With Reis Thebault
THE BIG IDEA: There will not be a single Republican from New England in the U.S. House next year, after Maine’s secretary of state announced Thursday afternoon that Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) was narrowly defeated by Democratic challenger Jared Golden after an instant runoff using ranked-choice voting. That leaves Sen. Susan Collins of Maine as the sole Republican survivor among the 33 members of Congress from New England — and there’s a real chance she’ll either retire or be defeated in 2020.
-- This can be viewed as part of the ongoing national realignment I’ve highlighted over the past few weeks. There are notable exceptions like Joe Manchin or Conor Lamb, but as federal elections become more nationalized than ever, it’s harder for moderate Democrats to get reelected in red states like Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. And the reverse is true for Republicans in blue states.
-- This trend isn’t new, of course, but it’s been supercharged in the Trump era. President Trump won a single electoral vote from Maine in 2016 because he narrowly carried the very rural 2nd District, which Poliquin won in 2014 after it was held by Democrats for two decades. (The previous Republican to represent the district was Olympia Snowe, who gave it up to run for Senate in 1994.) That made Trump the first Republican presidential candidate since George W. Bush won New Hampshire in 2000 to get any electoral votes at all from New England.
-- Republicans have found success in New England governor’s races of late because they’re able to avoid the maw of Trump and the thicket of national issues. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire and Phil Scott in Vermont each won second terms this month. But Democrats handily picked up the Maine governorship after eight years of GOP Gov. Paul LePage.
-- Collins voted against repealing Obamacare but for the GOP tax cuts. Perhaps her most consequential vote this Congress, however, was to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court after he was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford.
-- Two moments on Thursday underscored why the left is more determined than ever to replace Collins in 2020:
First, she announced that she will not join Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s effort to oppose the confirmation of Trump’s judicial nominees until the Senate votes on legislation to protect special counsel Bob Mueller. She says she still supports the underlying bill. If Collins joined Flake, because Republicans only have a 51-49 majority, McConnell would have no choice but to allow a vote on the Mueller bill because confirming judges is his top legislative priority.
“Predictably lame,” replied former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, one of several prominent Democrats mulling a bid against Collins.
Second, Collins was cheered last night during a black-tie gala put on by the Federalist Society for her decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh himself got a nearly minute-long standing ovation at the start of the dinner, which was held at Union Station, and he got another standing ovation later in the night, according to BuzzFeed. Kavanaugh, who denied Ford’s account, was joined by fellow Republican justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito. McConnell and former White House counsel Don McGahn got a rock-star welcome when they took the stage. The majority leader then singled out Collins for praise during his remarks, and the room applauded. (I wrote yesterday about the FedSoc convention and Flake’s fight to protect Mueller.)
-- “Collins, who is 65 and coming off two of the most punishing years of her Senate career, seems to be entering a particularly grim existential zone,” Mark Leibovich writes in a Sunday profile for the New York Times Magazine. “Collins has been maddening people across the political spectrum for years, of course; the main difference, maybe, is that people are just generally madder now. … Collins will soon say goodbye to two of her closest friends, the defeated Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Heitkamp once described Collins as her 'role model' — and lost her re-election bid by 11 percentage points. I asked Collins who was left in the Senate whom she considered to be fellow moderates. She named Mark Warner of Virginia and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee but then stopped. ‘I don’t want to get people in trouble by calling them moderates,’ she said.
“In response to my compulsory query about whether she would run again, she replied with an equally compulsory ‘Uh, I haven’t really focused on it.’ But really, her heart seemed not in the prospect at all. … ‘I’m human,’ Collins felt the need to say. ‘Sometimes people forget that, but it’s difficult not to let the divisiveness wear you down.’ Collins is pleasant and polite, which can obscure the fact that she is not easily intimidated. She is also the weather-weary Mainer who knows winter is coming.”
-- A wrinkle in Maine’s 2nd District: This is the first time in U.S. history that a ranked-choice voting system determined the outcome of a federal election. When the votes first came in, Golden trailed Poliquin but both candidates were under 50 percent in the four-way race. A voter referendum that passed in 2016, which was upheld earlier in 2018, created what’s called an instant runoff. Voters now rank their choices on the ballot. When no candidate gets a majority, the second choice of voters who back lower-performing candidates is factored in. In this case, the two independents got 8 percent of the vote. Their ballots were shipped to the capital in Augusta, where they were scanned. After the second-choice votes were factored in, Golden won with 50.5 percent of the vote to Poliquin’s 49.5 percent.
