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U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a Hispanic Town Hall meeting with supporters, Sept. 27, 2016, in Miami, Fla. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump campaign defends its rejection of substance, policy details

09/29/16 09:50AM

If anyone on Donald Trump's presidential campaign should be willing to defend the importance of substantive details, it's Sam Clovis. He is, after all, one of the Republican candidate's top policy advisers.

And yet, as BuzzFeed noted yesterday, even Clovis doesn't want to bother stressing the importance of governing details in the campaign.
Sam Clovis, Donald Trump's national policy adviser and campaign co-chair, said Monday before the debate that voters don't care about policy specifics and would be "bored to tears" by them.

"Our approach has been to provide outlook and constructs for policy because if we go into the specific details, we just get murdered in the press. What we're dealing with [is] we're chasing minutia around," Clovis said on the Alan Colmes Show on Fox News' radio network.
In fairness, Clovis added that he cares about "specificity," but the campaign has chosen not to get into policy details because these kinds of campaign debates are of no interest to the electorate.

"I think the American people, the American voter, will be bored to tears if that is in fact the way this thing goes," he said.

It's a valuable insight, if for no other reason because Clovis' comments make clear that Team Trump is deliberately avoiding a substantive campaign debate over the issues. For the Republican candidate and his team, it's a feature, not a bug.
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A group of Hofstra University students stand in front of a CNN trailer with images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Hofstra University, Sept.25, 2016, in Hempstead, N.Y. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Team Trump wants credit for all the wrong reasons

09/29/16 08:51AM

During this week's presidential debate, when the discussion turned to race relations, Donald Trump explained that he opened a golf resort in Palm Beach that doesn't discriminate against racial or religious minorities. "I have been given great credit for what I did," the Republican boasted, adding, "I'm very, very proud of it.... That is the true way I feel."

It was a reminder of one of Trump's worst habits: he wants credit for doing the things he's supposed to do anyway. In July, for example, the GOP nominee bragged about complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the construction of his buildings -- failing to note that he didn't have a choice.

It's as if Trump effectively likes to tell voters, "Look at me! I routinely do what laws and basic human decency require of me!"

The same dynamic applies to the Trump campaign's post-debate boasts. The Republican and his aides are incredibly impressed by the fact that Trump didn't bring up Bill Clinton's infidelities -- as if attacking a woman over her husband's affairs is a perfectly normal thing to do, but Trump is too nice and chivalrous for such boorish behavior.
Donald Trump doesn't think he's gotten enough credit for not talking about Bill Clinton's history of sexual misconduct in Monday's debate.

Just ask his son, Eric Trump, who said it took "a lot of courage" for the Republican nominee not to attack the former president. Or his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who told MSNBC on Tuesday that Trump showed "presidential virtue" by not talking about the Clinton scandals.
Eric Trump couldn't stop raving about this, characterizing it as some kind of moral triumph. "That was a big moment for me," he told an Iowa radio station yesterday, adding his father's reluctance to attack a woman over her husband's adulterous past "will be something I'll always remember."

This is more than a little bizarre.
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Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson speaks to moderator Richard Lui of MSNBC during a 2016 Presidential Election Forum at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Aug. 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Gary Johnson hurts himself with another 'Aleppo moment'

09/29/16 08:00AM

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee, recently appeared on MSNBC and was asked to reflect on the crisis in the Syrian city of Aleppo. He replied, "What is Aleppo?"

Yesterday, Johnson, a former Republican, appeared on MSNBC again, and as Rachel noted on the show last night, he made matters much worse for himself.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

"Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody," host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

"I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment," Johnson finally said.
Note, Chris Matthews started naming specific countries and continents, apparently hoping to help Johnson focus. The Libertarian nevertheless came up empty. Johnson said he was having a "brain freeze."

As recently as Monday, Johnson told reporters how concerned he is about current U.S. foreign policy, which he described as "horrible," and how eager he would have been to discuss the issue with the major-party nominees had he qualified for this week's official debate. Of course, presidential hopefuls who care deeply about foreign policy can usually name one foreign leader they like.

