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A man holds an earth balloon into the air as people fill the street before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)

Leading House Republican equates Green New Deal and 'genocide'

03/15/19 02:41PM

When it comes to the Green New Deal blueprint to address the climate crisis, Republicans generally like to pretend it calls for the elimination of hamburgers. (It does not.) But Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) went quite a bit further this week.

"For many people who live in the West, but also in rural and urban areas, the ideas behind the Green New Deal are tantamount to genocide," the Republican congressman said at a press conference. "That may be an overstatement, but not by a whole lot."

A reporter from Axios caught up with Bishop after the event to clarify matters a bit.

AXIOS: Genocide is defined as "the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation." How is the Green New Deal like genocide?

BISHOP: I'm an ethnic. I'm a westerner.

AXIOS: And you think the Green New Deal is going to kill you?

BISHOP: If you actually implement everything they want to. Killing would be positive if you implement everything the Green New Deal actually wants to. That's why the Green New Deal is not ready for prime time.

For the record, it's important to emphasize that Rob Bishop isn't just some random conservative personality, saying odd things in the media. Rather, the Utah Republican is a nine-term Republican -- whom GOP leaders named as the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee.

Indeed, up until a few months ago, Bishop chaired the panel, where he spearheaded an effort to invalidate the Endangered Species Act.

And yet, he'll apparently now be famous for something altogether different.

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Image: Senate Judiciary Committee

Trump changes direction, says there 'should be no Mueller Report'

03/15/19 12:43PM

Donald Trump has thrown plenty of tantrums, online and off. The president has lashed out at Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation; he's condemned the probe as "illegal"; and he's accused Democrats of being guilty of the transgressions he's been accused of. So the fact that Trump did all of these same things in a series of tweets this morning wouldn't ordinarily be of any real interest.

Except, this time, the Republican, perhaps feeling some anxiety about what's to come, went just a little further than he has before.

"So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be 'zero' crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report.

"This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime. Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win. THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!"

Most of this can be overlooked as stale and tiresome, but six words represented a new posture: "[T]here should be no Mueller Report."

It's difficult to say with any confidence what precipitated this little tirade. Maybe the president saw something on television that set him off; maybe he received an unpleasant briefing from his legal defense team.

Either way, the debate of late has been over whether Congress and the public will be able to read the special counsel's findings if/when it's prepared and submitted to the Justice Department. Indeed, just yesterday, the Democratic-led House voted 420 to zero on a resolution calling for Mueller's report to be released if/when it's complete.

Trump, by and large, has steered clear of that argument, at least publicly. During a brief Q&A with reporters three weeks ago today, the president said he hadn't spoken with Attorney General William Barr about the matter at all, though he did say, in reference to the special counsel's eventual findings, "I look forward to seeing the report."

Evidently, something happened over the last 21 days to change Trump's perspective -- because he no longer "looks forward" to seeing the report he doesn't think should exist.

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.15.19

03/15/19 12:00PM

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

* On his first day as a presidential candidate, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) picked up four congressional endorsements, which is a fairly large number for this stage in the process. Of all the candidates in the Democrats' 2020 field, all but three have fewer congressional supporters.

* The news was not all good for the Texan, however. The Wall Street Journal took a closer look at some of O'Rourke's positions from earlier this decade, when he was decidedly more conservative than he was now.

* On a related note, the Trump White House apparently wants the media to call the former congressman "Robert Francis," rather than "Beto."

* I don't know if it was just a friendly chat, or perhaps evidence of some other plan, but former Vice President Joe Biden met privately with Stacey Abrams yesterday in D.C.

* The Sanders Institute, a policy group that grew out of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 campaign, has suspended its operations during the senator's 2020 campaign, which strikes me as a wise move.

* Following Sen. Cory Gardner's (R-Colo.) vote yesterday in support of Donald Trump's emergency declaration, the Denver Post's editorial board conceded it made a mistake when it endorsed him five years ago. (I hate to be that guy, but after the Post backed Gardner, I wrote a long piece about the endorsement being one of the strangest pieces of political commentary I've ever seen in a major newspaper. I marveled at the time at inanity of the editorial board's judgment and factual errors, and wondered how long it would take for the editors to realize it had made a mistake.)

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Trump claims Theresa May 'didn't listen' to his Brexit guidance

03/15/19 11:20AM

Donald Trump welcomed Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to the White House yesterday, where the American president made all kinds of false claims, though one stood out for me.

