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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race in Alabama enough to spur an automatic recount, the state’s election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore to concede.

Speaking during an afternoon news conference in Birmingham, Jones said a concession from Moore is the “right thing” to do, and that ‘it’s time to heal.”

But Moore hasn’t budged after a stunning loss in a reliably GOP state.

“Realize, when the vote is this close, it is not over,” he told supporters at his election-night party in Montgomery late Tuesday. Moore did not make any public statements or appearances Wednesday.

Jones is leading Moore by about 20,000 votes, or about 1.5 percent, with all precincts counted.

A 2003 Alabama law triggers an automatic recount when the winner’s margin of victory is less than half of 1 percent. Jones’ margin is currently about three times that threshold. To obtain an automatic recount, lingering ballots — such as those mailed in by military personnel — would first have to significantly reduce Jones’ margin of victory, Secretary of State John Merrill said.

“It would be very unlikely for that to occur,” Merrill said.

There are three types of votes yet to be counted that could somewhat alter the margin between Jones and Moore: the ballots from military personnel and other overseas voters; provisional ballots that have to be reviewed to ensure they are valid; and write-in votes. Write-in votes are counted only if they exceed the difference between the first- and second-place candidates, which in this case they do. There are approximately 22,000 write-in ballots.

The secretary of state will tell counties Monday whether write-in votes must be tabulated. On Tuesday, counties will count those, if necessary, along with the provisional ballots and overseas ballots.

The state canvassing board will declare whether an automatic recount is needed, when it meets sometime between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3. The recount would begin within 72 hours of that decision.

According to the nonpartisan elections group FairVote, statewide recounts are rare, and reversals even rarer. Statewide recounts between 2000 and 2015 resulted in an average margin swing of 282 votes between the front-runners, according to a report from the group.

At least one fellow Republican who knows what it’s like to lose an election urged Moore to accept Jones’ win.

“Roy Moore won’t concede; says will wait on God to speak,” former Arkansas Gov. and unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tweeted. “God wasn’t registered to vote in AL but the ppl who voted did speak and it wasn’t close enough for recount. In elections everyone does NOT get a trophy. I know first hand but it’s best to exit with class.”

Alabama lawmakers passed the seldom-used recount law in 2003, following an election dispute between then-Gov. Don Siegelman and Republican challenger Bob Riley. The law also was invoked in 2004 when a proposal to delete unenforceable segregationist language from the state constitution narrowly failed.

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The Secret Service on Wednesday said it was not involved in Omarosa Manigault Newman’s departure from the White House.

“Reporting regarding Secret Service personnel physically removing Omarosa Manigault Newman from the @WhiteHouse complex is inaccurate,” the agency tweeted.

The Secret Service said it “was not involved in the termination process of Ms Manigault Newman or the escort off of the complex.”

“Our only involvement in this matter was to deactivate the individual’s pass which grants access to the complex,” the agency said.

American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan reported earlier Wednesday, citing unnamed sources, that the Secret Service “escorted” Manigault Newman “off the property” after she “tried to go into the residence” to see President Donald Trump.

“And mind you, Gen. Kelly has cut off her walk-in access to go into the Oval Office and things of that nature,” Ryan said on CNN, referring to White House chief of staff John Kelly. “Security alerted Gen. Kelly, he came back down, told the Secret Service to take her out of there.”

The White House on Wednesday said that Manigault Newman “resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities.”

“Her departure will not be effective until January 20, 2018,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service.”

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The first full Obamacare open enrollment period of the Trump administration ends Friday, and experts expect signups on to surge right before the deadline. Should that surge overwhelm the federal website, it’s an open question whether the Department of Health and Human Services will extend the deadline, offering a grace period for people who tried to sign up and were unable to do so.

On Wednesday afternoon, the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees that deal with health care sent a letter to HHS demanding to know what the agency plans to do for those stuck “in line” trying to sign up for health insurance when the clock strikes midnight on Friday.

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Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL) on Wednesday said he received a “very gracious” call from President Donald Trump congratulating him on his upset victory, but he has not spoken with Republican opponent Roy Moore, who has not conceded yet.

“It was a very gracious call. I very much appreciated it,” Jones said at a press conference of his call with Trump. “He congratulated me on the race that we won. He congratulated me and my staff on the way and the manner in which we handled this campaign and went forward.”

Jones said he and Trump “talked about finding common ground to work together.”

“He invited me over to the White House to visit as soon as I get up there,” Jones said. “So it was a very nice phone call, a very pleasant phone call, and I appreciated him very much reaching out to me.”

Earlier in the press conference, a reporter asked Jones if he had spoken with Moore, who has not conceded and who has suggested he may demand a recount.

“I have not,” Jones said.

“Do you think that he should concede?” a reporter asked.

“I’m going to leave that to him,” Jones said. “I’m going to reach out.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican bill that would eliminate key loan subsidies for college students and give a boost to for-profit colleges has passed the first major hurdle in the House of Representatives.

The bill, a rewrite of the nation’s main law governing higher education, passed the House Committee on Education and the Workforce late Tuesday after more than 10 hours of debate. Democrats complained that the bill was rushed through the committee just two weeks after it was introduced without giving them a fair chance to review and amend it.

But committee chairwoman Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, said the legislation “delivers the serious reforms needed to empower students and families to achieve an essential part of the American dream: earning a high-quality education, finding a good-paying job, and living a successful life.”

The bill would eliminate the interest subsidy on loans for students while they are in college. The American Council of Education estimates the change would affect 6 million students and that would have the effect of increasing students’ interest payments by 45 percent for a four-year degree and 87 percent for a four-year degree followed by a master’s program.

“It is a bad bill for borrowers,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education. “We are increasing the cost of college for students.”

Hartle added that with more debt to repay after college, students will have to make more difficult decisions regarding what careers to pursue and whether to attend graduate school, get married and start a family.

“Educational debt affects post-college personal and professional choices: it’s careers, it’s graduate school, family formation, marriage; this would exacerbate that problem because students will be paying more money in educational debt every month,” he said.

The bill would also do away with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which was begun in 2007 with the aim of motivating university graduates to take government and teaching jobs in remote rural areas. Under the program, the remainder of a student’s debt is forgiven after he or she makes 120 qualifying payments, or typically after 10 years. The bill would eliminate this program for new borrowers, while those already in the program would be grandfathered in.

The bill also would strike two Obama-era regulations that protect students who are defrauded by for-profits colleges: the gainful employment provision, which requires career programs to provide students an education that would enable them to repay their debts, and the borrower defense regulation, which boosted student protections against fraud by for-profit institutions. The Education Department is now rewriting those rules and it’s unclear how that process will be affected by the bill.

“It is somewhat surprising how brazen the bill is in terms of reducing accountability and providing more taxpayer dollars to for-profit colleges without any strings attached,” said Clare McCann, a higher education expert with the New America think tank. “The bill went out of its way to limit any kind of accountably for profits.”

In a measure that enjoys broad support, the bill simplifies the process of applying for federal student aid. Students now are required to complete a cumbersome, 10-page long form, which may present an additional difficulty for low-income and first-generation students.

It was unclear when the bill would be considered by the full House. The Senate is now beginning to work on its own version of the bill.

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The inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency will inspect EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s construction of a $24,570 “privacy booth” in his office, the IG said in a letter published Tuesday.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, published a letter from EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Tuesday, in which Elkins said a probe of Pruitt’s construction of a “secure, soundproof communications booth” in his office is “within the authority of the IG to review, and we will do so.”

In a hearing last week, Pruitt confirmed that he’d constructed a SCIF — short for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility — in his office for conversations of classified information and for “secure conversations that need to take place,” including with the White House. He didn’t put a number on what percentage of his time he spent in the SCIF.

“The use of a secure phone line is strongly preferred for cabinet-level officials, especially when discussing sensitive matters,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told ABC News in a report published Wednesday.

Elkins noted in his letter to Pallone that “[a]s you know, we have numerous pending matters, and are not sure when we can begin with this engagement” and that his office “has been funded at less than the levels we deem adequate to do all of the work that should be done, and therefore we have to make difficult decisions about whether to accept any given potential undertaking.”

It’s true: the EPA’s self-investigating body is swamped. The office is already probing investigating Pruitt’s use of charter and military flights at taxpayers’ expense, including on trips home to Oklahoma.

And in a letter to Pallone dated four days prior to his message about Pruitt’s secure phone booth, Elkins confirmed that his office would look into a meeting between Pruitt and the National Mining Association in April 2017, to establish whether Pruitt or his staff may have violated lobbying laws by communicating their opposition to the Paris climate accord.

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Brett J. Talley, a lawyer unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, will not move forward in the nomination process for a lifetime federal district judgeship, TPM confirmed on Wednesday.

TPM also confirmed that Talley offered to withdraw his nomination.

Talley has no trial experience and was only the fourth nominee since 1989 to be rated “not qualified” by the ABA. President Donald Trump nevertheless nominated Talley in September as his pick for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

The New York Times reported in November that Talley did not disclose his marriage to Ann Donaldson, top White House lawyer Don McGahn’s chief of staff, during his nomination process before the Senate.

BuzzFeed News reported, also in November, that Talley also failed to disclose thousands of posts he appeared to have written for, a University of Alabama sports fan website, on political subjects including immigration and gun control.

Talley appeared to go by the username “BamainBoston,” and identified himself in 2014 in a post titled “Washington Post Did A Feature On Me” with a link to a report that dubbed him “the ghost hunter and horror novelist who writes Sen. Rob Portman’s speeches.” (Talley did disclose to the Senate that he was part of The Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group in 2009–10.)

In one post about gun control in December 2012, titled “Aftermath of Connecticut Shooting” and written three days after a gunman killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Talley said, “My solution would be to stop being a society of pansies and man up.”

In another post on the same fan website, surfaced by Slate, Talley appeared to defend “the first KKK” which he incorrectly claimed “was entirely different than the KKK of the early 19th Century.”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon lamented that some Republicans were “happy” that Republican Roy Moore, who faced several sexual misconduct allegations, lost the Alabama Senate race.

“We wish we would have gotten the seat. A lot of Republicans feel differently. They’re very happy with the way it turned out,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “But I would have — as the leader of the party, I would have liked to have had the seat. I want to endorse the people that are running.”

Though most Republicans never fully yanked their support for Moore, a handful of GOP lawmakers opposed him outright. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) donated to Democrat Doug Jones’ campaign and celebrated Jones’ win Tuesday night. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a frequent critic of Trump, said Wednesday morning that he was “happy” with Jones’ win. Both senators are not running for re-election.

The President told reporters Wednesday that Moore’s loss will not affect his agenda but also stressed that Republican gains in 2018 would be helpful.

“I will say, we have to get more senators and more congressmen that are Republicans elected in ’18. And then you’ll see a lot more of what we’re doing right now,” he said.

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Rep. Keith Ellison has ruled out running to serve the remainder of outgoing Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) term in a special election in 2018, a spokesperson confirmed to TPM Wednesday.

“He has ruled it out,” Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesperson for Ellison, wrote in an email to TPM.

In a Facebook post, Ellison congratulated Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith for her appointment to the Senate in an interim capacity and said she had his “full support both now and when she runs in the 2018 special election.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source close to Ellison, that he would not run in the 2018 special election.

On Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton named Smith to fill Sen. Al Franken’s seat until a special election on Nov. 6, 2018, and Smith will reportedly run in that election to serve the remaining two years of Franken’s original term, until the 2020 election when a senator will be elected to serve a full term.

Franken announced his resignation Thursday after several women accused him of sexual harassment.

Ellison is also the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

This post has been updated.

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The Department of Justice is backing former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his effort to appeal a district court’s decision to keep his contempt of court conviction on his criminal record, according to court documents.

In October, a federal judge denied Arpaio’s request to erase the conviction from his record, claiming that President Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was an “executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial record-keeping,” Judge Susan Bolton said at the time.

Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after he was convicted for violating court orders that barred his office from conducting discriminatory policing practices. The conviction came after a civil lawsuit was filed against Arpaio. His office was issued a court order to halt its practice of racially discriminatory traffic stops. The suit argued he targeted and detained Latinos living in his county.

Arpaio appealed the October ruling and the district court in Arizona requested the support of the DOJ, according to the court documents. In a statement to the U.S. appeals court, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said the DOJ doesn’t intend to defend the court’s order.

“The government intends to argue, as it did in the district court, that the motion to vacate should have been granted,” Cronan wrote.

The DOJ’s move to back Arpaio isn’t particularly surprising.

In September, the Justice Department asked the Arizona federal judge to toss the case against Arpaio after Trump pardoned the former Arizona sheriff. Bolton dropped the case, but ruled against removing the conviction from his record.

When reached by TPM, a DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the decision.

Read the statement below:


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