Latest StoriesRSS

select from:

E.g., 3/24/2019
E.g., 3/24/2019
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, listens at the National Press Club in Washington on Feb. 8, 2011. (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP)

Steve King does himself no favors with civil war speculation

03/19/19 08:40AM

As 2019 got underway, Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) approach to race finally started catching up with him. The far-right Iowan made some highly unfortunate comments about white nationalism and white supremacy, and soon, Republican leaders agreed to strip King of his committee assignments.

If the GOP congressman hopes to find his way back into party leaders' good graces, he'll need to avoid incidents like these.

Rep. Steve King posted a meme Saturday about a hypothetical civil war between "blue states" fighting over which bathroom to use and "red states" with trillions of bullets.

The post is an image of two figures composed of traditionally Democratic-leaning and Republican-leaning states in fighting postures with text superimposed over top. The caption reads: "Folks keep talking about another civil war. One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn't know which bathroom to use."

"Wonder who would win?" the Iowa Republican wrote on Facebook.

Once the content started generating public attention, King removed it from his social-media pages -- though the damage was already done.

On the surface, it's a problem, to put it mildly, when a sitting federal lawmaker publicly speculates about a violent confrontation pitting half the United States against the other. Adding insult to injury was the transphobic message in King's ridiculous argument.

But just below the surface, there was a more striking problem.

read more

Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation

Why Devin Nunes' lawsuit against Twitter is such a bad idea

03/19/19 08:00AM

For at least a generation or two, one of the Republican Party's core policy goals was putting an end to frivolous lawsuits. GOP officials and candidates, for as long as I can remember, have used the phrase "trial lawyers" as a nasty epithet -- always repeated with disgust -- and blamed excessive litigation for many of society's ills.

In fact, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has tried to help lead the way on the issue, co-sponsoring legislation in the last Congress called the "Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act."

Evidently, the California Republican's perspective on the issue has changed.

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California is suing Twitter and several of its users for more than $250 million, accusing them of defamation and negligence.

The defendants include two anonymous parody accounts, "Devin Nunes' Mom" and "Devin Nunes' Cow."

As Nunes sees it, Twitter has not only hurt the congressman's feelings, the social-media platform has also censored "viewpoints with which it disagrees." And as a consequence, the GOP lawmaker believes he's entitled to a quarter of a billion dollars.

Donald Trump appears to think the litigation, filed by one of his most loyal congressional allies, is a great idea.

It's really not.

read more

Monday's Mini-Report, 3.18.19

03/18/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The Netherlands: "The man suspected of killing three people on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday was arrested hours after the shooting, officials said."

* Flooding: "More than 10 million people in the Midwest and Great Plains remain under flood warnings following what the National Weather Service called 'major and historical river flooding' along parts of the Missouri and Mississippi river basins that left at least three people dead."

* Bad idea: "The man who allegedly killed 50 people last week at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, described President Donald Trump as 'a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.' But White House counselor Kellyanne Conway wants people to study the shooter's manifesto for themselves before drawing conclusions -- even if that means exposing themselves to white supremacist ideology."

* Just when it seemed Brexit couldn't get messier: "The speaker of Britain's House of Commons, famous for his erudite put-downs and booming calls for 'Order!' in Parliament, threw Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to attempt to pass her Brexit deal again -- on a third try, probably this week -- into doubt Monday."

* Elliott Broidy: "Federal authorities raided the office of Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer, seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates, according to a sealed search warrant obtained by ProPublica."

* Nice work if you can get it: "Ben Carson's daily schedule from 2017 shows a HUD secretary who held senior staff meetings once a week, lunched with the author of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' and the founder of My Pillow, and left work before 2 p.m. on some Fridays to fly to his Florida mansion."

* Kentucky: "A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked a Kentucky law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically happens around six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant."

read more

New Zealand eyes gun reforms in the wake of massacre

03/18/19 12:48PM

The day after a massacre in two mosques left dozens dead and dozens more injured, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern understandably turned her attention to gun laws.

Ardern said at a news conference that she was advised that the gunman had five firearms -- two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm -- and that he had acquired a gun license in November 2017.

"While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now: Our gun laws will change," Ardern said.

She noted that there have been attempts to change the nation's gun laws in the past, most recently in 2017, but said "now is the time for change." She suggested she was looking at the issues around ownership of semi-automatic weapons.

The New York Times reported this morning that the prime minister and her cabinet had agreed "in principle" to an overhaul of the country's gun laws, though there are some details to iron out.

"Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms that I believe will have made our community safer," Ardern said.

The "within 10 days" phrase stood out for me: in the wake of a brutal crime, officials are wasting no time exploring new ways to keep their citizens safe from gun violence. The authorities in New Zealand, where there is nothing comparable to the Second Amendment that exists in the United States, are acting as if new gun laws are simply a common-sense reaction to a tragic mass shooting.

"New Zealand has to have this debate," said Alexander Gillespie, a law professor at the University of Waikato, told the Times. "This is a place where your car has to be registered, your dog has to be registered. But your gun doesn't."

It all sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it?

read more

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.18.19

03/18/19 12:00PM

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

* In his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) raised $6.1 million, which is the best opening fundraising day for any Democratic presidential candidate this cycle, even topping the $5.9 million Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently raised.

* Former Vice President Joe Biden hasn't yet launched his Democratic presidential bid, but he accidentally described himself as a candidate at an event on Saturday, before quickly walking it back.

* Though Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has been running for president since January, she officially kicked off her national campaign at a New York event over the weekend.

* On a related note, Gillibrand also picked up her first congressional endorsement over the weekend when Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) threw her support behind the senator.

* The filing deadline in North Carolina's 9th congressional district was last week, and it appears there are 10 Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the do-over election.

* In an NPR interview on Friday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) endorsed a federal moratorium on the death penalty, despite having defended the policy during her tenure as California's attorney general.

read more

Why some foreign leaders ignore diplomats and talk directly to Trump

03/18/19 11:00AM

In the modern era, it hasn't been especially easy for foreign officials to get an American president on the phone. A diplomatic process is supposed to be in place to add layers of security and official accountability to these interactions.

As the Wall Street Journal reported the other day, Donald Trump isn't overly fond of that process.

World leaders have found a new route to get a read on official U.S. thinking: straight to the top.

Increasingly, savvy leaders are bypassing the standard protocols and government processes of American diplomacy to go directly to President Trump himself, according to current and former officials, allies and foreign-policy experts.

North Korea's Kim Jong Un, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin are among the heads of state who have cut out the middle layers of aides and agency officials to talk to Mr. Trump.

It's an amazing foreign policy dynamic -- which the American president has reportedly "encouraged" -- with no modern precedent. It's also a recipe for trouble.

Part of the problem, not surprisingly, is that U.S. officials who work in international affairs sometimes have no idea what their boss has discussed with foreign heads of state. Did Trump, who likes to give his foreign counterparts his personal cell-phone number, endorse proposals his administration opposes? Did he agree to terms that advance our rivals' interests? Did he agree to diplomatic negotiations? Did he make any promises?

When the people responsible for executing American foreign policy are out of the loop, they can't do their jobs.

As the WSJ added, "Some aides fret that the personal talks can sow confusion within the administration. At times, senior officials have been left in the dark or had to backtrack on some of Mr. Trump's remarks."

But I'm especially interested in why some foreign leaders prefer this approach.

read more

Mick Mulvaney

White House chief of staff conveniently overlooks Trump's Muslim ban

03/18/19 10:07AM

Every week at the White House is a busy one, but last week was especially eventful. Over the course of five days, Team Trump unveiled a new budget blueprint; the West Wing spent days lobbying lawmakers ahead of some high-profile votes; and Donald Trump was even forced to issue the first veto of his presidency. Where was acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney?

Over 2,000 miles away. As the Associated Press reported, during a dramatic week in the West Wing, Mulvaney was in Las Vegas "for an annual getaway with friends and family." The South Carolina Republican has a reputation for being a hands-off chief of staff, and it appears that reputation is well deserved.

Mulvaney is nevertheless back at work, and yesterday, he appeared on CBS and Fox News, where he argued, "The president is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that."

As a rule, when a White House chief of staff has to publicly declare that his boss is not a white supremacist, it suggests all is not well in the Oval Office. Indeed, "I'm not sure how many times we have to say that" is an amazing sentence in its own right -- because it suggests Trump's aides are frequently asked about the president's bigotry.

But what struck me as especially notable was this exchange between Mulvaney and CBS News' Margaret Brennan.

BRENNAN: During the campaign, as you know, as a candidate, the president called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He said Islam "hates us." This kind of language in the past leads to these questions of why isn't the president now directly using that megaphone to condemn it.

MULVANEY: Well, then take the words and put them in one category and take the actions and put them in another.

This is not a compelling response.

read more

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a television cameras view finder during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on March 8, 2016 in Jupiter, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Trump eyes possible actions against comedy shows that hurt his feelings

03/18/19 09:20AM

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" was a repeat over the weekend, but Donald Trump apparently watched anyway, and wasn't impressed. In fact, the president suggested he's weighing the possibility of some kind of official inquiry into this and other comedy shows that hurt his feelings.

In a pair of tweets early yesterday, the Republican wrote:

"It's truly incredible that shows like Saturday Night Live, not funny/no talent, can spend all of their time knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of 'the other side.' Like an advertisement without consequences. Same with Late Night Shows....

"Should Federal Election Commission and/or FCC look into this? There must be Collusion with the Democrats and, of course, Russia! Such one sided media coverage, most of it Fake News."

I'll confess that deciphering Trump's ideas can be challenging, but as of yesterday morning, the sitting American president seemed to argue that "Saturday Night Live," Democrats, and the Kremlin are in cahoots, as part of an elaborate scheme to undermine him.

And while most reasonable observers would probably consider that bonkers, it's Trump's specific reference to the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission that stood out.

read more

FILE PHOTO - U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain listens as he is introduced at a campaign rally in Fayetteville

Even now, Trump can't let go of his contempt for McCain

03/18/19 08:40AM

In late January, Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times, which asked the president a fairly straightforward question about his re-election plans. His answer meandered a bit, before culminating in a complaint about John McCain. A week later, the Republican huddled with reporters ahead of his State of the Union address, and apropos of nothing, mocked McCain's book sales.

Seven months after the late senator died of brain cancer, the president still can't contain his contempt for McCain.

President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out against an old nemesis, the late Sen. John McCain, for his crucial vote against repealing Obamacare in 2017.

Trump chastised McCain for his no vote on a bare-bones repeal of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation, wrongly describing it as a "thumbs down on repeal and replace after years of campaigning to repeal and replace!"

Yesterday, the president kept the offensive going, ridiculing McCain for his grades at the U.S. Naval Academy, before retweeting a conspiracy theorist who claimed people "hated" the longtime Republican lawmaker.

The larger campaign isn't exactly new new; Trump has been taking cheap shots at the late senator for months, as part of a creepy and unnecessary display. In this latest case, however, the president apparently feels justified in targeting McCain because of a new conspiracy theory.

According to one of many tweets Trump published over the weekend, McCain "sent the Fake Dossier to the FBI and Media hoping to have it printed BEFORE the Election. He & the Dems, working together, failed (as usual). Even the Fake News refused this garbage!"

It's obviously classless when the president lashes out wildly at someone who can no longer defend himself, but what makes this tantrum especially offensive is the fact that Trump has no idea what he's talking about.

read more


After New Zealand slayings, Trump flunks another leadership test

03/18/19 08:00AM

As a rule, it's difficult for an American president to screw up a response to a foreign terrorist attack, especially in an allied nation. The script, which several U.S. leaders have followed without incident, reflects common sense: a president condemns the violence, extends sympathy to the grieving, and offers American support.

Presidents face all kinds of arcane challenges. This isn't one of them. It's a pass/fail test -- which is tough to fail.

And yet, Donald Trump keeps managing to find a way.

It was, after all, Friday afternoon when the Republican president held a White House photo-op in order to veto a measure that would block his emergency declaration over border barriers. At the event, Trump extended his condolences to New Zealand -- though he made no specific reference to Muslims or the Islamic community -- before quickly transitioning to the core argument he was eager to emphasize. In reference to the U.S./Mexico border, the American insisted:

"It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis.... We're on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders.

"People hate the word 'invasion,' but that's what it is. It's an invasion of drugs and criminals and people."

The larger context was lost on him: the accused killer in New Zealand was reportedly convinced that his country was under "invasion" by "non-whites." Trump nevertheless thought it'd be a good idea to use the word "invasion" just hours after learning of the massacre. (A similar rhetorical pattern unfolded in the fall, following a massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue.)

At the same Oval Office gathering on Friday, the president proceeded to dismiss the significance of white-nationalist violence as a global threat. Asked if he sees white nationalism as "a rising threat around the world," Trump replied, "I don't really," adding that he believes the problem is limited to "a small group of people."

Early yesterday, Trump proceeded to defend a far-right television personality who was suspended after peddling Islamophobic nonsense on the air.

read more