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Leavenworth County Board of County Commissioners (NEW YORK) --  The governor of Kansas is demanding the resignation of a white county commissioner who claimed he was "part of the master race" when talking to an African-American consultant during a public meeting last week.

Gov. Jeff Colyer is asking Louis Klemp, chairman of the Leavenworth County Board of Commissioners, to step down following his "inappropriate remarks" made during a public meeting on Nov. 13.

"Racial and discriminative language have no place in our society, and most especially when spoken by someone holding a public office," Colyer said in a statement. "The inappropriate remarks made by Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp are unacceptable and do not reflect the values of the county which he represents. As such I call on him to step down as county commissioner."

During a public meeting on Tuesday, Triveece Penelton, a consultant for VIREO Planning Associates in Kansas City, was making a presentation to the board of commissioners about community engagement on a potential development of rural land in Tonganoxie, Kansas.

In a video of the meeting, posted on the Leavenworth County Board of Commissioners' YouTube channel, Klemp expressed his displeasure with a plan to develop the land as residential. He said he favored an industrial development that would return revenue to the county.

 Speaking directly to Penelton, Klemp said, "I don’t want you to think I'm picking on you because we're part of the master race. You know you got a gap in your teeth. You're the masters. Don’t ever forget that."

Klemp did not explain what he meant by the comment.

The term "master race" stems from Nazi terminology, often describing Adolf Hitler's belief in a superior Aryan race.

Klemp did not respond to requests for comment Sunday from ABC News.

Penelton also could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Leavenworth County Administrator Mark Loughry issued a statement defending Klemp, saying the commissioner was referring to a gap in his own teeth and noting that Penelton had a similar gap.

"The use of the term 'Master Race,' as ill-advised as it may be, was not a reference to Nazis or used in a racist manner in this instance," Loughry said in a statement. "Leavenworth County has a zero tolerance for racism or discrimination in any form from any staff members. I am deeply sorry that one misconstrued comment by a member of our elected governing body has caused so much grief, sorrow and hatred."

But Robert Holland, one of Klemp's colleagues on the commission, said Klemp needs to be disciplined.

"When he said 'master race,' there is no master race," Holland told ABC affiliate station KMBC-TV in Leavenworth. "I mean, we're all Americans, we're all human beings. There is no master race."

Holland said he is considering a motion to remove Klemp, whose term on the board runs through Jan. 15, from being chairman of the board.

Meanwhile, the Leavenworth City Commission held a special meeting on Thursday and issued a statement condemning Klemp's remark and asked that he apologize and step down.

"These comments have resulted in widespread negative attention and have harmed the overall perception of residents, businesses, cities, organizations and agencies in Leavenworth County," the Leavenworth City Commission said in its statement. "The City Commission unequivocally denounces the use of 'master race' or any other language that has historic ties to racism, division and bigotry in any setting at any time."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  From Orange County, California, to rural Maine, to the congressional district that's home to one of President Donald Trump's golf courses, the Democratic majority that will preside over the 116th Congress will claim members from areas of the country once thought of as impenetrable bastions of conservatism and Republican dominance.

While the laborious task of counting mail-in ballots delayed projections in many key California races, what once was a possibility has now become a reality for the GOP: they will have zero congressional representation in Orange County, once described by President Ronald Reagan as the place "where the good Republicans go to die."

"Good Republicans," "Country Club Republicans," "Chamber of Commerce Republicans," whatever name is applied, in 2018 the GOP saw substantial losses in areas that birthed many of the figures and ideas that defined the modern conservative movement in America, seeing a sizable block of voters recoil at the tone and tenor of Trump, while Democrats were determined to register their disapproval of the commander in chief.

"The results of the midterm show a continued disappearance of regional power by the GOP, as it becomes more and more centered in the South and rural America," ABC News Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd said. "It shows a continued homogeneity of the GOP where differences among the GOP caucus become fewer and fewer and looks less and less like America as a whole. Moderate GOPers have all but disappeared. So it not only becomes geographically concentrated but ideologically and demographically as well. It also means the possibility of nominating a candidate from either coasts or from urban areas is diminished."

According to ABC News projections, Democrats flipped all four Orange County-based seats, as Democrat Harley Rouda toppled 15-term incumbent GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, while the open-seat race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was won by Democrat Mike Levin.

As mail-in ballots across the state continue to be counted, Democratic candidate Gil Cisneros beat out Republican Young Kim to win California’s 39th District, home to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

Earlier this week, Democrat Katie Porter defeated Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters in the state's 45th Congressional District, which Hillary Clinton won by 5 points in the 2016 election.

Prior to Clinton's narrow win in Orange County in the 2016 election, the area had not sided with a Democratic presidential candidate since 1936, when President Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a second term.

Republicans also lost a seat partially located in the state's traditionally conservative Central Valley, and another in southern California, where Rep. Steve Knight, the only Republican representing any part of Los Angeles County in the House, lost to Democrat Katie Hill.

When Congress is sworn in next year, Republicans will hold just eight of California's 53 U.S. House seats, or 15 percent of the congressional delegation in a state with nearly 40 million residents.

Half of New England re-elected their Republican governors in 2018, but after GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin was defeated by Democrat Jared Golden in Maine's 2nd Congressional District on Thursday (in part due to the state's implementation of ranked-choice voting) there will be exactly zero U.S. House members representing the region.

Come January 2019, Maine Sen. Susan Collins will be the only Republican Member of Congress from New England.

In New Jersey, a state that elected and re-elected a Republican governor twice this century, Democrats flipped four U.S. House seats in 2018, leaving Rep. Chris Smith as the only Republican-member of the state's 12-person congressional delegation. In the state's 11th Congressional District, Democrat Mikie Sherrill won the seat held by the retiring Republican chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, a seat that had been in Republican hands since 1985.

Republicans also now hold just 6 of the state of New York's 27 congressional seats after Rep. Dan Donovan lost re-election to his Staten Island-based seat and Representatives John Faso and Claudia Tenney were defeated by Democratic challengers in upstate New York.

