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Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.5.16

05/05/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Canada: "Fast-moving wildfires spread farther across the Alberta oil sands region on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of three more communities south of Fort McMurray and the work camps north of the city. Thousands of people who fled the flames earlier in the week had to evacuate for the second time in three days."
* North Carolina: "[State] House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday that legislators won't meet the U.S. Department of Justice's Monday deadline to repeal or stop enforcing House Bill 2."
* FDA: "The Food and Drug Administration, for the first time, imposed far-reaching regulations on e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products, requiring manufacturers to disclose their ingredients and submit their products for government approval, and barring retailers from selling the items to anyone under 18 years old."
* Brazil's scandalized system continues to spiral: "A Brazilian Supreme Court justice ruled on Thursday that Eduardo Cunha, the powerful lawmaker who orchestrated the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, must step down because he is facing a corruption trial."
* Commutations: "President Obama commuted the sentences of 58 federal prisoners convicted of drug crimes, the White House announced Thursday. Eighteen of the inmates were serving life sentences, mostly on crack- or cocaine-related charges. Most will be released on Sept. 2, but some will be freed early next year."
* Turkey's prime minister "resigned Thursday after a public rift with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, throwing the country's politics into turmoil and paving the way for Erdogan to consolidate power at a time of domestic and regional crises."
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 3, 2016. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

For now, Paul Ryan balks at backing Trump

05/05/16 05:10PM

This is supposed to be the point at which the dominoes start falling. Republican officials and Capitol Hill leaders have made little effort to hide their discomfort with Donald Trump's candidacy, but now that he's the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, the party simply doesn't have much of a choice. Republican voters have spoken; Trump has no more intra-party rivals.
With this in mind, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a tepid written statement last night, pledging support for Trump, despite having said just a few weeks ago that he was "optimistic" about a second ballot at the Republican National Convention that might derail Trump.
Would McConnell's House counterpart follow suit? Not yet. NBC News reports that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said this afternoon that he just "not ready" to throw his backing to Trump.
"I'm just not ready to do that at this point," he said of publicly backing Trump. "I'm not there right now."
Ryan said in an interview with CNN that he "hopes" to eventually feel ready to back Trump. "I think what is required is that we unify this party. And I think the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee." Ryan added that Trump needs to "do more to unify this party, to bring all wings of the Republican Party together."
This doesn't come as too big of a surprise given the fact that the House Speaker has repeatedly felt the need to publicly denounce Trump's more ridiculous antics.
What is curious about this is that Ryan, for months, has said he intends to back the Republican nominee -- even if it's Trump.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at The Palladium at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, Ind., May 2, 2016. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Trump stands by his most outrageous policy proposal

05/05/16 12:55PM

Donald Trump has said so many outlandish things over the course of his presidential campaign -- conspiracy theories, rhetoric that encouraged violence, ugly remarks about women and minority groups -- that it's daunting to identify the worst of the worst.
But by any measure, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States has to be near the top of the list.
To briefly recap, Trump announced in December that he wants a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." A day later, Trump's national spokesperson was reminded that such a policy would block lots of peaceful people who have nothing to do with violence. "So what?" the spokesperson replied. "They're Muslim."
At the time, Trump's proposal was condemned by the left and right, in addition to criticisms and fears raised by many abroad. That was, however, nearly six months ago. Does Trump still stand by such bigotry? Consider this exchange between the Republican candidate and NBC News' Lester Holt:
HOLT: Do you stand by them? Do you stand, for example, by the idea of a ban against foreign Muslims coming here?
TRUMP: I do. We have to be vigilant. We have to be strong. We have to see what's going on.
In case this isn't obvious, there's nothing "strong" about ignorance and discrimination.
Regardless, Trump remains fully committed to his ridiculous proposal. In addition to the Lester Holt interview, the GOP candidate was asked on MSNBC yesterday about his idea of a Muslim ban. Trump once again replied, "We have to be very vigilant, find out what's going on."
In other words, Trump's position hasn't changed. The same radical nonsense he touted in December remains a key element of his platform. There appears to be some sense among campaign observers that Trump may try to moderate his image and broaden his appeal as he transitions to the general election, but there's little evidence to support the thesis.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.5.16

05/05/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The latest national CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 13 points, 54% to 41%. That's up slightly from her 12-point lead in the same poll in March.
* Despite obvious misgivings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a tepid written statement last night, pledging support for Trump.
* Bernie Sanders told NPR yesterday that he intends to stay in the Democratic race "until the very last vote is counted" in the D.C. primary in mid-June. That represents a shift from his position from a few days ago, when the senator vowed to keep fighting well after the D.C. primary.
* Trump said yesterday he's "open to doing something with" the minimum wage. During a GOP debate last year, Trump said he opposes an increase because, as he put it, wages are already "too high."
* Both President Bushes will reportedly stay out of the 2016 race altogether, and they won't publicly endorse Trump's candidacy.
* Sanders' campaign manager said 120 Democratic superdelegates changed their minds about which presidential candidate to support in the 2008 race. As it turns out, the actual number was 28.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) speaks at a news conference July 25, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty)

Ayotte tries supporting Trump without endorsing him

05/05/16 11:20AM

It's one of the year's strangest rhetorical tricks: Republicans keep announcing which presidential candidate they support, only to simultaneously insist that the announcement shouldn't be seen as an endorsement. Rachel did a great segment on this just last week, noting how common this tactic has become in 2016, with GOP officials at multiple levels going out of their way to parse the meaning of the word "support."
Yesterday, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), facing a tough re-election fight in New Hampshire this year, became the latest to push the same talking point. The Union Leader reported:
[Wednesday], her campaign office released a statement saying Ayotte will support Donald Trump, who became the presumptive Republican nominee Tuesday night with Sen. Ted Cruz's departure from the Republican primary race.
"As she's said from the beginning, Kelly plans to support the nominee. As a candidate herself, she hasn't and isn't planning to endorse anyone this cycle," said Liz Johnson, communications director for Kelly for New Hampshire.
Johnson said the senator is not endorsing Trump.
Hmm. Ayotte supports Trump; she presumably intends to vote for Trump; and she's willing to let the public know about her backing for Trump. She just doesn't want that to be perceived as an "endorsement."
And what, pray tell, is the difference? I haven't the foggiest idea, and as best as I can tell, neither Ayotte not anyone on her staff has elaborated on the subtle nuances.