The broader problem, meanwhile, is Johnson failing to take advantage of the opportunity that's been presented to him on a silver platter.
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 9.28.16

09/28/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest school shooting: "Two children and a female teacher were injured in a shooting at a South Carolina primary school Wednesday, police said. The suspected attacker, a teenager, is in custody, said V. Taylor Jones, deputy chief of the Anderson County Emergency Services Division."

* Iraq: "U.S Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the U.S. has agreed to send an additional 600 troops to Iraq, in anticipation of the major upcoming operation to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul."

* The odds of a government shutdown are approaching zero: "The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to approve a critical government funding measure -- a move which could help Congress narrowly avoid a shutdown before the general elections. The vote was 72-26."

* I'm not sure Congress fully thought this one through: "Congress has voted to override the president's veto for the first time in his administration over a controversial piece of legislation that would allow the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot."

* On a related note, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the bill, generally known as "JASTA," could have serious negative foreign policy implications for the United States. Corker voted for it anyway.

* Donald Trump may be interested to know it wasn't a 400-pound American: "U.S. officials are increasingly confident that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 is part of a network of individuals and groups kept at arm's length by Russia to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions such as the theft of thousands of Democratic Party documents, according to people familiar with the matter."

* Syria: "The effects of Russia's bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo -- destroying hospitals and schools, choking off basic supplies, and killing aid workers and hundreds of civilians over just days -- raise a question: What could possibly motivate such brutality?"

* On a related note: Secretary of State John Kerry today "warned that the United States would stop talking to Russia about ending Syria's civil war unless it ends an onslaught in the city of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian government forces."

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf will "forfeit $41 million for the bank's burgeoning sales scandal, marking one of the biggest rebukes to the head of a major U.S. financial institution."
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

With more debates looming, Team Trump looks for a solution

09/28/16 12:47PM

Ahead of this week's presidential debate, Donald Trump's campaign aides eagerly dished to reporters about the Republican candidate's difficulties. Over the weekend, for example, the New York Times reported that the GOP nominee "has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers."

found all of this very hard to believe. In fact, I largely assumed this was a shameless attempt at lowering expectations and that Trump had actually done extensive preparation.

After watching the Republican amateur struggle for an hour and a half on Monday night, it looks like those pre-debate reports were accurate after all.

Of course, this week's event was one of three showdowns pitting Trump against Hillary Clinton, and his aides have time to make him a better and more effective debater. The Times added today, however, that this is easier said than done.
Campaign advisers to Donald J. Trump, concerned that his focus and objectives had dissolved during the first presidential debate on Monday, plan to more rigorously prepare him for his next face-off with Hillary Clinton by drilling the Republican nominee on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks, and by coaching him on ways to whack Mrs. Clinton on issues even if he is not asked about them.

Whether he is open to practicing meticulously is a major concern, however, according to some of these advisers and others close to Mr. Trump.
The Times reportedly spoke to seven campaign aides and advisers who "expressed frustration and discouragement" over Trump's performance Monday night, pointing to, among other things, "the lack of time spent on preparing a game plan."

The article, however, also added this gem: "Almost all of his advisers rejected the idea that the debate was a failure for Mr. Trump, noting that he landed some punches and insisting that Mrs. Clinton looked more polished than she was because of her opposition."

That's a very odd sentence. It's like saying, "The Miami Dolphins looked like a good team while playing the Cleveland Browns, because the Browns are pretty awful -- said the management of the Cleveland Browns."
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.28.16

09/28/16 12:00PM

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

* President Obama appeared on the Steve Harvey Morning Show via telephone this morning, and was only too pleased to focus on Donald Trump's mistreatment of Alicia Machado. "You had somebody who basically insulted women and then doubled down I think this morning in terms of how he talks about them and talks about their weight and talks about, you know, how they look instead of the content of their character and their capabilities," Obama said, "which is not somebody that I want in the Oval Office."

* First Lady Michelle Obama is the star of the Clinton campaign's new television ad, which was released this morning.