Poliquin sought a temporary restraining order from a federal judge to block this from happening, but he was denied. “It is now officially clear I won the constitutional ‘one-person, one-vote’ first choice election on Election Day that has been used in Maine for more than one hundred years,” he said. “We will proceed with our constitutional concerns about the rank vote algorithm.”
After being declared the winner, Golden touted the new system as superior to a month-long runoff. “Using ranked-choice voting, we’ve determined a clear winner in a more timely manner than Louisiana and other states that hold runoff elections,” he said. “And I’m going to go out on a limb here: I’m sure I’m not the only one in the state that’s glad we used an instant-runoff system instead of holding another election. Who in this state wants to see another campaign commercial wedged in between Thanksgiving and Christmas?”
Many political scientists have spent years trying to get states to allow ranked-choice voting in federal races, not just state or local contests. From a FiveThirtyEight analyst:
For better or for worse, ranked-choice voting did exactly what it is intended to do in #ME02—made a loser out of the plurality winner but a winner out of the person preferred by the most people.— Nathaniel Rakich (@baseballot) November 15, 2018
-- Speaking of the national realignment: The Associated Press declared last night that Democrat Katie Porter, a protege of Elizabeth Warren, has defeated Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) in Orange County, which used to be one of the most conservative parts of the country during the era of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. This means Democrats will hold at least a 44-to-9 edge in the House delegation of the nation’s most populous state, plus supermajorities in the state legislature and a 3.7-million advantage over the GOP in voter registration.
“The latest update to the vote count gave Porter 51 percent and a 6,203-vote lead,” the AP’s Michael Blood reports. “Porter, 44, campaigned on an unabashed liberal agenda and in direct opposition to Trump’s priorities: She advocates overturning his tax reform package, supports universal health care, and endorses mandatory background checks on all gun sales and a ban on so-called assault-style weapons. The district has a 7-point Republican registration edge, and Walters was re-elected in 2016 by 17 points, even though Hillary Clinton carried the district by 5 points in 2016.
“With Porter’s win, Democrats have picked off three GOP seats either all or partly in Orange County, and they are threatening to win another district where votes continue to be counted. If Democrat Gil Cisneros wins that undecided race against Republican Young Kim in the 39th District where GOP Rep. Ed Royce is retiring, the county once considered Republican holy ground won’t have a GOP representative in Congress. In returns Thursday, Cisneros climbed into a 941-vote lead, after Kim held the early lead.”
-- Farewell to Anne Li: Anne has been the producer of my daily podcast, The Big Idea, since we launched it in the summer of 2017. She’s extraordinarily talented and thoughtful, which is why NPR is smart to put her in charge of their emerging platforms. I’ll miss her joyfulness at 5 a.m., but I’m happy she’ll get to sleep in.
GET SMART FAST:
- At least 63 people have died in the week since the Camp Fire started in Northern California, including the remains of seven people discovered Thursday. Search teams continue to sift through an estimated 10,000 destroyed structures for signs of unaccounted people, with the number of missing people increasing dramatically yesterday to 631. Trump will visit California on Saturday to meet with residents affected by the deadliest fire in the state’s history. (Tim Craig)
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to dispense GI Bill payments on time to tens of thousands of veterans. The problems began this summer, when the VA's 50-year-old computer system broke down, causing veterans to have to wait weeks or even months to be paid. (Alex Horton)
- The Navy will move forward with murder charges against four elite service members accused of strangling a Special Forces soldier in Mali last year. Two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders face charges including felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, hazing and burglary, according to military documents. (Dan Lamothe)
- Facebook cut ties with the conservative P.R. firm Definers after the New York Times reported that it circulated opposition research on senators. Liberal philanthropist George Soros called on Facebook to initiate an independent, internal investigation of its lobbying practices after the Times said the firm tried to link critics of the social network to him. (Hamza Shaban)
- The Food and Drug Administration launched a sweeping effort to curb the rise of underage smoking and vaping. The agency imposed restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes, limiting their sale to stores with age restrictions, and announced plans to ban menthol cigarettes and cigars. (Laurie McGinley and Lenny Bernstein)
- The Federal Communications Commission allowed Elon Musk's company to launch thousands of Internet satellites into orbit. Musk plans to eventually build a network of 12,000 satellites that'll blanket the Earth in wireless Internet access and, he said, provide cheap, high-speed WiFi to developing countries and rural areas. (Brian Fung)
- The man accused of fatally shooting two African American customers at a grocery store in Kentucky last month was charged with federal hate-crime and firearm offenses. Gregory Bush, 51, was charged in a six-count indictment that carries a possible death sentence — though the Justice Department said it would determine later whether to seek that penalty. (Matt Zapotosky)
