Rachel Maddow reports on Donald Trump's effort to encourage attendance at his inauguration in Washington, D.c. with a sketchy Facebook ad campaign for tickets that aren't actually required for the event. watch
Senator Ed Markey talks with Rachel Maddow about why he opposes Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA when, even in public office, Pruitt has worked on behalf of fossil fuel companies to undermine the EPA. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the many director-level positions Donald Trump has yet to fill on the National Security Council with one day left of Obama's term, and more openings still at the Pentagon and State Department. watch
* This guy refuses to succumb to cynicism: "President Obama used the final press conference of his presidency to deliver a hopeful message Wednesday to a nation nervous about the looming change of power in Washington: 'At my core, I think we're going to be okay.'"
* Mali: "A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden vehicle penetrated a camp in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing at least 60 people and wounding 115 soldiers and former fighters who are trying to stabilize the region. The attack marked a significant setback for peace efforts."
* Note the national scope of this story: "Jewish community centers across the nation are under siege as dozens received bomb threats this month -- including more than 20 reported on Wednesday alone."
* Electing a climate denier to the presidency was unwise: "Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.... Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization."
* Western Africa: "After more than two decades in power, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh faced the prospect of a midnight military intervention by regional forces, as the man who once pledged to rule the West African nation for a billion years clung to power late Wednesday."
* Discrimination: "JPMorgan Chase said Wednesday that it had agreed to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the bank of working with mortgage brokers who discriminated against minority borrowers for years by charging them $1,000 more than white customers."
* This seems to contradict what was promised last week: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday, via his lawyer, that President Obama's commutation of Chelsea Manning's sentence does not meet the conditions of his offer to be extradited to the U.S. in return for the Army leaker's release." read more
One of the unexpected developments of the transition period has been Donald Trump's disinterest in daily intelligence briefings. President Obama, immediately after the election, ordered the relevant agencies to make available to the president-elect the same information that's delivered to the Oval Office, but in a bit of a surprise, Trump largely blew off the information.
Last month, Fox News' Chris Wallace noted reports that the Republican was only receiving one briefing a week, instead of seven. Trump didn't deny the accounts, but said it didn't matter because he's "like, a smart person." He added, "I get it when I need it."
A month later, with his inauguration drawing closer, Trump sat down with Axios yesterday, and referring to the intelligence he's seen, the president-elect said, "I've had a lot of briefings that are very … I don't want to say 'scary,' because I'll solve the problems." The exceedingly confident Republican added this in reference to the PDB:
Trump said he likes his briefings short, ideally one-page if it's in writing. "I like bullets or I like as little as possible. I don't need, you know, 200-page reports on something that can be handled on a page. That I can tell you."
Hmm. President Obama likes to read daily intelligence briefings and pose follow-up questions in writing. Bill Clinton had a similar approach. George W. Bush, during his two terms, changed the briefing process, preferring oral reports from intelligence professionals.
Trump, apparently, has in mind something akin to Powerpoint slides.
The point here is not to chuckle at the obviously unprepared amateur, who, in 47 hours, will be the Leader of the Free World. There's a substantive angle to this that's worth appreciating. read more
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump declared yesterday that he's already chosen his slogan for his 2020 re-election campaign: "Keep America Great!" The exclamation point was his addition, not mine.
* Despite recently describing himself as the "Hemingway of Twitter," Trump said last night he doesn't "like" tweeting.
* In the same remarks, Trump said his 2016 campaign "set records in so many different ways." He didn't actually identify any of these ways, but the president-elect emphasized the number of counties he won on Election Day.
* As of this morning, I believe the new number of congressional Democrats who will not attend Friday's inaugural event stands at 63.
* Given his authoritarian tendencies, it was a little unnerving to see Trump tell the Washington Post yesterday, "[W]e're going to display our military. That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we're going to be showing our military." read more
Donald Trump declared weeks ago that he intends to "set the all-time record" for attendance at a presidential inaugural. By all appearances, that's extremely unlikely to happen.
But the president-elect spoke at a pre-inauguration event last night, where Trump made this interesting claim:
"I also want to tell you, you know, so many people are talking about what's going on and now they've just announced we're going to have record crowds coming."
