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November 7, 2018

Another seat has gone from red to blue, with Democrat Mike Levin winning California's 49th Congressional District. He will replace Rep. Darrell Issa (R), who is retiring after nine terms.

Issa was considered one of the most vulnerable members of Congress, and he announced in January he wasn't going to run again. Levin is an environmental attorney, and his opponent, Republican Diane Harkey, has worked in politics and was endorsed by President Trump.

The traditionally Republican district covers parts of Orange and San Diego counties, and Levin told The Associated Press that voters there are very concerned about protecting the coast and climate change. He also said he doesn't believe "the traditional Orange County Republican embraces Trumpism." Catherine Garcia

10:59a.m.

Thousands of firefighters are continuing to battle northern California's Camp Fire, which has already claimed 48 lives, 130,000 acres, and 7,000 homes as of Tuesday night. But in the town of Paradise, efforts have shifted to recovering bodies from a charred landscape.

Coroners, cadaver dogs, and forensic specialists have arrived in the destroyed Butte County town, searching for remains they fear "will be burned beyond recognition and perhaps beyond identification," The New York Times reports. "As advanced as we are, we are literally down to buckets and shovels" to dig out bodies, a county sheriff's spokesman told the Times. Finding those remains is completely dependent upon dogs because, as one specialist put it, "How do you tell a bone from a rock at a certain point?"

Here's what the devastation looks like, in 5 photos. Kathryn Krawczyk

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

10:55a.m.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday released a memo defending President Trump's appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker as constitutional.

When Trump forced Jeff Sessions out of the administration last week and replaced him with Whitaker, it set off some debate over whether the decision was actually legal, with the key concern being that Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate. On the one hand, some have argued Whitaker's appointment violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, which says principal officers of the United States must be confirmed by the Senate. Others, however, have argued Whitaker's appointment is constitutional and that as long as he's only there on a temporary basis, he doesn't qualify as a "principal officer."

Now, the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel has weighed in, saying that while "presidents often choose acting principal officers from among Senate-confirmed officers ... the Constitution does not mandate that choice," reports Bloomberg. The memo also argues that Whitaker's appointment is consistent with the Vacancies Reform Act because he was serving in a senior position at the Department of Justice for over a year before Trump selected him, CNN reports. Whitaker was Sessions' chief of staff at the Justice Department up until last week.

CNN also reports that Trump sought out legal advice about appointing a senior DOJ official as acting attorney general before he fired Sessions, although it's unclear when that conversation took place. Whitaker's appointment is the first time since 1866 that an acting attorney general has been appointed without Senate confirmation, Bloomberg reports. Brendan Morrow

10:19a.m.

The election recount in one key Florida county is going to stretch on even longer than expected, and it's all thanks to outdated voting machines.

Palm Beach County's election supervisor, Susan Bucher, said Tuesday night that nearly 175,000 early ballots would need to be recounted yet again because some of their machines overheated and produced incorrect tallies, The Miami Herald reports. This means they lost a day and a half of work, says The Washington Post. As a result of these technical difficulties, the recount is going to be further delayed, Bucher explained. She had already said the county would likely not be able to make the statewide deadline of Thursday at 3 p.m.

Recounts were ordered in Florida over the weekend after key races, including the closely-watched gubernatorial and Senate elections, came down to a margin of less than 0.5 percentage points. This legally requires a machine recount, which normally would need to be completed by Thursday, Nov. 15. A judge recently extended the deadline in Palm Beach to Nov. 20, although Secretary of State Ken Detzner is taking that decision to federal court, reports the Palm Beach Post. If the county misses the new recount deadline, it must submit its original count as the official result.

Officials in the county are working 24/7 to recount the ballots, Bucher says, but they only have eight machines there, per The Miami Herald. The outdated equipment being used was made by a defunct company and only allows for one race to be recounted at a time, The Palm Beach Post reports. $11 million has been set aside for new equipment, but it has yet to be purchased. Brendan Morrow

10:05a.m.

Facebook's employees are feeling the sting of the company's rough year.

After stocks fell and questions arose about data security, Facebook internally surveyed its employees to see how they were gauging the chaos. The results showed a massive drop in morale and worries that Facebook's moral compass had turned south, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Of Facebook's nearly 29,000 employees, only 52 percent said "they were optimistic about Facebook's future," the Journal reports via the survey. That's a 32 percent drop from this time last year. A similar portion of 53 percent "said Facebook was making the world better," dropping 19 percent from last year. Employees were also concerned the company was putting growth over innovation, and indicated they were thinking of leaving the company sooner than in years past.

Optimism may have been high a year ago, but it's not as if Facebook's situation was particularly rosy back then. Concerns over the site's spread of misinformation emerged right after the 2016 presidential election, but enthusiasm didn't drop significantly, the Journal notes. Instead, the Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke in early 2018, coupled with criticism of the company's leadership, seemed to trigger a morale landslide that first appeared in Facebook's April internal survey.

A spokeswoman acknowledged the "difficult period" Facebook has endured, but told the Journal people are still "pulling together to ... build a stronger company." Employees say they're noticing the darker mood, though it seemed to get brighter after last week's catastrophe-free midterm elections. Read more about Facebook's woes at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:45a.m.

President Trump has been roundly criticized for skipping a veterans event in France over the weekend, and on Tuesday, a retired Army officer offered a particularly scathing assessment of the affair.

Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general who served as former President Bill Clinton's Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told MSNBC's Brian Williams Tuesday that Trump skipping the event in France was "insulting." The president did so simply because he wanted to "stay out of the rain, eat cheeseburgers, watch TV, and tweet angry denunciations of his many enemies," said McCaffrey, per Mediaite.

Trump was in France with other world leaders to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I, and he was scheduled to visit a cemetery where American soldiers are buried but canceled at the last minute. The White House at the time cited the rainy weather, saying it would not be safe to travel by helicopter, reports The New York Times. Trump days later threw the Secret Service under the bus, saying he wanted to travel to the event by car but they wouldn't let him.

But McCaffrey, an outspoken critic of Trump who has previously called him a "serious threat to U.S. national security," doesn't buy that explanation, and thinks Trump stayed home out of pure laziness. Watch McCaffrey's comments below. Brendan Morrow

9:06a.m.

Fracturing three ribs in a fall only ended up keeping Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg away from work for a few days.

The 85-year-old judge on Tuesday afternoon returned to work at her Supreme Court office, The Associated Press reports. She wasn't on the bench when the court met earlier that morning but had returned to her office by the afternoon. Ginsburg had previously been working from home and didn't miss any oral arguments, as the court only met for some routine business Tuesday. This means Ginsburg has still never missed a day of oral arguments in her 25 years on the bench, per NPR.

Ginsburg fell in her office last week and fractured three ribs; she went home afterward but then was hospitalized the next morning. A spokesperson said Tuesday that her condition was continuing to improve and that she had recuperated at home over Veterans Day weekend. Now, it appears she's ready to get right back into her routine, and her trainer even says she'll be back in the gym next week, reports Vox. This is Ginsburg's second time bouncing back from fracturing her ribs in a fall; she has also survived cancer twice and had heart surgery at the age of 81. Brendan Morrow

8:35a.m.

The United States hasn't had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia for 22 months, but President Trump has finally nominated a new one.

Trump on Tuesday announced his intention to nominate retired Army Gen. John Abizaid to the position, NPR reports. Abizaid served in the Army for 34 years and was the head of the United States Central Command from 2003 to 2007, per CNN.

The United States has not actually had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia since January 2017. That posed a bit of a problem when the U.S. faced a diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia in recent months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey believes Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although Saudi Arabia maintains that the killing was carried out without the crown prince's knowledge.

In October, while insisting that the Trump administration was taking the crisis seriously, a State Department spokesperson tiptoed around the issue of the empty ambassadorship; when a reporter asked for the name of the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the spokesperson responded: "I see what you're getting at." Brendan Morrow

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