- A county prosecutor was shot and wounded in rural western Alabama before officers fatally wounded the suspect, a former state trooper who once was questioned in another shooting. (AP)
- In the latest installment of an ongoing saga that began with a GoFundMe campaign, a homeless veteran and a New Jersey couple he allegedly conspired with were charged with various crimes. The three are accused of cooking up a false story, which went viral last Thanksgiving, in an attempt to make money on the fundraising site. They raised over $400,000. (Newark Star Ledger)
- Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts won the American League MVP Award, and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is the National League MVP. (Jesse Dougherty)
- Representatives of more than 60 nations will convene today in Versailles, France, to approve a new definition for the kilogram. Since the 19th century, scientists have based their definition on a platinum iridium cylinder stored in a vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. If the cylinder changed, even a little bit, then the entire global system of measurement had to change, too. Now it will be tied to Planck’s constant. (Sarah Kaplan)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged under seal, prosecutors inadvertently revealed in a recently unsealed court filing. Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report: “The disclosure came in a filing in a case unrelated to Assange. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, urging a judge to keep the matter sealed, wrote that ‘due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.’ Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would ‘need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.’
“Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have long been investigating Assange and, in the Trump administration, had begun taking a second look at whether to charge members of the WikiLeaks organization for the 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents that the anti-secrecy group published. Investigators also had explored whether WikiLeaks could face criminal liability for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cybertools. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III also has explored WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton’s then-campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.
“It was not immediately clear what charges Assange would face. In the past, prosecutors had contemplated pursuing a case involving conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act. But whether to charge the WikiLeaks founder was hardly a foregone conclusion. In the Obama administration, the Justice Department had concluded that pursuing Assange would be akin to prosecuting a news organization.
“Even if he is charged, Assange’s coming to the United States to face trial is no sure thing. Since June 2012, Assange has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, afraid that if he steps outside he will be arrested. When he first sought asylum in the embassy, he was facing possible extradition to Sweden in a sex crimes case. … In the years since, the Swedish case has been closed, but Assange has said he cannot risk leaving the embassy because the United States would attempt to have him arrested and extradited for disclosures of U.S. government secrets. … If Assange were to leave the embassy and be arrested by British authorities, he would likely still fight extradition in the British courts.”
-- The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee is intensifying his calls for acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker to recuse himself from supervision of the special counsel’s probe, citing Whitaker’s friendship with a key witness in the investigation. Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “‘There is a blatant conflict of interest here that demands recusal,’ Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in an interview. ‘[Sam] Clovis is more than just a witness. He was the supervisor of the Trump Foreign Policy Advisory Committee, which included a cast of rogue characters.’ Clovis, who served as national co-chairman of President Trump’s campaign, was a key contact for two of Trump’s foreign policy advisers who have come under scrutiny: George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and Carter Page, the subject of a secret intelligence warrant.
“Clovis has been interviewed by [Mueller’s] team, appeared before the grand jury probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and been called before congressional committees. The Iowa Republican activist has described the acting attorney general as a ‘dear friend’ and a longtime political ally. Whitaker chaired Clovis’s bid for Iowa state treasurer. In a recent interview with Reuters, Clovis said Whitaker was a ‘sounding board’ for him when Clovis worked for Trump’s campaign. After Whitaker was tapped by Trump to serve as acting attorney general last week, Clovis said he texted him congratulations.”
-- “Half a dozen people in contact with the White House and other Trump officials say a deep anxiety has started to set in that Mueller is about to pounce after his self-imposed quiet period, and that any number of Trump’s allies and family members may soon be staring down the barrel of an indictment,” Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports. “Television journalists on Monday morning captured footage of former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen and his criminal defense attorney as they arrived at Union Station in Washington, fueling speculation he was in town for a meeting with the Mueller prosecutors.”
