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Empty hospital emergency room. (Stock photo by  DreamPictures/Getty Images)

Trump lies about protections for those with pre-existing conditions

09/21/18 08:40AM

At a campaign rally in Las Vegas last night, Donald Trump peddled a variety of falsehoods, but one of the president's claims seemed new. Referring to himself in third person, the Republican argued:

"When it comes to health insurance, Donald Trump and Republicans will protect patients with pre-existing conditions. We're going to do that. We want to do it."

The crowd roared with approval, which wasn't too surprising. There's overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of Americans -- even the kind of folks who attend Trump rallies -- strongly support the Affordable Care Act's protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The oddity, however, was the president's boast. He was either brazenly lying or Trump somehow forgot his own position on the issue.

Whether he keeps up with current events or not, there's currently a Republican lawsuit pending in federal court that's trying to tear down the ACA's existing protections for those pre-existing conditions. Trump not only refused to defend the current law in court, he also endorsed the litigation that would undermine Americans' health security.

In other words, the president who's taken steps to hurt those with pre-existing conditions now wants to be seen as the president who'll protect those with pre-existing conditions.

But the lie runs deeper. Trump's agenda includes pushing short-term plans, which not only undermine the marketplace, they also allow insurers to sell plans that -- you guessed it -- don't fully protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.

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Image: U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at his hotel in New York

As Michael Cohen talks to Mueller, Trump has reason to worry

09/21/18 08:00AM

It was a month ago today that Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's personal attorney and purported "fixer," pleaded guilty to eight felonies, directly implicating the president in two of his crimes. Almost immediately, observers began speculating about whether, and to what degree, Cohen would cooperate with prosecutors, telling them what he knows.

With this in mind, as Rachel noted on the show last night, ABC News had an important report late yesterday on the hours of conversations, over "multiple interview sessions," between Cohen and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators. And while that's important in its own right, of particular interest was the topic of their chats.

The special counsel's questioning of Cohen, one of the president's closest associates over the past decade, has focused primarily on all aspects of Trump's dealings with Russia -- including financial and business dealings and the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and its surrogates to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

Investigators were also interested in knowing, the sources say, whether Trump or any of his associates discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen.

The report coincided with a Wall Street Journal  article, which said largely the same thing, noting that federal investigators asked Cohen about, among other things, "the president's business dealings with Russia."

Making matters slightly worse for the president, the ABC News report added that Cohen, once seen as an unyielding Trump loyalist, has also cooperated with the investigation by New York state authorities "into the inner workings of the Trump family charity and the Trump Organization, where Cohen served as an executive vice president and special counsel to Trump for 10 years."

None of this is good news for the president.

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 9.20.18

09/20/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* I believe this is the third U.S. workplace mass shooting in 24 hours: "Three people were shot dead and another three were injured after an employee opened fire at a Rite Aid distribution center in Maryland on Thursday morning, law enforcement officials said."

* Look for more on this on tonight's show: "Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school, 'wishes to testify' before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week 'provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,' her lawyer said Thursday."

* A story we've been following: "The Department of Health and Human Services is diverting millions of dollars in funding from a number of programs, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, to pay for housing for the growing population of detained immigrant children."

* This seems monstrous: "Federal officers have arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants who came forward to take care of undocumented immigrant children in government custody, and the Trump administration is pledging to go after more."

* Virginia: "The Department of Homeland Security's investigative office in Hampton Roads is 'clearly rife with offensive and racially hostile behavior,' the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a decision obtained by The Virginian-Pilot."

* New Jersey: "Gov. Phil Murphy is calling for the resignation of Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino after WNYC obtained a secret recording of the sheriff making racist remarks about black people and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the first Sikh in the country to hold such an office."

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The South Carolina Statehouse is seen on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Columbia, S.C.

Congressman picks today to tell a bad joke about groping, Supreme Court

09/20/18 04:29PM

There's never a good time for jokes about sexual misconduct toward women, but given the ongoing controversy over Brett Kavanaugh, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) showed especially poor judgment today.

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., reportedly mocked the sexual assault allegation dogging Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, joking that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently accused Abraham Lincoln groped her.

