Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 7, 2018

Harold Maass
Nancy Pelosi speaks on electino night
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Democrats win House; Republicans bolster their Senate majority

Democrats won control of the House in Tuesday's midterm elections but Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate, setting up a divided Congress that will be more resistant to President Trump for the second half of his term. Democrats gained at least 26 House seats, fueled by opposition to President Trump's policies, particularly in suburban congressional districts once firmly Republican. At least 15 more tossup seats remained too close to call. Trump helped Republicans partially hold back a predicted "blue wave" and gain seats in the Senate by rallying the conservative base with racially charged warnings about illegal immigrants, and demonization of Democrats. Trump campaigned hard to help GOP candidates win close Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz (R) held off an energetic challenge by Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D). [The New York Times, The Washington Post]


Pelosi promises Democrats will provide a new check on Trump's power

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised that Congress would provide a new check on President Trump's power now that Democrats have regained control of the House. "Tomorrow will be a new day in America," Pelosi said in a victory speech late Tuesday. She said the victory would give Democrats the power to restore "the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," and defend Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs. Pelosi, who wants to regain her old job as House speaker but will face opposition from progressives, called for a "bipartisan" Congress where Democrats have a "responsibility to find our common ground when we can, stand our ground where we can." Trump reportedly called Pelosi to congratulate her on the Democrats' win, acknowledging her call for bipartisanship. [The Hill]


Democrats flip 7 governor seats

Democrats picked up seven governorships in Tuesday's elections, flipping Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada, and New Mexico. Georgia's race remained too close to call, with Republican Brian Kemp narrowly leading Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the first African-American female governor. In a key race, Republican Ron DeSantis beat Democrat Andrew Gillum in the swing state of Florida. "I sincerely regret that I couldn't bring it home for you," said Gillum, who would have been Florida's first black governor. Big losses for Republicans included Gov. Scott Walker's loss to Democrat Tony Evers in Wisconsin. Walker, once a rising GOP star and presidential hopeful, survived a hard-fought recall vote in 2012. Also, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump ally on voter-fraud claims and hardline immigration policies. [The Washington Post]


Women candidates win historic firsts in House races

Women ran for public office in record numbers this year, and nabbed several historic firsts on Election Night. Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids became the first Native American woman to be elected to Congress, New York democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Iowa's Abby Finkenauer, both 29, became the youngest women ever elected to Congress, and Minnesota's Ilhan Omar and Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib will be the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. Texas Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia won their elections, becoming the first Latina women elected to Congress from Texas. [EMILY'S List, BuzzFeed News]


Border Patrol cancels Texas drill after voter suppression complaint

The U.S. Border Patrol on Tuesday abruptly canceled a crowd-control exercise near a polling place in a Hispanic neighborhood in El Paso after critics said the presence of a large number of armed uniformed agents could discourage people from voting. The "mobile field force demonstration" was scheduled to take place at the Paso del Norte crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border, near the Chihuahuita neighborhood of about 100 homes. Lawmakers, activists, and the American Civil Liberties Union questioned the decision to hold the exercises on Election Day, saying it could discourage high turnout in the Senate race between Rep. Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso Democrat, and incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz held onto his seat, narrowly beating O'Rourke. [The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News]


Judge orders pipe bomb suspect held without bail

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Lehrburger in Manhattan on Tuesday ordered pipe bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc to be held without bail. The decision came after Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim told the judge that Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man who had posted pro-Trump and anti-Democrat memes on social media, clearly posed a danger to the public and a flight risk. Sayoc is accused of mailing 16 explosive devices to critics of President Trump, including former President Barack Obama and Trump's Democratic rival in the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Federal Defender Sarah Baumgartel declined to seek bail for Sayoc for now. [USA Today, CNBC]


Trump administration says Russia triggered new sanctions

Russia has missed a deadline to swear off use of chemical weapons and triggered a new round of sanctions, the State Department said in a notification to Congress Tuesday. The State Department said Russia had failed to give reasonable assurances it didn't use a Soviet-era nerve agent in an assassination attempt in England against a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal. Moscow has denied any involvement in the attack. The Trump administration was required to certify whether Russia has complied with the terms of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, and now must choose three of six sanctions options. The new measures may take several weeks to go into effect, though they could be waived if the president determines it is in U.S. national interest to do so. [The Hill, Reuters]


Fox News criticizes Hannity for Trump rally appearance

Fox News on Tuesday issued a statement saying it "does not condone" the participation of show hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro in President Trump's Monday night campaign rally in Missouri. "This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed," the statement said, not detailing what consequences the pundits were handed. Before the rally, the network and Hannity alike insisted he was there in a journalistic capacity, but at the event he went up on stage with Trump and, pointing to the journalists present, told the crowd: "By the way, all those people in the back are fake news." Hannity said in a tweet midday Tuesday his appearance on stage was "NOT planned." [USA Today, Variety]


Bangladeshi immigrant convicted of terrorism for NYC pipe bomb blast

A Bangladeshi immigrant, Akayed Ullah, was convicted Tuesday on terrorism charges for setting off a pipe bomb in New York City's busiest subway station at rush hour last December. Defense attorneys did not dispute that Ullah set off the bomb, but they said he only intended to kill himself. A detective said Ullah "stated that he did it for the Islamic State — that he did it for Allah." Nobody died in the explosion, and most of the injuries were minor. The verdict came after a week-long trial in which jurors saw surveillance video of Ullah from the point where he left his apartment to the moment the device went off, badly burning him in a subway corridor beneath Times Square and the Port Authority bus terminal. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


Mexico's ruling party to propose legalizing marijuana

Mexico's next interior minister, Sen. Olga Sanchez, plans to propose a bill that would legalize recreational and medical marijuana use, according to documents posted on the Mexican Congress' website on Tuesday. In the 26-page bill, Sanchez wrote that Mexico's "objective can't be to eradicate the consumption of a substance that's as prevalent as cannabis is." The legislation would mark the latest signal that President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his government will revise the country's battle against drug crime. If the bill is adopted, Mexico will become the third country, after Uruguay and, more recently, Canada, to legalize the drug, as many U.S. states have done. [Reuters]