kneeled in a show of solidarity. The Pittsburgh Steelers voted as a team to sit out the anthem all together, while the entire Dallas Cowboys lineup kneeled on the 50-yard line before their game began.

In early October, Vice President Mike Pence left an Indianapolis Colts game after some players took a knee. He said it was a matter of patriotism and respect, but critics called it a taxpayer funded publicity stunt.

Supporters of the kneeling protests say the gesture is intended to call attention to police brutality and the unequal treatment of black citizens in America, but detractors believe kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to those who have fought and died for our country.

11. Tensions with North Korea

North Korea has launched 23 missiles in 16 different tests in the months since Donald Trump took office. The most recent test, in late November, was of a ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. mainland. Kim Jong Un appears to be making major strides in his nuclear program, and the uptick in test launches prompted Trump to dub him "Little Rocket Man."

The president has a knack for giving nicknames to his opponents -- Little Marco, Crooked Hillary -- but it is unusual for a sitting U.S. president to openly mock another country's leader, especially on Twitter. Kim has taken his own shots in the war of words, calling Mr. Trump a "dotard" and a "destroyer," while also threatening retaliation for the president's insults.

While the back-and-forth may seem silly, the potential diplomatic consequences are serious. Trump has repeatedly said the U.S. will "handle" the situation, and called on countries like China to place stricter sanctions on North Korea. But defense experts now believe that with the latest test, Kim is closing in on the ability to strike anywhere in the world.

12. Mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas

On October 1st, the country was horrified by the news of 58 people shot dead at an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The gunman rained thousands of bullets down on the unsuspecting crowd from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. He was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, surrounded by an arsenal of weapons.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, exceeding even the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando just last year. Just 35 days later, another horrific shooting claimed the lives of 26 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The youngest victim was just 18 months old; the oldest was 77.

It was later revealed that the shooter had previously escaped from a mental health facility, and was discharged form the Air Force for bad conduct for assaulting his spouse and child. That information was never reported to the FBI, which would have prevented him from buying a gun. The tragic loss of so many lives once again sparked debate on gun laws in America and what can be done to stem the violence.

13. Terror attacks around the world

A terrifying trend in terror attacks that began in 2016 continued into this year with assailants using cars as weapons. Six people were killed in March when a man drove a car into pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge in London, then barreled into the gates of the nearby House of Parliament. 

That was the first of three car attacks in London this year -- in June a terrorist sped into crowds on the London Bridge, and days later another attacker plowed through a group of worshipers leaving a mosque. In August, a similar attack took place on the Las Ramblas promenade in Barcelona, Spain, killing 16. And in October, an assailant in New York City killed eight people when he drove a rented Home Depot truck into the crowd on a popular bike path in lower Manhattan

This year also saw the horrific bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. Twenty-two people were killed, many of them young girls and parents picking their children up from the show.

14. President Trump's travel ban

One week after he took office, President Trump issued an executive order placing strict travel restrictions on people coming to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The resulting chaos at airports around the country caused massive protests and sent lawyers rushing to defend detained travelers.

The ban was halted by a federal judge within a week, tying it up in the court system. A second version was released in March that was also partially blocked. However, the Supreme Court later ruled part of the ban could go into effect, and in December allowed the third version to go through while it faces ongoing legal challenges. This third version restricts access from eight countries -- Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, North Korea, and certain travelers from Venezuela. 

15. Major votes on health care and tax reform

Two key Trump campaign promises faced decisive votes this year. First was the Republican Party's pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The House was able to pass their version of a plan to dismantle the ACA, but it was unpopular with the public and the Congressional Budget Office estimated upwards of 30 million more people would be uninsured by 2026. Republican leadership, including President Trump, lobbied for weeks to get the votes needed to pass the repeal in the Senate. Ultimately, seven Republicans voted against the Senate's version, with Sen. John McCain -- recently diagnosed with cancer -- delivering a dramatic "thumbs-down" on its way to defeat.

In the final days of the year, Republicans in the Senate and the House passed their massive tax overhaul plan. The plan faced criticism from Democrats who say it's a tax cut for the rich and corporations, but supporters say it will boost the economy and help the middle class. President Trump, who long promised a "big, beautiful tax cut," signed the bill into law before Christmas.

16. Special election in Alabama

It's rare that a special election for a congressional seat in a heavily red (or blue) state dominates national media attention. But the entire country was watching the race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore in Alabama -- a state that hasn't had a Democratic senator in 25 years.

Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by at least seven women, including some who said they were teenagers when the incidents happened. At first, Republican lawmakers distanced themselves from Moore and many called for him to drop out of the race. But Moore denied the allegations and refused to step aside.

The RNC eventually resumed its financial support, and President Trump recorded a robocall for Moore in the last days before the election. It was a tight race, but Jones won after historic turnout of the Democratic base -- specifically African-Americans and young voters.

17. "Fake news"

Shortly after the election last year, it became clear that false stories from bogus "news" sites had run rampant on social media. But in 2017, the term "fake news" has taken on a new meaning that seems to apply to any story someone may not like. The president often refers to the mainstream media, specifically CNN, as "fake" when unflattering stories are published.

Just one month after he took office, Trump called the news media the "enemy of the American people." And a poll out in December found that 44 percent of Americans believe news outlets make up stories about the president and his administration "more than once in a while."