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Republican president-elect Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during his election night event in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Team Trump offers vague rebuke to white-supremacist gathering

11/22/16 08:20AM

Over the weekend, the National Policy Institute -- a radical group with an anodyne name -- held an event in D.C. that was more than a little alarming. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the white-supremacist gathering featured remarks from its leader, Richard Spencer, who not only argued that white people are intended to conquer, but also declared, "Hail Trump" and "Hail our people."

He added that his movement has "a psychic connection, or you can say a deeper connection, with Donald Trump in a way that we simply do not have with most Republicans."

And while delivering his speech, several of the radical attendees responded with Nazi salutes.

Obviously, for decent people, the display was gut-wrenching, as is the fact that Spencer and others are trying to add a professional/academic veneer to white nationalism. But what about the Republican president-elect these extremists were so eager to "hail"?

Donald Trump faced repeated calls yesterday to condemn the gathering, and by late yesterday afternoon, his spokesperson issued a statement on the matter.
"President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds."
If you're thinking this seems like a rather vague and hollow response given the circumstances, you're not alone. Asked to condemn a specific event, led by specific extremists, who made specific remarks, Team Trump chose to denounce racism in general -- saying literally nothing about Saturday's gathering or the movement the radicals comprise.

MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin asked an excellent question last night: "Set aside politics or norms. If a bunch of racists are playacting Nazism in your name, isn't the natural response to be personally furious?"

One would certainly like to think so. And yet, here we are.
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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.21.16

11/21/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Japan: "A strong earthquake hit Tuesday morning off the east coast of Japan near Fukushima, the site of the 2011 earthquake-spawned tsunami that killed almost 19,000 people, Japanese and U.S. agencies said."

* Standing Rock: "Authorities on Monday defended their decision to douse protesters with water during a skirmish in subfreezing weather near the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and organizers said at least 17 protesters were taken to the hospital -- including some who were treated for hypothermia."

* Afghanistan: "A suicide bomber struck a crowded gathering of Shiite Muslims in the Afghan capital on Monday, officials said, killing at least 30 people in the latest assault against religious minorities here to be claimed by militants loyal to the Islamic State."

* The trouble for Republicans is, the Iran deal is a good policy that's working: "The Obama administration is considering new measures in its final months in office to strengthen the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, senior U.S. officials said, with President-elect Donald Trump's first appointments foreshadowing an increasingly rocky road for the controversial deal."

* With any luck, Trump won't turn the alliance into a protection racket: "U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg agreed on Friday on the Western alliance's 'enduring importance,' NATO said, striving to reassure Europe that Washington will remain committed to its security."

* An under-appreciated story: "Mary Jo White, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced Monday that she will step down two years before the end of her term, clearing the way for President-elect Donald Trump to reshape the way Wall Street is regulated."

* Arctic drilling: "Further cementing President Barack Obama's climate legacy, the Department of the Interior announced on Friday its intent to ban oil drilling in the U.S. section of the Arctic Ocean for the next five years, citing environmental risks. The plan blocks the sale of new offshore oil and gas leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, north of Alaska, between 2017 and 2022."
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Republican nominee Donald Trump is seen during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty)

Trump faces avalanche of conflict-of-interest troubles

11/21/16 09:45AM

It was clear during the presidential campaign that Donald Trump's international business dealings were likely to create the mother of all conflict-of-interest controversies should the Republican win the White House. And now that the election is over, and Trump is the president-elect, those warnings may have understated matters.

The fact that we knew these conflicts were inevitable doesn't make them any less problematic. The New York Times had this report over the weekend:
It is a daunting proposition to put $2 million apartments on the market in Pune -- a quiet industrial city in the west of India, where even the fanciest neighborhoods are lined with squat housing blocks.

But the developers of Trump Towers Pune, an elegant pair of 23-story black-glass pillars, have an extraordinary new marketing tool they are moving quickly to exploit: the president-elect of the United States.

Since Donald J. Trump won the presidency, they have celebrated the growth that Mr. Trump's win could bring to their brand, even flying to New York last week to meet with the president-elect and his family as he was assembling his cabinet.
Yes, the president-elect interrupted his transition schedule last week to meet with some of his Indian business partners. Journalists were not invited or notified of the conversation in advance.

