The Hill's Morning Report — Washington resets after midterms, Sessions fired

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and it’s Thursday! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!) On Twitter, find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

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Washington’s post-election “Kumbaya” moment lasted all of about two hours on Wednesday, when talk of bipartisanship and unity was shattered by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE’s announcement that he had ousted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFlorida sues CVS, Walgreens over sale of opioids Attorneys want Supreme Court to determine legality of Whitaker as acting AG Hillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds MORE.

The Hill: Sessions out at Justice Department.

READ: Sessions’s resignation letter.

Lawmakers were still assessing the political fallout from Tuesday’s midterm elections when news of Sessions’ ouster spread across Washington, reigniting fears on both sides of the aisle that the move was an effort by Trump to interfere with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe.

 

 

 

 

Trump has installed former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. Whitaker most recently served as Sessions’s chief of staff. The Department of Justice says Whitaker, not Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation Attorneys want Supreme Court to determine legality of Whitaker as acting AG Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' MORE, will oversee Mueller’s probe going forward.

The Hill: 5 things to know about the new acting attorney general.

The New York Times: Sessions executed the agenda of a president who could not look past an early betrayal.

 

 

Earlier in the day, at a freewheeling and contentious East Room press conference, the president said that if he wanted to fire Mueller, he could, but that he doesn’t intend to do so at this time.

Still, Democrats leaped into action, demanding that Whitaker recuse himself from the Mueller probe – he’s written op-eds in the past that were critical of the investigation – and warning the president against further actions.

Whitaker: Mueller’s investigation of Trump has gone too far.

Whitaker (writing for The Hill): Trump was right to fire former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation Comey invites House Republicans to hold public hearing after news of possible subpoena GOP chairman plans to subpoena Comey, Lynch to testify before next Congress MORE.

The difference now is that Democrats will take control of the House in January. Passing legislation to protect Mueller could be one of the first actions Democrats take under the leadership of House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiCalif. congresswoman-elect bumps into Pelosi at airport Sunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Trump predicts Pelosi will be Speaker: ‘She deserves this’ MORE (D-Calif.), who expects be the next Speaker of the House.

 

 

The New York Times (editorial board): Trump strikes at Justice, installs lawman he can control.

Meanwhile, party leaders on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue were scrambling to adjust to the new political landscape and fallout from the Nov. 6 elections.

At a nearly 90-minute press conference from the White House, Trump took the unusual step of publicly mocking moderate Republican candidates who lost elections to Democrats on Tuesday, asserting they should have been more loyal to him to woo voters.

The president said he was optimistic he could work with “Nancy,” but warned Democrats that if they use their oversight powers to investigate his administration he’d retaliate with a “war-like posture” and investigations of his own.

“They can play that game, but we can play it better.” — Trump

The Hill: Trump seeks to show he’s in charge of Washington.

Pelosi held her own press conference – it had to be delayed because Trump’s ran so long – in which she insisted Democrats would not be solely focused on investigating the president, and rather would look for areas of bipartisan agreement, while remaining focused on kitchen-table policy issues, including health care.

Still, Pelosi said the Democrats do not “intend to abandon or relinquish our responsibility” for oversight in the new Congress. 

“This doesn't mean we go looking for a fight. But if we need to go forward, we will.” — Pelosi

The Associated Press: Newly empowered Dems take aim at Trump business conflicts
Bloomberg: Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDem women rally behind Pelosi Pelosi, potential challenger Fudge hold 'candid' discussion Marcia Fudge under spotlight as Pelosi Speaker fight heats up MORE (D-Calif.) says Democrats will probe Trump’s bank ties.

As the drama unfolded, election returns from tight races rolled in from across the country and lawmakers positioned themselves for leadership positions in the next Congress.

And Trump and CNN clashed (again) in the East Room, leading the press office to revoke White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s media credential (The Hill). The White House Correspondents’ Association issued a statement calling the suspension of the journalist’s Secret Service pass “a reaction out of line to the purported offense and ... unacceptable,” and CNN and Acosta protested (The Hill).

