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The day after the night before: Trump caps fractious post-midterm press conference by firing attorney general Jeff Sessions

President has lost the House of Representatives, but remains bullish about his ability to implement ‘Maga’ agenda

What do the midterms mean for Trump?

Donald Trump capped a fraught midterm election period by firing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in a move that immediately provoked fear he may move against the Russia investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The US president spent the day after the night before sparring with journalists in a rare set-piece press conference at the White House. The Republican, who appeared tired and on a short fuse, told one reporter to “just sit down” and called him “the enemy of the people” as he was grilled for some 90 minutes after his party lost control of the House of Representatives.

Nonetheless, Mr Trump sought to portray the GOP’s showing as a historic success, with candidates having prevailed in an unusual number of Senate races, he said. In one closely-watched contest, the Texas incumbent Ted Cruz narrowly defeated Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat darling of social media, who observers later tipped as a possible candidate for president in 2020.

During his news conference Mr Trump appeared to extend an olive branch to Democrats, with whom he said he believed his Republican colleagues could produce “a lot” of legislation, particularly on infrastructure. He has pledged to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to modernise crumbling elements of the US’ road system and for improvements in other areas.

But he said that bipartisan working would be contingent on his opponents refraining from opening a string of investigations into his affairs. Democrats have already said they plan to do just that, probing the president’s tax returns, alleged conflicts of interest and other sore points now that they control several influential House committees.

Mr Trump’s first public appearance following the polls veered wildly from outright conflict with the media to praising incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi and envisioning peace, love and harmony among politicians and their constituents – pointing the finger at journalists for having sown division in the past.

The president hit out at CNN‘s Jim Acosta in particular after the reporter questioned him first over his rhetoric on immigration and then on Mr Mueller’s investigation. Mr Trump told Mr Acosta, who at times spoke over him and refused to relinquish his microphone, that “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them”.

He also berated a black reporter for asking a “racist question” about his decision to declare himself a nationalist. Mr Trump was asked by Yamiche Alcindor, of PBS Newshour, whether his rhetoric had “emboldened” white nationalists. Mr Trump said that “it’s a very racist question” and that “it’s a very terrible thing you said to me”, adding: ”I don’t believe it ... why do I have my highest numbers with African-Americans?”

As reporters gathered themselves following the marathon press conference, another bombshell dropped – Jeff Sessions had resigned at the president’s request. The attorney general’s sacking came after months of very public vitriol directed his way by Mr Trump, who was incensed by the former Alabama senator’s decision to recuse himself from oversight of Mr Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign for president and Russia.

“Since the day I was honoured to be sworn in as attorney general of the United States, I came to work at the Department of Justice every day determined to do my duty and serve my country,” Mr Sessions wrote in his resignation letter.

His departure – televised and made while surrounded by applauding colleagues including his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, and his successor, Matthew Whitaker – sparked warnings of a “constitutional crisis”. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and others warned Mr Trump not to move against Mr Mueller now that Mr Sessions was out of the way.

See below how we covered the midterms, and the aftermath, live

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More than 35 million voters have already cast their votes in the midterm elections.

The figure could signal the highest turnout in 50 years for a midterm US election

"We're well beyond historic midterms now," said Bryon Allen, chief research officer at political consulting firm WPA Intelligence.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 07:48

Early voting has already revealed a wide variety of concerns with voting and registration systems around the country — from machines that changed voter selections to registration forms tossed out because of clerical errors.

Election officials and voting rights groups fear that voter confidence in the results could be undermined if such problems become even more widespread on election day.

There is concern over last-minute court rulings on voter ID requirements, the handling of absentee ballots and other issues, which in some states could sow confusion among voters and poll workers.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 08:00

Turnout in midterm elections is typically near 40 per cent, much lower than presidential elections, where turnout has hit around 60 per cent in recent cycles.

It is estimated about 45 per cent of eligible voters could cast ballots this year, a turnout level that has not been seen in nearly a half century.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 08:07

Voters casting ballots early have reportedly encountered faulty machines in Texas and North Carolina and voter registration problems in Tennessee and Georgia. In other states, including Kansas, polling places have been closed or consolidated.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 08:21

The US Department of Homeland Security, FBI and other federal agencies have opened a “command centre” to help state and local election offices with any major problems that arise.

“We want them to be as informed as possible,” said Matt Masterson, senior cybersecurity adviser with the Department of Homeland Security. 

There have been no signs so far that Russia or any other foreign actor has tried to launch cyberattacks against voting systems in any state, according to federal authorities.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 08:25

Two congressional races in Virginia could provide an early steer on how things are going: a district in the Washington suburbs represented by Republican representative Barbara Comstock and another in the Richmond area held by Republican Dave Brat.

Mr Trump has struggled in the suburbs and Ms Comstock's district could be among the Republicans' first casualties as she faces Democrat Jennifer Wexton. Mr Brat, meanwhile, won his seat by upsetting then-house majority leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. But this time he is facing a serious threat from Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 08:54
Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 09:00

Donald Trump says midterms feel like 2016 election

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 09:12

The man accused of sending pipe bombs to prominent critics of President Donald Trump is expected to make his first court appearance on Tuesday in New York, where prosecutors said they will ask for him to be held without bail because he is considered dangerous.

Cesar Sayoc has been accused of sending improvised explosive devices to numerous Democrats, Trump critics and media outlets in a scare that heightened tensions before the crucial midterm elections, happening the same day as his court appearance.

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 09:25

Donald Trump tells final midterm rally: ‘We are one people’

Harry.Cockburn6 November 2018 09:27

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