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 McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (R-Ky.) was re-elected as Senate Majority Leader.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall MORE (D-N.Y.) was re-elected as Senate Minority Leader.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (R-S.D.) was promoted to serve as Senate Republican Whip.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species MORE (R-Wyo.) will serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean Blunt‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (R-Mo.) will serve as Policy Committee chairman. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstPush for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation On The Money: Negotiators aiming to reach deal Monday night | Why border talks stalled | Treasury calls reports on dip in tax refunds 'misleading' | Cuomo, Trump to discuss SALT deduction cap 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 McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (R-Calif.), the current House Majority Leader. McCarthy's challenger: House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power Cohen to testify before three congressional panels before going to prison MORE (R-Ohio).



Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTexas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Dems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland MORE (R-La.) is running unopposed for House Minority Whip.

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Liz Cheney calls for House vote on Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal Liz Cheney mocks Booker over factory farming comments: 'I support PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals' 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win Congress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks 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 RomneyTrump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love Trump religious adviser calls anti-Trump evangelicals 'spineless morons' MORE (R-Utah) walking into House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration 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 TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job 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 PompeoHeather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Overnight Defense: Trump to sign funding deal, declare national emergency | Shanahan says allies will be consulted on Afghanistan | Dem demands Khashoggi documents 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 ObamaEx-W.Va. official who made racist Michelle Obama remark defrauded ,000 from FEMA: report GOP senator dedicates heart photo to wife from Senate floor for Valentine's Day Barack Obama sends Valentine's message to Michelle: 'She does get down to Motown' 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: