With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: What little hope existed for bipartisan breakthroughs in the next Congress seemed to extinguish within 24 hours of polls closing.

When Democrats gained 31 House seats in 2006, George W. Bush called it a “thumpin’. ” When Republicans picked up 63 seats in 2010, Barack Obama called it a “shellacking.” After Democrats netted at least 28 House seats and took control of the chamber, President Trump said his party “significantly” beat expectations.

“I thought it was very close to complete victory,” Trump said at a Wednesday news conference. Instead, true to form, he blamed GOP incumbents for not embracing him and emphasized his party’s gains in the Senate.

Trump promised he’ll take a “warlike posture” against House Democrats if they follow through on their electoral mandate to conduct oversight of the executive branch. “We will have a responsibility to honor our oversight responsibilities, and that’s the path that we will go down,” replied House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

-- We found out later that, before Trump began his hour-and-a-half news conference, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had telephoned Attorney General Jeff Sessions to tell him the president wanted him to resign. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Matt Whitaker, a failed GOP Senate candidate from Iowa who has been serving as Sessions’s chief of staff. “A permanent replacement will be nominated at a later date,” Trump tweeted. The Justice Department quickly announced that Whitaker would assume authority over special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“Even as election results were coming in, Trump complained about Sessions and said he hoped Republicans would win a large enough margin in the Senate that he could fire the attorney general quickly,” Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey report. “Trump has told advisers that Whitaker is loyal and would not have recused himself from the investigation, current and former White House officials said. … Sessions sought to stay on the job at least until the end of the week … Kelly rejected that suggestion, insisting Wednesday would be Sessions’s last day … Sessions canceled meetings and scheduled one for later in the day, where he would say goodbye to his staff.”

-- Why wouldn’t Trump allow Sessions to stay through Friday? Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman offers one possible explanation: “Trump allies are increasingly concerned about Donald Trump Jr.’s legal exposure. In recent days, according to three sources, Don Jr. has been telling friends he is worried about being indicted as early as this week. One person close to Don Jr. speculated that Mueller could indict him for making false statements to Congress and the F.B.I. about whether he had told his father about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians to gather ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton. This source had heard that the case could revolve around Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, who’s cooperating with Mueller and who was deeply involved in the campaign at the time of the meeting. Trump, this person continued, is ‘very upset’ about the risks Don Jr. faces. … (‘Don never said any such thing, and there is absolutely no truth to these rumors,’ said Don Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas.)”

-- After the shake-up, here are eight people to watch closely:

1. MATT WHITAKER

As acting attorney general, Whitaker could sharply curtail Mueller’s authority, cut his budget or order him to cease lines of inquiry,” Ros Helderman, Zapotosky and Carol Leonnig report. “His approval would also be required before Mueller could take major investigative steps, including asking a grand jury for additional indictments. Any report that Mueller issues describing his overall findings would be submitted to Whitaker, who could decide it contained privileged material that should not be made public. Justice Department regulations would allow him to fire Mueller, but only for misconduct, conflict of interest or other ‘good cause.’ The regulations would allow him to reject requests by Mueller to take major steps in the investigation. Should he do so, however, he would be required to provide the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate judiciary committees a ‘description and explanation of instances’ in which he overruled the special counsel.”

In July 2017, Whitaker said on CNN: “I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced, it would recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”

-- As Sessions’s chief of staff, Whitaker met with the president in the Oval Office more than a dozen times, normally accompanying the attorney general, according to a senior administration official,” Leonnig, Tom Hamburger, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa report. “When Trump complained about the Mueller investigation, Whitaker often smiled knowingly and nodded in assent, the official said. … Whitaker also has ties to a witness in the probe: onetime Trump campaign chairman Sam Clovis. The two men have been close since Whitaker chaired Clovis’s bid for Iowa state treasurer in 2014.”

-- Whitaker worked for a time with a Miami-based invention-marketing company that was shut down last year by the FTC, which called it a “scam.” The Miami New Times’s Brittany Shammas reports: “Whitaker not only sat on the board of World Patent Marketing but also once sent a threatening email to a former customer who had complained after he spent thousands of dollars and did not receive the promised services. Court records obtained by New Times for a 2017 feature about the fraudulent company show that in an August 2015 email to a disgruntled customer, Whitaker touted his background as a former federal attorney and suggested that filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and ‘smearing’ the company online could result in ‘serious civil and criminal consequences.’ ”

2. BOB MUELLER

Justice Department rules have required the special counsel to stay quiet publicly during the period before Nov. 6. “With the midterm elections now over, Mueller faces key decision points in his 18-month-old investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign — a probe that has led to charges against 32 people, including 26 Russians,” per Ros, Matt and Carol. “The grand jury hearing evidence in the Russia investigation has been seen meeting at a federal courthouse in Washington on six of the last eight Fridays. Based on witnesses who have been called to the grand jury, the special counsel appears to be intensely focused on [longtime Trump adviser Roger] Stone. The longtime Trump friend and former adviser is under scrutiny for claims he made in the 2016 campaign that suggested he was in contact with WikiLeaks.

Meanwhile, the special counsel must decide whether to accept only written answers from the president or to fight for an interview. Such a move would probably require issuing a subpoena to the president, which would then draw a legal challenge from Trump’s team. By mid-November, the president’s attorneys plan to turn over Trump’s written answers to roughly a dozen questions the special counsel has posed — including the president’s knowledge of the hacked Democratic emails and his advisers’ contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition.”

3. JERRY NADLER

-- The New York Democrat will be the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which gives him subpoena power and the ability to summon government witnesses for oversight hearings. He’s promising to make an investigation into Sessions’s dismissal a top priority.

“Democrats are also prepping a break-glass scenario in case there’s a Nixon-era Saturday Night Massacre during which Trump fires his current DOJ leadership and tries to shutter the Mueller probe in the process,” Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports. “If that happens, senior Democratic officials say Mueller would likely get an immediate summons to Capitol Hill for nationally televised testimony about his findings.”

-- Two other incoming House Democratic chairmen are also worth following.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who will take over as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from Devin Nunes, said the Mueller probe is in “new and immediate peril” with Whitaker in control. “Interference with the special counsel’s investigation would cause a constitutional crisis and undermine the rule of law,” he said in a statement. “If the president seeks to interfere in the impartial administration of justice, the Congress must stop him. No one is above the law.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who will take over the House Oversight Committee, could also wade in. “Congress must now investigate the real reason for this termination, confirm that [Whitaker] is recused from all aspects of the Special Counsel’s probe, and ensure that the Department of Justice safeguards the integrity of the Mueller investigation,” he said in a statement. 

4. PAT CIPOLLONE

Former White House counsel Don McGahn had persuaded the president to keep Sessions on the job, but he’s gone and, now, so is Sessions. His replacement, Pat Cipollone, is trying to get the counsel’s office geared up to handle the coming onslaught of subpoenas and requests for document production. There are a number of key jobs he has to fill, but insiders in the conservative legal community say it’s been a struggle for them to hire top-flight legal talent because the best lawyers don’t want the reputational risk of working for Trump.

Trump has said privately that he does not believe his administration should necessarily cooperate with Democratic investigations, and that he would be willing to fight subpoenas to the Supreme Court if necessary, according to (a) senior White House official and an outside adviser to the president,” per Phil Rucker, Costa and Dawsey. “Trump has been consulting White House lawyer Emmet Flood, who is overseeing the handling of the Russia investigation, and Flood has expressed interest in fighting back against incoming subpoenas ...”

“One of the things the White House needs to understand is that we doubled the size of the general counsel’s office and that wasn’t big enough,” former top George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove said about the Democrats’ sweep in the 2006 midterm elections. “We found out pretty quick that we didn’t have enough lawyers.”

5. MITCH MCCONNELL

-- Trump announced on Wednesday that he will instruct Republicans in the Senate to investigate Democrats in the House. “Two can play that game,” he tweeted. Trump has repeatedly articulated this view that governing is some sort of “game.” He used that term multiple times yesterday. “They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate,” the president said at his news conference. “They can look at us, then we can look at them and it’ll go back and forth. And it’ll probably be very good for me politically … because I think I’m better at that game than they are, actually.”

-- How willing will McConnell be to play Trump’s “game” and be part of the fight between the House and the White House? The Senate majority leader is up for reelection in 2020 in Kentucky, where Trump is more popular than him. That creates a strong incentive to kowtow to the president. But he also prides himself on being an institutionalist who wants to protect what was once the world’s greatest deliberative body. That’s why he didn’t get rid of the legislative filibuster during this Congress, resisting public pressure from Trump. Now that Democrats control the House, taking that drastic step is moot.

As an astute student of history, though, McConnell knows his legacy will be heavily linked to Trump’s and could be defined by his level of acquiescence during the tumultuous two years to come. But the leader also wants to continue confirming as many judges as possible.

-- At his own news conference, McConnell warned Democrats against what he called “presidential harassment.” “The Democrats in the House will have to decide just how much presidential harassment they think is good strategy,” he told reporters at the Capitol, recalling the backlash Republicans faced when they impeached Bill Clinton. “I’m not so sure it will work for them.”

6. MITT ROMNEY

-- The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, elected on Tuesday to replace the retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, promised in Utah this year that he will speak out against Trump “when it is a matter of substantial significance.”

“Hopefully,” he said, “there will be few occasions where I will be compelled by conscience to criticize. But, as I have said throughout this campaign, I will call them like I see them.”

-- On Wednesday, Romney tweeted that Mueller must be allowed to do his work “unimpeded.” We will find out quickly whether he’ll follow in the independent-minded tradition of Trump critics like retiring Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker or the late John McCain. Romney might also not want to rock the boat as a freshman and conclude that having a good relationship with Trump will make him a more effective lawmaker. Romney has always evolved with the political circumstances, so it’s hard to know what he’ll be like now that he’s secured a six-year term.

