The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Leadership elections in Congress | Freshman lawmakers arrive | Trump argues he can restrict reporter access

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 --> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Wildfire death toll hits 50 | House GOP holding leadership elections | Freshmen lawmakers pose for class photo | Most diverse Congress in history | Romney, Ryan reunion | DOJ defends Whitaker's appointment | How Amazon HQ2 could change DC | How the midterms shook up the national map | National Pickle Day | Boston getting its first Chick-fil-A



The California wildfires are the deadliest in the state's history. 



The current death toll in the Northern California fires: 48 people have been killed in the Camp Fire in Northern California, but that number is expected to rise. About 200 people are still missing.

The current death toll in the Southern California fires: Two people have died in the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.

When the areas will get rain: Possibly early next week.

How wildfires start: It can start with just a spark. "That spark, combined with tinder-dry forests and howling winds, can be all that's needed for a catastrophic wildfire to start. Once a fire ignites, the combination of heat, oxygen and fuel (trees, brush, etc.) can cause it to explode in size."

Viral story: "See the Moment a Nurse Drives Through Flames to Help Patients During Deadly California Wildfire" The full story:



Yikes -- one of the scariest fire videos I've seen: Here are fire crews battling a fire on the side of a highway as drivers escape:

Aerial footage over Paradise, Calif.: Ugh, this is so sad.

Livestream of the fire in Ventura County, Calif.:


It's Wednesday. Back from jury duty, I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas, happy thoughts and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and on Facebook.


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This morning -- senators, meet your fearless leaders:

Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell in talks with Mnuchin on next phase of coronavirus relief Pelosi: 'We shouldn't even be thinking' about reopening schools without federal aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K MORE (R-Ky.) was re-elected as Senate Majority Leader.

Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government MORE (D-N.Y.) was re-elected as Senate Minority Leader.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate MORE (R-S.D.) was promoted to serve as Senate Republican Whip.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears MORE (R-Wyo.) will serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Advocacy groups pressure Senate to reconvene and boost election funding GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (R-Mo.) will serve as Policy Committee chairman. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K Democrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP MORE (R-Iowa) will serve as vice chairwoman of the GOP conference.

Were any of these surprises?: Nope. 

Keep in mind: Thune, Barrasso and Blunt each moved a step up the leadership ladder. 


Happening at 1 p.m. -- House GOP leadership elections:

House Republicans are meeting this afternoon to elect their party leaders. The favorite for House Minority Leader: Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress MORE (R-Calif.), the current House Majority Leader. McCarthy's challenger: House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus poses questions about school safety; Trump commutes Roger Stone sentence Nadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' MORE (R-Ohio).



Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph Scalise4 Texas GOP congressional primary runoffs to watch Cheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks MORE (R-La.) is running unopposed for House Minority Whip.

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneySome in Congress want to keep sending our troops to Afghanistan Biggs, Massie call on Trump to remove troops from Afghanistan Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide MORE (R-Wyo.) is running unopposed for Republican Conference Chair.



"Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus are proving to be the latest hurdle to Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi70 progressive groups call for next Foreign Affairs chair to reflect 'progressive realism' House to vote next week on ridding Capitol of Confederate statues Eye on gavel, Wasserman Schultz proposes panel on racial inequality in spending MORE's (D-Calif.) rise to the Speakership."



We're not normal House members -- we're ~cool~ House members:


Next year's Congress will be the most diverse in U.S. history, including a record number of women. "Many of the new Democrats are young and progressive, underscoring the generational and ideological divisions that are likely to pull at the conference over the next two years."

For example -- wow: "There is a former N.F.L. linebacker, a climate scientist, and a rapper with a Harvard Law degree. There is one immigrant from Somalia and another from Ecuador. There are two former C.I.A. officials, an Air Force veteran, a former Navy helicopter pilot, and a retired Marine commander -- all of them women. Not to mention a pediatrician and a human rights advocate."

HAPPENING THIS MORNING: New House members posed for a class photo on the Capitol steps. Photo -- it was very chilly out:

^Lol: "Overheard from one member-elect: 'I'm dying! It's 80 degrees in my district.'"

TIDBIT -- AWW, A ROMNEY-RYAN 2012 REUNION: Here's video of Sen.-elect Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyJudge seeks copy of order commuting Roger Stone sentence Top Mueller prosecutor: 'We could have done more' in Russia investigation Chris Christie: I wouldn't have commuted Roger Stone sentence MORE (R-Utah) walking into House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world MORE's (R-Wis.) office on Capitol Hill. Keep in mind: Ryan was Romney's running mate during the 2012 presidential race. Watch -- it's heartwarming:

NEW DIGS: Newly elected senators have temporary offices on Capitol Hill. Photo of Romney's office:



Criminal justice, please step up:

Via The Hill's Jordain Carney, "A bipartisan group of senators involved in talks has reached a deal to pair a House-passed prison reform bill with a handful of sentencing reform measures, according to two GOP aides. Advocates hope to get legislation to the president's desk by the end of the year."