As a rule, whenever Donald Trump uses the word "they," look out. In this case "they've" announced "record crowds" are coming to the Republican's inauguration, but there's been no such announcement. "They" don't appear to exist outside of Trump's imagination.
But relying on "them" will enable Trump to claim a record without regard for actual attendance data. What we're witnessing is a preemptive falsehood: the president-elect is laying the groundwork for an untrue claim about his inauguration that Trump seems very likely to make soon after he takes the oath of office.
Indeed, he's already told related falsehoods, such as, "All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It's hard to find a great dress for this inauguration." This wasn't remotely true, but Trump made the claim anyway. read more
Donald Trump is entering the White House with the weakest public support of any new president since the dawn of modern polling. The Republican may prefer to see a giant media conspiracy against him -- Trump yesterday dismissed survey results as "rigged" -- but if so, the scheme incorporates a plethora of national news organizations and polling outfits, each of which show the president-elect with surprisingly awful backing.
There's a school of thought that suggests this isn't entirely Trump's fault. Maybe the public is just in a sour mood. Perhaps Americans, after a long and ugly campaign, are inclined to hold every political figure in low regard, and Trump is simply caught up in a wave of broad public revulsion.
While Trump is entering office with the worst numbers in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll, outgoing President Barack Obama is exiting with some of his highest numbers. Fifty-six percent of Americans approve of Obama's job, which is his highest rating since the first few months of his presidency.
Moreover, 53 percent of Americans believe the country is better off than it was eight years ago, while 42 percent think it's worse off. A similar 54 percent say Obama mostly brought the right kind of change.
And a combined 55 percent believe Obama - compared with the past several U.S. presidents - will either go down as one of the very best or be better than most.
Democratic pollster Fred Yang put it this way: "If Donald Trump enters office on a down note, the current occupant is enjoying a second honeymoon of sorts."
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll, meanwhile, puts Obama's final approval rating at 60% -- one of only four presidents since World War II to leave the White House with so much public support.
Similarly, a new CNN poll also shows Obama with a 60% approval rating. The same survey found 65% of Americans consider Obama's presidency as a success.
The 2016 election may not have turned out the way the president wanted, but there's no doubt that Obama is exiting the stage on a very high note. read more
Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, hosts a press call nearly every day to update reporters on the transition process, and on Jan. 4, someone raised a question about Donald Trump's plans for inaugural weekend. "When the administration talks about issues happening on 'day one,'" the reporter asked, "does that mean Saturday or Monday since the inauguration is on a Friday?"
Spicer insisted that Americans should expect to see the incoming president hit the ground running. "I think day one is day one," he explained. "It's Friday, January 20th and [the president-elect] is prepared and ready to go. He wants to, as he said before, enact real change, day one. And that will mean within hours of his being sworn in. He's put his team on notice that he expects nothing less than everyone to get right to work for the American people."
A Democratic source flagged a related interview Spicer did with Breitbart News three days later, in which he said Trump is "not going to wait" to take action: "I think that Friday, that Saturday, that Sunday, that Monday are going to be really, really a big flurry of action that shows straight up to the American people and everybody that when he talked about change he meant it and wasn't going to wait."
Donald Trump will be inaugurated on Friday, but he'll consider his first day on the job to be Monday. The detail emerged after he sat down with British and German journalists over the weekend and offered up his thoughts on a wide range of topics.
"I mean my day one is gonna be Monday because I don't want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration," he said.
The Boston Globereport added that one of the president-elect's first acts -- you know, after a little down time in that first weekend -- will be to sign an executive action related to "strong borders." read more
Congressional Republicans recently conceded among themselves that they'll "never" be able to craft a health-care reform plan that covers "as many people as Obamacare does." No one, however, told Donald Trump.
The president-elect boasted to the Washington Post this week, "We're going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us." Trump added that Americans "can expect to have great health care.... Much less expensive and much better."
The benchmarks, which Trump has no idea how to meet, were fairly specific: his administration is committing to universal coverage, "much lower deductibles," and a simpler and less expensive system in which all Americans are "beautifully covered."