-- As far as we can tell, just four of the 51 sitting Republican senators expressed concern about the integrity of Mueller's investigation after Sessions was fired. And Flake is retiring next month:

7. TRUMP’S NOMINEE TO REPLACE SESSIONS

-- This person will face immense pressure to promise both that they’ll recuse themselves from overseeing the investigation and, if they don’t, that they will not undermine Mueller. But it seems improbable that Trump will appoint anyone unless they promise not to recuse themselves. He sees that as Sessions’s original sin. It permanently ruined their relationship. Whomever Trump chooses will face a grueling confirmation hearing.

-- Because Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate, by law he can serve for only 210 days before he must be replaced by someone who has been confirmed. Under the Vacancies Act, the clock extends somewhat if Trump nominates a replacement who is not immediately confirmed.

Among those said to be under consideration for the job are Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former U.S. attorney general Bill Barr and former federal judges Janice Rogers Brown and J. Michael Luttig,” per Devin, Matt and Josh. “An administration official said the president has also considered selecting another U.S. senator for the position, on the grounds that a lawmaker might have an easier confirmation, but so far GOP lawmakers have privately expressed little interest in the position. Two other officials said former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) might be under consideration. One said Christie has talked with the president about the job.”

-- Also keep an eye on Kris Kobach, who lost the Kansas governor’s race on Tuesday. Reached yesterday afternoon by the Kansas City Star on his cellphone, Kobach declined to comment on whether he’s had discussions about taking the AG job. “Kobach met with Trump shortly after the 2016 election to discuss plans for the Department of Homeland Security,” Hunter Woodall and Bryan Lowry report. “Kobach said last year that he had been offered roles in the administration, but turned them down to pursue the governor’s office. ‘I hated that he ran because I would have loved to have brought him into my administration,’ Trump told a crowd in Topeka last month. ‘I hope he loses because I want him so badly. But don’t do that.’ … Kobach’s campaign manager J.R. Claeys said the Republican is ‘well-suited’ to become attorney general. … Kansas GOP chair Kelly Arnold said that he expects Trump ‘find a place for him in his administration.’

“Kobach was found in contempt of federal court this year and ordered to undergo six hours of legal training this year after he unsuccessfully represented his office against a federal lawsuit [challenging] the state’s proof of citizenship law. His legal work on immigration has also come under scrutiny. An investigation by The Kansas City Star and ProPublica found that small cities that listened to Kobach on immigration policy wound up paying hefty legal bills in defense of ineffective ordinances.”

-- And there’s always Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “Last year, [Graham] had declared himself ‘100 percent’ behind Sessions and warned that ‘there will be holy hell to pay’ if Trump fired his attorney general. On Wednesday, Graham, who has transformed into one of Trump’s strongest defenders in recent months, gave his blessing to the president’s move,” Felicia Sonmez and Karoun Demirjian report. “Graham’s name has been floated around the halls of Congress as a potential replacement for Sessions — but he hinted strongly in his comments that he planned to stay in the Senate and not put his hand up for the attorney general job.”

8. JEFF SESSIONS

-- Now that he’s unemployed, Sessions is considering running for his old Senate seat in 2020 against Alabama’s Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. “Jones is up for a full term in 2020, and he is widely viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent senator facing reelection given Alabama’s conservative tilt,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports. “Republicans are certain to contest the seat aggressively as they look to protect their majority. Former Republican Sen. Luther Strange, who was temporarily appointed to Sessions’ former seat, took to Twitter on Wednesday evening to encourage a comeback bid. ‘Jeff Sessions for Senate in 2020!’ Strange wrote.”

-- If he’s running in a red state on the same ballot as Trump, Sessions will be much less likely to speak critically of the president. 

HOW IT’S PLAYING ON THE OPINION PAGE:

The Daily 202's BIG IDEA> Get James' insight into Washington every weekday on your smart speaker or favorite podcast player.
Subscribe on Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized early Thursday morning after fracturing three ribs during a fall in her office Wednesday night. John Wagner reports: “Ginsburg, 85, was admitted to George Washington University Hospital early this morning for observation and treatment. A statement from the court said that Ginsburg returned home Wednesday night but went to the hospital early Thursday after 'experiencing comfort overnight.' Tests showed that she fractured three ribs on her left side, the statement said.” 

-- A gunman killed at least 12 people in a shooting at a bar and dance hall in Thousand Oaks, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles. Isaac Stanley-Becker, Allyson Chiu, Antonia Noori Farzan and Lindsey Bever report: “The gunfire erupted as people were line dancing on ‘College Country Night’ at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a popular nightspot … Among the dead was Ron Helus, a veteran sergeant in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office who was mortally wounded when he responded to the incident northwest of Los Angeles just minutes after 911 calls began flooding in, authorities said. ... ‘It’s a horrific scene in there,’ Dean told reporters. ‘There’s blood everywhere. The suspect is part of that.’ Dean said he had no reason to believe that there was a link to terrorism, ‘but we certainly will look at that option.’ … In addition to the dead, Dean estimated that there were upward of 10 to 12 shooting victims who were ‘rescued from the scene and taken to local hospitals.’”