Here’s a look ahead after another chaotic day in Washington…

LEADING THE DAY

*** BREAKING … MASS SHOOTING *** At least 13 people are dead after a mass shooting inside a crowded Thousand Oaks bar late Wednesday night, with a gunman throwing smoke bombs and raining bullets on an event popular with college students (Los Angeles Times).

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ELECTIONS WRAP: A few more election results were finalized on Wednesday…

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCortez Masto poised to become DSCC chair Mellman: The triumph of partisanship VA under pressure to deliver Trump reforms MORE (D-Mont.) narrowly edged Republican Matt Rosendale to secure a third term. Trump despises Tester and made several trips to Montana in an effort to boost Rosendale, who fell short by about 10,000 votes. The Libertarian candidate in the contest, who flirted with withdrawing and backing Rosendale, received more than 13,000 votes.

There are still two outstanding Senate races that are too close to call. The Republicans lead in both.

In Florida, the race between Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDems seek to overhaul voting rules in Florida legal fight  Election Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority Trump's take on midterms: ‘Epic' win in Senate, ‘better than other sitting Presidents’ in House MORE (D) triggered an automatic recount, although it will be difficult for Nelson to make up the estimated 30,000 votes that separate them.

In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona New Members 2019 House GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress MORE (R) leads Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) by about 15,000 votes.

Assuming both of those leads hold, the GOP majority in the Senate will go from 51-49 to 54-46 in January.

Trump on Wednesday cited the Senate results as evidence he had defied the midterm odds, although the results were mixed.

Trump’s rallies definitely helped GOP candidates flip Democratic seats in Missouri, North Dakota, Florida and Indiana. Notably, the Democratic incumbents in those states all voted against confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship Sotomayor: Kavanaugh now part of the Supreme Court ‘family’ The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE.

The president looks formidable in the battleground states ahead of 2020, particularly in Florida and Ohio, where Democrats struggled on Tuesday night.

But the president could not pull Rosendale or Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerCortez Masto named Dem Senate campaign chairwoman Nevada New Members 2019 Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (R-Nev.) across the finish line or keep Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSotomayor: Kavanaugh now part of the Supreme Court ‘family’ Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader MORE (D-W.Va.) from winning reelection.

The Memo: Why Trump thinks he won the midterms.

The Hill: McConnell riding high after a “very good day.”

In the House, the latest forecast from The New York Times has the Democrats with 229 seats and Republicans with 206. That could change, as about a dozen races are too close to call, so there might be some movement around the margins.

The New York Times: For both parties, a political realignment along cultural lines.

Now, the midterms are behind us, which means we’re in a presidential election cycle.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump made it official, asking Vice President Pence if he would be his running mate. Pence accepted.

Reuters: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Biden family adopts a dog Entrepreneur touts big solutions, endorsements in discussing presidential bid MORE leads Democratic field.

More from the campaign trail … Democrats added seven governorships on Election Day (U.S. News & World Report) … State elections reveal deeply divided America (The Hill) … House flip creates big headache for Interior secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeLawmakers say California will eventually get emergency funding for fire relief Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report Overnight Energy: Trump to visit California wildfire victims | Head of Park Service climate program resigns | Dems rip Trump pick for energy panel MORE (The Hill).

Perspectives and Analysis

David Frum: Democrats should be happy that Rep. Beto O’Rourke lost in Texas.

Kevin D. Williamson: What the midterm results mean.

Peter Baker: A partisan war awaits Trump. It might suit him.

Rahm Emanuel: How Democrats can build a new metropolitan majority.

Mark Penn: Trump needs to be a unifier now to succeed.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: There was as much speculation in Washington on Wednesday about congressional investigations as about legislation in 2019, a byproduct of the capital’s long experience with divided government and realistic acknowledgement that narrow House and Senate majorities restrict maneuvering room.