Democrats all flipped seats in suburban Atlanta and Chicago that once belonged to two former Republican House speakers, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, as well as the suburban Houston seat that was once held by former President George H.W. Bush.

"America used to be a country of regional parties within each party, while both parties are on the path of losing this important representation, the path of the GOP is nearly complete to a nationalized ideological right-wing party," Dowd said.

According to ABC News' current count, Democrats have a net gain of 37 seats in the U.S. House, with 2 races still undecided.

Candidates mattered

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) trumpeted their work in California early and often this cycle, spending millions in the primary to ensure they got their candidates through the state's "Jungle Primary" system where the top two candidates advance regardless of party.

It was a move that ultimately appears to be paying large dividends.

"The DCCC responded to this threat immediately in January 2018, conducting a thorough data analysis to determine the strongest and weakest candidates - both Democrats and Republicans - and working to consolidate the Democratic primary fields," DCCC regional press secretary Andrew Godinich wrote in a post-election memo recapping the DCCC's California strategy.

But beyond surviving a unique primary system, the candidates that advanced and ultimately scored Democrats some of their most high-profile victories in traditionally conservative strongholds largely portrayed themselves not as partisans, but as pragmatists.

Rouda, a former Republican and real estate developer, called for a "return to the middle" throughout his campaign.

Sherrill, a former helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy, joins a host of female veterans like Pennsylvania's Chrissy Houlahan, Virginia's Abigail Spanberger and Michigan's Elissa Slotkin, who all won victories in Republican-held seats in 2018, focusing both on their backgrounds and the issue of healthcare, a central part of the Democratic Party's messaging.

In one of the cycle's most impactful television advertisements, Slotkin highlighted her mother's struggles with the American healthcare system after a diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer that eventually took her life, using footage of her Republican opponent Rep. Mike Bishop celebrating the House GOP's vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2017.

Golden, a state legislator and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, ran on a platform of protecting Social Security and Medicare against an opponent that also voted to repeal the ACA.

Blue tints to red states

While Democratic victories in areas once considered hallowed conservative garnered the most attention, on a macro-level, the party also outperformed the GOP in state's won by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

According to an analysis by ABC News, while Republicans won just 36 of the 188 (19 percent) congressional seats in states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats were able to capture 79 of the 245 seats (32 percent) up in states Trump won in 2016.

Democrats also now hold either a majority of or half of the congressional seats in three Trump-won states: Arizona, Iowa and Michigan.

The new Democratic majority also boasts representation from traditionally Republican states like Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina, which all backed Trump by wide margins and entered this cycle with all-Republican congressional delegations.

But while those seats will likely return to the top of the GOP-target list in 2020, the ability of the party to compete in places like Orange County and the Northeast, at least in federal races, is in serious doubt.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said President Donald Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general was unconstitutional because the attorney general is a “principal officer” and those positions require Senate confirmation under the Constitution.

“I think the appointment is unconstitutional,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California told “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz in an interview Sunday morning. “He is clearly a principal officer and the fact that he is a temporary principal officer doesn't mean that that is any less subject to Senate confirmation.”

“Will Democrats still challenge that appointment and are you concerned about him overseeing the Mueller investigation?” Raddatz asked Schiff.

“Yes and yes,” said Schiff, who will be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the new Congress.

“When you have a specific statute that says this is the succession plan and doesn't say you can also use the Vacancies Act to avoid the succession plan, you go with the specific statute,” Schiff said.

The president took to Twitter early Sunday afternoon to respond to Schiff’s criticism, pointing out that Mueller had not been approved by the Senate. Trump also misspelled Schiff's name in the tweet.

"Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?" Schiff replied on Twitter, referencing a statement Trump made Friday about his written answers to the special counsel.

"I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers," the president said during a cybersecurity initiative bill signing in the Oval Office. "I was asked a series of questions, I answered them very easily."

The White House has not responded to an ABC News request for comment.

During his interview with Raddatz, Schiff called Whitaker's appointment flawed.

“The biggest flaw from my point of view is that he was chosen for the purpose of interfering with the Mueller investigation,” he said.

Because Whitaker has publicly criticized Mueller’s investigation in the past, including in an August 2017 op-ed for CNN, Schiff said that “ethically he should have absolutely nothing to do with the investigation.”

While Schiff is a frequent critic of the president’s, some Republicans have doubted whether Whitaker is right to permanently lead the Justice Department.

In a separate interview on “This Week,” Sen. Roy Blunt, who serves as the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference, said he didn’t think Whitaker should be attorney general.

“I don't know Matt Whitaker well,” Blunt told Raddatz. “On the occasions I've had with him to be -- he's been very responsive and has seen that the Justice Department responded to the things I've asked about. So in terms of an acting capacity, he does not -- he seems to be a person that has the ability to do that acting job.”

“But not a permanent position; is that what you're saying?” Raddatz pressed.

“Well, I would think -- I -- I would think not. But that's -- the president needs to determine who's going to be permanently at the Justice Department as soon as he can,” he said.

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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly two weeks after Election Day, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has won Florida's Senate race.

Sitting Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceded to Scott Sunday afternoon, recording a YouTube video in which he acknowledged defeat.

Nelson called Scott to concede, the latter said in a statement. President Trump congratulated Scott in a tweet, writing: "From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida."

It marks the end of a long and at-times messy vote recount that drew national attention amid reported irregularities in vote counting by county officials, problems with tabulation machines, and missed deadlines.

It also marks the end of Democrats' hopes in Florida's two high-profile elections this year. On Saturday, Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis in the governor's race. In defeat, Gillum drew praise from Trump on Twitter afterward. Recounting had stopped in that race after Thursday's conclusion of a machine recount.

Senate recounting had continued, with county officials hand-examining a subset of votes, checking thousands of them for voters' marks that could have been missed by scanning machines.

Florida's 67 counties faced a noon Sunday deadline to finish hand-recounting ballots in the Senate and state agriculture-commissioner races. All of them made it, the Florida Department of State told ABC News.