-- Trump expressed his gratitude for the first responders and offered his thoughts for the victims:

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Trump administration issued rules allowing some employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception based on religious or moral objections. The rules, which face legal challenges, create a wide exception to the Obama-era interpretation of the Affordable Care Act that birth control must be covered by insurance at no cost to the consumer. (Amy Goldstein)

  2. Republicans acknowledged they would not be able to repeal Obamacare now that Democrats will control the House. (Sean Sullivan)

  3. The Pentagon dropped the name “Operation Faithful Patriot” for the deployment of U.S. troops to the southern border. A Pentagon spokesman said the deployment would be referred to simply as “border support” now after critics mocked the original name as an overtly political attempt by Trump to appeal to Republican voters. (Dan Lamothe)

  4. The Democratic takeover of the House may allow D.C. to implement the full legalization of marijuana. The District decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014, but the Republican House blocked the city from spending money to regulate and tax marijuana. Newly reelected Mayor Muriel Bowser said she would soon introduce legislation to legalize the sale of marijuana. (Fenit Nirappil)

  5. Former Republican congressman Stephen Stockman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for defrauding charities and their leaders to cover personal and campaign expenses. In April, the Texas ex-lawmaker was charged with 23 felonies — including wire fraud, making false statements to the FEC and money laundering. (Daily Beast)

  6. The Supreme Court appeared divided on a case to determine whether victims of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole can receive a $315-million settlement from Sudan. Sudanese officials argued that documentation was incorrectly addressed, and the U.S. government has warned that a ruling against Sudan could harm international relations. (Robert Barnes)

  7. Boeing issued a warning about incorrect readings from flight-control software on its planes after the crash of a Lion Air jetliner in Indonesia. The bulletin is the first indication that an equipment malfunction may have contributed to the crash, which is under investigation. (Timothy McLaughlin, Ashley Halsey III and Stanley Widianto)

  8. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for his country’s rejection of German Jews fleeing Europe in 1939. Trudeau ended his speech in Canada’s House of Commons with an urgent call to fight modern anti-Semitism. (Emily Rauhala)

  9. Tesla chose Robyn Denholm, one of two women on its nine-member board, to be the carmaker’s next board chair. The decision comes after CEO Elon Musk was forced to give up his board chairmanship as part of an agreement with the SEC. (Bloomberg News)

  10. The Girl Scouts of the USA filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America over its plan to drop the word “boy” from the name of a program. The Girl Scouts assert in the trademark infringement complaint that the Boy Scouts do not have the right to use “scouts” or “scouting” and that their brand had been marginalized by the planned name change. (CNN)

THE HOUSE:

-- Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pledged she would try to work with Trump to pass bipartisan legislation if she reclaims the speaker's gavel, making her the first person since Sam Rayburn to hold the office more than once. Michael Scherer and Mike DeBonis report: “Pelosi once had plans to retire with the election of the first female president. Those plans were quashed when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. Now, if she can surmount internal Democratic politics, Pelosi has the potential to reshape the Democratic Party and play a central role in the explosive expansion of power by women in politics, which led to significant Democratic gains among female voters in Tuesday’s elections and an incoming House class that includes more than 100 women for the first time.”

-- But the Democratic majority is narrow enough to potentially throw a wrench into Pelosi’s goal of assuming the speakership. DeBonis reports: “A margin of 11 seats or thereabouts could give a small group of Democrats leverage to demand a leadership shake-up, and between the small anti-Pelosi cadre already in the House Democratic Caucus and a bumper crop of freshmen who have agitated for fresh faces atop the party, they have the numbers to do so. At least 12 of the new House Democrats have made statements critical of Pelosi on the campaign trail, ranging from a general call for new leadership to a firm refusal to support her election as speaker.”

-- Some Democratic congressional candidates learned that money alone was not enough to propel them across the finish line. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “Democratic House candidates outraised their Republican opponents in nearly three-quarters of the 80 most competitive contests, according to [FEC] data. But more than half of those candidates who outraised Republicans lost. Moreover, a smaller share of the heaviest spenders in individual House races went on to win the election compared with the past three election cycles, according to data analyzed by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.”

-- Liberal Democratic candidates were far less successful than moderate candidates within the party. Vox’s Ella Nilsen reports: “For the most part, the biggest upsets for the left occurred during the summer primaries; most of those districts were already blue and primed to elect Democrats. Many of the left-wing candidates who tested the theory of turning out their base, even in more conservative districts, lost on election night.”

-- The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein writes the midterm results threw the costs and benefits of Trump’s style into stark relief: “The evening amounted to a simultaneous repudiation and reaffirmation of Trump from two very different Americas, and underscored the fundamental demographic, cultural, and economic changes reshaping America and its politics. … Behind his racially infused nationalism, the GOP is trading white-collar voters for blue-collar voters; suburban for rural; and younger for older. Those trends advantaged them in a Senate map centered mostly on white heartland states … But for the first time in Trump’s national political career, the electoral costs of his approach also came due.”

