I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, November 29, 2018. 431 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 705 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democrats nominate Nancy Pelosi for House speaker
In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, House Democrats decisively picked Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to be their nominee for House speaker, ushering her one step closer to reclaiming the gavel she last held eight years ago.
The caucus vote was 203 to 32, with three blank ballots and one absent member. To be elected speaker, Pelosi will need the support of a majority of the entire House (218 members) in a January floor vote, meaning she can only afford to lose the support of 17 Democrats and must flip 15 of those who voted against her on Wednesday.
"She now has a month — plus an unmatched political network and a pile of potential chits — to chip away at the opposition," as the Washington Post put it. Of the sixteen Democrats who signed a letter opposing her last month, it appears Pelosi has already flipped two, using her significant institutional clout to offer plum committee slots and other legislative promises to win over defectors. Pelosi has also minimized a threat from the eight Democratic members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, who demanded rules changes in exchange for supporting Pelosi; she conceded to some, but not all, of their proposals.
Despite the increased attention paid to this year's balloting, the Democratic opposition to Pelosi was almost half of what it was after the 2016 elections, when Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) received 63 votes against Pelosi in the vote for House Minority Leader. Even with many Democrats announcing their intentions to oppose the California Democrat while campaigning earlier this year, the "never Pelosi" faction ran into a serious problem: they have yet to draft a candidate to run against her.
In addition to nominating Pelosi, 78, on Wednesday, House Democrats also elected Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), 79, as Majority Leader, and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), 78, as Majority Whip. In doing so, Democrats retained the top-three leadership lineup they have had since 2006.
But in the lower slots, Democrats did install some younger members. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), 46, was elected Asssistant Democratic Leader, the No. 4 position, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 48, was elected Democratic Caucus chairman, the No. 5 position. Both are now primed to move up in the Democratic hierarchy when the leading trio of Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn step aside.
The Russia investigation
Trump's 2016 calls to Stone: Longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone is now being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller about whether he served as a conduit between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks as the group published hacked Democratic emails. According to the Washington Post, Trump and Stone spoke over the phone multiple times during the 2016 campaign, according to Trump Organization phone logs since turned over to Mueller's team.
Corsi/Trump joint defense agreement: Stone associate Jerome Corsi, who is being investigated for allegedly passing on information about WikiLeaks' plans to Stone, has a joint defense agreement with the Trump legal team, he told NBC News. Trump attorney Rudy Giulaini confirmed the arrangement in an interview with the Daily Beast.
--- In an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, Corsi admitted that he lied to Congress about his contacts with Stone -- but insisted that he had told the truth when questioned by Mueller. Corsi has said that he rejected a plea deal from the special counsel that would have required him to say he lied to Mueller's investigators.
Trump talks Manafort pardon: President Trump did not close the door on pardoning his former campaign chief Paul Manafort in an interview with the New York Post on Wednesday. "It was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table," Trump said. "Why would I take it off the table?"
--- In the interview, Trump also defended retweeting an image that showed a number of his political enemies, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, behind bars. Asked by the New York Post why his own deputy AG belongs in jail, Trump responded: "He should have never picked a special counsel." The president has escalated his Twitter attacks on the Mueller investigation in recent days, sending eight tweets on the matter since Monday.
Election Central: The makeup of the 116th Congress appears set. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) defeated Democrat Mike Espy in a special runoff election on Tuesday, 53.9% to 46.1%. With the Mississippi results, Republicans will control 53 Senate seats in the next Congress (a net gain of two), to Democrats' 47.
Meanwhile, NBC News has projected that Democrat T.J. Cox defeated Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) in California's 21st district, the final uncalled House race. With those results, the House will consist of 235 Democrats (a net gain of 40) and 200 Republicans after January.
Senate vote on Yemen war: "Furious over being denied a C.I.A. briefing on the killing of a Saudi journalist, senators from both parties spurned the Trump administration on Wednesday with a stinging vote to consider ending American military support for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.
"The Senate voted 63 to 37 to bring to the floor a measure to limit presidential war powers in Yemen. It was the strongest signal yet that Republican and Democratic senators alike remain vehemently skeptical of the administration’s insistence that the Saudi crown prince cannot, with certainty, be blamed for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi." (New York Times)
Trump administration to ban bump stocks: "The Trump administration plans to announce the long-anticipated federal rule officially banning bump stocks in the coming days, according to US officials familiar with the matter.
"Bump stocks gained national attention last year after a gunman in Las Vegas rigged his weapons with the devices to fire on concertgoers, killing 58 people. President Donald Trump vowed to outlaw the devices soon after the tragedy, and some lawmakers on Capitol Hill urged him to back a permanent legislative fix." (CNN)
White House schedule
POTUS: President Donald Trump departs for Buenos Airest, Argentina at 10am today, arriving at 8:50pm. Trump will be attending the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Argentina; per the Associated Press, "the homebody commander in chief will spend just 48 hours on the ground yet pack in eight high-level meetings with foreign leaders" during the trip.
The Kremlin announced this morning that President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin will sit down for a bilateral meeting at noon on Saturday.
Senate: The Senate meets at 10am today. At 12pm, the chamber will vote on confirmation of Thomas Farr to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina and hold a cloture vote on the nomination of Jonathan Kobes to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit. At 1:45pm, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the nomination of Kathleen Kraninger to be Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Farr's nomination, which had provoked controversy due to Democrats accusations that he has defended voter supression, was narrowly advanced Wednesday, with Vice President Mike Pence needed to break a 50-50 tie. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) joined all 49 Democrats in opposing the nomination; Flake has pledged to vote against any Trump judicial nominees until the Senate votes on a bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller, which Senate Republicans blocked again on Wednesday. If one more Republican joins Flake in opposing Farr, his nomination would be rejected; although he voted to advance the nominee, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has said he is undecided on the final confirmation vote.
House: The House convenes at 10am. The chamber will vote on seven pieces of legislation:
- H.R. ____ – National Flood Insurance Program Further Extension Act of 2018
- H.R. 2846 – Federal Agency Customer Experience Act of 2018, as amended
- H.R. 3121 – All-American Flag Act, as amended
- H.R. 3154 – Inspector General Access Act of 2017
- H.R. 5759 – 21st Century IDEA, as amended
- H.R. 6777 – Settlement Agreement Information Database Act of 2018
- H.R. 6901 – Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2018, as amended
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conference scheduled for today.
*All times Eastern