But in the early hours after election returns became clearer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Trump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship As Democrats gear up to challenge Trump in 2020, the key political divide will be metropolitan versus rural MORE (R-Ky.) celebrated the idea of common ground, while Trump and likely Speaker-to-be Pelosi spoke to one another about collaborating on infrastructure, a kind of evergreen bipartisan aspiration since 2017 that in its nitty gritty details always runs aground between the parties.

Democratic lawmakers who expect to chair major House committees next year shrugged when the president warned that his cooperation on legislation hinged on whether they investigate him. They will.

The Washington Post: Newly empowered, House Democrats plan to launch immediate investigations but are wary of impeachment.

McConnell offered a new term for congressional oversight — the kind of oversight favored by his party during the impeachment and acquittal of former President Clinton and while probing U.S. deaths in Benghazi and operations of the Justice Department under former President Obama. McConnell called such scrutiny “presidential harassment,” suggesting that House Democrats might commit political malpractice if they dig into Trump’s tax records and subpoena officials in the administration.

The Hill: McConnell reaches out to Pelosi about working together on bipartisan infrastructure and lowering drug costs.

The Hill: Congressional efforts to combat high drug prices just got a new lease on life with Democratic control of the House in 2019. And drug companies are on red alert.

The Hill: McConnell also vowed to work on Trump’s desire to achieve more funding this year for a border wall, a flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans. At a news conference on Wednesday, Trump refused to rule out a partial government shutdown after a Dec. 7 deadline.

TIME: Democrats won the House and sketched out their upcoming agenda.

Republicans are expected to hold leadership races when they return to Washington after Veterans Day. House Democrats may elect their leaders in the final week of November.

The Hill: Top Democrats announce their leadership intentions.

The Hill: Pelosi appears to be on track to reclaim the Speaker’s gavel, although she lacks the cushion needed to guarantee a return to the top job. Some within her caucus told voters during their campaigns that they would not support Pelosi for Speaker and prefer younger leaders and newcomers to Congress. Pelosi has several weeks to cement her support. The Wall Street Journal reported on her comeback, “eight years in the making.”

Trump has on occasion praised Pelosi as tough and effective, while also skewering her liberal political pedigree. On Wednesday, he tweeted that Pelosi is such a political goldmine in the eyes of some in the Republican Party, his congressional allies might try to vote for her to be Speaker (an impossibility under the rules).

 

 

The Denver Post: Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteClyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid The Hill's Morning Report — Washington resets after midterms, Sessions fired Election Countdown: Midterm fallout | What we learned | What to watch next | Trump calls out lawmakers who lost | A look at the undecided races | Vote deepens urban, rural divide | Women help deliver Dems House | McConnell thanks Trump for Senate gains MORE (D-Colo.), chief deputy whip in the Democratic caucus for the past seven congresses, announced she is seeking the Democratic whip post. If elected by her brethren, she would be the first Democratic lawmaker from the Mountain West to ascend to leadership and only the second woman to serve as whip.

Seattle Times: Washington Democratic Reps. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneNew York Dem announces bid to lead Dem House campaign arm Bustos launches bid to head House Dems’ campaign arm The Hill's Morning Report — Washington resets after midterms, Sessions fired MORE and Denny HeckDennis (Denny) Lynn HeckExclusive: Guccifer 2.0 hacked memos expand on Pennsylvania House races Heck enjoys second political wind Incoming lawmaker feeling a bit overwhelmed MORE will compete to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democrats’ political arm tasked with enlarging the majority in 2020.

The Hill: Across the aisle, outside conservative groups are calling for House Republicans to replace the entire GOP leadership team, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump heads to California to meet first responders amid deadly wildfires Hillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds McCarthy, other Republicans back Ratcliffe to be next attorney general MORE (R-Calif.) and Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy, other Republicans back Ratcliffe to be next attorney general Rep. Mike Johnson wins race for RSC chairman Election Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP MORE (R-La.). The push for an overhaul emerged as House Freedom Caucus leader Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRep. Mike Johnson wins race for RSC chairman Election Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP Heads up, GOP: Elections have consequences MORE (R-Ohio) announced on Hill.TV his bid to be minority leader next year in a challenge to McCarthy, who is running for the post (The Hill).

