The News Memo
Stories this week:
Election Special: Everything You Need To Know
On Tuesday, American voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in the Midterm elections. The results, which were unique in some cases, finished close to what was predicted by the polls leading up to November 6. As of Friday, Democrats had picked up 30 seats in the house, giving them a solid majority, while the Republicans gained 2 seats in the Senate, strengthening their slim majority. Some races are still too close to call and are undergoing vote recounts. The House flip is a big win for Democrats, who will now take power in the House with Nancy Pelosi as the front-runner to become Speaker of the House. On the other hand, victories in the Senate give Republicans a more comfortable majority to continuing confirming President Trump’s judicial appointees at all levels of the courts.
Three Key Results
The results highlighted a growing divide among American voters that largely breaks down on geographical lines; time will tell whether either party will address their shortfalls by making overtures to specific voting groups or double down on their current voting base.
How did Democratic Senators who voted against Kavanaugh fare?
As you may recall from a few weeks back, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court after sexual assault allegations were made against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and others. Five Democratic Senators in traditionally red states - North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, West Virginia, and Indiana - found themselves in a political gamble after their vote on Kavanaugh. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who was the sole Democrat to vote YES on Kavanaugh, won re-election. Senator Jon Tester of Montana was the only one of the remaining four who voted NO on Kavanaugh to win re-election.
What was unique about this midterm?
They were the most expensive in history, as candidates spent more money on campaigns than ever before in a midterm election. Voter turnout was particularly strong, up significantly from levels in 2014. A record 96 women - including the first Muslim and Native American women elected to Congress - are projected to win seats in the House, up from a previous high of 85.
What is typical for midterms historically?
It is common for the Presidential party in power to lose Congressional seats in midterm elections. In fact, since 1910, the party in power has only gained seats in the House in three elections and picked up seats in the Senate in five elections. Since 1910 on average, the sitting President’s party loses thirty seats in the House and four in the Senate.
What does it mean moving forward?
Now that the Democrats hold a majority in the House, they will have the power to investigate and subpoena the President in matters such as his personal financial and business dealings. It also ensures Democrats will have the power to oppose proposed legislation from Republicans and President Trump, which makes any deal on immigration even more complicated. A divided Congress may actually prove beneficial for Trump, as it gives him a potential scapegoat for negative events. Trump, in his press conference on Wednesday, said that he is willing to work with Democrats on legislative proposals, but he also said he would blame the Democrats if the government is gridlocked.
Trump painted the election as a big win for Republicans; he stressed that candidates who he campaigned for did very well, and he highlighted the important governor races won by Republicans. He also warned in a Tweet that if Democrats begin launching investigations at the House level, “then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level.” He held a post-election press conference with the media on Wednesday, which turned hostile at many points. His heated exchange with Jim Acosta of CNN made headlines and can be viewed here.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions Resigns: Pushed Out by Trump
Just one day after the Midterm election results, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned from his position after President Trump asked for his resignation on Wednesday. Sessions’ tenure as Attorney General was marked with continuous tension and often open disagreement with the President. Shortly after accepting his position, Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia Investigation, citing his direct involvement and open support of Trump during the 2016 campaign as the reason. President Trump was highly critical of Sessions’ recusal, saying he would have appointed a different person if he would have known beforehand and frequently derided Sessions on Twitter for the job he was doing. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has since been overseeing the investigation.
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is currently conducting the investigation concerning Russian involvement in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. It is unknown how much longer the investigation will continue, but recent actions are suggesting it will end soon, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Who will replace Sessions?
Sessions will be temporarily replaced by his chief of staff, Matthew J. Whitaker. Whitaker will now oversee the Russia investigation, which he has criticized in the past for being too far-reaching, saying that the scope of inquiry should be limited to prevent it from turning into a “political fishing expedition.” Democrats of the House Judiciary Committee, on Thursday, called for Whitaker’s recusal due to his previous comments. Some are concerned that the firing of Sessions is designed to put a Trump loyalist in charge of the Russia probe. While Whitaker has power over the investigation process, he is subject to close oversight by Congress.
Associates of Whitaker say it is unlikely he will step down from overseeing the matter. The White House is deciding who to appoint to permanently replace Sessions. The list of candidates includes Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey and Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
Mass shooting at California Bar
What happened on Wednesday night?
Twelve victims, in addition to the shooter, were killed late Wednesday night at a country-music bar and grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Among the victims were college students from nearby universities and a 29-year veteran police deputy. Dressed in black wearing a baseball hat, the assailant killed the bouncer before entering the Borderline Bar & Grill, released smoke bombs according to witnesses, and began shooting those inside. The shooter was found dead at the entrance of the bar when law enforcement entered - officials believe he killed himself.
Witness reports from inside the bar described a scene of chaos following the entrance of the shooter, with people using bar stools to break windows in order to escape. Survivors testified to the actions of complete strangers who helped evacuate and protect people inside.
What do we know about the shooter?
The shooter was 28-year old Ian Long, a Marine Corps veteran who had a known history of mental instability and interaction with law enforcement. Officials visited his house in April of this year after a report of a domestic disturbance, saying he was acting “irrationally.” Mental health specialists visited with him and discussed his past military experience, concerned that he was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Specialists did not believe he was a danger to himself or others at the time and did not refer him to a mental hospital. Authorities are searching for possible motives in the attack.
You're caught up on the most important events of the week!
Sources for this week’s Memo:
The Washington Post
Inside, it was ‘like hell.’ Another mass shooting in another public place claims 12 lives
The New York Times
California Shooting Kills 12 at Country Music Bar, a Year After Las Vegas
Voter Turnout Soars, Even Before Votes All the Votes Are Counted
The Wall Street Journal
Washington Gets Ready for Matthew Whitaker at Justice Department
Ten Takeaways from the 2018 Midterm Elections
Thousand Oaks: Ex-Marine Ian David Long Identified as Suspect
*The News Memo is edited by Madeline Krumel