Sen. Thad Cochran has just pulled off one of the biggest political comebacks of the year, winning tonight's Mississippi Republican primary runoff against Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel — after having trailed McDaniel in the original primary vote three weeks ago.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Cochran has 182,507 votes, or 50.6 percent, against McDaniel's 177,709 votes, 49.4 percent. The Associated Press has projected Cochran as the winner.
McDaniel, a state senator, led in the initial primary with 49.5 percent against Cochran's 49.0 percent. But because no candidate reached over 50 percent of the vote, with a little-known third candidate taking the balance, under Mississippi election law the two contenders were then pushed through to a runoff.
Cochran aggressively attacked McDaniel's past career in talk radio, presenting him as undignified and not fit to serve in the U.S. Senate. And the Cochran campaign reached out heavily to African-American voters, who normally vote Democratic, to vote in the Republican runoff in order to stop the more extreme McDaniel.
Moreover, the Cochran campaign also had a finely tuned message in its campaign ads: That as the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, as well as the powerful Appropriation Committee's defense subcommittee, only he could continue to bring home the federal projects that are really so vital to the state's economy.
As the Jackson Free Press pointed out, Cochran also ran a cleverly bifurcated outreach. In white areas, campaign literature touted his many votes against the Affordable Care Act and his support for gun rights; in black areas, he touted his work on behalf of historically black colleges and universities, and his support for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps, a program that is not too near and dear to Republican primary voters. Eric Kleefeld
The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel released an opinion Saturday saying President Trump's plan to hire his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for a senior advisory role in the White House does not run afoul of federal anti-nepotism law.
"We conclude that [the federal anti-nepotism statute] does not bar this appointment because the president's special hiring authority ... exempts positions in the White House Office" from the ban, the opinion tells Trump, later noting that in "choosing his personal staff, the president enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office."
The 14-page document was prepared by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel L. Koffsky, who is "a longtime career lawyer at Justice," as Politico reports, and not a Trump appointee. Kushner's appointment could still face an ethics challenge in court, though it is unclear how a plaintiff could demonstrate standing to sue. Bonnie Kristian
At least four people were killed and more injured after a tornado ripped through southern Mississippi Saturday morning, officials from the city of Hattiesburg reported on Twitter. Two of the deaths occurred in a trailer park, where impermanent structures offered less protection from the extreme weather.
The tornado struck around 4 a.m. "It woke me up and half the roof was gone," said Hattiesburg's Edna Smith, whose home was badly damaged. "I don't know what I'm going to do now. I'm going to try to get some help." Part of Smith's roof landed in her backyard, while the roof of her neighbor's porch shoved her car into a brick wall.
Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree declared a state of emergency as rescue efforts continue and 13,000 people remain without power. At least one local university has sent students home so destruction on campus can be repaired. Bonnie Kristian
Actress Ashley Judd took the stage at the Women's March on Washington following filmmaker Michael Moore on Saturday, and she shared a beat poem by 19-year-old Tennessean Nina Donovan titled "I am a nasty woman." Repeatedly referencing President Trump's insult for then-rival Hillary Clinton during the final presidential debate, the poem's author says she is a nasty woman — but "not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust, a man whose words are a dis to America, Electoral College-sanctioned hate speech."
"I didn't know devils could be resurrected, but I feel Hitler in these streets," Judd continued. "A moustache traded for a toupee, Nazis renamed." Watch her full performance below. Bonnie Kristian
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 21, 2017
After starting his second day in office with a stop at the interfaith National Prayer Service, President Trump is scheduled to visit the CIA. His nominee for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), is not expected to be confirmed until Monday at the soonest, but the visit may be designed to smooth relations with the agency after longstanding campaign controversy.
The event "is over capacity at 300+," tweeted Press Secretary Sean Spicer of Trump's visit to the CIA's headquarters at Langley. "Excited to thank the men and women of the intelligence community."
For weeks before taking office, Trump rejected the CIA's conclusion that Russia attempted to manipulate the U.S. election on his behalf, dismissing the U.S. intelligence community as "the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." As recently as last week, Trump said in a press conference that it is "disgraceful" American intelligence agencies like the CIA allowed the unverified dossier on his alleged ties to Russia to be released. "That's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do," he charged. Bonnie Kristian
After a busy day of inaugural festivities Friday, President Trump's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, did not attend the Women's March on Washington on Saturday — but she did tweet her support for the event.
Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we're always Stronger Together.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 21, 2017
The protest of the new Donald Trump administration on Saturday featured remarks from speakers including America Ferrera, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa Harris-Perry, and more.
An estimated 500,000 protesters converged on Washington for the Women's March; the crowd at Trump's inauguration the day before was projected to be 800,000 to 900,000 people. Both crowd tallies remain unofficial appraisals at this stage. Bonnie Kristian
"We march today for our families and our neighbors, for our future, for the causes that we claim and the causes that claim us," said actress America Ferrera on Saturday at the Women's March on Washington. "We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war."
"He would like us to forget the words, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,' and instead take up a credo of hate, fear, and suspicion of one another," she continued, "but we are gathered here and across the country and around the world today to say, 'Mr. Trump, we refuse!'"
Originally expected to be attended by about 200,000 women, Washington officials now say the Women's March organizers estimate their numbers at half a million strong. Watch Ferrera's full speech below. Bonnie Kristian
After threat of invasion from neighboring Senegal to enforce election results, former President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia agreed to peacefully relinquish his post. Jammeh lost the contest in December and initially conceded. Then, a week later, he announced he would not leave office but rather would continue his two-decade rule of the tiny West African nation.
Saturday morning, Jammeh gave a televised speech announcing he has "decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians." He insisted the decision "was not dictated by anything else but by the supreme interest of you, the Gambian people and our dear country," ignoring the arrival of Senegalese troops in his nation just 24 hours prior.
Jammeh first took power in 1994 after a military coup and once claimed he would rule Gambia for "a billion years." The new president, Adama Barrow, has been waiting in Senegal and will enter Gambia to take office as soon as a security sweep has been completed. Bonnie Kristian