THE LAME-DUCK AGENDA:
-- “Trump did not commit Thursday to avoiding a partial government shutdown next month if lawmakers don’t give him money to build a border wall,” Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and other GOP leaders met with Trump on Thursday about ways to fund the government. Shelby said Trump did not commit to signing a bill that does not give him all the money he wants to fund construction of a wall along the Mexico border. Shelby said Trump was noncommittal about how he planned to proceed. … Trump’s staff has warned him he may not get the full $5 billion he has demanded for new wall construction for 2019 … Although they retain full control of Congress for now, Republicans still need support from Democrats to pass any bill in the Senate.”
-- Whitaker let it be known that he has concerns with the bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that the president endorsed to great fanfare earlier in the week. Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report: “Whitaker has concerns with the ‘drug part of the bill,’ according to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), and has spoken about the concerns with the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition. Whitaker’s particular concern is how the bill would change drug sentences, and he told Graham that he has also expressed his issues with the bill to the president. ‘He said he doesn’t want to kill it,’ Graham said Thursday. ‘He just wanted to express his concerns.’ The bill, formally introduced Thursday evening, would … lower mandatory minimum sentences for drug felonies, including reducing the ‘three strikes’ penalty from life behind bars to 25 years. It would also reduce mandatory minimum sentences that go into effect when a firearm is used during a violent crime or drug offense. Graham said that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, had persuaded the president to support the bill.”
-- The White House released a list of Trump’s priorities for the lame-duck session, and notably absent is any mention of the 10 percent tax cut the president promised he’d get passed before the end of the year. Just like the migrant caravan, it appears the president touted the proposal in the final weeks of the campaign for purely political purposes.
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Ronald Vitiello, Trump's pick to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, refused to rule out the possibility the administration will once again resort to separating migrant parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The White House is discussing plans to detain asylum-seeking families for up to 20 days and then give parents a choice: Stay in jail with their child pending a deportation hearing, or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so other relatives or guardians can seek custody of them. 'That option and that discussion is underway,' Vitiello [said at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday]. He would not address lawmakers’ questions seeking clarity on how long he believed migrant children should be detained or whether the separation from their families caused them psychological harm.”
-- Three likely incoming Democratic chairs of House committees overseeing environmental issues vow that they’ll grill several top Trump administration officials who have escaped meaningful oversight under GOP rule. Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin: “After eight years out of power in the House, Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.) are expected to lead the committees on Science, Space, and Technology; Natural Resources; and Energy and Commerce, respectively, after serving as the panels' ranking Democrats. In a slate of interviews, they outlined an expansive agenda to put a hot spotlight on the Trump administration’s rollback of President Obama’s climate agenda and to delve deep into alleged misconduct of officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department.
“At the top of that list is Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Grijalva wants Zinke to testify before his committee about discussions surrounding a deal in Whitefish, Mont., between the Zinkes’ family foundation and Halliburton chairman David Lesar along with other developers. … (He also) wants to know more about an incident last month in which Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced one of his top appointees would become Interior’s acting inspector general. Days later, Interior officials called Carson’s statement ‘100 percent false’ and said they would not hire HUD official Suzanne Israel Tufts.
-- Under HUD Secretary Ben Carson, more families live in federally subsidized housing that fail health and safety inspections, despite Carson's pledge to fix up low-income housing. NBC News's Suzy Khimm, Laura Strickler, Hannah Rappleye and Stephanie Gosk report: “More than 1,000 out of HUD’s nearly 28,000 federally subsidized multifamily properties failed their most recent inspection — a failure rate that is more than 30 percent higher than in 2016. ... More failing properties also mean that HUD has a bigger caseload of troubled homes to oversee. And rather than beefing up the department’s staff to oversee them, HUD has lost hundreds of staff members in the wake of a hiring freeze mandated by [Trump]. ... At the same time, Carson has proposed raising rents on poor families, requiring them to pay a higher percentage of their income for housing.”
