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E.g., 6/22/2018
E.g., 6/22/2018

Those who have Trump's ear tend to look a lot like him

06/22/18 03:48PM

Donald Trump hosted a meeting on immigration policy at the White House on Wednesday, and the Cabinet Room was filled with officials ready to participate. The meeting didn't produce any breakthroughs, though it did generate a fair amount of discussion about who didn't join the president at the negotiating table.

For example, no congressional Democrats were invited to participate. A photo from CBS News' Mark Knoller also made clear that practically everyone who had access to the president was a white, male Republican.

The Washington Post's Eugene Scott had a good piece on this:

A genuine fear of many Trump critics is that the president's vision of making America "great again" excludes those not among his base. Photos like the one from Wednesday's meeting fuel this belief.

If the president is truly interested in hearing the concerns of those his policies impact most, a start would be to, at the very least, include them in the conversation. Their absence speaks volumes and gives the impression that people most like Trump are the ones who matter most to him.

Some caveats are probably in order. The Knoller photo, for example, doesn't show that there was one woman lawmaker at the table on Wednesday, but she was out of frame. What's more, some of the relevant officials in the Trump administration -- including the president's Homeland Security secretary -- aren't white guys.

But that doesn't change the fact that when Trump sought the perspective of people he considered important in the immigration debate, nearly all of the people who had his ear looked and thought just like he looks and thinks.

And this is hardly the only example that's come up in Republican politics in recent years.

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An electronic benefit card for Georgia's food stamp program sits on the counter of Shinholster Grocery & Meat in Irwinton, Ga., Nov. 21, 2013.

With tax cuts finished, House GOP takes aim at food stamps

06/22/18 02:49PM

Last month, House Republican leaders suffered an embarrassing setback, failing to pass their farm bill. As it turns out, the setback was temporary. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

A deeply polarizing farm bill narrowly passed the House on Thursday, a month after the legislation went down to stunning defeat after getting ensnared in the toxic politics of immigration.

The legislation, which passed 213 to 211 with 20 Republicans joining Democrats in their unanimous opposition, includes new work rules for most adult food-stamp recipients -- provisions that are dead on arrival in the Senate.

The legislative prospects matter, of course. As the House GOP knows, the farm bill will need 60 votes in the upper chamber, and there's obviously no way Senate Democrats are going to go along with a regressive bill like this one.

Why would they? As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Robert Greenstein explained yesterday, the House bill "includes cuts and changes to SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) that would eliminate or reduce food assistance for more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people."

Making matters slightly worse, as Catherine Rampell explained, the GOP bill would also create a new layer of government bureaucracy, which "eats up nearly all the 'savings' from kicking people off food stamps," intended to make it more difficult for qualifying Americans to receive benefits..

The fact that all of this comes six months after Republicans approved massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations only adds insult to injury for many of those who'd be affected by the House proposal.

Indeed, the House's farm bill is almost impressive in being misguided in so many ways at once. The New Republic's Alex Shephard recently described this farm bill as capturing of "everything that's wrong with Congress" in one piece of legislation, which was shaped by dysfunction, cynicism, and "bad policies that will make Americans less healthy and safe."

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Image: TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-ELECTIONS-TRUMP

White House incompetence laid bare by immigration fiasco

06/22/18 12:42PM

The day after addressing the family-separation disaster he created, Donald Trump bragged yesterday, "I signed a very good executive order yesterday." A report in the Wall Street Journal this morning suggests the president is the only one who's impressed.

Changing, competing and contradictory explanations of the administration's immigration policy spread confusion from Washington, D.C., to the Mexican border, leaving front-line law-enforcement and social-service agencies unsure of what will happen to thousands of children. [...]

Meanwhile, the federal government is still wrestling with the prospect of rapidly running out of space, money or both to detain immigrants—especially as family units.

Those factors create an immediate tension with prosecution policy. If the Trump administration stops prosecuting all adults for illegal border entry, it could maintain its detention capacity for longer, but paring back prosecutions would also amount to a significant retreat in the eyes of many, including the president himself.

The White House originally said the issue simply couldn't be addressed with an executive order. Officials then threw one together, leaving many in the Department of Homeland Security in the dark, all while ignoring the advice of White House Counsel Don McGahn.

Different agencies within the administration, meanwhile, are under the impression that the executive order means different things -- relevant departments were "gripped by confusion" yesterday -- and the "slapdash nature of the effort" has only intensified the chaos.

Some in the White House aren't even sure why Trump started separating families at the border in the first place. The Washington Post talked to one senior official who said, "[W]e are all utterly confused why we went through this exercise."

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.22.18

06/22/18 12:00PM

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

* In a key New Jersey congressional district, it's been a week since reports first surfaced about Republican candidate Seth Grossman calling diversity "a bunch of crap" and "un-American." TPM reported yesterday that Grossman "has doubled down on his anti-diversity rhetoric."

* In Wisconsin's closely watched U.S. Senate race, the latest poll from Marquette University Law School found incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) with leads of 11 and 9 points, respectively, against her likely Republican challengers.

* Two years ago in Arizona, Joe Arpaio lost his re-election bid for Maricopa County sheriff. Now, Arpaio wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions "to investigate whether the U.S. Justice Department under President Barack Obama improperly worked to sway voters against him." Apparently, he's not kidding.

* Ahead of Florida's Republican gubernatorial primary, Donald Trump has officially endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis. The congressman was considered a long-shot candidate, right up until the president started singing his praises after seeing his appearances on Fox News.

* On a related note, Trump also endorsed this morning Rep. Martha Roby (R), who's facing a runoff primary in Alabama, largely because her far-right critics believes she's been insufficiently loyal to the White House.

* It's been clear for a while that former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), who nearly won an upset in a U.S. Senate race two years ago, would run for another office, but it wasn't clear which one. Now we know: Kander reportedly intends to run for mayor in Kansas City.

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U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement from the Roosevelt Room next to the empty chairs of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (L), D-New York, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R), D-California, after they cancelled their meeting at the Whi

What Trump chooses not to understand about Democrats and immigration

06/22/18 11:20AM

At a cabinet meeting at the White House yesterday, Donald Trump threw a bit of a tantrum over congressional Democrats and their opposition to his immigration plans. The presidential rant went on for a while, but here's an excerpt from the official transcript:

"[Democrats] don't care about the children. They don't care about the injury. They don't care about the problems. They don't care about anything. All they do is say, 'Obstruct, and let's see how we do.' Because they have no policies that are any good. They're not good politicians. They got nothing going. All they're good at is obstructing.

"And they generally stick together. I respect them for that. That's about it. Their policies stink. They're no good. They have no ideas. They have no nothing -- the Democrats. All they can do is obstruct, and stay together, and vote against, and make it impossible to take care of children and families and to take care of immigration."

As if the tirade needed a little something extra, Trump added that Democrats "created, and they've let it happen, a massive child-smuggling industry."

But if we look past the hysterical nature of the president's whining, is there a credible point underneath? Is it possible that Democrats aren't willing to work constructively on the issue because they'd rather use this as a campaign issue in the fall?

Actually, no. We know this with certainty because the facts are plain, even if Trump prefers to ignore them.

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Image: U.S. President Trump listens to  Speaker Ryan as he gathers with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington

During immigration push, Trump cuts off House GOP leaders at the knees

06/22/18 10:48AM

As yesterday got underway on Capitol Hill, House Republicans prepared to vote on two immigration bills -- a far-right plan and a not-quite-as-far-to-the-right plan -- both of which were negotiated behind closed doors without Democratic input. The odds of either one passing were bleak.

Things quickly went from bad to worse. Members discovered that the less radical of the two measures, which enjoys the GOP leadership's support, not only lacked the votes needed to pass, it was also riddled with "technical drafting errors" as a result of sloppy legislating.

Soon after, the more radical proposal failed in the face of bipartisan opposition, and House Republican leaders, struggling with intra-party chaos and widespread confusion, announced that the other GOP bill would be voted on next week (after initially saying the vote would be today).

Trying to explain the slow-motion debacle, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a relative moderate on the issue, said yesterday that Republican lawmakers are trying to honor the president's wishes, but they don't really know what Trump wants. That dynamic intensified this morning.

After repeatedly saying Congress needs to solve the immigration problem, President Donald Trump on Friday called on lawmakers to delay dealing with the critical issue until after the midterm elections — while accusing Democrats of concocting politically motivated "phony stories of stories of sadness and grief" on the border.

"Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November," Trump tweeted. "Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!"

In other words, the Republican president would like the Republican Congress to simply stop trying to pass immigration legislation -- until 2019 -- which is pretty much the opposite of what House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team wanted Trump to say as they scramble to find the votes needed to pass their bill, which Trump is supposed to support.

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The Orion capsule is moved at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Nov. 11, 2014. The NASA spacecraft was designed to one day fly astronauts to Mars. (Photo by Mike Brown/Reuters)

Trump boasts he's 're-opening' NASA (which wasn't closed)

06/22/18 10:01AM

As evidenced by his proposed "Space Force," Donald Trump's focus hasn't been limited to terrestrial pursuits of late. In fact, at a campaign rally in Minnesota this week, the president declared, "We're re-opening NASA. We are going to be going to space."

As the New York Times  noted, the boast didn't really make any sense.

[C]ontrary to Mr. Trump's puzzling suggestion, NASA has been operational since its creation in 1958 and is already in space.

NASA is currently conducting dozens of missions in space, including exploring Mars, studying Jupiter and reaching the outer edges of the solar system. Three American astronauts are also currently staffing and conducting experiments on the International Space Station.

That's true, though we can take this a bit further.

Trump's boast, for example, about "re-opening" the space agency that hadn't closed also obscures the fact that the latest White House budget called for significant cuts to investments in NASA.

More recently, the president tapped a congressman with highly dubious qualifications to lead NASA -- the first politician to ever lead the agency.

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Image: FBI Investigates Trump's attorney Michael Cohen

The alleged partnership between Trump World and its favorite tabloid

06/22/18 09:20AM

The relationship between Donald Trump and the National Enquirer is well documented. The tabloid has gone to extraordinary lengths to help the president, and the president has insisted the tabloid deserves Pulitzer Prizes.

The Washington Post  reported overnight, however, that during the campaign, the connections between Trump's operation and the Enquirer went much further than previously understood.

During the presidential campaign, National Enquirer executives sent digital copies of the tabloid's articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump's attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication, according to three people with knowledge of the matter -- an unusual practice that speaks to the close relationship between Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., the Enquirer's parent company.

Although the company strongly denies ever sharing such material before publication, these three individuals say the sharing of material continued after Trump took office.

According to one of the Post's sources, during the campaign, "if it was a story specifically about Trump, then it was sent over to Michael, and as long as there were no objections from him, the story could be published."

When there were objections, according to the report, the tabloid would change photos and headlines.

This, of course, follows related reports from recent months about the Enquirer allegedly going so far as to buy the exclusive rights to stories that may have embarrassed Trump, and then never publishing anything.

At first blush, it may seem like the allegations relate to ridiculous journalistic standards, and a possible partnership between a White House and a supermarket tabloid. But while those angles certainly matter, in this case, there's a little more to it.

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Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., arrives for the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on May 29, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

What Peter King may not understand about US attitudes on immigration

06/22/18 08:47AM

Donald Trump's family-separation policy has sparked international attention and a swift public backlash, which his Republican Party probably would've preferred to avoid less five months before the midterm elections. But as TPM noted, some GOP lawmakers are less concerned than others.

[M]any vulnerable GOP lawmakers are fearing the political ramifications of their inaction in the face of public outrage over the mass separation of migrant children and families.

But Rep. Pete King (R-NY) is not too concerned.

"Americans care more about Americans," he told TPM.

Similar assessments have been percolating for a while, but the New York Republican crystalized the sentiment in a handy, five-word phrase: "Americans care more about Americans."

In other words, the public may seem disgusted when confronted with reports of officials separating immigrant children from their families, but as far as Peter King is concerned, the electoral impact should be limited -- because those who are suffering most aren't U.S. citizens.

And who knows, in some political circles, King's expectation might be right. But there's another aspect of Americans' attitudes that Peter King may not fully appreciate.

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Image: AG Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks On Immigration And Law Enforcement In PA

Jeff Sessions apparently thinks Americans have very short memories

06/22/18 08:00AM

Donald Trump's Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, became the subject of widespread ridicule this week after she declared, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." Three days later, Nielsen stood by the president's side as he signed an executive order to alter the policy that she said didn't exist.

But the DHS chief isn't the only member of the Trump cabinet drawing scrutiny for ridiculous claims about the administration's policy. For example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat down yesterday with David Brody, a correspondent for TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. In reference to the president's executive order, Brody asked Sessions about the "media narrative out there has been that Trump administration is caving to pressure -- that these optics have not been good for the administration." The attorney general replied:

"It hasn’t been good, and the American people don’t like the idea that we are separating families. We never really intended to do that. What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they've committed. Instead of giving that special group of adults immunity from prosecution, which is what, in effect, what we were doing. So I think it’s the right thing. We’ll work our way through it and try to do it in the most compassionate way possible."

The line that stood out, of course, was "We never really intended to do that." Of course they intended to do that. We know this for sure because Trump administration officials have told us, more than once, that they intended to do exactly what they ended up doing.

Slate published several examples of this, including one from Sessions himself, who just last month declared, in a speech in which he appeared to be speaking to would-be undocumented border-crossers, "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law."

A month later, the attorney general cited the Bible as a defense for breaking up children and their families.

As recently as this week, Sessions said he hoped Trump's family-separation policy would serve as a deterrent for others considering crossing the border.

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