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Updated: 10 hours 43 min ago

Trump, Pence, make late visit to keep Mississippi U.S. Senate seat

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 19:21

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both holding events in Mississippi on Monday, lending their star power to try to give a last minute boost to Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who finds herself in an unexpectedly difficult runoff for U.S. Senate, mainly because of her own unforced verbal errors related to race and voter suppression.

Until after the general election earlier this month, the Mississippi race had not been on the radar for most political experts – much in the way that a U.S. Senate special election in Alabama had been ignored – but that changed in recent weeks when a video emerged showing Hyde-Smith making a favorable comment about attending a public hanging.

That was followed video of Hyde-Smith talking to supporters about keeping “liberal folks” who live around colleges in the state from voting.

"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row"- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.

Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr

— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018

A newly surfaced video shows a GOP senator from Mississippi talking about making it "just a little more difficult" for "liberal folks" to vote. It comes days after Cindy Hyde-Smith faced criticism for another video where she joked about a public hanging. https://t.co/8NXW04jxNA pic.twitter.com/ZMt5SO0VGf

— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) November 16, 2018

In today’s press conference receiving an endorsement from the National Right to Life President, @SenHydeSmith was o… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) November 12, 2018

Both President Trump and Vice President Pence will make stops in Mississippi today, with the President holding a pair of campaign rallies for Hyde-Smith in Tupelo and Biloxi.

But among political analysts in Washington, D.C., there is little expectation that ex-Rep. Mike Espy (D-MS) is somehow going to spin an upset on Tuesday.

“I expect her to win, no matter how inept she looks,” said elections expert Stu Rothenberg, who was frank about why Espy – an African American who served in Congress and as Agriculture Secretary in the Clinton Administration – would be unlikely to win a statewide election.

“Party and race,” Rothenberg tweeted.

Mississippi, Vote for @cindyhydesmith on Tuesday. Respected by all. We need her in Washington!. Thanks!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 25, 2018

“Republicans are still favored, but the margin may be surprisingly close,” said Jennifer Duffy, a Senate expert with the Cook Political Report.

And in their stops on Monday, the President and Vice President will try to make sure that’s the outcome at the polls on Tuesday.

The race is important to the GOP for many reason, most of all the Republican majority in the Senate. A Hyde-Smith loss to Espy would reduce GOP gains in the Senate to just a single seat in the 2018 election cycle.

After mid-terms, House Republicans become the party of white men

Sat, 11/24/2018 - 12:00

The results of the 2018 elections will bring in over 90 new members to the U.S. House, but for Democrats and Republicans, the change could not be any more different, as Democrats will see an influx of women and minorities, while the House Republican Conference will consist overwhelmingly of white men.

Before the 2018 elections, there were 23 women in the ranks of House Republicans – but after retirements, races for other offices, and election defeats – that number will drop to just 13 in the 116th Congress, as only one new Republican woman was elected to the House in 2018.

That GOP decline comes as a record number of women will serve in the new Congress – as the increase has come because the ranks of House Democrats will swell with newly elected women from all over the country.

And this graphic makes that change all the more obvious:

House Republicans-elect look pretty different from House Democrats-elect. pic.twitter.com/KSgFVU4cFx

— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) November 13, 2018

At this point, Republicans should have around 200 members in the new Congress – and 180 of them will be white men.

That’s 90 percent.

Democrats should have around 235 members in the new House – 90 of them will be white men.

That’s about 38 percent.

Republicans will have 13 women in the new House of Representatives.

Democrats will have almost 90 women lawmakers.

And close to half of those Democratic women will be non-white.

Welcome to the 116th Congress!! pic.twitter.com/ElWZO458TC

— Mahyar Sorour (@mahyarsorour) November 13, 2018

The Washington Post put it this way:

“If you run into a white man on the House floor next year, there’s a 2-to-1 chance he’ll be a Republican.”

As for Democrats, they will vote later this week on their leadership for the 116th Congress – and despite some opposition from a small group of newly elected and incumbent Democrats – more and more it looks like Nancy Pelosi will be able to find the 218 votes in January to return to the post of Speaker, the first time that’s happened since Sam Rayburn in the mid-1950’s.

Over the Thanksgiving break, Pelosi leaned on wayward Democrats, and cut deals with some like Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who had talked about running against her for Speaker, as Pelosi supporters churned out repeated public statements on her behalf.

“With Nancy Pelosi at the table, House Democrats give themselves the best chance to deliver on the promises we have made to all Americans to get the job done,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

“To understand what Speaker Pelosi will do, we have only to look at what a Speaker Pelosi has done: take Democratic priorities like health care from dream to reality,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).

One of Pelosi’s daughters even went on Twitter to remind critics that the House Democratic Leader is no stranger to legislative knife fights.

I mean … any of us 5 kids could have told you this years ago. (Some of us did!) #DontMessWithMama #TeamPelosi pic.twitter.com/0bwR6wq41L

— Christine Pelosi (@sfpelosi) November 22, 2018

In terms of the makeup of the House in the 116th Congress, there are three races which are not final as yet:

+ New York 22 – More absentees and provisionals still have to be counted in this northern New York district, but Democrat Anthony Brindisi’s lead is too large for Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) to overcome. This will be a Democratic pickup, giving the Democrats a 39 seat gain in the House. Tenney has not yet conceded.

+ New York 27 – The counting is over, and indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) is the winner over Democrat Nate McMurray, who has not yet conceded defeat. This is a GOP hold, as both Republican lawmakers who were indicted in recent months – Collins, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) – were victors in November.

+ California 21 – This district was originally called by news organizations for the GOP, but Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) has seen his lead shrink from thousands to under 500 votes. It’s possible that Valadao could hang on, but election experts give his opponent T.J. Cox a good chance to win. That would be +40 for Democrats, if this race flips away from the GOP.

One final note – all of this counting is normal. California counts ballots for weeks, and does not certify results until December 7.

If the GOP wins in CA21, then there would be 92 new members of the House in 2019. If the Democrats win, that number would edge up to 93.

That’s a notable figure, because it is not only an over 21 percent change in the House (just over one of every 5 lawmakers would be new), but it would almost equal the dramatic change in 2010, when the Tea Party wave swept through Congress. That year the total change was 94 members.

That year was more lopsided in terms of new Republicans versus new Democrats – but 2019 will feature about two-thirds new Democrats, versus one-third in the GOP.

President Trump spars with Chief Justice over fairness of judicial rulings

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 21:24

In an extraordinary exchange on Wednesday, the Chief Justice of the United States defended the work of federal judges from criticism by the President of the United States, drawing a fiery response as President Donald Trump denounced judges appointed by former President Barack Obama for having a ‘much different point of view,’ which Mr. Trump says leaves the nation open to security threats from illegal immigration.

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,'” the President tweeted, a few hours after the Chief Justice took the rare step of publicly answering a question submitted by the Associated Press about the President’s criticism of recent judicial decisions.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” the Chief Justice told the AP in a written statement.

“What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” Roberts added.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In rare rebuttal, Chief Justice Roberts rejects Trump criticism of federal judges, praises independent judiciary

— Mark Sherman (@shermancourt) November 21, 2018

After playing golf at one of his courses in Florida, the President was clearly not pleased with the statement of the Chief Justice, as Mr. Trump took aim at the Ninth Circuit, and criticized rulings on questions of illegal immigration and crime.

“Very dangerous and unwise!” the President said. “Judicial Activism, by people who know nothing about security and the safety of our citizens, is putting our country in great danger.”

The outburst from the President came after a ruling on Tuesday night by a federal judge in California, which blocked the implementation of a new executive action on immigration, that would have stopped all illegal immigrants from claiming asylum in the United States.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” wrote Judge Jon Tigar, in a direct rebuke of the President’s order, issued earlier this month.

Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have “Obama judges,” and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an “independent judiciary,” but if it is why……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018

…..are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security – these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018

There are a lot of CRIMINALS in the Caravan. We will stop them. Catch and Detain! Judicial Activism, by people who know nothing about security and the safety of our citizens, is putting our country in great danger. Not good!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2018

Some legal experts said they were puzzled over why the Chief Justice decided to speak up now, as President Trump has certainly had harsh criticism for the federal judiciary even before he won the 2016 election.

“Though I agree with CJ Roberts’s general sentiments, his decision to intervene here creates an important precedent,” said legal expert Josh Blackman.

“Specifically, what was it about President Trump’s most recent statements that occasioned a response?” as Blackman said he thought the comments of the Chief Justice ‘will backfire.’

It was the first time that Chief Justice Roberts had given any public hint of concern about criticism of the Judiciary by President Trump, who has not minced words about his frustration with various rulings that have slowed his travel order, efforts to end the DACA immigration program, and just this week, a ruling that stopped his effort to end asylum for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Trump had spurred widespread criticism during the 2016 campaign, when he sharply criticized a federal judge, claiming Judge Gonzalo Curiel would not be impartial, because he was a Mexican – though Curiel was born in Indiana.

“Trump’s goal is not to make a point about the Ninth Circuit,” said Neal Katyal, a frequent legal critic of the President. “It is to delegitimize the courts (and the Chief Justice) because they, like the media and like DOJ, are an institution that serves as a check & balance against his impulsivity and reckless disregard for the rule of law.”

READ THE NEW RULES: White House spells out reporter guidelines

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 21:41

As the White House on Monday backed off in a legal dispute with CNN over the press credentials of White House correspondent Jim Acosta, the White House announced new rules of behavior for reporters, which could result in the suspension of a reporter’s press pass for asking more than one question of the President or top administration officials.

“We have created these rules with a degree of regret,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who directly blamed Acosta for the change, after the CNN reporter locked horns with President Trump in a post-election news conference earlier this month, refusing to give up the microphone while trying to get answers from the President about immigration policy.

Here are the new rules as set out by the White House, which were contained in an email sent on Monday afternoon through the White House Pool:

Sent: Monday, November 19, 2018 4:06 PM
Subject: In-Town Pool Report #3- Acosta/CNN Letter

From Press Secretary Sarah Sanders:

This afternoon we have notified Jim Acosta and CNN that his hard pass has been restored.  We have also notified him of certain rules that will govern White House press conferences going forward.  They are listed here:

  1.     A journalist called upon to ask a question will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists;
  1.      At the discretion of the President or other White House official taking questions, a follow-up question or questions may be permitted; and where a follow up has been allowed and asked, the questioner will then yield the floor;
  1.     “Yielding the floor” includes, when applicable, physically surrendering the microphone to White House staff for use by the next questioner;
  1.     Failure to abide by any of rules (1)-(3) may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.

We have created these rules with a degree of regret.  For years, members of the White House press corps have attended countless press events with the President and other officials without engaging in the behavior Mr. Acosta displayed at the November 7, 2018 press conference. We would have greatly preferred to continue hosting White House press conferences in reliance on a set of understood professional norms, and we believe the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the White House share that preference.  But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules.

We are mindful that a more elaborate and comprehensive set of rules might need to be devised, including, for example, for journalist conduct in the open (non-press room) areas inside and outside the White House and for Air Force One.   At this time however, we have decided not to frame such rules in the hope that professional journalistic norms will suffice to regulate conduct in those places.  If unprofessional behavior occurs in those settings, or if a court should decide that explicit rules are required to regulate conduct there, we will be forced to reconsider this decision.

The White House’s interaction with the press is, and generally should be, subject to a natural give-and-take.  President Trump believes strongly in the First Amendment, and a free press and is the most accessible President in modern history.  It would be a great loss for all if, instead of relying on the professionalism of White House journalists, we were compelled to devise a lengthy and detailed code of conduct for White House events.

GOP gains Senate seat as Nelson concedes Florida recount loss

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 19:18

After a post-election vote fight that showcased vote counting troubles in two south Florida counties, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) conceded defeat to Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Sunday, ensuring Republican gains in the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, and delivering a welcome piece of good post-election news for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

“I just spoke with Senator Bill Nelson, who graciously conceded, and I thanked him for his years of public service,” said Scott in a statement.

“My focus will not be on looking backward, but on doing exactly what I ran on,” Scott said. “Making Washington Work.”

“Thinks worked out differently than Grace and I had hoped,” Nelson acknowledged in a video statement released on Sunday afternoon. “I will continue to fight for what’s right.”

Florida elections officials on Sunday announced a final advantage for Scott of 10,033 votes – that was down from just under 15,000 in favor of Scott when the machine recount began, and lower than the nearly 12,500 edge for the GOP before the hand recount started on Friday.

From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida. Congratulations to Rick on having waged such a courageous and successful campaign!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2018

For Republicans, the hard fought win gives them a gain of two seats in the Senate for 2019, as the GOP will have a 53-47 edge, provided they can also win a special runoff election for Senate in Mississippi after Thanksgiving.

The Scott victory was a rare piece of good news for Republicans since Election Day, as the GOP has lost a number of close House races in recent days. Democrats have now gained 37 seats in the House, with five GOP seats still undecided amid continued vote counting.

Nelson becomes the fifth U.S. Senator to lose in November, joining three other Democrats – McCaskill in Missouri, Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Donnelly in Indiana – along with one Republican Senator, Heller in Nevada.

“I want to say thanks to all of you who rallied to our cause,” Nelson said after calling Scott to concede.

While 5 Senators were tossed out by the voters in November, 27 House members – all Republicans – have been defeated. Several more could still lose in the five remaining House contests which are undecided.

Hanging over the defeat for Nelson is what appears to have been a ballot design problem in one small part of Broward County, Florida, where thousands of voters did not cast a vote in the U.S. Senate race, which happened at a much higher rate than other areas in that county.

The Florida Senate count is at Scott+10,033, right around the margin where the Broward County undervote/bad ballot design could have been decisive. We may never knowhttps://t.co/Gg14C1heaV

— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 18, 2018

The ‘undervote’ problems in that area of Broward County were just part of a slew of post-election issues highlighted by the wrangling over the final tally in both the Florida Senate and Florida Governor’s race.

Late GOP rally could save Republican House seat in Utah

Sat, 11/17/2018 - 03:22

Over a week after being publicly ridiculed for losing her seat in Congress by President Donald Trump, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) on Friday night was on the verge of pulling off a stunning comeback in her re-election bid, as the continued counting of ballots in her Utah district finally pushed her into the lead by a slender 419 votes.

“Hard to see how she relinquishes that now,” said Dave Wasserman, an elections expert who has been forecasting a possible comeback by Love for several days.

Still being tabulated are thousands of provisional ballots in Utah and Salt Lake counties, which take time to verify, as Utah and a number of other states slowly push their way through the votes of the November mid-term elections.

The jump into first place for Love came as a judge tossed out a lawsuit that she filed – which oddly would have stopped vote counting in Salt Lake County – a move that her opponent said ‘smacks of desperation.’

“Utah voters deserve better than this,” said Democrat Ben McAdams.

With the Utah County numbers posting, Rep. Mia Love has taken a 419-vote lead over Ben McAdams. #utpol

— #VoteGehrke (@RobertGehrke) November 16, 2018

But the McAdams lead over Love has slowly withered away in recent days, leaving Love favored by many to win re-election.

A comeback victory would be filled with irony, especially after the mocking ridicule heaped upon Love and a number of other House Republicans by President Donald Trump, who said the day after the elections that Love and others were defeated because they refused to embrace him.

“Mia Love gave me no love and she lost,” the President said, almost seeming to enjoy the outcome. “Too bad. Sorry about that Mia.”

President Trump lists Republicans who didn't embrace him and lost. "They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it."

"Mia Love gave me no love and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that Mia." pic.twitter.com/ZV7EKcWjLX

— CSPAN (@cspan) November 7, 2018

Two weekends after the elections, a small number of races remained undecided – with some that could stretch until after Thanksgiving:

FLORIDA SENATE – With a manual recount finishing up, and Florida’s 67 counties waiting through Saturday to deal with any other stray ballots, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) seems headed for victory over Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). This will give the GOP a big victory, and a 2 seat margin in the U.S. Senate.

From a statistical/electoral/historical perspective, Scott's defeat of Nelson is pretty much unmatched in recent political history. Beating a swing state opposition party senator without a hint of scandal in a midterm… It's quite impressive.

— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) November 17, 2018

CALIFORNIA 39 – This is the first of six (or maybe seven) undecided House races. After holding the lead for days, Republican Young Kim has now been swamped by late votes coming from both Orange and Los Angeles counties, and now trails Democrat Gil Cisneros by over 3,000 votes. This should complete what is a total GOP wipeout in Orange County, as Democrats would gain six GOP seats in the Golden State.

Congressional districts in Orange County, Calif. in 2016 and in 2018 pic.twitter.com/TWRQ1pPzS4

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) November 16, 2018

CALIFORNIA 21 – This seat has already been called by the AP and other news organizations for the Republicans, but as the votes keep coming in, Rep. David Valadao’s lead keeps shrinking, and some wonder if he can hold on. This might be a long shot, but it bears watching. It’s hard to fathom that Democrats could gain a seventh seat in California.

We've been watching CA-21 like a hawk for more than a week now, and the chance for Democrat T J Cox to catch up to Valadao has gone from remote but intriguingly possibile to plausible. We're moving this one to our uncalled races tab. https://t.co/FeGWU7SsoE

— Daniel Donner (@donnermaps) November 17, 2018

UTAH 4 – As mentioned above, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) now has the lead. This would be a big save for Republicans, who have had very little to cheer about in the past 10 days since the elections. In fact, there has been an almost daily drumbeat of Democratic victories each night since then, as they edge closer to a possible pickup of almost 40 House seats, their largest gains since 1974 after Watergate.

BREAKING: As expected, #UT04 GOP Rep. Mia Love (R) has pulled into the lead over Ben McAdams (D) by 419 votes. Hard to see how she relinquishes it now. https://t.co/nfsptUdHiN

— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 16, 2018

NEW YORK 22 – This seat can probably be called for the Democrats by the AP and other organizations, as absentee ballot counts on Friday went clearly for Democrat Anthony Brindisi, leaving Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) behind by over 3,000 votes in this northern New York district. This is not a spot where the GOP should have lost.

@Redistrict Brindisi lead in NY22 has surged to more 3000 votes! I see no path to victory for Tenney. She's falling further behind as more ballots are counted, that's a losing combination, a larger deficit, and fewer votes left to count.


— Kevin O'Connell (@Kevtoco) November 17, 2018

NEW YORK 27 – Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) still leads by over 1,000 votes in this western New York district, with one big cache of absentee ballots and provisionals to count next Tuesday around Buffalo. Democrat Nate McMurray has been winning a majority of absentee ballots in recent days in counties where he lost the Election Day vote, making some wonder if he has a chance to win this race at the last minute next week. This is the equivalent of betting a horse that’s maybe 9-1. It might win.

Nate McMurray continues to gain ground in counties that he lost to Rep. Chris Collins in. Biggest test will be Tuesday when the Erie County absentee and affidavit votes will be counted. https://t.co/f5nincKkZx

— WGRZ (@WGRZ) November 16, 2018

GEORGIA 7 – While the race for Governor is over, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) has a 419 vote edge in this suburban Atlanta district, with all of the votes counted. Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux announced on Friday afternoon that she would ask for a recount. While a recount doesn’t usually switch the outcome, we have certainly seen in Florida and other states in recent days where there are tabulation errors uncovered – so you can’t say this is in the bag for the GOP – but they are favored.

News: We will file for a recount of the 7th district race. With a margin of only 419 votes (0.14%), we want to make sure every vote was counted correctly & fairly. It is crucial that every eligible vote is counted & every voice is heard. #GA07 #GAPol

— Carolyn Bourdeaux (@Carolyn4GA7) November 16, 2018

TEXAS 23 – Even though she’s behind by just under 1,000 votes, Cindy Ortiz Jones spent the week in Washington going through freshman orientation, but that may not work out for the Texas Democrat, as Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) seems like he’s in good position in this race, leading by 0.5 percent. Hurd’s people on Friday were declaring victory, but it wasn’t clear if Jones would press for any kind of vote review. Republicans are favored to hold on to this border district, but it was much closer than anyone had predicted.

Bexar County has finished counting, leaving only six votes left to count (Kinney & Upton). @WillHurd has won by 928 votes, this race is over #TX23

— Connor Pfeiffer (@ConnorPfeiffer) November 16, 2018

Democrats right now have a net gain of 36 seats – they should win at least two of the undecided races left, and have an outside chance at others.

Right now, the new Congress stands at 231 Democrats to 198 Republicans, with six seats undecided.

One final note – this extended time of vote counting is totally normal. Reporters follow it every two years, but many partisans think there is something amiss.

After Acosta ruling, Trump says press will face new rules on behavior

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 18:32

Hours after a federal judge ordered the White House to reinstate the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, President Donald Trump said new rules would be put in place at the White House governing the behavior of reporters, and if those rules are violated, then that would be grounds to pull the press pass of the offending reporter.

“People have to behave. We’re writing up rules and regulations,” President Trump told reporters after a bill signing ceremony at the White House, saying he wants to enforce rules of decorum.

“Decorum. You can’t take three questions and four questions. You can’t stand up and not sit down,” the President added, as he said there was one other option as well.

“We always have the option of leaving,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll just leave, and then you won’t be very happy, because we get good ratings.”

"We want total freedom of the press, that's very important to me. It's more important to me than anybody would believe. But you have to act with respect. You're in the White House," Trump says pic.twitter.com/XdpWUjJfVT

— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) November 16, 2018

It wasn’t clear exactly what the rules would say, or when the possible changes would be instituted – but the President made clear he wanted them to give his aides the legal predicate to get rid of reporters who don’t display the necessary ‘decorum.’

“There must be decorum at the White House,” declared White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“With the rules and regulations, we will end up back in court and we will win,” Mr. Trump said in a photo op.

The President made his comments just moments after CNN’s Acosta returned to the White House, immediately after a federal judge appointed by the President had said that no legitimate reason had been given by the government for revoking his ‘hard pass’ to the White House.

Acosta could have – but did not – attend the photo op.

LIVE: CNN reporter Jim Acosta returns to the White House after a judge ruled that Trump must reinstate his press access https://t.co/PBmUT5rgSD

— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) November 16, 2018

In a statement, the group representing reporters at the White House said Acosta’s return was the correct move.

“The White House Correspondents’ Association welcomes today’s ruling, in which a federal judge made it clear that the White House cannot arbitrarily revoke a White House press pass.”

Democrats head home with Pelosi’s future unclear in House

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 09:00

While allies of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi pressed hard this week to put her on the way to become the next Speaker of the House, a small group of Democratic holdouts is threatening to block her from getting to 218 votes on the floor in January, leaving Democrats uncertain about their leadership.

“I’m concerned about the situation,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), as he left a closed door meeting of House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday afternoon.

“I can’t say that I’m optimistic,” Connolly told reporters, noting that those opposed to Pelosi as the next Speaker did not seem to be backing down.

“I’m always true to my word,” said Rep.-Elect Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who made clear repeatedly during his campaign for Congress that he would not vote for Pelosi as Speaker.

“Sometimes it’s good to have a fresh new face, and to have change and go forward with some new ideas, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Van Drew told reporters.

.@edokeefe: "If the election were held today on the House floor do you have the votes to be elected Speaker?"@NancyPelosi: "Yes." pic.twitter.com/PUqW5bpgUr

— CSPAN (@cspan) November 15, 2018

Meanwhile, Pelosi’s office continued on Thursday to churn out public endorsements from both established Democrats and those who have just been elected.

“I truly believe that Rep. Pelosi has demonstrated the proven, tested leadership we need to confront the issues before our nation,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). “We cannot afford to come up short.”

As for recently elected lawmakers, two new Democrats from California said they would stick with their home state colleague, arguing Pelosi would deliver ‘leadership that is bold, pragmatic, and capable of swift results.’

“This is why we support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker,” wrote Katie Hill and Mike Levin, who won seats in southern California.

But the math to 218 votes seemed somewhat fraught for Pelosi, as if Democrats end up with around 235-240 votes in the House, a relatively small slice of the party could block Pelosi’s ascension, much as the Freedom Caucus threatened to do for several years in the House with the GOP.

Senior House Democratic lawmaker on if Pelosi can’t get the votes to become Speaker: “It’s who blinks first. Is it Nancy or is it the caucus?” Another sr Hse Dem on the leadership fight: “It’s going to get ugly”

— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) November 15, 2018

“We had the biggest victory since 1974,” Pelosi said. “All of us are committed to a better future for America’s working families.”

Whether that story line includes Pelosi as Speaker again – that won’t be determined until the week after Thanksgiving.

Democrats continue 2018 election gains in House

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 20:14

In what has almost been a daily event since Election Day last week, Democrats won another GOP seat in the House on Thursday, as a new form of runoff election in Maine knocked off a Republican incumbent, increasing the gains of Democrats to 35 seats, with seven GOP seats still undecided.

In Maine, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) had asked a federal judge to block the final tabulation of results in his district under the format known as “ranked choice voting” – but the judge refused, saying that was a political question, as Maine voters had approved the new runoff format twice in statewide elections.

Poliquin is the 26th House GOP incumbent to be defeated in last week’s elections; Democrats lead in three of the seven remaining undecided House races, while Repulbicans are ahead in the other four – as Democrats could win three or four more seats.

“Now we’re getting up to forty,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “That’s really a very big – almost a tsunami,” arguing that Democrats had to overcome Republican gerrymanders to notch their victories.

At her press conference, Nancy Pelosi notes this year's freshman Dem class is the biggest since 1974 "Watergate babies."

“I don’t know if this Congress will name itself, but we’re almost close to 60 new Democrats,” she says.

— Ella Nilsen (@ella_nilsen) November 15, 2018

Regardless of what term you use to describe the gains by Democrats in the House, it will be the party’s biggest pickup since 1974, a class that was dubbed, “the Watergate babies,” when Democrats gained 49 seats.

Overall, there will most likely be over 90 new members of the House, getting close to the total change in the Tea Party midterm election of 2010, when 94 new members arrived on Capitol Hill.

While Pelosi expressed excitement about the growing number of new Democrats in the Congress, she flashed a bit of impatience with reporters on Thursday, as they pestered her again with questions about whether she would have the votes to once again be Speaker of the House.

“I intend to win the Speakership,” said Pelosi, who served as Speaker for four years between 2007 and 2011.

“I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be Speaker of the House,” Pelosi added, even as other Democrats were trying to come up with another candidate to oppose her.

PELOSI latest:
1. Rep Jayapal isnt saying where she is – told us she, Rep. Pocan are meeting w Pelosi later.
2. Rep. Richmond (CBC chair) said he is not anti-Pelosi but if Fudge runs he will likely support. Also said he spoke w Fudge today and she did not bring up Speaker run.

— Lisa Desjardins (@LisaDNews) November 15, 2018

Pressed by reporters at a news conference, Pelosi said she would welcome a challenge by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), or anyone else.

“I say it to everybody, come on in, the water’s warm,” Pelosi said.

While Republicans held their leadership elections this week – House Democrats won’t vote until after Thanksgiving.

Jamie Dupree: “I will never, ever give up”

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 06:06

Normally, I’m not a loss for words.

Whether it’s on the radio, on Twitter, or on my blog, I churn out copy at all hours of the day and night.

But as I sit here at my dinner table (still clad in my tuxedo) after arriving home from an awards ceremony with hundreds of my reporting colleagues in Washington, I honestly don’t know what to say.

So, the best thing to do is let others speak for me.

What happened on Wednesday night was the Radio Television Correspondent’s Association – which credentials reporters on Capitol Hill – honored me with a ‘Career Achievement Award for Distinguished Reporting on Congress.’

What makes the story more powerful is that it comes after an over two year struggle – still ongoing – which has resulted in me losing my voice.

.@JamieDupree is a wonderful example of a principled journalist who triumphs in the face of adversary. https://t.co/nzsIsH7j40

— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) November 15, 2018

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – who went to the House floor a year ago to help generate attention for my medical troubles – took the time to come to our annual dinner to present me with the award.

“When life said to be quiet, Jamie found a way to speak louder than ever before,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “He is an example for every American faced with overwhelming adversity.”

Since being told last week that I was getting this award, I had spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to say – because I can barely talk.

I settled on something simple, and practiced it over and over during my drive to and from work.

“I will never, ever give up.”

That’s how I feel. And it certainly made an impact.

I was there to witness this incredible moment. Was damn near crying like a baby and am still thinking about this. God bless you, @jamiedupree https://t.co/SBcJfN64cI

— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) November 15, 2018

Hands down, the most moving moment of tonight’s @rtcacaphill Awards was @DanaBashCNN reading on behalf of @jamiedupree. “I will never, ever give up.” pic.twitter.com/xAAEVsF8Qq

— Richard Hudock (@richardhudock) November 15, 2018

I asked my long time friend and colleague Dana Bash of CNN to join me on stage to read my remarks for me; Dana was a producer for CNN when we first met back during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Now she is a force on cable news.

She was the perfect person to make my voice heard, though Dana was near tears as we stepped to the podium, and so was I.

And judging from the reaction after the speech there were a lot of other people with the same feeling.

I don’t know what’s wrong with my voice.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to speak normally again.

But I know what I feel.

“I will never, ever give up.”

Democrats turn up war of words over Florida, Georgia vote counts

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 18:22

Watching vote count battles from afar on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats stepped up their attacks on Republicans in both Florida and Georgia on Wednesday, broadly accusing GOP officials of standing in the way of a fair vote count in undecided races in those two states.

“President Trump and Governor Scott have just lied,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer told reporters just off the Senate floor, accusing Republicans of inventing election fraud charges to undercut calls by Democrats for a full vote count.

“They’ve said there is fraud when their own Republican officials in Florida have said there’s no fraud,” Schumer added, again arguing that if all legitimate votes are counted, that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) would win.

Nelson trails Scott by 13,500 votes, as a recount is underway in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

While Schumer’s words were more cutting about Florida, one Democrat took it a step further over the ongoing vote battle in Georgia, where former Secretary of State Brian Kemp holds a narrow lead over Democrat Stacey Abrams, still just above the numbers needed to avoid a runoff.

“If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said at a civil rights forum on Capitol Hill. “It’s clear. It’s clear,” as Brown complained about efforts to close voting precincts in a more rural African-American area of the state.

“They can’t win elections fairly; they win elections by redistricting and reapportionment, and voter suppression,” Brown added to applause.

Soon after, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told the same group there had been “massive voter suppression” in the state of Georgia, as Democrats vowed again to focus on the need for action on voting rights, especially in southern states.

But other than venting their frustration over Republican vote advantages in Florida and Georgia, there was little that Democrats could do from Washington – other than wait to see what would happen in Tallahassee and Atlanta.

“Every vote should be counted,” Sen. Schumer said, as it seemed possible that legal battles would stretch for days in the two states.

Those legal battles had already left a sour taste in the mouth of Republicans as well.

“That isn’t a strategy to win an election, that is a strategy to steal an election,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Democrats edging toward California blowout in U.S. House

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 09:00

As the lame duck, post-election Congress returned to work on Tuesday, the 2018 election gains of Democrats continued to grow, with news organizations declaring a fourth GOP seat for Democrats in California, as other vote numbers indicated that Republicans could lose two more seats in what was once the hotbed of national GOP conservatism, Orange County.

The latest GOP lawmaker to go down to defeat was Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), a more moderate conservative who had tried but failed to broker a GOP agreement on immigration, as his slim lead from Election Day was swamped by a tide of mail-in ballots being counted across California.

“I want to thank the unprecedented grassroots effort that supported this campaign,” said Josh Harder, who will replace Denham in Congress, as Democrats could flip six seats from the GOP in the Golden State, transforming the California delegation into one which has 45 Democrats, and just eight Republicans.

New vote results released on Tuesday pushed Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) behind for the first time in her re-election race, and sharply cut the lead of Republican Young Kim, vying for an open seat in California’s 39th district, as a number of elections experts predicted Kim would also soon be trailing.

“What’s cool is that it’s the week after election night and we are still flipping seats,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), as Democrats celebrated their seemingly daily gains of the past week.

“I mean, it’s pretty clear what’s going on in California,” tweeted political expert Harry Enten.

I mean it's pretty clear what's going on in CA. pic.twitter.com/m1sGbj6wUc

— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) November 14, 2018

Breaking: in #CA39, Gil Cisneros (D) draws within 711 votes of Young Kim (R). It's only a matter of time before he takes the lead. Looking like another R loss. https://t.co/9tHE4GGqdT

— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 14, 2018

Democrats are now at a gain of 33 seats in the House – which could grow closer to 40, as nine seats remain undecided.

As the evidence grew of further election losses in California, House Republicans were scheduled Wednesday to vote on their new slate of leaders for 2019, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – one of the few safe Republicans from California – ready to assume the helm as House Minority Leader.

“Kevin McCarthy not only has the expertise, he’s a team player,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), who had no qualms about backing McCarthy for the GOP slot.

McCarthy’s only opponent is a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who was given little chance of winning by home state colleagues like Turner.

“You can’t be a member that votes ‘no’ all the time, and then attempt to lead in any way,” Turner said of his fellow Ohio Republican.

But supporters of Jordan argued that after being knocked out of the majority, it was time for something different, not the same GOP leadership.

”I’ll talk to you tomorrow morning.”-@Jim_Jordan heads out of House GOP meeting with Freedom Caucus Chair Meadows after speaking on his bid for minority leader against Kevin McCarthy. House GOP leadership elections are tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/jIkhr6mjpI

— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) November 13, 2018

Meanwhile, Democrats were having their own behind-the-scenes maneuvers on their future leaders, as a small group of Democrats were saying they would block the effort of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to again assume the post of Speaker.

“Nancy Pelosi has proven herself as a first-rate legislator,” said Rep.-Elect Donna Shalala of Florida, as Pelosi supporters tried to snuff out any hint of growing opposition.

If Pelosi takes the gavel again as Speaker, she would be the first person to resume the Speakership since Sam Rayburn in the 1950’s.

Democrats won’t hold their leadership elections until after Thanksgiving.

Budget deficit starts fast in new fiscal year

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 01:00

The new fiscal year got off to a rocky start in October, as the Treasury Department reported Tuesday that Uncle Sam ran a budget deficit of $100 billion last month, up 60 percent from a year earlier, and the largest deficit in October since 2015.

Compared to the same month a year ago, spending was up by over $50 billion, while revenues increased by $17 billion, again demonstrating stronger economic growth – but that growth has not brought the federal deficit under control as promised repeatedly by GOP leaders in Congress and the White House.

The feds brought in $252.7 billion in revenues, compared to a spending level of $353.2 billion in October – giving taxpayers $100.5 billion more in red ink, in the very first month of Fiscal Year 2019.

The Treasury Department said the government ran a $100 billion deficit last month, as spending increases outpaced revenue growth https://t.co/RNgM17kK2C

— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 13, 2018

The budget estimates from the White House already envision a deficit in 2019 which could go over $1 trillion, though the deficit for 2018 settled at less than original estimates, totaling $779 billion.

That yearly deficit was the largest since 2012.

“October revenues are up 7% compared to last year, but over half of that increase is due to tariffs & excise taxes,” wrote budget expert Tyler Evilsizer, who points out that collections of individual income tax revenue increased less than one percent in October.

While Republicans in Congress had routinely pledged to enact a balanced budget, those promises haven’t come close to being fulfilled under the Trump Administration.

Trump kicks off FY19 with the deficit of $100.5bn in Oct bringing the 12 month tally to $816bn (20% wider vs. a year ago). Where are we heading? According to the CBO, we should expect the deficit near the $1tln mark this year. pic.twitter.com/I0F7bcmLGE

— Steven Rattner (@SteveRattner) November 13, 2018

Here are the White House estimates for the budget deficit in coming years:

2019 – $984 billion
2020 – $987 billion
2021 – $916 billion
2022 – $852 billion
2023 – $774 billion

The ten year outlook from the White House does not envision a balanced budget.

Democrats in Congress rally behind Georgia vote fight

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 16:24

As a pair of federal judges issued rulings to force the counting of provisional and absentee ballots in the race for Governor in Georgia, Democrats in the Congress demanded a full count in the state, accusing Republican Brian Kemp of being worried about tallying all the votes in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

“In Georgia, every vote should be counted,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). “And that is how our candidate can have a fair shot.”

Appearing at a Capitol Hill event of the National Action Network, a civil rights group run by Rev. Al Sharpton, Klobuchar teed off on Kemp, accusing him of holding up voter registration of thousands of Georgia residents, and doing all he could to trip up Democratic voters.

“When every vote is counted, then it’s right,” said Klobuchar, who has been mentioned frequently as a candidate for President in 2020.

A few hundred more votes just came in and the margin in the race for governor remains the same. @staceyabrams still needs to net 20k+ votes to force a runoff. We should get provisional ballots from DeKalb & Gwinnett later today – two heavily D counties. #gapol pic.twitter.com/6A5u5OD1VR

— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) November 13, 2018

The latest numbers in the race for Governor continued to keep Kemp just above the 50 percent majority that he needs to avoid a runoff, as Democrats held out hope that uncounted ballots could close the gap for Abrams.

“What we’ve seen in Florida, and especially in Georgia, has been a national disgrace,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), joining Klobuchar in accusing Republicans of doing all they could to suppress the votes of Democrats.

“Every vote matters, period,” said Warren, who is also talked about as a Presidential hopeful.

“Politicians are supposed to compete over how many voters they can persuade to vote for them,” Warren added. “Not how many American citizens they can disqualify, discourage or demoralize.”

Meanwhile, Georgia’s vote fight in the race for Governor was increasingly being fought out in the courts, as a federal judge on Monday ruled that Gwinnett County must count absentee ballots which had been thrown out on technical grounds.

I believe that there have been an unusually large number of rejected absentee ballots in Gwinnett due to a poorly designed absentee ballot return envelope that mixes English and Spanish https://t.co/NWnQk7VSLR

— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) November 13, 2018

“I’ve been concerned about the unusually high number of absentee ballots rejected by Gwinnett County for failure of voters to provide their year of birth,” said elections expert Michael McDonald. “A court has ordered Gwinnett to count these ballots.”

Lame Duck Congress returns to changed political landscape

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 09:00

Lawmakers in Congress return to Washington Tuesday for a post-election session with substantial change just weeks away on Capitol Hill, as Democrats get ready to take charge of the U.S. House in January, signaling the start of more aggressive oversight of President Donald Trump and his administration.

“As we travel to Washington for this lame duck period, House Democrats are anything but lame ducks,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We are flying high and taking pride in the greatest Democratic victory in the House since 1974.”

“We have great opportunity, and therefore great responsibility to get results for the American people,” Pelosi added.

While Pelosi continued to celebrate Democratic gains – which now stand at 32 seats, and could grow further in ten undecided races – she is also trying to make sure she is the next Speaker of the House, as some Democratic newcomers have pledged to oppose her, like Joe Cunningham, who won an unexpected upset in South Carolina.

“I’ve said that from day one,” Cunningham told MSNBC on Monday. “It’s nothing against Nancy Pelosi personally, it’s a matter of having new leadership.”

Rep.-Elect Cunningham: I will not vote for Pelosi for speaker https://t.co/tYoDHAUBGF pic.twitter.com/6d5ZsqMjWn

— dc jolt (@DCJOLT1) November 12, 2018

Even as the new members were arriving in Washington for their freshman orientation meetings, Pelosi’s office was busy on Monday churning out statements from senior Democrats, urging their new colleagues to back Pelosi for Speaker.

“Later this month, I will cast my vote for Nancy Pelosi to become our party’s nominee for Speaker of the House, and I urge you to do the same,” wrote Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), expected to be the next Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The next Speaker of the House must be a shrewd, battle-tested negotiator,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), in line to be the next Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. “That’s why I’m asking you to join me in supporting Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House.”

While a number of new Democrats like Cunningham have said they don’t want Pelosi to become Speaker again – no other Democrat has stepped forward to run against her.

“We need the strongest general that we have.”-incoming House Intelligence Committee Chair ⁦@AdamSchiff⁩ endorses #TeamPelosi for Speaker. pic.twitter.com/IJkl8qEKZq

— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) November 12, 2018

There’s still plenty of time for maneuvering among Democrats; they won’t hold their leadership elections until the week after Thanksgiving.

While that Democratic leadership race will draw a lot of attention, the House and Senate do have legislative business to complete before they wrap up this session of Congress in December, as a series of spending bills must be finished, with a possible showdown over money for President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Lawmakers will meet this week, and then take Thanksgiving week off, leaving little time after that for deal-making.

Other issues may also get resolved in coming weeks, as there were reports on Monday night from the New York Times that a bipartisan deal had been struck on criminal justice reform legislation, which has been pushed by President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Dems win Senate seat in Arizona, as Florida’s Scott heads to D.C.

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 23:54

Democrats on Monday won back a seat in the U.S. Senate as Republican Martha McSally conceded defeat in Arizona after Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) saw her lead increase for a third straight day, while in Florida, aides to GOP Gov. Rick Scott said he would go to Capitol Hill for freshman orientation this week, even as his Senate race was still the subject of a recount in the Sunshine State.

Not long after new vote totals showed Sinema leading by over 38,000 votes, McSally issued a statement on Twitter, congratulating Sinema for her upset victory, which will limit overall GOP gains in the Senate.

“I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona’s first female Senator,” McSally said in a video released on Twitter.

Congrats to @kyrstensinema. I wish her success. I’m grateful to all those who supported me in this journey. I’m inspired by Arizonans’ spirit and our state’s best days are ahead of us. pic.twitter.com/tw0uKgi3oO

— McSally For Senate (@MarthaMcSally) November 13, 2018

The concession came as elections officials in Arizona continued to go through thousands of mail-in ballots, which require both a signature check, and a review to make sure the voter did not also cast a ballot in person on Election Day.

Most of the ballots being counted in recent days had come from Maricopa County in the Phoenix area – which has 143,000 ballots still to process – though other counties are still going through smaller numbers of provisional ballots, as the trend was clearly in the favor of Sinema.

“All early ballots have been tabulated,” the Pinal County elections office said on Monday afternoon. “We have approx. 6,000 provisional ballots and hope to process and finish them on Tuesday, Nov. 13.”

After the latest rush of ballots, the Associated Press called the race in favor of Sinema – despite the over 150,000 ballots left to be counted.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeats Republican Martha McSally in the Arizona race for U.S. Senate.

— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) November 13, 2018

The action in Arizona left only Florida still with an undecided race for U.S. Senate, as elections officials started their recount Monday, with Gov. Rick Scott (R) leading by 13,500 votes.

Even without a final resolution to the race, Scott was heading to Capitol Hill to prepare to become a Senator in January.

“This week, Senator-elect Scott will fly to Washington to participate in new-member orientation, including the photo and voting in leadership elections,” Scott’s campaign told reporters.

GOP leadership elections are set for Wednesday, with new members making their way to Capitol Hill this week in both the House and Senate, as Scott will be allowed to participate in the Senate Republican elections, even though his race remains in flux, while elections officials in 67 counties were going through ballots for a Senate recount.

McConnell delays Tuesday photo-op with new GOP senators til Wednesday, allowing Rick Scott a chance to participate in that and leadership elections that day – even though Scott hasn’t been declared the winner yet and there’s still a recount in Florida underway

— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 12, 2018

Back in Florida on Monday, lawyers for the Governor, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), and elections officials continued to tangle in court, as a Florida judge urged all involved in the key Senate race to tone down the rhetoric, in what almost seemed like a message to the White House as well.

Hours earlier, the President had tweeted, “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott,” a move which would run counter to Florida election law, cut off the recount, and block votes still allowed from overseas military ballots.

We have to be careful about what we say,” said Broward County Judge Jack Tuter.

Across the state, elections officials were in various stages of the recount, with larger counties still working to go through all the ballots in both the races for Governor and Senate.

The recount could add votes to the mix, as ballots which were not readable by the machines are reconstructed by elections officials – with observers from both parties on hand – to insure that all the votes are counted.

In full public view: @MikeErtel and canvas board recreate ballot that could not be read by the machine.
FL GOP, FL Dems, LWV, and others witnessing. pic.twitter.com/nMtlTQdEXg

— Christopher Heath (@CHeathWFTV) November 12, 2018

What a machine recount looks like, Part II: In Tallahassee’s Leon County, canvassing board members recreate a damaged ballot that was uncounted to ensure that it is counted. (L-R, Commissioner Nick Maddox; Judge Layne Smith; Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley) pic.twitter.com/SkoZW0O9sv

— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) November 12, 2018

“If a manual recount is ordered, we will begin on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m.,” said Deborah Clark, the Supervisor of Elections in Pinellas County, Florida.

Amid Senate split, Dems gain in House, as vote count rolls on

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 01:01

It was not a quiet weekend for elections officials around the country, as vote counting gave Democrats the edge in a Senate race in Arizona, while Republicans kept their leads in key races as a recount began for Senate and Governor in Florida. Meanwhile in the House, Democrats continued to slowly pick off more GOP seats, increasing the size of their new majority for 2019, as a small group of races for Congress could remain undecided for days, if not weeks.

Most of the political battling was taking place over the recounts in Florida, where top Republicans repeatedly made charges of vote fraud, but state law enforcement officials made clear their investigations had not found anything to investigate, which led state GOP officials to all but demand an election probe.

Here’s a rundown of where the 2018 mid-term elections stand:

1. Florida – Advantage Republicans As the races for Senate and Governor went into a recount on Sunday, it seemed like the only chance left for Democrats to win those races was the discovery of some kind of major tabulation error. Gov. Rick Scott (R) led Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) by around 12,500 votes, a margin that dwindled from almost 60,000 after the elections, amid outcries from Republicans. The margin in the Governor’s race was over 43,000 votes for the GOP. It is rare for a recount to overturn a result, especially one that involves a lead of thousands of votes. Unless there is a major mistake in how the votes were added up, a change seems difficult to envision. For now, Florida is Advantage GOP.