-- U.S. taxpayers shelled out nearly $100,000 to pay for Donald Trump Jr.'s trip to India to sell his family's luxury condominium projects. The Secret Service is authorized to provide protection for the president's family, but costs of that protection on such trips has been questioned. Annie Gowen reports: “Trump Jr.’s February trip cost more than $97,805 for hotel rooms, airfare, car rental and overtime for Secret Service agents. The costs were incurred on a February tour of four Indian cities — New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata — where the Trump family has licensed its name to luxury high-rise projects. Trump Jr., 40, is the executive vice president of the family real estate company that the president still owns, although the elder Trump says he has stepped back from day-to-day control. During his tour, Trump Jr. walked the red carpet, attended a ribbon-cutting at a high-rise overlooking the Arabian Sea in Mumbai, hosted champagne dinners for buyers and had a private tête-à-tête with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi ... [Trump Jr.'s] team boasted to reporters that it had sold $100 million worth of the pricey flats, including $15 million in a single day.”
-- “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos began receiving around-the-clock security from the U.S. Marshals Service days after being confirmed, an armed detail provided to no other cabinet member that could cost U.S. taxpayers $19.8 million through September of 2019,” NBC’s Heidi Przybyla reports. “The cost of security provided to DeVos was $5.3 million in fiscal year 2017 and $6.8 million for fiscal year 2018, according to the Marshals Service — an amount that is ultimately reimbursed by the Education Department. The estimated cost for fiscal year 2019 is $7.74 million. … After receiving the Marshals' protection, DeVos spent less than 4 percent of her time visiting traditional public schools in the school year that began in September 2017, according to a tabulation by NBC News and the watchdog group American Oversight."
THE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE:
-- Nancy Pelosi insisted she has the votes to become the next House speaker, even as a potential challenger emerged. John Wagner, Paul Kane and Mike DeBonis report: “In a flurry of one-on-one meetings, Pelosi courted wavering lawmakers, paying particular attention to the incoming, majority-making class of freshmen. She appeared to make headway as leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus described their session with her as a 'productive and successful conversation' ... The veteran Democratic leader is also relying on an aggressive outside campaign to lobby lawmakers, made up of liberal interest group leaders and high-profile Democrats, including one of former president Barack Obama’s closest advisers — former chief of staff Denis McDonough.
“The powerful liberal organization, MoveOn, endorsed Pelosi while civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said she has 'demonstrated the proven, tested leadership we need to confront the issues before our nation.' Pelosi remains short of the votes necessary, with solid opposition from at least 19 Democrats. Her first critical test is Nov. 28 in a secret-ballot contest among Democrats and then again in the higher-stakes public roll call of the entire House on Jan. 3.”
-- Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) has emerged as Pelosi's foremost potential challenger, despite being far from a star in the national Democratic Party. Robert Costa and Elise Viebeck report: “Fudge isn’t a member of her party’s leadership and she’s now a few years removed from her stint as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. ... But Fudge, 66, embraced her relative anonymity on a rainy Thursday morning in her congressional office, casting herself as a symbol of the backbone of her party as she considers challenging [Pelosi] in the race for House speaker. 'Where are we recognized?' Fudge asked in an interview with The Washington Post, as she discussed black women and the House leadership. 'If we’re going to have a diverse party, it ought to look like the party.'
“Fudge this week became the first Democrat to publicly acknowledge a possible bid against Pelosi, rupturing party ranks in the afterglow of this month’s midterm elections and Democrats’ return to power in the House — and raising fresh questions about the depth of Pelosi’s support ... Fudge’s record is coming under immediate scrutiny, with Pelosi allies privately arguing to on-the-fence Democrats that Fudge’s refusal to co-sponsor the Equality Act, which focuses on civil rights protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, makes her a non-starter. ... Fudge dismissed the criticism and said that she supports gay rights, but not the way that particular bill was handled.”
-- In a critical show of support for Pelosi, prominent CBC members backed her over Fudge, according to Politico.
-- The HuffPost's Matt Fuller has the names on the much awaited letter of those opposing Pelosi — they number 17 Democrats at the moment, though Pelosi foes want to wait to release it until they can count 20 among them.
