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Friday's Mini-Report, 9.30.16

09/30/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Syria: "Two senior U.S. officials tell NBC News that thousands of ground troops are massing around Aleppo. The officials said they are awaiting a major ground operation into the city. The ground troops are a mix of Syrian regime, Iranian Quds Force, Hezbollah, paid fighters from Iraq (Badr Brigade) and from Afghanistan."

* That's quite a storm: "Matthew strengthened to a Category 3 major hurricane in the Caribbean on Friday and remains a dangerous threat to Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas over the next few days. The storm could still impact the U.S. East Coast by next week after its rampage through the Caribbean."

* He's having quite a day: "New video of Donald Trump testifying under oath has been made public after a court ruling Friday unsealed footage of the GOP nominee's deposition in a case involving his new Washington D.C. hotel."

* Israel: "On a cloudless blue morning, an honor guard brought the flag-draped coffin of Shimon Peres to the Mount Herzl national cemetery Friday as 100 world leaders and dignitaries from 70 countries bid farewell to the former Israeli leader and Nobel laureate whose dream of a lasting peace with the Palestinians remains elusive."

* If you missed President Obama's remarks at the Peres memorial service, they're well worth your time.

* Filipino voters appear to have made a terrible mistake: "Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday compared his campaign to kill criminals to the Holocaust, saying he would like to 'slaughter' millions of addicts just like Adolf Hitler 'massacred' millions of Jewish people."

* Howard Dean, "the former Vermont governor and onetime Democratic National Committee chairman, offered a qualified apology Friday morning for his repeated insinuations this week that GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump might be a cocaine user."
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Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roy Moore, speaks to the congregation of Kimberly Church of God, June 28, 2015, in Kimberley, Ala. (Photo by Butch Dill/AP)

Alabama's Moore gets kicked off the bench over ethics controversy

09/30/16 04:40PM

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R), caught up in a sordid scandal, is already facing impeachment, while former Alabama state House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R) was recently sentenced to a four-year prison term following a multiple-count conviction on corruption charges. Can things get worse for the Yellowhammer State?

Actually, yes. The Alabama Media Group reported this afternoon on the fate of the state's controversial state Supreme Court justice.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the bench for telling probate judges to defy federal orders regarding gay marriage.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) issued the order Friday suspending Moore from the bench for the remainder of his term after a unanimous vote of the nine-member board.... The court found him guilty of all six charges of violation of the canons of judicial ethics.
Moore, whose term wasn't set to expire until 2019, also learned that his suspension is effective immediately. It marks the end of his judicial career: as the Al.com report added, because of Moore's age, he cannot run again for his post as the court's chief justice (which in Alabama is an elected office).

As we discussed in May, Moore, in his official capacity, ordered Alabama's probate judges earlier this year to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality. The federal courts, not surprisingly, were not amused by Moore's "creative" approach to American jurisprudence.

And neither was Alabama's Judicial Inquiry Commission, which accused Moore of having "flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority" -- a charge that appears to coincide nicely with reality. Moore responded to the accusations by continuing to argue that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages is still state law, because as far as he's concerned, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling doesn't count.

If all of this sounds familiar, it's because Moore, a cause celebre for many on the far-right fringe, has been kicked off the bench once before for official misconduct.
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Image: ***BESTPIX*** Donald Trump Campaigns In Estero, Florida

Trump vows to fulfill 'every dream you ever dreamed'

09/30/16 12:42PM

In February 2008, in the middle of a tough fight for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton was getting a little tired of Barack Obama's bold talk about hope and change. In fact, at an event in New Hampshire, she got a little sarcastic about it.

Mocking her rival's vision as naive, Clinton said, "Now, I could stand up here and say, 'Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified.' The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect."

The criticisms never struck me as altogether fair -- Obama frequently acknowledged how hard change can be -- but Clinton's rhetoric nevertheless struck a chord with her supporters, who had no use for grandiose and unrealistic campaign promises.

I'm starting to wonder if Clinton's mockery may have been eight years too early.

On the campaign trail on Tuesday, for example, Donald Trump told supporters, "We have 41 days to make possible every dream you've ever dreamed." Oddly enough, it's apparently part of Trump's new pitch: NBC News' Katy Tur noticed the Republican nominee make a similar comment a day later.
"You have 40 days until the election. You have 40 days to make every dream you ever dreamed for your country come true."
Yesterday, Trump also reportedly vowed to supporters he'd "fulfill every single wish" they have for his presidency.

He hasn't yet promised everyone that we'll get free ponies, too, but the election is still 39 days away, so let's not rule anything out.
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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.30.16

09/30/16 12:01PM

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

* For the first time in the history of the newspaper, USA Today's editorial board published a piece urging readers not to vote for a specific presidential candidate. "This year, the choice isn't between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences," today's piece read. "This year, one of the candidates -- Republican nominee Donald Trump -- is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency."

