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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Why GOP leaders chose silence when confronted with Trump's racism

07/16/19 08:00AM

Yesterday morning, as the nation was coming to terms with the latest example of Donald Trump's racism, the Charlotte Observer published an editorial with a headline that read, "Are you OK with a racist president, Republicans?"

The newspaper's editorial board described the president's antics as "dangerous" and "destructive," before insisting, "[A]t the least every Republican lawmaker in Congress should declare as much about their president's outburst."

As Eugene Robinson noted, that obviously did not happen.

"Trump is a racist" does not exactly qualify as breaking news. But the silence from prominent Republicans is staggering -- and telling. It amounts to collaboration -- perhaps "collusion" is a better word -- with the president's assault on diversity and pluralism.

In the coming campaign, you will hear Republican candidates at every level claim to be colorblind and embrace all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. Do not believe them. Their failure to speak out now tells us everything we need to know about their true feelings.

In fairness, there were some exceptions. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the vice chair of the Senate Republican Conference, didn't issue a formal statement condemning Trump's antics, but when asked specifically if she considered the president's comments racist, the Iowan conceded, "Yeah, I do."

But her Republican brethren in the GOP leadership -- from both chambers -- were far more circumspect. Members like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had an opportunity to stand up for core principles such as decency and respect, but by all appearances, they were simply too afraid to lead.

Their reticence served as a painful reminder: it really is Donald Trump's party now.

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Racist Trump spectacle distracts from other damaging Trump news

Racist Trump spectacle distracts from other damaging Trump news

07/15/19 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow looks at new reporting from CNN on how Russia transmitted hacked materials to Wikileaks to help Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and at a new criminal trial spawned from the Mueller investigation, and what has taken the attention away from those two stories, Donald Trump's racist invective against four U.S. congresswomen of... watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 7.15.19

07/15/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Afghanistan: "A decorated Special Forces company sergeant major has died during combat in Afghanistan, U.S. military officials said Sunday. James G. “Ryan” Sartor, 40, was killed Saturday during combat operations in Faryab Province, according to Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command."

* A major policy shift: "The Trump administration announced Monday it will move to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants in the government's latest major attempt to restrict the influx of migrant families coming to the United States.... The change is a unilateral move by the Trump administration and has not been agreed to by Mexico."

* Of the 70, 62 are current employees: "Seventy current and former U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees are under investigation for participating in a secret Facebook group in which members joked about dead migrants and mocked Latino Congress members, officials said Monday."

* Charlottesville: "The driver who plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, killing one and injuring dozens, was given a second life sentence Monday on state charges."

* Problematic: "The Trump administration plans to move more than a fifth of the Bureau of Land Management's D.C. workforce out West, part of its broader push to shift power away from Washington and shrink the size of the federal government."

* On a related note, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney "has focused much of his energy on creating a new White House power center revolving around the long-dormant Domestic Policy Council and encompassing broad swaths of the administration. One White House official described Mulvaney as 'building an empire for the right wing.'"

* Debt ceiling: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday that lawmakers could be forced to raise the debt ceiling without a broader budget deal if an agreement isn't reached very soon, warning that time was running out to ensure that the government had enough money to pay all of its bills."

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Image: Lindsey Graham; Donald Trump

Lindsey Graham takes Trump's attacks on Dem reps a little further

07/15/19 03:55PM

The day after Donald Trump's racist tweets about four Democratic congresswomen, many Republican lawmakers have been pressed for a public reaction to their party's president. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) turned to Fox News, where he initially seemed to frame his response as helpful guidance.

"Aim higher," Graham said. "They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies." The GOP senator added, "Don't get personal.... This is not about a person, it is about a country, it is about a set of ideas. They're on the wrong side of the future."

As a substantive matter, I'd disagree with him about who is and isn't on the right side of history, but as a matter of principle, Graham's recommendations to Trump initially seemed quite responsible. Aim higher, recognize the legitimacy of your opponents' positions, and resist the urge to make political fights personal.

Alas, that wasn't all the senator said.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham called four minority congresswomen "communists" and "anti-America" as he responded to President Donald Trump's racist tweets about the group this weekend in an appearance on Fox & Friends on Monday.

"We all know that [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists," Graham said. "They hate Israel, they hate our own country, they're calling the guards along our border -- the Border Patrol agents -- concentration camp guards, they accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins, they're anti-Semitic, they're anti-America."

Oh. So in the same interview, the Republican senator (1) urged Trump to aim higher and not make personal attacks; and (2) called Trump's targets anti-American communists.

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U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a news conference January 24, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Trump's attacks against Ilhan Omar reach a ridiculous new level

07/15/19 03:13PM

Donald Trump first went after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in April, though the ferocity of the president's attacks reached an alarming new level this morning.