-- Significant for good governance: House Democrats are proposing to make substantial changes to the chamber’s rules as they prepare to take the majority. Mike DeBonis obtained a draft document outlining the changes: “Among other things, the proposed reforms would potentially slow down the process for bringing legislation to a floor vote, make it easier to call up a bill that has bipartisan support but is opposed by the majority party’s leadership, and give committees a stronger role in drafting legislation. The list of proposals … is not considered to be final and could be substantially modified before the rules are adopted in January, but the changes floated Thursday have the backing of Pelosi and incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
“Taken together, the proposals seek to address Democrats' concerns about the way the outgoing Republican majority ran the chamber but also bipartisan complaints about more-persistent weaknesses in House operations. The proposed rule changes require more time for the review of legislation before a floor vote, changing the standard from three days — which often means a little more than 24 hours — to a full 72 hours. They would require every bill sent to the floor by the Rules Committee to get a committee hearing and markup before getting a floor vote. They would create a supermajority requirement to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning four-fifths of taxpayers. And they would require each legislative committee to hold ‘Member Days’ to solicit legislative ideas from lawmakers who don’t serve on those committees.”
MORE MIDTERM FALLOUT:
-- Ron DeSantis (R) appears almost certain to win the Florida governor's race, emerging from a machine recount with a clear lead, while the Senate race will go to a manual recount with Gov. Rick Scott (R) narrowly ahead of Sen. Bill Nelson (D). Beth Reinhard, Sean Sullivan, Amy Gardner and Lori Rozsa report: “The Senate battle ... enters a phase reminiscent of the state’s 2000 presidential recount — in which local elections officials will examine tens of thousands of ballots that may not have been filled out or tallied correctly to assess voters’ intentions. The process was triggered because Scott’s lead, 12,603 votes out of more than 8 million cast, remained within the 0.25 percent legal threshold for a manual recount, which must be completed by noon Sunday. That narrow margin appeared too much for Nelson to overcome. Scott called for Nelson to bow out as Nelson’s attorney expressed confidence that the second recount, plus court cases, would let Nelson overtake Scott. 'It’s never been our view that there was going to be one silver bullet that was going to change the margin in this race,' Nelson’s lead recount attorney, Marc Elias, said on a call with reporters. The hand count, he added, 'is what we’ve been seeking all along.'
“The big winner of the day appeared to be DeSantis, whose lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, remained wide enough to avoid a manual recount. His victory is set to be certified early next week. DeSantis’s ascent would represent a major victory for President Trump, who handpicked the congressman when he was an underdog in the GOP primary and headlined two rallies in Florida in the campaign’s closing days ... DeSantis said in a statement that he was focused on his transition to governor and invited Gillum to meet with him. ... Gillum refused to concede, saying in a statement that 'there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted.'”
-- “Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is facing backlash for her remarks once again after saying laws that ‘make it just a little more difficult’ for some college students to vote are ‘a great idea,’” Michael Brice-Saddler reports. “The recording shows Hyde-Smith telling a small crowd in Starkville, Miss., that ‘They remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.’
“Hyde-Smith’s campaign released a statement Thursday saying that she was joking and that the video was ‘selectively edited.’ The video was posted Thursday by Lamar White Jr., a blogger and journalist who also posted a video of Hyde-Smith this week in which she’s heard joking that if she were invited to a public hanging, she’d ‘be on the front row.’ Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy in a Nov. 27 runoff to determine who will serve the remaining two years of Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s term. … Espy’s communication director, Danny Blanton, said Hyde-Smith talking about voter suppression was ‘not a laughing matter’ and called her a ‘walking stereotype.’”
Important reminder: The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by arguing that officials aiming to restrict voting rights wasn't something we need to worry about anymore.
-- Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) gleefully stoked speculation that he’ll run for president in 2020 during a day of campaign-style events in New Hampshire, Dave Weigel reports from Concord.
-- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) was formally tapped as the new chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She's the first Latina to lead the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm. (Felicia Sonmez)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- NBC News reports the Trump White House is reviewing ways to extradite one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's enemies from the United States in an attempt to placate Turkey after Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul. Carol E. Lee, Julia Ainsley and Courtney Kube report: “Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government ... The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey's case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status ... The White House specifically wanted details about Gulen's residency status in the U.S. Gulen has a Green Card, according to two people familiar with the matter. He has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.”
-- “The Senate on Thursday voted against an effort to block an arms sale to Bahrain — pitched by backers as a means of forcing the island nation to stop participating in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” Karoun Demirjian reports. “It was shot down by a majority of senators over concerns it would expose the United States to greater dangers in the Persian Gulf region.”
