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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 9.21.16

09/21/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Charlotte: "The armed man fatally shot by North Carolina cops Tuesday was given multiple warnings to drop his weapon, police officials said in the wake of violent late-night clashes between law enforcement and protesters."

* Climate crisis: "A global climate agreement moved closer toward taking effect by the end of the year, as 30 more nations ratified it Wednesday during a special meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly."

* Syria: "Secretary of State Kerry said he sometimes feels like he's living in a 'parallel universe' to his Russian counterpart on the subject of Syria. During an impassioned address at a United Nations Security Council briefing on the five-year civil war Wednesday, he also argued that a cease-fire deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia on September 9 could be saved in spite of a string of violations."

* ISIS is facing the prospect of losing Mosul -- and as a consequence, it's lashing out in desperation.

* A divided Federal Reserve today "left its policy rate unchanged for a sixth straight meeting, saying it would wait for more evidence of progress toward its goals, while projecting that an increase is still likely by year-end."

* Quite a scandal in Iowa: "A staffer from Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign is headed to prison for his role in a conspiracy that falsified Federal Election Commission reports. Unlike his two co-defendants who only got probation, Dimitri Kesari will serve three months behind bars."

* EpiPen: "Lawmakers chastised EpiPen's chief executive for amassing an $18 million salary during a contentious congressional hearing Wednesday afternoon, as she evaded questions about how much profit the company made off the lifesaving allergy drug."
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This photo taken March 22, 2013, shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington.

House Republicans' IRS hearing doesn't go as planned

09/21/16 04:00PM

Far-right House Republicans, ignoring their own congressional leadership, haven't given up on their crusade to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Their efforts don't make a lot of sense, and there's absolutely no way the impeachment drive will have any practical effect, but several GOP lawmakers see this as a useful electoral and fundraising tool -- and so the gambit continues.

Last week, with the far-right threatening to force an impeachment resolution onto the House floor, Republicans reached an intra-party agreement: the House Judiciary Committee would hold a big hearing; the far-right would spend a couple of hours treating Koskinen like a rhetorical punching bag; conservatives would send out some fundraising letters; and the political world would move on.

And for a while, everything was going according to plan. Koskinen appeared on the Hill and explained that there's no sane reason to impeach him, while assorted Republicans complained incessantly about the IRS controversy that was discredited years ago.

But the twist came when Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee made clear that this hearing could serve their political purposes, too.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, asked if people under IRS audit are free to release their tax returns, a situation [Donald Trump] has asserted in refusing to release his forms. Koskinen said such taxpayers can release their returns.

Nadler also asked if someone can use money from a charitable foundation to buy a portrait or a football helmet autographed by former quarterback Tim Tebow or to pay fees from legal disputes. Reports have said money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation has been used for those purposes.

Koskinen said, generally, charitable money shouldn't be used to benefit someone who runs a charitable foundation.
Remember, this was supposed to be the far-right's show trial -- right up until those rascally Dems took advantage of the opportunity.
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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (L) and Donald Trump arrive at a news conference held by Trump to endorse Romney for president at the Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas on Feb. 2, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada

From Mitt's Mendacity to Donald's Dishonesty

09/21/16 01:02PM

Major news outlets have long struggled with use of the word "lie," especially during a political campaign season. A candidate for public office can say something that's obviously untrue, and there may be ample evidence that he or she knows it's untrue, and simply hopes to deceive the public. Journalists, however, are nevertheless reluctant to use the "l" word.

Just last week, Michael Oreskes, NPR's editorial director, wrote a piece reflecting on Donald Trump making claims that were flagrantly false, making the case that use of the word "lie" presents the news in an "angry tone" that alienates the public.

The problem, of course, is the incentive structure: if politicians know in advance that news organizations will be cautious in calling out egregious deceptions, they may feel less pressure to tell the truth. The more media professionals are aggressive in holding candidates and officeholders accountable, the less they'll try to get away with dishonesty.

TPM noted the other day how the New York Times is starting to adapt to politics in the age of Trump.
Strait-laced legacy media companies, wedded to balance and objectivity, have never been good at calling a lie what it is. But now the New York Times is starting to point out lies in their news coverage of Donald Trump.
As Quartz flagged on Tuesday, at least five stories in the Grey Lady's Sept. 17 edition, including its lead print story, contained the words "lie," "false" and "untrue" in headlines, first paragraphs and top sections in stories about the GOP nominee.
The Times' executive editor, Dean Baquet, added that Trump was "outright lying" about the birther issue, and the newspaper will use the word "lie" when it's "warranted."

Of course, with the Republican presidential hopeful, the challenge isn't identifying the lies, it's keeping up with the avalanche of lies.
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.21.16

09/21/16 12:00PM

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

* In August fundraising, the Clinton campaign and its allies once again outpaced the Trump campaign and its allies.

* In Florida, the latest Monmouth University poll shows Hillary Clinton up by five over Donald Trump, 46% to 41%, in a four-way race. Most other recent surveys show a much tighter race.

