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Friday's Mini-Report, 12.2.16

12/02/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* South Carolina: "A lone juror said they cannot convict a white former police officer who fatally shot a black man in South Carolina, and the judge asked for clarification from the foreperson as to whether the jury is hopelessly deadlocked. The juror in a letter to the court said 'I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict' against Michael Slager, a former patrolman who pulled over Walter Scott in North Charleston, and ended up shooting him as a bystander recorded the incident on video."

* Tennessee: "The death toll in eastern Tennessee's devastating wildfire climbed to 13 on Friday as county officials disputed claims that no evacuation order was sent to mobile devices as the flames approached homes."

* Did this really happen? "U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke on the telephone on Friday with Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte and invited him to the White House next year during a 'very engaging, animated' talk, an aide to Duterte said."

* A New Jersey judge today "dismissed a bid to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Gov. Chris Christie's involvement in the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, leaving the case in the hands of an office led by one of Mr. Christie's appointees."

* I wonder if Trump's deal with Carrier would've been better if the company's workers union hadn't been shut out of the negotiations.

* Overtime: "The Labor Department is appealing an injunction that halted the Dec. 1 implementation of a sweeping overtime-pay regulation, advancing a federal court battle over a rule that could face an eventual challenge from President-elect Donald Trump."

* Lame-duck session: "The House on Friday easily passed this year's annual defense policy bill with bipartisan support in a 375-34 vote. The bill would authorize a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including $59.5 billion for a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account."
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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The Republican health care scheme starts to take shape

12/02/16 05:00PM

Next month, Republicans will take control of the entirety of the federal government for the first time in a decade. What will the radicalized party tackle first? By some accounts, health care.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Tuesday that repealing and replacing ObamaCare would be the first item on President-elect Donald Trump's agenda after Trump takes office early next year.

"It'll be the first thing out of the gate," Pence told Fox News' Sean Hannity on "Hannity." "The President-elect's made it very clear. He wants the Congress when they convene in early January to take up the task of repealing and replacing ObamaCare first."
Pence added at an Ohio rally last night that the Affordable Care Act will be replaced "with American solutions," which was a curious thing to say. For one thing, the ACA blueprint came from Mitt Romney, not a foreign government. For another, Pence knows as well as anyone that the reform law has produced amazing results for Americans -- most notably in Indiana, where the law has slashed the state's uninsured rate by more than a third.

Nevertheless, the far-right vice president-elect's comments, which are consistent with what congressional GOP leaders have been saying, suggest the fight over Americans' access to health security is going to get quite intense almost immediately after Inauguration Day.

Unwrapping the Republicans' plans, however, is a little tricky, and some of the coverage has been a little confusing, so let's take a couple of minutes to set the stage for what's to come.
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Pro-Trump pundit argues 'there's no such thing' as facts

12/02/16 03:29PM

Donald Trump recently lied about voter fraud. The political world can debate whether or not it matters that Trump lied; and there's room for discussion about why the president-elect told this particular lie; but there's no denying the unambiguous facts. Reality is reality.

Or not.
In an interview on "The Diane Rehm Show," Donald Trump supporter and CNN political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes declared the end of facts. Or, in her own words: "There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts."

She explained that contention, too: "And so Mr. Trump's tweet amongst a certain crowd, a large -- a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, he has some -- in his -- amongst him and his supporters, and people believe they have facts to back that up."
Hughes, a notable pro-Trump pundit, added. "One thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts, they're not really facts."

Conservative support for relativity of the truth isn't entirely new, though we don't usually hear it articulated with quite this much candor. As the argument goes, Trump's lies aren't lies to the people who assume his lies are true.

How can there be coherent debate over substantive policies when partisans and ideologues are, according to some pundits, welcome to embrace their own alternative version of reality? I haven't the foggiest idea.
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AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Team Trump touts Sessions' 'strong civil rights record'

12/02/16 12:42PM

It's not unusual for a president's team to provide allies with talking points, especially when dealing with controversial nominees, but as a rule, the talking points should try to be credible. Keep that in mind when reading this Politico report from yesterday.
President-elect Donald Trump's team is advising Senate Republicans to promote Jeff Sessions' deep familiarity with the Justice Department, his "strong civil rights record" and that he is "known for his deep respect and adherence to the rule of law" as senators talk about the his nomination as attorney general. [...]

