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 McConnellOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown On The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Mellman: Enemies of democracy MORE (R-Ky.) was re-elected as Senate Majority Leader.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Trump moves to ease Obama water rule | EPA document contradicts agency over water rule data| Manchin to be top Dem on Senate Energy panel Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-N.Y.) was re-elected as Senate Minority Leader.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOn The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Senators dumbfounded by Trump vow to shut down government The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE (R-S.D.) was promoted to serve as Senate Republican Whip.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda White House jumps into fight over energy subsidies Clock ticks down on GOP Congress MORE (R-Wyo.) will serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches Pressure builds as Pelosi, Schumer, Trump meet over border wall demands Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing MORE (R-Mo.) will serve as Policy Committee chairman. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa’s Ernst will run for reelection in 2020 Grassley open to legislation making it tougher for Trump to impose tariffs on national security grounds Special committee votes down budget reforms 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 McCarthyOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown Criminal justice reform forgets immigrants Google chief defends company during Capitol Hill grilling MORE (R-Calif.), the current House Majority Leader. McCarthy's challenger: House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMeadows looks to make his move Comey’s confession: dossier not verified before, or after, FISA warrant Republicans missed best shot on keeping promise to cut spending MORE (R-Ohio).



Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseDem knocks GOP colleagues: Blame 'yourself' for unfavorable Google search results Stefanik: GOP leaders need to step up their female recruitment efforts Pressure builds as Pelosi, Schumer, Trump meet over border wall demands MORE (R-La.) is running unopposed for House Minority Whip.

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyScalise backs Stefanik's push to help GOP women in primaries GOP struggles to find right Republican for Rules ‘Wake up, dudes’ — gender gap confounds GOP women 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 PelosiPelosi, Dem rebels near deal on term limits for party leaders Pelosi divides Democrats with term-limit proposal Oval Office clash ups chances of shutdown 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 RomneyO’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House The 2020 presidential race: A 2004 redux? MORE (R-Utah) walking into House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Stefanik: GOP leaders need to step up their female recruitment efforts McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill 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 TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time 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: Trump, Dem leaders fight before cameras over border wall | GOP skeptical of having military build wall | US spars with Russia, Venezuela over bomber deployment Russia, Venezuela lash out after US criticisms of bomber deployment Our deep divide over nuclear disarmament 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 ObamaMichelle Obama greets students at Detroit Motown Museum with surprise visit Michelle Obama: People questioning whether I could be first lady 'doesn't go away' Michelle Obama extends global book tour amid 'overwhelming interest' 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: