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E. Jean Carroll is photographed, Sunday, June 23, 2019, in New York.

Following sexual assault allegation, Carroll files suit against Trump

11/04/19 02:52PM

E. Jean Carroll spent years as a prominent writer, media figure, and advice columnist, including having hosted a show on America's Talking, which later became MSNBC. As regular readers may recall, in June, she also joined a long list of women who've accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct.

Indeed, in a recently published book, Carroll described an alleged encounter in a New York department store in the mid-1990s, which the writer described as a violent sexual assault committed by the future president. Though definitively proving or disproving Caroll's claim is difficult -- there is no security footage to review and no physical evidence to scrutinize -- the writer said she confided in two friends shortly after the alleged incident, telling them at the time what she said occurred. Those friends soon after came forward with on-the-record accounts.

The president has denied the claim, arguing, among other things, that his latest accuser is a "liar" who isn't his "type." As NBC News reported today, Carroll is now suing Trump for defamation.

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that Trump, "through express statements and deliberate implications, accused Carroll of lying about the rape in order to increase book sales, carry out a political agenda, advance a conspiracy with the Democratic Party, and make money."

"Trump knew that these statements were false; at a bare minimum, he acted with reckless disregard for their truth or falsity," the complaint said, adding that Trump's statements "inflicted emotional pain and suffering, they damaged her reputation, and they caused substantial professional harm."

For her part, the plaintiff said she was "filing this lawsuit for every woman who's been pinched, prodded, cornered, felt-up, pushed against a wall, grabbed, groped, assaulted, and has spoken up only to be shamed, demeaned, disgraced, passed over for promotions, fired, and forgotten."

Carroll added, "While I can no longer hold Donald Trump accountable for assaulting me more than twenty years ago, I can hold him accountable for lying about it and I fully intend to do so."

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A woman places her vote into the ballot box on March 5, 2016 in Bowling Green, Ky. (Photo by Austin Anthony/Daily News/AP)

The 2019 elections offer plenty of contests worth watching

11/04/19 12:40PM

At first blush, this year's elections may seem a little too predictable. There are only three gubernatorial elections in 2019, and they're in three ruby-red states: Mississippi (which Donald Trump won by 17 points), Louisiana (which Trump won by 20 points), Kentucky (which Trump won by 30 points).

It's easy to imagine Republican candidates faring very well in Republican states, at which point Donald Trump will make up some imaginary polls and announce that each of the GOP candidates was trailing badly until he took an interest in their candidacies.

But as Election Day 2019 approaches, the landscape features some nuances that make it worthy of national attention. Let's unpack what's in store:

Mississippi: With incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) unable to run for a third consecutive term, voters in the Magnolia State will tomorrow choose between Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) and state Attorney General Jim Hood (D). Given Mississippi's leanings, Republicans have an automatic advantage in statewide races, though it's worth noting that Hood has been elected (and re-elected) as the state A.G. -- an office he's held for 16 years, his party affiliation notwithstanding.

That said, one of the challenges facing Hood is Mississippi's Jim-Crow-era rule that requires gubernatorial candidates to win both the most votes and a majority of the state's 122 state House districts. Failure to clear both thresholds would send the race to the Republican-dominated legislature. The system was designed to undermine the voting power of the state's African-American population -- Mississippi has the largest percentage of black residents of any U.S. state -- and as one analysis recently noted, this highly dubious, historically scandalous provision makes it "all but impossible for a Democrat to win in November."

Still, given Hood's popularity and record of success, Republicans aren't taking the race for granted: Donald Trump was in Mississippi on Friday night, trying to rally support for Reeves.

Kentucky: Incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is seeking a second term, taking on state Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). If party considerations were taken off the table, Bevin would almost certainly lose: the governor is broadly unpopular and disliked by lawmakers in both parties. Indeed, Bevin faced multiple GOP primary rivals -- unheard of in recent memory for a governor who isn't under indictment -- and barely survived the process, eking out a win with 52% support among voters in his own party.

But Kentucky elected Bevin because he's a Republican, and his party affiliation gives him a decent chance of winning a second term. Donald Trump, who appears to have a special affinity for Bevin, will be in the Bluegrass State tonight trying to help get him across the finish line.

A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed the gubernatorial race tied, with both Bevin and Beshear generating 46% support.

Louisiana: Unlike Mississippi and Kentucky, which will have their races tomorrow, Louisiana's gubernatorial runoff isn't until Nov. 16, which is a week from Saturday. That said, Trump will be in the Pelican State this week, hoping to help elect Eddie Rispone (R), a Trump-like candidate making his first bid for elected office.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.4.19

11/04/19 12:00PM

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

* Newly released New York Times/Siena College surveys show Donald Trump in competitive positions in six key 2020 battleground states, with Elizabeth Warren trailing in all but one of the six, Bernie Sanders trailing in three, and Joe Biden trailing in one. Among likely voters, Biden leads in five of the six, Sanders leads in one of the six, and Warren doesn't lead in any of them.

* As you've probably heard by now, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) ended his presidential campaign on Friday afternoon, shrinking the Democratic field to 17 candidates. On a related note, an O'Rourke aide insisted, "Beto will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas in 2020."

* As part of Kamala Harris' reorganization of her 2020 presidential bid, her operation laid off "more than a dozen field organizers and shuttered three of its four offices in New Hampshire" last week. The California senator will also reportedly "skip the ceremonial in-person filing of paperwork for ballot access in New Hampshire, a traditional milestone that gets heavy media coverage for presidential candidates."

* The Republican Party of Minnesota has completed its presidential primary ballot, and GOP officials have decided to exclude Donald Trump's primary rivals, leaving the president's name as the only one listed.

* With state legislative elections on tap in Virginia tomorrow, Barack Obama announced personal endorsements over the weekend for six state Senate candidates and 11 state House of Delegates candidates. I'll have more on these elections in about a half-hour.

* Donald Trump was in Mississippi on Friday night, ostensibly to help rally support for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves' (R) gubernatorial campaign, but the president mainly talked about himself and his contempt for the impeachment process. Election Day in Mississippi is tomorrow.

* On a related note, Trump will be in Kentucky tonight, hoping to help Gov. Matt Bevin (R) hang on and win a second term. Election Day in Kentucky is also tomorrow.

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History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Appeals court: Trump's tax returns must be delivered to NY prosecutors

11/04/19 11:13AM

It was just two weeks ago when Donald Trump's lawyers, hired specifically to keep the president's tax returns hidden, made a highly provocative argument to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. As far as William Consovoy and the rest of Trump's legal team was concerned, a president can't be scrutinized or investigated by anyone so long as he's in office.

Asked what would happen if Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue, the president's attorney said nothing could be done to Trump until after he left office.

Evidently, the three-judge panel was not persuaded.

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that President Donald Trump's tax returns must be turned over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who had subpoenaed the documents from Trump's accounting firm as part of an investigation into the pre-election payoffs to two women who alleged affairs with Trump.

Trump is likely to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Trump had earlier lost the initial case before a federal district court.

The three-judge panel wrote in their decision that "any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not extend to investigative steps like the grand jury subpoena at issue here," affirming the lower court's ruling on that question.

The full, 34-page ruling in Trump v. Vance is online here.

Because there are multiple ongoing lawsuits surrounding the president's hidden tax returns, it's easy to get confused about the various cases. Circling back to our earlier coverage, this morning's developments involve a case out of New York City, where a district attorney's office is investigating Trump's hush-money scandal.

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A melted basketball hoop is seen in a clearing after the Loma fire tore along a ridge top on Sept. 27, 2016 near Morgan Hill, Calif. (Photo by Noah Berger/AP)

Despite crisis, Trump threatens to pull federal aid for California

11/04/19 10:47AM

Nearly a year ago, Donald Trump published a tweet that appeared to include a policy pronouncement. After complaining about California's approach to forest management -- an issue he only pretends to understand -- the president wrote that he'd ordered FEMA to send the Golden State "no more money."

