The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Dems prepare to aggressively wield new oversight powers




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Democrats are about to open the floodgates on investigations into President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE.

The party doesn’t take over the House until January, but it’s already devising battle plans for how it will use the House majority and oversight powers to hold the Trump administration accountable.

The aggressive posture has provoked questions about whether the Democrats’ eagerness to investigate Trump will distract from the kitchen-table issues they ran on during the midterms. 

“We are responsible. We are not scattershot. We are not doing any investigation for a political purpose but to seek the truth. So I think a word that you could describe about how Democrats will go forward in this regard is, it will be very strategic.” – Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDemocrats are playing voters on their fantasies for impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE (D-Calif.), the likely next Speaker of the House, on CBS News’s “Face the Nation”

Democrats insist they’ll be able to legislate changes that will help Americans, while at the same time pinning the White House to the ground with oversight. But with a Republican in the White House and a GOP-controlled Senate, any bill that becomes law will have to be bipartisan.

The New York Times: Democrats didn’t let Trump distract them during their campaigns. That will be harder now. “Don’t chase every ball that he throws.”

In appearances across the Sunday news shows, Democrats detailed the myriad ways they intend to flex their new oversight powers in the months ahead.

The confrontation starts with the Department of Justice and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who Democrats say was installed as part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

On Sunday, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the likely incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE (D-Calif.), the likely incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, threatened to subpoena Whitaker.

“If he doesn't recuse himself, if he has any involvement whatsoever in this Russia probe, we are going to find out whether he made commitments to the president about the probe, whether he is serving as a back channel to the president or his lawyers about the probe, whether he's doing anything to interfere with the probe. Mr. Whitaker needs to understand that he will be called to answer. And any role that he plays will be exposed to the public.” – Schiff on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

Trump has not said when he intends to nominate a full-time replacement for former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Sessions: It's time to accept the results of the Mueller report and move on Trump poised to roll back transgender health protections MORE, who was forced out last week.

House Democrats are expected to push legislation to protect Mueller, although that effort would likely get stuck in the GOP-held Senate.

“Mueller is not going to be stopped. It's going to continue and it should continue … If it continues … why protect something that's actually continuing?” – Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerCongress can open financial institutions to legal cannabis industry with SAFE Banking Act Dem super PAC campaign urges Republicans to back impeachment On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle MORE (R-Colo.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press”

Still, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) is threatening a government shutdown by tying legislation protecting Mueller to a must-pass spending bill next month.

The Hill: Dems race to protect Mueller.

Laurence H. Tribe: Whitaker’s appointment was unconstitutional.

Beyond focusing on the DOJ, Democrats want to obtain and release the president’s tax returns. They may turn their attention to his personal and business practices, as well.

The Wall Street Journal: Trump played central role in hush payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, potentially violating campaign finance laws.

Democratic leaders say they’ll examine allegations the president sought to use his federal authority to crack down on the news media.

Schiff and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' White House denies Cummings's request for Stephen Miller to testify on immigration: reports Trump effort to stonewall faces thorny legal challenge MORE (D-Md.), likely the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, say they’ll investigate Trump for urging the postmaster general to double shipping rates for Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

They also say they’ll look into Trump’s efforts to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which Democrats believe was aimed at punishing CNN.

And Democrats are champing at the bit to take on the president’s Cabinet, which has been beset by controversies, scandals and turnover from the start.

> Scandal-plagued Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Bipartisan climate caucus eyes litmus test for new members| Green groups want freeze on Keystone construction| Bernhardt sworn in as Secretary of Interior Overnight Energy: Bipartisan climate caucus eyes litmus test for new members | Greens want freeze on Keystone construction | Bernhardt sworn in as Interior chief Overnight Energy: Trump moves to crack down on Iranian oil exports | Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast | Bloomberg donates .5M to Paris deal MORE might be gone before Democrats get a crack at him.

The Washington Post: Zinke is Cabinet official most vulnerable to Dem probe.

Politico: Zinke prepares to leave Trump’s Cabinet.

> Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossDOJ won't comply with Oversight subpoena over census question The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Conservative justices signal willingness to allow census citizenship question MORE, whose business deals have attracted scrutiny since he joined the Cabinet, might also be replaced before Democrats take over.

CNBC: Trump could replace Ross before they year is out.

> Democrats plan to put the president’s energy policies under the microscope, with a focus on climate change. And they’ll dig into Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Mueller report reveals Russian efforts to sow division over coal jobs | NYC passes sweeping climate bill likened to 'Green New Deal' | EPA official says agency may ban asbestos | Energy Dept. denies Perry planning exit The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report The very early, boring Democratic primary: Biden v. Bernie MORE’s relationships with outside groups and advisers.

Bloomberg: Perry won’t be able to hide from gavel-wielding Democrats.

As part of their focus on energy and the environment, Democrats will take aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, currently under the leadership of acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

> Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosTrump's regulatory rollback boosts odds of a financial crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Klobuchar: DeVos 'shouldn't be in her job' MORE is despised on the left and certain to be a top target for Democrats.

Politico: Democrats expected to ramp up oversight of DeVos.

> During the midterms, Democrats focused their closing arguments on health care coverage and costs. That means Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma will be on the hot seat. That’s particularly true with Rep.-elect Donna Shalala (D), the former HHS secretary, who will represent her South Florida district in Congress.


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CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The 2018 midterms aren’t over yet.

In Florida, a recount is underway, with lawsuits and counter-lawsuits piling up and allegations of malfeasance flying.

The Miami Herald: Florida counties race to recount votes by Thursday deadline.

The Associated Press: Mishaps, protests and litigation overshadow Florida recount.

In the Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott (R) leads Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTrump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances MORE (D) by more than 12,000 votes.

In the governor’s race, former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) leads Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum (D) by more than 33,000 votes.

Election officials have five days to complete the recount. The clock started ticking on Sunday.

Both races tightened to the point that recounts were triggered based on the late vote tally coming out of Broward County. The election supervisor there, Democrat Brenda Snipes, is under pressure and has become a target for Republicans for past vote-counting controversies.

The Sun Sentinel: Snipes’ long history of controversies.



One other Senate race is still too close to call, but it appears that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is on track to defeat Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing MORE (R-Ariz.), flipping the state to Democrats.

The latest tally, after a new release on Sunday night of about 36,000 votes in Maricopa County put Sinema ahead by 32,640 (The Hill).

If Republicans hold on in Florida and Democrats triumph in Arizona, the GOP would hold a 53-47 majority in the next Congress, if Republicans win runoff in Mississippi, as expected, later this month.

A few notable takeaways as the final results are smoothed out from a wild midterms election. It appears that Democrats will end up flipping close to 40 GOP-held seats in the House:

The Hill: Democratic victories leave behind a more conservative GOP conference.






From NBC’s national exit polls:

> There was a 23-point gender gap. Democrats won female voters, who made up 52 percent of the electorate, by 19 points. Republicans won male voters by 4 points.

> Health care was by far the top issue for voters, followed by immigration and the economy.

> Democrats won independents by 12 points.

> Trump was a major factor. Thirty-eight percent of voters said they cast a ballot in opposition to Trump, while 26 percent said their vote was meant to express confidence in the president.

The Memo: Five lessons for 2020 from 2018.

More from the campaign trail … Calls rolling in among Democrats for Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) to run for president (The Hill) … 2020 candidates mean big headaches for Schumer (The Hill) … Daring or Defensive. Which path will Democrats take in choosing their 2020 presidential nominee? (The New York Times).



CONGRESS: House Democrats are organizing this week knowing they’ve notched the largest gain in Democratic seats since Watergate.

Lame duck: First things first — the current Congress has unfinished business as it returns to Washington this week. The lame duck session includes suspenseful deadlines and must-pass legislation, plus an ample menu of political dramas, including leadership elections and disagreements over funding (The Hill). And don’t forget self-driving cars, also among topics of discussion (Bloomberg).

Guns legislation: Democratic lawmakers would like to use their soon-to-be majority to strengthen federal gun laws in 2019. The issue has been off the table for eight years of Republican rule, as GOP leaders have sided with the powerful gun lobby in opposition to any new gun restrictions. Pelosi has vowed, if she’s elected Speaker, to move quickly on gun reforms that would face opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate and in the White House (The Hill).

House GOP conference in 2019: Centrist Republicans are set to exit Congress, while the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus will add to its membership (and perhaps its leadership) following the results of this month’s elections. Hoping to notch some bipartisan legislative wins ahead of 2020, the conservatives are expected to be less inclined to compromise with Democrats in charge of the House next year (The Hill).

National security: Key congressional issues to watch next year on foreign policy and defense (The Hill). Democrats are eager to check Trump, but will have to work with the GOP-led Senate.

Campaign finance reform: It’s an issue Democrats want to make a priority as they prepare to take control of the House, but cooperation from a Republican Senate is considered highly unlikely (The Hill).

