Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated Democrat Mike Espy in Tuesday night’s special Senate election in Mississippi, a contest tainted by race-related controversies, NBC News projects.
With 94 percent of votes being reported, Hyde-Smith had 54.4 percent, or 453,911 votes, to 45.6 percent, or 380,231 votes, for Espy.
The Republican incumbent’s single-digit victory in the deep-red state was not regarded by analysts as particularly impressive, while Espy appears to have outperformed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama when he ran for president both times.
Hyde-Smith, who becomes the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi, will serve out the remaining two years of former GOP Sen. Thad Cochran’s term, whom she was appointed to replace earlier this year after he resigned.
With her win in the final contest of the midterm cycle, Republicans will start the new Congress in January with a 53-47 majority in the Senate. The GOP expanded its Senate majority in the midterm elections despite Democrats making a net gain of at least 39 seats in the House, with one race left to be called.
“This is just an unbelievable night,” Hyde-Smith told supporters Tuesday night at a post-election event. “This has been an unbelievable campaign. God above is the reason we’re here, and I’m going to give him glory every single day.”
She thanked President Donald Trump for his support and promised to represent “every Mississippian” regardless of whom they voted for. “I’m going to do my very best to make you proud,” she said.
In a statement, Espy said “tonight is the beginning, not the end.”
“When this many people show up, stand up, and speak up, it is not a loss,” he said. “It is a moment. It is a movement. And we are not going to stop moving our state forward just because of one election. I look forward to finding new ways to do just that.”
Espy told supporters following the loss that Hyde-Smith “has my prayers as she goes to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi.”
Hyde-Smith and Espy, an ex-congressman who served as agriculture secretary under former President Bill Clinton, went to a runoff after neither received more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day, Nov. 6. In that three-way election, GOP state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who ran to Hyde-Smith’s right, picked up more than 16 percent of the vote.
The Hyde-Smith and Espy runoff was marred by a number of race-related controversies in its home stretch. Most prominently, footage of a remark Hyde-Smith made earlier this month about her willingness to attend a “public hanging” drew national attention.
Hyde-Smith insisted comment was not intended to have any racial connotation, but many interpreted it as such in a state where lynchings were once frequent and racial tensions still run deep.
In a debate last week, Hyde-Smith apologized to anyone who was offended, but added that her words were being “twisted” to use against her. Espy accused Hyde-Smith of having given the state “another black eye.”
On Monday, Trump held two rallies in the state to boost Hyde-Smith’s candidacy. At a roundtable event in Gulfport, Trump said he heard Hyde-Smith apologize for the public hanging remark “loud and clear,” adding that he knows “her heart is good.”
At an earlier rally, Trump blasted Espy as “far-left,” asking “how does he fit in with Mississippi?”
Soon after Hyde-Smith was projected as the winner, Trump congratulated her in a tweet.
The controversy over Hyde-Smith’s public hanging comment was just the first in the run-up to the vote. In the days after that remark went viral, additional footage was published of Hyde-Smith saying it might be a “great idea” to make it harder for some people to vote, to which her campaign responded that she was “obviously” joking.
Soon, publications began unearthing more troubling news items for Hyde-Smith. The Jackson Free-Press reported that Hyde-Smith attended a private white “segregation academy,” while having sent her daughter to one years later as well. It was also reported Hyde-Smith, as a state senator, pushed for a resolution praising a Confederate soldier’s efforts to “defend his homeland,” while photos showed her posing with Confederate artifacts.
As a result of the controversies, prominent businesses like Walmart and Major League Baseball asked for their donations to Hyde-Smith’s campaign to be returned.
In the last few weeks of her campaign, Hyde-Smith held few events and generally avoided speaking with the press.
Espy faced an uphill climb in a state that Trump won by 18 points in 2016, remains popular and where Hyde-Smith and McDaniel combined to win about 58 percent of the vote earlier this month. He also faced some controversy of his own, as Republicans highlighted his past work as a lobbyist and for having been indicted in the 1990s on corruption charges he was later acquitted of. That investigation lead to his resignation as agriculture secretary.
Fox’s Pete Hegseth Promoted Senate Candidate on Show After Being Paid By Michigan GOP
We don’t really need more evidence to know that Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth is a Republican shill. After all, this is the guy who responded to the March for Our Lives by mocking teenage victims of gun violence and stating on-air that he had donated to the National Rifle Association in the wake of Parkland school massacre.
Now, Media Matters for America is reporting that last May, the Livingston County Republican Committee in Michigan paid him over $10,000 to be a keynote speaker at a Lincoln Day Dinner featuring GOP Senate candidate John James. Those payments were issued to Premiere Speakers Bureau, which represents Hegseth, over a period of five months this year, Media Matters for America said.
James, who was backed by President Donald Trump, lost to three-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in last month’s midterm elections. Before that election, Hegseth, who admits he’s not a journalist, hosted James on Fox & Friends Weekend four times in the lead-up to the campaign. And as the report points out, Hegseth did not disclose to his viewers that he had been paid by the GOP committee.
Per Media Matters for America:
-On September 9, Hegseth told James that his race is “one to watch, for sure, largely because of a strong candidacy you’re running.”
-On October 14, Hegseth told James that “whatever you’re doing is working, according to the polls, and I don’t always believe [polling].” Echoing the candidate’s own talking point, Hegseth later asked James: “What is the most important fresh perspective that is resonating with people in your state?”
-On October 28, Hegseth suggested that James was “closing the gap against his Democratic opponent,” telling him that his message “seems to be resonating in your race” based on “recent poll numbers in the Michigan Senate race” which showed James “trailing by, you know, seven points, which is a lot less than where you were, and if you consider the margin of error, it could even be closer than that.”
Other Fox employees also have used their high-visibility platform to shamelessly promote Trump and other Republicans. The most notorious recent example was an appearance by Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro alongside Trump at a campaign rally in Missouri in early November. Following that event, Fox issued a disingenuous statement claiming it “does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.” The network added that, “This was an unfortunate distraction and has been addressed.”
Media Matters for America also reported that Pirro has received over $200,000 in speaking fees from over a dozen GOP organizations in the past two years.
Fox did not respond to a request for comment by Media Matters for America. My guess is that they don’t have much to say.
Why Trump turned back to tough tariff talk
Auto tariffs were the big takeaway from this weekend’s meeting between President Trump and Chinese leaders. The aim was to de-escalate the trade war, but the real threat to American auto jobs isn’t Chinese tariffs on US-made cars. It’s Beijing’s plan to flood the US with cut-rate cars made with low-paid labor.
After the trade powwow, Trump advisers reported that China will drop or remove its punitive 40 percent tariff on autos imported from the US. Don’t pop the champagne corks: Removing Chinese tariffs on US autos will do almost nothing for our autoworkers.
The big three US automakers will tell you “we build where we sell.” They’ve moved operations to China, because the Asian giant is where the US was in 1925 in terms of car ownership, with plenty of first-time buyers. Ford reports, for example, that only 2 percent of its vehicles sold in China are made here.
Likewise, GM makes more cars in China than it does here, and the company sells more in China. The truth is that GM is more Chinese than it is American.
Back in the United States, the problem ahead is the coming wave of cheap Chinese-made cars. It’s a rerun of what Japan and South Korea did in the 1970s and ’80s. Their low-priced cars killed thousands of jobs in auto-producing states like Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
Now five Chinese auto companies plan to sell in America within two years. Chinese auto workers make on average $11,000 a year, per Auto Express magazine.
No wonder Chinese negotiators say they want both sides to scrap all tariffs. It’s a trick. Fortunately, Trump doesn’t seem to be falling for it. “I’m a Tariff Man,” the president tweeted on Tuesday. He’s appointed a hard-line, pro-tariff US trade rep, Robert Lighthizer, to spearhead the Chinese negotiations.
It’s a sign Trump appreciates that tariffs are vital to staving off more disasters like the GM plant closings announced last month.
On Nov. 26, GM CEO Mary Barra blindsided the nation, announcing that the company is shuttering four US factories — including the Lordstown, Ohio, plant that makes the Chevy Cruze, and the iconic Detroit-Hamtramck plant that produces the Chevy Volt and other sedans.
The closings will lay off 3,300 production workers and 15 percent of GM’s white-collar workforce. Barra’s justification is that its sedans aren’t selling, and the closings are needed to “stay in front of a fast-changing market.” Investors agreed. GM stock soared.
Though longtime employees can move to other GM plants, many workers will end up in low-paying jobs or unemployed. In towns like Hamtramck, stores will be boarded up and rows of houses will be for sale.
In 2016, candidate Trump pledged to prevent such outcomes. Trumbull County, home of the Lordstown plant, went for Trump after giving President Barack Obama a 22-point margin in 2012.
Hearing GM’s grim announcement last week, Trump immediately called for tariffs. He pointed to the 25 percent tariff imposed on light trucks since 1964, which has guaranteed US dominance of the pickup and SUV markets ever since. “If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here,” the president tweeted, “and GM would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan [and] Maryland.”
Trump also improved protections for US auto jobs when he renegotiated the trade pact with Mexico and Canada, announced last week. Pending congressional approval, the pact requires that at least 75 percent of a car’s value — meaning parts and labor — originate in North America for the car to be duty-free. That’s up from 62.5 percent under NAFTA.
The move will force companies that assemble in Mexico, like Nissan and Volkswagen, to use North American-made parts. To protect US wages, nearly half of all the parts will have to be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour — a jab at Mexico, which has some of the lowest auto wages in the world.
GM’s Barra is coming to Washington this week with mea culpas. But GM’s future as a company is largely in China and other new, foreign markets. Fortunately, Trump has American auto workers’ backs.
Mueller Exposes the Culture of Lying That Surrounds Trump
When Michael D. Cohen admitted this past week to lying to Congress about a Russian business deal, he said he had testified falsely out of loyalty to President Trump. When he admitted this summer to lying on campaign finance records about payments to cover up a sex scandal during the campaign, he said it was at Mr. Trump’s direction.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, former senior Trump campaign officials, lied to cover up financial fraud. George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, lied in hopes of landing an administration job. And Michael T. Flynn, another adviser, lied about his interactions with a Russian official and about other matters for reasons that remain unclear.
If the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has proved anything in his 18-month-long investigation — besides how intensely Russia meddled in an American presidential election — it is that Mr. Trump surrounded himself throughout 2016 and early 2017 with people to whom lying seemed to be second nature.
They lied to federal authorities even when they had lawyers advising them, even when the risk of getting caught was high and even when the consequences for them were dire.
Even more Trump associates are under investigation for the same offense. They are part of a group of people surrounding Mr. Trump — including some White House and cabinet officials — who contribute to a culture of bending, if not outright breaking, the truth, and whose leading exemplar is Mr. Trump himself.
Mr. Trump looks for people who share his disregard for the truth and are willing to parrot him, “even if it’s a lie, even if they know it’s a lie, and even if he said the opposite the day before,” said Gwenda Blair, a Trump biographer. They must be “loyal to what he is saying right now,” she said, or he sees them as “a traitor.”
Campaign aides often echoed Mr. Trump’s pronouncements knowing they were false. People joined the top levels of his administration with the realization that they would be expected to embrace what Mr. Trump said, no matter how far from the truth or how much their reputations suffered.
For Sean Spicer, the first White House press secretary, that included falsely insisting, on Mr. Trump’s first day in office, that his inaugural crowd was the biggest in history. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who replaced him, dialed back once-daily news briefings to once every few weeks as her credibility was increasingly battered.
For decades, such behavior was relatively free of consequence for those who aligned with Mr. Trump. The stakes in the real estate world were lower, and deceptive statements could be dismissed as hardball business tactics or just efforts to cultivate the Trump mystique.
But in Mr. Mueller, those in Mr. Trump’s orbit now confront a big-league adversary with little tolerance for what one top White House adviser once called “alternative facts.” He leads a team of prosecutors and F.B.I. agents who are methodically and purposefully examining their words and deeds.
Mr. Trump’s own lawyers, wary of how frequently their client engages in falsehoods, are trying to hold the special counsel at bay. Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, has already been forced to pull back his own public remarks about an issue of concern to Mr. Mueller.
In a confidential memo to the special counsel, Mr. Trump’s legal team admitted that the president, not his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., drafted a misleading statement about a Trump Tower meeting in 2016 between a Kremlin-tied lawyer and campaign officials. That statement could figure in the special counsel’s scrutiny of whether the president obstructed justice.
Fearful of more deceptions, the president’s legal team has insisted that Mr. Trump answer questions only in writing. They delivered replies to some of the special counsel’s queries on Nov. 20 after months of negotiation. If unsatisfied, Mr. Mueller could try to subpoena the president to testify.
But the new acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, a vocal critic of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry who now supervises it, would have to sign off. And even if he did, the White House could still mount a legal battle to quash it.
Many witnesses or subjects of the inquiry lack the president’s negotiating power or resources. Some have been stunned by their encounters with prosecutors, who arrive armed with thick binders documenting their text messages, emails and whereabouts on any given date.
Sam Nunberg, a former longtime adviser to Mr. Trump, said he feared that the special counsel was creating the impression of a wide-ranging conspiracy among liars, when witnesses could have dispelled much of the suspicion simply by testifying truthfully.
“People are conspiring against themselves, and they are playing right into Mueller’s hands,” he said. “If Flynn had said he discussed sanctions, he could very well be national security adviser today,” he added. Instead, Mr. Flynn awaits sentencing for lying to F.B.I. agents about various matters, including his talks with the Russian ambassador over whether the new administration would lift sanctions against Russia.
The reasons for the lies vary, but, not surprisingly, people were most often trying to protect themselves. Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer, said in federal court this past week that he had misled Congress about the details of a Trump hotel project in Moscow because he did not want to contradict the president’s own false characterizations of his business dealings in Moscow. He specifically cited his loyalty to Mr. Trump, referred to as “Individual 1” in court papers, as the reason for his crime.
“I made these misstatements to be consistent with Individual 1’s political messaging and out of loyalty to Individual 1,” Mr. Cohen told a judge. In a sentencing memo filed late Friday, Mr. Cohen emphasized that in the weeks before he misled Congress about the deal, he remained in “close and regular contact with White House-based staff,” as well as with Mr. Trump’s lawyers.
While the Moscow hotel was never built, Mr. Cohen’s court filing suggested that Mr. Trump at best minimized his knowledge of the proposed venture, both as a candidate and once he had been elected. Nearly two dozen times, Mr. Trump has publicly insisted that he had no business dealings in Russia.
But Mr. Cohen, who discussed the hotel project with the aide to a key Kremlin official in early 2016, said in Friday’s court filing that he kept Mr. Trump apprised of negotiations that continued through June of that year, just before Mr. Trump formally became the Republican nominee.
Mr. Manafort is accused of lying on top of lying. As part of a September plea deal, he acknowledged that he had lied to the Justice Department about his business dealings and that he had also tried to persuade witnesses to lie to investigators on his behalf. On Monday, prosecutors said that he continued to lie after he had agreed to cooperate with them, breaching his plea deal. His lawyers insist he told the truth.
Mr. Trump has been Mr. Mueller’s most vociferous critic, accusing his team of manufacturing lies by threatening witnesses with severe consequences if they refuse to agree with the special counsel’s narrative.
What prosecutors have called lies, Mr. Trump has insisted is truth. What they called truth, he has framed as lies.
Where all this is headed is unclear, but it appears that more allegations of lying are ahead. The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has also been investigating Russia’s interference in the election, has referred other cases to the special counsel’s office involving witnesses who may have lied.
Prosecutors are investigating whether two or more people, including a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, Roger J. Stone Jr., lied about WikiLeaks, the rogue organization that distributed Democratic emails and other documents stolen by Russian intelligence as part of Moscow’s campaign to influence the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller’s team has been trying to determine whether anyone with the Trump campaign conspired with WikiLeaks or the Russian government to bolster Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the White House.
Jerome Corsi, a conservative author, has cast doubt on whether Mr. Stone testified truthfully to Congress about what inspired a Twitter message he posted in the summer of 2016. In it, Mr. Stone predicted, with a missing verb, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
Mr. Corsi said he had helped Mr. Stone concoct a “cover story” for the message so that it would not appear Mr. Stone had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks planned to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign by releasing emails stolen from the computer of her campaign chairman, John D. Podesta. He said Mr. Stone then incorporated those falsehoods into his congressional testimony — an allegation that Mr. Stone vehemently denies.
But in a turnabout, Mr. Corsi said prosecutors had now accused him of lying to them about other communications he had with Mr. Stone regarding WikiLeaks. He claims his only crime is a faulty memory.
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