* Donald Trump told supporters yesterday that if he wins the presidential election, he will "make possible every dream you've ever dreamed." Oh my.

* During Monday's debate, Hillary Clinton encouraged viewers to go to her website and "see in real-time what the facts are." According to Wired, "nearly two million people visited Clinton's website within an hour after she mentioned it." This was her site's heaviest traffic to date.

* Rudy Giuliani, who's worked his way into the news a little too often lately, has a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, making a series of dubious claims about Trump and New York's stop-and-frisk policy.

* Earlier this year, Trump's state director in North Carolina resigned following allegations he pulled a gun on a colleague. Now, the executive director of Trump's campaign in Georgia is also stepping down, stemming from a 2008 arrest.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Trump Foundation confronts yet another controversy

09/28/16 11:20AM

Over the weekend, Donald Trump was asked whether he's "confident that the Trump Foundation has followed all charitable rules and laws." The Republican presidential hopeful responded, "Well, I hope so."

Given the multiple controversies surrounding the Donald J. Trump Foundation, it wasn't exactly reassuring that the GOP candidate himself isn't certain.

It also doesn't help that the latest revelations only add to the controversy. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold once again moved the ball forward on this story on Monday, reporting on Trump directing companies that owed him money to instead pay his charitable foundation, to the tune of about $2.3 million. In each instance, Trump was required to pay taxes on the income, and it's not clear that he did.

In fact, when the Washington Post initially asked about this, Trump's campaign "denied that any of the transactions had taken place." Later, Trump aides reversed course and provided partial answers, but left many questions unanswered.

And just when it seemed things couldn't get worse, a Trump adviser talked to MSNBC's Hallie Jackson yesterday and the story took an unintentionally funny turn. Fahrenthold summarized the latest.
An adviser to Donald Trump on Tuesday offered a new explanation for why a portrait of Trump — paid for by the Republican nominee's charitable foundation — wound up on display at a Trump-owned golf resort in Florida.

Trump, the adviser said, was actually doing his charity a favor, by "storing" its painting on the wall of a bar at Trump National Doral, outside Miami.
This is probably the funniest argument the Trump campaign has ever come up with.
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U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn speaks during the 2nd Annual Creativity Conference presented by the Motion Picture Association of America at The Newseum on May 2, 2014 in Washington, DC.

House GOP leader: 'I think the Earth is in a cooling trend'

09/28/16 10:40AM

In Monday night's debate, Hillary Clinton reminded the audience that Donald Trump "thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real." The Republican quickly rejected the claim. "I did not," he insisted. "I did not. I do not say that."

Moments later, a 2012 tweet from Trump started making the rounds in which he said, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese."

In other words, Trump was caught brazenly lying about one of the most important challenges facing humanity. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein asked a variety of Trump campaign surrogates for their reactions to this, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Consider this amazing exchange:
HUFFPOST: During the debate Donald Trump definitively said that he never once said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. But here is a tweet where he says just that. [We attempt to show her the tweet.]

BLACKBURN: Well, I don't have my glasses on.

HP: Come on! OK, I'll read it. [We read it.]

BLACKBURN: Well, many times when we talk about issues related to the climate, y'all have countries that would not be forced to come into compliance with some of these agreements. Then they will say they don't have to abide by that, they plan to buy more coal.

HP: Do you believe that climate change is a hoax?

BLACKBURN: I do not believe in climate change. I think the Earth is in a cooling trend. It is not in a warming trend.
The right-wing congresswoman wasn't kidding. Blackburn went on to argue that the planet "is in a cooling trend. It has cooled for about the past 10 years." Reminded that nine of the hottest years in the history of the planet have been recorded in the past decade, the Tennessee lawmaker once again insisted, "We have also seen the past 10 years a little bit of a cooling."

Remember, Blackburn isn't just some random conservative activist. She's a frequent Sunday-show guest; she was rumored to be a contender for the GOP's vice presidential nomination; and she's the vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In other words, her ignorance isn't just cringe-worthy; it's arguably quite dangerous given her official responsibilities.
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