Was Trump over-promising? Yes. Will he fail to meet his own goals? Definitely.
The funny part, however, is watching Republicans deal with the consequences of the incoming president's rhetoric. BuzzFeed had this report late yesterday:
[S]ome Republicans in the Senate say they are working on repealing and replacing Obamacare under the belief that Trump misspoke.
Ah yes, the misstatement. The incoming president assured the American public that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed and replaced with a system in which "everybody" has insurance, to which GOP lawmakers are effectively responding, "Let's assume he didn't actually mean 'everybody.'"
It's a little late for spin. Trump has already established specific standards for his party's health-care reform package, and one of them is universal coverage. That makes congressional Republicans' job vastly more difficult -- they're having a tough enough time as it is crafting a coherent blueprint -- but by all appearances, the president-elect doesn't much care. read more
General Motors confirmed yesterday that it's making another major investment in domestic manufacturing, which will save or create about 1,500 jobs. Donald Trump wants Americans to credit his awesomeness for the announcement, but an NBC News report makes clear that the president-elect doesn't actually deserve the acclaim.
[S]everal GM officials stressed that the latest moves were in the works for months and, in some cases several years, and were not a reaction to criticism by president-elect Donald Trump. [...]
Investment decisions of this magnitude and involving changes to manufacturing operations are typically the result of several years of study and require months of consideration by a company's board of directors, noted David Cole, director-emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in a discussion this week. That would suggest that the latest GM investment project began as far back as 2014.
This morning, the Republican president-elect interrupted his busy schedule to complain on Twitter that NBC News' report was "biased." (He keeps using that word, but I don't think it means what he thinks it means.) He said any reports that fail to acknowledge Trump's role in recently announced job creation are "FAKE NEWS" -- the all-caps appeared in the original -- adding that the jobs "came back because of me!"
The man clearly loves his exclamation points.
I can appreciate why he's frustrated. When Trump sees news reports about positive economic developments, he probably thinks to himself, "Wow, I'm amazing. I haven't even taken office yet and look at all the great news." Then pesky media organizations point out annoying details -- such as the fact Trump had nothing to do with the positive economic developments -- which likely leads Trump to think, "Those reports can't be right, because I really am amazing."
The president-elect's fragile ego notwithstanding, the relevant facts are plain and unbiased. As a Slatereport explained with additional details, there's literally nothing to connect Trump to GM's announcement. If this hurts the president-elect's feelings, that's a shame, but reality can be unforgiving.
The broader point, meanwhile, is that Trump keeps demanding credit for jobs he had nothing to do with. read more
When choosing nominees for his cabinet, Donald Trump wasted no time in selecting Betsy DeVos. The president-elect announced just two weeks after Election Day -- before Thanksgiving -- that the Michigan billionaire megadonor was his choice for Secretary of Education.
The timeline is relevant for a specific reason: DeVos, more than practically any other cabinet nominee, had all kinds of time to prepare for her confirmation process. Her hearing late yesterday suggests DeVos did not use this time wisely.
DeVos refused to promise that she would not privatize or strip funding from the public schools she would oversee if confirmed.
Asked bluntly by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington whether she would commit to keeping funding for public schools intact, DeVos dodged the question.
Over and over again, Democratic senators pressed the Education nominee on questions she must have known were coming, but DeVos was nevertheless woefully unprepared for each of them.
In one especially cringe-worthy exchange, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked about the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which DeVos didn't realize is an existing federal law. "I may have confused it," the nominee conceded.
Soon after, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked about her opinions on the difference between evaluating education proficiency and growth, one of the more common areas of debate in the field. DeVos rambled for a while, before making clear she had no idea what Franken was talking about.
Asked by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) about guns in schools, DeVos suggested grizzly bears may try to attack children in states in Wyoming, so she'd prefer to leave the matter up to states.
The Washington Post put together a video of "head-scratching moments" from DeVos' hearing, and it wasn't a short clip.
There is a certain irony to the developments: Trump's choice to lead the Department of Education failed to do her homework, and as a consequence, she flunked her big test. read more