Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - GOVERNMENT - SHAN­NON EBRAHIM shan­

PHILIP RUCKER DEMOCRATS seized con­trol of the House while Repub­li­cans held the Se­nate on Tues­day in a na­tional ref­er­en­dum on Pres­i­dent Donald Trump that drew record num­bers of vot­ers to the polls and opened the door to tougher over­sight of the White House over the next two years.

The dra­matic con­clu­sion of the most ex­pen­sive and con­se­quen­tial midterms in mod­ern times fell short of de­liv­er­ing the sweep­ing re­pu­di­a­tion of Trump wished for by Democrats and the “re­sis­tance” move­ment. But Democrats’ takeover in the House still por­tended se­ri­ous changes in Wash­ing­ton, as the party pre­pared to block Trump’s agenda and in­ves­ti­gate his per­sonal fi­nances and po­ten­tial ties to Rus­sia.

An im­me­di­ate post-elec­tion change to Trump’s cabi­net came on Wed­nes­day when At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions re­signed at the pres­i­dent’s re­quest. Trump, who said to ex­pect staff changes af­ter the midterms, had re­peat­edly crit­i­cised Ses­sions’s per­for­mance.

“We thank At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions for his ser­vice, and wish him well! A per­ma­nent re­place­ment will be nom­i­nated at a later date,” Trump tweeted.

Trump had de­clined to an­swer a ques­tion about Ses­sions’ fate hours ear­lier at a com­bat­ive news con­fer­ence where he vowed to adopt a “war­like pos­ture” in re­sponse to any at­tempt by House Democrats to in­ves­ti­gate his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Democrats have gained more than the 23 House seats needed to win a ma­jor­ity.

House Democrats are pre­pared to launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Trump and to closely scru­ti­nise his poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and health care. But they are wary of im­me­di­ately pur­su­ing im­peach­ment, con­cerned that such a move would un­der­mine law­mak­ers who rep­re­sent districts that Trump won in 2016.

Trump said in­ves­ti­ga­tions launched by the House would jeop­ar­dise prospects for bi­par­ti­san deals on is­sues such as trade, in­fra­struc­ture and pre­scrip­tion drug costs.

In a new talk­ing point, Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader Mitch McCon­nell, Repub­li­can-Ken­tucky, cau­tioned Democrats against en­gag­ing in “pres­i­den­tial ha­rass­ment” in the form of overly ag­gres­sive over­sight. “The Democrats in the House will have to de­cide just how much pres­i­den­tial ha­rass­ment is good strat­egy. I’m not sure it will work for them,” he said on Wed­nes­day.

At her own news con­fer­ence, House mi­nor­ity leader Nancy Pelosi, Demo­crat-Cal­i­for­nia, cred­ited the Demo­cratic vic­tory in the House to the party’s fo­cus on health­care is­sues. She said Democrats had a “re­spon­si­bil­ity for over­sight” but said com­mit­tees’ ef­forts would not be “scat­ter­shot”.

“We’ll know what we are do­ing and we’ll do it right,” she said.

Jock­ey­ing for House lead­er­ship po­si­tions be­gan in earnest on Wed­nes­day. Pelosi is widely con­sid­ered to be the front-run­ner to re­take the speaker’s gavel, though dozens of Demo­cratic can­di­dates had called for new lead­er­ship dur­ing the cam­paign.

Trump him­self threw sup­port be­hind Pelosi’s bid, tweet­ing on Wed­nes­day that she “has earned this great hon­our” and that the GOP would “per­haps” lend her some votes if Democrats “give her a hard time”.

On the Repub­li­can side, House free­dom cau­cus chair­per­son Jim Jor­dan of Ohio said he would chal­lenge Repub­li­can Kevin McCarthy of Cal­i­for­nia for the role of mi­nor­ity leader. The move un­der­scored con­ser­va­tives’ de­sire to ex­pand their power within the GOP con­fer­ence af­ter a bruis­ing elec­tion.

House GOP lead­er­ship elec­tions are sched­uled for Wed­nes­day.

On Tues­day, Repub­li­cans won hotly con­tested Se­nate races in In­di­ana, Mis­souri, North Dakota, Ten­nessee and Texas, with Trump’s racially charged warn­ings about un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants and de­mon­i­sa­tion of Democrats ap­pear­ing to help with­stand the “blue wave” the GOP once feared.