Indeed, the Republican declared at a White House event that the Minnesota congresswoman "hates Israel," "hates Jews," "hates our country," and celebrates al Qaeda.

"I mean, I look at the one, I look at Omar. I mean, I don't know I never met her, I hear the way she talks about al Qaeda," Trump said. "Al Qaeda has killed many Americans. She said, 'you can hold your chest out, you can, when I think of America, huh, when I think of al Qaeda, I can hold my chest out,'" he said.

It's unclear what comments Trump was referencing, but some conservative news sites have made an issue out of a 2013 interview in which she said her college professor's "shoulders went up" every time he mentioned Al Qaeda in a class on terrorism.

Trump also referred to Omar's remarks in March about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Muslim civil rights, in which she mistakenly said the Council on American-Islamic Relations was founded in response to the terrorist attacks, adding "because they recognized that some people did something" — a phrasing that some in conservative media have interpreted as a flippant reference to the attack.

"When she talked about the World Trade Center being knocked down -- 'some people.' You remember the famous 'some people'?" Trump asked. "These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country."

I can think of countless examples of a president criticizing individual members of Congress, publicly and privately, often in aggressive and borderline-offensive ways.

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Trump defends racist tweets, says 'many people agree' with him

07/15/19 02:20PM

If Donald Trump intended to spark a controversy with his racist tweets directed at four Democratic congresswomen, he succeeded.

The president hosted a "Made in America" showcase at the White House this morning, and not surprisingly, there were more than a few questions for the man who said the progressive lawmakers -- each of whom are Americans, three of whom were born in the United States -- should "go back" to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came."

This brief exchange helped summarize the Republican's current posture.

Q: Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?

TRUMP: It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me.

That's not an answer. "Many people" may agree with a racist statement; that doesn't make it less racist. Propriety and decency need not be seen through the lens of a popularity contest.

He added, in apparent reference to elected American congresswomen, "These are people that. in my opinion. hate our country." (As he sees it, to condemn his agenda is to hate the country itself.) Trump soon after argued, over and over again, that his critics are welcome to leave the country.

"If you are not happy here, then you can leave," he said. "As far as I am concerned, if you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave. That is what I say all of the time."

The repetition doesn't make presidential rhetoric like this any less offensive. Trump's line is quite plainly a direct attack on dissent. In the American tradition, those who are dissatisfied with the country's direction are encouraged to become politically engaged and work to produce change.

In this president's vision, those who are dissatisfied with the country's direction are encouraged to leave the United States altogether. Donald Trump apparently sees the country as the proper home for those who appreciate and celebrate Donald Trump.

There was a six-word slogan in the Vietnam era, repeated by war supporters: "America: Love It or Leave It." The idea, evidently, has been re-embraced by the current president.

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Image: U.S. ICE officers conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta

Trump won't say if servicemembers' loved ones could be deported

07/15/19 12:42PM

Many communities across the country have been braced for mass-deportation efforts, which Donald Trump has said are on the way, though for now, the initiative hasn't taken shape in earnest. NBC News reported yesterday afternoon that immigration raids have begun, but the pace has "started slow."

Earlier Sunday afternoon, there was little evidence of massive immigration enforcement operations, as immigrant communities prepared for their arrival.

Two senior Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News last week that the raids, which had been postponed several weeks ago, were scheduled to take place on Sunday. But the administration altered its plans from a large-scale sweep to a smaller set of arrests over the coming week after news reports informed immigrant communities about the raids, The New York Times reported Sunday, citing several current and former Department of Homeland Security officials familiar with the operation.

Ruthie Epstein, the deputy director for immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC News that the group had not heard anything from its networks as of Sunday afternoon, but were closely monitoring the situation.

It's tough to speculate about the reasoning behind the latest developments. Maybe the president's mass-deportation chest-thumping was meaningless rhetoric; maybe the DHS efforts will intensify in the coming days and weeks. I don't imagine anyone facing the threat will grow complacent anytime soon.

What struck me as especially notable, however, was a question a reporter asked Trump during a brief Q&A on Friday. At issue were U.S. military families and the prospect of deportations.

This was the exchange after the president was asked if he'd provide any assurances to servicemembers' families:

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.15.19

07/15/19 12:00PM

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

* The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found each of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination leading Donald Trump in hypothetical match-ups. Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) fared the best, leading the president by nine points, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) had the smallest advantage, leading Trump by just one point.

* Biden is unveiling his health care blueprint today, and it's largely based on building on the existing Affordable Care Act. Of particular interest, though, is Biden's support for a public option -- part of the original ACA plan, before it was killed by then-Sen. Joe Lieberman.

* Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) acknowledged yesterday that his paternal great-great-great grandfather owned slaves, and he incorporated this fact into his support for an agenda that would "change this country so that it works for those who have been locked-out of -- or locked-up in -- this system."

* In a bit of a surprise, Trump officially endorsed Bill Hagerty's Republican Senate campaign in Tennessee, which was odd since Hagerty -- the current ambassador to Japan -- hasn't yet launched a Senate campaign in Tennessee. (This would also seem to raise fresh Hatch Act questions.)

* California's state legislature recently approved a measure that would require presidential candidates to release five years' worth of tax returns before appearing on the ballot. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) hasn't yet said whether he intends to sign the bill into law, though if he does, it'll be the first law of its kind in the country. It would also be in effect for the 2020 cycle.

* Though it's been widely assumed that former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) would run again for elected office, we apparently shouldn't expect to see his next candidacy anytime soon. Walker has agreed to serve as president of the far-right Young America's Foundation, and he conceded this would preclude running for anything in 2020 or 2022.

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U.S.  President Obama meets with President-elect Trump in the White House Oval Office in Washington

After failing to change the census, Team Trump peddles lie about Obama

07/15/19 11:20AM

It's not unusual for Donald Trump to use his social-media accounts to promote his television appearances, but on Friday morning, the president did something a little unusual: he encouraged his followers to watch Rush Limbaugh appear on Fox News. In case that weren't quite odd enough, Trump celebrated the interview a half-hour later, insisting the far-right radio host had done a "great job."

Fact-checkers would disagree. Limbaugh's appearance came on the heels of the president's embarrassing retreat on his efforts to change the 2020 census, and the radio personality did his best to direct conservative disappointment in a new direction.

"The real controversy here is who took the citizenship question off of the census, and why?" Limbaugh said. "Why is it controversy wanting to know who among us happens to be a citizen and who isn't? Why is that controversial? It would seem to me that this kind of attention should have been asked when somebody in the Obama regime decided to get rid of it."

This came the same week Kellyanne Conway, a prominent White House aide and Trump loyalty, also appeared on "Fox & Friends" and said, "Why can't we just ask the question the way it was asked for 50 years before the Obama administration yanked it out of there?"

In case you get an angry email from your weird uncle who watches Fox all day, let's take a look at the latest piece from the Associated Press.

The Obama administration did not pull the citizenship question from the census after 50 years. The Census Bureau hasn't included a citizenship question in its once-a-decade survey sent to all U.S. households since 1950.

From 1970 to 2000, the question was included only in the long-form section of the census survey, which is sent to a portion of U.S. households. After 2000, the question has been asked each year since 2005 on the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, a separate poll also sent to a sample of U.S. households.

The Census Bureau made the switch to that survey in 2005 as a replacement to the long-form supplement, prior to the Obama administration. As a result of that switch, no long form was sent as part of the next-held census in 2010, when Obama was in office. Instead, the citizenship question was asked as part of the 2010 ACS survey.

Last year, then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to get the ball rolling on this, blaming Barack Obama and his team for having removed a citizenship question from the 2010 census.

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File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump (and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a welcome ceremony in Beijing.

Trump tries (and fails) to brag about China's economic troubles

07/15/19 10:43AM

Economic growth in China slowed in the second quarter, and as CNBC reported, it was "the weakest rate in at least 27 years." The report added that Donald Trump's trade war on Beijing has clearly taken a toll.

With that in mind, the American president celebrated a bit on Twitter this morning, boasting that his tariffs are "having a major effect on companies wanting to leave China for non-tariffed countries." Trump added, that the United States is "receiving Billions of Dollars in Tariffs from China, with possibly much more to come. These Tariffs are paid for by China devaluing & pumping, not by the U.S. taxpayer!"

The second part of this boast is outrageously false and evidence that Trump is still hopelessly confused about his own trade policy in any meaningful way. The Republican has been told countless times that American importers and consumers are paying more as a result of his tariffs -- not China -- but the president refuses to learn the basic details of his own agenda.

But the first part of his tweet is far less ridiculous. The Wall Street Journal reported overnight that there are shifts underway in Asia-Pacific manufacturing.

U.S. manufacturers are shifting production to countries outside of China as trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies stretch into a second year. [...]

The biggest beneficiaries of that decline have been other countries in Asia where production costs are low, such as Vietnam, India, Taiwan and Malaysia. [...]

There is little evidence, though, of U.S. manufacturers bringing production from China back to the U.S., a move the Trump administration hoped the tariffs would encourage.

And that's what makes Trump's boasts so odd.

According to the White House, the point of the president's trade agenda -- or one of them, anyway -- is to encourage manufacturers to bring their production work back to American soil. Trump talks about this all the time: companies that want to avoid tariffs can simply make their products in the United States.

Putting aside the complicating factors -- most notably, what that would do to the prices of most consumer goods -- the evidence shows Trump isn't generating the intended results. U.S. manufacturers are shifting production away from China, but they're not bringing their businesses here.

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