-- The suburbs are now the most important parts of battleground districts, as cities and rural areas have become reliably blue and red. Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report: “In Virginia and around the country, Democrats tapped into outrage from suburbanites, particularly college-educated women but also immigrants and some white men who had voted for Trump in 2016, to help them win control of the House. … [But] even in a year when a huge flow of outside money and big voter turnout brought Virginia Democrats the outcome they wanted, rural parts of the state resisted the trend. Voters there stood with Trump and voted Republican.”

-- The Northeast was key to Democrats winning the House. The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher and Nick Corasaniti report: “In New Jersey, voters slashed the number of Republicans in Congress from five down to two, and possibly only one. In New York, Democrats declared victory in three congressional races in [Trump’s] home state, ejecting the last remaining Republican from New York City. And in the six other states in the Northeast, the lone remaining Republican congressman, Representative Bruce Poliquin of Maine, was clinging to his seat on Wednesday … If the country delivered a mixed verdict nationally on Mr. Trump and his brand of unrepentant nationalism and white-hot rhetoric on immigration in the 2018 midterms … the results were far clearer in a region that once defined moderate Republicanism in America.”

MORE RACES CALLED:

-- Congresswoman Karen Handel, who gained national recognition after she beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election, conceded her race to Democrat Lucy McBath. “After carefully reviewing all of the election results data, it is clear that I came up a bit short on Tuesday,” Handel wrote in a Facebook post. “Congratulations to Representative-Elect Lucy McBath and I send her only good thoughts and much prayer for the journey that lies ahead for her.” McBath, a first-time candidate who became an anti-gun violence advocate after her son was shot to death in 2012, entered the race following the Parkland shooting in February. She will now represent the suburban Atlanta district that once sent Newt Gingrich to Congress.

-- Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, who I profiled in Tuesday’s Daily 202, won her House race in a New Mexico district that has only gone blue once since 1980. She defeated Republican Yvette Herrell by less than 3,000 votes after nearly 200,000 ballots were cast. (KOB4)

-- Democrat Andy Kim declared victory over GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur — who resurrected House Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare — but the New Jersey race remains too close to call. NJ.com’s Bill Duhart reports: “The district, which stretches between Burlington County in the Philadelphia suburbs and Ocean County along the shore, has largely been held by the GOP for the past three decades. … Unofficial Burlington County returns posted late Wednesday showed Kim with a more than 2,000 vote lead over the two-term incumbent. MacArthur said Wednesday night via Twitter that he was not ready to concede the race.”

-- Republican incumbent Will Hurd leads in his Texas race, which the AP initially called in his favor before rescinding the call after more ballots came in. The Texas Tribune’s Teo Armus reports: “On Wednesday morning in Congressional District 23 ... Hurd was leading [Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones] by 689 votes, with all precincts counted. ‘This election is not over — every vote matters,’ said Noelle Rosellini, a spokesperson for Ortiz Jones. ‘We won't stop working until every provisional ballot, absentee ballot, and military or overseas ballot has been counted.’ She did not mention the possibility of a recount, although Ortiz Jones' campaign is well within the margin to do so in Texas. … But that did not keep Hurd from declaring victory.”

-- Democrat Dan McCready conceded his bid to Republican Mark Harris in a North Carolina district that Democratic groups had targeted. The Charlotte Observer’s Tim Funk, Jim Morrill and Gavin Off report: “Surrounded by his family as he spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon, McCready said while he and Harris disagreed on issues, he ‘never doubted his commitment’ to the country. … McCready trailed Harris by 1,869 votes, with all precincts reporting.” Harris unseated GOP incumbent Robert Pittenger in a May primary for the North Carolina seat.

-- GOP candidate Pete Stauber flipped Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, becoming only the second Republican to hold the seat in 71 years. The Star Tribune’s Kelly Smith reports: “The 27,000-square-mile district has long been a DFL stronghold, with Democrats holding the seat for 69 of those 71 years. But Stauber jumped out to an early lead over Joe Radinovich, a former state legislator and Democratic strategist. Stauber tapped into shifting political sentiment in a district that [Trump] won by 16 points in 2016.”

-- Also in Minnesota: GOP Rep. Jason Lewis, who once complained that it was considered unacceptable to call a woman “a slut,” was defeated by a Democratic woman. Eli Rosenberg reports: “On a syndicated show he hosted in 2012, Lewis spoke up in defense of Rush Limbaugh, who had been criticized for calling a Georgetown student ‘a slut’ for petitioning the school to pay for her birth control. Lewis wondered why it was no longer acceptable to use the word to refer to women. … Democrat Angie Craig won her bid to unseat Lewis in the suburban district south of Minneapolis by about 5 points.”

