Minnesota's lieutenant governor named as Al Franken's temporary replacement

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will head to Washington to temporary fill the Senate seat left vacant by Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who resigned last week in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations and an ethics committee investigation.

“Though I never anticipated this moment, I’m resolved to do everything that I can to move Minnesota forward, and I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness,” Smith said Wednesday from the Minnesota state Capitol.

“This is a difficult moment for us, but even now I am filled with optimism for Minnesota.”

Smith was appointed Wednesday by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to serve a one-year term, ending in January 2019, until a special election in November 2018 to permanently fill Franken’s seat.

Smith said she intends to run in the special election, adding that it’s “up to Minnesotans to decide for themselves who they want to complete Sen. Franken’s term.”

Franken announced he would be stepping down last Thursday on the Senate floor after several women had accused him of groping them years before he was a Minnesota senator. Smith had thanked Franken Wednesday for his service in the U.S. Senate.

Franken applauded Smith's appointment in a statement. He has not set an official date to leave the Senate, but promised he will help with the transition process.

“She is a dedicated public servant who’s worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans, and Gov. Dayton couldn't have made a better choice for this job. Her record of accomplishment as lieutenant governor demonstrates that she’ll be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota. I look forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition," his statement read.

The timing of Franken’s resignation allowed Dayton, a Democrat, to appoint a replacement.

Minnesota state law stipulates that in the event of a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, a special election "shall be held at the next November election if the vacancy occurs at least 11 weeks before the regular state primary preceding that election."

Dayton said that, in making his decision, he wanted an appointee who would run in the special election, giving "Minnesotans someone to size up and assess."

Because Franken resigned 35 weeks out from the regular state primary -- Aug. 14, 2018 -- the governor "may make a temporary appointment to fill any vacancy" until a permanent successor is elected and sworn in, according to state law.

During his speech last week, Franken had appeared to hint that his replacement might be a woman.

“But Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day,” Franken said.

Asked if President Donald Trump should resign since he faces sexual harassment allegations or a congressional investigation, Smith said she plans on remaining focused on the job at hand.

"I'm going to be focused completely over the next couple of weeks on getting ready to become a senator and moving into Washington, D.C., the first of January. And I'm not going to get into a bunch of the discussion about what's going in Washington right now," Smith said.

But she added that "sexual harassment is disrespectful" and "can't be tolerated."

Smith was first elected lieutenant governor in 2014. She had previously served as Dayton’s chief of staff before being tapped to be his running mate in his second campaign for governor.

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Rosenstein defends Mueller, pushes back at suggestion of bias in Russia probe

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered a strong defense of Robert Mueller's appointment and actions as special counsel on Wednesday and further praised the FBI, even as the bureau has been criticized by President Donald Trump in recent weeks.

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein, who serves as acting attorney general in matters related to last year's presidential election given Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal in such cases, said Mueller was an "ideal choice" for the position and pushed back on the suggestion that investigators on the Russia probe have acted with bias.

Rosenstein said it would be "very difficult" for "anybody to find somebody better qualified for this job.

"Director Mueller has, throughout his lifetime, been a dedicated and respected and heroic public servant," he said.

Mueller is a Republican who was appointed as special counsel by a Trump nominee.

In August, FBI investigator Peter Strzok was removed from the Russia inquiry, later revealed to be due to his participation in text message conversations critical of Trump with a colleague. ABC News reported Tuesday evening that the texts included messages that the president -- still a candidate at the time of the exchanges -- was "an idiot."

Rosenstein addressed concerns from congressmen on Wednesday that political affiliation could have an impact on the impartiality of the investigation.

"I think it’s important to recognize that when we talk about political affiliation… the issue of bias is something different," he said, adding that he and Mueller "recognize we have employees with political opinions. It’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions."

The deputy attorney general continued by saying that he believes Mueller is leading his office "appropriately."

Appearing to seize upon the news of Strzok's messages earlier this month, Trump commented via Twitter that he believed the FBI's reputation was "in tatters" and the "worst in History," a notion Rosenstein refuted.

"I’ve expressed concern with certain aspects of certain things done by the FBI, but in general throughout my experience working with FBI agents over the decades, I found them to be an exceptional group of public servant -- very loyal, faithful and dedicated. And I believe some of the finest people that I know are agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation," he said in response to committee questioning on the matter.

As for some legislators' ongoing concerns that Trump would order Rosenstein to dismiss Mueller in an attempt to end the Russia investigation, the deputy attorney general said no such suggestion has been raised.

"Nobody has communicated to me a desire to remove Robert Mueller," he said Wednesday.

