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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump White House in a letter says it is dropping its effort to suspend the press pass belonging to CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta but has outlined a set of rules that, if they aren't followed, "may result in suspension or revocation" of a journalist's press pass.

"Your hard pass is restored," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine wrote to Acosta. "Should you refuse to follow these rules in the future, we will take action in accordance with the rules," they wrote after outlining the rules. Trump was "aware of this decision and concurs," according to the letter.

The letter outlines four rules: a journalist "will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists," follow-up questions will be permitted "at the discretion of the president or other White House officials taking questions," "yielding the floor" is defined as "physically surrendering" the microphone and, lastly, "failure to abide" by any of the rules may result in "suspension or revocation of the journalist's hard pass."

Acosta was stripped of his press pass without warning earlier this month after a heated exchange during a press conference with President Donald Trump one day after the midterm elections. His press pass was temporarily restored by a court order Friday and the judge ordered both legal teams to submit a status report detailing how they would like to proceed by 3 p.m. on Monday.

The Friday ruling guaranteed Acosta use of his press pass to the White House through the end of the month. But over the weekend, the White House wasted no time informing Acosta of a “preliminary decision” to suspend his pass after that period is up. Lawyers for CNN responded Monday by filing for an emergency hearing the week after Thanksgiving, “or as soon thereafter as possible.”

CNN has since dropped its suit saying in a statement "Today the White House fully restored Jim Acosta's press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. We look forward to continuing to cover the White House."

The letter cites “behavior” at a press conference the day after the midterms that “violated the basic standards governing such events” as the reason to suspend Acosta’s pass. It’s signed by Bill Shine, deputy chief of staff for communications, and Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, who are both named as defendants in the initial lawsuit.

Over the weekend, Acosta and CNN’s legal team wrote back to Sanders and Shine, calling the letter an “attempt to provide retroactive due process” and requesting the White House “refrain from — yet again — violating the constitutional rights of CNN and Acosta.”

In the letter, Acosta wrote that there were "no so-called 'widely understood practices'" governing press conferences, which the White House jumped on in outlining four rules on Monday.

CNN filed a lawsuit earlier this week claiming that revoking Acosta's press pass to the White House, known as a "hard pass," violated the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly repeatedly emphasized at the court hearing on Friday that his decision to return Acosta's press pass, with a temporary restraining order as litigation continues, was based on the Fifth Amendment, under which the judge ruled Acosta was denied his right to due process. Due process would give Acosta and CNN the chance to rebut and challenge the appropriateness of the government’s action.

In his closing remarks, Kelly made clear that the ruling, which is only the beginning of the court proceedings to decide Acosta’s White House access, was narrow and didn’t determine whether or not Acosta’s First Amendment right was violated.

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Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump continues to squabble with retired Adm. William McRaven, the commander of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, now falsely claiming credit in a tweet for pointing out the terrorist’s name in a book he authored before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Here's how the back-and-forth is unfolding.

Trump's Bin Laden claim

Trump’s tweet is an apparent reference to a book he authored in 2000, titled "The America We Deserve," where the future president criticizes President Bill Clinton’s shifting national security policy.

In the book's sole Bin Laden reference, Trump only briefly mentions the terrorist leader and does not fully address the scope of the threat he posed.

“Instead of one looming crisis hanging over us, we face a bewildering series of smaller crises, flashpoints, standoffs, and hot spots. We’re not playing the chess game to end all chess games anymore. We’re playing tournament chess — one master against many rivals,” Trump wrote. “One day we’re all assured that Iraq is under control, the UN inspectors have done their work, everything’s fine, not to worry. The next day the bombing begins. One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin-Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.”

Trump's claim on military aid to Pakistan

In his second tweet, Trump boasts about cutting off military aid to Pakistan. In September, the Pentagon canceled a remaining pot of $300 million bound for Pakistan, bringing the total in military assistance cuts to $800 million this year.

That's financial aid that the U.S. had traditionally reimbursed to Pakistan for military spending to hunt militants. The Trump administration says it is withholding that money because Pakistan has done little to end the safe haven there for terrorist groups operating in the region.

The State Department’s assistance to Pakistan is less, contributing to programs that support economic development, education and social services, and democracy and human rights promotions.

In FY 2018, the State Department shelled out $337 million to Pakistan, a cut representing nearly half of the $631 million it received in FY 2017, and down from a high of $691 million in FY 2015, according to the department's foreign assistance tracker.

Trump V McRaven

Trump initially slammed McRaven as a "Hillary Clinton fan" during an interview with Fox News that aired this weekend, contending it would have been nice if bin Laden had been captured sooner.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that, wouldn’t it have been nice?” Trump asked rhetorically, emphasizing that bin Laden lived in a “mansion” in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “But living in Pakistan right next to the military academy, everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”

McRaven responded to Trump’s comments on Fox News, denying that he backed any candidate in the 2016 presidential campaign while standing by his previous comments that the president's attack on the media is the greatest threat to U.S. democracy.

"I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else," McRaven noted. "I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times."

"I stand by my comment that the President's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime," McRaven continued. "When you undermine the people's right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands."

Last August, McRaven defended former CIA director John Brennan after Trump revoked his security clearance, writing a critical op-ed for the Washington Post where he asked the president to revoke his own security clearance in solidarity with Brennan, also a frequent critic of the president.

"Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him," McRaven wrote. "Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."

McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, led the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 before retiring from the military.

Days after he asked Trump to revoke his security clearance, McRaven resigned from his position with the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory committee of former Defense senior officials who make recommendations on future projects and technologies.

Trump has not revoked McRaven’s security clearance.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump continues squabble with commander of raid that killed Bin Laden


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JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- This year's White House Christmas tree, a 19 1/2-foot-tall Fraser fir, was plucked from the North Carolina mountains, but was nearly abandoned before being chosen.

Before it was presented Monday in Washington, D.C. the tree hailed from Larry Smith's tree farm in the mountains of Newland, N.C.

The tree nearly had a different fate, according to Smith.

“I’d basically abandoned it,” Smith told the Charlotte Observer.

However, he told the newspaper that two White House officials who chose the tree loved the “natural look” of the fir that had not been trimmed in a few years.

“It’s like a Cinderella story,” Smith added.

Smith did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The officials went to his farm after Smith won the 2018 Grand Champion designation at the National Christmas Tree Association’s Christmas Tree Contest in Green Bay, Wis., giving him the honor of providing the official White House Christmas tree, High Country Press reported.

It was his fifth try, according to the Avery Journal.

The tree was cut down on Wednesday and transported by flatbed truck to the White House presentation on Monday.

Smith and his family were on hand to present this year’s tree to President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. The tree will be displayed in the Blue Room of the White House this holiday season, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade group.

As is tradition, the tree arrived by horse-drawn carriage. The Marine band played Christmas-themed tunes as the president and first lady walked around the carriage, admiring the tree from all angles.

The first couple also stopped to pose for a few photos with some onlookers.

Having one of his trees selected as the White House Christmas Tree “is the most prestigious honor” he could ever receive, Smith told the Observer.

“It’s like winning the Super Bowl,” Smith said.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women newly-elected to Congress, is helping spearhead an effort to allow religious headwear, such as hijabs or kippahs, on the House floor.

The proposal would reverse a 181-year ban on headwear of any type in the House.

Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Twitter that wearing a religious headscarf is her First Amendment right.

Omar, could be one of the first federal representatives to wear religious headwear in Congress. She’s joined by Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib as one of the first two Muslim women representing their districts on Capitol Hill.

The rule change was proposed last week by Nancy Pelosi in the wake of a historic wave of diverse lawmakers elected to Congress. Pelosi, who aims to reclaim her position as Speaker of the House, is working with Ranking Member Jim McGovern and Omar.

The change would “ensure religious expression” by “clarifying in the rules that religious headwear is permitted to be worn in the House chamber,” according to the proposal. The House rules proposal is part of a Democratic rollout aimed at restoring "inclusion and diversity." Democrats also want to create an independent diversity office to “facilitate a diverse workforce with qualified candidates that is reflective of our Members” and their districts, as well as an amendment on House rules to clearly “ban discrimination on the basis of sexual identification and gender identity.”

Before her victory in the midterms, Omar made history in Minnesota when she was elected to the State House in 2016 as nation's first Somali-American legislator.

The current rules were adopted in the 1800s without much debate and the language was eventually modified to read, “Every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House.” It was custom in the British Parliament to wear hats while in session.

The new proposals, if approved, will take effect in January with the start of the 2019 legislative session.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Florida's most embattled election official is resigning, effective January.

After drawing more criticism than anyone in the state during the -- at times -- messy recount that unfolded in Florida following Election Day, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Rick Scott.

"Although I have enjoyed this work tremendously over these many election cycles, both large and small, I am ready to pass the torch," Snipes wrote to Scott. She asked for her resignation to be effective Jan. 4, 2019.

Snipes had previously hinted she might step down after 2018's vote recount had finished, but she had not said so definitively. A county official who does not work for the state, Snipes was first appointed in 2003 and had been re-elected since.

Snipes drew more attention and criticism than any election official during Florida’s vote recount, which ended Sunday with local election officials racing to meet a noon deadline to send results from the race for state agriculture commissioner and the U.S. Senate contest. Scott defeated sitting Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Scott’s campaign successfully sued Snipes in federal court, as a judge ordered her to release vote totals. Amid allegations of “fraud” by Scott, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi prompted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Snipes, but no investigation ever materialized. A federal judge also said Scott’s team lacked evidence of misconduct.

Her office reportedly intermingled about 20 provisional ballots that shouldn't have been counted, out of a batch of 205. It also failed to meet a 3 p.m. deadline on Thursday, uploading results late to the state website after previously completing the first round of recounting on time.