"Even individuals who voted against Sen. Sessions' confirmation 30 years ago ultimately regretted it," the talking points added.
Look, Jeff Sessions has a long career in public service at a variety of levels, and I'm sure his office can come up with a variety of notable accomplishments that the Alabaman can point to during his confirmation hearings.

But putting "Jeff Sessions" and "strong civil rights record" in the same sentence is a problem.
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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.2.16

12/02/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, was asked last night whether it's presidential for her boss to lie about voter fraud on Twitter. "He's the president-elect, so that's presidential behavior," she said.

* Conway made the comments as part of a panel discussion at Harvard, which turned into a shouting match between former aides to Trump and Hillary Clinton.

* New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), apparently looking for something to do, wants to be considered for Republican National Committee chairman, now that Reince Priebus is becoming White House chief of staff.

* Paul Manafort, the president-elect's former campaign chairman, is reportedly back on Team Trump, helping choose staffers for the incoming administration. Last month, NBC News reported that the FBI "has been conducting a preliminary inquiry" into Manafort's foreign business connections, including connections in Russia and Vladimir Putin's allies in Ukraine. Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.

* Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-Minn.) bid to become DNC chair hit some turbulence yesterday when the Anti-Defamation League blasted Ellison's 2010 criticism of Israel, which the ADL considers "disqualifying." Eliison will join three other DNC contenders at a forum in Denver this afternoon.

* Trump's attorneys are trying to block a recount of Pennsylvania's presidential votes, and this morning in Michigan, the state's Republican attorney general filed suit to stop his state's recount.

* Speaking of Michigan, Republican lawmakers are moving quickly to try to impose a stricter voter-ID law. Michigan, traditionally a "blue" state, has a Republican governor, a Republican legislature, and backed Trump in the 2016 election.
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(L to R) President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, Nov. 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, N.J. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Why Trump's Pentagon pick may prove to be deeply controversial

12/02/16 11:20AM

Some key posts in Donald Trump's cabinet have not been filled, but the president-elect has made a decision regarding the Pentagon, choosing retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as the nation's next Defense Secretary.
Trump made a surprise announcement of the expected appointment during a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday night, as the crowd cheered wildly. "We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense," Trump said theatrically. [...]

Mattis' confirmation by the Senate is not assured. Only three years out of uniform, he would also need a Congressional waiver for a 1947 law that requires a seven year wait.
No one has questioned Mattis' decorated military service, and by all accounts, the retired general enjoys the respect and admiration of those who've worked with him. A variety of Trump cabinet nominees have drawn criticism for being ridiculous, but there's no chance of Mattis facing that kind of pushback from anyone.

His nomination, however, does raise some institutional questions that aren't easy to answer.

Civilian control of the military is a bedrock principle of the American system of government. Indeed, liberal democracies the world over have recognized the importance of this basic idea. It's precisely why current U.S. law prevents retired military service to be out of uniform for at least seven years before taking a post like this one -- and Mattis only retired from active duty three years ago.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, has already announced her opposition making an exception to federal law for Trump's pick. "While I deeply respect General Mattis's service, I will oppose a waiver," the New York Democrat said. "Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule."
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US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Nov. 11, 2014. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Taking one step closer to having women register for the draft

12/02/16 10:39AM

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the Obama administration took the historic step of opening all combat jobs to women. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the time, "We cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country's talents and skills."

The decision, however, kicked off a debate we've been keeping an eye on for a while: if there are no gender-related restrictions on combat service, why is the selective-service system limited to young men? The top uniformed leaders from the Army and Marine Corps have already made the case that there's no reason to treat young women differently when it comes registering for a draft.

Politicians aren't so sure, and the politics of the debate isn't cutting neatly along partisan lines. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, has endorsed equal treatment, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made his opposition to the idea part of his presidential campaign.

Late yesterday, NBC News reported that the White House and the Pentagon also endorsed changing the status quo.
"While Secretary [Ash] Carter strongly supports our all-volunteer approach and does not advocate returning to a draft, as he has said in the past, he thinks it makes sense for women to register for selective service just as men must," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement to NBC News. [...]

A spokesman for Obama's National Security Council Ned Price echoed the sentiment in a statement to USA TODAY on Thursday, saying "As old barriers for military service are being removed, the administration supports -- as a logical next step -- women registering for the Selective Service."
Just so we're clear, there is no meaningful effort underway to reinstate the draft. This is solely a discussion about the selective service registration process, and whether or not to change the system to treat men and women equally.
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