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Sen. Gillibrand says she took Trump's 'do anything' remark as sexual innuendo

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York's junior senator said women are standing up to sexual harassment and assault, and "are not going to be silenced," while doubling down on her claim that the president's attack against her was "a sexist smear."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said she interpreted President Donald Trump's attack that she "would do anything" for campaign donations as a sexual innuendo.

"Well, certainly that's how I and many people read it," she said in an interview Wednesday on NBC's Today Show.

Gillibrand said she believes the president was attempting to discredit her through the innuendo in an effort to stifle her voice.

On Tuesday, Trump criticized Gillibrand after she called for his resignation amid sexual harassment and assault allegations made against him by multiple women. Trump has called the accusations "false" and "fabricated."

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!" Trump tweeted.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disputed the idea that the president's tweet was sexist or a sexual reference, saying, "Only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way."

On Wednesday, Gillibrand strongly disagreed with the notion that people who interpreted Trump's tweet as sexual in nature had their mind in the gutter.

The New York Democrat also reiterated her assertion that Trump should step down from office. She said that if he's unwilling, then "Congress should do an investigation, because we need accountability."

"I have heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers," she said. "I believe them, and he should resign for that."

She also pointed to Democrat Doug Jones' victory over Republican Roy Moore, who has denied accusations of sexual misconduct, in last night's special election as a testament that women will not be kept quiet.

"As we just saw in Alabama, women are not going to be silenced," Gillibrand said. "African-American women are not going to be silenced, and they came out in numbers."

"[Trump has] often berated women and made them feel that they cannot be heard as well," she said. "And what I'm seeing today and what this election of Doug Jones is about is a statement by particularly women -- African-American women -- and the African-American community, coming out and saying we are going to vote our values."

So far, five Democratic senators, including Gillibrand, and one independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party, have called on Trump to resign, and more than 100 House Democrats have joined a letter to the leaders of the House Oversight Committee calling for an investigation into the allegations against Trump.

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EPA watchdog to investigate Scott Pruitt's $25,000 'secure phone booth'

Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Environmental Protection Agency inspector general will review whether Administrator Scott Pruitt misused any appropriated funds when he had a $25,000 "privacy booth" with a secure phone line installed in his office earlier this year, according to a letter to Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The inspector general's letter in response to a request from Democrats on the committee was sent last week but posted by the Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats on Twitter Tuesday.

The EPA has called the booth a "SCIF," or a sensitive compartmented information facility, and said Pruitt needs the secure line to make calls about classified information and communicate with the president. But he said it's difficult to estimate how often he will need it when he was asked about it while testifying during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week.

"The use of a secure phone line is strongly preferred for cabinet-level officials, especially when discussing sensitive matters," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an email Wednesday, adding that they don't comment on matters involving the inspector general.

But Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins also wrote that he won't be able to start the inquiry right away because the Office of Inspector General (OIG) doesn't have enough resources to keep up with all the investigations and other legally required duties such as a semiannual report to Congress.

"The fact is that the OIG has been funded at less than the levels we deem adequate to do all the work that should be done, and therefore we have to make difficult decisions about whether to accept any given potential undertaking," Elkins wrote in the letter.

Each federal agency has an inspector general that serves as a watchdog to investigate complaints about potential fraud, waste or abuse of agency funds. The EPA's inspector general began looking into complaints about the administrator's travel in August, which attracted scrutiny after reports that at least three cabinet secretaries took private flights that ultimately led then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign.

That inquiry is looking into whether the administrator misused any money or violated any policies in the course of his official travel, specifically in regards to at least one chartered flight and multiple government flights that cost more than $58,000, according to information the agency provided to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in September.

It will also look into whether Pruitt followed the proper procedures when traveling back to his home state of Oklahoma after complaints that he went there too frequently in the first few months of his time as administrator.

The inspector general's office also recently announced it would look into whether any rules were broken before the announcement that the U.S. would leave the Paris climate agreement, specifically when Pruitt met with the American Mining Association in April.

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Biden, Meghan McCain get emotional talking about her father's cancer diagnosis

ABC(NEW YORK) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden shared an emotional moment with co-host Meghan McCain on The View Wednesday morning as they discussed her father's brain cancer diagnosis.

"We're like two brothers who were somehow raised by different fathers or something," Biden said of Sen. John McCain, who was diagnosed with the same kind of brain cancer that killed Biden's son, Beau.

Biden moved to sit next to Meghan McCain, saying that her father is seeing one of the doctors his son consulted after being diagnosed with glioblastoma.

Meghan McCain and Biden held hands and both started tearing up when the former vice president talked about the hope that his son kept alive even after getting "this devastating diagnosis like your dad."

Biden added that Beau, who died in 2015, said "we're not going to talk about percentages" after receiving the diagnosis.

"Beau is missing, but we've all decided to not talk about the loss as much as the inspiration he was to all of us," Biden said.

Speaking about the continued speculation about his own future, Biden didn't give a concrete answer about whether he will run for president again in 2020, saying that time will tell.

"If I were offered the nomination by the Lord Almighty today, I would say 'no' because we're not ready. The family's not ready," Biden said, but added that if he were asked next year, "I may very well do it."

Earlier in the interview, Biden also shared his excitement about his former colleague Doug Jones' special election win in Alabama.

"This is not just about rejecting Trump -- which was real -- but it's about Doug Jones," Biden said.

Biden, who campaigned on behalf of Jones, said Jones' victory was not only "a repudiation of President Trump's tactics," adding that some people in Alabama might be "a little ashamed" of those tactics.

Biden said he believes "it wasn't just his opponent's record" that drew people to the polls to vote for Jones on Tuesday night. He was referencing Jones' opponent, Republican Roy Moore, who had come under fire in recent weeks for alleged sexual misconduct, as well as comments he had made about slavery.

Biden praised Jones' character.

"This guy is a very serious guy," Biden said of Jones. "He is real. His dad was a steelworker. He understands how to talk to the middle class."

"I just think I'd rather focus on the positive side of Doug Jones than the ugly side of that side," Biden said.

Speaking about what he saw as some of the ugliness of politics, Biden called Trump's tweet about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday "disgusting."

Trump had tweeted that Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has called for his resignation, "would do anything" for campaign contributions. Gillibrand called the president's remarks "a sexist smear." During the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday, Trump ignored a reporter’s question about what he meant by the tweet.

Biden said that even if Trump's claim that he speaks about men the same way he speaks about women is true, Biden balked at "the idea that the president is so tone-deaf" as to apply that language to a female politician.

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Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault resigning post, White House says

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- 

Omarosa Manigault, the firebrand antagonist from the “The Apprentice”-turned-top Trump administration staffer, officially resigned her post Tuesday as the White House's communications director for the Office of the Public Liaison.

According to the White House, Manigault will stay on until Jan. 20.

This marks the departure of one of Trump's most prominent supporters and team members, a rare minority on his senior staff and often the only person of color at White House meetings.

"Omarosa Manigault Newman resigned yesterday to pursue other opportunities. Her departure will not be effective until Jan. 20, 2018. We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service," a White House official said in a statement.

As it has been with many recent departures from the Trump administration, there are conflicting narratives from sources inside the White House about whether Manigault was forced out or if she resigned of her own accord.

A source with knowledge of her thinking told ABC News that Manigault had been bothered by the president's highly controversial and racially charged reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and suggested the decision to leave was hers.

Other sources in the White House claim she was fired. One source close to the White House told ABC News the effort to remove her was led and personally executed by Chief of Staff John Kelly. A former administration official described Manigault as Kelly's "target No. 1."

Asked about reports that Manigault was forcibly removed from the White House grounds, a source with knowledge of the situation would only say, "like everything with Omarosa, there was drama."

Multiple sources told ABC News that Manigault's departure had been a long time coming and that Kelly's decision to limit access to the president was a source of tension for her.

Kelly ended what was initially an "open door policy" for aides' access to the Oval Office, tightened up meetings and prevented the uninvited from popping in -- a habit, sources say, that was best exhibited by Manigault.

During the campaign, Manigault served as the liaison for Trump to the African-American community -- an unofficial role she has continued in the administration as she set up meetings with black colleges and universities, and also oversaw the president’s visit to the Smithsonian’s African American museum. Manigault was also just one of a handful of minorities within the current west wing staff.

It's possible she will be best remembered, as one former administration official described it, for the moment she showed up unannounced at the White House wearing her wedding dress "with a party van full of her wedding guests" looking to take photos inside. "She was one disaster after another," this former official told ABC News today.

She was barred from posting any of the photos online.

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What Doug Jones' election could mean for the US Senate

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats are already hailing Doug Jones’ victory as a moral triumph -- not just for Alabama, but for the entire country.

His election is a political shot in the arm for Democrats who believed this ruby-red seat was unattainable, a referendum on Roy Moore -- who faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct towards the end of the race -- and on President Donald Trump’s outright endorsement of Moore.

But while his election has powerful political repercussions, Jones becoming the 49th Senate Democrat will likely have only a modest impact on Republicans’ ability to accomplish their legislative goals, although his joining the Senate ranks will be a strong catalyst for Republicans to finish their major agenda items before he is sworn in.

