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Image: Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas

Trump's lies about his family-separation policy take a disturbing turn

06/21/19 10:42AM

Donald Trump sat down with Time magazine this week and repeated a familiar lie about his family-separation policy.

"But you have to understand, they were separated with President Obama. They were separated with President Bush. I didn't change the policy, and the policy had been changed, it was -- I'm the one that ended separation."

Looking at the full transcript, Time asked the president, "Would you consider reinstating the family-separation policy?" Trump's response meandered a bit, and included a variety of odd claims, but it also referenced Barack Obama and the Democratic administration 10 times -- literally.

At one point, Trump went so far as to say he "inherited" his own family-separation policy from his predecessor.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, Trump was brazenly lying.

“During the Obama administration, there was no policy in place that resulted in the systematic separation of families at the border, like we are now seeing under the Trump administration,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, explained last summer. “Our understanding is that generally parents were not prosecuted for illegal entry under President Obama. There may have been some separation if there was suspicion that the children were being trafficked or a claimed parent-child relationship did not actually exist. But nothing like the levels we are seeing today.”

Is Trump “the one that ended” the family-separation policy? Grammar aside, this is backwards: Trump is the one who created the family-separation policy. As we've discussed. he eventually issued an order to end his own practice, but for Trump to brag about this is like listening to an arsonist boast about putting out a fire he started.

Making matters considerably worse, the policy the president wants credit for ending may not have entirely ended.

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Image: President Trump announces steep tarrifs on imported steel and aluminum

On Iran, Trump's version of events doesn't do him any favors

06/21/19 10:05AM

The news overnight was unsettling: Donald Trump reportedly approved military strikes on Iranian targets, but he backed off before the plan was executed. There was no shortage of unanswered questions surrounding the developments, not the least of which was whether the president changed his mind or whether the mission was derailed for logistical reasons.

Trump turned to Twitter this morning to share his perspective on what transpired. This was his message in its entirety:

"President Obama made a desperate and terrible deal with Iran - Gave them 150 Billion Dollars plus I.8 Billion Dollars in CASH! Iran was in big trouble and he bailed them out. Gave them a free path to Nuclear Weapons, and SOON. Instead of saying thank you, Iran yelled Death to America.

"I terminated deal, which was not even ratified by Congress, and imposed strong sanctions. They are a much weakened nation today than at the beginning of my Presidency, when they were causing major problems throughout the Middle East. Now they are Bust!

"On Monday they shot down an unmanned drone flying in International Waters. We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.

"10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!"

Remember, this is Trump's version of events. The president has earned a reputation as one of the nation's least reliable sources, especially about matters pertaining to his own presidency, and accepting a flamboyantly dishonest man's claims about his actions is inherently unwise.

That said, what's striking about the president's story is that he seems to think it makes him look better. It does not.

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown speaks at the state capital building in Salem, Oregon, Feb. 20, 2015. (Photo by Steve Dipaola/Reuters)

Oregon Republicans flee their state to derail Dems' climate bill

06/21/19 09:20AM

Oregon is one of a handful of states in which Democrats control all of the levers of power. There's a Democratic governor working with sizable Democratic majorities in the state House and state Senate.

With this in mind, when Oregon policymakers decided to move forward with a fairly ambitious plan to address the climate crisis, Republican opponents didn't have many options. They did, however, have one unusual solution to their problem: GOP lawmakers could literally flee their own state.

And so they did.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown deployed the state police Thursday to try to round up Republican lawmakers who fled the Capitol in an attempt to block a vote on a landmark climate plan that would be the second of its kind in the nation.

Minority Republicans want the cap-and-trade proposal aimed at dramatically lowering the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to be sent to the voters for approval instead of instituted by lawmakers. Negotiations with Democrats fell apart late Wednesday prompting conservatives to pursue a walkout, said Kate Gillem, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said Thursday.

Some members have even left the state to avoid a vote, Gillem said. State police don't have jurisdiction beyond state lines.

To hold a vote, the state Senate needs a quorum of 20 members in the 30-seat chamber. The Democratic majority has 18 members.

It's worth emphasizing that the Democratic proposal isn't exactly radical. If the law were to take effect, Oregon would have a cap-and-trade model, similar to the system approved by its neighbors in California, in which polluters would face a ceiling on carbon emissions. Those who wanted to go above that limit would need to trade credits with other companies.

This is, incidentally, a market-based approach that Republicans used to like before the party orthodoxy on climate science shifted dramatically to the right.

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas gestures while taking part in a panel discussion at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. (Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP)

Clarence Thomas presents radical vision for US religious liberty

06/21/19 08:41AM

This year's big U.S. Supreme Court case for the separation of church and state involved something known as the "Peace Cross" -- a 40-foot-tall concrete Christian symbol on public land in Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C. The case, not surprisingly, was based on the idea that state support for a giant cross -- erected as a World War I memorial nearly a century ago -- is at odds with the First Amendment.

The justices didn't quite see it that way. In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, a court majority said the cross can remain because it is old. "With sufficient time, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices can become embedded features of a community's landscape and identity," Justice Samuel Alito wrote.