Scott still led Nelson by 10,033 votes, after the final round of recounting had finished -- a slightly narrower margin than the 12,603 by which he led after the first round of recounting finished.

Two counties in particular -- Broward and Palm Beach, both large, Democratic strongholds in South Florida -- drew attention and GOP criticism throughout the process.

In Broward, Election Supervisor Brenda Snipes was sued successfully by Scott's campaign over her failure to provide results on time after Election Day. Her office reportedly intermingled 22 provisional ballots that shouldn't have been counted, within a batch of 205. On Thursday, the county failed to upload results to a state website after the first round of recounting, missing the deadline by minutes.

Over the weekend, after Snipes's office had completed recounting in the Senate race on Friday but continued recounting in the state's agriculture-commissioner race, she acknowledged her staff may have misplaced more than 2,000 ballots as it sought to finalize totals in that state-level race. Senate tallies had already been completed.

"The ballots are in the building," she said at a canvassing board meeting on Saturday, seeking to reassure those in attendance. "The ballots are in the building."

In Palm Beach, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said her counting machines overheated and stopped working multiple times, as the county raced to meet the state's 3 p.m. Thursday deadline in the machine recount. Palm Beach missed that deadline on Thursday and had to continue running the machines afterward. The manufacturer of the machines pushed back, suggesting county officials were running the machines in an unusual way, in comments to The Palm Beach Post.

Palm Beach made Sunday's deadline by one second, Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher told ABC affiliate WPBF, showing a readout of her office's upload of results to the state website reading 11:59:59.

Two rounds of recounting had ensued after Scott and Nelson were separated by just .15 percentage points after Election Day -- a narrow enough margin to trigger an automatic machine recount. With the race still close enough after Florida's first round of recounting concluded on Thursday, county election officials hand-examined a subset of votes since Friday, in some cases racing to meet the deadline.

Florida's recount was the subject of at least a dozen lawsuits, as the campaigns, national political parties, and outside groups wrangled over the counting of late mail-in votes, considerations of voter intent when examining hand-marked ballots, and the physical security of ballots and tabulation machines at county election facilities where recounting was underway.

Nelson's hopes dwindled late last week, as court challenges were struck down and as vote counting in Broward failed to yield extra votes. In that heavily Democratic county, some 26,000 more votes were cast in the state's governor's race, hinting at a possibility that hand-examining ballots there could yield votes for Nelson. But as that count finished Friday, he had gained just over 400 votes -- not nearly enough to overcome the deficit.

Scott's win gives Republicans a net gain of two Senate seats in the 2018 midterms and a prospective advantage, heading into next year, of 52 seats to 47.

Mississippi is currently holding a runoff in its U.S. Senate seat, to be held Nov. 27.

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Paul Kitagaki Jr.-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A top Democrat from California said President Donald Trump “needs to listen to the experts” when it comes to the wildfires ravaging the state because there is no simple solution.

While in California Saturday, Trump suggested the United States address forest management in a way similar to Finland, which the president claimed spends “a lot of time on raking and cleaning” the forests. He added that “they don't have any problem.”

“It doesn't make much sense to me,” Rep. Adam Schiff said on “This Week” Sunday, in response to a question from co-anchor Martha Raddatz about the president’s statement. “The reality is that no single fire has the same cause. Every fire is going to be different.

“With climate change, they're going to be worse, and we need to take steps to reduce their frequency, reduce their severity and yes, forest management is one piece of it, but there are lots of other pieces, and I think the president needs to listen to the experts because clearly he isn't one of them,” he said.

Later, Schiff said that he thinks all Californians were upset with a statement Trump made last weekend on Twitter about "gross mismanagement of the forests" when people “were facing utter devastation,” and warned about what could come after the fires are out.

“We need to focus on putting these fires out, we need to protect ourselves because all too often when the fires are out and rains are coming, then mudslides follow and other tragedy follows, so we -- we need to get through this period and -- and our hearts are going out to those effected and we’re so grateful for the responders out there,” the congressman said.

Trump traveled to California this weekend to survey wildfire damage in Paradise and Malibu, meeting with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will replace Brown as governor on Jan. 7, as well as FEMA Administrator Brock Long and local officials responding to the emergency.

At least 79 people have died as a result of the fires, 76 in Northern California’s Camp Fire and three in Southern California’s Woolsey Fire. The Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history, according to Cal Fire. Nearly 1,300 people were missing in the Camp Fire, but that number continues to change, and more than 700 people who were once on the the list have since been accounted for, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

In a separate interview on “This Week,” Honea said the list of people unaccounted for is compiled from a number of sources, cautioning that the data is “raw” and verifying people’s whereabouts is “a very difficult process.”

“My thought on that was it's better to work towards progress than achieve perfection before we start getting that information out,” Honea said of the massive list of names.

The sheriff said he does not expect the death toll to be as high as the list of people unaccounted for, but noted that verifying people’s whereabouts “is a daunting task.”

“We are still trying to bring order to the chaos that this entire event has caused,” he said.

As of Sunday morning, the Camp Fire was 60 percent contained and had burned almost 150,000 acres and destroyed more than 12,000 structures, according to the Butte County Fire Department. The Woolsey Fire has burned just under 100,000 acres and was 88 percent contained as of Sunday morning, the Los Angeles County Fire Department reported.

Honea called the Camp Fire an unprecedented event, and urged residents to make every effort to reach out to their friends and family to let them know they’re safe and unharmed. He also asked displaced people to check if they're listed as missing and to contact his office, so officials could dedicate resources to locating people who haven’t yet been accounted for.

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Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump said Saturday it’s “too early” to determine if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was responsible for ordering the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, two members of the intelligence committees in both houses of Congress said it is difficult to avoid coming to that conclusion.

On “This Week” Sunday, incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff told co-anchor Martha Raddatz it would be unlikely such a killing would occur without the Saudi crown prince’s knowledge.

“Given what we know of how the Saudi government operates and the crown prince's central role in that, it's very difficult for me to conceive of a murder of a prominent journalist and a critic being carried out without the crown prince's knowledge,” the California Democrat said.

He added that the killing of a journalist tests the proposition that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend.”

“Our friends don't murder journalists,” Schiff added.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was more guarded in assessing the reports, as the CIA has not yet made public its assessment of whether or not the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

“Certainly the way you look at Saudi Arabia and the way it runs, it's hard to imagine something like this could happen without the crown prince knowing, but I don't know that we absolutely know that yet,” said Blunt.

Blunt added that the situation should become clearer in the next few days, echoing the sentiment expressed by Trump on Saturday, who said he should receive a report on Khashoggi’s killing by Tuesday.

“I do think that it won't hurt here for another few days to pass. The president says he's going to have some conclusions by Tuesday on this,” Blunt said.

Speaking to reporters in California Saturday, Trump indicated the report will have details on who is responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.

"We’re going to come up with a report as to what we think the overall impact was and who caused it and who did it. We’re talking about a killing, we’re not talking about anything else, we’re talking about a killing. So who did it," he said.

Schiff, however, expressed a worry on “This Week” that Trump would not necessarily accept the conclusions of American intelligence.

“The president needs to listen to what our intelligence community has to say, what our best professionals' assessment is and it's vitally important that this administration not allow itself to become part of any Saudi cover-up,” Schiff said.

Blunt said that the White House must be careful in its response and not act without knowing what the consequences will be, citing the potential impact on the regional balance in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the heels of an election in which a record number of women were elected to the House of Representatives, “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz sat down with five representatives-elect who were part of the blue wave.

Reps.-elect Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Deb Haaland of New Mexico, Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Donna Shalala of Florida spoke to Raddatz about their priorities, the importance of women in Congress and the upcoming House leadership elections.

The conversation, which took place Nov. 16 between orientation sessions on Capitol Hill, began with the significance of more women joining the ranks of Congress.

“We’ve got a bevy of experience here, and I think part of who I am, part of how I view the world is informed by the fact that I’m a woman, that I’m a mother, that I’m a sister and a daughter and a wife…” said Spanberger, who defeated incumbent Rep. David Brat in Virginia’s 7th district.

This year also saw the election of the first two Native American women to Congress, Haaland and Sharice Davids of Oklahoma. They join two Native American men in Congress, both Republicans of Oklahoma.

"For a group of folks in our country who have been here for thousands of years and being so underrepresented in Congress, … I think it means a tremendous amount to folks in those communities feeling like they can finally have representation,” Haaland said.

“I always say, I’ll leave the ladder down. It’s great being the first. We never want to be the last.”

Underwood, 32, talked about the benefits of having more young people serving in Congress.

“And so now we have not just one vote at the table. We have a caucus. A true millennial caucus,” said Underwood, the youngest African-American member of Congress ever elected.

At 77 years old, Shalala is the second-oldest House freshman in U.S. history behind Jim Bowler, who at 78 won a 1953 special election. But she’s not new to Washington.

“I’m a freshman, but not a rookie,” Shalala told Raddatz.

She served as Health and Human Services secretary for the duration of Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms.

“And it’s been pretty exciting, people in the halls that work here say, ‘Welcome back,’ because they remember when I was here as a Cabinet officer,” she said.

Houlahan, who served in the Air Force, and Spanberger, who was a CIA officer, each said that their experiences will help them as they enter a new kind of service to the country.

“You come to the table as a team player, as a consensus builder, as a pragmatist,” Houlahan said.

Spanberger added, “...The notion is that we’re used to serving a mission… this is the mission. This is what we set out to do. We’re all united behind that.”=

Democrats have their work cut out for them as they take control of the House in under two months. Health care, immigration and taxes remain at the top of voters’ list of concerns for Congress, according to exit polls from the midterms.

On the issue of congressional oversight of the executive branch, the representatives-elect stressed that while oversight is an important function of Congress and one that newly Democratic-led committees should focus on, there are higher priorities back in their districts.

Shalala said that Democrats “won our election very much with health care as one of the major issues.” Houlahan called health care “the issue of my district.”

Haaland talked about issues facing Native American communities and said that the Violence Against Women Act, which is up for reauthorization, has come a long way in extending protections to indigenous women, but must go further. As Democrats begin to look forward to 2020, questions of party unity and leadership are front and center.

Underwood said that Democrats will always have a broad variety of views within their ranks, and that this a good thing.

“We are a big tent party,” she said. “But when we step onto the floor of the House and cast votes, and when we lead, we have to carry forward the voices for the people back home.”

On the issue of leadership, just two of the representatives-elect in the group said that they are voting for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to become House speaker again. Two were undecided and Spanberger said that she would not vote for Pelosi.

“I think that if we are going to turn the page and bring civility back to the political discussion, which as a values statement is incredibly important in my home district, that I think we need to change the people who are directing that conversation,” Spanberger said.

Haaland, who along with Shalala has already decided to vote for Pelosi, countered, saying that Pelosi’s leadership is exactly what Democrats need two years into the Trump presidency.

“She’s the only person I believe that we need in this tumultuous time with the president we have, to stay on track to make sure that we are fulfilling promises to the American people,” Haaland said.

The 116th Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019.

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Joe Skipper/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Andrew Gillum, whose bid to become the first black governor of Florida extended more than a week after Election Day, conceded the race Saturday, effectively making Republican Ron DeSantis the winner in the tight, hotly contested race.

Gillum, a Democrat who is mayor of Tallahassee, announced live on Facebook shortly before 5 p.m. that he was formally ending his candidacy.

"I want to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida," Gillum, who was accompanied by his wife, said.

"This has been the journey of our lives," he said in the video. “Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle. This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government.”

Late Saturday, DeSantis said during a Fox News interview that “I was never really in danger because my margin was big enough ... Now I can go forward without having to worry about this.”

A few hours before Gillum conceded, President Trump congratulated Gillum for running a "really tough and competitive race for Governor of the Great State of Florida."

"He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future - a force to reckon with!"

Gillum said he waited until the "last vote was counted."

"We wanted to make sure every single vote ... as long as it was a legally cast vote, we wanted it to be counted," he said.

