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A registered nurse demonstrates putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) during an Ebola educational session for healthcare workers in New York in 2014. (Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

As Ebola threat becomes more serious, how prepared is Team Trump?

07/18/19 10:41AM

The World Health Organization does not declare global health emergencies often. But in light of the conditions in central Africa, that's exactly what the WHO did yesterday.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a global health emergency, citing the virus's recent spread into Goma, one of the country's most densely populated cities.

Two million people reside in Goma, which sits just south of the epicenter of the outbreak, near the border with Rwanda.

In recent years, there have been related outbreak threats, including one around this time a year ago, but they did not prompt the WHO to make an emergency declaration.

Obviously, the hope is that international public-health officials will be able to respond to the Ebola outbreak effectively, though if conditions become even more serious, it's going to be difficult to have confidence in the Trump administration.

In May 2018, for example, the Washington Post reported that Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, the top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic, abruptly left his post.

The article added that there was no senior administration official "focused solely on global health security." What's more, the Post noted that Ziemer's team had been broken up, and thanks to John Bolton's reorganization plan, the admiral would not be replaced on the White House National Security Council.

And then, of course, there's Donald Trump's own record on the matter.

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A family practice provider uses a stethoscope to examine a patient in an exam room. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Trump takes gaslighting on health care in a weird direction

07/18/19 10:03AM

A few months ago, then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders not only defended Donald Trump's health-care agenda, she insisted that the president has been "a hard-core advocate on protecting pre-existing conditions."

As transparent lies go, this was brazen, even by 2019 standards. After all. Trump is currently in the process of trying to get the federal courts to tear down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act -- including the protections in "Obamacare" for Americans with pre-existing conditions. The White House's line was the exact opposite of the truth.

And yet, at his campaign rally in North Carolina last night, the president managed to take the gaslighting campaign in an even weirder direction.

"Patients with pre-existing conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats, who will never be able to pull it off."

Look, I realize Trump doesn't know or care about health-care policy. Or his own administration's agenda. Or current events. Or telling the truth. Or reality.

But Democrats already "pulled it off." Americans with pre-existing conditions have protections right now. We know this to be true because the Affordable Care Act -- the law the president is so desperate to destroy -- currently exists.

The idea that these same Americans will enjoy "more" protections under a Republican alternative to the ACA certainly sounds great, but Trump and his GOP brethren had two years to present their ideas on the subject, and each of their plans left people with pre-existing conditions worse off -- in some cases, vastly so.

There's everyday nonsense, and then there's head-spinning gaslighting. This clearly falls into the latter category.

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Image: US House of Representatives passes short-term measure to fund the government

What the impeachment vote in the House means (and what it doesn't)

07/18/19 09:20AM

A couple of hours before Donald Trump's rally in North Carolina, the House held a procedural vote on presidential impeachment. Not surprisingly, it didn't go proponents' way.

The House voted on Wednesday to table a resolution from Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, to impeach President Donald Trump over racist comments he made about four Democratic congresswomen of color, effectively killing the measure.

The vote -- 332 to 95, with one lawmaker voting "present" -- marked the first time the Democratic-controlled chamber had weighed in on impeachment, an issue that has created a widening schism within the party. Progressive newcomers and several 2020 candidates have pushed for impeachment proceedings, but the House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has been resistant.

If you look at the roll call, you'll see 332 "yes" votes, but those were votes to table the measure, not the number of members who supported impeachment.

The president seemed eager to gloat about the results last night, pointing to the House vote as evidence of the impeachment effort's failure. Trump added on Twitter that the impeachment measure "is perhaps the most ridiculous and time consuming project I have ever had to work on." I have no idea what he's referring to -- and there's nothing to suggest he did any work on this at all.

Upon arriving in Greenville, he went on to say, in reference to the impeachment threat, "That's the end of it."

But it's really not, and the president shouldn't be too pleased about yesterday's developments, which were far less significant than he let on. Yes, this was an impeachment vote, but it wasn't the impeachment vote.

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Image: President Trump Holds Rally In Great Falls, Montana

'Send her back': Trump manages to take American politics to a new low

07/18/19 08:40AM

Shortly before Donald Trump left for a campaign rally in North Carolina, the president stopped for a brief Q&A with reporters, some of whom asked about his recent attacks on young congresswomen of color, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The Republican quickly set the tone for the rest of the day.

"Well, there is a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to her brother," Trump said. "I know nothing about it. I hear she was married to her brother." (The Minnesota Democrat is on record calling these rumors "disgusting lies.")

A few hours later, the president took the stage in Greenville, where he continued his offensive against Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Omar, Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), accusing them and their party of supporting "the destruction of our country."

The event devolved from there.

"Omar laughed that Americans speak of al Qaeda in a menacing tone," he said. "You don't say America with this intensity. You say al Qaeda makes you proud. Al Qaeda makes you proud. You don't speak that way about America," he added, referring to her remarks in a 2013 interview.

The crowd broke into a chant of "Send her back!"

Yes, this is American politics in 2019: a president eager to maximize division for his own purposes, lies about an elected congresswoman, and then basks in the adulation of rabid followers who chant in unison about deporting the American lawmaker.

I imagine that Trump's allies will argue today that the president did not personally say, "Send her back." That's true, though it doesn't make the display in North Carolina any less sickening: Trump peddled unsubtle lies, exploiting racism and fomenting hate, leading his base to his desired destination.

The president even paused to appreciate the chant, interrupting his remarks with silence, not to dissuade his followers, but to enjoy them.

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Image: Rand Paul

Rand Paul slammed after blocking 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund

07/18/19 08:00AM

Late last week, the Democratic-led House voted 402 to 12 to ensure the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund doesn't run out of money. The bill then went to the Republican-led Senate, where it was expected to pass without controversy.

Yesterday afternoon, however, the process hit an unexpected barrier.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday blocked a bipartisan bill that would ensure a victims' compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money.

Paul objected to a request by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to approve the bill by unanimous consent, which would fast-track approval.

Paul, R-Ky., questioned the bill's 70-year time frame and said any new spending should be offset by corresponding cuts. The government already faces a $22 trillion debt, a figure that grows every year, Paul said.

It's worth emphasizing that the bill, by congressional standards, isn't expensive. As the Associated Press' report added, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would cost about $10.2 billion over the next decade, all of which would go toward care for 9/11 first responders.

In contrast, the Republican tax plan, designed to disproportionately benefit the very wealthy, cost roughly 100 times more. When that came up for a vote, Rand Paul was all for it, seemingly indifferent to the bill's impact on the national debt.

But when it's the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund on the line, suddenly the Kentucky Republican has concerns about fiscal responsibility.

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Loose ends left in Cohen case; judge set to unseal new details

Loose ends left in Cohen case; judge set to unseal new details

07/17/19 09:13PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the compelling foreshadowing by the judge in the Michael Cohen case ahead of the unsealing of previously redacted parts of the case, and notes the curious disconnect between the number of wrongdoings by others exposed by the Cohen case and the fact that the case is reportedly being closed without further charges. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 7.17.19

07/17/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This is a story worth watching closely: "A federal judge disclosed Wednesday that prosecutors had concluded their probe into Michael Cohen's campaign finance crimes as he ordered the release of search warrants tied to the case."

* After Turkey's recent purchase from Russia, this was inevitable: "In a significant break with a longtime NATO ally, the Trump administration on Wednesday said Turkey can no longer be part of the American F-35 fighter jet program."

* This is an excellent and well-reported article: "America's largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation's deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control, according to previously undisclosed company data released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history."

* Census case: "Critics who sued to block the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census asked a federal judge on Tuesday to punish administration officials, saying the officials had deliberately delayed the lawsuit in order to hide damning evidence -- conduct they called 'nothing less than a fraud on the court.'"

* Trump's failing policy: "North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion."

* Keep expectations low: "White House senior adviser Jared Kushner pitched President Donald Trump's Cabinet members Tuesday on a 600-page immigration proposal that he and some congressional Republicans are urging their colleagues to consider before Congress leaves Washington for its monthlong August recess, according to three people involved in discussions."

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House Ways & Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Kelly, R-Pa., speaks during a hearing on proposals to compel presidents and presidential candidates to make public years of their tax returns on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019,

White GOP congressman says, 'I'm a person of color'

07/17/19 02:49PM

In the wake of Donald Trump's recent racist criticisms of four Democratic congresswomen, there's been considerable discussion about the president and his antagonistic relationship with minority communities and people of color.

And it appears that conversation has bothered a white Republican congressman from Pennsylvania -- for a curious reason.

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, is defending comments he made to a reporter Tuesday, in the wake of President Donald Trump's tweets telling four congresswomen of color to "go back" to where they came from.

"You know, they talk about people of color. I'm a person of color. I'm white," Kelly told Daniel Newhauser of Vice News. "I'm an Anglo-Saxon. People say things all the time, but I don't get offended. With a name like Mike Kelly you can't be from any place else but Ireland."

As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's article added, the GOP congressman believes the excerpt from his Vice News interview "mischaracterized our conversation and my broader point: We're all created equal. It's time to stop fixating on our differences and focus on what unites us."

Perhaps, though that doesn't change the fact that a white Republican congressman described himself -- on the record and on tape -- as a "person of color."

As a general rule, no one defines "person of color" this way, and no one should.

If Mike Kelly's name sounds at all familiar, it's because he makes national headlines from time to time, though generally not in flattering ways.

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump turns away from the cameras as he speaks at a town hall event in Appleton, Wis., March 30, 2016. (Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

Shifting the debate from race to patriotism doesn't do Trump any favors

07/17/19 12:45PM

In the White House Cabinet Room yesterday, a reporter asked Donald Trump whether he'd be willing to avoid the phrase "go back to your country." The president ignored the question and stuck to the latest Republican strategy: shift the debate from race to patriotism.

"I think it's terrible when people speak so badly about our country, when people speak so horribly." Trump replied. "I have a list of things here ... said by the congresswomen that is so bad, so horrible, that I almost don't want to read it. It's so bad."

In fairness, some comments are tough to overlook. When Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), for example, argued that the United States is a corrupt country that's "going to hell," she should've expected an angry backlash from those who prioritize patriotism.

Wait, did I say that was a quote from the Minnesota congresswoman? It was actually Donald Trump who said that -- just one month before he launched his campaign in 2015.

Part of the problem with his current gambit is that the president can't -- or at least, shouldn't -- pretend that his attacks against congresswomen of color are unrelated to race. It's far too late for that.

But the other part of the problem is that Trump is under the mistaken impression that a fight over patriotism leaves him on stronger ground. As this New York Times analysis helps make clear, it really doesn't.

America stinks. At least that's what Donald J. Trump seemed to be saying before becoming president.

He did not believe in "American exceptionalism," he said, because America was not exceptional. Instead, it was a "laughingstock" that was no better than Vladimir V. Putin's Russia. By promising to make America great again, he made it clear that he believed it was not great anymore.

The analysis added that Trump is "the president who trash-talked America more than any other in modern times."

The Washington Post ran a related piece this week, highlighting instances in which the Republican said the United States has "lost all sense of direction or purpose" and has become "stupid."

I recently pulled together some related examples, including one instance in which Trump whined about "how bad the United States is."

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