The full ruling is a little complicated, with a series of concurring rulings -- and one excellent dissent from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who offered a spirited defense of church-state separation -- including Justice Neil Gorshuch expressing a degree of scorn for atheists.

But in a piece for NBC News, Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, highlighted a detail of particular interest.

Look behind the curtain and we have justices putting forward opinions that would fundamentally re-shape our understanding of the Establishment Clause.

We have our longest-serving justice, Clarence Thomas, arguing that the Establishment Clause may not even apply to actions by states and localities, but instead only applies to laws passed by Congress.

That's not an exaggeration. Under Clarence Thomas' vision, state governments don't necessarily have to honor the First Amendment's religious liberty clauses at all.

The implications of such a radical vision are staggering.

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Image: President Trump comments on Syria, FBI raid of Michael Cohen's office at White House

After reportedly approving Iran airstrikes, Trump backs off

06/21/19 08:00AM

Yesterday afternoon in the Oval Office, reporters asked Donald Trump about a possible response to Iran shooting down a U.S. drone. "They made a very bad mistake," the president said, echoing an earlier tweet.

Asked how he intended to proceed, Trump added, "You'll find out... You'll find out. You'll find out.... You're going to find out. They made a very big mistake."

According to multiple accounts, the Republican soon after approved a military strike, before backing away soon after.

President Donald Trump approved military strikes on Iranian targets in retaliation for a strike on a U.S. drone but later backed away, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported Thursday night, citing multiple administration officials.

The Times quoted a senior administration official as saying the operation was under way in its early stages -- with planes in the air and ships in position -- when it was called off.

The fact that these details leaked doesn't come as too big of a surprise. The number of people involved in planning and executing this kind of mission is considerable, so it stands to reason that we'd hear about what transpired.

That said, there are still plenty of questions as to what, exactly, prompted the president to back off. It's possible, for example, that Trump decided restraint was the smarter move. It's also possible there were some kind of logistical challenges that forced a change in plans.

The latter is of particular concern, since it leaves open the possibility that the president might yet approve military strikes on Iranian targets again.

What's far clearer is the fact that Trump and his team don't appear to have a coherent policy, per se, and their recklessness has contributed to a highly dangerous and unstable dynamic.

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Trump has chosen lobbyists to run EPA, HHS, DOD, and Interior

Trump has chosen lobbyists to run EPA, HHS, DOD, and Interior

06/20/19 09:37PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the industry lobbyists running federal agencies in the Donald Trump administration and notes the irony of Trump boasting at a Florida rally of staring down lobbyists just hours after tapping former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper to run the Department of Defense (replacing former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan). watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 6.20.19

06/20/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Today's posturing: "President Donald Trump on Thursday said the public will 'find out' about a U.S. response to Iran shooting down an American military drone in the Persian Gulf that the president insisted was in international territory."

* The House is likely to follow on this: "The Senate voted Thursday to block the Trump administration from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, launching a new challenge to President Donald Trump's steadfast alliance with the country amid rising tensions in the Middle East."

* In related news: "The Trump administration on Thursday released a list of countries that recruit child soldiers but chose not to include Saudi Arabia, prompting sharp criticism from human rights groups."

* In this case, Republicans literally left the state: "Oregon Gov. Kate Brown deployed the state police Thursday to try to round up Republican lawmakers who fled the Capitol in an attempt to block a vote on a landmark climate plan that would be the second of its kind in the nation."

* I hope you caught Rachel's coverage of this last night: "The State Department official in charge of U.S. arms control negotiations with Moscow and her husband had a years-long friendship with GOP operative Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of convicted unregistered Russian agent Maria Butina — ties this official did not disclose to her superiors or to Congress during her confirmation process in the spring of 2018."

* Remember him? "Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer, is set to testify Friday before the House Intelligence Committee about his experience working on a proposed Trump tower project in Moscow during the 2016 election, according to Sater and other people familiar with his scheduled appearance."

* Census fight: "A new order by a federal judge in Maryland sets up a potential new block against the Trump administration's plans to add a citizenship question to forms for the upcoming 2020 census."

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Image: Embattled GOP Senate Candidate In Alabama Judge Roy Moore Continues Campaigning Throughout The State

Alabama's Roy Moore gives Republicans a big new headache

06/20/19 05:02PM

Looking ahead to the 2020 congressional elections, Republicans are feeling pretty optimistic about maintaining their Senate majority. Not only are there few GOP incumbents in trouble, but Republicans also expect to pick up a Senate seat in Alabama currently represented by Sen. Doug Jones (D).

After all, from Republicans' perspective, Jones' special-election victory in late 2017 was something of a fluke. There's no way a Democrat could win in ruby-red Alabama under normal circumstances, and the only reason Jones narrowly prevailed is because he ran against disgraced former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), whom voters simply could not stomach.

To flip the seat from "blue" to "red," the argument goes, all Republicans have to do is nominate someone who isn't Roy Moore.

Yeah, about that...

Roy Moore, the failed U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, announced Thursday that he will run again for the seat.

"Yes, I will run for the United States Senate in 2020," Moore said, adding, "Can I win? Yes, I can. Not only can I, they know I can."

The right-wing Republican, who faced accusations of misconduct from nine women, said he intends to run a better campaign in 2020 by making "more personal contact" with voters.

Donald Trump, who twice failed to steer the Alabama race in his preferred direction, recently argued via Twitter that Moore "cannot win," and therefore shouldn't run. The president added that the "consequences will be devastating."

It's precisely why Democrats were so pleased with this afternoon's news.

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A Planned Parenthood location is seen on August 5, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

Missouri clinic balks at order to impose medically unnecessary exams

06/20/19 04:28PM

Missouri, a state with more than 6 million people, has just one abortion provider: Planned Parenthood at St. Louis. The Republican-led state government has targeted this one last provider, hoping to make Missouri the only state in the post-Roe country to have no abortion providers at all.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, state officials are trying to strip the clinic of its license -- a matter that's currently being litigated -- but that's not the only step Missouri has taken. Three weeks ago, the state, without any newly approved laws or regulations, decided that women seeking abortions in Missouri had to undergo a mandatory, medically unnecessary internal pelvic examination, three days before terminating a pregnancy.

It's an invasive procedure that serves no medical purpose. But in Missouri, even if medical professionals don't want to do the procedure, and even if patients don't want to be forced into the procedure, it doesn't matter. The state, citing a new interpretation of old rules, said it's now required.

According to a physician at the clinic, in order to receive an abortion in Missouri, women were effectively told to submit to "a state-sanctioned ... sexual assault."

Reluctantly, Planned Parenthood at St. Louis initially agreed to comply with the instructions and forced women to undergo an unnecessary and intrusive exam. As CBS News reported, the clinic took a new position last night.

Planned Parenthood of St. Louis, Missouri's last remaining abortion clinic, told CBS News exclusively that it will no longer conduct a second pelvic exam that state regulators have recently mandated. Planned Parenthood doctors say the examination is "unethical" and stand by the decision even as it moves the clinic one step closer toward losing its license.

The abortion clinic said Wednesday that it would no longer comply with regulators' interpretation of state law regarding the pelvic exams. Beginning soon, doctors at the clinic said they would conduct a pelvic exam only at the time of the procedure -- which is when they deem it medically relevant -- not at the initial consultation 72 hours prior.

It's worth emphasizing that some of the early reporting on this said the local clinic had decided to defy state regulations. That's not quite right: the facility, rather, is no longer complying with Missouri's new interpretation of the policies that were already in place.

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Trump reportedly loses interest in his policy toward Venezuela

06/20/19 12:52PM

For quite a while, Donald Trump seemed quite interested in developments in Venezuela. The president published a bunch of tweets; he rattled his saber; and he reportedly even spoke to U.S. officials behind the scenes about a possible invasion.

By all appearances, the Republican thought his policy toward Venezuela would work out fairly easily: Trump would back Juan Guaidó over Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan military would switch sides, and the country's crisis would end with a new president, backed by the White House.

That was several months ago. The Washington Post reported today that as Maduro's hold on power now appears stronger, Trump's attention has shifted.

Summer arrives this week with Maduro still in place, and little indication that he is imminently on his way out, or that the Trump administration has a coherent strategy to remove him. The president, officials said, is losing both patience and interest in Venezuela. [...]

Trump has clearly been frustrated about a foreign policy issue he "always thought of ... as low-hanging fruit" on which he "could get a win and tout it as a major foreign policy victory," the former official said. "Five or six months later ... it's not coming together."

The Post added that the president "chewed out" his team at an April 30 meeting -- because as Trump sees it, they're responsible for the failure of his policy.

The larger takeaway from a story like this is the inherent challenges of a White House conducting foreign policy with a president with a very short attention span.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.20.19

06/20/19 12:00PM

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

* The latest Monmouth University poll found former Vice President Joe Biden (D) leading the Democrats' presidential primary field nationally with 32% support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was second with 15%, followed closely by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 14%. As usual, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) were the only other contenders with support at 5% or higher.

* The controversy surrounding Biden's comments about working with segregationist senators lingers, with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urging the former vice president to apologize. "Apologize for what? Cory should apologize," Biden replied last night in brief comments to reporters. "He knows better. There's not a racist bone in my body."

* In an article that generated quite a bit of chatter in Democratic circles, Politico reported yesterday that Elizabeth Warren is slowly winning over more centrist elements in her party, who see the Massachusetts senator as a credible alternative to Bernie Sanders.

* Several Democratic presidential candidates have unveiled new policy proposals over the last 24 hours, including Kamala Harris' plan to prevent the spread of HIV, Cory Booker's plan to extend clemency to more than 17,000 inmates currently behind bars for non-violent drug offenses, and Sen. Michael Bennet's (D-Colo.) political-reform plan, which includes calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

* Kamala Harris picked up a notable endorsement yesterday, receiving support from Rep. Al Green (D-Texas). While Harris has other congressional endorsements, Green is the first from outside her home state.

* With Roy Moore (R) poised to announce whether he's running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama next year, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) let everyone know yesterday that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) may yet run for his old seat.

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