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E.g., 11/15/2018
E.g., 11/15/2018
Image: Senate Judiciary Committee

Trump claims to know about 'the inner workings' of Mueller's probe

11/15/18 09:20AM

This morning was hardly the first time Donald Trump threw a little Twitter tantrum directed at Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Russia scandal. But in a pair of presidential tweets, Trump said something today that broke new ground.

"The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don't care how many lives the ruin.

"These are Angry People, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for 8 years. They won't even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side. A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!"

At this point, there are all sorts of things we could focus on. We could note the irony of this president, whose White House is beset by chaos, accusing others of running a messy operation. We could explain that Robert Mueller, in reality, has no meaningful conflicts of interest. We could note that Mueller actually served as FBI director for eight years under George W. Bush, and stayed on for four more years under Barack Obama.

But as interesting as those tidbits may be, let's not miss the forest for the trees. According to Trump, he now has knowledge about the "inner workings" of the special counsel's team and their probe.

And how, pray tell, does the president know anything about the inner workings of the Mueller investigation?

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A man walks through a grocery store in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Trump's unfamiliarity with grocery stores causes trouble (again)

11/15/18 08:40AM

Donald Trump's embrace of conspiracy theories is central to his worldview, and the president -- who still thinks he would've won the popular vote were it not for non-existent fraud -- is especially fond of conspiracy theories related to voting.

With this mind, Trump told a far-right website yesterday, "When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It's really a disgrace what's going on."

It's tempting to say there's "no evidence" to support such nonsense, but in this case, that won't cut it. Even Republicans who peddle absurd voter-fraud claims don't believe illegal ballots are being cast by people in disguises. For the president to say out loud that this is "what's going on" is plainly bonkers, even by 2018 standards.

But it's Trump's remedy that stood out.

In another part of the Daily Caller interview, Trump made a case for a national voter ID law that would purportedly solve the problem of voter impersonation.

"If you buy a box of cereal -- you have a voter ID," he said. "They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing."

Oh good, the president has made the transition from "serial liar" to "cereal liar."

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., stops to speak with a reporter as he arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy luncheon, May 12, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

To protect Mueller, GOP senator announces a hardball tactic

11/15/18 08:00AM

With Donald Trump having appointed an acting attorney general who's staunchly opposed to Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russia scandal, there's renewed interest on Capitol Hill in bipartisan legislation to protect the special counsel and his probe. The measure easily cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in April, and has sat on a shelf gathering dust ever since.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to allow a vote on the bipartisan proposal -- he's dismissed it as "unnecessary" -- and the Republican leader blocked a similar effort on the floor again yesterday. That's when Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) did something interesting.

Flake said on Wednesday that he would oppose all judicial nominees coming through the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate floor until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell puts a bill protecting special counsel Robert Mueller up for a vote.

"I have informed the majority leader I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor until ... [the bill] is brought to the full Senate for a vote," Flake said in a speech at the Capitol.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, Flake's gambit puts at risk 21 Trump judicial nominees currently pending in the Judiciary Committee -- where Republicans have an 11-to-10 majority -- and an additional 32 judicial nominees awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor.

There are very few things Mitch McConnell and his leadership team care more about than confirming the White House's far-right judges, which means Flake no doubt captured the GOP leadership's attention yesterday afternoon.

The question, of course, is what happens now.

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.14.18

11/14/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* That's hardly reassuring: "Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described the deployment to the border as 'great training' and told active-duty soldiers in Texas not to pay attention to the news coverage of the operation because they would 'go nuts.'"

* And speaking of underwhelming arguments: "The Justice Department released a memorandum Wednesday defending the legality of President Trump appointing Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general -- rejecting criticism from some lawyers that the move violates the Constitution."

* Remember, Trump hates Amazon because of some weird theory about the Washington Post: "President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Virginia and New York are ''paying a very big price' to house Amazon's next headquarters, adding that 'time will tell' on the merits of the deals."

* Still not fired: "One day after first lady Melania Trump's office called for the ouster of deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, a White House official confirmed Wednesday that Ricardel is still employed there."

* A Brexit step forward: "Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, faced down her hard-line critics on Wednesday and won the support of a jittery cabinet for a plan to quit the European Union, keeping on track her push to avert an economically damaging rupture with the bloc in March."

* Another discouraging Facebook story: "While Mr. Zuckerberg conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros."

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Image: Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Brigitte Macron

French government wishes Trump had shown 'common decency'

11/14/18 12:46PM

Among the problems with Donald Trump's latest tantrum against France was his timing. As the American president mocked our French allies yesterday -- complete with an all-caps missive that read, "Make France Great Again!" -- France was recognizing the three-year anniversary of an ISIS terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people.

Trump may not have realized the significance of the date, but he didn't bother to check, either. Reuters reports that this did not go unnoticed.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who attacked his French counterpart in a series of tweets on Tuesday, should have shown "common decency" instead since the country was mourning the anniversary of deadly attacks in Paris, a French government spokesman said.

In five posts sent on the same day France marked the anniversary of the 2015 attacks that killed 130 people, Trump blasted the key U.S. ally over its near defeat to Germany in two world wars, its wine industry and President Emmanuel Macron's approval ratings.

"Yesterday was November 13, we were marking the murder of 130 of our people," French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told Reuters. "So I'll reply in English: 'common decency' would have been appropriate."

It's a difficult sentiment to disagree with.

Trump's offensive was misguided anyway, given that it was rooted in confusion. Emmanuel Macron recently spoke about Europe taking responsibility for its own security, and not looking to the United States for protection, which is a sentiment the Republican White House should agree with. The American president, however, decided it was "very insulting" -- because in Trump's mind, Macron recommended building an army to protect Europe from Americans.

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.14.18

11/14/18 12:00PM

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

* In the latest "red" to "blue" flip in the U.S. House, Rep. Jeff Denham (R) has lost his seat in California's 10th congressional district, falling to first-time candidate Josh Harder (D). There are still two more undecided races in California, and as of last night, both are in districts that also appear poised to flip in Democrats' favor.

* According to a report in Roll Call, when the new Congress convenes in January, 73% of House Republicans will be serving in the minority for the first time. (They're not going to like it.)

* Voter turnout in Montana was higher in this year's midterms than in the 2016 presidential election cycle. As things stand, it's the only state that can make that boast.

* As of this morning, the Democratic lead in the U.S. House popular vote stood at 7.1%, though it may yet inch higher. For comparison purposes, note that in 2010 -- which was widely seen as a GOP "wave" cycle -- Republicans won the U.S. House popular vote by 6.6%.

* Senate Democrats formally elected their leadership team for the next Congress. It's a 10-member group of senators representing a variety of positions, but it'll be led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

* As for Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was re-elected this morning as Senate Majority Leader, while John Thune (R-S.D.) replaces John Cornyn (R-Texas) as Majority Whip. The party's term-limits policy prevented Cornyn from keeping his post.

* Orientation is currently underway for new senators, and Florida's Rick Scott (R) is participating, despite the fact that the votes in his race are still being counted. The Washington Post  reported, "Scott's attendance on Capitol Hill this week is without recent precedent."

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