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Sad lessons from WWI a sober warning for U.S. and China, by Seth Cropsey, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Time to start planning for the 2020 presidential transition, by Heath Brown, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House and Senate will return to work on Tuesday.

The president, who returned from France on Sunday night with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump vows to 'smash the grip' of drug addiction The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in for fight over subpoenas The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE, has no official public schedule today.

Vice President Pence and Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceMelania Trump, Karen Pence say they're ready to serve four more years in White House Pence on Buttigieg's criticism: He 'knows better' Pence told allies Buttigieg should have raised concerns privately: report MORE are to arrive in Tokyo, Japan, today. The vice president will be there for bilateral discussions, including about trade. Pence’s week-long trip will also take him to Singapore and Papua New Guinea for the Asia Pacific Economic (APEC) forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. He’s accompanied in Asia by White House national security adviser John Bolton. Before departing, Pence placed an op-ed in the Washington Post: “The United States seeks collaboration, not control, in the Indo-Pacific.” En route to Tokyo, Pence told reporters, I know the president's looking very much forward to meeting with [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] in Argentina at the G20. And we continue to remain hopeful that these issues, and economic barriers, military actions in the South China Sea and other issues can be resolved.”

The Washington Post: Nation’s capital honored veterans 100 years after the end of World War I.



Hill.TV’s “Rising” program starting at 8 a.m. features interviews with retired Army Drill Sergeant John Burk and David Chipman, an aide to former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), on the recent shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Carolyn DeWitt, the president of Rock the Vote, and Catherine Vaughan, the founder of Flippable, discuss takeaways from the midterm elections.



> Wildfires: In California, the death toll stands at at least 31 this morning after wildfires whipped by Santa Ana winds continued to consume more than 109,000 acres in different parts of the state, leaving the town of Paradise incinerated and torching 177 homes and parts of Malibu, Calif., as well as working-class suburbs of Los Angeles (The Los Angeles Times). …Scores of people remain missing as a search for bodies continues ...  Paradise High School principal Loren Lighthall, who lost his home but escaped the fire along with his wife, seven children and dog, on Sunday described his town’s apocalyptic devastation to NPR HERE: “There's literally no place to live in Paradise. There's no homes. There's no temporary shelters. There's no motels. There's nothing.”  ... The Paradise disaster is believed to be the most destructive fire in California’s natural-disaster-prone history.



> Medicaid: More states may expand Medicaid next year as advocates seek to capitalize on momentum after Nov. 6, when Democratic candidates appealed for voter support and for Medicaid expansion — and won governorships in Wisconsin and Kansas. Three conservative states last week voted to extend coverage to low-income adults (The Hill).

> D.C. public education: A heart wrenching story about two 20-something teachers and why so many young educators leave Washington, D.C., schools in droves (Washingtonian).

> A novel deadline: In November, the 20th year of national novel writing month is billed as writing boot camp combined with a global party. This year, the project, underway since September, hoped for more than 400,000 participants including more than 95,000 K-12 students and educators, all trying to complete a 50,000-word novel by Nov. 30. Writers are nearly halfway to their one-month deadline. Check in on the progress HERE.



And finally … Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaThe Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 Beyoncé in 'Time 100' profile: Michelle Obama empowers black Americans MORE ... During a winter filled with ticketed, big-arena discussion events and interviews around the country, the former first lady is selling “Becoming,” her memoir.

Her book launch begins Tuesday night in her home turf, Chicago, followed by appearances in D.C. Nov. 17 and 25, with similar events in many more cities through December.

Early book reviews made a splash with banner headlines (“candid and revealing”) and helped sell thousands of copies before the release date (The Washington Post).

In early 2017, the former first lady and former President Obama signed a lucrative joint book deal reportedly worth more than $65 million (Vox), with a “significant portion” pledged to charity. The 44th president, a veteran bestselling memoirist, will follow his wife next year with a much-anticipated published account of his presidency, just in time for Democrats’ 2020 dreams of the White House.




CORRECTION: On Friday, reader Sandy Sycafoose correctly answered the five quiz questions, earning a mention in the Morning Report. Unfortunately, we mentioned Sandy in the wrong paragraph, lumping her in with the candidates who died while running for office but were elected anyway. To borrow from Mark Twain, the reports of Sandy’s death have been greatly exaggerated. She is a loyal reader and regular winner of the weekly quiz contest, not a deceased congressional candidate. Welcome back to the land of the living, Sandy!