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Post Politics Now: Key races in Alaska expected to be finalized under ranked-choice system

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 11/23/2022 John Wagner, Mariana Alfaro

Today, election officials in Alaska plan to finalize tabulations under the state’s ranked-choice voting system. During a live broadcast, viewers should learn whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) prevails over Republican opponent Kelly Tshibaka, who is backed by former president Donald Trump; and whether Rep. Mary Peltola (D) holds onto her seat against challengers, including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R). Current Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) is expected to easily win another term.

President Biden is on Nantucket island in Massachusetts, where he is spending Thanksgiving, with no public events planned. Vice President Harris is in Los Angeles with no public events planned. And Congress is out of session.

5:55 PM: On our radar: Thanksgiving is upon us, but the election rolls on

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden are in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. © Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post President Biden and first lady Jill Biden are in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving.

Post Politics Now will take a break for Thanksgiving, but we’ll be back Monday. Here’s what we’ll be watching over the next few days:

  • The Alaska House, Senate and gubernatorial races should be called Wednesday night. You can follow live results here at 8 p.m. Eastern.
  • Saturday voting comes to more than a dozen counties in Georgia this weekend. People can head to the polls after the state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied an emergency motion to block weekend voting. The runoff Senate election between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker ends Dec. 6.
  • Biden and the first lady will call members of the military to thank them for their service. The Thursday calls come as the first family spends Thanksgiving on Nantucket, Mass.

5:16 PM: Noted: U.S. bans sugar from biggest producer in Dominican Republic

A truck carrying sugar cane passes a woman and child outside a church in the Dominican Republic in May 2021. © Salwan Georges/The Washington Post A truck carrying sugar cane passes a woman and child outside a church in the Dominican Republic in May 2021.

Imports of sugar from the Dominican Republic’s largest sugar producer will be blocked at all United States ports.

As Laura Reiley reports, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday that, effective immediately, sugar and sugar-based products made by Central Romana Corp. will be detained at ports of entry after an investigation by the agency found indications of the use of forced labor in its operations. The investigation found evidence of abusive working and living conditions, withheld wages, excessive overtime and other violations.

This may not affect treats this holiday season, but the repercussions are coming, per Laura:

Sugar prices are already up more than 14 percent from a year ago, according to government data. Before the Central Romana import ban, the U.S. sugar supply had already declined because of lower sugar production and imports, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.
That said, most U.S. food companies have already secured their sugar supplies for the year, so baked goods, confections and other sugar-laden holiday treats are unlikely to see immediate price hikes resulting from the ban.
“America’s commercial bakeries have already procured or have contracts to procure sugar for well into 2023, so this stoppage will likely have no effect on the production of holiday baked goods,” said Lee Sanders, a senior vice president of the American Bakers Association. “As we look to the future, however, anything that disrupts a global commodity market could certainly make already high prices even higher.”

Read more on this decision — and its impacts — here.

4:56 PM: The latest: Jan. 6 panel staff angry at Cheney for focusing so much of report on Trump

Since Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) accepted the offer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve as the vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Cheney has exerted a remarkable level of control over much of the committee’s public and private work.

As Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig report, Cheney’s influence over the committee’s final report has rankled many former and current committee staffers. They are angered and disillusioned by Cheney’s push to focus the report primarily on former president Donald Trump and have bristled at the committee morphing into what they have come to view as a vehicle for the outgoing Wyoming lawmaker’s political future.

Per our colleagues:

Fifteen former and current staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, expressed concerns that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.
... Several committee staff members were floored earlier this month when they were told that a draft report would focus almost entirely on Trump and the work of the committee’s Gold Team, excluding reams of other investigative work.
Potentially left on the cutting room floor, or relegated to an appendix, were many revelations from the Blue Team — the group that dug into the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to assess the looming threat and prepare for the well-forecast attack on the Capitol. The proposed report would also cut back on much of the work of the Green Team, which looked at financing for the Jan. 6 attack, and the Purple Team, which examined militia groups and extremism.

Cheney spokesman Jeremy Adler issued a blistering statement Wednesday to The Washington Post in response to the criticisms.

“Donald Trump is the first president in American history to attempt to overturn an election and prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” Adler said. “So, damn right Liz is ‘prioritizing’ understanding what he did and how he did it and ensuring it never happens again.”

Adler added: “Some staff have submitted subpar material for the report that reflects long-held liberal biases about federal law enforcement, Republicans, and sociological issues outside the scope of the Select Committee’s work. She won’t sign onto any ‘narrative’ that suggests Republicans are inherently racist or smears men and women in law enforcement, or suggests every American who believes God has blessed America is a white supremacist.”

Read more on these tensions here.

4:31 PM: Take a look: Get to know Hakeem Jeffries, who is poised to be the next top House Democrat

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is aiming to be the next top House Democrat, succeeding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The Brooklyn native, at 52, would usher in a new generation of leadership in the House.

Last week, Jeffries officially announced his bid to lead the House Democrats as the minority leader for the coming term. In a letter to his colleagues, Jeffries asked for support: “Our top nongovernmental priority, for the sake of the American people, must be retaking the majority in November 2024.”

Take a look at the lawmaker’s history:

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4:09 PM: The latest: Here’s why Congress can obtain Trump’s tax returns

Without comment or recorded dissent, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ended former president Donald Trump’s years-long fight to shield his tax records from House Democrats, paving the way for a congressional panel to review six years of federal returns and raising the possibility some of that information could become public.

As Julian Mark reports, the decision draws down a nearly four-year effort by the House Ways and Means Committee to obtain Trump’s personal and business records. Trump has insisted that the exercise is politically motivated and that Congress lacked the authority to request the documents. Since leaving office, however, Trump has been dealt repeated losses in his bid to keep the records private.

Here’s what you need to know about Congress’s power to get tax returns, what led to the Supreme Court’s decision and what comes next:

Can Congress get my tax records?
Yes. A 1924 law allows certain congressional committees to obtain tax returns from the Treasury Department, which oversees the Internal Revenue Service. …
Can Congress get the president’s tax records?
Legally, experts say, the answer is yes. But the Trump administration, and later Trump’s lawyers, have resisted such attempts. …
Is there any precedent to this?
In 1973, the IRS turned over President Richard M. Nixon’s tax returns the same day the Joint Committee on Taxation asked for them amid questions over his income taxes. The committee reviewed the records, finding that he owed nearly $500,000 in additional taxes over four years. ...
What can happen next?
The Treasury Department has not publicly indicated when it will turn over the tax records, only that it will comply, The Post reported on Tuesday. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told CNN on Tuesday that the committee will get the documents “by next week.”

But remember: Democrats have a little more than a month to review the documents before Republicans officially take control of the House and its committees.

Read more on what comes next here.

3:27 PM: On our radar: Why is Alaska only today finalizing its elections?

Rep. Nancy Peltola (D-Alaska) reacts during her election night party in Anchorage. © Kerry Tasker/Reuters Rep. Nancy Peltola (D-Alaska) reacts during her election night party in Anchorage.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Alaska Division of Elections is expected to finalize results under its ranked-choice voting system, a process that should make clear which candidates prevailed in the state’s closely watched U.S. House and Senate races, among others.

Why now, more than two weeks after Election Day?

It’s in large part because Alaska election law allows absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day to arrive from overseas up until 15 days after polls close.

That provision predates the state’s move to a ranked-choice system — and election officials are hesitant to start applying the ranked-choice methodology until all the ballots are in.

Under ranked-choice voting, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent in the first round, the tabulation process kicks in.

The candidate in last place is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to remaining candidates based on the voters’ second-choice preferences. That process repeats itself until two candidates remain. Then, the candidate with the larger share of the votes is declared the winner.

In two key races — for U.S. House and Senate — no candidate is at 50 percent among the ballots that have already been counted.

In the House race, Rep. Mary Peltola (D) is close, with 48.7 percent. Former governor Sarah Palin (R) lags with 28.5 percent, followed by Nick Begich (R), with 23.4 percent. A libertarian candidates trails far behind.

In the Senate race, incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R) leads with 43.3 percent and Kelly Tshibaka (R) has 42.7 percent. A Democrat and a third Republican lag far behind.

2:45 PM: Take a look: Democrats call for gun action after recent mass killings

Following mass killings in Colorado and Virginia over the past week, Democratic lawmakers are once again calling for more legislation to combat gun violence.

Virginia state Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D) said legislators have to understand that prayers and thoughts are “just that and they’re not going to make a difference” until lawmakers come together and pass “common sense” gun reform.

Take a look:

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2:15 PM: Noted: Trump denounces Supreme Court as a political body with low approval ratings

Former president Donald Trump announces his 2024 bid for president at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15. © Thomas Simonetti/for The Washington Post Former president Donald Trump announces his 2024 bid for president at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on Nov. 15.

Donald Trump continued to lash out Wednesday at the Supreme Court after its order Tuesday that cleared the way for a congressional committee to examine the former president’s tax returns.

The Post’s Robert Barnes notes that in a posting on Truth Social, the online platform Trump founded, he denounced the court — three of whose justices he appointed — as a political body that has lost respect.

“Why would anybody be surprised that the Supreme Court has ruled against me, they always do!” Trump wrote at 1:14 a.m. Eastern.

Trump said the court’s decision not to block the release of the tax returns “creates terrible precedent for future Presidents. . . . The Supreme Court has lost its honor, prestige, and standing, & has become nothing more than a political body, with our Country paying the price.”

He returned to the subject of the court in an afternoon post, knocking the justices for low public approval ratings and the leak of a draft opinion in the case that ultimately overturned Roe. v. Wade.

“[T]hey are petrified of the Radical Left Maniacs (Democrats) who are destroying our Country, are unwilling to make bold, courageous, and proper decisions on Rigged and Stolen Elections, and are always wanting to be Politically Correct instead of doing what is BEST for the USA,” Trump claimed.

In a story on the court’s order regarding Trump’s tax returns, Bob notes that there were no recorded dissents and, as is often the case in emergency applications, the court did not state a reason for denying Trump’s request to withhold the records.

You can read more from Bob on the court’s order here.

2:08 PM: Analysis from Mariana Alfaro, Reporter on the breaking political news team

President Biden spoke to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) in the wake of a deadly shooting that left six dead at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va.

Per the White House, Biden spoke to Youngkin on Wednesday afternoon to offer support and federal assistance.

There have been seven mass shootings since Nov. 18, all but one of them involving fatalities.

1:46 PM: Noted: Trump aides Bannon, Miller advising the Bolsonaros on next steps

Stephen K. Bannon speaks during a campaign rally for Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake in Queen Creek, Ariz., on Nov. 6. © Joshua Lott/The Washington Post Stephen K. Bannon speaks during a campaign rally for Republican candidate for Arizona governor Kari Lake in Queen Creek, Ariz., on Nov. 6.

While tens of thousands of supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro camp outside military facilities across Brazil to protest his election loss, members of Bolsonaro’s inner circle are meeting with advisers to former president Donald Trump to discuss next steps.

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro, The Washingon Post’s Elizabeth Dwoskin and Gabriela Sá Pessoa write that Brazilian congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, has visited Florida since the Oct. 30 vote, meeting Trump at Mar-a-Lago and strategizing with other political allies by phone. Per Elizabeth and Gabriela:

He spoke with former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who was in Arizona assisting the campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, about the power of the pro-Bolsonaro protests and potential challenges to the Brazilian election results, Bannon said. He lunched in South Florida with former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller, now CEO of the social media company Gettr, and discussed online censorship and free speech, Miller said.
Neither Trump nor Eduardo Bolsonaro immediately responded to requests for comment.

You can read the full story here.

1:26 PM: The latest: White House likely to honor some GOP probes but not those on Biden’s son

President Biden with his son Hunter and grandson Beau during this year’s Independence Day celebration at the White House. © Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post President Biden with his son Hunter and grandson Beau during this year’s Independence Day celebration at the White House.

As House Republicans prepare to launch an onslaught of oversight investigations next year, the White House is planning to distinguish between inquiries it deems legitimate and others it views as politically, not legislatively, motivated — with an eye toward minimizing cooperation with probes it considers improper, according to two people familiar with the plans.

As Tyler Pager reports, White House officials caution that their decisions about cooperation will ultimately hinge on the nature of the investigations, but their preparations, which have been underway for months, hinge on such a split strategy. The White House is likely to respond to requests for documents and testimony relating to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, for example, but far less likely to engage with Republicans’ investigations into Hunter Biden, the president’s son, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Per Tyler:

The president, who has lost two other children, is highly protective of his son, who has a long history of drug use and other difficulties. … Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who is expected to head the Oversight Committee, held a news conference laying out their plans to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings. Apparently seeking to preempt White House arguments that Hunter Biden is a private citizen, Comer stressed that the GOP’s target is any involvement by President Biden himself.

Read more on these potential inquiries here.

1:10 PM: The latest: GOP candidate for Arizona attorney general sues to block certification

Arizona Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh speaks during an election night gathering. © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Arizona Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh speaks during an election night gathering.

Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for attorney general in Arizona, is suing his Democratic opponent and a wide range of state and county officials in a bid to block certification of the race and force them to declare him the winner in the Nov. 8 contest.

As Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Isaac Stanley-Becker report, Hamadeh — who filed his suit Tuesday — is trailing Democrat Kris Mayes by just 510 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast. The race was already headed to a mandatory recount, triggered when no more than 0.5 percent separates the two candidates. Hamadeh argued that the election was mishandled in a way that made a difference to the outcome.

The state’s tally gave him 1,254,102 votes and 1,254,612 to Mayes, a former chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities.

Per our colleagues:

The Republican National Committee joined Hamadeh, a former prosecutor and U.S. Army captain, in his lawsuit, which was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. The defendants named include Mayes and Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state and governor-elect, in addition to the county recorders and boards of supervisors in all of Arizona’s 15 counties.
The suit asks the court to issue an injunction preventing the secretary of state from certifying Mayes as the winner and requiring her to declare Hamadeh the winner. It also asks that the court order the various county officials to correct procedural and tabulation errors it claims they made and amend the final vote count, which it argues will make the Republican the winner.

A spokesman for the secretary of state’s office said Wednesday the office’s legal counsel is reviewing the lawsuit and preparing a response.

“The Office believes the lawsuit is legally baseless and factually speculative,” the spokesman said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Hamadeh himself is an election denier. He’s claimed, without evidence, that the 2020 U.S. election was “hijacked” and promised a “day of reckoning” for “those who worked to rob President Trump in the rigged 2020 election.”

Read more on this lawsuit here.

12:54 PM: This just in: Georgia Supreme Court reinstates six-week abortion ban

The Georgia Supreme Court has reinstated the state’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a week after it was overturned by a judge. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) The Georgia Supreme Court has reinstated the state’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, a week after it was overturned by a judge. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The Georgia Supreme Court has reinstated the state’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, just one week after the law was overturned by a Fulton County judge.

The Post’s Kim Bellware reports that in response to an emergency filing by the state last week after the ban was lifted, the high court issued a one-page order Wednesday that puts the lower court’s ruling on pause while it considers an appeal. Per Kim:

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney in his Nov. 15 decision determined that the so-called “heartbeat law” was unconstitutional when enacted in 2019 because the prevailing law of Roe v. Wade prohibited abortion bans pre-viability. After his ruling, abortion access in Georgia reverted to the pre-ban level of up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
The latest ruling from the state Supreme Court means abortion access is once again restricted after six weeks, effective immediately.

You can read Kim’s full story here.

12:24 PM: This just in: Ga. Supreme Court denies motion to block Saturday runoff voting

A sign showing the way for voters stands outside a Cobb County voting building during the first day of early voting in the general election Georgia on Oct, 17. © Mike Stewart/AP A sign showing the way for voters stands outside a Cobb County voting building during the first day of early voting in the general election Georgia on Oct, 17.

The Georgia Supreme Court denied an emergency motion by Republicans to block Saturday voting in the U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican Herschel Walker. The decision effectively ensures that Saturday voting will take place this weekend in counties that choose to conduct it.

The justices unanimously denied the motion, which had been filed by the Georgia Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The appeal from Georgia’s attorney general, Republican Chris Carr, is before the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The court also declined to block Saturday voting while litigation is ongoing.

The legal battles hinge on a dispute over parts of Georgia’s election code that determine when a runoff is allowed after a holiday. The policies have been revised with little clarification several times over the past few years, leading to confusion among election officials.

More than a dozen counties, mostly located in large population centers across the state, have opted to have Saturday voting since a judge ruled last week that Georgia’s election code did not prohibit Saturday voting during runoffs. The secretary of state’s office had advised counties they could not hold Saturday voting because it would contradict Georgia’s election laws, leading to the lawsuit by Warnock and the state Democratic Party and Senate campaign arm against Georgia.

By: Matthew Brown

12:05 PM: On our radar: Congress will award Gold Medal to officers who defended Capitol on Jan. 6

The members of the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. police who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection will be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal during a Dec. 6 ceremony, the House speaker’s office announced.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other members of congressional leadership will attend, including Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The medals were approved by a unanimous Senate in August 2021. The House had earlier passed a broader measure in June on a 406-21 vote. All 21 votes in opposition were from Republicans, many of whom objected to wording in the legislation that referred to the riot as an “insurrection” and to the Capitol as the “the temple of our American Democracy.”

Per Pelosi’s office: The “United States Congress owes its deepest appreciation to the extraordinary valor of the United States Capitol Police and the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, who risked and gave their lives to save our Capitol.”

“Congress will honor these exceptional men and women for their heroism and courage by presenting them with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow,” the office said in a statement.

Though the bills appropriating the medals were passed last year, a lengthy process involving the design and creation of the medals resulted in them being awarded this year.

11:45 AM: On our radar: Hogan taking more steps toward a possible White House bid

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Friday. © John Locher/AP Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Friday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is about to host a series of gatherings, including a fundraiser next week in Annapolis for a new political action committee, as his exploration of a 2024 White House bid intensifies.

The activity comes on the heels of Hogan’s appearance last week — along with a bevy of other 2024 hopefuls — at the Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Nevada, where he called the 2022 midterms the third election that Republicans lost under Donald Trump, declaring, “Three strikes and you’re out.”

Last month, after Hogan appeared at a Politics & Eggs breakfast in New Hampshire — an event considered a rite of passage for White House hopefuls — The Post’s Ovetta Wiggins took a look at his maneuverings. Per Ovetta:

“I want to be in position,” Hogan told the audience in Manchester, N.H., when asked if there is a lane for him if Trump runs in 2024. “Is there a lane? That’s part of what we’re trying to find out.”
Hogan, one of the most popular governors in the country, continues to poll well in Maryland. A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 73 percent of registered voters approve of the job he is doing. ...
Hogan said he plans to hold a summit in Annapolis after the midterm elections, with thought leaders from across the country to “talk about the path forward, what we can do to get the country moving in a different direction.”

You can read Ovetta’s full story here.

11:06 AM: Take a look: White House provides talking points for Thanksgiving political discussions

Politics is a topic many families try to avoid at Thanksgiving gatherings. But if you’re going to go there, apparently the White House wants you to be prepared.

On Wednesday, multiple White House officials, including Ron Klain, the chief of staff, and Herbie Ziskend, the White House deputy communications director, shared a document on Twitter with this headline: “President Biden’s Top Accomplishments for when chatting with your Uncle at Thanksgiving.”

The document ticks off achievements that the White House typically touts and includes a few talking points on an assertion that Republicans are “EXTREME.”

10:43 AM: Analysis: Vaccinated people now make up a majority of covid deaths

President Biden's chief medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, waves on his way out of the daily press briefing in the James Brady Room at the White House on Tuesday. © Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post President Biden's chief medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, waves on his way out of the daily press briefing in the James Brady Room at the White House on Tuesday.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s preeminent infectious-disease expert, used his last White House briefing Tuesday ahead of his December retirement to urge Americans to get the recently authorized omicron-specific coronavirus vaccine booster shots.

“The final message I give you from this podium is that please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated covid-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible,” he said.

The advice is particularly timely because the efficacy of vaccines wane over time, and as The Post’s McKenzie Beard notes in The Health 202, vaccinated people now make up a majority of covid deaths. Per McKenzie:

Fifty-eight percent of coronavirus deaths in August were people who were vaccinated or boosted, according to an analysis conducted for The Health 202 by Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s a continuation of a troubling trend that has emerged over the past year. As vaccination rates have increased and new variants appeared, the share of deaths of people who were vaccinated has been steadily rising. In September 2021, vaccinated people made up just 23 percent of coronavirus fatalities. In January and February this year, it was up to 42 percent, per our colleagues Fenit Nirappil and Dan Keating.
Being unvaccinated is still a major risk factor for dying from covid-19. But efficacy wanes over time, and an analysis out last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the need to get regular booster shots to keep one’s risk of death from the coronavirus low, especially for the elderly.

You can read the full analysis here.

10:18 AM: Analysis: Lawmakers want to know Musk’s plan to fight misinformation in Spanish

Elon Musk appears at an event in Berlin in December 2020. © Pool/Photographer: Pool/Getty Images Elon Musk appears at an event in Berlin in December 2020.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are demanding that Elon Musk spell out his plan to combat Spanish-language misinformation on Twitter, expressing concern that his decision to slash the company’s safety teams could be especially harmful to vulnerable communities.

Writing in The Technology 202, The Washington Post’s Cristiano Lima reports that in a letter to Musk on Tuesday, the lawmakers voiced “serious concerns” that the mass layoffs from Twitter’s moderation workforce may have “harmful and long-lasting consequences … especially for Spanish-language and other non-English language users.”

Per Cristiano:

The letter called on Twitter to disclose how many content moderators it currently employs, what languages they are fluent in, what markets they serve and what countries they are based in, and to contrast that with its staffing levels and language capacities before recent cuts.
Lawmakers also pressed Musk on whether Twitter will still review as much content “in its original language” as before, and how the company planned to make sure its algorithmic moderation is “equally effective across all languages in which the platform operates.”

You can read the full analysis here.

10:08 AM: The latest: Biden decries ‘senseless act of violence’ in Va., calls for more gun control

President Biden leaves the Oval Office as he makes his way to Marine One on Thursday. (Elizabeth Frantz/The Washington Post) © Elizabeth Frantz/For The Washington Post President Biden leaves the Oval Office as he makes his way to Marine One on Thursday. (Elizabeth Frantz/The Washington Post)

President Biden on Wednesday decried “yet another horrific and senseless act of violence” and called for “greater action” on gun control following Tuesday’s mass shooting at a Walmart in the Tidewater area of Virginia that left six people dead along with the shooter.

“Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of our most cherished holidays that brings us together as Americans and as families, when we hug our loved ones and count our blessings,” Biden said in a statement. “But because of yet another horrific and senseless act of violence, there are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving.”

In his statement, Biden said he had signed “the most significant gun reform in a generation” but said it was “not nearly enough.”

The law included expanded background checks on people between ages 18 and 21 seeking to buy a gun; incentives for states to pass red-flag laws intended to keep people deemed dangerous from having guns; and a prohibition on owning guns for those convicted of domestic abuse of dating partners.

Biden did not specify what “greater action” he is seeking. Previously he has called for reinstating a ban on assault-style weapons, among other measures.

In his statement, Biden also said he had directed federal officials to provide “any support and assistance needed to the people of Chesapeake.”

9:42 AM: On our radar: Government officials keeping close watch on holiday travel

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during an event at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Monday. © Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg News Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during an event at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Monday.

Federal officials, including members of Congress and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, are keeping a close watch on airline travel during a holiday season that has begun with a stretched-out Thanksgiving window.

The Post’s Ian Duncan and Lori Aratani write that a rocky summer that saw elevated cancellation rates drew the ire of passengers, lawmakers and Buttigieg. Per our colleagues:

Federal officials announced fines last week against six airlines over delayed refunds, signaling they would be watching how the holidays unfold.
“We are delighted that demand is returning like nobody thought possible, with more and more passengers having the income and the desire to take to the skies,” Buttigieg said Monday during a visit to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. “But we also know that means airlines have to continue taking steps to address the challenges of servicing those tickets that they sell.”
Executives expect the Sunday after Thanksgiving to be the busiest day for air travel over the period, when the Transportation Security Administration said more than 2.5 million people could pass through its gates.

You can read more about holiday travel here.

9:27 AM: Take a look: New Warnock ad makes strategic use of a bag of dog waste

A new ad from Sen. Raphael G. Warnock shows the Georgia Democrat walking his dog and makes strategic use of a bag of its waste to relay what Warnock thinks of recent advertising from Herschel Walker, his Republican opponent in the Dec. 6 runoff election.

In the 30-second spot, Warnock also commiserates with voters about the need for more balloting to resolve the election. Under Georgia law, runoffs are required if no candidate reaches 50 percent in the general election. A libertarian candidate who won just over 2 percent of the vote in the Nov. 8 election will not be on the runoff ballot.

8:59 AM: On our radar: D.C. pleads for attention from Senate, Biden on big judicial vacancies

Last year, as the first half of this congressional session came to a close, D.C. courts issued a dire warning as they faced an unprecedented number of judicial vacancies that slowed the wheels of justice in every corner of the law.

This year, the judges are in virtually the same position: waiting for the U.S. Senate to help, The Post’s Meagan Flynn and Michael Brice-Saddler report. Per our colleagues:

The perpetual crisis of large numbers of judicial vacancies on the D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals has underscored how Congress, even though it oversees the District, does not always tend to the city’s needs, even when they are pressing.
Since it’s not a state, D.C. has almost no control over the nomination of judges who administer justice in the city in criminal and civil matters and in administrative cases.
Instead, the city can make recommendations but must rely on the president to tap nominees and the U.S. Senate to confirm them — but with many other things on its to-do list, the chamber does not keep pace with vacancies, devoting little time or attention to them throughout the year until city officials once again sound the alarm.

You can read the full story here.

8:38 AM: Noted: At Qatar’s World Cup, Biden’s envoy balances firmness and flattery

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attends the United States vs. Wales match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday. © Francisco Seco/AP Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, attends the United States vs. Wales match at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is rejecting criticisms that his World Cup appearance in Qatar contributed to indifference about human rights, as some activists denounced the Persian Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQ people.

Reporting from Doha, Qatar, The Post’s John Hudson relays that Blinken, an avowed soccer fan, said his visit meant the opposite. John writes:

It resulted, he said, in deeper U.S. cooperation with Qatar on human rights, labor standards and counter-human-trafficking efforts while serving as an opportunity to root for the U.S. national team, whose opening match against Wales ended in a 1-1 draw.
“I make no bones about having the pleasure to actually come and cheer on Team USA,” Blinken said during a news conference, when asked by reporters how he justified the trip. Members of Congress, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), also attended.

You can read the full story here.

8:13 AM: The latest: White House condemns deadly terrorist attack in Jerusalem

Israeli police inspect the scene of an explosion at a bus stop in Jerusalem on Wednesday. © Mahmoud Illean/AP Israeli police inspect the scene of an explosion at a bus stop in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday “unequivocally” condemning a terrorist attack in Jerusalem that killed a student and injured at least 18 others after explosions went off at two bus stops at the height of morning rush hour.

“We condemn unequivocally the acts of terror overnight in Jerusalem,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. She also said the United States has offered Israel its assistance in investigating the attack.

“We mourn the reported loss of life and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Jean-Pierre said. “The United States stands with the Government and people of Israel. As President Biden emphasized during his visit to Israel in July, our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad and unbreakable.”

The Post’s Shira Rubin reports that the blasts come amid a surge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians this year, and there are fears it could represent a return to the bombing campaigns of 20 years ago.

The first explosion occurred about 7:05 a.m. local time, near a bus station at the exit from the city. Half an hour later, another blast went off at a bus station near the Ramot Junction just over two miles away. Both bus stops were packed with students.

You can read Shira’s full story here.

7:52 AM: Analysis: Dissecting GOP claims about Hunter Biden deals allegedly involving his father

Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, looks on during a Presidential Medal of Freedom medaling ceremony in the East Room at the White House on July 7. (Tom Brenner/The Washington Post) © Tom Brenner/For the Washington Post Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, looks on during a Presidential Medal of Freedom medaling ceremony in the East Room at the White House on July 7. (Tom Brenner/The Washington Post)

Soon after claiming control of the House in the upcoming Congress, Republicans announced that they would launch an investigation into business dealings of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, with the aim of proving that the president was involved in some of those deals as well.

Writing in The Fact Checker, The Post’s Glenn Kessler relays that the news conference, and accompanying report issued by House Republicans, relied heavily on materials found on a hard-drive copy of the laptop Hunter Biden supposedly left behind for repair in a Delaware shop in April 2019. Per Glenn:

The laptop has been a source of significant reporting about Hunter Biden’s personal and business life, but many news organizations have treated its contents with trepidation because it emerged late in the 2020 presidential campaign and, at the time, they were unable to verify its authenticity.

At Thursday’s news conference, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, referenced a deal Hunter Biden tried to strike with CEFC China Energy, an energy conglomerate.

Many aspects of his financial arrangements have been examined by news organizations, including The Washington Post. But Comer made assertions that have not been proved, are in dispute or appear incorrect. Any claim of a potential connection between Joe Biden and his son’s business dealings, thus far, is especially strained.

You can read Glenn’s full analysis here.

7:23 AM: Analysis: The educational divide between voters is growing

Supporters hold signs at a rally with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 7. © Sara Stathas/For The Washington Post Supporters hold signs at a rally with Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 7.

When Democrat Tony Evers defeated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2018, he won Dane County overwhelmingly. When Evers won reelection earlier this month, though, he did even better: He carried Dane — Wisconsin’s second-most-populous county — with 79 percent of the vote, up from 75 percent four years earlier.

Writing in The Early 202, The Post’s Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell say the shift might seem slight, but it reflects a significant political realignment, as voters with college degrees nationwide move toward Democrats and those without them gravitate toward Republicans. Per our colleagues:

Wisconsin, which promises to be a hard-fought battleground once again in 2024, offers a case study of this trend.
Dane County, home to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, has a higher share of residents 25 and older who hold at least a bachelor’s degree than any other county in Wisconsin and all but 48 other counties in the country. It’s one of many highly educated counties that shifted a little further in Democrats’ direction this year, continuing a trend that’s been playing out for years.

You can read the full analysis here.

7:00 AM: On our radar: Ranked-choice election results expected in Alaska

Alaska officials are expected Wednesday to announce the outcome of the state’s first ranked-choice general election, with results expected for the House, Senate and gubernatorial races.

Under Alaska’s system, voters can rank four candidates for each race on the ballot, regardless of party. Candidates who garner 50 percent of the vote are declared the winners, but when that threshold isn’t met in a race, it goes into a process called tabulation.

In this system, the fourth-place finisher is cut, and the votes for that candidate go to the next choice on the voters’ ballots. This cycle is repeated until two candidates remain. The one with the most tabulated votes wins the election.

Here’s what we know about key races still to be resolved:

  • Rep. Mary Peltola (D) led in early results in the race for Alaska’s sole House district with 48.7 percent of first-choice votes. Former governor Sarah Palin, a Republican, trailed with 25.8 percent of first-choice votes.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) led the Senate race — but by a slim margin. Murkowski received 43.3 percent of the first-choice votes, while her closest challenger, Kelly Tshibaka (R), received 42.7 percent. Murkowski is a critic of former president Donald Trump, while Tshibaka has openly embraced him.
  • One race may not go to tabulation. Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) has remained above the 50 percent threshold as more results were announced. If that doesn’t change with the final results of absentee, early and questioned ballots, he will be declared the winner.

Wednesday’s tabulation will be a bit of a show. Alaskan broadcasters will air the process live, with elections officials calling the state’s House and Senate races first.

In August, there was a trial run of sorts, as the Division of Elections did the tabulation live on Facebook for the special election to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R).

6:46 AM: Noted: Mayorkas has no plans to resign in response to McCarthy’s call

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has no plans to resign, officials said after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) threatened to impeach him next year when Republicans take control of the House.

“Secretary Mayorkas is proud to advance the noble mission of this Department, support its extraordinary workforce, and serve the American people,” spokeswoman Marsha Espinosa said in an email Tuesday. “Members of Congress can do better than point the finger at someone else; they should come to the table and work on solutions for our broken system and outdated laws, which have not been overhauled in over 40 years.” She spoke after McCarthy held a news conference near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, where he threatened impeachment if Mayorkas does not step down.

Espinosa noted that the agency is managing a record number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border, including of people fleeing repressive regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, who cannot easily be deported.

In El Paso, McCarthy said he has directed incoming committee chairs to immediately launch investigations over “the collapse of our border” and the overall reduction in immigration arrests in the interior of the United States when Republicans take control of the House in January, The Post’s Marianna Sotomayor and Maria Sacchetti report.

You can read more about McCarthy’s news conference here.

6:38 AM: Take a look: Walker accuser challenges him to meet her ahead of runoff election

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One of the two women who have accused Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker of pressuring her to have an abortion spoke at a news conference Tuesday, offering more details of what she says was a years-long affair with Walker that resulted in her becoming pregnant in 1993. She challenged Walker to publicly meet with her ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff election.

Walker, who has denied the accusations, faces Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) in the runoff.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, participated in a news conference with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred. You can read more here about what she had to say from The Post’s Sabrina Rodriguez.

6:35 AM: The latest: Supreme Court clears way for Trump tax returns to go to Congress

Former president Donald Trump speaks remotely during a Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas on Saturday. © David Becker/For The Washington Post Former president Donald Trump speaks remotely during a Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas on Saturday.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared the way for a congressional committee to examine Donald Trump’s tax returns, denying without comment the former president’s last-ditch effort to extend a legal battle that has consumed Congress and the courts for years.

The Post’s Robert Barnes reports that the justices’ brief order means that the Treasury Department may quickly hand over six years of tax records from Trump and some of his companies to the House Ways and Means Committee. Per Bob:

There were no recorded dissents and, as is often the case in emergency applications, the court did not state a reason for denying Trump’s request to withhold the records.
Lawmakers have said they need Trump’s tax returns from his time in office, plus the year before his term and the year after for comparison, to help evaluate the effectiveness of annual presidential audits. Trump has argued that Democratic lawmakers are on a fishing expedition designed to embarrass him politically.

You can read Bob’s full story here.

6:33 AM: The latest: Appeals panel grills Trump lawyer over FBI search of Mar-a-Lago

A view from inside the ballroom at former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Nov. 1. © Thomas Simonetti/for The Washington Post A view from inside the ballroom at former president Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Nov. 1.

A panel of three appeals court judges expressed deep skepticism Tuesday that the federal government violated former president Donald Trump’s rights when FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in August, questioning whether a lower-court judge erred in appointing an outside expert to review documents seized from the Florida property.

Reporting from Atlanta, The Post’s Perry Stein writes that during oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the government said the neutral arbiter, known as a special master, should never have been appointed. Per Perry:

Justice Department attorney Sopan Joshi told the judges Trump has failed to prove that he suffered the “irreparable harm” from the FBI search that would legally necessitate a special master. Joshi called the appointment an “intrusion” on the executive branch.
In response, James Trusty, an attorney for Trump, argued that a special master appointment didn’t significantly hamper the criminal investigation of potential mishandling of classified documents, obstruction and destruction of government property. Trusty said that during the “carte blanche” Aug. 8 search of Trump’s home and private club, agents wrongly took personal items including golf shirts and a photo of singer Celine Dion.

You can read the full story here.

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