Trump said he'll soon build "hundreds of miles of wall" along the U.S./Mexico border, and that's obviously not true. He said the European Union, of which Ireland is a part, was "unwilling to negotiate with the Obama administration," which is both ridiculous and untrue. He said he predicted Brexit would pass, which is not all what happened, and he said Barack Obama predicted Brexit would not pass, which is also false.

But those weren't the interesting parts. Rather, it was the Republican's perspective on Brexit negotiations that amazed me.

"I will tell you, I'm surprised at how badly it's all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation.

"But I gave [British Prime Minister Theresa May] my ideas on how to negotiate it. And I think you would've been successful. She didn't listen to that, and that's fine. I mean, she's got to do what she's got to do. But I think it could've been negotiated in a different manner, frankly."

I wish I knew what possessed Trump to say things like things like this.

Remember it was just last year when the American president condemned May's handling of Brexit during an interview with a British tabloid, sparking a minor international incident. In fact, he used nearly identical language at the time: "I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me."

He soon after apologized, though eight months later, it appears Trump learned very little from the episode.

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Image: White House news conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Gary Cohn

Mnuchin may not comply with a request for Trump's tax returns

03/15/19 10:42AM

Under existing law, some congressional leaders have the power to request individual tax returns from the Treasury Department. That power, created in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal in the 1920s, has been rarely used.

But with Donald Trump's presidency posing novel challenges, congressional Democrats have been moving forward with a slow process, building a case that will culminate with a formal appeal to the administration for the president's tax materials.

As we were reminded yesterday, to assume that the Treasury Department will comply with the request would be a mistake.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested Thursday he will protect President Donald Trump's privacy if he receives a request from House Democrats for Trump's tax returns.

At a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Mnuchin was asked whether he would meet a request for Trump's past tax returns. Chairman Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., is expected to formally ask for those as Democrats seek to shed light on Trump's financial dealings and potential conflicts of interest.

"We will examine the request and we will follow the law ... and we will protect the president as we would protect any taxpayer" regarding their right to privacy, Mnuchin said.

The trouble, of course, is the conflict between the first half of that sentence and the second.

Under existing federal law, if the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee requests a specific set of tax returns, the secretary of the Treasury is supposed to "furnish" the documents for the lawmaker. The privacy rights of the individual taxpayer may be relevant, but it doesn't (ahem) trump the legal mechanism that gives the chairman the authority to access the materials.

Mnuchin specifically told lawmakers yesterday, "We will protect the president as we would protect any individual taxpayer under their rights."

I suppose some may see some ambiguity in the comments -- one House Democrat yesterday described the secretary's words as "mumble jumble double talk" -- but I think it's fair to say the Treasury chief is not eager to cooperate with a congressional request for Trump's tax returns.

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Republican Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at an event at the National Press Club on Sept. 8, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Lindsey Graham balks at measure to make Mueller report public

03/15/19 10:09AM

When it comes to controversial issues and contentious debates, congressional votes tend to be split along party lines. Yesterday, however, the House took up a resolution calling for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report to be made available to the public and Congress -- and it passed 420 to zero.

The measure, which appears to have been intended to put increased pressure on Attorney General William Barr, Donald Trump's newest cabinet member, now heads to the Senate where it's unlikely to fare well.

That's not just a guess. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) not only balked when Democratic leaders sought unanimous consent to approve the symbolic resolution, the South Carolinian also issued a curious press statement about his position on the matter.

"As currently constructed, I cannot support the House-passed resolution calling for the release of the Mueller report. However, I would agree to the resolution with a simple change -- it be amended to call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to:

"Investigate alleged misconduct around the handling of the Clinton email investigation.

"Investigate the abuse of the FISA warrant process against Mr. Carter Page."

Even by 2019 standards, this is pretty nutty. Graham isn't necessarily opposed to Mueller's work, and he's willing to tolerate a non-binding resolution about making the special counsel's report available to the public, but only if Congress also endorses the appointment of another special counsel who'd investigate some painfully foolish Republican conspiracy theories.

Remember, this statement wasn't issued from some fringe backbencher who wrote a weird piece for a right-wing website; this was a press statement from the sitting chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty)

Legal case against Trump's 'charity' comes into sharp focus

03/15/19 09:20AM

Donald Trump's political operation is under investigation. So is his business. So is his inaugural committee. The president himself is the subject of an ongoing probe. But let's also not forget the investigation into Trump's charitable foundation.

It's true, of course, that the Republican's so-called "charity" permanently closed its doors a few months ago, after having been accused of engaging in a "shocking pattern of illegality." But as Rachel noted on the show last night, the foundation can be both shut down and still held to account for its alleged misdeeds. As the Associated Press reported late yesterday:

Insider testimony, emails and other evidence show President Donald Trump turned his charitable foundation into a wing of his White House campaign, New York's attorney general said in a new court filing Thursday.

State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, detailed her case against the foundation in a 37-page court filing in a lawsuit that seeks $2.8 million in restitution and an order banning Trump and his three eldest children from running any New York charities for 10 years.

That $2.8 million in restitution doesn't include an additional multi-million fine the state attorney general's office is seeking as a civil penalty for the foundation's alleged misdeeds.

And the list of those alleged misdeeds is not short. New York's AG argued yesterday that there's evidence of the president using his foundation "for his own benefit and benefit of entities in which he had a financial interest." Trump is accused of, among other things, using charitable assets to pay for portraits of himself, make political donations, pay for advertisements for Trump Hotels, settle lawsuits involving his business, and improperly intervening in the 2016 election.

The state attorney general's court filing added that the alleged misuse of the charity was "willful and intentional." Trump was "aware of" the legal limits, Letitia James added, but he ignored those limits anyway.

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In this Dec. 5, 2017 file photo, Summer Zervos leaves Manhattan Supreme Court at the conclusion of a hearing in New York.

Defamation lawsuit grows even more serious for Trump

03/15/19 08:40AM

As much of the world no doubt recalls, Trump was recorded in 2005 bragging about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers attractive – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed at the time – which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p—y.”

After Trump denied having done what he bragged about doing, more than a few women came forward to accuse the Republican of sexual misconduct – one of whom, Summer Zervos, is currently suing the president for defamation, after Trump insisted each of his accusers were liars.

Trump and his lawyers have spent months trying to make the case go away, insisting that a sitting president is immune to civil suits in state courts. Those efforts keep failing.

A New York appellate court ruled Thursday that President Trump must face a defamation lawsuit filed by former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos, one of about a dozen women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct shortly before the 2016 election. [...]

In its ruling Thursday, a panel of New York appellate judges rejected that argument, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Clinton v. Jones, which established that presidents can be sued while in office for unofficial acts. Two of the five judges on the panel dissented in part.

"Contrary to defendant's contention, Clinton v Jones did not suggest that its reasoning would not apply to state court actions," the New York court concluded. "It merely identified a potential constitutional concern. Notwithstanding that concern, this Court should not be deterred from holding that a state court can exercise jurisdiction over the President as a defendant in a civil lawsuit."

The president's lawyers, who insist Trump did nothing wrong, still have some appeals to file, so yesterday's ruling, while important, wasn't the final word on the subject. That said, if/when the case advances in earnest, the lawsuit may prove to be more than a minor inconvenience.

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Image: President Trump Holds Make America Great Again Rally In Pennsylvania

When Trump raises the prospect of political violence, there's a problem

03/15/19 08:00AM

One of the first instances in which Donald Trump publicly broached the subject of political violence came in August 2016, at a campaign rally in North Carolina. Complaining about Hillary Clinton, the Republican presidential candidate said in an unscripted moment, "By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."

It wasn't exactly subtle. Trump seemed to suggest at the time that armed conservatives could take matters into their own hands and stop Clinton's agenda.

As president, Trump has occasionally dipped his feet in the same provocative waters. At an event in Missouri last September, for example, the Republican said, "They're so lucky that we're peaceful. Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump.... These are tough people. These are great people. But they're peaceful people, and Antifa and all -- they'd better hope they stay that way. I hope they stay that way." A couple of months later, he echoed the sentiment.

This week, as the Toronto Star's Daniel Dale noted, Trump sat down with a far-right website called, which asked about partisan divisions. The president replied:

"It's so terrible what's happening. You know, the left plays a tougher game, it's very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don't play it tougher. Okay?

"I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump -- I have the tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher."

The fact that Trump has used similar rhetoric before does not make this any less alarming. On the contrary, the fact that he keeps returning to the topic suggests his earlier references to political violence weren't random, accidental asides. This is, in other words, a subject that appears to be on the president's mind.

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