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E.g., 10/19/2018
E.g., 10/19/2018

'Evil' becomes Trump's adjective of choice for his US opponents

10/10/18 08:40AM

Donald Trump was in Orlando on Monday, where he addressed the International Association of Chiefs of Police and tried to turn the event into a political rally of sorts, assuming that the law-enforcement officials were his political allies.

Referring to the completed fight over Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation, the president told the chiefs, "It was a disgraceful situation brought about by people that are evil." The president didn't specify whether he was referring to Democrats, the women who accused the justice of sexual assault, or both, though he was clearly referencing Americans.

During a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday on the White House South Lawn, Trump fielded a question on his choice of words.

Q: Mr. President, what about your comments yesterday that some of these forces against Brett Kavanaugh were, quote, "evil"?

TRUMP: Yeah, I think they were. I think they were. Yeah.... I know many. I know fellow Americans that are evil. I know -- are you saying we shouldn't say that a fellow American is "evil"? I've known some fellow Americans that are pretty evil.

It's a subject the president apparently feels so strongly about, he keeps using the word. Two weeks ago, during a press conference, Trump insisted that the criticisms of Kavanaugh were "being perpetuated by some very evil people -- some of them are Democrats, I must say."

A week later, Trump told an audience at a Mississippi rally, in reference to Kavanaugh's critics, "These are really evil people." The president then repeated the line this week, after Kavanaugh had already been sworn in.

Back in July, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) urged senators not to be "complicit" in "evil" by confirming Kavanaugh. Months later, Kavanaugh told senators, "A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as evil. 'Evil.' Think about that word."

Trump has thought about it -- and he seems to love it.

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Ivanka and Donald Trump in Aston, Pa. where they outlined Trump's proposal on childcare on Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Trump: No one would be 'more competent' for UN post than Ivanka

10/10/18 08:00AM

There was no shortage of speculation about why Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, abruptly announced her resignation yesterday, but it was soon accompanied by a related question: who'll replace her.

Donald Trump yesterday seemed especially fond of a specific possible nominee: one of his adult children.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that while he believes his daughter, Ivanka Trump, would make an "incredible" U.S. ambassador to the U.N., he would be accused of "nepotism" if he named her.

"How good would Ivanka be?" he asked rhetorically before dismissing the idea.

"I think Ivanka would be incredible but it doesn't mean [I would name her]," Trump said. "I would be accused of nepotism." He added that he thought there was no one "more competent in the world" than Ivanka Trump.

It wasn't long before the president's daughter made clear, in a public statement, that she has no intention of serving in Haley's post. "It is an honor to serve in the White House alongside so many great colleagues and I know that the president will nominate a formidable replacement for Ambassador Haley," Ivanka Trump wrote on Twitter. "That replacement will not be me."

That would seem to close the door on the possibility of her nomination, though it's worth noting that Ivanka Trump also said she wouldn't join her father's White House team, so perhaps her denials about her intentions should be taken with a grain of salt.

But what seemed especially notable about all this was the nature of the president's gushing praise.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.9.18

10/09/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Hurricane Michael "strengthened to a Category 2 storm Tuesday as it barreled toward Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, threatening catastrophic storm surge, torrential rain and heavy winds."

* Haley's successor? "President Donald Trump appeared to cast his daughter and a former senior White House national security official as the frontrunners to replace Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations. Daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser, would be 'wonderful' in the role, Trump said."

* On a related note, this complaint came before the resignation announcement: "A Washington, D.C., watchdog group wants a federal investigation into U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley's use of private planes owned by S.C. businessmen. The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says Haley undervalued the flights by tens of thousands of dollars on her annual financial disclosure form required of federal officials."

* This week, there have been developments of note in the Russia scandal, specifically involving Alfa Bank, Psy-Group, and Peter W. Smith. Look for more along these lines on tonight's show.

* According to the auto manufacturer, Trump's tariffs aren't helping: "Ford will be making cuts to its 70,000-strong white-collar workforce in a move it calls a 'redesign' of its staff to be leaner, have fewer layers, and offer more decision-making power to employees, the company announced."

* The post-election lame-duck session is bound to be interesting: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Monday there will be 'a big fight' after the midterm elections over funding President Trump's border wall, but he said he doesn't know how the issue will be resolved."

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Kavanaugh's confirmation reflects the will of the US minority

10/09/18 12:43PM

At last night's ceremonial event for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the White House, Donald Trump declared, "On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure." It was a jarring moment for multiple reasons.

For one thing, Americans saw an unpopular president whom most voters opposed speaking on behalf of the nation. For another, he was apologizing to a new justice whom most Americans don't want to see on the bench.

The wrenching battle over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the high court left the public with sharply negative impressions of the new Supreme Court justice and raised questions about his truthfulness, his temperament to serve and whether his partisan views would influence his work on the bench, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS in the final days of the fight over his confirmation.

Overall, 51% in the poll oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, up from 39% who opposed it in early September, after his initial confirmation hearing but before accusations of sexual misconduct emerged. Support for Kavanaugh's confirmation has merely inched up, by contrast, from 38% backing him in early September to 41% now.

Republicans now have the control they've long sought over Supreme Court, extending the control the GOP already has, at least for now, over the White House and Congress. But it's worth pausing to acknowledge the fact that this isn't what the American electorate necessarily signed up for.

Kavanaugh has "a distinct honor," a Washington Post  analysis noted over the weekend. "He will be the first justice nominated by someone who lost the popular vote to earn his seat on the bench with support from senators representing less than half of the country while having his nomination opposed by a majority of the country."

We like to think that in any democratic system, governmental power reflects the will of the electorate. After all, a fundamental tenet of the social compact is the establishment of a political system that acts with the consent of the governed.

Except, that's not quite what Americans have right now.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.9.18

10/09/18 12:00PM

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

* For those keeping track, Election Day is four weeks from today.

* On a related note, early voting is now underway in 10 states, with Montana and Nebraska joining the list today. The group will expand to 13 states tomorrow, with the addition of Arizona, Indiana, and Ohio.

* Also, today is the last day to register to vote in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

* Donald Trump predicted yesterday that "a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican" in this year's midterm elections. He did not appear to be kidding.

* As of last night, the crowd-funding efforts to run against Sen. Susan Collins (R) in Maine in 2020 had taken in $4 million. As Taegan Goddard added, "To put this in perspective, Collins raised $6 million for her entire campaign in 2014."

* On a related note, a fairly long list of possible Democratic candidates is lining up in Maine, weighing a challenge to Collins, including Rep. Chellie Pingree, former state House Speaker Hannah Pingree, and current state House Speaker Sara Gideon.

* A new Washington Post-Schar School poll in Virginia's 10th congressional district, one of the nation's most closely watched U.S. House races, found Jennifer Wexton (D) leading incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R), 55% to 43%.

* Speaking of closely watched U.S. House races, the latest poll from DeSales University/WFMZ-TV in Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district, found Susan Wild (D) leading Marty Nothstein (R) by nearly 20 points. The district was represented by Rep. Pat Meehan (R), who resigned earlier this year.

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Image: North Korea

Nikki Haley becomes latest member of Trump's cabinet to resign

10/09/18 11:09AM

At times, it's seemed as if Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has disagreed with the Trump administration on so many issues, she's barely part of the president's team. As it turns out, she's now making it official.

In an unexpected development, President Donald Trump's U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, plans to resign, according to multiple people with knowledge of her decision.

In an Oval Office announcement alongside the ambassador, Trump told reporters that Haley came to him six months ago and said that she wanted to take a break at the end of the year.

Haley informed her staff Tuesday morning that she plans to resign. The news of Haley's resignation was first reported by Axios.

In recent administrations, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has been considered a cabinet-level position, making Haley the fifth member of Donald Trump's cabinet to resign. She follows EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, HHS Secretary Tom Price, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also gave up his post, though he became White House chief of staff.)

It's difficult to say with confidence whether the official story about Haley's departure is true. Ordinarily, when a cabinet-level official steps down, it's not quite this abrupt.

Regardless, the former South Carolina governor's tenure has been, at times, a challenging one. Haley has generally cultivated a reputation as a competent U.N. diplomat, but she has also routinely pursued foreign policies that differ from the White House's agenda.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of Haley's tenure came in April, when the ambassador declared to the world that the administration would announce new sanctions on Russia over its support for the Assad regime in Syria.

As regular readers may recall, what Haley didn’t know was that Trump had rejected that idea, making her declaration wrong. The White House soon after suggested that Haley was “confused,” prompting the ambassador to issue a statement that read, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”

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Image: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington

Paul Ryan is the wrong messenger to condemn political 'tribalism'

10/09/18 10:16AM

Towards the end of his remarks at the National Press Club yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned a single-payer health care system as a "singularly bad idea."

The retiring GOP leader added, "It all brings to mind what Margaret Thatcher once described as the problem with socialism: 'Eventually, you run out of other people's money.' And it just shows how today's Democratic Party has gone further left to the fringes, and further back to discredited ideas."

It was an odd remark for an ostensible policy wonk. Single-payer isn't socialism; the U.K. doesn't have a single-payer system; and Thatcher's health care policy is further to the left of anything Republicans or Democrats have proposed.

While we're at it, single-payer isn't a "fringe" idea -- it exists throughout much of the Western world and polls suggest most Americans like the model -- and it hasn't been "discredited."

Soon after, at the same event, Ryan turned his attention to the forces that are driving "tribalism and identity politics." Mother Jones  noted:

House Speaker Paul Ryan lamented the increasingly personal tone of American politics at a National Press Club event Monday. "I worry about this a lot," he said. "The incentive in politics is invective; it's outrage; it's hysteria."

He ought to know. Ryan's super-PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has spent the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections churning out attack ads -- some featuring barely disguised racism -- that rely on those exact ingredients.

Quite right. As much as the House Speaker wants to be seen as above the petty "hysteria" that drives too much of contemporary politics, the fact remains that Ryan's association with "invective" tactics is hard to ignore.

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GOP scrambles to condemn progressive activism as dangerous 'mobs'

10/09/18 09:22AM

Donald Trump has seen the progressive activism surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, and he's worked aggressively to dismiss these Americans as unimportant. The president kept the rhetorical push going this morning, writing on Twitter, "The paid D.C. protesters are now ready to REALLY protest because they haven't gotten their checks - in other words, they weren't paid!"

Evidently, Trump thought we wouldn't understand the subtlety of "they haven't gotten their checks," so he thought it was necessary to explain what that meant. How ... charitable.

The irony of the criticism remains amusing. After all, the only prominent national politician who's been caught paying people to appear at events is Donald Trump, and the firm that provided the actors later complained that it didn't receive its check.

In other words, Mr. President, it wasn't paid.

But the broader significance is the degree to which Republicans hope to use progressive activism to the GOP's advantage. As the Washington Post  reported:

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as "an angry mob," a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country's order and, they hope, energize their voters. [...]

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation's fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them.

The strategy isn't subtle: Republican officials are telling their voters, in no uncertain terms, that failure to support GOP candidates will reward out-of-control screaming liberals hellbent on civil unrest.

Republicans seem to believe they can prevail in the midterms if they can convince just enough voters to be terrified of the dangerous progressive "mob."

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