Sat, 17 Nov 2018
19
Los Angeles

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump declared victory in the midterm elections, although rival Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives from his Republican Party and created a divided Congress for the first time in his administration.

Trump on November 7 said the Republicans "defied history" and had a "big day" in the elections, citing results that showed the party had increased its narrow majority in the Senate.

With some races still too close to call from the November 6 vote, results show that Democrats have taken the edge in the House. With 218 seats needed for a majority in the 435-member chamber, Democrats have won at least 220 to the Republicans' 193, with winners still to be determined in 22 races.

In the Senate, Republicans will hold their majority with at least 52 seats in the 100-seat chamber and could gain further seats with three races still too close to call. They held 51 seats in the previous Senate.

The party of sitting presidents generally loses support in Congress during midterm elections, sometimes in numbers larger than those recorded in this vote.

At his press conference in the White House, Trump blamed retirements and "the media" for losses in the House and called reporters 'hostile.'

Still, he called for Republicans and Democrats to cooperate on passing legislation in the new Congress.

'Hopefully, we can all work together next year to continue delivering for the American people, including on economic growth, infrastructure, trade, lowering the cost of prescription drugs,' he told reporters.

'There's a lot of great things we can do together,' he added during the news conference, which became heated at times between the president and some journalists.

The president said Republicans succeeded despite 'very dramatic" spending by rich Democratic donors and that "history will really see what a good job we did in the final couple of weeks [of the campaign]."

He also named and criticized Republicans who did not ask for his support or "embrace" him during the campaign and lost, saying to some of them, "Too bad.'

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi of California, set to become the House speaker when her Democratic Party takes over leadership in January, appeared to get the backing of Trump, who has long criticized the California lawmaker.

'In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen speaker of the House by the Democrats,' he wrote on Twitter. 'If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!'

During his news conference, Trump praised Pelosi and said he was looking forward to working with her on legislation, such as with infrastructure projects and health care.

Pelosi, currently the minority leader, appears to have enough votes to win the speaker's seat despite the regular attacks by Republicans who have assailed her policies as too liberal. Even some Democratic lawmakers said before the midterms that they would not vote for her as speaker.

Pelosi served as speaker from 2007-11 as she became the first woman to ever hold that powerful position. The House speaker is second in the line of presidential succession after the vice president should something happen to a president.

In a victory celebration late on November 6, Pelosi said a Democratic-led House 'will work for solutions that bring us together because we have all had enough of division."

"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans. It's about restoring the constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration,' said Pelosi, who is expected to hold a news conference at some point on November 7.

With the majority in the House, Democrats have vowed to serve as a check on the president and launch investigations Trump's tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest, and allegations of links between Trump associates and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.

They will be able to call witnesses and subpoena administration officials for any investigation, something Republicans routinely refused to do as the majority party.

Democrats will also have ways to block Trump-backed legislation, such as tax cuts and major changes in U.S. health-care laws.

A simple House majority would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence emerges that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia or that he obstructed justice.

But Trump can't be removed from office without a vote against him by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats could also provide further support for the separate investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials. Both Moscow and Trump deny the allegations.

Trump warned Democrats about excessive investigations, saying it would bring government to a "halt." "I would blame them," he said.

Earlier on November 7, he tweeted that if the Democrats plan to 'waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level,' then Republicans 'will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level.'

'Two can play that game!' Trump said.

During the White House news conference, Trump assailed CNN reporter Jim Acosta, telling him to 'put down the mic' and 'just sit down' when he asked about the Russia investigation. A staffer grabbed the microphone from the reporter.

He also told an NBC reporter to 'sit down' after asking a question.

U.S. midterm elections usually draw fewer voters to the polls than presidential elections, but this year the turnout was significantly higher than usual.

In addition to U.S. congressional posts, voters in many states also cast ballots for governors and new members of state legislatures.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP, CNN, and NBC

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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