FOX NEWS FIRST: Exclusive - Trump defends Acting AG Whitaker, says no to Mueller sit-down interview

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Developing now, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018

  • President Trump, in an exclusive interview with FOX News' Chris Wallace, addressed controversies surrounding his acting attorney general and the Robert Mueller probe, potential upcoming changes in his administration, his war of words with CNN correspondent Jim Acosta and more
  • Trump told FOX it wasn’t necessary for him to hear the tape of the purported killing of activist Jamal Khashoggi and that the Saudi Crown prince had repeatedly denied involvement in the slaying
  • Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceded Florida's hard-fought U.S. Senate race to Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday after machine and manual recounts had Scott ahead by approximately 10,000 votes
  • Embattled Florida election official Brenda Snipes reportedly has submitted her resignation
  • The death toll of California's devastating wildfires has risen to at least 77, while the number of people unaccounted for has dropped to 1,000. Authorities are concerned rain could hinder the search for more victims

THE LEAD STORY - EXCLUSIVE: TRUMP ON WHITAKER, MUELLER PROBE, CNN'S ACCOSTA - President Trump, speaking Fox News' Chris Wallace in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, defended Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker against Democrats' calls for his recusal in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, and said that he probably would not sit down for an interview with Mueller ... The president said he was unaware that Whitaker previously had been critical of Mueller's probe and had written in 2017 that it was at risk of becoming a "political fishing expedition." Trump added that he "would not get involved" in Whitaker's decisions as he oversees Mueller's probe in his new role as head of the Justice Department and was confident Whitaker is "going to do what's right." The president added that he has personally responded to Mueller's written questions in the Russia probe and that they would be submitted "very soon." Trump said his team is "writing what I tell them to write" in response to the inquiries.

Trump emphasized, however, that he probably would not sit for an in-person interview with Mueller, amid fears voiced by his attorneys that he could be tricked into a so-called "perjury trap."

The president also addressed several other topics, including:

  • His war of words with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta: "If he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference."
  • On rumored upcoming changes in his administration: Trump said Chief of Staff John Kelly "will want to move on" and suggested he is considering potential changes in "three or four or five positions." 

CLICK HERE to read the transcript of President Trump's interview with Chris Wallace. - Reported by Gregg Re (@gregg_re on Twitter)

TRUMP: ‘NO REASON’ TO HEAR KHASHOGGI TAPE: In his interview with FOX News, President Trump said there was "no reason" for him to hear a tape recording purported to be of the killing of Saudi activist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate last month ... "We have the tape, I don't want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape," Trump said on "FOX News Sunday." When Chris Wallace asked why he did not want to hear the recording, Trump said: "Because it's a suffering tape, it's a terrible tape. I've been fully briefed on it. There's no reason for me to hear it."

On Saturday, Trump vowed that his administration would "be having a very full report over the next two days, probably Monday or Tuesday." It was unclear whether the document would be made public. The Washington Post and other outlets have reported that the CIA had concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's death. A U.S. government official told Fox News on Saturday that no final assessment or conclusion relating to the crown prince's involvement had been reached, nor had a so-called "smoking gun" been found.

Trump told "FOX News Sunday" that the crown prince, known informally as "MbS," had told him "maybe five times" that he had no involvement in Khashoggi's death. When Wallace asked what Trump would do if he determines that the crown prince has lied to him, Trump said: "Will anybody really know?"- Reported by Samuel Chamberlain (@SChamberlainFOX on Twitter)

FLORIDA RECOUNT RESOLVED: Florida's long-time Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson conceded to Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday, drawing the hotly contested race to represent the Sunshine State to a close after 12 days of legal wrangling ... According to the Florida Secretary of State's office, Scott led Nelson by approximately 10,000 votes after the state's 67 counties completed machine and manual recounts Nelson, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, met his match in Scott, who launched a competitive campaign for Florida votes. Scott, a two-term governor of the state, said Nelson called him to “graciously” concede and that Scott, in turn, thanked Nelson for his years of service. Scott has now won narrow victories in three statewide races since 2010. - Reported by Barnini Chakraborty (@Barnini on Twitter)

REPORT: SNIPES OUT - Brenda Snipes, the much-criticized supervisor of elections in Florida's Broward County, has submitted her resignation, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Sunday ... The paper reported that Snipes' resignation will take effect in January. Snipes was under fire for her handling of votes during this year's elections. Florida's contests for governor and U.S. Senate went to recounts, putting the political spotlight on the Sunshine State with an intensity not seen since the 2000 presidential election. - Reported by Nicole Darrah (@nicoledarrah on Twitter)

RAIN A BLESSING AND CURSE FOR FIRE-RAVAGED CALIFORNIA: The search for remains of victims of the devastating Northern California wildfire has taken on new urgency as rain in the forecast could complicate those efforts while also bringing relief to firefighters on the front lines ... Up to 400 people fanned out Sunday to search the ash and rubble where homes once stood before flames roared through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise and surrounding communities, killing at least 77 people in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century. Teams of volunteers and search and rescue crews poked through the smoky debris for fragments of bone before rains can wash them away or turn loose, dry ash into a thick paste. About 1,000 names remain on a list of people unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began. Authorities don't believe all those on the list are missing and the roster dropped by 300 on Sunday as more people were located or got in touch to say they weren't missing. - Reported by the Associated Press


KKK-ICE 'INSANITY'- "Who you gonna call, Ghostbusters? Was the con then or is the con now."  – Judge Jeanine Pirro, in her "Opening Statement" on "Justice with Judge Jeanine," blasting the comparison by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., of ICE to the KKK and asking the senator how she intends to fulfill her promise to combat gangs and fight human trafficking without the agency. WATCH

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2007: releases its first Kindle e-book reader.

1990: The pop duo Milli Vanilli are stripped of their Grammy Award because, it was discovered, other singers had lent their voices to the "Girl You Know It's True" album.

1985: President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev meet for the first time as they begin their summit in Geneva.

FOX News First is compiled by FOX News' Bryan Robinson. Thank you for joining us! Enjoy your Monday! We'll see you in your inbox first thing Tuesday morning.