The concession for Gillum brought an end to a bitter and contentious battle with DeSantis.

The Trump-backed Republican said at a rally during the campaign that Gillum would appoint "Soros-backed activists" to the statehouse if he had won. And DeSantis was criticized after saying during an interview on FOX News that voters should not "monkey this up" by voting for Gillum -- a remark believed by many to be racist.

Gillum was also the target of racist robocalls paid for by a white nationalist group from Idaho, which impersonated Gillum in an exaggerated accent and referred to the Democratic Tallahassee mayor as a "negro" and a "monkey."

"Well, hello there. I is the negro Andrew Gillum and I'll be askin' you to make me governor of this here state of Flordia," the call says. DeSantis denounced the calls and said he didn't know who was making them, although the group from Idaho made similar robocalls mocking California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein.

On Election Night, Gillum had conceded when DeSantis' lead seemed insurmountable. He withdrew the concession a few day later.

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Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  President Donald Trump said late Saturday that it's "too early" to say whether Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and described multiple news reports saying the CIA has concluded the crown prince was directly involved as “premature.”

The president said that the U.S. government will complete a “full report” by Tuesday.

He denied reports saying that the CIA has concluded that the crown prince, known as MBS, ordered the killing.

"They haven’t accessed anything yet -- it’s too early,” Trump said. “That was a very premature report."

"But that’s possible,” he added. “We’re gonna see.”

The president went on to say without further explanation that “in the meantime we are doing things to some people who we know for a fact were involved, and we’re going to be very tough on a lot pf people.”

The comments came as Trump toured the damage from wildfires that devastated Malibu, California, after receiving an update on the Khashoggi investigation from CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo aboard Air Force One.

Trump's comments come in the wake of several media outlets' reports Friday that CIA officials said they were highly confident that 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul in government aircraft at the orders of Salman to kill Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.

The Washington Post was the first news company to report on the alleged ties to the prince.

Earlier on Saturday, before heading to California, Trump spoke to reporters about the Khashoggi murder.

“As of this moment, we were told he had not played a role," the president added, referring to the Saudi prince. "We’re going to see what they have to say.”

On Saturday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the State Department said the Trump administration is determined to hold Khashoggi's killers accountable, but had not made a "final conclusion" on his death.

Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi," said Heather Nauert, the department spokeswoman. "The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts."

She added that the U.S. will continue to investigate the murder while "maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia."

Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he went to pick up documents that he needed to marry his fiancee, who lives in the Turkish city.

An intercepted phone call between Khashoggi and the Saudi prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, was among the evidence that helped the CIA arrive at its conclusion, the Post reported.

In the call, Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, told Khashoggi that he should go to Istanbul for the documents and assured him that it would be safe to do so, the paper reported.

Though it’s unclear if Khalid bin Salman was involved in the plan, it was Mohammed bin Salman who told him to make the call, The Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter who could only speak on the condition of anonymity.

Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., denied the allegations that Khalid bin Salman spoke about going to Turkey and called the CIA assessment “false,” according to the Post.

The Post article was published the same day as a funeral service for the slain journalist at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque, more than a month after he was killed on Oct. 2.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist.

Vice President Mike Pence declined to comment on “classified information” early Saturday morning during a trip to Papua New Guinea, but also did not seek to refute the reporting of the CIA’s conclusions.

The vice president did, however, condemn the murder and said: “We are going to follow the facts.”

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,” Pence said.

He also noted that the U.S. wants to find a way to preserve a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.

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Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump was briefed Saturday on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a day after multiple reports linked the murder to Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The president was given an update by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary oF State Mike Pompeo on the killing of the Washington Post columnist as he was headed to California to assess the deadly and destructive wildfires.

"The President spoke with Secretary Pompeo and Director Haspel on the plane. The State Department will put out a statement later today," said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

The briefing comes as several media outlets reported Friday that CIA officials said they were highly confident that 15 Saudi agents flew to Istanbul in government aircraft at the orders of Salman to kill Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.

The Washington Post was the first news company to report on the alleged ties to the prince.

Trump spoke to reporters early Saturday about the Khashoggi murder before heading to California.

“As of this moment, we were told he had not played a role," the president added, referring to the Saudi prince. "We’re going to see what they have to say.”

On Saturday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the State Department said the Trump administration is determined to hold Khashoggi's killers accountable, but had not made a "final conclusion" on his death.

"Recent reports indicating that the U.S. government has made a final conclusion are inaccurate. There remain numerous unanswered questions with respect to the murder of Mr. Khashoggi," said Heather Nauert, the department spokeswoman. "The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts."

She added that the U.S. will continue to investigate the murder while "maintaining the important strategic relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia."

Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2 in the Saudia consulate in Istanbul, where he went to pick up documents that he needed to marry his fiancee, who lives in the Turkish city.

An intercepted phone call between Khashoggi and the Saudi prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, was among the evidence that helped the CIA arrive at its conclusion, the Post reported.

In the call, Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the United States, told Khashoggi that he should go to Istanbul for the documents and assured him that it would be safe to do so, the paper reported.

Though it’s unclear if Khalid bin Salman was involved in the plan, it was Mohammed bin Salman who told him to make the call, The Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter who could only speak on the condition of anonymity.

Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., denied the allegations that Khalid bin Salman spoke about going to Turkey and called the CIA assessment “false,” according to the Post.

The Post article was published the same day as a funeral service for the slain journalist at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque, more than a month after he was killed on Oct. 2.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, who was a Washington Post columnist.

Vice President Mike Pence declined to comment on “classified information” early Saturday morning during a trip to Papua New Guinea, but also did not seek to refute the reporting of the CIA’s conclusions.

The vice president did, however, condemn the murder and said: “We are going to follow the facts.”

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder,” Pence said.

He also noted that the U.S. wants to find a way to preserve a “strong and historic partnership” with Saudi Arabia.

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Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In the past week, a special election contest in Mississippi that seemed to be flying under the radar was in disarray as the two candidates jockeying for the state's open Senate seat sought to cast each other as morally unfit for the job.