2. Florida GOP cries fraud, but no investigations. Despite being ahead, Republicans of all stripes in Florida spent the weekend accusing Democrats of trying to “steal” the election in Florida, but that message was undercut a bit by investigators in two Florida state agencies. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement made clear it had no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, and the Florida Department of State – which had monitors in Broward County’s elections offices – told reporters they found “no evidence of criminal activity.” That didn’t sit well with Gov. Scott, who on Sunday accused Nelson of trying to ‘steal’ the election, and state Attorney General Pam Bondi – a favorite of President Trump – all but demanded that the FDLE and the Department of State publicly say that they did know of possible election wrongdoing. Democrats said it was all political hyperbole. “Governor Scott and President Trump are spewing baseless claims of voter fraud in Florida,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.

FDLE’s duty to investigation this matter is clear, and I am directing the department to take the necessary steps to promote public safety and to assure that our state will guarantee integrity in our elections process: https://t.co/Xqe4tUmqLF pic.twitter.com/eAnF4Oz3Wx

— Fla. AG Pam Bondi (@AGPamBondi) November 11, 2018

3. Democrats have edge in Arizona Senate race. While Republicans seem to have the advantage in Florida, Democrats were gaining ground through the weekend in the race for Senate in Arizona, as Rep. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) took the lead on Friday, and then built that into an over 32,000 vote edge by Sunday evening, with over 160,000 ballots still to count – mainly from the Phoenix area. While Republicans claimed vote fraud repeatedly in Florida, the GOP Secretary of State rejected allegations about any vote troubles in Arizona, saying there was nothing amiss with the methodical vote count in the Grand Canyon State. “One of the major reasons it takes time to count ballots is that there are hundreds of thousands of early ballots dropped off at the polls on election day,” said Michele Reagan, the Arizona Secretary of State. Other Republicans echoed that assessment, rejecting President Trump’s talk of a new election, as there were reports that national Republicans were not pleased – as they wanted a tougher message about possible vote fraud.

There is no evidence of election officials "cooking the books" in Arizona. Such careless language undermines confidence in our democratic institutions. https://t.co/cNjYp0yIa1

— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) November 11, 2018

4. Georgia Governor – GOP edge, but more votes to count. The other state that is still making vote counting headlines is Georgia. On Saturday, the new Secretary of State said no new vote totals would be posted until the next week. A few hours later, there were new vote totals posted by Georgia elections officials, as Democrats threatened legal action, complaining that there were thousands of votes going uncounted, and that state officials were not revealing how many votes remained to be counted. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp declared victory, and said it was time for Democrat Stacey Abrams to concede. The Abrams camp refused, as they pointed to a break down of the new votes released on Saturday, which clearly showed a large majority of them going to the Democrat, as Abrams still hopes to force a runoff. As of Sunday evening, Kemp was at 50.28 percent.

Abrams campaign manager @gwlauren: "This race is not over. It’s still too close to call. And we cannot have confidence in the secretary of state’s numbers … Over 5K votes came in yesterday that weren’t even previously known about.” #gapol

— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) November 11, 2018

5. Mississippi race roiled by “public hanging” remark. Most of you probably don’t know that there is a runoff for U.S. Senate in Mississippi coming up in a few weeks, between appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy. On Sunday, video surfaced of Hyde-Smith speaking with supporters on November 2, saying that one supporter who had endorsed her was such a good person, that if he ‘invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.’ In a statement, Hyde-Smith said she “used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.” It should be pointed out that her opponent, Espy, is black. It should also be pointed out that public hangings don’t have much of a positive connotation, especially in Mississippi.

"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row"- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.

Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr

— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018

6. Senate remains +2 for GOP. With an edge to Democrats in Arizona, and an edge for Republicans in Florida, right now it seems like the two parties will split those races. If that happens, Democrats would grab a GOP seat in Arizona, and Republicans would take a Democratic seat in Florida. In other words, it would be a wash overall, and would leave the GOP gains at two seats. A loss in Arizona would mean that Republicans lost GOP seats in both Arizona and Nevada, which probably was a surprise for many Republicans on Capitol Hill. There was a time late on Election Night when I thought the Republicans had a chance to win a 6 seat gain – but the Democrats won in Nevada, protected a seat in Montana, and now seem to be on the way to victory in Arizona’s Senate race.

On Election Eve I tweeted that McSally would win. I did not think there were as many ballots left to count as there are. While McSally could make up the gap, the remaining ballots would need to break hard in her direction. Edge Sinema. I’ve learned AZ late votes are like CA’s.

— Henry Olsen (@henryolsenEPPC) November 10, 2018

7. 10 Undecided races left in the House. Democrats continue to slowly pick up more GOP seats in the House, as they are now at a gain of 32 seats, heading for their largest gain since the 1974 elections, right after Watergate. There are 10 House races still undecided – four of those are being led by Democrats, and the other six by the GOP. The biggest problem for Republicans is in California, where there is an outside chance that Democrats would take six seats away from the GOP. Veteran Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s race was called for the Democrats on Saturday, and the seats of Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (he’s behind) and Rep. Mimi Walters (she’s still slightly ahead) are in danger. Also, an open seat in CA39 is still in play, though the lead has shrunk for Republican Young Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress. But it’s not clear if she can hang on.

Currently in California: a GOP bloodbath.

— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) November 10, 2018

8. This extended vote count is normal. I really want to stress this point. It is normal for various states to still be counting votes at this point. The elections don’t get wrapped up with a neat bow around midnight on Election night. The vote counting often goes on for days – sometimes weeks in the case of a close race. This is what happens every two years. I pay attention to it, because I’m always watching close races for Congress – especially in California, where they take weeks to count all the votes. States like Arizona and California have hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots come in after Election Day – they just have to be postmarked by that day, and can still arrive until Friday. Then all the signatures have to be matched – this takes time. And it’s normal. But for most people, the idea that it is still going is an outrage. I’m sorry, but that’s the system that we have. And it’s normal.

I wrote about this over the weekend – it's normal for Arizona and California to still be counting https://t.co/WjBHkyX5nv

— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) November 12, 2018

9. Undecided races for the House. Here’s your thumbnail of the ten races still not officially called in the U.S. House:

+ CA10 – Rep. Jeff Denham R-CA may be on his way out of Congress, as the California Republican trails. The late arriving mail-in ballots tend to trend for the Democrats in the Golden State.

+ CA39 – Republican Young Kim’s lead continues to shrink, but she may have a chance to hang on, as her lead is about 2,400 votes over Democrat Gil Cisneros.

+ CA45 – Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) has seen her lead drop from 6,000 to 2,000 votes in recent days in her Orange County district. This was once the bastion of conservatism – now there is an outside chance that Democrats could sweep every Congressional seat in this county.

+ GA7 – While his colleague Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) lost next door in GA6, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) still has a lead of about 900 votes. It’s unclear how many votes are still to be counted from absentees, overseas military votes, and/or provisionals.

+ Maine 2 – Elections officials will continue this week to use the “ranked choice voting” process to determine the winner. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) led in the initial vote, but did not get a majority. Now the votes of those who finished in third and fourth will be reallocated to the top two finishers, as voters had to indicate their second and third choices in the race. Some experts believe the Democrats will win this seat.

+ NJ3 – Democrats seem to have the edge in this final seat in New Jersey, where their candidate has a 4,000 vote edge over Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). Provisional ballots were counted through the weekend. One county won’t count provisionals until Wednesday. A MacArthur loss would leave the Republicans with only one seat out of 12 in the New Jersey delegation, a loss of four seats in the 2018 election.

+ NY22 – Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is behind by over 1,300 votes, with absentees and provisionals still to be counted in coming days. For everyone who tells me that Republicans never do better after Election Day, she benefited from a tabulation error, which helped her close the lead by over 200 votes.

+ NY27 – Indicted GOP Rep. Chris Collins leads with a number of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. He would seem to have the edge, but you never know what might happen with those who sent their votes in early.

+ TX23 – Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) continues to lead by 1,150 votes, with provisionals and absentee ballots still to be counted. Hurd was declared the winner on Election Night, then lost his lead, and grabbed it back late that evening.

+ UT4 – Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) still trails in her race, but did gain some votes in the counts done on Friday. She has already had to endure the ridicule of President Trump last week, who blasted her and other Republicans representing more suburban districts who had spurned his public support during the campaign.

All ten of those undecided races are for GOP seats.

October was highest month for illegal immigration under President Trump

Sun, 11/11/2018 - 01:28

The number of people picked up by U.S. law enforcement illegally crossing the border with Mexico surged to its highest point since President Donald Trump took office, as federal officials reported that 60,745 people were apprehended in October, surging almost 75 percent from October of 2017, as the Trump Administration continues to call for extra action on illegal immigration.

“We want people to come into our country, but they have to come into our country legally,” the President said Friday before leaving for a weekend trip to France. “They have to come into our country legally.”

The jump in the number of illegal immigrants detained by the feds dropped to as low as 15,798 in April of 2017 – back when the President was saying it was because of his call for tougher border enforcement.

The numbers soared to over 51,000 in both April and May of 2018, but then dropped to 40,000 in July.

The announcement of the numbers came just hours after the President had signed a new executive action that would block illegal immigrants from requesting asylum in the United States.

The October numbers showed a distinct increase in the number of families apprehended by the feds, rising to the highest level on record, and an increase of 39 percent over September.

Also picked up were 4,991 “Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

Those numbers were going up even before the ‘caravan’ of illegal immigrants – which has drawn so much attention from the President – moved anywhere close to the U.S.-Mexican border.

NEW: The number of family units caught by @CBP along the southwest border rose to 23,121 in October, the highest monthly total on record.

— Alan Gomez (@alangomez) November 9, 2018

The jump in illegal immigration has prompted the President to vent his frustration repeatedly at his inability to get legislation through the Congress to make changes in immigration law, as he made the case in the final days before the election that it’s all the fault of Democrats.

“We need Democrat support on new immigration laws to bring us up to date. The laws are obsolete and they’re incompetent,” the President said Friday.

As the Congress comes back to work for a lame duck session on Tuesday, one unanswered question is what will happen with the President’s call for additional money to build a wall along the southern border.

“We need the wall; we’re building the wall,” Mr. Trump said – but there haven’t been the votes in Congress to give him more than $1.6 billion for the plan, and Tuesday’s elections only brought more people to Congress who won’t be disposed to vote for that money as well.

Election overtime – it’s controversial, but much of it is normal

Sat, 11/10/2018 - 01:33

For those who watch elections in the states, and in Congress, every two years there is a familiar scenario as the votes are counted for days, and sometimes weeks after Election Day, as close races for the U.S. House and Senate can sometimes stretch until Thanksgiving as county elections boards go through provisional ballots, overseas military ballots, and absentees.

It’s normal.

But to a lot of average citizens who only tune in every two or four years, it seems hard to believe that three days after Election Day – let alone a week or two weeks – that elections officials would still be counting votes in close races around the country.

It’s normal.

Just spoke with Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson. He said they will be working all weekend, but today they are just prepping ballots received from the recorder's office. They expect to finish counting early ballots by Tuesday, provisionals by Friday.

— Tim Steller (@senyorreporter) November 9, 2018

But with two key U.S. Senate races still undecided on Friday – and both suddenly in question for the GOP – President Donald Trump led a chorus of Republican voices in charging that Democrats were up to post-election dirty tricks, in order to take two Senate wins away from the GOP.

Rick Scott was up by 50,000+ votes on Election Day, now they “found” many votes and he is only up 15,000 votes. “The Broward Effect.” How come they never find Republican votes?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018

Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018

Asked by reporters if he had actual evidence of vote fraud, the President did not offer any as he left for a weekend in France.

But in many ways, this is normal.

Six years ago at this time in Arizona, the votes were coming in slowly, just as they have this year – except Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was ahead by a comfortable margin, and it didn’t draw much attention in the press, because other states were in the news.

For those seeming shocked, shocked, by the time it takes Arizona to count ballots. This is the system, and isn't a new thing. See this 2012 AP story about a call to fix it after long delays that year. Never happened: https://t.co/RymjCX2yWm

— Bob Christie (@APChristie) November 9, 2018

What other state was making news days after the election in 2012? That would be Florida, which was still counting votes in a very tight race for President.

“Amid much criticism and ridicule,” the Associated Press article began on November 9, 2012 – the same Friday in 2018 that President Trump and other Republicans were expressing their anger about vote counting in two south Florida counties, as Democrats brought down the margin in a key Senate race under 15,000 votes.

This year’s troubles in Florida certainly are drawing more than just ridicule – and may well go further into dysfunction – but the timing of the continued vote count in the Sunshine State in big counties is not new.

Meanwhile in Georgia, the new Secretary of State – sworn in after the former Secretary, Brian Kemp, resigned after declaring himself the winner of the Governor’s race – said that while all the votes were being tabulated, no updated vote counts would be posted until next week.

Across the country, different states have different rules on how to treat everything from absentee ballots to mail-in ballots – for example, in Florida, a mail-in ballot must arrive by Election Day.

But in Arizona and California, those ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, and then have to arrive at the elections offices by Friday evening.

In other words, ballots were still pouring in on Wednesday and Thursday.

Out in California, the Los Angeles Times reported that 5 million ballots were still to be counted on Friday.

You read that right.

And it’s normal.

To confess my unpopular opinion: I really enjoy CA's slothlike vote count. https://t.co/2OVbIuXtgk

— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 9, 2018

But for many of my listeners and readers, what is going on in these states is an absolute outrage – though the outrage seems to fall in line with whether the newly arrived vote totals are helping their party’s candidate or not.

There are more deadlines next week. And the week after. And after that.

It takes time.

And it’s normal.

Trump signs executive order blocking asylum for illegal immigrants

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 16:23

A day after his administration set out new rules on how to deal with asylum seekers, President Donald Trump signed a new executive action which would not allow people who enter the United States illegally to ask for asylum, requiring anyone who wants that protection to petition at an official crossing along the southern border with Mexico.

“We need people in our country but they have to come in legally and they have to have merit,” the President said, as he made another move to block those in an immigration “caravan” in Mexico from getting into the U.S.

“They have to come in to our country legally,” Mr. Trump told reporters, just before he boarded Air Force One for a trip to France.

It was clear that the new executive action signed by the President was issued with the ‘caravans’ in mind, as the document started by addressing its possible approach to the border in coming weeks.

“The continuing and threatened mass migration of aliens with no basis for admission into the United States through our southern border has precipitated a crisis and undermines the integrity of our borders,” the President stated.

“I therefore must take immediate action to protect the national interest, and to maintain the effectiveness of the asylum system for legitimate asylum seekers who demonstrate that they have fled persecution and warrant the many special benefits associated with asylum,” he added in the executive action.

Democrats in Congress scoffed at the President’s move, as legal groups said it would likely be challenged in court.

Trump distracts w/ bogus migrant invasion claim when the real threat is gun culture/mass shootings weekly at worship, schools and in bars. #ThousandOaks #massshootings

— Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) November 9, 2018

“US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry,” the ACLU said, as the civil liberties group filed suit by mid-afternoon on Friday against the President’s plan.

“Neither the president nor his cabinet can override the clear commands of our law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do,” the ACLU said in a tweet. “We’ll see him in court.”

The lawsuit charged that the President had ignored federal law, which specifically says that people can seek asylum no matter how they get to the United States.

“Consistent with its international obligations, Congress was specific and clear,” the ACLU wrote in its lawsuit. “Entering without inspection is not a basis to categorically deny asylum to refugees.”

President Trump's proclamation on asylum contains a severability clause — two clauses, in fact. It's a sign that White House lawyers expect it to be challenged in court and don't want the whole proclamation struck down if one part is ruled unconstitutional. pic.twitter.com/3gPwU04ie8

— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) November 9, 2018

The executive order used language similar to that in the revised travel order issued by the President, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This case may also take a similar route through the courts.