We later learned that the Republican's rhetoric had no relationship with reality. There was no such order -- to FEMA or any other agency -- and as we discussed at the time, the president's bluster was hollow.

All of this came to mind over the weekend, when Trump's rhetoric took on a familiar tone.

President Donald Trump offered a vague threat to pull California's federal aid for combating dangerous wildfires on Sunday, sparking a response from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as the pair traded barbs through the day.

"The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management," Trump tweeted early Sunday. "I told him from the first day we met that he must 'clean' his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers. Every year, as the fire's rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don't see close to the level of burn in other states."

During a brief Q&A yesterday afternoon, Trump kept the offensive going, telling reporters, in reference to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), "The governor doesn't know -- he's like a child. He doesn't know what he's doing."

I realize projection is a go-to move for the president, but I didn't really expect him to bring his "no puppet" tactics to wildfire responses.

To the extent that reality has any meaning, Trump's rhetoric didn't make any sense. California's latest wildfires, for example, haven't burnt down forests. The president's claims about water distribution were similarly wrong. Even the assertion about the Golden State getting "no more" federal aid is probably not to be taken seriously.

What I find important, however, is the bigger picture: Trump's hostility toward the nation's largest state has reached a ridiculous level.

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Iran spins more centrifuges, making Trump's failure more obvious

11/04/19 10:00AM

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke at a media briefing in September and argued that he, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Donald Trump are "completely aligned on our 'maximum pressure' campaign" against Iran. Mnuchin added that the policy is "absolutely working."

The policy is absolutely not working. NBC News reported this morning on the latest evidence that Iran has become more dangerous, not less, in the wake of the American president walking away from the international nuclear agreement with our longtime adversary. In this case, Iran announced that Tehran, ignoring the terms of the JCPOA agreement that Trump blew up, is now "operating double the amount of advanced centrifuges than was previously known."

The decision to operate 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges means that the country can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the first-generation IR-1s allowed under the accord.

The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only 5,060 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges to enrich uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas. Salehi also said Tehran was working on a prototype centrifuge that's 50 times faster than those allowed under the deal.

By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one-year time limit that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon, if it chose to pursue one.

Circling back to our coverage from September, there's no great mystery behind the broader dynamic: Trump took a policy that was working as intended and abandoned it for reasons he struggled to explain. Iran responded, as expected, by accelerating the nuclear program that the JCPOA policy had kept in check.

As Colin Kahl, an Obama administration veteran, recently explained, "Trump's 'maximum pressure' campaign was supposed to induce Iran to scrap its nuclear program (which was already contained by the 2015 nuclear deal). Instead, Trump's actions have incentivized Iran to restart it, creating a completely unnecessary crisis."

Trump's plan – to the extent that his whims can be credibly characterized as a "plan" – has been to use sanctions to force Iran to the negotiating table in order to reach a deal to limit its nuclear program. Once that happens, Trump believes, he can offer Iranian officials economic incentives to entice them into an agreement.

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Impeachment transcripts become latest point of panic for Trump

11/04/19 09:20AM

Up until now, the congressional impeachment inquiry has unfolded largely behind closed doors. There have been some exceptions -- some witnesses, for example, have publicly released their opening statements -- but by and large, a limited number of officials have been privy to the depositions.

That will soon change. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS's Face the Nation yesterday, "I think you're going to see all of the transcripts that are going to be released probably within the next five days. I don't know if they're all going to be released on the same day. But they're going to be very telling to the American people."

And that is precisely what Donald Trump appears to be afraid of.

President Trump suggested Sunday that Republicans should release their own versions of transcripts of interviews in the House's ongoing impeachment inquiry.

The president's anxiety led him to publish a tweet on Saturday arguing that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) "will change the transcripts" from the impeachment proceedings ahead of their release. Trump kept this going a day later, suggesting Schiff shouldn't be "allowed" to release transcripts, in part because the Californian "will change the words" and "manipulate" the materials.

Trump added that he considers Schiff a "freak" -- a word he hasn't previously tweeted since taking office.

It was at this point that the president recommended that his fellow Republicans distribute "their own transcripts."

Oh my.

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Trump concedes that people can cut through his 'impenetrable' wall

11/04/19 08:40AM

On Friday night, Donald Trump headlined a campaign rally in Mississippi, where he not only bragged about constructing barriers along the U.S./Mexico border, he insisted that no one can "cut through" the fencing his administration has installed.

It was about nine hours later when the Washington Post ran this article discrediting the president's boasts.

Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump's border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through, according to U.S. agents and officials with knowledge of the damage.

The breaches have been made using a popular cordless household tool known as a reciprocating saw that retails at hardware stores for as little as $100.... After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, allowing an adult to fit through the gap. Because the bollards are so tall -- and are attached only to a panel at the very top -- their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling, according to engineers consulted by The Washington Post.

This comes on the heels of an NBC News report from earlier this year on Department of Homeland Security testing that found vulnerabilities to Trump's barriers.

Asked about the revelations, Trump said he was unfamiliar with the revelations, though he quickly added, "We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness.... [Y]ou can cut through any wall."

The president went on to say that after the barriers have been pierced, he's confident that officials can "put the chunk back in" -- after people have had an opportunity to go through it after using popular cordless household tools readily available in hardware stores.

Trump's rhetoric on Saturday was a welcome change of pace -- I more or less assumed he'd dismiss the Post's reporting as "fake" -- though it dramatically contradicted everything he's said about the border project for months.

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Trump takes aim at war hero on his own White House team

11/04/19 08:00AM

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman has left Donald Trump and his allies in a difficult position. Vindman, a decorated war hero and the top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council, testified to the congressional impeachment inquiry last week, and his opening statement painted a highly unflattering portrait of the president and his Ukrainian scheme.

Complicating matters, Vindman is a difficult witness to dismiss: he's a current White House official with direct, first-hand information about what transpired -- he was, for example, on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky -- and has the credibility that comes from being a decorated American combat veteran.

This did not stop some of the White House's allies in conservative media from going after Vindman's patriotism last week, and it now appears the president himself is taking aim at his own National Security Council official. Here, for example, was an exchange between NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell and Trump on Saturday night:

Q: Mr. President, do you regret calling Lieutenant Colonel Vindman a "Never Trumper" as Commander-in-Chief?

TRUMP: Do I re- -- what? Say it again.

Q: Do you regret calling Lieutenant Colonel Vindman a "Never Trumper"?

TRUMP: Well, you'll be seeing very soon what comes out. And then you -- then you can ask the question in a different way.

It was possible that the president was just using this as a line to buy time. Indeed, the Republican does this frequently when confronted with questions he considers awkward and doesn't want to answer: Trump suggests secret information will soon put the issue in a new light. Then time goes by, new controversies arise, and he never gets around to divulging the information that only existed in his mind.

But yesterday afternoon, the president again returned to the subject. Asked about possible evidence he has against Lt. Col. Vindman, Trump replied, "We'll be showing that to you real soon, okay?"

It's still quite possible that there is no evidence and Trump is casting aspersions as a political ploy that's starting to resemble McCarthyism. It's also possible, however, that the president and his team have done opposition research on an active-duty war hero who's currently a member of the White House national security staff.

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Fate of Trump's abettors may not be aligned with impeachment

Fate of Trump's abettors may not be aligned with impeachment

11/01/19 09:44PM

Rachel Maddow looks at new reporting that Trump counselor John Eisenberg sought to hide the record of Donald Trump's call with Ukrainian President Zelensky on a secret server upon learning that Trump's conduct was improper, and talks with Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, about what happens to the peripheral players... watch

Bad day in court for Giuliani associate Igor Fruman

Bad day in court for Giuliani associate Igor Fruman

11/01/19 09:02PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the difficult day Rudy Giuliani associate Igor Fruman had in court today as his lawyer tried to ease some of the restrictions of his bail with a less-than-convincing argument that Fruman's one-way plane ticket was not an indication that he was trying to flee the United States. watch