But Democrats – pro­pelled by a re­jec­tion of Trump­ism in the na­tion’s sub­urbs and from women and mi­nor­ity vot­ers es­pe­cially – notched vic­to­ries in ar­eas that just two years ago helped send Trump to the White House.

Women played a piv­otal role in Demo­cratic vic­to­ries.

The Demo­cratic Party won their sup­port by 19 points, the largest mar­gin in the his­tory of midterm exit polling, com­pared with their mar­gin of four points in 2014. In­de­pen­dent women voted for Demo­cratic can­di­dates by a 17-point mar­gin af­ter nar­rowly sup­port­ing Repub­li­cans in 2014. And white women, a re­li­able vot­ing bloc for the GOP, split their votes evenly be­tween the two par­ties this year, af­ter favour­ing Repub­li­cans by 14 points in 2014 and by 19 points in 2010.

The Democrats’ new House ma­jor­ity was also pro­pelled by a record num­ber of fe­male can­di­dates. Women hold 84 House seats, but that share is pro­jected to ex­pand to 100 or more when all results are tal­lied. Across the coun­try, 277 women were on the bal­lot on Tues­day for Congress and gov­er­nor­ships, an un­prece­dented num­ber that in­cluded 210 House can­di­dates.

Over­all, the party picked up at least seven gov­er­nor­ships, per­form­ing well across much of the up­per Mid­west and even in Kansas, where Laura Kelly was elected gov­er­nor over Trump’s hand­picked can­di­date, Kris Kobach.

In Wis­con­sin, Demo­crat Tony Evers bested Gov­er­nor Scott Walker, once a Repub­li­can star who ran for pres­i­dent in 2016.

But Democrats were dis­ap­pointed else­where. Sen­a­tors Joe Don­nelly of In­di­ana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire Mc­Caskill of Mis­souri were de­feated, while Se­na­tor Bill Nel­son, Demo­crat-Florida, his re-elec­tion in doubt, said his race was pro­ceed­ing to a re­count.

Democrats kept two hotly con­tested Se­nate seats in West Vir­ginia and Mon­tana and picked up one in Ne­vada, where Demo­cratic Rep­re­se­ta­tive Jacky Rosen pre­vailed over Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Dean Heller. Two of the lib­eral move­ment’s great­est hopes for this elec­tion cy­cle, Democrats Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gil­lum, strug­gled to over­come some of the most overt racial at­tacks since the civil rights era and make his­tory as the first black gover­nors in Ge­or­gia and Florida, re­spec­tively.

While Gil­lum con­ceded to Repub­li­can Ron DeSan­tis, a Trump ally, Abrams told sup­port­ers she would not con­cede to Repub­li­can Brian Kemp while the race was too close to call. If each can­di­date earns less than 50% of the vote, they would go head-to-head in a December run-off elec­tion.

An­other Demo­cratic star, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beto O’Rourke of Texas, lost his spir­ited chal­lenge to Se­na­tor Ted Cruz, Repub­li­can, de­spite rais­ing record sums of money and at­tract­ing grass-roots sup­port.

Midterm elec­tions tra­di­tion­ally are ref­er­en­dums on the party in power, but Trump sought to en­sure that this one would be a ref­er­en­dum on his pres­i­dency.

Re­turn­ing to his 2016 cam­paign play­book, the pres­i­dent de­liv­ered fiery speeches that drew mas­sive and en­thu­si­as­tic crowds, but con­tained a breath­tak­ing bar­rage of false­hoods, in­vec­tive and dem­a­goguery. De­scrib­ing him­self in the clos­ing weeks as a “na­tion­al­ist”, Trump made a car­a­van of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants pre­par­ing to seek asy­lum in the US a dom­i­nant theme.

The racial over­tones put that ex­plo­sive form of pol­i­tics on the bal­lot, with ma­jor stakes for Repub­li­cans. The GOP is now over­whelm­ingly white, while Democrats have a much more multi-eth­nic coali­tion that rep­re­sents the di­rec­tion in which the coun­try’s de­mo­graph­ics are head­ing.