-- What’s next: A bipartisan group of senators is poised to introduce legislation imposing sanctions, prohibitions and restrictions against Saudi Arabia and other entities considered responsible for the humanitarian suffering in Yemen. Demirjian reports: “The group, which is led by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Todd C. Young (R-Ind.) and includes Trump confidant Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), is calling for a total prohibition on arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used for offensive purposes.”
-- Saudi Arabia is pushing for a deep cut in oil output, upset with the Trump administration's offer of waivers that would keep more Iranian crude on the market. Reuters's Rania El Gamal and Dmitry Zhdannikov report: “Angered by the U.S. move that has raised worries about over supply, Saudi Arabia is now considering cutting output with OPEC and its allies by about 1.4 million barrels per day or 1.5 percent of global supply ... Washington has said the waivers are a temporary concession to allies that imported Iranian crude and might have struggled to find other supplies quickly when U.S. sanctions were imposed on Nov. 4.”
-- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has inspected a “newly developed high-tech tactical” weapon, state media said on Friday, without specifying what kind of weapon was tested. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report from Seoul: “North Korea has suspended nuclear and missile tests as it endeavors to improve relations with the outside world, and there was no indication that this weapon was nuclear-related or a missile. The U.S. State Department said it remained confident that promises made by Kim at his summit meeting with President Trump in Singapore in June would be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the announcement marked the first time Kim had made a high-profile visit to a military site since that summit, and the first announcement of any weapons test this year.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A Los Angeles Times reporter was one of several journalists who chose to publicly disclose being contacted by the FBI:
Surreal moment: I just got a visit from two special agents for the FBI who informed me that Cesar Sayoc, the suspected pipe bomber, conducted searches of my name before he was arrested.— Jenny Jarvie (@JennyJarvie) November 14, 2018
Fellow reporters, be vigilant!
A National Review writer who has been critical of the president was also a person who drew Sayoc's interest:
Yep, the FBI reached out to us last night, and today I spoke to an agent who told me the mail bomber researched me and searched for my address. That’s nothing like what others endured. Still, it’s sobering. https://t.co/llUmlbVXgS— David French (@DavidAFrench) November 15, 2018
Chris Christie criticized his successor as New Jersey governor for traffic problems during yesterday’s snow storm, prompting many to remind Christie of his role in Bridgegate:
A conservative writer at the Washington Examiner, Eddie Scarry, tweeted a picture of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at the Capitol. Then he wrote, “I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” People from across the ideological spectrum ripped Scarry, and Ocasio-Cortez herself weighed in:
Scarry offered a non-apology:
ATTN! I posted a tweet earlier suggesting the incoming congresswoman looked well put together -- ELEGANT even -- despite suggestions she’s struggled. The tweet was taken as something else, so I’ve deleted it!— Eddie Scarry (@eScarry) November 16, 2018
My personal email has been "DDOS" attacked (a term I just learned) so you probably can't send me anything!— Eddie Scarry (@eScarry) November 16, 2018
Many journalists mocked Scarry's commentary:
Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez and she is showing ZERO signs of SCURVY, appears to be wearing SHOES, and isnt dancing a jig for LOOSE CHANGE.— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 15, 2018
Doesn’t look like a girl who struggles... https://t.co/cqaQwoTYr8
A telling stat from an editor at The Atlantic:
Before election, Rs held about 43% of House seats where share of college graduates exceeds the national average. After election, they are below 30%, w/a few more possible losses coming (like #CA45 just called for Dems by AP). https://t.co/2pqwQmWbYJ— Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) November 16, 2018
A Cook Political Report editor poked fun at the ping-ponging narrative about each party's demographic struggles:
2016: R's have a demographic problem. can't win w/ just white voters.— amy walter (@amyewalter) November 15, 2018
2017: D's have demographic problem, can't win w/out white voters.
2018: R's have a demographic problem. can't win w/ just white men.
2019: Whole Foods vs. Cracker Barrel: The Sequel. (h/t @Redistrict)
The former RNC communications director acknowledged Pelosi's effectiveness:
Having had a whole lot to do with the RNC 2010 “Fire Pelosi” campaign, Democrats would be crazy to do just that. Republicans don’t like Pelosi precisely because of her effectiveness.— Doug Heye (@DougHeye) November 15, 2018
A ProPublica reporter highlighted the overlooked boost that Republicans got from redistricting in many states:
Stunning new stat out of Ohio:— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) November 15, 2018
We already knew that Republicans got 12 of OH's 16 US House seats despite winning only 52% of total congressional vote.