Two days after the special election went to a runoff on Nov. 6 -- when neither GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith nor Democrat Mike Espy clinched 50 percent of the vote to win outright -- the Trump-endorsed frontrunner told Fox News in an interview, "We're really proud of the campaign we've ran so far. We've run a clean campaign, we've stayed away from being negative and we're going to continue to do that."

But then, Hyde-Smith’s quest to hold onto the seat she was appointed to earlier this year after former Sen. Thad Cochran resigned due to health concerns was suddenly on shaky ground. She drew fierce blowback when a video surfaced showing Hyde-Smith, who is white, embracing a supporter after he praised her and saying before a cheering crowd, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

In the wake of the video's release, Hyde-Smith didn't apologize but rather defended herself in a statement.

"In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement," she said. "In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."

But Espy, her African-American challenger, pounced, condemning her for evoking language reminiscent of lynchings that scar Mississippi's history.

"Cindy Hyde-Smith's comments are reprehensible," Espy said in a statement. "They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state."

Four days later, another video of Hyde-Smith, from Nov. 3, was posted on Twitter. This time, she was seen telling a group of supporters in Starkville, Mississippi, that she thinks it’s a "great idea" to make it harder for "liberal folks" to vote.

"Then they remind me, that there's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that's a great idea,” she appears to be saying in the video posted by the same publisher who posted the first video.

Hyde-Smith once again refused to apologize for her comments. Instead, her campaign spokesperson released a statement Thursday that said, "Obviously Sen. Hyde-Smith was making a joke and clearly the video was selectively edited."

Since her comments emerged and put her candidacy on edge, Hyde-Smith reversed course from the immediate days after Nov. 6, and is now ratcheting up her rhetoric and turning negative in this tight contest.

In that same statement from Thursday, the Hyde-Smith campaign deflected from her own controversy by calling out Espy for allegedly lying about a lobbying contract with the Ivory Coast government during a period of violent upheaval.

"Now the liberal media wants to talk about anything other than Mike Espy's record of corruption and taking $750,000 -- and lying about it -- from an African dictator now charged with war crimes, including murder, rape and torture,” Melissa Scallan, spokeswoman for the Hyde-Smith campaign, said.

A new digital ad from Hyde-Smith's campaign, released Friday, touts the alleged connection between Espy and the African despot who refused to give up power in the Ivory Coast and is now on trial for crimes against humanity.

The statement and the ad are based on a Fox News report, released Thursday, that published a U.S. Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act document that shows that Espy continued to receive payments as part of a lobbying contract with the Ivory Coast's former president.

Espy’s agricultural consulting firm, AE Agritrade Inc., signed a three-month contract with the Cocoa and the Coffee Board of the Ivory Coast for $750,000, according to the document. Espy was an agricultural consulting agent after he served as agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton.

But the former congressman told the Hill in 2011 that he halted the contract during the violent conflict that erupted after then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to relinquish power after losing in an election to Alassane Ouattara.

Espy said he "only worked on the contract for a little more than a month before suspending it in early February."

"I have voluntarily suspended it," he told the Hill in 2011. "Events are spiraling rapidly. It is very difficult to work in that context."

The FARA document published by Fox News shows that Espy's Jackson-based consulting firm was paid the full $750,000, and the payments continued through March 1, 2011. His consulting firm received a payment of $400,000 from the Ivory Coast's Cocoa and Coffee Board in January 2011, and then $350,000 on March 1, 2011.

"Secretary Espy worked on agricultural issues for international clients. Over the course of that work, he realized one of those clients didn't pass the smell test, so he terminated the contract, and then reported what he knew to the U.S. government," Danny Blanton, communications director for Espy's campaign, said in a statement first to Fox News and confirmed by ABC News.

Espy has run into ethical scandals in the past, during his tenure as a member of Clinton's cabinet, his rising political stardom in the 1990s was halted by a corruption scandal involving personal gifts from food companies he regulated in the Clinton administration. He was acquitted of all those charges.

But the underdog’s campaign is also not shying away from the bitter rivalry, after a spokesperson Espy fired back in two statements, first addressing the most recent Hyde-Smith video about voter suppression.

"For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through sweat and blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter," Blanton said. "Mississippians deserve a senator who represents our best qualities, not a walking stereotype who embarrasses our state."

In another statement, Blanton chastised Hyde-Smith for the "smear campaign" against the former agriculture secretary.

"Cindy Hyde-Smith had a chance to admit she was wrong, and instead of apologizing, she doubled down. Since that hasn't worked, she's trying to change the subject with a smear campaign against Mike," he said.

But in a state that President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points, support for Hyde-Smith among her Republican base is unsurprisingly unwavering. The president is heading to the state for two rallies in Tupelo and Biloxi later this month on Nov. 26. She's even scoring steady fundraising numbers after making the "public hanging" remark.

Hyde-Smith reported 17 new contributions totaling $65,700, including $5,000 from Google's PAC, on Tuesday, shortly after the controversy erupted, according to Open Secrets.

Google's contribution is the PAC's first to Hyde-Smith’s campaign, but the company told Open Secrets it was made before her controversial remark.

"This contribution was made on November 2nd before Senator Hyde-Smith’s remarks became public on November 11th," a Google spokesperson told Open Secrets. "While we support candidates who promote pro-growth policies for business and technology, we do not condone these remarks and would not have made such a contribution had we known about them."

For his part, Espy has raised over $163,000 in new contributions as of Nov. 13, according to his latest FEC filing. He is also counting on support from national Democrats including potential 2020 contenders, African-American Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who have planned visits on Saturday and Monday, according to the campaign, to shore up support and vault him to the U.S. Senate.

Controversies may abound in this runoff election, but with less than two weeks until voters head back to the polls, it appears that for whoever emerges victorious, the battle to get there is already turning ugly.

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Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- President Trump surveyed the devastation from the California wildfires on Saturday, touring a neighborhood in badly-ravaged Paradise and another in Malibu, where the homes were reduced entirely to rubble.

“This is very sad to see,” Trump said as he stood with the governor, the mayor of Paradise and other local officials on a destroyed street in Paradise. "As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet."