For­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama con­grat­u­lated Democrats for “elect­ing record num­bers of women and young vet­er­ans of Iraq and Afghanistan, a surge of mi­nor­ity can­di­dates and a host of out­stand­ing young lead­ers”.

“The more Amer­i­cans who vote, the more our elected lead­ers look like Amer­ica,” Obama said. | NINETY-some­thing-year-olds world­wide are be­ing tried for their po­lit­i­cal crimes, so what makes Joao Ro­drigues think he is too old to face the mu­sic?

The arguments he puts for­ward in an ef­fort to es­cape pros­e­cu­tion is that he is 79, trav­el­ling to Jo­han­nes­burg from Pre­to­ria for the trial is tir­ing, he walks with the aid of a walk­ing stick, has di­a­betes and a heart con­di­tion, a fad­ing mem­ory, and should have been tried ear­lier. I would like to in­tro­duce him to an 81-year-old I know who is work­ing two jobs, trav­el­ling over­seas reg­u­larly and never com­plains.

But more to the point, there have been a se­ries of 90-year-olds in the me­dia lately who are fac­ing trial for their role in crimes com­mit­ted as long as 78 years ago. This month a 94-year-old for­mer SS guard faces trial for his com­plic­ity in mass mur­der in a con­cen­tra­tion camp in Stut­thof – seven decades af­ter World War II. Cur­rently, 28 pros­e­cu­tions are un­der way of Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp guards, most of them over 90.

Four months ago, eight re­tired Chilean mil­i­tary of­fi­cers were sen­tenced to 15 years in prison for a mur­der com­mit­ted 45 years ago. Sim­i­larly, this year four for­mer high-rank­ing Gu­atemalan mil­i­tary of­fi­cers were sen­tenced to 58 years in prison for forced dis­ap­pear­ances and sex­ual abuse com­mit­ted in 1981. In 2016, an Ar­gen­tine Air Force bri­gadier, Omar Graf­figna, at the age of 90, went on trial for forced dis­ap­pear­ances.

The mes­sage th­ese cases are send­ing is that you are never too old to face jus­tice, and this is a warn­ing to all those who think they will get away with crimes against hu­man­ity with the pas­sage of time, and na­tional pro­cesses of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

Our rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process was ar­guably over gen­er­ous in of­fer­ing apartheid killers amnesty, if they gave a full dis­clo­sure of their crimes. The process was in­her­ently flawed in that many of the spe­cial branch mur­ders did not fully dis­close their crimes or they gave in­ac­cu­rate ver­sions of what hap­pened, and still re­ceived amnesty, which went against the grain of amnesty in re­turn for the truth.

Ro­drigues may not have been a se­nior rank­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cer or a con­cen­tra­tion camp guard com­plicit in the mur­der of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, but that does not ab­solve him of com­plic­ity in a bru­tal apartheid-era mur­der, and his in­ten­tional cover-up over decades.

He was given fair warn­ing, both at the time of the TRC and by Judge Billy Mothle in the Ti­mol in­quest last year, that if he came clean and told the truth, he could es­cape pros­e­cu­tion for his role in the crime, but at every op­por­tu­nity he stuck to the story the Spe­cial Branch con­cocted to cover up Ahmed

Ti­mol’s mur­der at John Vorster Square in 1971.

The judge found that not only had he per­jured him­self in the orig­i­nal 1971 in­quest, and again in the 2017 in­quest, but he had ob­structed and de­feated the ends of jus­tice. The Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity be­lieves they have enough ev­i­dence to prove his com­plic­ity in Ti­mol’s mur­der.

The pros­e­cu­tion of Ro­drigues is sig­nif­i­cant, not only for the sake of jus­tice and Ti­mol’s fam­ily, but it sets a prece­dent in terms of the pros­e­cu­tion of other mem­bers of the Spe­cial Branch who tor­tured and mur­dered anti-apartheid ac­tivists and never owned up to their crimes be­fore the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

KATHER­INE FREY Wash­ing­ton Post

Demo­crat Jen­nifer Wex­ton talks to sup­port­ers flanked by her hus­band, Andrew, in Dulles, Vir­ginia. Wex­ton beat in­cum­bent Bar­bara Com­stock in Vir­ginia’s 10th con­gres­sional district. |

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