THE SENATE:

-- Democratic Sen. Jon Tester secured reelection in Montana, defying a string of Republican victories in states Trump carried in 2016. The Helena Independent Record’s Holly K. Michels reports: “With help from younger voters, moderates and women, [Tester] has won re-election to his third term, fending off a challenge from Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale. Tester emerged with 50 percent of the vote despite [Trump's] unprecedented four trips to the state to campaign against the Democrat. … [Rosendale] and Trump teamed up to characterize Tester as an ‘extreme liberal’ in lockstep with the likes of the president's go-to villains … But Tester's record as a moderate Democrat wasn't lost on voters, and the senator got more than twice as many votes from people identifying themselves as moderates than Rosendale did.”

-- The Republican parties in four Arizona counties are suing the secretary of state over how ballots are counted as the Senate race there remains uncalled. The Arizona Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Jessica Boehm report: “The Republican groups are challenging the way counties verify signatures on mail-in ballots that are dropped off at the polls on Election Day, according to the complaint … Just 17,000 votes separated Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema as of Wednesday evening, a cliffhanger that could take days, if not weeks, to call. The lawsuit seemed to signal Republicans' anxiety over Thursday's expected posting of additional results from Maricopa County, the most populous area of the state, where Sinema has dominated so far. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court[.]”

-- As Florida’s Senate race likely headed toward a recount, officials in left-leaning Broward County said they had an unknown number of ballots left to count. The South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Stephen Hobbs and Larry Barszewski report: “Broward election officials said repeatedly that they didn't know how many mail-in ballots were still being counted. [Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes] said they would continue processing the ballots until they were finished — even if they had to stay all night. The Senate race is too close to call and is likely heading to a recount. [Rick] Scott, a Republican, had a small lead over incumbent Democrat [Bill] Nelson.”

-- Chuck Schumer will now likely have to contend with multiple Democratic senators within his caucus jockeying for position as they plan 2020 bids. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Elana Schor report: “Prominent liberals this year have mostly refrained from theatrics on the Senate floor against legislative compromises or Trump nominees — grandstanding that might have won kudos from the base but put red-state Democrats on the spot. But with the election over, some senators already worry that the chamber will get bogged down as it becomes a proving ground for the 2020 Democratic primary.”

THE GOVERNORSHIPS:

-- Republican Brian Kemp declared victory in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, even as Democrat Stacey Abrams insisted there were enough absentee and provisional ballots left to force a runoff. Amy Gardner, Beth Reinhard and Aaron C. Davis report: “As the vote-counting continued, voting rights advocates accused Kemp — who as secretary of state is Georgia’s top election officer — and local officials of disenfranchising thousands of voters on Election Day. Hundreds of complaints flooded in about hours-long lines brought on by broken equipment, a shortage of voting machines and insufficient quantities of printed provisional ballots. On Wednesday evening, Kemp was ahead with 50.3 percent of the vote to Abrams’s 48.7 percent. Abrams and the Libertarian candidate would need to gain at least 25,000 votes more than Kemp to bring his share of the vote below 50 percent and trigger a runoff. …

“The secretary of state’s office reported late Wednesday that fewer than 3,000 regular ballots remained to be counted statewide, and that a total of 22,000 provisional ballots had been cast — numbers that would likely close off any path to victory for Abrams. The office did not certify a winner and said votes could be counted into next week. … In a statement Wednesday, the Abrams campaign claimed that nearly 100,000 ballots, and possibly more, remained uncounted.”

-- Fashion critic Robin Givhan writes that there was “a victory in [Abrams’s] very presence” on election night – “her hair twisted into tiny coils, her plus-size figure, her gaptoothed smile and her simple blue dress with its 3/4 sleeves and Jackie Kennedy collar. These are the facts of her appearance. Those facts are not everything; they don’t sum her up. But to say that they don’t matter is to argue that this country’s racial history is a fiction, gender inequity is a lie and appearance doesn’t count. It does. Politics is tribal. And everyone is duly marked.”

-- Accusations of attempted voter suppression and manipulation caused apprehension among Georgia voters of both parties. Greg Jaffe and Jenna Johnson report from Marietta, Ga.: “Holly Golden Simmel, 55, showed her driver’s license to the poll worker and immediately began to worry there might be something wrong; that the election might be fixed; that the Republicans might try to cheat. … In an elementary school lunchroom about 12 miles away, Matthew Hardwick, 54, was just as skeptical about the sanctity of the nation’s ballot box. He pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and snapped a picture of his electronic ballot to ensure he had a record of his votes — all for Republicans — in case someone tried to switch them into votes for Democrats.”

-- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) conceded his race to Democrat Tony Evers, marking the political demise of a man once considered the future of the Republican Party. Annie Gowen reports: “Walker, 51, first elected in 2010, has been one of the most polarizing governors in the state’s history, beginning with his first months in office when he rode an early clash with organized labor to fame and survived a heated recall campaign the following year. He’s a hero to many conservatives, but voter after voter, especially teachers, will still say how angry and bitter they are about that union-busting episode. Tuesday, younger, energetic Democrats, particularly in the ‘blue’ urban areas around Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin in Madison, turned out in large numbers to finally tip the balance against his traditional support in the red Milwaukee suburbs and Green Bay[.]”

-- Democrats picked up more than 300 state legislative seats and now account for the majority of state attorneys general. Tim Craig reports: “The Democratic gains mark a significant turnaround for a party that had been losing clout in state legislatures for nearly a decade, allowing Republicans in many states to loosen restrictions on firearms, push through new voter-identification laws and weaken environmental regulations. Democrats had also ceded enormous power to Republicans to redraw congressional boundaries. The victories — buoyed by an apparent net Democratic pickup of seven governorships — will also help fortify the party’s efforts to use states as a firewall against [Trump], including through coordinated lawsuits against the administration.”

-- More than 100 LGBTQ candidates, including two gubernatorial candidates, won their elections. NBC News’s Julie Moreau reports: “For perspective, there are currently less than 600 openly LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S. — just 0.1 percent of elected officials nationwide, according to the Victory Institute. … Four LGBTQ candidates ran for governor, all Democrats, and two are projected to win. … The incoming 116th Congress will welcome several new LGBTQ members, though the overall number of out members will only increase slightly, as some members — like [Colorado’s governor-elect, Jared Polis] — have sought higher office.”

-- The split results of key gubernatorial races point to the difficulties both sides will face in the 2020 presidential campaign. “Neither party can claim a clear advantage in the arithmetic that will decide who will win the White House in 2020,” Dan Balz adds. “The road to the White House ultimately depends on a handful of states. Two years ago, Trump secured his victory by winning two big prizes, Ohio easily and Florida narrowly, and then carrying Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania by the thinnest of margins — less than one percentage point in each state. On Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania backed Democratic candidates for governor and the Senate; in Wisconsin and Michigan, they reversed eight years of GOP rule in the governor’s mansion. … Tuesday’s results in Ohio and Florida serve as a reminder to Democrats of challenges the party’s nominee could face in two states that have provided some of the most hard-fought presidential contests of the past two decades.”

TRUMP LASHES OUT:

-- The White House suspended the press pass of Jim Acosta after the CNN reporter asked Trump at his news conference whether he had “demonized immigrants” by referring to the migrant caravan as “an invasion.” Amy B Wang and Paul Farhi report: “The move to punish Acosta by removing his access to the White House is believed to be unprecedented. … Press secretary Sarah Sanders cited Acosta’s brief physical confrontation with a White House press aide during Trump’s news conference as the reason for suspending his press pass ‘until further notice.’ … After their exchange at the news conference, Trump told Acosta: ‘CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.’ On Wednesday night, Sanders accused Acosta of ‘placing his hands on a young woman’ and said it was on those grounds that Acosta’s press pass was being suspended. … Video of the exchange showed otherwise. On Twitter, Acosta responded to Sanders’s statement with, simply: ‘This is a lie.’”

-- Trump later dismissed a question from PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who is black, as “racist.” Elise Viebeck reports: “The president cut off [Alcindor] at [the] news conference after she asked whether his embrace of ‘nationalism’ is bolstering white nationalists. ‘I don’t know why you’d say that,’ he said. ‘That’s such a racist question.’ … Trump drew a contrast between nationalists and globalists. ‘I love our country. … I also love the world and I don’t mind helping the world but we have to straighten out our country first.’”

-- Alcindor’s question came the same day that a white nationalist leader whose group marched in the Charlottesville rally posted photos of his visit to the White House. The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer report: “Patrick Casey, who heads the group Identity Evropa, posted the pictures to Twitter, in which he is seen posing on the White House grounds on what he described as a visit to ‘pay my respects.’ ‘Evropa has landed at the White House!’ Casey tweeted. … White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters [said] that Casey ‘was one of more than twenty-five thousand people who came to the White House Fall Garden Tour, which is open to the public. Free tickets are made available to anyone who wants to attend.’ Though Casey’s post was dated Wednesday, Walters’ explanation suggests that he visited the White House on either October 20 or 21, when the Fall Garden Tour was held. That would explain Casey’s access to the White House’s south front.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Whitaker has close personal ties to a key figure who has been ensnared in Mueller's investigation:

He tweeted this op-ed last year:

Whitaker has been publicly critical of a foundational principle of the American system:

And he's also been on the “lock her up” train:

Many highlighted this comment made last year by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) after he issued a statement supporting the president's move against Sessions:

Barack Obama’s former attorney general drew “a red line”:

The White House press secretary's father jokingly took himself out of the running for AG:

A New York Times reporter highlighted one missing feature in Sessions's resignation letter:

A former editor for the New Republic reminded Twitter of an important midterm victory in light of Sessions's firing:

CNN stood by its reporter, Jim Acosta:

One of Trump's former primary rivals defended the freedom of the press:

A reporter at the liberal outlet RawStory slowed down the video of Acosta's interaction with the intern:

From a conservative podcast host for National Review:

A PBS NewsHour reporter defended a question she asked Trump that the president dismissed as “racist”:

