President Trump gave himself a A+ for his job of running the country. In an interview with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, Trump awarded himself high marks, asking “Can I go higher than that?” That’s an improvement from last year, when Trump gave his administration an A+ for effort, an A for achievement, but a C+ at most for messaging.
—QUOTABLE: “I think I am doing a great job…We have the best economy we’ve ever had. We’re doing really well. We would have been at war with North Korea if, let’s say, that [previous] administration continued forward.” -Trump
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez further cemented her dubious status as a never-ending butt of jokes. In a video posted Sunday, the newly minted New York congresswoman and self-described Democratic Socialist said there are “three chambers of Congress,” then corrected herself by saying there are “three chambers of government.” Seems she meant branches, but the bar isn’t that high for members of Congress. But instead of reading a civics book, she lashed out at critics on—where else—Twitter. Instead of picking apart her words, her opponents should just admit they want to take away healthcare from people, she said.
—QUOTABLE: “If we work our butts off to make sure that we take back all three chambers of Congress — Uh, rather, all three chambers of government: the presidency, the Senate, and the House.” -Ocasio-Cortez
—QUOTABLE: “Maybe instead of Republicans drooling over every minute of footage of me in slow-mo, waiting to chop up word slips that I correct in real-tomd [SIC], they actually step up enough to make the argument they want to make: that they don’t believe people deserve a right to healthcare.” -Ocasio-Cortez
Mexico and three central American countries are suing the United States over President Trump’s new asylum policy. Arguing that their residents have a right to flee to the U.S. and demand asylum, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala objected to Trump’s new requirement that the refugees arrive here in an orderly manner through a legal port of entry. But even those who cross the border illegally should be able to demand asylum, the countries argue. The suit comes as some 10,500 members of the migrant caravan have arrived and are camping out south of the border, trying to figure out a way to enter the country.
MEANWHILE—Mexican citizens apparently agree with President Trump that the migrant caravan is an “invasion.” As some 3,000 migrants set up camp in the Mexican city Tijuana, the residents there have had enough—hundreds of Tijuana residents gathered to wave Mexican flags and protest the migrants, who they say are ruining their community, echoing Trump’s insistence that the influx amounts to an invasion.
President Trump says acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker is right about criticisms of special counsel Robert Mueller. In a defense of Whitaker—his choice to replace ousted AG Jeff Sessions—on Fox News Sunday, Trump said he was unaware of Whitaker’s comments critical of Mueller before appointing him to be acting AG. While those comments, which came before Whitaker joined the Department of Justice, played no role in his appointment, he was right about them, Trump said.
—QUOTABLE: ”What do you do when a person’s right?…There is no collusion. He happened to be right. I mean, he said it. So if he said there is collusion, I’m supposed to be taking somebody that says there is? Because then I wouldn’t take him for two reasons, but the number one reason is the fact that he would have been wrong. If he said that there’s no collusion, he’s right.” -Trump on Fox News Sunday
It looks like the winners will remain the winners in Florida’s gubernatorial and senate elections. While Democrat Andrew Gillum again conceded the race for the state’s governor to Republican Ron DeSantis after recount results changed little from election day, Rick Scott also remains ahead by 10,000 votes. Florida counties had until noon Sunday to file official results after a week-long machine and manual recount. Republican Scott’s apparent victory ends the long career of political survivor, Democrat Bill Nelson. At 76, Nelson has survived the state’s tilt to the right but now succumbs to Scott, the state’s outgoing governor.
Vice President Mike Pence had something of a war of words with Chinese president Xi Jinping in dueling speeches over the weekend. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea, President Xi said that tariffs were “short sighted” and “doomed to failure.” Moments later, Pence said the region’s countries should look to the Unites States as a “better option” compared with China’s heavy-handed approach to economic and diplomatic relations. The dueling speeches illustrate how far apart the U.S. and China remain on resolving an ongoing, but little discussed, trade war. Trump and Xi are set to meet a few weeks from now at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
MEANWHILE—Pence gave Russian dictator—president—Vladimir Putin a cold stare at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Pence had warned Putin not to continue interfering in U.S. elections amid discussions of arms control and the upcoming G-20 Summit.
—QUOTABLE: “Look, we’ve been very clear about this administration’s commitment to ensure, whether it be Russia or other countries, that there’s no tolerance for meddling in our elections.” -Pence
The Cleveland Browns apparently want to interview Condoleezza Rice for the job of head coach. According to ESPN, the franchise is interested in longtime football super fan Rice, but an official statement from the team responded by denying the claim. Needless to say, Rice would be the first former secretary of state to interview for an NFL head coaching job. She would also be the first black woman. She would also be the first woman. It’s not some random rumor—Rice is a lifetime Browns fan and knows the team’s owner, Jimmy Haslam.
Nancy Pelosi faces a serious uphill struggle to seize the mantle again as House Speaker. Now, Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan is saying Pelosi’s decades-long reign at the top of the Democrat caucus is long enough. The party must look elsewhere for a leader that reflects Rust Belt states like his own, as well as the interests of the black women who are the “backbone” of the Dem vote, Ryan said. Pelosi and her chief lieutenants, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and James Clyburn of South Carolina, are ancient and have been in power since 2003 and 2006, respectively. A group of House Dems have signed a letter opposing Pelosi, enough opposition to deny Pelosi the top House job.
BATTLE OVER PELOSI: YES—“Two years from now, people are not going to decide whether they re-elect these people based on Nancy Pelosi. And even now, I think it had very little to do with affecting the election. Hello? We won with Nancy Pelosi. -Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat
—“I think there’s something to be said of new ideas and showing it’s a change and having a different face. That’s why we elect new presidents.” -Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat
MEANWHILE—President Trump is trolling Pelosi, promising her Republican votes to make her House Speaker. “I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House. She deserves this victory, she has earned it – but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away. She will win!” Trump tweeted.
The NRA and other gun rights supporters are suing Washington State over its recently passed gun control scheme. Various other individuals and gun dealers have joined in the suit, which challenges the legality of Initiative 1639, which raises the minimum age for buying a rifle, creates an “enhanced background check,” requires buyers to complete a firearms safety course, and places requirements on gun storage. The new requirements violate the First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendments, the suit alleges.
Utah Republican Mia Love has pulled into the lead just as a judge dismissed her lawsuit that attempted to slow the ballot counting. Love, a black female Republican, was behind by 1,000 votes to Democrat Ben McAdams, the mayor of Salt Lake County. McAdams spent the week in Washington as part of Dems’ new member orientation according to the Salt Lake Tribune. But thousands of provisional ballots, many of which remained uncounted as of Friday, had put Love ahead by 419 votes. That comes after President Trump mocked Love for losing, a result, he said, of not giving him enough support.
A South Carolina McDonald’s worker is in hot water, or grease, after allegedly assaulting her manager with bacon. The confrontation last Friday happened when store manager Tequila Cohen, 33, asked cook Josefina Jimenez to stop eating bacon while working in the kitchen. Jimenez kept eating the bacon. The situation escalated until Jimenez backed Cohen into a corner and tried shoving “hot, crispy bacon” into her mouth before hitting her and throwing an unknown liquid at her, according to the cops. Cohen then called 911.
The Trump administration is defending its right to control who covers it. President Trump’s lawyers in a legal filing on Wednesday said the president has “broad discretion” to control journalists’ access to the White House. If the president wants to exclude all journalists from the West Wing, he can, one Trump attorney argued as part of a lawsuit brought by CNN over the revoking of Jim Acosta’s press pass.
—QUOTABLE: “If the president wants to exclude all reporters from the White House grounds, he has the authority to do that…there’s no First Amendment right.” -Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Burnham
The federal government collected a record tax windfall in the month of October. The feds took in total tax revenues of $252,692,000,000—nearly $253 billion—last month, the first month of fiscal year 2019. The year over year increase was driven mostly by a large spike in corporate income tax collections. Despite the big numbers, the federal government still ran an eye-popping $100 billion deficit for the month.
CNN reporter Jim Acosta has been proven wrong about the border. In a testy exchange with President Trump at a press conference last week, Acosta assailed Trump’s assertion that the migrant caravan is an “invasion” and insisted Trump is wrong when he says the migrants would try to climb the border fence when they arrived. But new video from a section of the border where the caravan has started trickling in shows exactly that—migrants taunting U.S. border patrol officials by…climbing the wall. No word yet from Acosta about retracting his statement.
—TRUMP VS. ACOSTA: “Your campaign had an ad showing migrants climbing over walls and so on, but they’re not going to be doing that.” -Acosta
—“They’re not actors,” Trump replied. “They weren’t actors. Well, no, it was true. Do you think they were actors? They weren’t actors. They didn’t come from Hollywood.” -Trump
Porn lawyer Michael Avenatti is shifting blame for allegations he beat an unidentified woman. In a cryptic Thursday morning tweet, the lawyer infamous for representing porn star Stormy Daniels seemed to blame conservative Twitter personality Jacob Wohl for the embroglio. Avenatti earlier in the week was arrested outside an LA apartment for alleged domestic violence, at first thought to be against his estranged ex-wife. It was actually some other unnamed woman who filed the charges. Wohl and a GOP lobbyist had tried framing Robert Mueller with false accusations of rape—seems like Avenatti is trying to make his own problems look like a right-wing conspiracy.
—QUOTABLE: “First Mueller and now me. When we are fully exonerated I am coming for you Jacob Wohl aka Surefire.” -Avenatti tweet
—QUOTABLE: “I have never struck a woman. I never will strike a woman. I have been an advocate for women’s rights my entire career and I’m going to continue to be an advocate. I am not going to be intimidated from stopping what I am doing.” -Avenatti statement to reporters
More ballot counting drama in Florida. Despite having completed their machine recount in the state’s hotly contested senate and gubernatorial races, Palm Beach County is still missing a “substantial” number of votes, according to a reporter who works at The New York Times. The votes supposedly didn’t disappear, but they are sitting in boxes at the recount site and officials don’t know which boxes had been scanned. The county’s election supervisor chalked it up to an error and she takes “full responsibility.”
—QUOTABLE: “The recount has a significantly lower number of votes than the original, So they’re having to look at the log and figure out which precincts are missing. The boxes are here — they need to be identified and resubmitted in the machine.” -NYT reporter Frances Robles
MEANWHILE—Palm Beach County missed the Thursday at 3 p.m. deadline to finish a machine recount of its ballots. Amid more blunders there, including overheating voting machines, critics pointed to a virtually empty recount headquarters hours before the deadline.
New text messages released Wednesday support GOP operative and Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone’s claims about who he learned about WikiLeaks’ plans to release Hillary Clinton campaign emails. Where Stone learned about the website’s plans has been a central question in Robert Mueller’s investigation—Stone had claimed he learned about the email dump from a Randy Credico, and wasn’t working alongside WikiLeaks. Credico has denied that. But the new text messages strongly suggest Credico is lying and Stone was telling the truth, poking a big hole in the Mueller investigation’s attempts to prove the Trump campaign was colluding with foreign actors to rig the 2016 election.
Rick Scott’s lead in the Florida Senate race increased Thursday after a machine recount. The Republican, the state’s outgoing governor, increased his lead by 1,000 votes and called on state elections officials to declare him the winner. This was the first round of recounting—a hand recount is coming next because the margin remains within the 0.25 percent margin that triggers an automatic manual recount.
MEANWHILE—Republican candidate for Florida governor Ron DeSantis maintained a slightly more comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Andrew Gillum. Since the margin between the two stood at 0.41 percent prior to the machine recount, no manual recount is expected in that race.
AND—A judge on Thursday ruled against Republican Rick Scott’s contention that some 4,000 ballots should be tossed because of signature mismatches. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave voters until 5 p.m. Saturday to verify their ballots, a ruling that still wasn’t good enough for Democrat Bill Nelson’s campaign, which had asked the judge to throw out the entire signature matching law.
Sen. Kamala Harris on Thursday compared perceptions of Immigrations and Customs Enforcements—ICE—to the Ku Klux Klan. The California Democrat made the comparison while grilling President Trump’s nominee to lead ICE, Ronald Vitiello, during his confirmation hearing. Specifically, Harris was asking if Vitiello saw parallels between the power and discretion at ICE used while enforcing laws and the KKK. “I do not see any parallels,” Vitiello answered. ICE and the KKK are not in the same category, he said.
—QUOTABLE: “Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels?” -Harris
—QUOTABLE: “I do not see any parallels,” Vitiello interjected. “That puts ICE in the same category as the KKK. Is that what you’re asking me?” -Vitiello
Sen. Jeff Flake plans to hold up President Trump’s judicial nominees until the Senate takes up a bill protecting Robert Mueller. The outgoing Arizona senator announced his new ultimatum on the Senate floor minutes after his attempt to pass the bill failed. The threat could block the Senate Judiciary Committee from approving any more judges this year. Flake and Democrat Sen. Chris Coons had worked together on the bill that would require good cause in order for Trump to fire Mueller, the special counsel running the Russia investigation.
MEANWHILE—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell flat-out rejected Sen. Jeff Flake’s bill protecting Robert Mueller. While McConnell said he thinks the investigation should be allowed to be finished, he also said, “I don’t think any legislation’s necessary.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy handily defeated Rep. Jim Jordan in a battle over who would lead the new Republican minority in the House. McCarthy, a California Republican favored by retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, delivered an old fashioned whooping to Ohio’s Jordan—159-43—to become the next minority leader. Most of the other leadership elections went as thought—Steve Scalise of Louisiana was named minority whip and Liz Cheney (Dick Cheney’s daughter) of Wyoming became the GOP Conference Chair.
President Trump says he’s not sure whether the White House would win a lawsuit with CNN that it’s now embroiled in. The network filed suit after Trump officials yanked the press credentials from their top correspondent, Jim Acosta, after Acosta went too far in his latest grandstanding event at a recent press conference. There isn’t necessarily a First Amendment right for any journalist to have access to the West Wing regardless of their behavior. In this case, the White House says Acosta laid hands on a press pool intern, while CNN contends the action will have a chilling effect on reporters.
—QUOTABLE: “The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.” -Sarah Sanders statement
A Department of Justice memo suggested that the appointment of Matthew Whitaker to temporarily replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general was appropriate. The memo from the Office of Legal Counsel reveals that the DOJ counseling President Trump on the Whitaker appointment and defends the president’s right to designate temporary office holders, per the 1998 Vacancies Reform Act. The Democrats have been trying to use that law to claim Whitaker is illegitimate—what they really want is to dispatch with Whitaker by any means possible, because before he joined the DOJ he was made comments critical of the Robert Mueller probe. Whitaker now has oversight of that probe.
—QUOTABLE: “This office has previously advised that the president could designate a senior Department of Justice official, such as Mr. Whitaker, as acting Attorney General, and this memorandum explains the basis for that conclusion.” -OLC memo
France is furious with President Trump. The French government offered up an indignant response after Trump mocked French president Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion that France creates an army independent of NATO, saying that didn’t work out well for them during World War II. It was bad timing, French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said, because it was the third anniversary of the Paris terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead.
—QUOTABLE: “Yesterday was Nov 13, we were commemorating the murder of 130 of our people…so I’ll reply in English: ‘common decency’ would have been appropriate.” -Benjamin Griveaux
President Trump will announce his decision on the fate of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen any time. Specifically asked about the fates of both Nielsen and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump said there are always staff changes after a midterm election and that a decision would be forthcoming soon. Reports of one or both of the top Trump aides’ departures have been circulating hot and heavy, with many observers believing their fates are tied because Kelly strongly opposes the dismissal of Nielsen, who took over for him at DHS.
—QUOTABLE: “I’m looking at things. I haven’t made a decision yet…I will be making a decision on homeland shortly. I have not made decisions yet. I will be making changes on various things.” -Trump