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The Orion capsule is moved at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Nov. 11, 2014. The NASA spacecraft was designed to one day fly astronauts to Mars. (Photo by Mike Brown/Reuters)

Trump boasts he's 're-opening' NASA (which wasn't closed)

06/22/18 10:01AM

As evidenced by his proposed "Space Force," Donald Trump's focus hasn't been limited to terrestrial pursuits of late. In fact, at a campaign rally in Minnesota this week, the president declared, "We're re-opening NASA. We are going to be going to space."

As the New York Times  noted, the boast didn't really make any sense.

[C]ontrary to Mr. Trump's puzzling suggestion, NASA has been operational since its creation in 1958 and is already in space.

NASA is currently conducting dozens of missions in space, including exploring Mars, studying Jupiter and reaching the outer edges of the solar system. Three American astronauts are also currently staffing and conducting experiments on the International Space Station.

That's true, though we can take this a bit further.

Trump's boast, for example, about "re-opening" the space agency that hadn't closed also obscures the fact that the latest White House budget called for significant cuts to investments in NASA.

More recently, the president tapped a congressman with highly dubious qualifications to lead NASA -- the first politician to ever lead the agency.

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Image: FBI Investigates Trump's attorney Michael Cohen

The alleged partnership between Trump World and its favorite tabloid

06/22/18 09:20AM

The relationship between Donald Trump and the National Enquirer is well documented. The tabloid has gone to extraordinary lengths to help the president, and the president has insisted the tabloid deserves Pulitzer Prizes.

The Washington Post  reported overnight, however, that during the campaign, the connections between Trump's operation and the Enquirer went much further than previously understood.

During the presidential campaign, National Enquirer executives sent digital copies of the tabloid's articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump's attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication, according to three people with knowledge of the matter -- an unusual practice that speaks to the close relationship between Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., the Enquirer's parent company.

Although the company strongly denies ever sharing such material before publication, these three individuals say the sharing of material continued after Trump took office.

According to one of the Post's sources, during the campaign, "if it was a story specifically about Trump, then it was sent over to Michael, and as long as there were no objections from him, the story could be published."

When there were objections, according to the report, the tabloid would change photos and headlines.

This, of course, follows related reports from recent months about the Enquirer allegedly going so far as to buy the exclusive rights to stories that may have embarrassed Trump, and then never publishing anything.

At first blush, it may seem like the allegations relate to ridiculous journalistic standards, and a possible partnership between a White House and a supermarket tabloid. But while those angles certainly matter, in this case, there's a little more to it.

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Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., arrives for the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on May 29, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

What Peter King may not understand about US attitudes on immigration

06/22/18 08:47AM

Donald Trump's family-separation policy has sparked international attention and a swift public backlash, which his Republican Party probably would've preferred to avoid less five months before the midterm elections. But as TPM noted, some GOP lawmakers are less concerned than others.

[M]any vulnerable GOP lawmakers are fearing the political ramifications of their inaction in the face of public outrage over the mass separation of migrant children and families.

But Rep. Pete King (R-NY) is not too concerned.

"Americans care more about Americans," he told TPM.

Similar assessments have been percolating for a while, but the New York Republican crystalized the sentiment in a handy, five-word phrase: "Americans care more about Americans."

In other words, the public may seem disgusted when confronted with reports of officials separating immigrant children from their families, but as far as Peter King is concerned, the electoral impact should be limited -- because those who are suffering most aren't U.S. citizens.

And who knows, in some political circles, King's expectation might be right. But there's another aspect of Americans' attitudes that Peter King may not fully appreciate.

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Image: AG Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks On Immigration And Law Enforcement In PA

Jeff Sessions apparently thinks Americans have very short memories

06/22/18 08:00AM

Donald Trump's Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, became the subject of widespread ridicule this week after she declared, "We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." Three days later, Nielsen stood by the president's side as he signed an executive order to alter the policy that she said didn't exist.

But the DHS chief isn't the only member of the Trump cabinet drawing scrutiny for ridiculous claims about the administration's policy. For example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat down yesterday with David Brody, a correspondent for TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. In reference to the president's executive order, Brody asked Sessions about the "media narrative out there has been that Trump administration is caving to pressure -- that these optics have not been good for the administration." The attorney general replied:

"It hasn’t been good, and the American people don’t like the idea that we are separating families. We never really intended to do that. What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they've committed. Instead of giving that special group of adults immunity from prosecution, which is what, in effect, what we were doing. So I think it’s the right thing. We’ll work our way through it and try to do it in the most compassionate way possible."

The line that stood out, of course, was "We never really intended to do that." Of course they intended to do that. We know this for sure because Trump administration officials have told us, more than once, that they intended to do exactly what they ended up doing.

Slate published several examples of this, including one from Sessions himself, who just last month declared, in a speech in which he appeared to be speaking to would-be undocumented border-crossers, "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law."

A month later, the attorney general cited the Bible as a defense for breaking up children and their families.

As recently as this week, Sessions said he hoped Trump's family-separation policy would serve as a deterrent for others considering crossing the border.

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 6.21.18

06/21/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* All is not well with House Republicans: "The House on Thursday voted down a conservative immigration bill, and House GOP leaders announced that a vote on a Republican compromise measure would be postponed until Friday."

* At least this went well for them: "A deeply polarizing farm bill passed the House on party lines Thursday, a month after the legislation went down to stunning defeat after getting ensnared in the toxic politics of immigration."

* This wasn't the usual 5-4 ruling: "Internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday."

* This will be a company worth watching: "Renowned surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande will lead a new company aimed at reducing health-care costs, a joint venture by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway that has attracted widespread attention and hope that it could disrupt the American health-care system."

* Andrea Hall's unfortunate timing: "A key U.S. official involved in denuclearization talks with North Korea is leaving the White House just as the Trump administration prepares to engage in high-stakes negotiations with the isolated regime, the official confirmed to The Washington Post."

* Remember, Trump thinks he's improved our international standing: "'What's going on in the United States is wrong. I can't imagine what families living through this are enduring,' [Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] said to reporters on Wednesday morning. 'This is not the way we do things in Canada.'"

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Melania Trump's visit to Texas raises the wrong kind of questions

06/21/18 04:44PM

Melania Trump has maintained a very low public profile of late, which made it all the more noteworthy when she took a surprise visit to Texas this morning. NBC News reported:

First lady Melania Trump arrived in McAllen, Texas on Thursday in an unannounced trip to the border area amid the administration's crisis over the separation of families, first visiting a facility currently housing about 60 children, most of them teenagers.

Before embarking on a tour of Upbring New Hope Children's Shelter, a part of Lutheran Social Services that receives Department of Health and Human Services grants, Mrs. Trump participated in a question and answer session with shelter workers while sitting in front of walls papered with colorful children's art.

In terms of the White House's message, there was something of a conflict: while the president adopted a hardline posture on immigration from the Cabinet Room this morning, the president's wife was near the border, signaling a far less aggressive line.

But if Melania Trump's trip was intended to send a message of compassion, there's reason to believe things didn't quite go as planned. CNBC reported:

First Lady Melania Trump wore a jacket emblazoned with the phrase "I REALLY DON'T CARE. DO U?" as she departed the White House Thursday morning to visit a shelter in Texas housing migrant children who had been separated from their parents.

The jacket caused a stir Thursday afternoon when the Daily Mail first reported on the green canvas military-style coat. The phrase about not caring covered the entire back side of the jacket, which came from the mid-market label Zara.

The first lady's communications director, Stephanie Grisham, later told reporters, "It's a jacket. There was no hidden message."

Right, but no one suggested the message was "hidden." On the contrary, observers noted the literal text -- in a large font -- on the first lady's back.

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Trump's 'reverse Midas touch' extends to attitudes on immigration

06/21/18 12:41PM

It was last fall when Vox's Matt Yglesias first described Donald Trump's effects on public opinion as a "reverse Midas touch." It's a straightforward idea: when the president criticizes something, it tends to become more popular.

For example, Trump clearly has a few concerns about immigration. How's that affecting Americans' attitudes on the subject? Consider the results of the new Gallup poll.

A record-high 75% of Americans, including majorities of all party groups, think immigration is a good thing for the U.S. -- up slightly from 71% last year. Just 19% of the public considers immigration a bad thing. [...]

Given attempts by the Trump administration to cut back on legal immigration, Gallup tested an alternative wording to this question for the first time this year -- asking half of the respondents about "legal immigration," whereas the trend question does not specify a particular type of immigration. Americans are more likely to support legal immigration, with 84% describing it as a good thing, nine percentage points higher than the reading for "immigration."

This is consistent with two national polls released this week showing Trump's family-separation policy to be one of the least popular governmental measures in recent history. It's also in line with public support for DACA protections for Dreamers going up shortly after Trump rescinded the DACA policy.

But the thesis goes well beyond the president and immigration.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.21.18

06/21/18 12:00PM

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

* In CNN's new national poll, Democrats lead Republicans on the generic congressional ballot, 50% to 42%. That eight-point advantage is up from a three-point lead Dems had in the same poll last month.

* In West Virginia, a Monmouth University poll found Sen. Joe Manchin (D), a top GOP target this year, leading state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R), 49% to 42% in a head-to-head match-up.

* In West Virginia's 3rd congressional district, the same poll found Richard Ojeda (D) narrowly leading Carol Miller (R), 43% to 41%, which wouldn't be especially notable were it not for the fact that Donald Trump won this same district by literally 50 points two years ago.

* In North Dakota's U.S. Senate race, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) yesterday defended the Trump administration's policy of keeping immigrant children in chain-link pens, arguing, "Chain link fences are around playgrounds all over America, all over North Dakota. And chain link fences allow line-of-sight visual connectivity with children and families.... You know, there's nothing inhumane about a chain link fence. If it is, then every ballpark in America is inhumane."

* Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reportedly approved "a plan to pour at least $80 million" into the 2018 election cycle, with the hopes of helping elect a Democratic majority in the U.S. House.

* That will be excellent news to officials at the DNC, who find themselves in a difficult financial spot. The Washington Post  reported today, "The Republican National Committee entered the summer with nearly twice the fundraising power of its Democratic counterpart."

* Voters in Michigan will have an opportunity to vote this year on an anti-gerrymandering measure.

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A tractor plows a field on February 25, 2014 in Firebaugh, California.

The price tag for Trump's trade war is coming into focus

06/21/18 11:28AM

This past weekend, the Des Moines Register ran a striking headline on its front page: "China tariffs on U.S. soybeans could cost Iowa farmers up to $624 million." There have been a series of related headlines in much of the country as businesses start to feel the real-world effects of Donald Trump's policy on tariffs.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank went to yesterday's Senate Finance Committee hearing with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who heard from the panel's Republican members about the consequences of the president's so-called "trade war."

"Corn, wheat, beef and pork are all suffering market price declines ... due to current trade policies," complained Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "With every passing day, the United States loses market share to other countries." Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) said "we watched the soybean market start to collapse" because of trade-war concerns.

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) warned about steel and auto producers in Ohio, "hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs." From Pennsylvania, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey cautioned that Kraft-Heinz may move its ketchup production to Canada to avoid retaliatory tariffs.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.) put in a plea over Coca-Cola's rising aluminum can costs. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah warned that contracts have dried up for a steel fabricator in his state because of the tariffs, and "multibillion-dollar investments for new manufacturing plants that employ thousands of workers are also being put at risk."

While it's striking enough to see some prominent Trump allies on Capitol Hill complain about the adverse effects of Trump's agenda, it's just as amazing to consider the administration's response.

Because at least for now, the president and his team are basically just asking everyone to trust them -- as if this will all work out in the end.

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