On Friday morning, Donald Trump made his first public appearance after the end of the Republican National Convention, which offered him an opportunity to look ahead to the general election. Instead, the Republican nominee seemed eager to re-litigate the GOP primaries -- including Trump's ongoing interest in Ted Cruz's father and a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
It was a striking reminder: Trump may be eager to take on Hillary Clinton in the general election, but the Republican candidate isn't quite done thinking about his intra-party rivals.
The question, however, is just how far down this road Trump intends to go. A prominent Trump ally suggested last Thursday, for example, that the GOP nominee may support a primary challenger to take on Ted Cruz in Texas in 2018.
Trump himself made a similar comment on Friday -- after talking about Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald -- saying in reference to the Texas senator, "Maybe I'll set up a super PAC if he decides to run." Turning to his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump added, "Are you allowed to set up a super-PAC, Mike, if you are the president, to fight somebody?"
By late Friday, sources close to Trump were saying Trump intends to "create and fund super-PACs specifically aimed at ending the political careers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich should either run for office again." On "Meet the Press" yesterday, the Republican nominee confirmed those plans to NBC's Chuck Todd.
"Look, what's on my mind is beating Hillary Clinton. What's on my mind is winning for the Republican Party. With that being said, yeah, I'll probably do a super PAC, you know, when they run against Kasich, for $10 million to $20 million, against Ted Cruz. And maybe one other person that I'm thinking about."
Asked who the other Republican might be, Trump told the host, "I won't tell you that."
All of this should be quite alarming for GOP officials for a variety of reasons, some more obvious than others.
In the end, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) ran out of allies. For months, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman faced quiet criticisms from party insiders, coupled with much louder rebukes from Bernie Sanders and his allies, who believed the DNC wasn't entirely neutral during the presidential primaries.
Last week, after nearly 20,000 DNC emails, apparently stolen by Russian hackers, showed up on Wikileaks, Wasserman Schultz's tenure became even more controversial. Late yesterday, on the eve of the party's national convention, the Florida congresswoman announced she's stepping down from her leadership post.
"Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention," Wasserman Schultz said in a lengthy statement Sunday announcing her resignation. "I will open and close the Convention and I will address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans."
"We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had," she added.
DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile will step up, serving as Interim Chair for the rest of the election season. It will be her second term: Brazile, who also served as Al Gore's campaign manager, led the DNC in 2011, following Tim Kaine's chairmanship.
Wasserman Schultz has also stepped aside as chair of the Democratic National Convention, handing the reins to Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).
As a practical matter, the impact of the shake-up will probably be relatively modest: once a presumptive nominee emerges, he or she effectively takes control of the party apparatus. In the Democrats' case, Hillary Clinton's campaign had already installed Brandon Davis at the DNC, and he's been overseeing day-to-day coordination on behalf of the candidate for weeks.
What's more, as a historical matter, there's some precedent for moves like these. As Michael Beschloss noted yesterday, Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy, and George McGovern "all forced out the sitting Democratic national chair as soon as they got the nomination."
But the broader circumstances matter: for Sanders and his allies, Wasserman Schultz had become a villain. Her departure offers evidence of a party that still takes Team Bernie's concerns seriously, and constitutes the latest in a series of important internal victories for the Vermont senator.
In his first public remarks as a vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) took some time to highlight Donald Trump's ugly rhetorical record. "Donald Trump trash talks folks with disabilities," Kaine noted, "trash talks Mexican Americans and Latinos, whether they're new immigrants or governors or federal judges; trash talks women; trash talks our allies; and calls the military a disaster."
After someone in the Miami audience made a comment that was hard to hear, Kaine paused and said, "Oh, you're right, he doesn't trash talk everybody -- he likes Vladimir Putin."
Interest in the Republican presidential candidate's ties to -- and affection for -- Russia's autocratic leader have been simmering for months, but what was once a relatively obscure issue is making its way from the back-burner to the front. ABC News had this report yesterday:
Hillary Clinton's campaign manager Robby Mook said candidate Donald was pushing for a "pro-Russian" platform and cited experts who say that Russian state actors were behind the recent leak of Democratic National Committee emails in an attempt to help Trump win.
"Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails, and now are leaking them out through these websites," Mook told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "It's troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump."
Mook also suggested that the GOP nominee altered the Republican party platform to make it more attractive to Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime. "It was concerning last week that Donald Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would regard as pro-Russian," Mook said.
Team Trump's credibility problems notwithstanding, it's not overstating matters to suggest Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election may be the biggest political bombshell of the year -- or in several years. I realize there are plenty of shiny objects on the political landscape, but this is becoming an issue that shouldn't be ignored.
The evidence is not yet conclusive. The available information, however, points in an alarming direction:
In retrospect, Hillary Clinton gave Charlie Rose a pretty big hint about her intentions earlier this week. Asked about Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and his self-professed "boring" personality, Clinton said, "And I love that about him. I mean, he's never lost an election. He was a world-class mayor, governor and senator, and is one of the most highly respected senators I know."
Hillary Clinton has selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Clinton announced the choice to her supporters by text message Friday evening "I'm thrilled to tell you this first: I've chosen Sen. Tim Kaine as my running mate."
Clinton and Kaine are slated to appear together at a joint rally in Miami, Florida on Saturday.
There's a lot to this, so let's dig in.
Let's hear the basics on Tim Kaine.
He's been widely recognized as Clinton's most likely pick, largely because he checks several key boxes: Kaine is a smart, popular senator from a swing state who's fluent in Spanish. He's respected among his colleagues, and he's worked his way up the ladder, having served as a mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, and senator.
Wasn't he a big part of Barack Obama's team back in the day?
Yep. In 2007, when much of the Democratic establishment was rallying behind Hillary Clinton, then-Gov. Kaine became the first prominent Dem to back Obama's presidential campaign. He was reportedly the runner-up for VP in 2008.
Why didn't he get the nod at the time?
Because Obama wanted someone with foreign-policy experience -- which Kaine has since picked up as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. In fact, no senator in either party has been more outspoken on the importance of the White House receiving congressional authorization to fight ISIS. He also was a prominent supporter of the Iran nuclear deal.
Rachel Maddow alerts viewers to upcoming programming highlights, including Time Kaine and Hillary Clinton making their first joint appearance, Maddow appearing on Meet the Press and the start of MSNBC's coverage of the Democratic National Convention. watch
Jeff Schapiro, political reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, talks with Rachel Maddow about the political strengths and weaknesses of Senator Tim Kaine and where he fits on the political spectrum. watch
Steve Kornacki looks at what the addition of Senator Tim Kaine to the Hillary Clinton ticket could mean for the electoral math in the general election, potentially limited Donald Trump's possible paths to victory. watch