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Trump invokes infamous 'America First' slogan

Trump invokes infamous 'America First' slogan

04/27/16 09:39PM

Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss speaks to Rachel Maddow about the historical significance of “America First” which was invoked by Charles Lindbergh in 1941 to urge the U.S. to stay out of World War II and refrain from helping allies defeat Adolf Hitler. watch

Sanders follows up losses with staff layoffs

Sanders follows up losses with more than 200 staff layoffs

04/27/16 09:28PM

MSNBC National Correspondent Joy Reid tells Rachel Maddow the Sanders campaign cut staffers to marshal resources for big, upcoming contests in California and New Jersey. The Sanders campaign, she says, is in it for the long haul and could use their influence to make structural changes to the party. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 4.27.16

04/27/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Flint: "President Barack Obama is planning to visit Flint on May 4 to spotlight the city's lead-contaminated water that has deprived the city's 100,000 residents of reliable access to drinking and bathing water."
 
* Related news: "A key figure in the Flint water crisis has been killed -- a young mom who was one of the first to sue after her baby boy came down with lead poisoning."
 
* A case we've been following: "Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed highly skeptical of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell's 2014 corruption conviction for actions he took on behalf of a businessman who provided his family with more than $175,000 in benefits."
 
* It's a changing military: "When Capt. Kristen M. Griest made history last summer by becoming one of the first two women to graduate the Army's legendarily difficult Ranger School, she made her intentions clear: She was considering joining a Special Operations unit. Now, she has accomplished another first with some similar demands: becoming the U.S. military's first female infantry officer."
 
* Rio's Olympics start in 100 days. Consider the local turmoil: "Brazil's president is facing impeachment. The country's economy is in sharp decline. Bodies of water that will be used for Olympic competitions are polluted, and global public health officials are trying to tamp down the Zika virus epidemic."
 
* This should never have been so difficult: "The United States is finally about to get an ambassador to Mexico. Senate Republicans who have been negotiating a way to confirm Roberta Jacobson as the nation's top diplomat to Mexico have reached the contours of an agreement that would allow Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) -- Jacobson's chief obstacle -- to secure renewed sanctions against Venezuela in exchange for lifting his objections."
 
* Cotton's antics do not go unnoticed: "The White House blasted Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton for how the Republican lawmaker used his opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. and other world powers in an appropriations bill Wednesday."
Former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina joins Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas during a campaign rally in Miami, Fla., March 9, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sancya/AP)

Looking past their many losses, Cruz taps Fiorina for ticket

04/27/16 04:01PM

When Ted Cruz's campaign announced this morning that it would make a "major" announcement today, it was easy to assume that the far-right senator was pulling the plug on his campaign. After all, the Texan has already been mathematically eliminated from winning a majority of pledged delegates, and Cruz's third-place finishes in several recent primaries -- including four of yesterday's five contests -- suggest his entire operation is steadily moving closer to failure.
 
But in an unusually brazen display of chutzpah, Cruz, instead of quitting, has decided to introduce his running mate.
Ted Cruz will tap Carly Fiorina to be his running mate if he is the Republican Party's nominee for president, NBC News confirms.
 
Fiorina, a former HP CEO who highlighted her business background during her own 2016 run, dropped her unsuccessful White House bid in February. She endorsed Cruz one month later and has been a frequent surrogate for him on the campaign trail.
I'm not generally in the habit of agreeing with Newt Gingrich, but he said on Fox News last night, "The idea that the guy who's losing is now gonna announce his vice presidential nominee doesn't make any sense at all to me because it makes it look like the person's out of touch with reality. Aren't they aware of the fact that they're not winning?"
 
It's a fairly compelling point. Ordinarily, the presidential candidates who introduce their running mates are the candidates who are actually going to win their party's nomination.
 
The only modern exception is Ronald Reagan's 1976 campaign -- he named Sen. Richard Schweiker as his running mate ahead of the convention in the hopes of satisfying the GOP's centrist wing, which existed at the time -- but that year, Reagan was on his way to competing in a contested convention he had a credible chance of winning.
 
Cruz, on the other hand, has about 560 delegates -- far short of half of his 1,237 goal -- which makes this entire gambit appear extraordinarily audacious. While the senator may be looking to change the subject after his recent failures at the ballot box, and may also hope that a VP announcement represents a display of strength, given the circumstances it's actually a move that reeks of desperation.
 