As Republicans alleged improprieties in Florida's vote counting and recounting, attention turned repeatedly to Snipes and to Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.

In perhaps the best encapsulation of Florida’s recount problems, Snipes announced to a canvassing board meeting on Saturday that her office may have misplaced more than 2,000 ballots while counting votes in the state's agriculture race. Recounting in other races had already been completed.

Snipes assured those in attendance: “The ballots are in the building. The ballots are in the building.”

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Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The View host Meghan McCain has penned a powerful note about her father John McCain almost three months after losing him to cancer.

McCain, 34, shared an inside look into the strong bond and special relationship the father-daughter duo shared for years before his death earlier this year.

Alongside a picture of McCain cooking breakfast, Meghan wrote on Instagram, "84 days without you. You used to get up early in the morning and go get us all Starbucks in town in the Cottonwood Safeway and then come home and make eggs and bacon. You always had a giant venti cappuccino. We would eat on the porch and talk about life and politics while you read the newspaper and watched out for the hawks to fly by."

She added that there is nothing she wants more than to have one of those mornings with her father now and that "I don’t know how you go from talking to someone seven times a day to never."

The grieving daughter compared life now to some kind of "parallel universe I fell into."

"The pain of missing you and the grief that comes with it continues to be sharp and primal. Some waves are more intense than others but they come every day relentlessly," she added.

But as she's said before, her father made Meghan strong and instilled his resilience into his beloved daughter.

"I fight on because that is what you told me I had to do and demanded of me. I know you made me so tough and strong with the intensity that only you could have purposefully -- and for that I am the most grateful," she continued. "I love you forever."

She closed with a note about grief and in efforts to inspire others, adding that no one should put a time limit on moving on with your life after losing someone you love so much.

"We all do it differently in different ways," she wrote.

The post is filled with fans thanking her for sharing and sending condolences on her immense loss.

McCain continues to share the late icon's impact on her life, wishing co-host Whoopi Goldberg a happy birthday last week, posting a sweet picture of her father visiting the set of The View.

"I don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you for your friendship to both me and my family. You are a ball of love and light in this crazy world and I am so grateful for you," she wrote to Goldberg.

John McCain, a Vietnam War hero and one of the most distinctive figures in modern American politics, died at the age of 81 this past August.

His passing sent out shockwaves of grief that cut across politics, and he lay in state in the Capitol, an honor reserved only for major American figures.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Leavenworth County Board of County Commissioners (NEW YORK) --  The governor of Kansas is demanding the resignation of a white county commissioner who claimed he was "part of the master race" when talking to an African-American consultant during a public meeting last week.

Gov. Jeff Colyer is asking Louis Klemp, chairman of the Leavenworth County Board of Commissioners, to step down following his "inappropriate remarks" made during a public meeting on Nov. 13.

"Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society, and most especially when spoken by someone holding a public office," Colyer said in a statement. "The inappropriate remarks made by Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the county which he represents. As such I call on him to step down as county commissioner."

During a public meeting on Tuesday, Triveece Penelton, a consultant for VIREO Planning Associates in Kansas City, was making a presentation to the board of commissioners about community engagement on a potential development of rural land in Tonganoxie, Kansas.

In a video of the meeting, posted on the Leavenworth County Board of Commissioners' YouTube channel, Klemp expressed his displeasure with a plan to develop the land as residential. He said he favored an industrial development that would return revenue to the county.

 Speaking directly to Penelton, Klemp said, "I don’t want you to think I'm picking on you because we're part of the master race. You know you got a gap in your teeth. You're the masters. Don’t ever forget that."

Klemp did not explain what he meant by the comment.

The term "master race" stems from Nazi terminology, often describing Adolf Hitler's belief in a superior Aryan race.

Klemp did not respond to requests for comment Sunday from ABC News.

Penelton also could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Leavenworth County Administrator Mark Loughry issued a statement defending Klemp, saying the commissioner was referring to a gap in his own teeth and noting that Penelton had a similar gap.

"The use of the term 'Master Race,' as ill-advised as it may be, was not a reference to Nazis or used in a racist manner in this instance," Loughry said in a statement. "Leavenworth County has a zero tolerance for racism or discrimination in any form from any staff members. I am deeply sorry that one misconstrued comment by a member of our elected governing body has caused so much grief, sorrow and hatred."

But Robert Holland, one of Klemp's colleagues on the commission, said Klemp needs to be disciplined.

"When he said 'master race,' there is no master race," Holland told ABC affiliate station KMBC-TV in Leavenworth. "I mean, we're all Americans, we're all human beings. There is no master race."

Holland said he is considering a motion to remove Klemp, whose term on the board runs through Jan. 15, from being chairman of the board.

Meanwhile, the Leavenworth City Commission held a special meeting on Thursday and issued a statement condemning Klemp's remark and asked that he apologize and step down.

"These comments have resulted in widespread negative attention and have harmed the overall perception of residents, businesses, cities, organizations and agencies in Leavenworth County," the Leavenworth City Commission said in its statement. "The City Commission unequivocally denounces the use of 'master race' or any other language that has historic ties to racism, division and bigotry in any setting at any time."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  From Orange County, California, to rural Maine, to the congressional district that's home to one of President Donald Trump's golf courses, the Democratic majority that will preside over the 116th Congress will claim members from areas of the country once thought of as impenetrable bastions of conservatism and Republican dominance.

While the laborious task of counting mail-in ballots delayed projections in many key California races, what once was a possibility has now become a reality for the GOP: they will have zero congressional representation in Orange County, once described by President Ronald Reagan as the place "where the good Republicans go to die."

"Good Republicans," "Country Club Republicans," "Chamber of Commerce Republicans," whatever name is applied, in 2018 the GOP saw substantial losses in areas that birthed many of the figures and ideas that defined the modern conservative movement in America, seeing a sizable block of voters recoil at the tone and tenor of Trump, while Democrats were determined to register their disapproval of the commander in chief.

"The results of the midterm show a continued disappearance of regional power by the GOP, as it becomes more and more centered in the South and rural America," ABC News Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd said. "It shows a continued homogeneity of the GOP where differences among the GOP caucus become fewer and fewer and looks less and less like America as a whole. Moderate GOPers have all but disappeared. So it not only becomes geographically concentrated but ideologically and demographically as well. It also means the possibility of nominating a candidate from either coasts or from urban areas is diminished."

According to ABC News projections, Democrats flipped all four Orange County-based seats, as Democrat Harley Rouda toppled 15-term incumbent GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, while the open-seat race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was won by Democrat Mike Levin.

As mail-in ballots across the state continue to be counted, Democratic candidate Gil Cisneros beat out Republican Young Kim to win California’s 39th District, home to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

Earlier this week, Democrat Katie Porter defeated Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters in the state's 45th Congressional District, which Hillary Clinton won by 5 points in the 2016 election.

Prior to Clinton's narrow win in Orange County in the 2016 election, the area had not sided with a Democratic presidential candidate since 1936, when President Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a second term.

Republicans also lost a seat partially located in the state's traditionally conservative Central Valley, and another in southern California, where Rep. Steve Knight, the only Republican representing any part of Los Angeles County in the House, lost to Democrat Katie Hill.

When Congress is sworn in next year, Republicans will hold just eight of California's 53 U.S. House seats, or 15 percent of the congressional delegation in a state with nearly 40 million residents.

Half of New England re-elected their Republican governors in 2018, but after GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin was defeated by Democrat Jared Golden in Maine's 2nd Congressional District on Thursday (in part due to the state's implementation of ranked-choice voting) there will be exactly zero U.S. House members representing the region.

Come January 2019, Maine Sen. Susan Collins will be the only Republican Member of Congress from New England.

In New Jersey, a state that elected and re-elected a Republican governor twice this century, Democrats flipped four U.S. House seats in 2018, leaving Rep. Chris Smith as the only Republican-member of the state's 12-person congressional delegation. In the state's 11th Congressional District, Democrat Mikie Sherrill won the seat held by the retiring Republican chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, a seat that had been in Republican hands since 1985.

Republicans also now hold just 6 of the state of New York's 27 congressional seats after Rep. Dan Donovan lost re-election to his Staten Island-based seat and Representatives John Faso and Claudia Tenney were defeated by Democratic challengers in upstate New York.

Democrats all flipped seats in suburban Atlanta and Chicago that once belonged to two former Republican House speakers, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, as well as the suburban Houston seat that was once held by former President George H.W. Bush.

"America used to be a country of regional parties within each party, while both parties are on the path of losing this important representation, the path of the GOP is nearly complete to a nationalized ideological right-wing party," Dowd said.

According to ABC News' current count, Democrats have a net gain of 37 seats in the U.S. House, with 2 races still undecided.

Candidates mattered

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) trumpeted their work in California early and often this cycle, spending millions in the primary to ensure they got their candidates through the state's "Jungle Primary" system where the top two candidates advance regardless of party.

It was a move that ultimately appears to be paying large dividends.

"The DCCC responded to this threat immediately in January 2018, conducting a thorough data analysis to determine the strongest and weakest candidates - both Democrats and Republicans - and working to consolidate the Democratic primary fields," DCCC regional press secretary Andrew Godinich wrote in a post-election memo recapping the DCCC's California strategy.

But beyond surviving a unique primary system, the candidates that advanced and ultimately scored Democrats some of their most high-profile victories in traditionally conservative strongholds largely portrayed themselves not as partisans, but as pragmatists.

Rouda, a former Republican and real estate developer, called for a "return to the middle" throughout his campaign.

Sherrill, a former helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy, joins a host of female veterans like Pennsylvania's Chrissy Houlahan, Virginia's Abigail Spanberger and Michigan's Elissa Slotkin, who all won victories in Republican-held seats in 2018, focusing both on their backgrounds and the issue of healthcare, a central part of the Democratic Party's messaging.

In one of the cycle's most impactful television advertisements, Slotkin highlighted her mother's struggles with the American healthcare system after a diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer that eventually took her life, using footage of her Republican opponent Rep. Mike Bishop celebrating the House GOP's vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2017.

Golden, a state legislator and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, ran on a platform of protecting Social Security and Medicare against an opponent that also voted to repeal the ACA.

Blue tints to red states

While Democratic victories in areas once considered hallowed conservative garnered the most attention, on a macro-level, the party also outperformed the GOP in state's won by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

According to an analysis by ABC News, while Republicans won just 36 of the 188 (19 percent) congressional seats in states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats were able to capture 79 of the 245 seats (32 percent) up in states Trump won in 2016.

Democrats also now hold either a majority of or half of the congressional seats in three Trump-won states: Arizona, Iowa and Michigan.

The new Democratic majority also boasts representation from traditionally Republican states like Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina, which all backed Trump by wide margins and entered this cycle with all-Republican congressional delegations.

But while those seats will likely return to the top of the GOP-target list in 2020, the ability of the party to compete in places like Orange County and the Northeast, at least in federal races, is in serious doubt.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general was unconstitutional because the attorney general is a “principal officer” and those positions require Senate confirmation under the Constitution.

“I think the appointment is unconstitutional,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz in an interview Sunday morning. “He is clearly a principal officer and the fact that he is a temporary principal officer doesn't mean that that is any less subject to Senate confirmation.”

“Will Democrats still challenge that appointment and are you concerned about him overseeing the Mueller investigation?” Raddatz asked Schiff.

“Yes and yes,” said Schiff, who will be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the new Congress.

“When you have a specific statute that says this is the succession plan and doesn't say you can also use the Vacancies Act to avoid the succession plan, you go with the specific statute,” Schiff said.

The president took to Twitter early Sunday afternoon to respond to Schiff’s criticism, pointing out that Mueller had not been approved by the Senate. Trump also misspelled Schiff's name in the tweet.

"Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?" Schiff replied on Twitter, referencing a statement Trump made Friday about his written answers to the special counsel.

"I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers," the president said during a cybersecurity initiative bill signing in the Oval Office. "I was asked a series of questions, I answered them very easily."

The White House has not responded to an ABC News request for comment.

During his interview with Raddatz, Schiff called Whitaker's appointment flawed.

“The biggest flaw from my point of view is that he was chosen for the purpose of interfering with the Mueller investigation,” he said.

Because Whitaker has publicly criticized Mueller’s investigation in the past, including in an August 2017 op-ed for CNN, Schiff said that “ethically he should have absolutely nothing to do with the investigation.”

While Schiff is a frequent critic of the president’s, some Republicans have doubted whether Whitaker is right to permanently lead the Justice Department.

In a separate interview on “This Week,” Sen. Roy Blunt, who serves as the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference, said he didn’t think Whitaker should be attorney general.

“I don't know Matt Whitaker well,” Blunt told Raddatz. “On the occasions I've had with him to be -- he's been very responsive and has seen that the Justice Department responded to the things I've asked about. So in terms of an acting capacity, he does not -- he seems to be a person that has the ability to do that acting job.”

“But not a permanent position; is that what you're saying?” Raddatz pressed.

“Well, I would think -- I -- I would think not. But that's -- the president needs to determine who's going to be permanently at the Justice Department as soon as he can,” he said.

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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly two weeks after Election Day, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has won Florida's Senate race.

Sitting Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceded to Scott Sunday afternoon, recording a YouTube video in which he acknowledged defeat.

Nelson called Scott to concede, the latter said in a statement. President Trump congratulated Scott in a tweet, writing: "From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida."

It marks the end of a long and at-times messy vote recount that drew national attention amid reported irregularities in vote counting by county officials, problems with tabulation machines, and missed deadlines.

It also marks the end of Democrats' hopes in Florida's two high-profile elections this year. On Saturday, Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis in the governor's race. In defeat, Gillum drew praise from Trump on Twitter afterward. Recounting had stopped in that race after Thursday's conclusion of a machine recount.

Senate recounting had continued, with county officials hand-examining a subset of votes, checking thousands of them for voters' marks that could have been missed by scanning machines.

Florida's 67 counties faced a noon Sunday deadline to finish hand-recounting ballots in the Senate and state agriculture-commissioner races. All of them made it, the Florida Department of State told ABC News.

Scott still led Nelson by 10,033 votes, after the final round of recounting had finished -- a slightly narrower margin than the 12,603 by which he led after the first round of recounting finished.

Two counties in particular -- Broward and Palm Beach, both large, Democratic strongholds in South Florida -- drew attention and GOP criticism throughout the process.

In Broward, Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes was sued successfully by Scott's campaign over her failure to provide results on time after Election Day. Her office reportedly intermingled 22 provisional ballots that shouldn't have been counted, within a batch of 205. On Thursday, the county failed to upload results to a state website after the first round of recounting, missing the deadline by minutes.

Over the weekend, after Snipes's office had completed recounting in the Senate race on Friday but continued recounting in the state's agriculture-commissioner race, she acknowledged her staff may have misplaced more than 2,000 ballots as it sought to finalize totals in that state-level race. Senate tallies had already been completed.

"The ballots are in the building," she said at a canvassing board meeting on Saturday, seeking to reassure those in attendance. "The ballots are in the building."

In Palm Beach, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said her counting machines overheated and stopped working multiple times, as the county raced to meet the state's 3 p.m. Thursday deadline in the machine recount. Palm Beach missed that deadline on Thursday and had to continue running the machines afterward. The manufacturer of the machines pushed back, suggesting county officials were running the machines in an unusual way, in comments to The Palm Beach Post.

Palm Beach made Sunday's deadline by one second, Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told ABC affiliate WPBF, showing a readout of her office's upload of results to the state website reading 11:59:59.

Two rounds of recounting had ensued after Scott and Nelson were separated by just .15 percentage points after Election Day -- a narrow enough margin to trigger an automatic machine recount. With the race still close enough after Florida's first round of recounting concluded on Thursday, county election officials hand-examined a subset of votes since Friday, in some cases racing to meet the deadline.

Florida's recount was the subject of at least a dozen lawsuits, as the campaigns, national political parties, and outside groups wrangled over the counting of late mail-in votes, considerations of voter intent when examining hand-marked ballots, and the physical security of ballots and tabulation machines at county election facilities where recounting was underway.

Nelson's hopes dwindled late last week, as court challenges were struck down and as vote counting in Broward failed to yield extra votes. In that heavily Democratic county, some 26,000 more votes were cast in the state's governor's race, hinting at a possibility that hand-examining ballots there could yield votes for Nelson. But as that count finished Friday, he had gained just over 400 votes -- not nearly enough to overcome the deficit.

Scott's win gives Republicans a net gain of two Senate seats in the 2018 midterms and a prospective advantage, heading into next year, of 52 seats to 47.

Mississippi is currently holding a runoff in its U.S. Senate seat, to be held Nov. 27.

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Paul Kitagaki Jr.-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A top Democrat from California said President Donald Trump “needs to listen to the experts” when it comes to the wildfires ravaging the state because there is no simple solution.

While in California Saturday, Trump suggested the United States address forest management in a way similar to Finland, which the president claimed spends “a lot of time on raking and cleaning” the forests. He added that “they don't have any problem.”

“It doesn't make much sense to me,” Rep. Adam Schiff said on “This Week” Sunday, in response to a question from co-anchor Martha Raddatz about the president’s statement. “The reality is that no single fire has the same cause. Every fire is going to be different.

“With climate change, they're going to be worse, and we need to take steps to reduce their frequency, reduce their severity and yes, forest management is one piece of it, but there are lots of other pieces, and I think the president needs to listen to the experts because clearly he isn't one of them,” he said.

Later, Schiff said that he thinks all Californians were upset with a statement Trump made last weekend on Twitter about "gross mismanagement of the forests" when people “were facing utter devastation,” and warned about what could come after the fires are out.

“We need to focus on putting these fires out, we need to protect ourselves because all too often when the fires are out and rains are coming, then mudslides follow and other tragedy follows, so we -- we need to get through this period and -- and our hearts are going out to those effected and we’re so grateful for the responders out there,” the congressman said.

Trump traveled to California this weekend to survey wildfire damage in Paradise and Malibu, meeting with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will replace Brown as governor on Jan. 7, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long and local officials responding to the emergency.

At least 79 people have died as a result of the fires, 76 in Northern California’s Camp Fire and three in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire. The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history, according to Cal Fire. Nearly 1,300 people were missing in the Camp Fire, but that number continues to change, and more than 700 people who were once on the the list have since been accounted for, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

In a separate interview on “This Week,” Honea said the list of people unaccounted for is compiled from a number of sources, cautioning that the data is “raw” and verifying people’s whereabouts is “a very difficult process.”

“My thought on that was it's better to work towards progress than achieve perfection before we start getting that information out,” Honea said of the massive list of names.

The sheriff said he does not expect the death toll to be as high as the list of people unaccounted for, but noted that verifying people’s whereabouts “is a daunting task.”

“We are still trying to bring order to the chaos that this entire event has caused,” he said.

As of Sunday morning, the Camp Fire was 60 percent contained and had burned almost 150,000 acres and destroyed more than 12,000 structures, according to the Butte County Fire Department. The Woolsey Fire has burned just under 100,000 acres and was 88 percent contained as of Sunday morning, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported.

Honea called the Camp Fire an unprecedented event, and urged residents to make every effort to reach out to their friends and family to let them know they’re safe and unharmed. He also asked displaced people to check if they're listed as missing and to contact his office, so officials could dedicate resources to locating people who haven’t yet been accounted for.

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Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump said Saturday it’s “too early” to determine if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was responsible for ordering the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, two members of the intelligence committees in both houses of Congress said it is difficult to avoid coming to that conclusion.

On “This Week” Sunday, incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff told co-anchor Martha Raddatz it would be unlikely such a killing would occur without the Saudi crown prince’s knowledge.

“Given what we know of how the Saudi government operates and the crown prince's central role in that, it's very difficult for me to conceive of a murder of a prominent journalist and a critic being carried out without the crown prince's knowledge,” the California Democrat said.

He added that the killing of a journalist tests the proposition that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend.”

“Our friends don't murder journalists,” Schiff added.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was more guarded in assessing the reports, as the CIA has not yet made public its assessment of whether or not the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

“Certainly the way you look at Saudi Arabia and the way it runs, it's hard to imagine something like this could happen without the crown prince knowing, but I don't know that we absolutely know that yet,” said Blunt.

Blunt added that the situation should become clearer in the next few days, echoing the sentiment expressed by Trump on Saturday, who said he should receive a report on Khashoggi’s killing by Tuesday.

“I do think that it won't hurt here for another few days to pass. The president says he's going to have some conclusions by Tuesday on this,” Blunt said.

Speaking to reporters in California Saturday, Trump indicated the report will have details on who is responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.

"We’re going to come up with a report as to what we think the overall impact was and who caused it and who did it. We’re talking about a killing, we’re not talking about anything else, we’re talking about a killing. So who did it," he said.

Schiff, however, expressed a worry on “This Week” that Trump would not necessarily accept the conclusions of American intelligence.

“The president needs to listen to what our intelligence community has to say, what our best professionals' assessment is and it's vitally important that this administration not allow itself to become part of any Saudi cover-up,” Schiff said.

Blunt said that the White House must be careful in its response and not act without knowing what the consequences will be, citing the potential impact on the regional balance in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the heels of an election in which a record number of women were elected to the House of Representatives, “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz sat down with five representatives-elect who were part of the blue wave.

Reps.-elect Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Deb Haaland of New Mexico, Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Donna Shalala of Florida spoke to Raddatz about their priorities, the importance of women in Congress and the upcoming House leadership elections.

The conversation, which took place Nov. 16 between orientation sessions on Capitol Hill, began with the significance of more women joining the ranks of Congress.

“We’ve got a bevy of experience here, and I think part of who I am, part of how I view the world is informed by the fact that I’m a woman, that I’m a mother, that I’m a sister and a daughter and a wife…” said Spanberger, who defeated incumbent Rep. David Brat in Virginia’s 7th district.

This year also saw the election of the first two Native American women to Congress, Haaland and Sharice Davids of Oklahoma. They join two Native American men in Congress, both Republicans of Oklahoma.

"For a group of folks in our country who have been here for thousands of years and being so underrepresented in Congress, … I think it means a tremendous amount to folks in those communities feeling like they can finally have representation,” Haaland said.

“I always say, I’ll leave the ladder down. It’s great being the first. We never want to be the last.”

Underwood, 32, talked about the benefits of having more young people serving in Congress.

“And so now we have not just one vote at the table. We have a caucus. A true millennial caucus,” said Underwood, the youngest African-American member of Congress ever elected.

At 77 years old, Shalala is the second-oldest House freshman in U.S. history behind Jim Bowler, who at 78 won a 1953 special election. But she’s not new to Washington.

“I’m a freshman, but not a rookie,” Shalala told Raddatz.

She served as Health and Human Services secretary for the duration of Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms.

“And it’s been pretty exciting, people in the halls that work here say, ‘Welcome back,’ because they remember when I was here as a Cabinet officer,” she said.

Houlahan, who served in the Air Force, and Spanberger, who was a CIA officer, each said that their experiences will help them as they enter a new kind of service to the country.

“You come to the table as a team player, as a consensus builder, as a pragmatist,” Houlahan said.

Spanberger added, “...The notion is that we’re used to serving a mission… this is the mission. This is what we set out to do. We’re all united behind that.”=

Democrats have their work cut out for them as they take control of the House in under two months. Health care, immigration and taxes remain at the top of voters’ list of concerns for Congress, according to exit polls from the midterms.

On the issue of congressional oversight of the executive branch, the representatives-elect stressed that while oversight is an important function of Congress and one that newly Democratic-led committees should focus on, there are higher priorities back in their districts.

Shalala said that Democrats “won our election very much with health care as one of the major issues.” Houlahan called health care “the issue of my district.”

Haaland talked about issues facing Native American communities and said that the Violence Against Women Act, which is up for reauthorization, has come a long way in extending protections to indigenous women, but must go further. As Democrats begin to look forward to 2020, questions of party unity and leadership are front and center.

Underwood said that Democrats will always have a broad variety of views within their ranks, and that this a good thing.

“We are a big tent party,” she said. “But when we step onto the floor of the House and cast votes, and when we lead, we have to carry forward the voices for the people back home.”

On the issue of leadership, just two of the representatives-elect in the group said that they are voting for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to become House speaker again. Two were undecided and Spanberger said that she would not vote for Pelosi.

“I think that if we are going to turn the page and bring civility back to the political discussion, which as a values statement is incredibly important in my home district, that I think we need to change the people who are directing that conversation,” Spanberger said.

Haaland, who along with Shalala has already decided to vote for Pelosi, countered, saying that Pelosi’s leadership is exactly what Democrats need two years into the Trump presidency.

“She’s the only person I believe that we need in this tumultuous time with the president we have, to stay on track to make sure that we are fulfilling promises to the American people,” Haaland said.

The 116th Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019.

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Joe Skipper/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Andrew Gillum, whose bid to become the first black governor of Florida extended more than a week after Election Day, conceded the race Saturday, effectively making Republican Ron DeSantis the winner in the tight, hotly contested race.

Gillum, a Democrat who is mayor of Tallahassee, announced live on Facebook shortly before 5 p.m. that he was formally ending his candidacy.

"I want to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida," Gillum, who was accompanied by his wife, said.

"This has been the journey of our lives," he said in the video. “Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle. This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government.”

Late Saturday, DeSantis said during a Fox News interview that “I was never really in danger because my margin was big enough ... Now I can go forward without having to worry about this.”

A few hours before Gillum conceded, President Trump congratulated Gillum for running a "really tough and competitive race for Governor of the Great State of Florida."

"He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future - a force to reckon with!"

Gillum said he waited until the "last vote was counted."

"We wanted to make sure every single vote ... as long as it was a legally cast vote, we wanted it to be counted," he said.

The concession for Gillum brought an end to a bitter and contentious battle with DeSantis.

The Trump-backed Republican said at a rally during the campaign that Gillum would appoint "Soros-backed activists" to the statehouse if he had won. And DeSantis was criticized after saying during an interview on FOX News that voters should not "monkey this up" by voting for Gillum -- a remark believed by many to be racist.

Gillum was also the target of racist robocalls paid for by a white nationalist group from Idaho, which impersonated Gillum in an exaggerated accent and referred to the Democratic Tallahassee mayor as a "negro" and a "monkey."

"Well, hello there. I is the negro Andrew Gillum and I'll be askin' you to make me governor of this here state of Flordia," the call says. DeSantis denounced the calls and said he didn't know who was making them, although the group from Idaho made similar robocalls mocking California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein.

On Election Night, Gillum had conceded when DeSantis' lead seemed insurmountable. He withdrew the concession a few day later.

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Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  President Donald Trump said late Saturday that it's "too early" to say whether Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and described multiple news reports saying the CIA has concluded the crown prince was directly involved as “premature.”

The president said that the U.S. government will complete a “full report” by Tuesday.

He denied reports saying that the CIA has concluded that the crown prince, known as MBS, ordered the killing.

"They haven’t accessed anything yet -- it’s too early,” Trump said. “That was a very premature report."

"But that’s possible,” he added. “We’re gonna see.”

The president went on to say without further explanation that “in the meantime we are doing things to some people who we know for a fact were involved, and we’re going to be very tough on a lot pf people.”

The comments came as Trump toured the damage from wildfires that devastated Malibu, California, after receiving an update on the Khashoggi investigation from CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo aboard Air Force One.

Trump's comments come in the wake of several media outlets' reports Friday that CIA officials said they were highly confident that 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul in government aircraft at the orders of Salman to kill Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.

The Washington Post was the first news company to report on the alleged ties to the prince.

Earlier on Saturday, before heading to California, Trump spoke to reporters about the Khashoggi murder.

“As of this moment, we were told he had not played a role," the president added, referring to the Saudi prince. "We’re going to see what they have to say.”

On Saturday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the State Department said the Trump administration is determined to hold Khashoggi's killers accountable, but had not made a "final conclusion" on his death.

Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi," said Heather Nauert, the department spokeswoman. "The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts."

She added that the U.S. will continue to investigate the murder while "maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia."

Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he went to pick up documents that he needed to marry his fiancee, who lives in the Turkish city.

An intercepted phone call between Khashoggi and the Saudi prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, was among the evidence that helped the CIA arrive at its conclusion, the Post reported.

In the call, Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, told Khashoggi that he should go to Istanbul for the documents and assured him that it would be safe to do so, the paper reported.

Though it’s unclear if Khalid bin Salman was involved in the plan, it was Mohammed bin Salman who told him to make the call, The Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter who could only speak on the condition of anonymity.

Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., denied the allegations that Khalid bin Salman spoke about going to Turkey and called the CIA assessment “false,” according to the Post.

The Post article was published the same day as a funeral service for the slain journalist at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque, more than a month after he was killed on Oct. 2.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist.

Vice President Mike Pence declined to comment on “classified information” early Saturday morning during a trip to Papua New Guinea, but also did not seek to refute the reporting of the CIA’s conclusions.

The vice president did, however, condemn the murder and said: “We are going to follow the facts.”

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,” Pence said.

He also noted that the U.S. wants to find a way to preserve a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.

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