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 McConnellFury over Trump Syria decision grows Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Trump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds MORE (R-Ky.) was re-elected as Senate Majority Leader.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump defends 'crime buster' Giuliani amid reported probe Louisiana voters head to the polls in governor's race as Trump urges GOP support Trump urges Louisiana voters to back GOP in governor's race then 'enjoy the game' MORE (D-N.Y.) was re-elected as Senate Minority Leader.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneImpeachment threatens to drown out everything Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   Embracing President Mike Pence might be GOP's best play MORE (R-S.D.) was promoted to serve as Senate Republican Whip.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Wyo.) will serve as Senate Republican Conference chairman.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security Sunday shows - Second whistleblower grabs spotlight MORE (R-Mo.) will serve as Policy Committee chairman. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay Ernst10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable GOP braces for impeachment brawl Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy 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 McCarthy10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE (R-Calif.), the current House Majority Leader. McCarthy's challenger: House Freedom Caucus co-founder Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel Jordan10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Ex-Trump aide to tell Congress she objected to Ukrainian ambassador's removal: report A Republican Watergate veteran's perspective on a Trump impeachment MORE (R-Ohio).



Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Cheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey MORE (R-La.) is running unopposed for House Minority Whip.

Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyFury over Trump Syria decision grows George Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria 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 PelosiPelosi says Trump sanctions package on Turkey 'falls very short' Graham throws support behind Trump's Turkey sanctions Feehery: Trump may be down, but he's not out yet 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 Romney10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Cindy McCain condemns video of fake Trump shooting political opponents, late husband GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE (R-Utah) walking into House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate 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 TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report 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 PompeoTrump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds Reporter presses Pompeo on whether he met with Giuliani in Warsaw Pompeo: 'I wish the NBA would acknowledge' China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims 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 ObamaObamas' first Netflix project nominated for Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Maggie Rogers shares letter from 'huge fans' Barack and Michelle Obama Former Michelle Obama chief of staff Tina Tchen named new head of Time's Up 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: