Newsletter: Alabama Senate election makes life harder for President Trump


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t going to have to answer those questions, after all. At least, not today.

Had the Alabama Senate race gone a different way, the hubbub in Washington was going to be about one thing: Would Roy Moore be embraced by Senate Republicans, or sidelined? Asked about the difficult position his party would be in should Moore win, McConnell told reporters Tuesday they were “good questions for tomorrow.”

Doug Jones toppled Moore by more than 21,000 votes, sparing McConnell the awkward position of dealing with Moore, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers as a younger man. It also cost McConnell’s Republican Party one of its seats.

Moore did not concede Tuesday. In fact, Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead told supporters there was not a “final decision on the outcome,” citing outstanding military ballots and referencing Alabama law that would require an automatic recount should the vote margin be within 0.5%. “It’s not over,” Moore said.


As the spread showed 1.6% between Jones and Moore, CNN interviewed Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who said any different outcome was highly unlikely. “The people of Alabama have spoken tonight, they have made their voice heard loud and clear,” he said.

Assuming Tuesday’s vote is certified, Jones would be sworn in next month — too late for the anticipated vote on the GOP tax plan.

“This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency,” Jones told his supporters after he was declared the winner. (Watch the video.)

It’s a race, not unlike the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts in 2010, that was never expected to go this way given the partisan makeup of the state. Just as that was seen as a rebuke of President Obama, the result was framed as a blow to President Trump. (That, and the night’s other takeaways.)

For his part, the president issued Jones congratulations. “The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win,” Trump tweeted. There were more than 22,000 write-ins.


On Wednesday, Trump circled back on his original endorsement of Sen. Luther Strange, who lost the GOP primary to Moore in September. Trump tweeted that he endorsed Strange because he didn’t think Moore could win the general. “I was right,” he said.

The race concluded with plenty of drama, as Jones kept quiet about his backing from Obama on the campaign trail, as Moore dismissed the allegations against him as “ritual defamation” and Moore’s wife made an off-color remark.

As for what it means next year, Cathleen Decker sees a bigger problem for Republicans: “Even in Alabama, a state he won by 28 percentage points, Trump was unable to ease his candidate over the finish line. Exit polls Tuesday indicated one reason: Voters even in this heavily Republican state were closely split between approval and disapproval of Trump. That’s an ominous sign for Republicans heading into the midterm election.”

Meanwhile, get to know Sen.-elect Jones.


Trump will have lunch Wednesday at the White House with the appointed conferees negotiating substantial differences between the House and Senate tax cut bills. One of the discussion points surely will be the state and local tax deduction.

Rep. Darrell Issa joined California cities in urging Congress to keep the deduction. Meantime, the rush to finish the GOP tax overhaul hit a snag as Republicans grappled with the two plans, and paused to consider unintended consequences of the most massive rewrite of the tax code in a generation.


White House lawyer Ty Cobb has been saying for months that he expects a speedy conclusion to the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump administration. Now he tells Chris Megerian that Robert S. Mueller III’s team has finished interviews with White House officials. “All the White House interviews are over,” Cobb said on Tuesday.

At the same time, Republicans have ramped up their efforts to undermine the investigation, raising concerns about conflicts of interests and other allegations of misconduct. Trump’s personal lawyers joined the effort as well. While they didn’t criticize Mueller himself, they said there needs to be another special counsel to examine problems at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


-- Trump cited the suspect in the New York subway bombing as an argument for his crackdown on legal as well as illegal immigration.

-- The president attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Twitter.

-- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faced his staff Tuesday, talking to a group of people who have been demoralized by months of resignations and the Trump administration’s tumultuous foreign policy.

-- Former Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner and Trump fundraiser Jamie McCourt was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.

-- Vladimir Putin is briefed on Trump’s tweets.

Get the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.


Over the past decade, California lawmakers have worked to ensure sexual harassment and assault victims in other fields know their rights and that processes to investigate claims are transparent, independent and clear to all those who might need them. But victims and lawyers say the California Legislature has not held its own members to the same standards, Jazmine Ulloa reports.


It would cost about $2.67 million for a special election on the recall of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), but only $931,000 to put his potential recall on the regular June primary ballot, which will also feature races for governor and congressional seats.

The savings could give ammunition to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to put the recall measure on the primary ballot, possibly improving Newman’s chance of staying in office.

A reminder you can keep up with the latest via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.


-- California’s cap-and-trade program may have been designed to combat climate change, but a new analysis predicts it also could provide significant cash — as much as $8 billion in a decade’s time — for state and regional programs.

-- Female members of Congress are calling for an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Trump.

-- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has yet another Democratic challenger. Rachel Payne, a tech executive and Google alum from Aliso Viejo, announced her campaign Monday.

-- A challenger to Rep. Duncan Hunter says he’s dropping his campaign and endorsing a fellow Democrat in the race.

-- The special election to replace recently resigned Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) will be in spring 2018.

-- Vice President Mike Pence met with California lawmakers about the massive Southern California fires.

-- Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said leaders must talk about the health effects of climate change.

-- Assemblymen Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) and Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) have agreed to pay fines to the state’s political watchdog agency for violating campaign finance rules.

-- Cheech Marin is teaching Californians how to register marijuana businesses with the state.


Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Monday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.