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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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In Southern California, police are reporting at least 12 people died after a mass shooting at a bar in the city of Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night. Witnesses say a gunman threw smoke grenades into the Borderline Bar & Grill before firing into a crowd of a few hundred people. The crowd included many students who were there for a college country music night. The gunman was found dead inside the bar. The shooting comes 13 months after a gunman shot dead 59 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas. There was reportedly at least one survivor of the Las Vegas shooting inside the California bar last night when the shooting began.
President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday, replacing him with a Trump loyalist who has called Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation a “witch hunt.” This comes a day after Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives. The new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, is a former U.S. attorney who spent years working at the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, which was funded in part by the Koch brothers. He became Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff last year after he began speaking out against Mueller’s probe. In a statement, the ACLU said, “Jeff Sessions was the worst attorney general in modern American history. Period. But the dismissal of the nation’s top law enforcement official shouldn’t be based on political motives.”
The announcement has prompted major questions about the future of the Russia investigation and whether Trump will target Mueller next. Trump had repeatedly and openly attacked Sessions for recusing himself from the Mueller investigation. Some experts are raising questions about the legality of putting Whitaker in charge rather than the department’s number two, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who had been overseeing the Russia probe. Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer both called for Whitaker’s recusal from the Mueller probe. In an interview with CNN last year, Whitaker speculated about Sessions being replaced and funding to the Mueller investigation being withdrawn.
Matthew Whitaker: “So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment, and that attorney general doesn’t fire Robert Mueller, but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
Trump’s naming of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general also raises the possibility the Department of Justice will go after Hillary Clinton. In 2016, Whitaker wrote an op-ed for USA Today in which he wrote he would have indicted Hillary Clinton, writing the ”FBI director’s judgment was that 'no reasonable prosecutor' would bring the case. I disagree.”
The White House has banned CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, in a move widely condemned as an attack on press freedom. In a statement, CNN said, “This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy.” Jim Acosta’s White House press pass was revoked hours after he questioned President Trump about why he has described the Central American migrant caravan as an invasion.
Jim Acosta: “They’re hundreds of miles away, though. They’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away.”
President Donald Trump: “You know what?”
Jim Acosta: “That’s not an invasion.”
President Donald Trump: “I think you should—honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN.”
Jim Acosta: “Alright.”
President Donald Trump: “And if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”
Jim Acosta: “Well, let me ask, if I may ask one other question.”
President Donald Trump: “OK, that’s enough.”
Jim Acosta: “Mr. President, if I may ask one other question—”
President Donald Trump: “Peter, go ahead.”
Jim Acosta: “Are you worried—”
President Donald Trump: “That’s enough! That’s enough.”
Jim Acosta: “Mr. President, I was going to ask one other—”
President Donald Trump: “That’s enough.”
Jim Acosta: “The other folks have had—”
President Donald Trump: “That’s enough.”
Jim Acosta: “Pardon me, ma’am, I’m—Mr. President—”
President Donald Trump: “Excuse me, that’s enough.”
Jim Acosta: “Mr. President, I had one other question, if I may ask—”
President Donald Trump: “Peter, let’s go.”
Jim Acosta: “—on the Russia investigation. Are you concerned that you have indictments—”
President Donald Trump: “I’m not concerned about anything with the Russian investigation—”
Jim Acosta: “That you may have indictments coming down—”
President Donald Trump: “—because it’s a hoax.”
Jim Acosta: “Are you—”
President Donald Trump: “That’s enough. Put down the mic.”
Jim Acosta: “Mr. President, are you worried about indictments coming down in this investigation?”
Peter Alexander: “Mr. President—”
President Donald Trump: “I’ll tell you what: CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. Go ahead.”
Jim Acosta: “I think that’s unfair. I’ve worked—”
President Donald Trump: “You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way. Go ahead.”
Peter Alexander: “In Jim—”
President Donald Trump: “Go ahead, Peter. Go ahead.”
Peter Alexander: “In Jim’s defense, I’ve traveled with him and watched him. He’s a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.”
President Donald Trump: “Well, I’m not a big fan of yours, either. So, you know.”
Peter Alexander: “I understand.”
President Donald Trump: “To be honest with you.”
Peter Alexander: “So let me—so let me ask you a question, if I can. You repeatedly said—”
Unidentified: “Show respect.”
President Donald Trump: “You aren’t—you aren’t the best.”
Peter Alexander: “Mr. President, you repeatedly, over the course of the—”
Jim Acosta: “[inaudible] called the enemy of the people—”
President Donald Trump: “OK, just sit down, please.”
Jim Acosta: “[inaudible] campaign, and sent pipe bombs. That’s just—”
President Donald Trump: “Well, when you—when you report fake news—no, when you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.”
President Trump’s attack on Jim Acosta and CNN comes two weeks after the network was sent a mail bomb by a Trump fanatic in Florida. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the decision to strip Acosta of his press badge, claiming he had “placed his hands on a young woman”—referring to an intern who was trying to take his microphone during the press conference. Acosta quickly responded on Twitter, “This is a lie.” Video of the incident does not show Acosta placing his hands on the intern.
Trump also clashed with veteran African-American reporter April Ryan and repeatedly told her to “sit down” as she tried to ask a question about voter suppression. When PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor, who is also black, asked Trump about his recent comments declaring himself a nationalist, he responded that it was a racist question.
Yamiche Alcindor: “On the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists. Now people are also saying that the—”
President Donald Trump: “I don’t know why you’d say that. It’s such a racist question.”
Yamiche Alcindor: “There are some people that say that now the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric.”
President Donald Trump: “Oh, I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that.”
Yamiche Alcindor: “What do you make of that?”
President Donald Trump: “I don’t believe it. I just—well, I don’t know. Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans? Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African Americans? I mean, why do I have my highest poll numbers? That’s such a racist question. Honestly? I mean, I know you have it written down, and you’re going to tell me. Let me tell you: That’s a racist question.”
As final ballots from the midterm elections get tallied, a handful of races are still too close to call or will head to runoffs, including three Senate races, 12 in the House and Georgia’s governorship, where Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams is refusing to concede as a number of absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted. A nonprofit group filed an emergency lawsuit Tuesday to prevent Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams’s Republican opponent, from any involvement in election results, including a possible runoff or recount.
Turnout for Tuesday’s election was higher than any midterm election in the past 50 years, with an estimated 114 million people casting ballots, although half the voting-age population still did not vote. Three Senate races remain undecided. In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally currently leads Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate race by around 1 percentage point, but over half a million votes remain uncounted. In Florida, Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson has called for a recount in his race against Governor Rick Scott, who currently holds less than a half percentage point lead. Mississippi’s Senate race will head to a runoff later this month.
Meanwhile, in Georgia’s 6th District, gun control advocate Lucy McBath declared victory Wednesday, but Republican opponent Karen Handel has yet to concede and says she may call for a recount. McBath’s 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012 by a white man who shot into the car of African-American teenagers because they were playing loud music. McBath ran on a platform of tighter gun control.
Two Republican House incumbents who are currently facing federal indictments both won re-election. Duncan Hunter of California, who is charged with misuse of campaign funds, and Chris Collins of New York, who is accused of insider trading, were also the first congressmembers to endorse then-candidate Trump. At a press conference Wednesday, Trump called the election results a victory.
President Donald Trump: “I think it was a great victory. I’ll be honest: I think it was a great victory. And actually, some of the news this morning was that it was, in fact, a great victory.”
Trump’s comments came despite Republicans losing the House. Trump also called out Republican lawmakers who lost elections Tuesday, including Barbara Comstock, Mike Coffman and Mia Love, blaming their losses on their refusal to “embrace” him. Speaking about Utah Congressmember Mia Love, Trump said, “Mia Love gave me no love and she lost.”
Voters in several states weighed in on abortion rights measures Tuesday. Voters in Alabama approved a sweeping anti-abortion measure that grants constitutional rights to fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs. Amendment 2, which passed by 19 points, will codify “the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life” into Alabama’s Constitution. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, voters narrowly approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit state funding for women’s health clinics that provide abortions. Voters in Oregon rejected a similar proposition. The measures are so-called trigger laws that anti-choice groups hope will go into effect if—or when—the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that ensured women the right to abortions.
In the Philippines, a leading lawyer fighting against President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war was shot and killed Tuesday in the capital Manila. Benjamin Ramos was a founding member of a legal organization providing pro bono services to poor people targeted by Duterte’s forces. Last year, Duterte told police that they could shoot lawyers investigating his drug war. Ramos is the 34th lawyer to be killed since Duterte became president two years ago.
In Poland, the mayor of Warsaw is banning this year’s annual march of far-right groups. The march, which ostensibly celebrates Poland’s independence, was attended by 60,000 people last year, with participants chanting slogans including “F*** off with the refugees” and “Pure Poland, white Poland.” The march organizers vowed to go ahead with the event this Sunday, in defiance of the ban. Democracy Now! will be broadcasting from Poland next month for the U.N. climate conference.
And in Cameroon, almost 80 students who were kidnapped Sunday in the northwest of the country have been released by their captors. The school’s principal and a teacher are reportedly still held captive. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but Cameroon’s government has blamed separatists who have been calling for secession of Cameroon’s anglophone regions in the majority French-speaking country.