The question, of course, is whether it'll work.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse, in Chicago, for his arraignment on federal charges that he broke federal banking laws and lied about the money when questioned by the FBI, June 9, 2015. (Photo by Paul Beaty/AP)

After admitting sex crimes, former House Speaker headed to prison

04/27/16 01:16PM

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing four teenaged boys during his tenure as a high school coach many years ago, but the statute of limitations has expired and he cannot face charges for these misdeeds. The Illinois Republican was, however, arrested for lying to the FBI about covering up his sex crimes.
 
And this afternoon, it was this misconduct that will put Hastert behind bars.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison for illegal cash withdrawals he made for payoffs to cover up sex-abuse allegations after the judge called him a "serial child molester."
Before issuing his sentence, Judge Thomas M. Durkin pressed the former House Speaker on the details of his misconduct, asking Hastert directly if he sexually abused his victims. "Yes," Hastert said, publicly acknowledging this for the first time. He added, "What I did was wrong and I regret it. They looked to me and I took advantage of them."
 
In an additional gut-wrenching detail, one of these victims, Scott Cross, testified today that Hastert molested him when Cross was a teenager. Cross is the younger brother of former Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, who looked up to Hastert as a political mentor.
 
Hastert actually asked Tom Cross for a letter of support as part of his criminal case, despite the fact that Hastert molested his younger brother.
 
As part of this morning's proceedings, the judge in the case explained, in reference to Hastert's political career, "Sometimes actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works." The judge referred to Hastert three times as a "serial child molester."
 
In a breathtaking letter to the judge, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) recently wrote, "We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few." DeLay added that Hastert "doesn't deserve what he is going through."
 
Evidently, that didn't prove persuasive.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.27.16

04/27/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Ted Cruz is scheduled to make a major announcement this afternoon at 4 p.m. (ET). As of now, no one outside his campaign's inner circle seems to know what the announcement might be.
 
* In yesterday's closely watched U.S. Senate primaries, Chris Van Hollen won the Democratic nod in Maryland with relative ease, while Katie McGinty did nearly as well in the Democratic race in Pennsylvania.
 
* In the latter case, McGinty has already been welcomed to the general election with a new attack ad from the far-right Club for Growth. The incumbent senator, Republican Pat Toomey, was the head of the Club for Growth before getting elected to the Senate.
 
* Oregon's official voting pamphlet, featuring the presidential contenders in both primaries, will not include John Kasich -- because his campaign "missed a key deadline to submit information to the state." Oregon is supposed to be one of the governor's stronger states.
 
* The American Conservative Union has released its annual rankings for the most and least conservative members of Congress. The new list says Ted Cruz is the Senate's most far-right member, scoring a perfect 100% rating.
 
* At a rally in Indiana yesterday, Ted Cruz talked about "Hoosiers" in the same gym where the movie was shot. But in an unfortunate slip-up, while trying to recite a line from the film, the senator referred to the hoop as a "basketball ring." Maybe he meant "rim"?
A health ministry worker fumigates a house to kill mosquitoes during a campaign against dengue and chikungunya and to prevent the entry of Zika virus in Managua, Nicaragua, Jan. 26, 2016. (Photo by Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

Congressional Republicans at odds over Zika response

04/27/16 11:20AM

The White House continues to raise the volume on its alarm regarding the Zika virus. Administration officials urged Congress more than two months ago to approve a $1.9 billion emergency response package, and so far, the Republican-led House and Senate haven't agreed to spend a dime.
 
Indeed, as we discussed two weeks ago, Republican lawmakers have instead urged the administration to use $600 million that had been allocated to combat Ebola. The trouble, of course, is that this money (a) is far short of the $1.9 billion needed, and (b) is still being used to address Ebola in West Africa.
 
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, told NBC News yesterday he's working on a deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and some of those involved are optimistic a bill will come together before the week ends.
 
But even if that comes to fruition, there's still the far-right House majority to deal with. The New York Times reported yesterday that the stakeholders face "a challenge in figuring out how to package the deal so that it can win passage in the House, where hard-line conservatives have repeatedly balked at new government spending."
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, a Republican and the majority leader, maintained on Tuesday that the best way to address the Zika virus was through the regular appropriations process. But he said Republicans needed to know more about the Obama administration's plans before they could move.
 
"We have a number of questions that the appropriators have asked for, like what would the money be spent on this year, what is the money you need for next year, where are we on the vaccine?" he told reporters on Tuesday. "None of these have been answered."
In response, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, said, "There's no excuse for them having those unanswered questions when you consider that we've already put forward a detailed legislative proposal more than two months ago now. We've already participated in 48 hearings in which questions about Zika have been raised. There have been briefings that have been convened by senior administration officials for both the House and the Senate to discuss this issue.
 
"So, I guess what I would say to members of Congress who say that they have questions about the administration's Zika strategy: That ignorance is not an excuse."
 
In case anyone's wondering if Earnest is correct, the full, 25-page spending request is available online -- where it's been for months while Congress has largely ignored the issue -- and it's a pretty detailed document.
Florida Governor Rick Scott attends an event on March 9, 2015 in Hialeah, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Florida's Rick Scott picks a curious fight with California

04/27/16 10:40AM

Usually, Republican governors are content to oppose minimum-wage increases in their own state, but this week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) talked up his opposition to a wage hike in a state he has nothing to do with. The NBC affiliate in Miami reported:
Scott on Wednesday announced he's going on a trade mission to California to try to woo businesses away from the Golden State. The Republican governor visited several states last year run by Democrats where he denounced their taxes and business climate.
 
In his release, Scott contended companies would want to leave California because of a "crippling'' increase in the minimum wage. Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month signed into law a measure that will lift the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
As it turns out, Scott is doing more than just criticizing. The Huffington Post reported that the Florida governor's economic development organization has "launched a new radio ad on the other side of the country."
 
"Ready to leave California?" the ad's narrator asks. "Go to Florida instead -- no state income tax, and Gov. Scott has cut regulations. Now Florida is adding one million jobs, not losing them." The spot goes on to say California's minimum wage increase "hurts the same people it was supposed to help."
Rep. Chaka Fattah, speaks as House Democrats hold a news conference to call for presidential action on immigration on Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty).

Pennsylvania Dem is the exception that proves the rule

04/27/16 10:00AM

For months, the political world has been abuzz with talk of the "angry" electorate. Voters are fed up and eager to give the political establishment and its ineffectual insiders the one-finger salute. It's this exasperation, the argument goes, that's helped fuel Donald Trump's rise in Republican politics and the progressive enthusiasm surrounding Bernie Sanders.
 
But the thesis has a noticeable flaw: furious voters, desperate for radical and revolutionary changes, would probably start kicking out congressional incumbents in primaries, too. After all, if the electorate believes a rotten establishment needs to be overturned, it stands to reason sitting members of Congress would be among the first to go.
 
Except the opposite has happened. Plenty of congressional incumbents have faced primary challengers in states across the country, but going into last night, these lawmakers' success rate was literally 100%. Every single challenger in 2016 has lost in every single congressional primary.
 
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, that changed yesterday in Pennsylvania, though this is a classic case of the exception proving the rule.
Chaka Fattah, a fixture in Philadelphia politics for three decades, was ousted from the Second Congressional District seat by State Rep. Dwight Evans in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
 
Fattah's fall came 20 days before the start of his federal criminal trial, an impending peril he tried to downplay as he campaigned for a 12th term.
So, with one congressional incumbent going down in a primary, do we need to re-evaluate the thesis about furious voters rebelling against the political establishment? In this case, not even a little -- Fattah's loss actually helps prove the opposite.
North Carolina

NC Republican: 'We must fight to keep our state straight'

04/27/16 09:20AM

North Carolina's new anti-LGBT law, HB2, isn't working out nearly as well as its Republican proponents had hoped. The economic impact has already taken a toll; local voters aren't impressed; and the state has suddenly found itself in the middle of national culture-war backlash it never saw coming.
 
Making matters slightly worse, the fight isn't exactly bringing out the best in some of the law's proponents. The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel reported on a rally in support of HB2 held on Monday:
If state Sen. Buck Newton (R) has his way, North Carolina will be known as the "straight" state.
 
"Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we must fight to keep our state straight," Newton said at a rally Monday, according to video posted by Progress North Carolina Action.
And before you dismiss this as ugly rhetoric from some random state legislator, consider the 2016 context: state Sen. Buck Newton is the Republican Party's nominee for state Attorney General this year.
 
In other words, if the GOP has its way, North Carolina will go from a state AG who's fighting against the discrimination law to a state AG who intends to "fight to keep our state straight."
 
Wait, it gets worse.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at a campaign stop, April 25, 2016, at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa. (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

Following Clinton's victories, Sanders targets new goals

04/27/16 08:40AM

Bernie Sanders and his campaign team recognized the fact that their window of opportunity was closing quickly. To close the pledged-delegate gap against Hillary Clinton, the Vermont senator would effectively have to win each of the remaining contests by large margins, which seemed improbable.
 