* On a related note, the same poll showed Sen. Marco Rubio (R) with a narrow lead over Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), 47% to 45%, in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

* In North Carolina, PPP's new poll shows Trump up by two over Clinton,  45% to 43%, though the two are tied at 47% each in a hypothetical one-on-one match-up.

* The same poll found Roy Cooper (D) leading incumbent Pat McCrory (R) in North Carolina's gubernatorial race, 46% to 41%, and incumbent Richard Burr (R) tied with Deborah Ross (D) at 41% each in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

* On Monday, Trump complained that NBC News' Lester Holt wouldn't be fair to him in next week's debate because Holt is a Democrat. After learning that the NBC anchor is actually a registered Republican, Trump changed his mind.

* Clinton has a new op-ed in the New York Times today on her plans to assist America's poor.

* In Florida, Mike Fernandez, a prominent GOP donor, is investing heavily in a new Hispanic voter-registration drive -- with the intention of helping Clinton. "As a lifelong Republican, I cannot support a party I no longer recognize," Fernandez told Politico.
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Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., July 29, 2016. (Photo by Michael Conroy/AP)

Team Trump struggles to defend latest Foundation revelations

09/21/16 11:21AM

The latest revelations surrounding Donald Trump's charitable foundation are highly problematic. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold reported yesterday the Republican "spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses." The result: Trump may have violated the law.

In an unusual follow-up, Trump felt compelled to boast last night, in a separate context, "There's nothing like doing things with other people's money."

The GOP campaign seems to realize it will need to defend Trump against the latest allegations, but so far the Republican team hasn't been able to think of much. TPM reported this morning:
Pressed to identify a specific "factual error" in a new Washington Post report on the Trump Foundation that the Trump campaign has claimed was "peppered with inaccuracies," Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) came up short.

MSNBC's Brian Williams on Tuesday asked Donald Trump's running mate about the Post's story, which alleged that the real estate mogul used $258,000 from his charity to settle personal legal issues.
Pence said there were "a number of factual errors in that story" -- but he couldn't identify any.

Jason Miller, Trump's senior communications adviser -- not to be confused with "John Miller," the made-up alter ego Trump created for himself so he could pretend to be his own publicist -- added in a statement that the Washington Post's reporting is "peppered with inaccuracies and omissions from a biased reporter."

But again, neither Trump nor anyone on his team has identified a single inaccuracy in any of the reporting.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with African American business and civic leaders, Sept. 2, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump: African Americans in the worst shape 'ever, ever, ever'

09/21/16 10:40AM

For several weeks, Donald Trump has worked from a curious assumption: the way to appeal to African Americans is to tell them their lives are miserable and their communities are in ruin. Black voters, the argument goes, will hear this, believe him, overlook his troubled history on race, and support his campaign.

There's literally no evidence Trump's plan is working, and his ad-libs on the stump tend to make things worse.
Donald Trump on Tuesday escalated his rhetoric on the state of America's minority communities, telling a [North Carolina] crowd that "places like Afghanistan are safer" than some U.S. inner cities.

"We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever," Trump assessed.
His arguments about crime and Afghanistan are wrong, but those are just garden-variety factual errors for Trump. It's his historical claims that are more alarming.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but for Trump to believe African-American communities are "in the worst shape that they've ever been" -- "ever, ever, ever" -- he'd have to overlook practically all of American history.
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Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing Recent IRS Screening Scandal

The part of the Wells Fargo story Pat Toomey left out

09/21/16 10:06AM

As Rachel highlighted on last night's show, Wells Fargo chairman and chief executive John Stumpf visited with the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, and members seemed quite eager to rake him over the coals in response to the banking giant's recent scandal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in particular, went after Stumpf and urged him to resign.

The CEO's cool welcome hardly came as a surprise. We've been keeping an eye on the Wells Fargo controversy, uncovered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is obviously outlandish. The company was caught allegedly bilking consumers, enrolling customers in banking services without their permission, then charging them fees for accounts and services they neither sought nor authorized.

Several outlets noted that yesterday's hearing featured a rare display of bipartisanship. The Wall Street Journal, for example, reported that Senate Republicans, especially those up for re-election this year, weren't at all eager to defend Wells Fargo's alleged wrongdoing.
Republicans also took a tough stance, especially around the bank's "cross-selling" business model where consumers have more than one product or service with the firm. "This isn't cross-selling, this is fraud," said Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), referring to Wells Fargo employees setting up accounts for customers in products they didn't ask for or know about. "Wells Fargo executives [were] completely out of touch."
And at a certain level, this is as it should be. There's nothing partisan or ideological about financial industry corruption. Warren, Sen. Sherrod Brown, and other Democrats were in high dudgeon during yesterday's hearing, but it's a positive development that Toomey and other conservatives made no effort to let Stumpf and Wells Fargo off the hook.

There is, however, a catch in this case. As we discussed last week, Toomey may have said the right things yesterday, the Pennsylvania Republican has also said he doesn't want the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the agency that identified Wells Fargo's misdeeds -- to exist.
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