Latest StoriesRSS

select from:

E.g., 6/24/2018
E.g., 6/24/2018
Bill & Melinda Gates

Bill Gates offers behind-the-scenes insights into Trump

05/18/18 10:00AM

Given everything we know about Donald Trump and his, shall we say, idiosyncrasies, it's only natural to wonder what the president is like behind the scenes, away from the cameras. With this in mind, Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently spoke to the staff at his charitable Gates Foundation about his conversations with Trump -- and MSNBC's Chris Hayes obtained a recording.

The "All In" segments are worth watching in their entirety, in part to get the full context, and in part because the audience's reactions were interesting, but a few things stood out as notable. Gates noted, for example, that after meeting Trump for the first time after the election, the president seemed to know a "scary" amount about Gates' daughter's appearance -- which Melinda Gates apparently didn't appreciate.

Just as striking was Gates' description of two meetings he had with Trump in Trump Tower, where the Microsoft founder encouraged the president to focus on science and innovation, recommending renewed energies toward finding an HIV vaccine.

"In both of those two meetings he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing because he was considering a commission to look into ill-effects of vaccines," Gates said. "And somebody, Robert Kennedy Jr., was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things and I said, 'No, that is a dead end, that would be a bad thing, do not do that.'"

There were laughs and groans from the audience after Gates added: "Both times he wanted to know the difference between HIV and HPV and so I was able to explain that those are things that are rarely confused with each other."

As amazing as this anecdote is, the word that jumped out at me was "both."

read more

Image: US President Donald J. Trump hosts former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

Defamation lawsuit just became more alarming for Donald Trump

05/18/18 09:20AM

As much of the world no doubt recalls, Donald Trump was recorded in 2005 bragging about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers attractive – “I don’t even wait,” Trump claimed at the time – which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the recording. “You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the p—y.”

After Trump denied having done what he bragged about doing, more than a few women came forward to accuse the Republican of sexual misconduct – one of whom, Summer Zervos, is currently suing the president for defamation, after Trump insisted each of his accusers were liars.

Trump’s lawyers have tried a variety of arguments to make the case go away – the president has denied any wrongdoing – but as of yesterday afternoon, those efforts have now failed in two New York courts. And as Rachel noted on the show last night, the next phase in the process is the one Trump and his team have been eager to avoid. The New York Times  reported:

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who accused President Trump of sexual assault, is seeking records to prove that he defamed her by calling her a liar.

A lawyer for Ms. Zervos, who is suing Mr. Trump for defamation in New York, said on Wednesday that subpoenas had been issued both to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer [MGM], which owns archives of the reality show, and to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Ms. Zervos says he groped her in 2007.

This is a story with a lot of potential.

read more

House Continues To Work On Spending Bill As Gov't Shutdown Looms

GOP member of Science Committee blames falling rocks for sea-level rise

05/18/18 08:40AM

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has developed an unfortunate reputation for saying all kinds of bizarre things, but this week's addition to his greatest-hits list is a doozy.

The House Science Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss technology's role in addressing climate change, and the Alabama Republican took the opportunity to share an idea about sea-level rise with Philip Duffy, president of Woods Hole Research Center, who was one of the witnesses participating in the hearing. USA Today  noted Brooks' creative new idea:

"Every single year that we're on Earth, you have huge tons of silt deposited by the Mississippi River, by the Amazon River, by the Nile, by every major river system — and for that matter, creek, all the way down to the smallest systems," Brooks said. "And every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you've got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up."

Brooks pointed to the White Cliffs of Dover and to California "where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines" and "you have the cliffs crash into the sea."

"All of that displaces the water which forces it to rise, does it not?" Brooks asked.

"I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects," Duffy answered.

I imagine climate deniers may appreciate Brooks' child-like logic: if a swimming pool, for example, were half filled with water, the water level would rise with the addition of many rocks. Maybe the congressman has even heard something about Archimedes.

The trouble, which the poor congressman doesn't seem to appreciate, is the size of the planet's swimming pool: a Washington Post  analysis found that to explain the current rises, we'd have to take "the top five inches of every one of the United States' 9.1 million square miles of land area and use it to coat the bottom of the world's oceans" -- and we'd have to do that every year.

But as embarrassing as Mo Brooks' confusion is, there may be a way to put an encouraging spin on this.

read more


Trump scrambles to tell North Korea what it wants to hear

05/18/18 08:00AM

A few weeks ago, White House National Security Advisor John Bolton laid out a provocative vision for U.S. policy toward North Korea. "We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004," he told Fox News. The same morning, Bolton told CBS News, "I think we're looking at the Libya model."

This, not surprisingly, didn't sit well with North Korea, for reasons that should be obvious. Under the "Libya model," Moammar Gadhafi gave up his nuclear program, his government faced a domestic rebellion, his country faced an American military offensive, and he was killed soon after.

In a brief Q&A with reporters at the White House yesterday, Donald Trump was asked about North Korea's objections to Bolton's comments. The American president seemed eager to throw his top national security aide under the bus.

"Well, the Libyan model isn't a model that we have at all, when we're thinking of North Korea. In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated. There was no deal to keep Gadhafi. The Libyan model that was mentioned was a much different deal. This would be with Kim Jong-un -- something where he'd be there, he'd be in his country, he'd be running his country. His country would be very rich. His people are tremendously industrious. [...]

"But the Libyan model was a much different model. We decimated that country. We never said to Gadhafi, 'Oh, we're going to give you protection. We're going give you military strength. We're going to give you all of these things.' We went in and decimated him.... This is just the opposite."

Part of the problem here is that Trump, even after weeks of discussion, doesn't seem to know what the "Libya model" is. The Republican appears to be under the impression that the model refers specifically to the NATO military offensive in 2011. It doesn't. What Bolton was describing was the model from 2003 in which a country voluntarily gave up its nuclear program and welcomed weapons inspectors.

But there's also a larger concern, which extends beyond the American president's confusion about a policy he really ought to understand.

read more

Manafort's ex-son-in-law pleads guilty, cooperating with feds

Manafort's ex-son-in-law pleads guilty, cooperating with feds

05/17/18 09:14PM

Rachel Maddow reviews the unusual financial entanglements of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and reports breaking news that Jeffrey Yohai, Manafort's former son-in-law with some overlapping business interests has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal prosecutors. Nathan Layne, white collar crime reporter for... watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.17.18

05/17/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The final vote was 54 to 45: "The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as the next CIA director despite opposition from most Democrats and a handful of Republicans who blasted her role in the agency's enhanced interrogation program."

* Quite an explosion: "Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted anew before dawn Thursday, shooting a steely gray plume of ash about 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) into the sky that began raining down on a nearby town."

* I'll have more on this tomorrow: "A New York appeals court on Thursday rejected a request from President Trump to stay proceedings in a defamation suit filed by a former contestant on 'The Apprentice' who has claimed that he sexually harassed her."

* Mueller probe: "Special counsel Robert Mueller has issued a pair of subpoenas to a social media consultant who worked on Roger Stone's pro-Donald Trump super PAC during the 2016 presidential campaign."

* An acknowledgement of reality: "FBI Director Christopher Wray reiterated his position that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia probe is not a witch hunt in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday, continuing to stake a position opposite to President Donald Trump's."

* The latest in a series of bad headlines for the finance giant: "Some employees in a Wells Fargo & Co. unit that handles business banking improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers, according to people familiar with the matter."

* Andrew Smith: "The new director of the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection unit, a watchdog with broad investigative powers over private companies, stands out even in an administration prone to turning over regulatory authority to pro-industry players."

read more

The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

GOP reps looking for a promotion are struggling in 2018

05/17/18 12:40PM

There's a striking number of House members giving up their seats this year, but not every incumbent lawmaker is trying to exit politics. For example, of the 38 House Republicans who aren't running for re-election this fall, roughly a third are running for statewide office.

The trouble is, those efforts aren't going especially well so far.

This week, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R), widely seen as a strong contender in Idaho's gubernatorial race, came up short in a GOP primary. He has plenty of company: Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) lost in a House primary in North Carolina; Reps. Todd Rokita (R) and Luke Messer (R) both lost in a Senate primary in Indiana; and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) lost in a Senate primary in West Virginia.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) won their respective Senate primaries, but both prevailed by smaller-than-expected margins, despite strong support of Donald Trump and party leaders.

Slate's Josh Voorhees explained yesterday that, looking ahead to November, the results are a potential sign of trouble for the Republican Party.

The early losses are another troubling trend for the GOP, which is betting on House Republicans to win a half-dozen key statewide races this fall at the same time the president has made "Washington" an even dirtier word among conservatives than it already was. [...]

Four congressional Republicans are currently running for governor, two of which non-partisan handicappers believe have, at best, even odds of preserving GOP control in those states. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are betting on a handful of House Republicans to win high-profile races that could decide control of the upper chamber in November.

And as we discussed last week, the fact that current House GOP lawmakers are running into trouble isn't just unexpected; it's also a departure from the historical norm.

read more

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.17.18

05/17/18 12:00PM

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

* The Congressional Leadership Fund, a very well-funded super PAC allied with the House Republican leadership, has reportedly created "34 offices running mini-campaigns for vulnerable Republicans throughout the country."

* The same week Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) won his Senate primary race in Pennsylvania, Republican officials are expressing concerns about his viability. One party strategist told the Washington Examiner, "The sense is, nobody knows what the f*** he's doing. He's not really working it hard. It's a sad thing, because people like Lou."

* Why is former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) doing so well in Tennessee's Senate race against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R)? A new Vanderbilt University poll found the former governor with a "significant" advantage among independent voters, and even a majority of Republicans "say they have a favorable view of Bredesen."

* In an announcement that jolted Connecticut's Democratic gubernatorial primary, former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz decided to end her statewide campaign and instead become Ned Lamont's running mate.

* In Ohio, outgoing Gov. John Kasich (R) initially hedged on supporting state Attorney General Mike DeWine's (R) gubernatorial candidacy -- Kasich backed his rival ahead of last week's primary -- but the incumbent has since come around and announced this week he'll "definitely" vote for his party's nominee.

* In Wisconsin's Senate race, state Sen. Leah Vukmir was the overwhelming favorite at the state Republican Party convention and received the GOP's official endorsement, but she'll still have to face Kevin Nicholson in an August primary. The winner will take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) in the fall.

* On a related note, Vukmir's latest campaign pitch is that Baldwin is on "Team Terrorist" because the senator opposes Gina Haspel's nomination to lead the CIA.

read more

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy leaves the House Chamber after the House approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government open, Sept. 30, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Immigration fight roils House Republicans in unexpected ways

05/17/18 11:22AM

The latest fight over immigration policy appeared to reach its end point in March. Congressional Democrats offered Donald Trump at least six bipartisan compromises on the issue, including a package that would've funded his beloved border-wall proposal, but the president rejected each of them, insisting he needed both wall funding and drastic cuts to legal immigration.

But last week, a group of House Republicans shook up the debate in an unexpected way, unveiling a discharge petition -- in defiance of congressional GOP leaders and the White House -- that would force floor votes on a variety of measures, including bipartisan protections for Dreamers.

At first, the gambit looks like little more than theater. After all, discharge petitions almost always fail, and this one would need 25 House Republican votes, along with all the House Democrats. That's an unrealistic goal, right?

Perhaps not. This week, the measure received its 19th and 20th signatories from GOP members, and as a result, as the Washington Post reported, the party's leaders are suddenly scrambling.

House Republican leaders made a full-court press Wednesday to forestall a GOP immigration rebellion that they fear could derail their legislative agenda and throw their effort to hold the majority in doubt.

The effort began in a closed-door morning meeting where Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that a freewheeling immigration debate could have sharp political consequences. It continued in the evening, when the leaders of a petition effort that would sidestep were summoned to a room with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), McCarthy and three other top leaders.

At this point, the party doesn't appear to have a specific solution. Republican leaders, when they're not pleading with their colleagues not to sign the discharge petition, are exploring alternative measures to offer their rebelling members, even as some rank-and-file GOP lawmakers say they might derail the House's farm bill unless they get their way on immigration.

But what struck me as especially significant was the nature of the pitch House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made to his conference during the weekly meeting yesterday. Politico  reported:

read more

Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a press conference after appearing in court to call for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014. (Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Giuliani not doing Trump any favors with latest collusion arguments

05/17/18 10:40AM

About a week ago, there were multiple reports that Donald Trump was growing frustrated with Rudy Giuliani's antics. If true, the aggravation seems understandable: the former New York mayor, added to the president's legal team for reasons that still don't make any sense, appears to have done far more harm than good.

In fact, it seemed likely that Giuliani would maintain a lower profile, especially in the media, since he tends to cause trouble for his client in nearly every interview. And yet, as this HuffPost piece shows, he just keeps saying things he shouldn't.

"When I ran against [the Democrats], they were looking for dirt on me every day," Giuliani told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday night, in response to a question about Donald Trump Jr.'s apparent quest to find "dirt" on Hillary Clinton before the 2016 presidential election.

"That's what you do, maybe you shouldn't, but you do. Nothing illegal about that," Giuliani said. "Even if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American, doesn't matter."

The president's lawyer added that the "main thing" to keep in mind is that the Trump campaign "never used it ... they rejected it." Giuliani went on to say, "If there was collusion with the Russians, they would've used it."

Let's unpack this, because his comments were more interesting than Giuliani probably realizes.

First, this is a clumsy and unpersuasive attempt to move the "collusion" goalposts. To hear this Trump lawyer tell, a campaign can forge some kind of partnership with a foreign adversary, welcoming intelligence stolen as part of an espionage operation, to be used in an American election, and this isn't collusion.

read more