* On a related note, the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, which nearly always backs the Republican nominee, threw its support to Libertarian Gary Johnson today.

* Healy Baumgardner, a Florida-based national surrogate for the Trump campaign, announced this morning she's quitting. "It is clear the campaign is now going in a direction I am no longer comfortable with and I have decided to move on," she said.

* Jason Miller, Trump's senior communications adviser, fielded questions yesterday from MSNBC's Chuck Todd on why the campaign takes unscientific online polls so seriously. Miller's attempts at answering did not go well.

* On Monday, Trump said Lester Holt did a "great job" at the debate. Yesterday, reflecting on the debate, the GOP nominee argued, "I had to put up with the anchor and fight the anchor all the time on everything I said." Trump now believes the debate was "a rigged deal."

* In Florida, a new Mason-Dixon poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Trump, 46% to 42%. Last month, the same poll showed Clinton ahead by just two in the Sunshine State.

* In New Hampshire, a new MassINC Polling Group poll for WBUR-FM shows Clinton ahead in the Granite State, 42% to 35%, in a four-way contest. In a head-to-head match-up, Clinton's lead grows to nine points.

* In Michigan, a new Detroit News-WDIV-TV poll shows Clinton up by seven in a four-way race, 42% to 35%.

* With polls showing Trump in the lead in Ohio, will the Clinton campaign give up on the state and focus resources elsewhere? That's a distinct possibility.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses while speaking at a campaign rally, Sept. 29, 2016, in Bedford, N.H. (Photo by John Locher/AP)

The latest in a series of controversies for the Trump Foundation

09/30/16 11:36AM

If it seems as if there are new questions surrounding the Donald J. Trump Foundation nearly every day, your perceptions aren't far off. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold has yet another scoop on the controversial charitable foundation.
Donald Trump's charitable foundation -- which has been sustained for years by donors outside the Trump family -- has never obtained the certification that New York requires before charities can solicit money from the public, according to the state attorney general's office.

Under the laws in New York, where the Donald J. Trump Foundation is based, any charity that solicits more than $25,000 a year from the public must obtain a special kind of registration beforehand. Charities as large as Trump's must also submit to a rigorous annual audit that asks -- among other things -- whether the charity spent any money for the personal benefit of its officers.
It's unclear what kind of action New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) might take, if any, but the Post's article added Schneiderman could go to court to "force Trump to return money that his foundation has already raised."

At this point, the number of allegations surrounding Trump's foundation -- the Pam Bondi donations, the portraits, the administrative missteps, the suspected illegalities and suspicions of a "slush fund," etc. -- are piling up in ways that, collectively, represent a fairly serious scandal.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich greets U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally at the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio July 6, 2016. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

The wrong issue, at the wrong time, from the wrong campaign

09/30/16 10:44AM

Hillary Clinton's campaign released a compelling new video yesterday featuring some of her most notable supporters: President Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. It's nearly a three-minute clip -- far too long to run as an ad on television -- but the video is nevertheless effective in highlighting some of the nation's most popular figures singing Clinton's praises.

But this also served as a reminder of the scale of the presidential candidates' "surrogate gap." While Clinton has a potent combination of high-profile backers, Donald Trump's bench is far less imposing. Indeed, one of the Republican nominee's most high-profile backers is Rudy Giuliani, who appears to be increasingly unhinged. (A recent Politico piece asked, "Is Rudy Giuliani Losing His Mind?")

He's joined by Newt Gingrich, who, when he's not talking about Alicia Machado's weight and spreading conspiracy theories about the first debate, is also talking about Bill Clinton's record of infidelities. BuzzFeed reported yesterday on the former Speaker marveling at Trump's restraint.
"I'm very proud that at the very end when she attacked and went off on this whole rant about women -- and you could see his face -- in the Republican primary he would have just smashed her," Gingrich said on Thursday on the Sean Hannity Radio Show.

"He thought about it, and I'm sure he said to himself, 'a president of the United States shouldn't attack somebody personally when their daughter is sitting in the audience,'" Gingrich said. "And he bit his tongue, and he was a gentleman, and I thought in many ways that was the most important moment of the whole evening. He proved that he had the discipline to remain as a decent guy even when she was disgusting."
Let's put aside the fact that Hillary Clinton wasn't "disgusting" at the debate. Let's also overlook the fact that Trump and his team have spent the week trying to make Bill Clinton's '90s-era sex scandals a key 2016 issue -- including an odd quote from Trump himself just yesterday -- which hardly constitutes "decency."
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