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August 13, 2017

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday what President Trump so far has not: that the lethal vehicle attack on a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday was domestic terrorism.

"I certainly think any time that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism," McMaster told ABC host George Stephanopoulos. "It meets the definition of terrorism."

"But what this is, what you see here," he continued, "is you see someone who is a criminal who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans — a criminal act that may have been motivated, and we'll see what's turned up in this investigation, by this hatred and bigotry which I mentioned we have to extinguish in our nation."

Watch a clip of McMaster making similar remarks on NBC News below. Bonnie Kristian

8:56 a.m. ET

Democrat Doug Jones' victory in Alabama on Tuesday night represents a stunning blow to President Trump, who won the state by nearly 28 points last November. Trump's favorite television program, though, is giving Republican Roy Moore's bruising loss in the Yellowhammer State the kind of spin that could give you whiplash: "This was not a referendum on Trump," one host suggested Wednesday morning. "I feel like it was a referendum on Harvey Weinstein."

Nobody else did:

It all goes to show that not everyone can be Kellyanne Conway. Watch the clip below. Jeva Lange

8:27 a.m. ET

Doug Jones, a Democrat and former federal prosecutor, beat Republican Roy Moore in Alabama's special Senate election on Tuesday night. Alabama is a solidly red state whose last elected Democrat in the Senate, Richard Shelby, switched parties in the '90s. "What went right for Jones?" asked Steve Kornacki on MSNBC Tuesday night. "Well, first of all, the answer is basically everything went right. If you're a Democrat and you're winning by 20,000 votes, a tiny margin, but you need everything to break your way."

Specifically, according to exit polls, Jones won 96 percent of black voters, and turnout was high in Alabama's "black belt." He also beat Moore among younger voters (62 percent to 36 percent), and in the counties with the two biggest universities, Auburn and University of Alabama, both of which President Trump won last year. Also, turnout was lower in strongly Republican counties, Kornacki said. "You didn't have Republicans in these counties going out and switching parties and voting Democrat, you just didn't have them coming out at all. They weren't turning out, they weren't energized, and again, in these Democratic areas, you saw the opposite."

There were 22,780 write-in votes, presumably mostly from Republicans who couldn't vote for Moore, and 91 percent of voters said the candidate's personal morality was important to their vote, versus 88 percent who said that about which party controls Congress. Jones leads by 1.5 percentage points in the unofficial tally, and Moore has not yet conceded. Peter Weber

8:13 a.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Federal Reserve policy makers wrap up their two-day meeting on Wednesday, and they are widely expected to bump up interest rates by a quarter percent for the third time this year. The meeting is Janet Yellen's last as chair. Her successor, Fed Governor Jerome Powell, said during his recent confirmation hearing that he had "no sense of an overheating economy," suggesting openness to speeding up rate increases as long as the economy continues to strengthen and inflation remains in an acceptable zone. When the Fed releases its statement at 2 p.m., analysts will be looking for indications of how the Fed expects the GOP's proposed corporate and individual tax cuts to affect the economy and the central bank's plans for more interest rate reductions in 2018. Harold Maass

8:12 a.m. ET
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Muslim leaders in Turkey on Wednesday that "from now on" America does not have a legitimate role in the Middle Eastern peace process, The Associated Press writes. The decision follows President Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move Abbas described as a "crime" and proof that America is not "fit" to act as a mediator.

A large number of U.S. allies were outspokenly against Trump's decision, including many leaders of Muslim-majority nations. America expects "the Islamic nation to remain silent," Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at the same conference. "But we will never be silent. This bullying eliminates the possibility of peace and the grounds for shared life. The U.S.'s decision is null for us."

America is already experiencing its diminished influence in the region, with next week's scheduled meeting between Abbas and Vice President Mike Pence canceled in response to the Trump administration's Jerusalem decision. That might throw a wrench in Trump's promise in September to make "the deal of the century" by reaching peace in the Middle East.

"I think we have a pretty good shot," Trump had said at the time. "Maybe the best shot ever." Jeva Lange

7:43 a.m. ET

After being blasted by President Trump on Tuesday in what many interpreted as a sexist smear, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) firmly reiterated to Today that "women aren't going to be silenced right now."

"Since the Women's March, women have stood up, have fought hard, have spoken out about their beliefs, and not stopped," Gillibrand said Wednesday.

On Monday, Gillibrand told CNN that Trump should resign due to a number of accusations of sexual misconduct. She renewed that demand on Today, telling host Savannah Guthrie: "I've heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers, I believe them, and he should resign for that."

"People are looking for justice," she added, describing the #MeToo movement as "a moment in time unlike any other." Watch more of her comments below. Jeva Lange

6:58 a.m. ET

"Rarely has a sitting president rallied behind such a scandal-plagued candidate the way Donald Trump did with Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore," says Julie Pace at The Associated Press. "And rarely has that bet failed so spectacularly." One senior administration official told Politico that Tuesday's victory for Democrat Doug Jones "is a big black eye for the president," and Politico added that "it was a self-inflicted wound."

Trump's first reaction to Moore's loss, "a demure Twitter post congratulating Doug Jones" that Trump sent "while in the White House residence, alone for much of the evening, with the first lady out of town," wasn't expected to be his last word, Maggie Haberman reports at The New York Times. "White House aides on Tuesday night were bracing for fallout, in person and on Twitter," as Trump absorbed the loss. Advisers conceded that Trump "rarely assumes responsibility for a misstep, and they anticipated him looking for someone to blame," the Times adds, but the question was who. On Wednesday morning, Trump blamed "the deck":

Trump aides and advisers "spun the loss as belonging squarely to Mr. Moore," arguing that "Trump could not drag someone that weak over the finish line against a crush of outside spending," Haberman reports, but White House aides really hoped Stephen Bannon would get the blame. Trump was "enraged when his daughter Ivanka Trump got ahead of him by declaring there was a 'special place in hell' for people who harm children," meaning Moore, she adds, but "one White House adviser said that Mr. Trump was unlikely to blame his daughter." You can read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

6:06 a.m. ET

Republican Roy Moore lost a Senate race in Alabama on Tuesday, despite full-throated support from President Trump, but Trump backed the other guy in the Republican primary, Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt said Tuesday night. "This is something that Stephen Bannon and his acolytes are going to have to think about now," he said. "Donald Trump was right about the Alabama primary; Steve Bannon, the president's chief political adviser during the campaign, was wrong."

Heading into 2018, Stirewalt said, Republicans and the Bannonites are going to figure out "how much of this primary battle stuff do they want to do? How much of this civil war stuff do they want to do? And what other seats could it cost them?" Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is "thinking very much about the 2018 midterm elections," he added. "Having Roy Moore serving [in] the United States Senate might have cost multiple seats for Republicans. You can't know, it's all hypotheticals as you play it out — but having Roy Moore as a sitting U.S. senator ... was going to be trouble for the rest of his party." In politics, Stirewelt said, "winning is always better than losing, but this may be one where the silver lining is quite considerable."

Conservative Republicans in Alabama had a tough choice between helping their party in Washington and making themselves a national laughingstock, Stirewalt said. "Kookism is not something Alabamians are particularly interested in associating themselves with," and Roy Moore was a bridge too far. "I think that's where you get those tens of thousands of write-in votes," he added, "where they're saying, 'I'm not going to vote for the Democrat,' but — I think it's important — they're saying, 'I want you to know I was here ... and if you wouldn't have failed me, I would have been there for you." Peter Weber

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