This past week began with the reimposition of sanctions against Iran. At the last minute, the Trump administration granted temporary waivers for the eight countries that rely the most on Iran for oil, including India and Iraq, to continue buying oil, which softened the expected blow and helped drive the oil market into bear territory. Waivers or no, Iran is furious, with anti-sanction and anti-American protests spreading across the country. Iran has condemned the sanctions and vows to flout US authority.
Arguments began on the census trial on Monday in Federal Court, with Trump's Justice Department defending its inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Advocacy groups have sued the government for including the question, which they say will yield inaccurate responses to the census, which is in an important tool the government uses to determine how to allocate funds. The citizenship question hasn't appeared on the census since 1950.
Trump also continued his pre-midterm strategy of frightening voters by invoking the specter of voter fraud, despite limited evidence that such fraud occurs. Via Twitter on midterm election eve, Trump said, "Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday's Election (or Early Voting). Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law. Thank you!" Meanwhile, data shows that you're more likely to be struck by lightning than have your identity stolen for fraudulent voting.
Then of course came the midterms themselves on Tuesday. As expected, the Democrats won enough seats to take control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans strengthened their majority in the Senate. The Democrats also gained ground in governor elections, wresting seven seats from GOP control; 23 states are now blue, while 27 are run by reds. Several gubernatorial and Senate elections were plagued by problems, and some were so close that recounts are being held. Trump appeared happy with the midterm results, calling them a success. He also suggested that he might be willing to achieve bipartisan deals with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who he endorsed for the speaker of the House position. While such an endorsement might be the kiss of death for Democrats eager to distance themselves from Trump, it appears Pelosi, who has previously served as speaker, is likely to win.
At a press conference following the midterm results, Trump's good cheer over the midterm results faded as reporters attempted to ask him about his race-baiting, anti-immigrant strategy leading up to the midterms. The questioning lead to a tense exchange between Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta, which ultimately resulted in the White House banning the reporter and threatening to ban others as well. The White House's account of what occurred during the exchange has been less than reliable. Meanwhile, Trump continued his midterm rhetoric by signing a proclamation to curb asylum seekers.
Lastly, after months of publicly criticizing his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Mueller investigation, Trump finally ousted him. Sessions was replaced by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, a Trump loyalist and critic of the investigation. Whitaker is now technically in charge of Mueller's investigation, and seems unlikely to recuse himself. National protests took place in response to Session's dismissal, which many took as a sign that Trump is attempting to sweep under the rug. Meanwhile, Trump is evaluating potential permanent replacements for Sessions, including former NJ governor Chris Christie.