The Hill: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyElection Countdown: Florida Senate race heads to hand recount | Dem flips Maine House seat | New 2020 trend - the 'friend-raiser' | Ad war intensifies in Mississippi runoff | Blue wave batters California GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump sanctions 17 Saudis over Khashoggi killing | Insurgents seek female challenger to Pelosi for Speakership | Broward County finishes machine recount The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker MORE (R-Wyo.), daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced her candidacy to be chair of the House GOP Conference, highlighting what she said is a dire need to improve GOP communications.

“The Democrats have told us what they plan to do with the majority,” Cheney wrote to her colleagues. “Every member of our conference must be armed and ready to go on offense … deploying immediate rebuttals and pre-buttals to the Democrats’ false claims.”

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

Newly empowered House Democrats eyeing Trump need to learn from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, by Kris Kolesnik, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2QrNpVr

With House control, Democrats must now fight for the middle class, by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2zx3cei

WHERE AND WHEN

The House and Senate will return to Washington to resume work on Tuesday.

The president will attend the investiture of Supreme Court Associate Justice Kavanaugh at the court. Back at the White House, he will meet with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump to speak with CIA about Khashoggi's murder Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Lawmakers struggle with how to punish Saudi Arabia | Trump regrets not visiting Arlington for Veterans Day | North Korea deports detained American Corker: 'A price needs to be paid' for Khashoggi's murder MORE.

The Federal Reserve completes a two-day policy meeting with a statement at 2 p.m., and is expected to leave interest rates where they are.

U.S. jobless claims report will be released at 8:30 a.m., and is expected to add to an upbeat employment picture.

ELSEWHERE

> Financial markets: Stock market winners and losers following Tuesday’s election results (CNBC). “History has pointed to strong returns for equity markets when Congress is divided.” … Stocks climbed amid relief following elections outcome (Reuters).  

> Canada and trade: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not participate in any signing ceremony for a trade agreement alongside Trump unless American tariffs on steel and aluminum are lifted, Canada’s ambassador to the United States says (CBC).

> North Korea: Trump expects to meet again with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un early next year, he said on Wednesday, adding that a meeting between Pompeo and North Korean officials, which was to have taken place this week, will be rescheduled (Reuters). … North Korea canceled the meeting, the Trump administration told South Korea, according to the foreign minister (Reuters).

> Marijuana: During pregnancy, fewer women are smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, but more are smoking marijuana, according to a report (Time).

 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Tuesday’s midterm results, we’re eager for some smart guesses about elections and Congress.

Email your responses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit five correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

In what year did the biggest midterm election wave in U.S. history take place?

  1. 2010
  2. 1932
  3. 1922
  4. 1894

Pelosi is expected to get a second stint as Speaker, making her the first and second woman to hold the position. Who was the longest-serving Speaker in U.S. history?

  1. Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Feehery: With 2020 looming, Republicans must learn lessons from midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Washington resets after midterms, Sessions fired MORE
  2. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr.
  3. Sam Rayburn
  4. Newt Gingrich

Related to elections, what do these people have in common: Mel Carnahan, Carl Geary, Dennis Hof, Patsy Mink, Jenny Oropeza and Harry Stonebraker?

  1. Former House members who represented Hawaii
  2. Millionaires who self-funded losing campaigns
  3. Politicians who were elected to office after their deaths
  4. Candidates with the Green Party

On Tuesday, voters decided on divided government in Washington after the president enjoyed two years of Republicans being in full control. Which of these presidents enjoyed the longest streak of full party control?

  1. Republicans Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover.
  2. Republican George W. Bush.
  3. Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
  4. Democrats John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE and Lyndon Johnson.

For the first time ever, there will be more than 100 women lawmakers in the House. Who was the first woman to chair a congressional committee?

  1. Rep. Mae Ella Nolan (R-Calif.)
  2. Sen. Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-Ark.)
  3. Pelosi
  4. Rep. Jeanette Rankin (R-Mont.).