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Trump hails an 'incredible day' despite Republicans losing the House of Representatives

 

By Andrew Buncombe

Donald Trump - grumpy and perhaps sleep deprived - sought to defend the midterm elections as "an incredible day" for Republicans, despite his party losing the House of Representatives and opening the door to two years of intense scrutiny from Democrats.

Having praised Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Twitter, saying she deserved to be speaker of the House, he said he was ready to work with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

But in one of his first acts after the election, Mr Trump sacked US attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Mr Sessions announced his resignation in a letter to Mr Trump and said it came at "your request".

The decision to leave his post comes after Mr Sessions endured more than a year of blistering and personal attacks over his recusal from the investigation into ties between Russia and Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Trump announced the resignation in a tweet and tweeted separately that he was naming Mr Sessions' chief of staff Matthew Whitaker, a former US attorney from Iowa, as acting attorney general.

The resignation was the culmination of a toxic relationship that frayed just weeks into Mr Sessions' tumultuous tenure, when he stepped aside from the investigation into potential co-ordination between the president's campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump blamed the decision for opening the door to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who took over the Russia investigation and began examining whether Mr Trump's hectoring of Mr Sessions was part of a broader effort to obstruct justice and stymie the probe.

Earlier, at an appearance at which he repeatedly snapped at the media and ordered reporters to sit down, displaying a degree of venom that was shocking even given his propensity for such attacks, the president made clear that cooperation with Democrats depended on them not launching a series of investigations into him or his administration - something they have already made clear they intend to do.

"It was a big day yesterday, an incredible day," he said, in what was apparently only his third formal solo news conference at the White House. "Last night the Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House."

Of the potential to work with Democrats, he added: "It really could be a beautiful bipartisan situation."

Yet he said such cooperation depended on Democrats not seeking to hold endless hearings and investigations - something he said Republicans could also do through their continuing control of the Senate. "You can't do it simultaneously," he said.

The president spoke the morning after a day in which the political power structure shifted sharply in the US, Democrats winning 26 House seats to take control of the lower chamber for the first time since 2010. Even if Democrats opt not to push for impeachment hearings, they could hold an endless hearing, subpoena members of the government and act as a block to many of his policy ambitions.

Republicans managed to gain two seats in the senate, something Mr Trump said had not healed for 100 years.

When the new congress is sworn in next January, Democrats will head House committees that can investigate the president's tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and any links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump also accused a reporter who asked him if his campaign rhetoric in the lead-up to the US midterm elections had emboldened white nationalists of posing a "racist question".

The president attacked PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor over her line of questioning on Wednesday yesterday at a fiery press conference in Washington.

Mr Trump also doubled down on comments he made during speech at a campaign rally ahead of the midterms, in which he described himself as a "nationalist".

"On the campaign trail you called yourself a nationalist, some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists," Ms Alcindor began. "I don't know why you'd say that," Mr Trump said, cutting off the reporter. "That's such a racist question."

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