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Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on Aug. 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pa. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty)

Trump's internal polling: good news for Biden, 'devastating' for POTUS

06/11/19 08:40AM

In every major election, there are plenty of polls conducted by major news organizations, which are known as public polls: survey data that's shared with the public. But candidates and parties routinely do their own private polls, the results of which the public usually doesn't see. They're referred to as internal polls: data that's only shared internally within a political operation.

Donald Trump, like every modern president, receives briefings on his team's internal polling, and according to the New York Times, the results at this point don't look great for the incumbent president.

Late at night, using his old personal cellphone number, President Trump has been calling former advisers who have not heard from him in years, eager to discuss his standing in the polls against the top Democrats in the field -- specifically Joseph R. Biden Jr., whom he describes in those conversations as "too old" and "not as popular as people think."

After being briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Mr. Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win.

The point of the article seemed to relate to the Republican's latest antics. Trump is encouraging people to lie about his political standing, for example, and he's reportedly distracted by trivia.

Indeed, the Times' report added that during a recent overarching state-of-the-race briefing in Florida, aides found it difficult to maintain Trump's interest. The president prefers to focus on "final approval over the songs on his campaign playlist, as well as the campaign merchandise."

And while the behind-the-scenes texture is interesting, I'm far more interested in the fact that Trump's pollster conducted a 17-state poll, the results of which were "devastating" for the president.

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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)

While Trump touts illusory deal, Mexico tells inconvenient truths

06/11/19 08:00AM

Since Friday afternoon, Donald Trump has made three related boasts about his policy toward Mexico. The first is that the president successfully forced our neighbors to impose dramatic new curbs on immigrants, thanks entirely to his tariffs threat. The second is that Mexico "agreed to immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product" from American farmers.

And the third is that the bilateral agreement includes secret benefits that Trump isn't yet prepared to divulge to the public.

It quickly became obvious that the first claim is wrong, because the steps Mexico is taking were agreed to months ago. The second claim was also quickly debunked on a variety of levels, including the fact that there's nothing in the agreement about agricultural purchases.

As for the Republican's assurances about secret elements of the agreement, it wasn't long before Mexican officials conceded they haven't the foggiest idea what Trump was talking about.

The Mexican foreign minister said Monday that no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the United States, directly contradicting President Trump's claim on Twitter that a "fully signed and documented" agreement would soon be revealed.

Speaking with reporters, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard held up a copy of the signed agreement and pointed to its provisions. Debunking the American president's odd rhetoric, Ebrard said, "There is no other thing beyond what I have just explained."

For good measure, the Mexican leader also made clear that Trump's claim about "buying large quantities of agricultural product" is also untrue.

A reporter asked Trump yesterday why Mexico is denying the existence of a secret deal, if that side deal is real.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 6.10.19

06/10/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Progress: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., announced Monday that he had reached an agreement with the Department of Justice over obtaining underlying evidence from the Mueller report related to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump."

* In related news: "Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who played a key role in the Watergate hearings in the 1970s, compared the findings in the Mueller report to Watergate Monday as Democrats launched an ambitious wave of hearings and votes targeting President Donald Trump and his administration."

* SCOTUS: "The Supreme Court said Monday that it will not take up a challenge to a federal law that restricts the ownership of gun silencers, attachments that muffle the sound of gunfire."

* A fight worth watching: "Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Todd Young (R-IN) have teamed up to request a report on Saudi Arabia's human rights record, which could result in a vote to halt an arms trade worth billions."

* ICE: "On the same day the White House heralded veterans on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a federal watchdog said the government had violated its own rules on deporting former service members -- and immigration authorities have no idea how many they have removed."

* More stonewalling: "Kris Kobach refused to answer several questions from a congressional panel investigating the Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, after the White House told him not to discuss his conversations with the president."

* He has curious priorities: "The White House is pressing ahead with President Donald Trump's demand that Boeing Co. paint new Air Force One jets red, white and blue, replacing the blue-and-white pattern used since the early 1960s."

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Image: Senate Judiciary Committee

GOP rep admits he also didn't bother to read the Mueller report

06/10/19 03:15PM

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) sat down with MSNBC's Kasie Hunt last night and struggled with a question that should've been easy.

HUNT: Have you read the Mueller report in full?

WOODALL: I have not.

HUNT: Why not?

WOODALL: I said when we started this conversation that I trusted Mr. Mueller....

The back and forth continued, but the Republican congressman -- who'll retire next year following a difficult re-election bid in 2018 -- struggled to say why he didn't take the time to read the report.

His first reason was that he trusted Mueller to be responsible, which obviously didn't answer the question. Woodall's second answer was that the Justice Department sometimes tries to "achieve an agenda" and "drive a message," which still didn't explain why he didn't read the document.

The GOP lawmaker went on to say that obstruction of justice "is not a political issue, it is a criminal issue," which is true. But in the case of a sitting president who won't be charged while in office, it's supposed to be an issue of concern to Congress -- and it might be if members read the Mueller report.

Woodall added, "The constituents I represent don't want to see criminal activity at any place." That may be true, but whether the folks in Georgia's 7th want to see criminal activity or not isn't directly relevant to whether criminal activity occurred.

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The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

NRA faces new allegations about its spending practices

06/10/19 12:51PM

In late April, as former NRA president Oliver North was ousted from his post, North said in his resignation letter that there's "a clear crisis" within the right-wing organization.

That assessment is increasingly easy to believe. The Washington Post reported this morning on many of the National Rifle Association's unpaid board members benefiting financially from the group.

The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members -- the very people tasked with overseeing the organization's finances.

In all, 18 members of the NRA's 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.

The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigor of the board's oversight as it steered the country's largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members.

While the NRA denied any wrongdoing, the Post spoke to Douglas Varley, an attorney who specializes in tax-exempt organizations. "In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this," Varley said. "The volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders is really astonishing."

If this were the only sign of trouble for the organization, it might be easier to shrug off. But given the avalanche of questions surrounding the NRA's use -- and alleged misuse -- of its resources, it's hard not to see the latest revelations as part of a bigger picture.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.10.19

06/10/19 12:00PM

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

* Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) yesterday conceded that he'd voted for spending bills that included the Hyde Amendment, but explained, "Well, look, sometimes in a large bill you have to vote for things you don't like. But I think my record as being literally 100 percent 'pro-choice' is absolutely correct."

* Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, is reportedly preparing to step down from his post, and he's eyeing a race for his old job: governor of Utah. Huntsman, who also served as the Obama administration's ambassador to China, ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2012.

* Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's Democratic presidential campaign picked up its first U.S. Senate endorsement over the weekend: Montana's Jon Tester (D) threw his support behind his home-state ally.

* Fresh off her success championing Georgia's controversial new abortion ban, state Sen. Renee Unterman (R) is running to succeed Rep. Rob Woodall (R) in Georgia's 7th congressional district.

* Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) conceded the other day that he isn't going to qualify for the first round of debates for the Democratic presidential candidates.

* Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D), who's currently the only Democratic official holding statewide office in Missouri, is reportedly moving closer to a gubernatorial campaign next year, fueled in part by her opposition to Missouri's newly passed abortion ban.

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A detailed view of the boxing gloves ringside during day one of the Boxing Elite National Championships at Echo Arena on April 29, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty)

At this point in the Democratic 2020 race, the gloves remain on

06/10/19 11:20AM

With two dozen candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, it's unrealistic to think the contenders won't try to draw contrasts with one another. In fact, it's a healthy part of the process: candidates challenge one another, debate one another, and argue why they think they're better than their rivals. Some disagreements are as normal as they are necessary.

It's against this backdrop that Axios reported over the weekend that the "attack" phase of the Democratic race is now underway.

The niceties have ended: 2020 Democrats are breaking their own pledge not to go after one another. The attacks of the past week show what a long primary they're in for.

These jabs and skirmishes show a fracturing Democratic Party -- exactly what some top Democrats wanted to avoid in order to maximize their chances of defeating President Trump. [...]

[I]f the last week is any indication, the gloves have come off and we should expect more Dem-on-Dem attacks to come. And the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee will enjoy every minute of it.

At this point in the Democratic nominating contest, I tend to see a very different landscape. In fact, I think the Axios report has it largely backwards.

Let's take the debate over the Hyde Amendment as an example. Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign initially said last week that the Delaware Democrat hadn't changed his mind about the policy, which prompted many of his 2020 rivals to make clear they feel differently on the issue. The rebukes were substantive and policy-focused, and soon after, Biden changed direction.

But to see this as evidence of "the gloves" coming off is to exaggerate the intensity of what transpired.

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Image: John Hickenlooper

The big flaws in the case against 'big government'

06/10/19 10:44AM

Given the enormous size of the Democratic presidential field, every candidate faces a straightforward practical question: how to stand out in a crowd. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) joined 18 other contenders in Iowa over the weekend, and differentiated himself by running to his rivals' right.

As he did last weekend in San Francisco, Hickenlooper urged Democrats to repudiate socialism. "Trump is the worst president our country has ever had, but defeating him is far from guaranteed," he said. "I'm the only person running who has actually done what everyone else is talking about, so I can tell you that you don't do big things with big government."

Before considering the substance of comments like these, it's worth appreciating the curious political strategy the former governor is implementing.

I tend to think the importance of "lanes" is overstated, but the general idea is that presidential candidates can be grouped together in ways that appeal to specific constituencies: some voters might be looking for a fresh face, others might want someone more experienced, others still might prefer a D.C. outsider, and so on.

Hickenlooper may very well look at his intra-party rivals and notice that he can run to the middle and have the "centrist" lane largely to himself, locking up the Democratic voters who are looking for a presidential candidate hostile to "big government."

As a tactical matter, this would probably be more effective if there were lots of voters in this camp. In reality, however, there's little to suggest this contingent exists. The Coloradan has a lane to himself, but that's largely because no one else wants to be there.

But as important as this is to Hickenlooper's future, it's also important to appreciate the simple fact that he's mistaken about his governing philosophy.

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