Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 6, 2018

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Harold Maass
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1.

Americans vote in midterms seen as referendum on Trump

Americans go to the polls Tuesday in midterm elections framed by both parties as a referendum on Donald Trump's presidency and a battle for the soul of the nation. "In a sense, I am on the ticket," Trump said at a rally late Monday. He also warned of "illegal voting," reviving unsubstantiated allegations he made after the 2016 elections. A new CNN poll among likely voters found that Democrats go into the vote with a 13-point advantage over Republicans on the question of who should control Congress, a slightly wider gap than shown in two other national polls released a day earlier. Lifted by overwhelming support among women, Democrats had the backing of 55 percent of voters on who should control Congress, while 42 percent wanted Republicans to remain the majority party, the CNN poll found. Republicans are considered likely to keep control of the Senate. [The New York Times, CNN]

2.

NBC, Fox News yank Trump campaign's anti-immigrant ad

NBC and Fox News on Monday pulled the Trump campaign's 30-second anti-immigrant ad, which has been widely slammed as racist fear-mongering. NBC announced its decision first, after facing harsh criticism for letting the ad air during Sunday Night Football, which gets some of the best ratings in TV. "After further review, we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible," NBC said. Fox, which aired the ad about a dozen times on Fox News and Fox Business, made its announcement shortly after NBC. Facebook also faced a backlash for letting the Trump campaign run the ad on its platform, and responded Monday by saying the ad "violates Facebook's advertising policy against sensational content so we are rejecting it." [CNN]

3.

Fox News hosts Hannity and Pirro join Trump on stage at rally

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro joined President Trump on stage at his last campaign rally ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections. "They've done an incredible job for us," Trump told the crowd. Hannity praised Trump for "promises made, promises kept," and called journalists covering the event "fake news." Pirro urged people to vote for Republicans if they "like the America that [Trump] is making now." Trump was in Missouri to help Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley, who is challenging vulnerable Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill. Trump, who has tried to stir up enthusiasm among his core supporters with harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric in the run-up to the vote, told the crowd Democratic policies caused "anger, division, and destruction." [The Hill, CBS News]

4.

Rouhani says Iran will 'proudly break' renewed U.S. oil sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was defiant as oil sanctions reimposed by the U.S. took effect on Monday. "We will proudly break the sanctions," he said, vowing to "continue selling oil." The Trump administration is restoring sanctions lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, after accusing Iran of violating the deal's terms and ditching it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran would have to "act like a normal country, or see its economy crumble." He said more than 20 countries already have cut Iranian oil purchases, reducing the Islamic Republic's oil exports by a million barrels per day. The Trump administration has granted waivers to Iran's eight biggest customers, allowing them to continue to import Iranian oil without penalty for at least 180 days. [BBC News, NBC News]

5.

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams accuses GOP rival of last-minute 'witch hunt'

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Monday slammed her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, saying he abused his power as secretary of state by launching a last-minute investigation into the state's Democratic Party. She called the investigation a "witch hunt." Kemp's office said it was looking into an alleged attempt by Democrats to hack into the state's election system. As secretary of state, Kemp oversees Georgia's elections. Democrats have called on him to step aside, and accused him of trying to use technicalities to prevent some minority voters from casting ballots. "It's wrong to call it an investigation," Abrams, who is in a tight race with Kemp, said. "It's a witch hunt that was created by someone who is abusing his power." [NBC News]

6.

Trump administration braces for post-election staff departures

The Trump administration is preparing for a fairly significant staff shake-up following Tuesday's elections. The staffer most likely to depart appears to be Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who President Trump has publicly rebuked on many occasions and who some sources expect to be fired "in a humiliating fashion" as soon as this week. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, is also a prime candidate to be fired; Trump had reportedly been warned to wait at least until after the midterms to give him the boot. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders are also potentially on the verge of departure. [The Washington Post]

7.

Social media site used by Pittsburgh massacre suspect goes back online

Gab, the social media platform where Pittsburgh synagogue massacre suspect Robert Bowers posted anti-Semitic messages, has gone back online, a week after domain registrar GoDaddy and other internet services dropped it. Gab said it went back online Sunday after the Seattle-based company Epik accepted its domain registration. Gab last month suspended Bowers' account after he was named as the suspect in the mass shooting, which left 11 people dead and six injured. Gab said it had backed up the data from the account and notified the FBI. Critics say the site's lack of rules against hate speech have made it a haven for white supremacists banned from such social media services as Twitter and Facebook. [The Associated Press]

8.

Facebook removes 115 accounts over possible foreign meddling in midterms

Thirty accounts have been removed from Facebook and 85 have been removed from Instagram for suspicious, coordinated activity in French, English, and Russian, Facebook announced. Law enforcement agencies warned Facebook on Sunday about the possible activity by foreign actors seeking to influence Tuesday's midterm elections. Some of the posts concerned celebrities. Others focused on politics. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said in a blog post that Facebook typically waits until it knows more before making such announcements, but it "wanted to let people know" because it was the eve of the midterms. It was not immediately clear who was behind the activity, but federal law enforcement officials said "foreign actors," particularly Russia, continue to try to influence the public as they did in 2016. [USA Today]

9.

U.S. Olympic Committee moves to oust USA Gymnastics as national governing body

The U.S. Olympic Committee has moved to oust USA Gymnastics as the sport's governing body, the USOC's CEO, Sarah Hirshland, said in a letter to gymnasts on Monday. USA Gymnastics has faced harsh criticism for its handling of longtime team doctor Larry Nassar's guilty plea on charges that he molested 10 gymnasts, as well as other scandals. He also has been accused of sexually abusing numerous other athletes. Hirshland said USA Gymnastics has unsuccessfully tried to "change its culture, to rebuild its leadership, and to effectively serve its membership," but the organization is still struggling. She said the situation is "not fair to gymnasts around the country." A three-person panel will now hold a hearing, then issue a report to the USOC board on whether USA Gymnastics should be stripped of its recognition as governing body. The USOC board will make the final decision. [USA Today]

10.

U.N. verifies 202 mass graves ISIS left behind in Iraq

United Nations investigators said Tuesday they had verified 202 mass graves containing between 6,000 and 12,000 bodies in Iraq dating to the three years of Islamic State control in the areas. A joint report by the U.N. mission to Iraq and the U.N. office for human rights called the graves a "legacy of [ISIS'] terror." The graves all date from 2014 to 2017, when the Islamist extremist group ruled some of Iraq's biggest cities and towns after sweeping through Iraq and neighboring Syria, killing captured Iraqi soldiers and police en masse. Several of the graves contain victims of the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre, in which militants killed 1,700 security forces and military cadets. Other victims were believed to have been dumped in wells and sinkholes instead of graves. [The Associated Press]