President Trump holds rallies in Mississippi

By Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Jessie Yeung, CNN

Updated 10:26 p.m. ET, November 26, 2018
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5:01 p.m. ET, November 26, 2018

Wait — why is Mississippi voting again?!

The Nov. 27 runoff between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy, a former representative and agriculture secretary, was triggered when neither candidate received 50% of the vote on Nov. 6.

Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California have campaigned for Espy in Mississippi in recent weeks. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also announced his endorsement of Espy, while others, like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have sent out fundraising emails and expressed support on social media.

Meanwhile, Hyde-Smith enjoys strong support from the president, who has called her "an outstanding person" and "needed in D.C." Other Republican leaders like Vice President Pence and Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina have also praised her conservative stances.

Hyde-Smith was appointed in April to fill the Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down due to health reasons.

4:29 p.m. ET, November 26, 2018

Nooses found at Mississippi State Capitol ahead of Tuesday's election

From CNN's Jessica Dean and Devon M. Sayers


Two nooses and five signs, some referring to the upcoming Senate runoff election, were found on the grounds of the Mississippi State Capitol Monday morning, a state spokesperson told CNN

The runoff election between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy has had a number of racial overtones, many of which have evoked Mississippi's dark history of racism and slavery.

Chuck McIntosh, who oversees the Capitol Police, told CNN one of the poster-sized signs read: "We are hanging nooses to remind people that times have not changed."

Other signs read: "Tuesday Nov 27th thousands of Mississippians will vote for a senator. We need someone that will respect lynched victims" and "Mississippi has not changed."

CNN affiliate WLBT alerted Capitol Police to the items Monday morning. The investigation is ongoing.

According to WLBT, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant stated Monday afternoon that he had contacted the FBI for assistance, and that the perpetrators would be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Watch more:

4:08 p.m. ET, November 26, 2018

Trump rallies amid controversy over Hyde-Smith's comments evoking Mississippi's dark history of racism

From CNN's Jamie Ehrlich, Eric Bradner and Andrew Kaczynski

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has faced weeks of criticism over comments about making voting "just a little more difficult" for students at some of the state's universities.

(Hyde-Smith's campaign said in a statement she was "making a joke" and that the video was "selectively edited.")

The Republican also joked about going "front row" to a "public hanging" in a video posted to Twitter earlier this month, prompting her African-American opponent to call her comment "reprehensible."

In the video, Hyde-Smith appeared to be speaking during a campaign event about the support of a Mississippi rancher.

The senator issued a statement after the video posted, saying:

"In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous."

Several companies that donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign, including Walmart, have publicly withdrawn their support for the senator over the "public hanging" comment.

In her debate with Espy, Hyde-Smith said she would "certainly apologize" to anyone who was offended by her remark about attending a "public hanging." But she quickly pivoted into attack mode.

"I also recognize that this comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me," she said.

3:17 p.m. ET, November 26, 2018

Trump: Hyde-Smith feels "very badly" for her controversial remarks

President Trump is going to Mississippi tonight to hold rallies for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith ahead of Tuesday's runoff election.

Moments before he left for Mississippi, he told reporters that Hyde-Smith felt "very badly" about her controversial remarks. (She joked about going "front row" to a "public hanging" in a video, and talked about making voting "just a little more difficult" for students at some of the state's universities.)

"She certainly didn't mean that and it was taken a certain way, but she certainly didn't mean it and as I understand it, she's already apologized and very strongly," Trump said.

He also said:

"Well, I know her. I know her. And I know she apologized. And she misspoke. But I will tell you. I've known her for a period of time now as a senator. She's been an excellent senator. She's done a great job. She's somebody that's respected in the Senate.

Watch it here:

2:33 p.m. ET, November 26, 2018

Trump begins 11-hour trip to Mississippi ahead of Senate runoff election

President Trump departs the White House at 2:35 p.m. ET en route to the two Mississippi rallies for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

His first, in Tupelo, starts at 5:15 p.m. ET, followed by a roundtable on the FIRST STEP Act in Gulfport at 7:50 p.m. ET and then another rally in Biloxi at 9:00 p.m. ET.

You can watch the rallies in the video player above. We'll share the key moments here.

Trump will depart Mississippi at 10:30 p.m. ET and is expected to return to the White House at 1 a.m. ET.