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10 historic dates in 2018

In this June 12, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island in Singapore. Trump credits his accord with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un with saving tens of millions from nuclear war. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This past year was one for the history books, with unprecedented developments unfolding in domestic politics and on the world stage.

As we prepare to ring in the new year, below is a list of ten events that made 2018 historic.

January 22: Trump enacts the first in a series of tariffs.

On Jan. 22, President Donald Trump implemented a 20 percent tariff on washing machines and 30 percent on solar panels as the first step in his aggressive "America first" trade policy.

By March 8, Trump signed an order to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. Despite criticism at home and retaliation by America's longtime allies, Trump claimed in a tweet, "Trade wars are good, and easy to win." According to the White House, the economic pressure on Canada and Mexico helped advance NAFTA negotiations. On Nov. 30, Trump signed the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade agreement (USMCA). Congress is expected to vote on the trade deal in 2019.

The so-called trade war expanded to China beginning in March and were followed by Chinese retaliatory tariffs. By the end of 2018, the U.S. had imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. The two countries announced a truce Dec. 2 and plan to meet in early 2019 for trade talks. If the talks fall apart, the Trump administration set a March 1, deadline to raise tariff rates.

Feb. 14: A deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida leaves 17 dead.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when a former student, Nmarchikolas Cruz, opened fire. The incident was the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history and among the country's worst mass shootings.

Students used the tragedy to mobilize a national movement against gun violence and organized the March for Our Lives, a March 24 demonstration attended by more than 2 million Americans.

The school shooting also resulted in the creation of the School Safety Commission, which issued dozens of recommendations to harden security at schools, including more access to mental health support and arming teachers.

May 14: The U.S. opens its Israeli embassy in Jerusalem.

America's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was made official when President Trump and members of his administration opened a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the decision, telling Trump, "By recognizing history, you have made history."

Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem fulfilled one of Trump's 2016 campaign promises. The move also triggered massive protests from Palestinians that resulted in dozens of fatalities. After the official opening of the embassy, the Palestinian leadership recalled their ambassador from Washington. A few months later, in September, the U.S. State Department announced it was shuttering the Palestinian consulate in Washington, ending the prospects of Middle East peace talks.

The U.S. recognition led some Latin American countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem. Brazil, the Czech Republican and Bulgaria are seriously considering relocating their Israeli embassies.

May 8: Trump pulls out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as "the worst deal ever," President Trump officially pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear agreement. By November, the administration had reimposed unilateral and secondary sanctions on Tehran amid a broader push to curb Iran's influence in the Middle East.

Trump cited inadequate inspection and verification provisions and the failure to account for Iran's ballistic missile program and regional activity. Iran and the other international partners have continued to honor the terms of the nuclear deal. Despite U.S. accusations that Iran was "cheating" on the nonproliferation agreement, the United Nations confirmed that Iran is "in compliance" with the JCPOA.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson advised Trump to remain part of the agreement. He was fired March 14 and replaced by former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

June 12: U.S. and North Korean leaders meet for the first time.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un made history in Singapore, becoming the first leaders of their countries to meet face to face. After months of growing nuclear tensions, the two leaders exchanged handshakes and signed a document to establish new relations. Though short of a nuclear arms agreement, Kim committed to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Following the meeting, the United States was allowed to recover the remains of U.S. troops killed in the Korean War. The United States also temporarily suspended military training exercises with South Korea. North Korea has refrained from testing any more nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles, but satellite images show the country continues to expand its nuclear weapons facilities.

According to President Trump, the two leaders are expected to meet again in January or February 2019.

Oct. 6: Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in.

Sexual assault allegations and a brutal partisan political fight nearly derailed Trump's second Supreme Court Justice appointment, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate 50 to 48, the narrowest vote margin since 1881. Just days before the Senate was initially scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward to claim Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in 1982.

Kavanaugh was thought to be on a clear path to confirmation until that point. The Senate Judiciary convened a historic, emotional hearing Sept. 27. Senators questioned the accused and Republicans hired an outside counsel to question the accuser in a marathon hearing. The confirmation battle spilled onto the streets. Thousands of protesters descended on Washington. Emotions ran high across the country and some lawmakers reported death threats and other harassment leading up to their final vote.

During the hearings, Democratic lawmakers said they would further investigate Ford's allegation of sexual assault as well as other claims made by alleged victims if they won the November midterm elections.

October 24: Massive opioid bill signed into law.

The opioid epidemic has emerged as the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Almost one year after declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency, President Trump signed the bipartisan SUPPORT Act, which he called the "single largest bill to combat the drug crisis in the history of our country."

Health data released in 2018 showed an acceleration in the number of fatal drug overdoses, with deaths from opioids and fentanyl peaking at nearly 50,000 in 2017.

The effects of the bill have yet to be seen. The SUPPORT Act makes billions of dollars available for federal agencies and states to provide addiction treatment, drug abuse prevention programs and law enforcement tools to stop the shipment of opioids and fentanyl into U.S. communities. In total, Congress appropriated $8.5 billion in 2018 to go toward fighting the opioid epidemic.

Nov. 6: Midterm elections.

Partisanship aside, the biggest winner in the 2018 election was engagement. This year saw record-breaking turnout in a midterm election with more than 47 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots by Nov. 6.

In the Senate, Republicans held their majority and picked up two seats additional seats. Democrats regained control of the House with a 40-seat gain, among the largest in recent history. Voters elected the largest number of women to ever serve in Congress and voted to check President Trump's power going into the 2020 election. A number of newly-elected Democrats ran as socialists, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who has quickly become the symbol of the party's progressive base.

The new Democratic majority in the House has promised to investigate President Donald Trump and work on issues like health care, government corruption, campaign finance reform and infrastructure. The new Congress will be sworn in Jan. 3 and will immediately face the crisis of an ongoing partial government shutdown over border security.

Nov. 7: Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

There are only a few instances in American history when a president has fired his attorney general, but after a year of criticism, Trump asked for and accepted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' resignation from office. Session's former chief of staff Matthew Whitaker is currently serving as acting attorney general. Trump nominated William Barr to replace Sessions permanently. Barr served as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.

Trump consistently expressed disappointment in his "beleaguered" attorney general, particularly after Sessions recused himself from overseeing the special counsel probe of Trump campaign connections to Russia. The removal of Sessions has fueled speculation that Trump could take steps to undermine Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation or appoint a replacement who would block the release of the special counsel's findings. The tensions will certainly carry over into a tough confirmation battle in the new year.

Shortly after Sessions was let go, Trump signed the First Step Act into law, the criminal justice and sentence reform legislation in more than a generation. Sessions strongly opposed the reforms in favor of keeping the tough on crime policies of the 1980s and 1990s. Trump also complained that Sessions was not doing enough on border security and reportedly pushed back against Trump's request to investigate his political enemies.

Dec. 20: Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigns.

Earlier this month, retired four-star general James Mattis became the first Secretary of Defense to resign from office in protest. Mattis cited differences with the president over America's treatment of its allies and adversaries. The announcement also came one day after Trump announced plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and just before the president's announcement of a massive troop drawdown in Afghanistan.

Mattis wrote that "because you have a right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours" on a number of subjects, "I believe it is right for me to step down from my position."

Sec. Mattis originally intended to transition out of the administration by February, but President Trump demanded the Pentagon chief leave by the beginning of the new year. Mattis will transfer his authority to his deputy, Patrick Shanahan who will become the acting defense secretary effective midnight, Jan. 1. Trump has yet to announce a permanent replacement for Mattis.


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