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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while meeting with President-elect Donald Trump following a meeting in the Oval Office Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

On farming, Trump doesn't think Obama was socialistic enough

11/05/19 09:20AM

A decade ago, with the United States in the grips of the Great Recession, the American automotive industry -- the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector -- was on the brink of collapse. It wasn't a popular move, but Barack Obama launched a rescue package to save the auto manufacturers. The price of the bailout: $12 billion.

A decade later, Donald Trump's trade war has taken a severe toll on many American farmers, prompting the Republican administration to launch two bailouts for the agricultural sector. The combined price of the farmers' bailouts: $28 billion.

In fact, research from the American Farm Bureau Federation noted last week that nearly 40% of all farm income in the United States this year will come from federal aid. As Garance Franke-Ruta noted the other day, it's an economic dynamic that, in a rather literal sense, is starting to look like socialism.

It was against this backdrop that Donald Trump headlined a campaign rally in Mississippi on Friday night, where he found all of this worthy of boast. In fact, the president seemed eager to draw a comparison between his record and that of his immediate predecessor.

"I mean think of that: $28 billion.... Not bad, right? Not bad. Do you think Obama would do that? I don't think so."

As a substantive matter, Barack Obama wouldn't have needed to bail out farmers from a trade war because Obama would've known not to launch one. But putting that aside, it's hard not to marvel at the point of Trump's boast: Obama, in the Republican's mind, wouldn't have been eager enough to embrace a socialistic solution.

Indeed, when Obama rescued the American automotive industry, GOP lawmakers were apoplectic, convinced that the Democratic president was waging war on the nation's free-enterprise system. A decade later, we're apparently supposed to believe Obama wasn't hostile enough to the free market?

Stepping back, at the same Mississippi event, Trump referenced Obama by name 14 times -- including a not-so-subtle riff on Trump's belief that "Barack Hussein Obama" was lazy. I've long been fascinated by the Republican's preoccupation with his predecessor, but is it perhaps getting worse?

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Democratic presidential candidates wave as they enter the stage for the second night of the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Miami.

Latest polls bring 2020 race into sharper focus

11/05/19 08:40AM

For much of 2019, it's been easy to see the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses as contests on a distant horizon. Everyone realized the party's voters would eventually have their say, but that phase of the process seemed like it would never arrive.

It doesn't seem like that anymore. The Iowa caucuses -- the first nominating contest -- are 90 days from today. The enormous Democratic field is slowly starting to shrink, with two more candidates ending their candidacies in the last two weeks. Iowa's Liberty & Justice Celebration, a party dinner seen as "the last major candidate gathering before the caucuses," has now come and gone.

With developments like these in mind, it's a good time to stop thinking about the nominating contests as something that'll happen eventually and start thinking about them as something that'll happen relatively soon.

And the closer we get to voters casting ballots, the more it's worth paying attention to polling. There's been quite a bit of data released over the last few days, some of which relates to the race for the Democratic nomination, some of which refers to the general election. Let's start with the former, taking a look at the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

1. Joe Biden: 27% (down 4 points from mid-September)
2. Elizabeth Warren: 23% (down 2 points)
3. Bernie Sanders: 19% (up 5 points)
4. Pete Buttigieg: 6% (down one point)
5. Amy Klobuchar: 5% (up three points)
6. Kamala Harris: 4% (down one point)
Every other candidate was at 3% or lower.

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll of Democratic-leaning registered voters is similar, but not identical.

1. Biden: 28% (down one point since early-September)
2. Warren: 23% (up five points)
3. Sanders: 17% (down two points)
4. Buttigieg: 9% (up five points)
Every other candidate was below 3% in this poll.

And then there was the latest national Fox News poll:

1. Biden: 31% (down one point since early-October)
2. Warren: 21% (down one point)
3. Sanders: 19% (up two points)
4. Buttigieg: 7% (up three points)
Every other candidate was at or below 3% in this poll.

With this in mind, let's take stock of some of what the latest data is telling us.

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Trump's move on Paris climate agreement raises 2020 stakes

11/05/19 08:00AM

Donald Trump had only been in office for six months when he announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, isolating the United States, which had helped negotiate the international agreement. In practical terms, however, the president's declaration was largely symbolic: under the terms of the deal, no country can withdraw in the first three years.

The Paris agreement took effect on Nov. 4, 2016, which meant the earliest possible date any country could even consider withdrawal was yesterday, Nov. 4, 2019. As the Associated Press reported, the Republican administration wasted no time.

For more than two years President Donald Trump has talked about pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Starting Monday he finally can do something about it.

Even then, though, the withdrawal process takes a year and wouldn't become official until at least the day after the 2020 presidential election.

It's worth noting that the president appears to know very little about the climate agreement he's eager to reject. Kellyanne Conway conceded two years ago that when it came to the climate accord, Trump "started with a conclusion." That's generally not how responsible policymaking is supposed to work.

When the president delivered remarks explaining his rationale in June 2017, a Vox analysis said of the remarks, "It is a remarkable address, in its own way, in that virtually every passage contains something false or misleading. The sheer density of bulls**t is almost admirable, from a performance art perspective."

In the same speech, Trump looked ahead, assuring the world, "We're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair." There's little evidence to suggest the White House made any effort to follow through on this half-hearted commitment.

But as indefensible as Trump's indifference to the climate crisis is, and as painful as his willful ignorance has become, yesterday's developments raised the stakes of the 2020 U.S. presidential election in a specific way.

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When facing a news deluge, take one story at a time

When facing a news deluge, take one story at a time

11/04/19 09:12PM

Rachel Maddow looks at just some of the news stories from the past 48 hours that would be show-stoppers in their own right were it not for all of the bigger stories all breaking simultaneously. From court rules on Donald Trump's taxes to the U.S. pull-out of the Paris Climate Accord, all you can do it take one story at a time. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 11.4.19

11/04/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* One of today's more striking stories: "Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told her she should tweet out support or praise for President Donald Trump if she wanted to save her job, according to a transcript of her testimony made public Monday."

* Colorado: "An alleged white supremacist was arrested in Colorado for plotting to blow up one of the state's oldest synagogues, federal court records released Monday show."

* Hmm: "The Justice Department is trying to unearth the identity of the Trump administration official who denounced the president in a New York Times Op-Ed last year under the byline Anonymous, according to a letter from a senior law enforcement official on Monday."

* The administration's latest defeat: "A federal judge in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday put on hold a Trump administration rule requiring immigrants prove they will have health insurance or can pay for medical care before they can get visas."

* Extending TPS: "The U.S. government has extended temporary protection for Hondurans living in the United States by a year, Honduran officials said on Friday, following a similar extension for Salvadorans in a rollback of U.S. plans to end the program."

* Trump occasionally lies when the truth would be good enough: "It was a vivid scene worthy of the ending of a Hollywood thriller, the image of a ruthless terrorist mastermind finally brought to justice 'whimpering and crying and screaming all the way' to his death. But it may be no more true than a movie script."

* Remember when Republicans cared about stories like these? "The federal government's outstanding public debt has surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history, according to data from the Treasury Department released on Friday."

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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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