“As big as they look on the tube you don’t see what’s going on until you come here,” Trump said of the scale of the destruction and the impact of seeing the damage in first person.

“Nobody would have ever thought this could have happened,” Trump said, as he pledged the full support of the federal government in the recovery efforts.

Asked if seeing the destruction has changed his perspective on climate change, the president said it had not, and instead repeatedly pointed to forest management as a key factor in fire prevention moving forward.

“No, I have a strong opinion. I want a great climate and we’re going to have that,” Trump said. "And we’re going to have forests that are very safe. Because we can’t go through this every year.”

During a meeting with fire and local officials at an incident command center in Chico, the president referred to the fire as a "monster" and applauded firefighters who are “fighting like hell” to put out the remaining parts of the fires still burning.

The raging wildfires have already claimed at least 74 lives and up to 1,000 people are still missing. The Camp Fire in Butte County, which killed at least 71 people, is considered the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's history.

When the president arrived in California beneath hazy, smoke-filled skies Saturday, he was greeted by FEMA Director Brock Long, Gov. Jerry Brown and the governor-elect, Gavin Newsom.

In a tweet, Brown, who has feuded with Trump on several issues, welcomed the president to his state.

"Tomorrow @GavinNewsom and I will join @POTUS during his visit to the state," he tweeted Friday. "Now is a time to pull together for the people of California."

Trump said he’ll be stopping at two of the most devastated areas, and applauded the firefighters for being “unbelievably brave” as they’ve battled the fires.

The president also reiterated his criticism — which first appeared as a tweet — that poor fire management is to blame for the severity of the fires, and pointed to Finland as an example of how to better maintain forests.

“We do have to do management maintenance and we’ll be working also with environmental groups, I think everyone’s seen the light,” Trump said. “The floors of the forest are very important. You look at other countries where they do it differently and it's a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland, and he said we have a much different — we're a forest nation. He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don't have any problem.”

Trump added that it could have been "a lot different situation" if we had been talking about forest management earlier. "It should have been done many years ago but I think everybody is on the right side. It’s a big issue,” he said.

Though the president asserted that there is agreement on the issue of forest management, California officials, including a top-ranked fire official, have slammed his criticism. California Professional Firefighters President Brian Rice called Trump’s assertion of forest management "ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez/Instagram(WASHINGTON) -- The group of newly elected, female, progressive Democrats who represent historical firsts in Congress has been frequently seen together on the Hill and in pictures posted to social media, including in a photo that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted on Instagram, captioned “Squad."

The post has received more than 170,000 likes and has circulated widely on other social media.

They bonded after months on the campaign trail, a quartet that includes Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the youngest woman elected to Congress at age 29; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, another Muslim woman elected to Congress and former refugee who is also the first Somali-American elected to that post; and Ayanna Pressley, who will soon be Massachusetts' first black congresswoman.

The newly elected members of Congress journeyed to Washington to begin orientation this week and will join the 116th Congress -- the most diverse to date and with campaign promises to match.

Among progressive issues discussed at orientation such as Medicare-for-all and justice reform, there is one upcoming legislature battle that resonates with many in that group: the Green New Deal.

Ocasio-Cortez trekked to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's Capitol Hill office on Tuesday alongside a group of young protesters staging a sit-in over climate change. There, she championed the need for a resolution that would establish a select House committee to develop legislation on the Green New Deal -- a list of ambitious principles that progressives see as a developing Democratic Party platform on climate change.

Up until now, Ocasio-Cortez made herself known as the leader of this cause, but now other newly elected women who have become beacons of congressional firsts are readily emerging as allies ready to back the measure -- and each other -- up.

New Mexico Rep.-elect Deb Haaland, one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress this year, has announced her support for the deal.

"With California wildfires out of control, many of us want to tackle climate change and implement a Green New Deal to move America toward 100 percent renewable energy as soon as possible," Haaland told ABC News.

"There is a beautiful sisterhood this week in D.C.," Haaland said. "Many of us have been in touch for months before we got here, so being together is really special."

"I'm thrilled to be part of this dynamic, trailblazing group of women, and I'm also excited about the opportunity to lead on issues important to our communities," Pressley told ABC News.

A source close to Pressley added that she and her female freshman peers have hit the ground running. They "have already been working proactively within the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the broader Democratic Caucus to prompt important conversations about the values that define the party."

During their respective campaigns in the Midwest, Omar and Tlaib often shared their camaraderie on social media, with Tlaib referring to their bond as a "sisterhood."

Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, said she has worked extensively with these incoming congresswomen during their campaigns and has had the "privilege" of watching their relationships develop.

The head of the progressive PAC was a guest at new-member orientation and tweeted her own photo on Tuesday, captioned, “I remain excited about our future as the most diverse, female, progressive freshman class prepares to take their seats in Capitol Hill!”

"We were stoked to be together," Simpson told ABC News.

She added that she believes their bond is strengthened by their experiences of being "taken for granted" and "underestimated."

"They're going to get a lot, and I hope they stay close," Simpson said.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- He’s pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison, but former Donald Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos is not quite ready to give up the fight.

With a new team of lawyers, the man once derided as a campaign “coffee boy” filed a last-ditch appeal with a Washington, D.C., federal court Friday to try to forestall his looming trip to a Midwestern medium-security penitentiary, where he is scheduled to surrender in 10 days.

In his court filing, Papadopoulos argues that the court should wait until an appeals court hears arguments in a separate case challenging the validity of the special counsel. Attorneys in that case, which was brought by a man fighting a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller, are scheduled to have briefs filed to the court by Monday.

“The D.C. Circuit’s decision in the pending appeal … may directly impact the validity of Mr. Papadopoulos’s prosecution and conviction,” his lawyers argue. “If the appeal is successful, then the Special Counsel lacked constitutional authority to prosecute Mr. Papadopoulos in the first instance.”

Given that the appeals case has already been argued and is awaiting a ruling, the Papadopoulos filing argues, “a modest stay of his incarceration pending the outcome of that appeal should be granted.”