A retiring GOP congressman lashed out against Trump after he slammed some of his critics who lost their elections:

So did Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.):

Senate Republicans celebrated their victories:

In a classy gesture, NRCC communications director Matt Gorman praised his DCCC counterpart Meredith Kelly: 

The president's daughter and senior adviser reflected on record levels of midterm turnout:

A New Yorker writer made a prediction:

A former Obama speechwriter found a silver lining for Democrats in the Texas results:

George W. Bush's former press secretary drew attention to specific groups within the electorate:

A Republican congressman in California conceded his race in an odd fashion, per a Politico reporter:

From a Post reporter:

Another Post reporter noted this interesting bit of trivia:

Rashida Tlaib‏, one of two Muslim women who will join Congress in January, taunted the president:

A New York Times reporter noted this irony from the Arizona Senate race:

A conservative commentator noted this:

A Republican congresswoman offered a congratulatory message to a future colleague from across the aisle:

A congressman-elect provided some clarity about a moment from his election party that went viral:

And a presidential historian shared a photo of a former (and likely future) House speaker with a former president:

GOOD READS:

-- “A Michigan mom tries to woo her Trump-voting neighbor to switch sides. Will she?” by Jessica Contrera: “The sun hadn’t yet risen on Election Day, but two houses were already aglow on Griggs Street. Inside one, Laura Murphy zipped up her rain jacket. A few doors down, Deb Potts buttoned hers. Miserable weather was not going to stop Murphy from canvassing for her Democratic congressional candidate one last time, when she cared about this campaign unlike any before. It wouldn’t keep Potts from the polls, now that she had finally decided how she would vote.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Promise not to kill anyone? After losing election, TX judge wholesale releases juvenile defendants,” from the Houston Chronicle: “After losing his bench in a Democratic sweep, Harris County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin released nearly all of the youthful defendants that appeared in front him on Wednesday morning, simply asking the kids whether they planned to kill anyone before letting them go. ‘He was releasing everybody,’ said public defender Steven Halpert, who watched the string of surprising releases. ‘Apparently he was saying that's what the voters wanted.’ … To Jay Jenkins, a policy attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the post-election spate of releases reinforces the decision the local electorate made Tuesday. ‘The voters of Harris County clearly wanted a change in the juvenile courts and Judge Devlin today is showing us why the voters may have wanted change,’ he said.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“An 82-year-old Texas woman voted for the first time. Then she died,” from Lindsey Bever: “When 82-year-old Gracie Lou Phillips returned from early voting last week in North Texas, she ‘danced a little jig’ around her walker, then sat down and raised her fists into the air, her family said. … Until then, Phillips, from Grand Prairie, had never cast a ballot — the result of misapprehension about voting and her belief that she didn’t have a voice, her family said. But her son-in-law, Jeff Griffith, said that in recent years, voting had become extremely important to Phillips, and she wanted to have a say in the 2018 midterm elections. So despite being gravely ill, Phillips cast her first ballot during early voting Thursday in Grand Prairie. … She died just before 2 a.m. Monday, with her daughters by her side, but her vote having been logged. ‘She was very proud,’ Griffith said. ‘She wanted to drain the swamp. She voted straight-ticket Republican.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump and the first lady will attend Justice Brett Kavanaugh's investiture at the Supreme Court. The president will then meet with Mike Pompeo back at the White House.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Mia Love gave me no love, and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.” — Trump addressing the race of Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), who criticized the president at times for his comments about immigration. (The AP has not yet officially called the race in Love’s Utah district.) (Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- It will be mostly sunny in D.C. today, but this weekend will bring colder temperatures and rain. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Lingering clouds should break up early morning and sunny skies then prevail until late in the day. This allows temperatures to warm to the mid- to upper 50s; just a touch below normal. Gentle breezes from the north keep the chill factor down.”

-- The Capitals beat the Penguins 2-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- Federal judges in Maryland rejected the state’s congressional voting map and demanded that lawmakers draw new electoral lines for 2020. Ann E. Marimow and Rachel Chason report: “The three-judge panel unanimously threw out the congressional map in a long-running partisan gerrymandering case. The decision gives Maryland officials until March to submit a new redistricting plan. The judges acknowledged the inherently political redistricting process but declared the boundaries unconstitutional and intentionally designed to target Republican voters in the 6th Congressional District because of their political affiliation.”

-- A Catholic priest from a D.C. church was arrested on charges that he sexually abused a 13-year-old girl in 2015. The girl told police that Urbano Vazquez, a priest at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, put his hand down her shirt on two occasions. (Clarence Williams and Julie Zauzmer)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Samantha Bee listed the possible actions Democrats may take now that they control the House:

Stephen Colbert was not upset to see Sessions go:

The Post fact-checked five claims Trump made in his news conference:

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Trump dismissing a black reporter's question by saying it was “racist”:

A group of protesters targeted Tucker Carlson's D.C. home:

And more than 300,000 oil lamps were lit for Diwali in the Indian city of Ayodhya, breaking a world record: