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Roger Stone Addresses Women's Republican Club Of Miami

Trump confidant met with Russian offering Clinton dirt during campaign

06/18/18 08:00AM

In the not-too-distant past, Donald Trump and his team insisted, repeatedly, that no one from the Republican's operation had any contact with Russia during the 2016 campaign. It was, of course, one of Trump's more important lies, which to date, has never been explained by anyone in his White House.

Indeed, late last year, Rachel had a segment counting up the large roster of Russians connected to Putin's government who were in contact with Trump associates and it wasn't a short list.

But even now, after all that's happened in the Trump/Russia scandal, we're still learning about previously unreported contacts. The Washington Post reported over the weekend:

One day in late May 2016, Roger Stone -- the political dark sorcerer and longtime confidant of Donald Trump -- slipped into his Jaguar and headed out to meet a man with a Make America Great Again hat and a viscous Russian accent.

The man, who called himself Henry Greenberg, offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Trump's presumptive Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, according to Stone who spoke about the previously unreported incident in interviews with The Washington Post. Greenberg, who did not reveal the information he claimed to possess, wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt, Stone said.

Stone, a longtime Republican operative, was no longer an official member of Trump's operation at the time, though he had been part of the team and he's advised Trump in a variety of capacities for decades. That said, according to Stone's account, the meeting was arranged by Michael Caputo, who was a Trump campaign communications official in May 2016 and who later worked in the White House.

Caputo set up the meeting after "Greenberg" approached Caputo's Russian-immigrant business partner, Sergey "George" Petrushin.

In terms of the broader timeline of events, the May 2016 meeting came in between George Papadopoulos learning of possible anti-Clinton dirt from Russia (in early May 2016) and the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Russians and top members of the Republican's campaign team (in early June 2016).

Based on the latest reporting, neither Trump nor his associates gave any money to the man offering anti-Clinton information, but his chat with Roger Stone is reportedly of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- and that shouldn't come as a surprise.

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Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

This Week in God, 6.16.18

06/16/18 07:40AM

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at Vice President Mike Pence's appearance on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which shouldn't have been especially controversial, but which turned into an unexpectedly contentious event.

The first sign of trouble came well ahead of Pence's remarks. The vice president was not originally scheduled to appear, but his office reportedly reached out to SBC leaders to request an opportunity to speak. Despite the Southern Baptists' reputation for conservatism, there was an organized effort on the part of some pastors, wary of overtly politicizing their gathering, to prevent Pence from speaking.

The motions failed, but the fact that the protests existed at all was emblematic of some divisions in the nation's largest Protestant denomination. The New York Times  noted, "Some were especially concerned about the administration's stance on immigration and race, and Mr. Pence's allegiance to a president who has been accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct."

The vice president spoke anyway, and gave a fairly predictable, partisan speech. By all accounts, Pence received hearty applause -- and more than a couple standing ovations -- from many of the Southern Baptists in attendance, but USA Today  added that the vice president's speech "did not sit well with everyone in the convention hall and those watching online."

At about the time the speech ended, North Carolina Pastor J.D. Greear, the newly elected Southern Baptist Convention president, tweeted about public officials at the annual meeting.

"I know that sent a terribly mixed signal. We are grateful for civic leaders who want to speak to our Convention -- but make no mistake about it, our identity is in the gospel and our unity is in the great commission," Greear said. "Commissioned missionaries, not political platforms, are what we do."

Slate  added, "[P]anning shots of the thousands of people in the room also captured many people sitting with their arms crossed through many applause lines."

Historians with expertise in this area agreed this was "the first real controversy in the convention about a GOP speaker since the evangelist Billy Graham pushed for the invitation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1972 and reveals the significant upheaval among conservative evangelicals about President Trump and the mixing of partisan politics and religion."

How divisive is Donald Trump? Divisive enough that Mike Pence can't show up at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention without sparking a fight.

Also from the God Machine this week:

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Manafort appears to choose jail over helping Trump Russia probe

Manafort appears to choose jail over helping Trump Russia probe

06/15/18 09:17PM

Rachel Maddow points out that while the charges Paul Manafort is being prosecuted for are not connected to the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia, his Russian intelligence-tied co-defendant and his key position between Trump and Russia suggest that he has the kind of information that would help him avoid jail if he cut a deal with... watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 6.15.18

06/15/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Trump could stop this at any time: "The Trump administration separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults between April 19 and May 31, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Friday."