"Did y'all hear this latest late-breaking news from the Kavanaugh hearings?" Norman said during his opening remarks of a debate against his Democratic challenger Thursday in South Carolina, according to The Post and Courier. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln."

In one dumb joke, the Republican congressman managed to make fun of a woman's age and make light of sexual assault simultaneously.

"Ralph Norman just proved he may be rich but he doesn't have any class," Trav Robertson, the state's Democratic Party chairman, responded.

It's tempting to think Norman's weak attempt at humor may undermine his re-election campaign, but his Democratic rival probably isn't in a position to capitalize.

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In this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/File/AP)

How confident can Kavanaugh's accuser be in a fair Senate hearing?

09/20/18 12:40PM

As things stand, the road ahead for Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination is unclear. Christine Blasey Ford, who this week went public with her sexual assault allegation against the judge, is prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but she wants FBI to scrutinize her claims first -- following the model from Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill.

The Republican majority has made some demonstrably false assertions about the FBI's purview, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has specifically argued that his committee's staff is capable of examining the controversy, and as he wrote on Twitter, "No other OUTSIDE investigation is necessary."

The first question is why Republicans would be so reluctant to have the FBI scrutinize Ford's allegation. The second question is whether the California professor can credibly expect a fair hearing in light of what we've seen from at least one member of Grassley's team. Roll Call  reported today:

Mike Davis, the committee's chief staffer for nominations, tweeted twice overnight about his key role in the committee's review of Christine Blasey Ford's allegation, as well as criticism of Ford's attorneys and his desired outcome of the process.

"Unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh. #ConfirmKavanaugh #SCOTUS," Davis tweeted at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Davis tweeted two hours later: "I personally questioned Judge Kavanaugh under penalty of felony and 5 years of imprisonment, if he lies. I'm still waiting to hear back from the accuser's attorneys, who can't find time between TV appearances to get back to me."

It hardly came as a surprise when some saw these missives and questioned his impartiality.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.20.18

09/20/18 12:00PM

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

* Despite being under criminal indictment, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) announced yesterday that he's not just running for re-election, he'll also "actively campaign" for the post. The New York Republican last month suspended his candidacy after surrendering to the FBI, and asked local GOP officials to find a different candidate.

* In related news, Collins' Democratic rival, Nate McMurray, unveiled a television ad this week, taking aim at the incumbent congressman's scandal, though it's unclear if the campaign will have the resources necessary to get it on the air.

* In Florida's gubernatorial race, Steven M. Alembik is one of Ron DeSantis' (R) top supporters, and as Politico  reported, the GOP donor lined up a speech for the candidate at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. Alembik also recently called Barack Obama a "F---- MUSLIM N----" on Twitter, prompting the Republican candidate to distance himself from his ally.

* Axios published an interesting report this morning showing a big surge in Democratic turnout in 2018 primaries. It's the first time in a decade in which Democratic primary voters turned out in greater numbers than Republican primary voters.

* Few observers expect Virginia's U.S. Senate race to be at all competitive, and a new University of Mary Washington poll helps show why: the results found incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D) leading Corey Stewart (R), 49% to 30%.

* In Wisconsin, someone in the Madison area called the police on Shelia Stubbs, an African-American woman running for the state Assembly, as she did door-to-door campaigning. I wish this were the first recent example of the police being called on a black candidate who wasn't doing anything wrong, but it's not.

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Trump says he found border wall inspiration at 9/11 memorial

09/20/18 11:20AM

When I first heard that Donald Trump drew a connection between the 9/11 attacks and his dream of building a giant wall along the U.S./Mexico border, I thought he might have made some kind of clumsy argument about the dangers of foreigners entering the country.

As it turns out, the connection was more ham-handed.

In the president's interview with The Hill, he was asked about whether he'll ever follow through on his plan. Trump initially responded by saying he's already "started an 80-mile stretch" of the wall, which is a lie. The president quickly added that the Senate's filibuster rule has been a hindrance, which also isn't true -- Trump's immigration policy received just 39 votes in the Republican-led Senate, making the 60-vote threshold irrelevant.

Eventually, he made a curious 9/11 connection.

President Donald Trump said he found inspiration for the U.S.-Mexico border wall after visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial this month for a ceremony commemorating the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The memorial marks the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in an open field after 40 passengers and crew members tried to overtake terrorists who had hijacked the plane.

"They built this gorgeous wall where the plane went down in Pennsylvania. Shanksville. And I was there. I made the speech. And it's sort of beautiful, what they did is incredible," Trump told Hill.TV in an interview on Tuesday. "They have a series of walls, I'm saying, 'It's like perfect.' So, so, we are pushing very hard."

The larger question at this point is just how aggressively the president intends to "push," especially with a shutdown deadline looming.

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Trump believes anonymous Democratic validators actually exist

09/20/18 10:40AM

Reading the transcript of Donald Trump's interview this week with The Hill, the president repeatedly referenced support from a curious group of folks: unnamed Democrats secretly agree with him.

For example, while railing against Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, Trump concluded that the federal investigation into the Russia scandal has been "discredited." Specifically, he argued:

"It's been totally discredited. Even Democrats agree that it's been discredited."

Which Democrats would those be? The president didn't say, but we're apparently supposed to believe they exist, and Trump knows what they're thinking.

Similarly, The Hill asked him about the FISA Court and federal surveillance of Carter Page, Trump's former Kremlin-linked foreign policy adviser. The president concluded:

"Even the other side knows how wrong this whole thing is."

Again, to date, no one from the Democratic "side" has raised any concerns about Page's surveillance, but Trump nevertheless believes he knows what his opponents are thinking -- and he's confident they agree with him.

When the discussion turned to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump again pointed to those who secretly share his beliefs.

"[M]y worst enemies, I mean, people that, you know, are on the other side of me, in a lot of ways including politically, have said that was a very unfair thing he did."

Who are these people? He didn't say, but the president apparently wants us to think they're out there, quietly nodding.

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Trump takes aim at Christine Blasey Ford's claims

09/20/18 10:00AM

Since Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly with a sexual-assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, Republicans have exercised at least some caution in how they've phrased their dismissal of her claim. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), for example, said he believes the California professor must be "mixed up" -- suggesting he sees her as confused, not dishonest.

Some prominent figures in conservative media have adopted a similar posture, arguing that Ford must be remembering her attack incorrectly.

Leave it to Donald Trump to show far less restraint. The Hill asked the president if he has "any concerns about the credibility of the accuser," and after asking for an update on the afternoon's developments, Trump said:

"This is no different than the Russian witch hunt, what they've done is they make up a lot of stuff and try and obstruct and resist."

In context, "they" referred to Democrats.

There are a couple of relevant angles to this. The first is that the Russia scandal is quite real, and "they" haven't made up any "stuff."

The second is that there's no reason to think Christine Blasey Ford has made up any "stuff," either.

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During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

On classified docs, Trump values TV personalities over security officials

09/20/18 09:20AM

Donald Trump seems excited about the sensitive materials from the investigation into the Russia scandal that he's decided to declassify. In fact, the president has already boasted about all of the things the documents will prove, including his claims that the entire controversy is a "hoax."

Among the many problems with this move is the fact that Trump apparently hasn't read the materials he's decided to declassify. He admitted as much in an interview with The Hill published yesterday.

THE HILL: Have you reviewed the memos yourself? What do you expect them to show, if so?

TRUMP: I have not reviewed them. I have been asked by many people in Congress as you know to release them. I have watched commentators that I respect begging the president of the United States to release them.... I have been asked by so many people that I respect, please -- the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro.

This is almost certainly more damning that the president realizes. It's problematic, for example, that the president couldn't pry himself away from the television long enough to read the classified documents he's eager to share with the world.

But nearly as important was his use of the phrase "so many people that I respect." We're talking about a dynamic in which national security officials in the Trump administration have urged the president not to declassify these materials, warning him that disclosure could be dangerous to the United States. On the other hand, Trump has also heard from television personalities who've offered the opposite advice.

The people the president "respects" are the ones he sees on TV, not the officials whose job it is to keep the nation safe.

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