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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 23, 2018, with Adam Schiff and Eliot Engel. Photo: Win McNamee via Getty Images

Congressional Democrats are going to have a prime seat at the national security table for the first time in eight years. Poised to take control of critical House committees are Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs), Adam Smith (Armed Services), Nita Lowey (Appropriations) and Adam Schiff (Intelligence).

What to watch: House Democrats will likely focus on defining policy differences with President Trump — on climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, international alliances and human rights. How they advance this agenda will have a decisive impact on whether Democrats can turn national security into a winning issue ahead of the 2020 elections.

The details: Backing up the new chairmen will be a dynamic set of new members with deep national security experience, such as Abigail Spanberger (CIA), Elissa Slotkin (Defense Department) and Tom Malinowski (State Department). New progressive representatives will advocate for policies that speak directly to their personal backgrounds, such as Ilhan Omar (Somali-American, Muslim and former refugee) and Rashida Tlaib (Palestinian-American and Muslim).

House Democrats will also expand oversight of Russia issues and the nature of Trump’s relationship with Vladimir Putin; the ongoing military conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan; Trump’s Iran policy; and the state of America’s shrinking diplomatic corps.

Crucially, controversial oversight issues may prove the wildcard in the next Congress. For example, the ambush in Niger that killed four American servicemen earlier this year received almost no Congressional attention, despite its echo of the Benghazi attacks. Now, Congressional Democrats will have their turn to ask pointed questions.

The bottom line: After being relegated to the back bench for nearly a decade on national security, Democrats are now in the driver’s seat. They will have a lot to balance: how to put pressure on Trump; how to demonstrate a vision for America’s role in the world; and how to prepare the ground for 2020.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and the former deputy assistant secretary of state for the House of Representatives.

Go deeper

In photos: Egypt unveils 3,000-year-old "lost golden city"

A view on Saturday of the city, dubbed "The Rise of Aten," dating to the reign of Amenhotep III, uncovered near Luxor. Photo: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

A top Egyptian archaeologist on Saturday outlined details of a newly rediscovered "lost golden city" near Luxor that dates back more than 3,000 years.

Why it matters: Zahi Hawass told NBC News the large ancient city, unveiled Thursday, tells archaeologists for the first time "about the life of the people during the Golden Age." Johns Hopkins University Egyptology professor Betsy Brian said in a statement it's "the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamen."

1 dead as severe storms pummel the South

A tree that fell on a home carport damaged a vehicle during a storm in Central, Louisiana. No injuries were reported, according to Central Fire Department. Photo: Central Fire Department/Twitter

Strong storms lashed the South early Saturday, spawning at least one tornado and unleashing powerful winds and hail. And forecasters warned more severe weather was expected to hit parts of the region in the coming hours.

Details: Thousands of customers lost power in Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, according to tracking site poweroutage.us. An F3 tornado that hit St Landry Parish, Louisiana, killed one person and wounded seven others.

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."