But get this: Republicans also managed to hold supermajorities in the Ohio legislature despite LOSING the total state leg vote.
The chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party in Youngstown, Ohio (who I wrote about two years ago next week), and a constituent of Pelosi critic Tim Ryan, weighs in on the battle for House speaker:
how did this turned into a sexists rant. But the #fivewhiteguys r progressive on issues. but in my next of woods electing @NancyPelosi and our local candidates will b endangered. Many new dem won saying they would not vote 4her and now you want them to eat that pledge— David Betras (@Dbetras) November 15, 2018
James Comey remembered his dog:
Our dog, Benji, died this afternoon. Because he was a rescue, we didn’t know his age today, except “very old.” He was a friend to an entire big family as only a dog can be. Goodbye old soul. pic.twitter.com/KExqG9ZPZM— James Comey (@Comey) November 14, 2018
HOT ON THE LEFT
“The National Rifle Association is doing away with free coffee and water coolers for employees at its Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters — a cost-cutting move that has NRA insiders ‘freaking out,’” The Trace reports: “The coffee cutback is the just latest indication that the NRA is hurting for cash. Membership revenue declined by $35 million last year, and the NRA recently rolled out its second dues increase in as many years. In May, the gun group sued Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, claiming that his state’s zealous regulatory efforts against its Carry Guard insurance program had cost the NRA ‘tens of millions of dollars’ in lost revenue, legal fees, and other damages. (A federal judge recently ruled that the suit can go forward.) Perhaps the most vivid evidence of belt-tightening at the NRA was its drastically reduced spending on the 2018 midterm elections. The group shelled out just under $10 million on House and Senate candidates this cycle — less than half of what it spent on congressional races in 2014 and 2016.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“A fight broke out in a closed-door meeting of House Democrats over climate change as a powerful veteran lawmaker fought with freshman star Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members-elect over the creation of a special panel for the issue,” per Politico’s Anthony Adragna, John Bresnahan and Zack Colman. “Pallone, incoming chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee — backed by a number of other committee members — slammed the creation of the new climate panel … Pallone argued that his committee and other existing panels within the House could take on the issue aggressively. But Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rep.-elect Joe Neguse (Colo.) and some of the other progressive incoming lawmakers fought back, saying they ran on the issue and needed to do it. Ocasio-Cortez earlier this week pushed for a ‘Green New Deal’ … Ocasio-Cortez later said it wasn’t a direct confrontation with Pallone in a tweet late Thursday.”
Trump participates in an Oval Office ceremony this morning to sign the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act into law. Then he presents the Medal of Freedom and sits down with the head of the Small Business Administration.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Dry weather returns, along with some sunshine. But chilliness persists. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: "No major precipitation (or warming trend) appears on the horizon — not yet, anyway. Sunshine should dominate for a couple days, but even if we see some cloudiness by Sunday, we should stay dry."
-- Maryland’s attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court a ruling that threw out the state’s congressional voting map and ordered officials to redraw lines before the 2020 election. “Brian E. Frosh (D) is asking the high court to quickly review the three-judge panel’s unanimous decision last week that found Democratic mapmakers violated the First Amendment rights of Republican voters,” per Ann Marimow and Erin Cox. “The long-running lawsuit has been before the Supreme Court twice, most recently in June when the justices avoided answering when extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional in cases from Maryland and Wisconsin.”
-- Starting in January, it’s going to cost you more to drive on the Dulles Toll Road under new toll rates approved by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. “Rates at the main toll plaza will increase 75 cents per trip. Tolls at off-ramps will increase 50 cents,” per Lori Aratani. “In all, most drivers will pay an additional $1.25 for a one-way trip on the road (the main toll plaza one ramp transaction). It is the first rate increase since 2014, and officials were quick to say they do not expect to increase rates again until 2023.”
-- A troubling number of Latino students in one of the nation’s most prosperous counties are unprepared for kindergarten, lag in reading, drop out of high school and falter as they head to college, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. (Donna St. George)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert says the White House has reached peak insanity:
Trump and his wife strike a different tone on bullying:
This is scary:
The Alaskan coastline is disappearing at a rate of 30 football fields a year: