I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, November 19, 2018. 715 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weekend Review: Trump on "Fox News Sunday"
President Donald Trump sat for a wide-ranging interview with Chris Wallace that aired Sunday on "Fox News Sunday." Here are some highlights:
On whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman lied about his involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: "I don't know. Who could really know? But I can say this, he's got many people now that say he had no knowledge." (Trump's comments came despite a report from the Washington Post on Friday that the CIA had concluded with "high confidence" that the Crown prince ordered Kashoggi's assassination.)
--- On whether he would listen to the Turkish tape of Khashoggi's murder: "We have the tape. I don't want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape... because it's a suffering tape, a terrible tape"
On whether he would overrule Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker if he interfered with the Mueller investigation: "It's going to be up to him... I believe he's going to do what's right... I would not get involved."
--- On his knowledge of Whitaker's previous criticisms of the Mueller investigation: "I did not know that. I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such."
--- On whether he would sit down for an interview with the special counsel: "I think we've wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably, we're finished." (Trump had previously expressed openness to a sit-down interview, although his lawyers have repeatedly thrown cold water on the idea.)
On potential personnel changes: "I have three or four or five positions that I'm thinking about [making changes]. Of that, maybe it's going to end up being two... I need flexibility." (Trump is expected to ask for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, which could lead to the departure of White House chief of staff John Kelly).
On retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and has since been critical of Trump: "He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer and frankly... wouldn't it have been nicer if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn't it have been nice?"
On how he would grade his presidency: "I would give myself an A plus, is that enough? Can I go higher than that?"
2018 results: The last regular statewide races of the 2018 election were decided over the weekend, as Democratic candidates conceded in the Georgia gubernatorial race and the Florida Senate and gubernatorial races.
Democrat Stacey Abrams ended her bid to become Georgia's first African-American female governor on Friday, even as she continued to criticize election laws in the state. "Democracy failed Georgia," she declared, promising to move forward with a "major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions." Republican Brian Kemp, meanwhile, has already begun transition planning to move into the statehouse. "The election is over and hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward," he said in a statement. "We can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past but must focus on Georgia's bright and promising future."
--- Final results: Kemp 50.3%, Abrams 48.8%
Meanwhile over the weekend, recounts ended in Florida that showed Republicans Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis maintaining their leads in the Senate and governor races, assuring victories for both GOP candidates. Scott's opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, conceded on Sunday; DeSantis's opponent, Democrat Andrew Gillum, ended his campaign on Saturday.
--- Final results: Scott 50.1%, Nelson 49.9%; DeSantis 49.6%, Gillum 49.2%.
Coming up: But wait... there's one more! The special Senate runoff election in Mississippi takes place on Tuesday, November 27. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that Republican concerns about interim Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith have risen, amid multiple recent missteps. Via The Post:
"A U.S. Senate runoff that was supposed to provide an easy Republican win has turned into an unexpectedly competitive contest, driving Republicans and Democrats to pour in resources and prompting a planned visit by President Trump to boost his party’s faltering candidate."
"Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her — words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to grapple with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent, former congressman Mike Espy."
"That Espy is attempting to become the state’s first black senator since shortly after the Civil War made her remarks all the more glaring. It has positioned him to take advantage not only of a substantial black turnout but of a potential swell of crossover support from those put off by Hyde-Smith’s campaign."
"Espy remains the underdog in the conservative state, but Republicans with access to private polling say Hyde-Smith’s lead has narrowed significantly in recent days. Republicans need only to look to next-door Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones pulled out a surprise win last year, to stoke concern."
White House schedule
POTUS: At 1pm, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump participate in the White House Christmas Tree delivery.
At 1:30pm, the president has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.
--- The lunch comes after a New York Times report that President Trump has been asking aides about Pence's loyalty, as he mulls making the VP's chief of staff Nick Ayers his own top aide. Trump pushed back against the report in a series of tweets on Saturday, calling it "phony" and saying: "I can't imagine any President having a better or closer relationship with their Vice President than the two of us."
Both houses of Congress are on recess until Monday, November 26.
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court will release orders from its conference last Friday at 9:30am.
*All times Eastern