* In case you missed today's big development earlier: "Paul Manafort is going to jail. Special counsel Robert Mueller's office convinced a federal judge on Friday to revoke the bail of President Donald Trump's former campaign chief after he was accused of witness tampering."

* Trade war: "The Trump administration said on Friday that it would move ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from Beijing and escalating a trade war between the world's two largest economies."

* It just never ends with this guy: "Senior staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency frequently felt pressured by Scott Pruitt, the administrator, to help in personal matters and obtain special favors for his family, according to interviews with four current and former E.P.A. officials who served as top political aides to Mr. Pruitt."

* A worthwhile endeavor: "Mick Mulvaney, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting director, wants to do away with the searchable database of complaints, but former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann plans to pick up the slack."

* Losing control: "Weeks of escalating strain between press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and reporters boiled over in the White House briefing room on Thursday, as press members tussled with Sanders over immigration issues, she insulted the intelligence of one reporter, and another interrupted the proceedings with a dramatic outburst."

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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

Trump rejects immigration 'compromise' he's supposed to support

06/15/18 04:17PM

The immigration gambit from House Republican "moderates" to force a vote on a bipartisan immigration measure looked promising, right up until this week, when the effort collapsed. Relieved Republican leaders in the chamber scheduled two votes next week on the issue: one on a far-right plan and another on a "compromise" measure.

Calling the latter a "compromise," however, isn't quite right. The bill, released yesterday, is the result of negotiations between conservative Republicans and not-quite-as-conservative Republicans. There was a bipartisan package touted by proponents of the GOP's recent discharge petition, but the bill that's headed to the floor is a far cry from that.

Republican leaders, however, believe their "compromise" plan has a chance of success, since it goes out of its way to meet Donald Trump's demands. It must've come as quite a surprise this morning when the president denounced the bill he's supposed to support.

President Donald Trump said Friday he would refuse to sign a new compromise Republican immigration bill that would bar his administration from implementing its policy of separating children from their parents or legal guardian at the border.

In an interview Friday morning with "Fox and Friends," Trump said he was "looking at both" immigration proposals put forth by GOP members of the House -- the compromise bill, as well as a more conservative measure.

But he added, "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

Predictably, Trump's comments on Fox News roiled the debate and appeared to signal the end of the fight.

Which only made it more amazing when the White House later said Trump actually likes the bill he said he wouldn't sign.

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Image: Donald Trump

By falsely claiming 'exoneration,' Trump takes gaslighting to a new level

06/15/18 03:11PM

The Justice Department inspector general's office didn't do Donald Trump any favors in its new report. Following an extensive examination of federal law enforcement's behavior during the 2016 presidential election, the IG effectively shredded every bogus narrative the president has peddled for months.

Trump argued that the FBI was biased against his candidacy, and the IG found the opposite. Trump claimed the Justice Department went easy on Hillary Clinton, and the IG found the opposite. Trump insisted Clinton should've been indicted, and the IG found the opposite. Trump whined incessantly for months about the system being "rigged" against him, and the IG found the opposite.

Common sense suggests the president should focus his attention elsewhere, and not bring attention to the report that discredited his talking points, but Trump had a different idea: he'd play make believe and pretend that the document answered questions the IG never even asked.

On Fox News this morning, the president claimed that the inspector general's report found that federal law enforcement official "were plotting against my election." That's not even close to what the report said. But soon after, in an informal Q&A with reporters, Trump went further:

"I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you'll see that."

This is gibberish. The report doesn't have anything to do with the Trump campaign's alleged cooperation with the Russians who attacked our election. The Justice Department IG made no effort to examine this in any way.

Frustrated reporters eventually pressed the president on his brazen lying:

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A doorman stands as people walk past the Trump Tower in N.Y. on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

President tries to brush off lying about infamous Trump Tower meeting

06/15/18 12:30PM

It was two years ago this month that top members of the Trump campaign hosted a private meeting in Trump Tower with a group of Russians. As regular readers know, the intended point of the gathering was for the future president's operation to acquire anti-Clinton intelligence from Moscow, which Team Trump was eager to receive, bolstering allegations of cooperation between the Republican campaign and its benefactors in Moscow.

Last summer, after the meeting came to light, Donald Trump Jr. issued a written statement to the New York Times saying participants "primarily discussed" an adoption program, which was "not a campaign issue." That statement was obviously deceptive and has reportedly drawn the interest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump's legal defense team later conceded that the president himself personally dictated the wording of his son's dishonest statement.

This morning, Trump was offered an opportunity to shed additional light on the subject.

Q: Did you dictate the statement about [the Trump Tower meeting]?

TRUMP: Let's not talk about it. You know what that is? It's irrelevant. It's a statement to the New York Times. The phony, failing New York Times. It's not a statement to a high tribunal of judges. That's a statement phony New York Times.

The president's point wasn't exactly subtle: lying in a written statement to a major news organization shouldn't necessarily be seen as wrong.

Mueller and his investigators may have a very different perspective on this -- because at face value, it suggests the president may have been personally involved in an attempted cover-up when describing one of the key moments in the overall scandal.

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.15.18

06/15/18 12:00PM

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

* With the launch of his latest ad campaign in Florida's U.S. Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott's (R) "spending onslaught" is now "approaching $20 million." It's not even July yet.

* Speaking of big spenders in the Sunshine State, billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene (D) kicked off a gubernatorial campaign in Florida this week, suggesting he might end up spending $100 million on the race. Greene ran an unsuccessful Senate campaign in Florida six years ago.

* In Pennsylvania, the latest Franklin & Marshall poll found incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D) with a surprisingly large lead over Rep. Lou Barletta (R), 44% to 27%.

* The same poll found incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) with a comparable lead over his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner, 48% to 29%.

* Though there's been some chatter about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R) leaving Capitol Hill and running for governor in Louisiana, the Republican congressman this week ruled out the possibility.

* With Rep. Martha McSally (R) increasingly concerned about her Senate primary in Arizona, a group called One Nation, "aligned" with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), is launching a new ad campaign in support of the Republican congresswoman.

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Image: FILE PHOTO: Manafort departs U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia

Trump pretends to barely know the man who led his campaign

06/15/18 11:19AM

It's going to be a very big day for Paul Manafort, the suspected criminal who ran Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016. Manafort, who was already facing multiple criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was recently accused of witness tampering. A longtime Manafort associate, a Russian intelligence operative named Konstantin Kilimnik, was also indicted last week.

As you've likely seen Rachel explain on the show, Manafort is scheduled to be back in court today for an arraignment, and his bail agreement may be revised or revoked. Or put another way, the man who led the president's political operation may find himself in jail later today.

Trump was asked about the legal developments this morning, and true to form, the president acted as if he barely knew Manafort, telling reporters:

"Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. I'll tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?

"You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.... He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something? A very short period of time."

Asked about possible pardons, Trump added, "I don't want to talk about that. But look, I do want to see people treated fairly. That's what it's all about."

It was March 2017 when the White House first tried to dismiss Manafort as someone "who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time." Fifteen months later, Trump has taken this line in a direction that would be hilarious if this weren't so serious.

To the extent that reality matters, let's do a little fact checking:

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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

White House turns to conservative job fair to find willing staffers

06/15/18 10:42AM

About three months ago, Donald Trump acknowledged the staffing exodus in his White House, but he rejected the idea that it was a problem.

"You know, I read where, 'Oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump.' And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House," the president insisted. "They all want a piece of that Oval Office; they want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their resume; it's just a great place to work."

Given the revolving door at the White House, it was difficult to take Trump's assurances seriously. Indeed, his comments look a little worse after reading this report from Politico this week.

The White House -- which has been having trouble filling positions as it bleeds staffers -- is now trying to find recruits at a conservative job fair on the Hill.

"Interested in a job at the White House?" is the subject line of an email that was blasted out widely to Republicans on the Hill late Wednesday advertising the upcoming event.

The job fair, scheduled for this afternoon on Capitol Hill, is being hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is a fairly new group created by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who also used to lead the Heritage Foundation.

The Politico piece added, "Recruiting at a job fair is seen as an unusual step for a White House to take.... A former Obama administration official said it would have been unheard of in the previous administration.... The Trump White House, however, has had difficulty bringing new people in."

For many observers, especially the president's detractors, it's probably tempting to laugh at all of this. It is, after all, pitiful.

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