The biggest difference that Jones can make, in terms of Senate votes, is on bills and nominations requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes, such as budget-related measures and judicial nominees.

On taxes, Jones’ victory could vex Republicans’ whip count if he is in fact sworn in before Congress sends their bill to President Trump’s desk. Jones is expected to be sworn in by Dec. 27 at the earliest, but party leaders insist they will have the bill done by Christmas.

But if they fail to advance the bill before Jones is seated, Republicans would only be able to lose one of their remaining 51 votes in the Senate and still pass the bill on a party-line vote, with Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tie-breaker.

House and Senate Republicans are working in what’s known as a conference committee to merge their respective versions of the tax bill into a conference report together, and Senate leaders have said they’ll have a final version ready for votes by the end of this week.

But Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., already voted against Senate’s initial version of the bill. So in the event that he is still a "no" vote and Jones is sworn in before the conference report gets voted out of Congress, Senate leaders will no longer have any margin at all for losing additional Republicans.

Beyond the tax bill, most of the Senate’s major legislative pushes will require a supermajority, so Republicans will need to get nine Democratic “yes” votes in order to advance most bills instead of eight. Jones has political views in keeping with those of the mainstream of his party.

While Senate Democrats will no doubt relish the additional vote they have with Jones -- not to mention the political and moral messages his victory sends -- their bigger challenge will come in 2018, when 23 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats are up for re-election and Republicans are defending only 10 seats.

“The '18 election will decide who will control the Senate, and I think it’s going to be us. I hope so,” Sen. Richard Shelby, Jones’ future fellow Alabama senator, told reporters hours before the vote.

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Meet Democrat Doug Jones, Alabama's senator-elect

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Alabama's senatorial runoff day not only marked the first time a Democrat has won a Senate seat in Alabama in 25 years.

It also marked a major introduction for Doug Jones.

Jones' campaign for senator was often overshadowed by the bluster of, and litany of accusations against, his opponent, Roy Moore.

He stepped out on the national stage on Tuesday evening with a hard-fought victory, looking to leave an impression, and left the stage -- yes, honestly -- to the tune of "Teach Me How to Dougie."

Here's what you need to know about the Alabama senator-elect:

Legal background

Prior to stepping into the national spotlight in this special-election Senate race, Jones spent most of his career working on the state level.

He has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, and was appointed to the role as a U.S. attorney by then-President Bill Clinton in 1997.

On his campaign website, Jones notes that while he was appointed by a Democratic president, he was confirmed by a majority-Republican Senate.

Jones left the U.S. attorney's office in 2001 and worked in a private practice.

He entered himself into the Senate special-election race in May, vying for the seat left open when Jeff Sessions was appointed as attorney general in President Trump's cabinet.

High-profile cases

During the campaign, Jones pointed to some of the biggest legal cases that he was involved with through the years.

One was a 1963 church bombing that left four black teenage girls dead and two Ku Klux Klan members free for more than two decades after the crime.

One suspect in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was put on trial and convicted in 1977, but it wasn't until 20 years later that the case against two other suspects -- Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry -- was reopened shortly after Jones was appointed as U.S. attorney. Blanton was convicted in 2001, and Cherry was found guilty a year later.

Jones was also involved in the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 attack on a Birmingham abortion clinic killed an off-duty police officer. Rudolph was convicted in 2005, after Jones left office.

Historic win

Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Sen. Richard Shelby was re-elected in 1992. He switched his affiliation to the GOP in 1994 and still holds that seat.

After Moore’s victory over former Republican primary nominee Luther Strange, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and other Democratic groups sent out statements in support of Jones, signaling more national support heading his way.

“Doug Jones is a man of character and integrity who is unafraid to stand up for what’s right and has a proven record of independence that will serve Alabama families in the U.S. Senate,” DSCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen wrote in a statement Tuesday night.

“Doug subscribes to the founders’ immortal declaration that all men and women are created equal and, as such, he has always put people over party,” the DNC statement read. “And he’ll bring that same integrity and tenacity to Washington when Alabamians elect him to serve as their next senator in December’s special election.”

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Support from women hands Democrats victory in Alabama, exit polls show

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Negative perceptions among voters over the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican Roy Moore handed the Democrats a rare victory in deep-red Alabama, with broad gender and racial gaps and vast shifts among typically pro-GOP groups in the state, including independents, moderates and non-evangelical whites.

On the central issue of the election, 51 percent of voters said the allegations against Moore were definitely or probably true, vs. 44 percent who saw them as definitely or probably false. Those who believed Moore’s accusers backed Jones by 90-8 percent.