The discussion came around the same time Trump also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- joined by Ivanka Trump, who'll help oversee her father's business empire, and who's supposed to have no official governmental role, despite her position on the Trump transition team and reports that the president-elect wants to give her security clearance.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports that foreign diplomats are booking rooms at Trump's hotel in D.C., hoping to curry favor with the president-elect. The same paper reports today on the dangers associated with Trump's "vast assortment of foreign business interests never before seen in past presidencies," creating conditions that "could open him to foreign influence and tilt his decision-making as America's executive in chief."
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Actor Leslie Odom Jr., actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (R) and cast of "Hamilton" perform on stage during "Hamilton" GRAMMY performance for The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Richard Rodgers Theater, Feb. 15, 2016. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty)

Offended by mild criticism, Trump demands 'Hamilton' apology

11/21/16 09:00AM

The fact that Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of "Hamilton" on Broadway wouldn't have been especially notable, were it not for the hullabaloo that followed -- including some unexpectedly robust whining from Pence's running mate.

During a Friday-night curtain call, Pence was headed for the exits when actor Brandon Victor Dixon, one of the show's co-stars, appealed to the far-right Republican directly. "We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," Dixon said, reading off a piece of paper. "But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."

Donald Trump, who was not in attendance, was apparently outraged.
Donald Trump is demanding an apology from the cast of "Hamilton" after Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the Broadway show Friday night — and was greeted with a chorus of boos from the audience.

"The Theater must always be a safe and special place," Trump tweeted Saturday morning, after videos of the jeering emerged on social media. "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"
Trump also tweeted Saturday morning that Pence was "harassed" at the show -- there's no evidence of this actually happening -- before adding, "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."

Yesterday, Trump was still complaining about the Broadway show, complaining about "very inappropriate" remarks directed at the incoming vice president.

Now, I could note that the theater, for centuries, has been a place for political and societal commentary. I could also note that conservatives aren't supposed to show concern for "safe spaces." We could take a moment to mention that Donald J. Trump, given his cringe-worthy record, should avoid complaining about rudeness. We might also mention that the "Hamilton" cast was actually quite polite towards Pence, making Trump's little tantrum that much more peculiar.

But while all of these relevant details are worth keeping in mind, let's put all of that aside and shine a light on the overarching problem: Trump is a thin-skinned crybaby who has an alarming aversion to public dissent.
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Donald Trump introduces Trump University at a press conference in Trump Tower, New York, May 2005. (Photo by Dan Herrick/KPA/ZUMA)

After vowing to do the opposite, Trump settles fraud case

11/21/16 08:04AM

One week from today, President-elect Donald Trump was scheduled to take the stand in a fraud case surrounding his scandal-plagued "Trump University," which has been accused of ripping off students and making ridiculous claims about the value of its lessons. The Republican was poised to be the first president-elect to ever give sworn testimony in his own fraud case.

As it turns out, Trump won't have to take the stand after all. As Politico reported, the controversial businessman who vowed not to settle this case ended up settling this case.
President-elect Donald Trump, who once declared "I don't settle lawsuits," took to Twitter Saturday to justify his decision to pay $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar program. He also hinted that had he not been so busy preparing to take office, he might not have settled.

"The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!," Trump tweeted.
The settlement resolves a class-action case and an investigation launched by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Note, as recently as March, Trump boasted during a GOP debate, "This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don't settle cases very easily when I'm right." After boasting that the Better Business Bureau gave Trump University an "A" rating -- a claim that turned out to be a brazen lie -- Trump added, "Again, I don't settle cases. I don't do it because that's why I don't get sued very often, because I don't settle, unlike a lot of other people."

The assertion that he doesn't "get sued very often" also turned out to be a demonstrable falsehood, as was the boast about never settling.

To the extent that reality still matters, it's worth remembering that the case against Trump was quite strong. The Washington Post reported in September that the New York Republican was the namesake of a "university," where students sometimes "max[ed] out their credit cards to pay tens of thousands of dollars for insider knowledge they believed could make them wealthy."
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