Last night, that window effectively closed. Sanders pulled out a win in Rhode Island, but he otherwise had a very rough night, losing each of the other four primaries, including double-digit defeats in the day's two biggest contests: Maryland and Pennsylvania.
 
It's not that Sanders wasn't trying in these states. The senator put his enormous financial resources to use and outspent Clinton in these states by a nearly two-to-one margin, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Democratic frontrunner from expanding her overall lead.
 
Recognizing the writing on the wall, Sanders' aides conceded yesterday that the campaign will "reassess" its strategy going forward. While that's often a euphemism for "quit," that's not the case here: Sanders isn't prepared to walk away, but he is prepared to shift his focus in light of the recent results. Consider the statement his campaign issued last night:
"I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victories tonight, and I look forward to issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come. [...]
 
"The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That's why we are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change."
Over the last couple of months, each of the Sanders campaign's election-night statements have included at least one reference to his "path to the nomination." This one did not. It wasn't an accidental omission.
 
Sanders started the race as an issue-oriented candidate who didn't expect to be the party's nominee, and the recent results have brought him full circle. He's not done fighting; he's just going to fight for something new: he can't catch Clinton through the ballot box, but he can "fight for a progressive party platform."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, April 25, 2016, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)

Donald Trump turns the conventional wisdom on its head

04/27/16 08:00AM

It seems like a distant memory, but it was just three weeks ago that Ted Cruz won an easy victory in the Wisconsin primary, which launched a round of chatter about "momentum" and the "turning point" in the race for the Republican nomination.
 
Soon after, the conventional wisdom said Trump's entire national operation had stalled at the worst possible time. Not only was Wisconsin a major setback, but his campaign manager briefly faced a criminal charge; his campaign team had run into behind-the-scenes turmoil; he struggled through some high-profile interviews; he feuded with his own party's national leaders; and he was badly out-hustled at state conventions where convention delegates are chosen. Trump's shooting star, many argued, was finally burning out.
 
Donald Trump has had just about enough of the Republican race.
 
"I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely," Trump said at a press conference after winning all five state primaries held on Tuesday by crushing margins.
As Benjy Sarlin's MSNBC report added, Trump summarized the state of the GOP race by concluding, simply, "It's over."
 
And while the New York Republican has made comments like these before, the results from yesterday's primaries suddenly made it quite easy to believe him.
Donald Trump won't stop with the 'woman card'

Donald Trump is still talking about the 'woman card'

04/26/16 11:01PM

Republican front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that Hillary Clinton is a contender only because of her gender. Is this disenchanting women voters on the Republican side? MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams discuss this and more following five primaries in the Northeast. watch

Trump sweeps all five primary states

Trump sweeps all five primary states

04/26/16 08:29PM

Donald Trump came in first in all five races in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island in Tuesday's primaries. Nicole Wallace and Eugene Robinson join Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams to discuss. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 4.26.16

04/26/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* The wrong call in North Carolina: "A federal judge on Monday upheld sweeping Republican-backed changes to election rules, including a voter identification provision, that civil rights groups say unfairly targeted African-Americans and other minorities."
 
* Though the ruling will be appealed, it's causing widespread alarm: "Voting rights groups say Monday's ruling by a federal judge upholding North Carolina's sweeping and restrictive voting law could cause chaos this fall if left in place."
 
* Something to keep an eye on: "The White House was placed on lockdown Tuesday after a man jumped a fence at a building west of the grounds, officials said. The lockdown began at around 4 p.m. and was lifted by around 4:30 p.m. The Secret Service said the White House was placed under a state of lockdown called a 'condition yellow.'"
 
* A 6-2 ruling: "Public employees can sue, claiming their civil rights were violated, as long as their employers thought a constitutional right was in play, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The decision was a victory for a New Jersey man, Jeffrey Heffernan, who was a police officer in Paterson, New Jersey, when the mayor was running for re-election."
 
* ISIS: "The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has dropped from roughly 2,000 a month down to 200 within the past year, according to the Pentagon, which says the waning numbers are further proof of the Islamic State's declining stature. The declining number of fighters is a direct result of strikes that have targeted the terror group's infrastructure, Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter E. Gersten, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, said Tuesday."
 
* Europe: "Belgium famously sealed a dubious notoriety five years ago when it spent 589 days without an elected government. While Spain is not quite Belgium yet, it is getting there. Spain has started its fifth month without a government, but it is very likely to spend six months or more in political limbo, many analysts now predict, as the Spaniards give the Flemings and Walloons a run for their money in the political discord category."

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