BUT IMMIGRATION, YOUR NUMBER PROBABLY WON'T BE CALLED: An immigration deal during the lame-duck session of Congress is becoming less and less likely. Why: 2020 politics. "Democrats say they are content to take the issue into 2020, when Democratic voters are projected to turn out in larger numbers and two pivotal Senate races will be fought in states with large Hispanic populations: Arizona and Colorado."



A D.C. man with ties to the Pittsburgh shooting suspect was arrested:

Via The Washington Post's Spencer S. Hsu and Peter Hermann, 30-year-old Jeffrey R. Clark Jr., who described himself as a white nationalist, was arrested on a gun charge after family members alerted him to police. Keep in mind: Clark allegedly told family members that the victims of the Pittsburgh shooting "deserved it." Oh and: "Court papers said Jeffrey Clark posted a picture of the suspected gunman spattered in what appears to be blood and wrote, 'This was a dry run for things to come.'"



Nah, he's good brah:

In a new memo, the Department of Justice defended Matthew Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general.

What sparked this memo: "Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and other legal scholars have argued that Whitaker's appointment is unlawful under a department statute, which vests the full authority of the office to the deputy attorney general if the office of attorney general becomes vacant."

From the memo: "As all three branches of government have long recognized, the President may designate an acting official to perform the duties of a vacant principal officer, including a Cabinet office, even when the acting official has not been confirmed by the Senate." 


How Amazon HQ2 could affect the D.C. area:

Via The Hill's Sylvan Lane and Reid Wilson, "The arrival of 25,000 highly skilled tech workers and millions of dollars in planned investments [for Amazon's new Northern Virginia headquarters] is likely to accelerate the steady development of the gentrifying capital area."

Here are five ways the Washington, D.C. area could be affected:


Meanwhile in New York -- srsly?:


Talk of the media world -- who can enter the White House:

Via The Hill's Jordan Fabian, "The Trump administration on Wednesday pushed back against CNN's request to immediately reinstate reporter Jim Acosta's press pass, arguing that reporters do not have a Constitutional right to enter the White House. The claim came in a Justice Department legal filing hours before a federal court hearing on CNN's lawsuit over the White House's decision to pull Acosta's press pass after a heated exchange with President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE last week during a news conference."

REACTION FROM NEWS OUTLETS: Fox News and a number of media outlets announced support for CNN's lawsuit to reinstate Acosta's press pass. From Fox News President Jay Wallace: "FOX News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter's press credential. We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized," Wallace said in a statement.


Tidbit -- Fox News took a Twitter break: 

The official Twitter account for Fox News hasn't tweeted since Nov. 8. See for yourself:

A possible reason: Via The Hill's Joe Concha, Fox is reportedly protesting Twitter's "lack of responsiveness regarding content associated with a protest outside of host TuckerCarlson's home." But keep in mind: Fox News hasn't publicly said why the news outlet hasn't been tweeting.





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I'm crying:



The House and Senate are in. President Trump is at the White House and Vice President Pence is in Singapore. 

11:30 a.m. EST: President Trump received an intelligence briefing. 

12:30 p.m. EST: President Trump is having lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: US formally rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims | House set to consider defense policy bill next week | 57 injured as firefighters battle warship blaze Pompeo formally rejects Beijing's claims in South China Sea Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones MORE.

2:15 p.m. EST: The Senate votes on Coast Guard reauthorization. The Senate's full schedule today:

5 p.m. EST: First and last votes in the House.

3 p.m. EST Thursday: The deadline for machine recounts in the Florida elections.



1 p.m. EST: The White House's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee meets. Livestream:

2 p.m. EST: Senate Republicans hold a press briefing. Livestream:

2:30 p.m. EDT: Senate Democrats hold a press briefing. Livestream:

8 p.m. EST Thursday: Oprah Winfrey's interview with former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaPrinceton must finish what it started The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools MORE airs on OWN.



Today is National Pickle Day!


*Starts whispering a Chick-fil-A chant*:

Boston's first Chick-fil-A is expected to open in Back Bay. Details:


And because I laughed out loud at this, here's a cat who probably should have left the city rat alone. This feels like a Looney Tunes skit: