Headlines: November 8, 2018
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Thirteen people were killed in a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California late Wednesday night. According to Associated Press, “A hooded gunman wearing all black opened fire at a country dance bar holding a weekly ‘college night’ in Southern California, using a handgun and a smoke device to kill 12 people and sending hundreds fleeing.” Among the dead are a Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant named Ron Helus who was the first officer on the scene. Survivors used chairs to break windows and escape. The gunman was found dead inside the Borderline Bar and Grill. The shooting is the worst since the Parkland massacre in Florida where 17 people were killed. Details have now emerged about the shooter being a 28-year old white male named Ian David Long, a former Marine. He was apparently known to law enforcement and media outlets are reporting a potential history of mental health problems. According to USA Today, “Long used a handgun designed to be fit with ten rounds of ammunition. The gun was purchased legally. But the sheriff said the gun had an extended magazine that is illegal in California.”
On Wednesday, soon after he finished a contentious press conference focused on the results of the midterm races, President Donald Trump announced the resignation of his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions had been under fire from the President almost as soon as he began his tenure two years ago, for recusing himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation. Trump, who does not understand why the nation’s top law enforcement officer serves the country and not the President, has complained bitterly in public about the recusal. Sessions’ resignation letter made it clear that he was being fired, as it opened with the words, “At your request I am submitting my resignation.” The Washington Post reminded us that the GOP warned Trump against firing Sessions and that they would not even hold hearings to replace him if he was pushed out. But now that Trump has actually fired Sessions, Republicans are silent.
Trump announced the acting Attorney General to be Matthew Whitaker, who had served as Sessions’ Chief of Staff. Whitaker will now take on oversight of the Special Counsel investigation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – a troubling development given that Whitaker has been a guest on television shows multiple times, slamming the Russia probe. Whitaker also publicly defended Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Democrats, who will take control of the House in January have called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the probe, and vowed to open an investigation into Sessions’ firing.
Just before Sessions’ firing was announced, Trump held a lengthy press conference, which primarily focused on complaining about those Republicans who lost their midterm election races and blamed their losses for refusing to ally themselves with him.
Following that he took questions from reporters and had a cringe-worthy exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta, with whom he has clashed before. Later in the day White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Acosta’s White House Press pass was, “suspended until further notice.” She said in a statement that the President, “believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration.” But Sanders added that the White House would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.” During the exchange between Trump and Acosta, a White House intern walked up to Acosta and attempted to take his microphone away from him. Acosta held on to the mic without touching the intern as the video clearly shows.
Just after Trump spoke on Wednesday, Representative Nancy Pelosi addressed reporters as the future House Speaker. Pelosi spoke to reporters about the tasks that lie ahead of Democrats next year when they take control of the House of Representatives as a majority party. Progressives slammed her for bringing up the idea of “bi-partisanship,” and “common ground,” in the current political climate.
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been hospitalized after she fractured three ribs. Ginsburg apparently fell in her office on Wednesday night. According to the Washington Post, “Ginsburg has persevered on the bench despite health issues, including scares from both colon and pancreatic cancer and a heart procedure in which she received a stent in her right coronary artery.” She has promised at least 5 more years on the Court.
And finally, several midterm election results remain too close to call as of Thursday morning. The Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican former Governor Rick Scott in Florida is extremely close. Scott has a lead of only 0.4% and Nelson has apparently asked for a recount. In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally leads Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for a Senate seat by only about 17,000 votes and there are still a number of precincts left to be counted as well as absentee and provisional ballots. A total of 3 Senate and 14 House seats are still awaiting final results. In Georgia, the gubernatorial race remains unresolved as Democrat Stacey Abrams has refused to concede. Her opponent Brian Kemp, who has distinguished himself by perhaps the most egregious voter suppression tactics this election, resigned from his position as Secretary of State on Thursday morning and declared victory as Governor elect. Abrams has readied a legal team to challenge the vote count. And in Florida, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis’ lead against Andrew Gillum has fallen dangerously close to the required recount margin. There are apparently still tens of thousands of ballots that had not yet been tallied.