Among key groups, Democrat Doug Jones led Moore by 17 percentage points among women in exit poll results, 58-41 percent, a sharp shift from 12- and 21-point Republican margins among women in the 2012 presidential and 2008 Senate elections in the state, the last two races in which exit polls were conducted.

Jones’ support from women was concentrated, in particular, among women with children under 18 at home, who backed him by 66-32 percent. The Moore controversy involved his alleged advances toward young and underage women.

Jones won 31 percent of whites, double Barack Obama’s share in 2012 and nearly triple the Democratic share in the 2008 Senate race. College-educated white women and non-evangelical whites swung very sharply toward the Democrat. Blacks, a nearly unanimous group for Jones, accounted for 28 percent of voters, in line with their past turnout despite a more restrictive voter ID law enacted in 2014.

One big shift came among political independents. Twenty-one percent of voters, they favored Jones by 9 points, after voting Republican by an overwhelming 52-point margin in 2012 and by 45 points in 2008.

The result came in a state that’s about as solidly Republican as they come. Now-President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 28 points here last year, the largest margin of victory in a presidential contest in the state since 1972 and Trump’s fifth biggest win -- after Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Republican Sen. Richard Shelby won re-election also by 28 points last year, and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions beat the Democrat by 27 points in 2008. (Sessions was unopposed in 2014.)

Trump, who controversially endorsed Moore, managed only a 48-47 percent approval-disapproval rating among Alabama voters. Those who “strongly” disapprove of the president’s work in office, moreover, outnumbered strong approvers by 7 points, 40 to 33 percent.

Jones won even as Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 6 points, 43 to 37 percent. Reflecting the party’s built-in advantage in Alabama, more voters said they wanted the Republican Party to be in control of the Senate than the Democratic Party, 50-44 percent. At the same time, neither party is held in high regard: Forty-six percent saw the Democratic Party favorably, while 44 percent said the same about the GOP.

Among other factors, Jones scored on enthusiasm. Seventy-five percent of his voters said they strongly favored their candidate, compared with 55 percent of Moore’s voters. Indeed, 56 percent of voters saw Moore unfavorably overall. Jones did better, but not well; 48 percent saw him unfavorably.

Moore relied on traditional, core GOP groups in the state: conservatives, Republicans, white evangelicals, men, non-college whites and older voters. White evangelicals accounted for 44 percent of voters, compared with 47 percent in the 2012 presidential and 2008 Senate elections alike. Additionally, 53 percent of voters said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Moore is strongly anti-abortion, while Jones generally supports legal abortion.

Helpfully to Moore -- albeit insufficient -- voters under age 30 saw their share of the electorate fall to 13 percent, down from 18 percent in 2012 and 22 percent in 2008. They backed Jones by 60-38 percent.

Jones' win relied on support from women, independents, liberal, moderates, blacks, non-evangelical whites, white college graduates, younger voters, and residents of Birmingham and the surrounding south central region.

Much fewer than half of voters, 41 percent, said the allegations against Moore were at least one of several important factors in their vote. Of the rest, 19 percent called the controversy a minor factor and 35 percent said it was not a factor at all. That adds to 60 percent calling the controversy a factor, if even a minor one -- and they voted for Jones by 68-31 percent, enough to lift him to his improbable victory.

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Doug Jones' victory in Alabama comes on special anniversary

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Doug Jones made history on Tuesday as the first Democrat to be voted into Senate from reliably red Alabama in more than two decades. But Jones called the day a historic one for another reason: It was also his 25th wedding anniversary.

“I have said throughout this campaign that I thought that Dec. 12 would be an historic day,” Jones said during his victory speech Tuesday night. “But I gotta tell you -- and you know where I’m headed -- Dec. 12 has always been an historic day for the Jones family.”

“This is, as you know, mine and Louise’s 25th wedding anniversary. My running mate, my partner. I could not have done this without her,” he added as he reached out to kiss his smiling wife.

Jones went on to thank her for her “love,” “support” and “encouragement” over the years.

“This has been a wonderful night,” he said. “I am truly overwhelmed."

“We have shown not just around the state of Alabama, but we have shown the country the way that we can be unified,” Jones added.

Jones, a former U.S. attorney, is projected by ABC News to have defeated Republican Roy Moore in a closely watched special election that gained national attention when several women accused Moore of sexual misconduct toward them. Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, denied those claims throughout the race.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting as of midnight Wednesday, Jones led Moore 49.9 to 48.4 percent, a difference of just under 21,000 votes.

Moore, however, refused to concede defeat late Tuesday, telling supporters that “it's not over.”

Jones is set to take over the seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. His term would expire in January 2021.

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