The 31-year-old energy scholar, who in 2016 attempted his foray into electoral politics with the Trump campaign, was one of the first to be swept into Mueller’s Russia probe. In 2017, he admitted to lying to federal investigators and agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. In September, Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in prison – with the government arguing that he had not delivered the level of cooperation they had anticipated.

Papadopoulos was contrite at sentencing, telling a judge he felt remorse for lying to federal agents. In recent weeks, though, he has been making increasingly strident public comments in social media and in television appearances challenging the case against him. In late October, he appeared on “Fox and Friends” and said he was “actually even considering withdrawing my agreement I have come to with the government.”

The case Papadopoulos is now looking to was brought by Andrew Miller, a former associate of Trump confidant and political provocateur Roger Stone, who has refused a demand from prosecutors to appear before a grand jury. Miller is objecting, his lawyers said, in order to mount a broad legal challenge to the legitimacy of the special counsel probe.

Miller’s attorney, Paul Kamenar, told ABC News in August that he believes Miller’s constitutional battle could head all the way to the Supreme Court. He has argued that Mueller was not a constitutionally valid special counsel because he should be considered a “principal officer of the United States,” and therefore should have been appointed by the president. The Department of Justice has taken the position that he is an “inferior” officer who could be appointed by a deputy, in this case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

To date, Miller’s argument has not carried the day. Attorneys for Miller tried unsuccessfully two times in July to quash a subpoena requiring Miller to testify before the special counsel's grand jury, arguing that Mueller lacked the constitutional authority to issue it.

On Friday, Miller’s lawyer expressed surprise that Papadopoulos had sought to tie his fate to the Miller appeal.

"The motion makes a compelling case relying on the arguments of our briefing that a short stay of sentence is warranted. However, the judge has broad discretion in sentencing matters," Kamenar said.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

A judge has asked the special counsel to file its response to the Papadopoulos request by Wednesday.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi met Friday with a prominent House Democrat considering challenging her for the speaker’s gavel, as she continued to confer with incoming Democrats and court votes for speaker.

Pelosi huddled Friday with Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who has been encouraged by Pelosi's critics to mount a campaign against her. Pelosi, through a spokesman, said the two had a "candid and respectful conversation."

Fudge, 66, whose meeting with Pelosi was brokered by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told reporters Friday that she would make a decision on whether to run against Pelosi after Thanksgiving.

"The meeting went very well," she said. "We had a very open and candid discussion."

"What she asked me was, basically, ‘How could we get to a point where I could be supportive?’” Fudge added.

"We talked about some succession planning. We talked about some other things. I think that the biggest issue that we discussed was the feeling in the caucus of people who are feeling left out and left behind."

While she’s favored to become House speaker next Congress, and win the closed-door vote for speaker in the Democratic caucus on Nov. 28, Pelosi has faced determined opposition from a band of current and incoming House Democrats who want new leadership.

Seventeen of those Democrats have signed on to a letter pledging to vote for new leadership on the House floor in January, enough to block Pelosi from winning the 218 votes needed to clinch the gavel.

With three House races yet to be called by ABC News, Democrats are projected to hold 231 seats in the House next year, which would allow Pelosi to lose as many as 13 votes and still become speaker.

Her critics argue that Pelosi, 78, who served as speaker from 2007-2011, has crowded out the party’s rising stars and given few opportunities for Democrats to advance in the House.

 “I was there when she grabbed the gavel with all the children around her [in 2007], it's one of the great moments of my career that I’ll always remember,” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, a Pelosi critic who unsuccessfully ran against her for Democratic leader in 2016, told reporters Friday. “But we also have a responsibility to Democrats across the country who asked for change.”

“This is an election of the establishment Democrats circling the wagons, versus the change that the Democratic people voted for across the country,” he said.

For her part, Pelosi and her aides say that she has fostered and encouraged younger members, by creating additional leadership positions in the caucus and committees, and provided some member with issue portfolios to manage.

“My experience with Nancy Pelosi, is part of her mission actually is to lift younger members,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a Pelosi ally, told ABC News. “It’s amazing to me how many hours she spends, in the course of her regular business as leader, check in with the caucuses.”

Schakowsky and other Pelosi supporters have accused her critics of sexism by working to sideline Pelosi without explicitly saying the same about her top lieutenants: Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, who is 79, and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who is 78. Both men are running to keep the second and third-ranked posts in the majority.

“They say about men when they age, they become more experienced, and women, expired,” Schakowsky said. “There’s definitely an element of sexism, an ageism that’s applied to women and not to men.”

Pelosi stopped short of calling her critics sexist Thursday in her weekly news conference but defiantly proclaimed that she had enough support to become speaker.

“I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be Speaker of the House, and certainly we have many, many people in our caucus who could serve in this capacity. I happen to think that, at this point, I'm the best person for that,” she said, while inviting others to challenge her.

Fudge, a former CBC chair and mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, who has served in Congress since 2008, said in an interview with HuffPost that Pelosi “has been a very good leader” but believes “it’s time for a new one.”

She also told the website that she believes Pelosi hasn’t been as strong enough of an advocate for African-Americans in Congress.

Fudge’s potential bid has split members of the Congressional Black Caucus, some of whom had privately encouraged Clyburn and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a rising star who is running for a lower level leadership position, to move up the ranks of Democratic leadership.

But many prominent members of the group, including Jeffries, Rep. Elijah Cummings from Maryland, the future chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights icon, and Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the future chair of the House Financial Services Committee, have backed the California Democrat, who continues to meet with freshmen and undecided Democrats ahead of the caucus vote.

Pelosi’s office has also promoted a raft of endorsements from major labor unions, pro-choice groups, and other outside organizations active in Democratic politics.

She’s also met with key constituencies in the House Democratic caucus, including Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus who told reporters she plans to support Pelosi, and a group of Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus who have pledged to withhold their support in exchange for procedural rule changes to reform the way the House is run.

On Friday, Pelosi continued to meet with incoming House Democrats, and plans to meet with the entire new class of freshmen Democrats.

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