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E.g., 9/28/2016
E.g., 9/28/2016

How likely is a government shutdown this week?

09/28/16 08:00AM

Much of the political world has understandably been focused on the very competitive presidential race and this week's highly anticipated debate. But on Capitol Hill, a different concern is drawing attention: the deadline to prevent another government shutdown is just a few days away.

Current funding for federal operations expires at the end of the fiscal year, which comes later this week, at midnight on Sept. 30. Unless there's a spending agreement to keep the lights on, the government will shut down this weekend.

How likely is that to happen? The odds actually went up a little yesterday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brought a spending bill to the floor, knowing full well that the Democratic minority would balk. What he didn't realize is that there'd be bipartisan opposition to his approach: McConnell's bill failed on a 45-55 vote, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to reject the measure, and in the process, pushing Congress just a little closer to a shutdown.

The sticking point, oddly enough, isn't some heated disagreement over a culture-war dispute or money for "Obamacare," but rather, aid for Flint, Michigan. Democrats have said they won't support any package unless it includes Flint aid, while Republicans have pushed to deal with Flint separately, with resources that could be added to a water-projects spending bill. (Note, McConnell's bill included money for flood relief in Louisiana and Texas, but no money for Flint.)

For those hoping to avoid a shutdown, last night brought some good news. The Washington Post reported on a deal in the House:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi struck a deal late Tuesday to deliver federal aid to address the water crisis in Flint, Mich., potentially removing a major flashpoint in negotiations to keep the government fully operating past Friday.

Under the deal, the House will vote Wednesday on an amendment to a pending water projects bill that would authorize up to $170 million in infrastructure funds for communities like Flint whose water systems are blighted by "chemical, physical, or biological" contaminants.
Senators have not yet scrutinized the deal, but the Post quoted a senior aide who said chamber leaders are "optimistic" that the House agreement will prevent a shutdown.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.27.16

09/27/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This doesn't even include those who watched online: "The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was the most watched ever, as more than 83 million people tuned in to see the candidates spar at Hofstra University, according to a tally of preliminary Nielsen figures released by the networks that aired the event."

* Houston shooting: "A man who injured nine people in a shooting rampage in Houston on Monday was wearing military clothes and Nazi emblems during the attack, and was carrying nearly 2,600 rounds of ammunition inside a Porsche convertible parked at the scene, authorities said."

* I'll have more on this in the morning: "A combination of Senate Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday soundly rejected a first effort by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, to advance a temporary spending bill, leaving Congress again flirting with a government shutdown in the latest illustration of how nothing is ever simple on Capitol Hill these days."

* FBI Director James Comey told Congress today fewer Americans are trying to travel to Syria to join ISIS: "The dropoff began late last summer. At the peak, the FBI was seeing from eight to ten people a month trying to join the caliphate. Now it's averaging between none and one."

* This seems like a very bad argument: "Former Democratic presidential candidate and DNC chairman Howard Dean is standing by his controversial tweet about Donald Trump's sniffles during Monday's presidential debate."

* Wells Fargo's troubles aren't over: "Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on Tuesday said he would initiate a 'top-to-bottom' review of labor practices at disgraced bank Wells Fargo."

* The "war on drugs" enters a more sensible phase: "Arrests for simple marijuana possession in the United States fell to nearly a two-decade low last year, according to new statistics released Monday by the FBI."
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History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Donald Trump is still getting tripped up by tax returns

09/27/16 04:30PM

Fairly early on during last night's presidential debate, Hillary Clinton was speculating about why Donald Trump would choose to be the first modern American presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. "Maybe," she said, "he doesn't want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes."

Unprompted, Trump interrupted to say, "That makes me smart."

Clinton kept going, adding, "So if he's paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health."

A little later, Trump talked about how the government doesn't have the necessary resources for public needs. "Maybe because you haven't paid any federal income tax for a lot of years," Clinton interjected. Trump fired back, "It would be squandered, too."

The comment was striking because of it's apparent acceptance of the underlying premise. By saying his tax money would have been "squandered," Trump seemed to be conceding that Clinton's argument was correct.

As TPM reported, it's a point Clinton is eager to keep emphasizing.
Fresh off a strong performance in the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday knocked Donald Trump for bragging about not paying taxes and financially benefiting from the housing crisis.

Speaking to an audience at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, the former secretary of state repeated her debate-night claim that Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns may be because he had “paid nothing in federal taxes,” as was true on the few years of his returns that he made public. Trump replied on stage, "That makes me smart."

“Now, if not paying taxes makes him smart, what does that make all the rest of us?” Clinton asked the crowd.
After the debate, Trump seemed eager to deny having said what everyone had already heard him say.
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses members of the media at The Statehouse, Jan. 11, 2016, in Trenton, N.J. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)

Christie aide: Governor knew about Bridgegate scheme at the time

09/27/16 12:40PM

As the "Bridgegate" scandal started to unfold, it wasn't long before the obvious question emerged: what did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) know and when did he know it? Of particular interest was a photograph showing Christie alongside two of his top aides, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, at an event on the morning of Sept. 11, 2013.

The timing and the personnel matter: Wildstein and Baroni were integrally involved in hatching the scheme to cripple Fort Lee, New Jersey, and their plan was underway when they saw Christie that morning. Did the governor's aides let Christie know what they were up to at the time? This morning, Wildstein testified under oath that they brought the governor up to speed. NJ.com reported today:
"Mr. Baroni said, 'Governor I have to talk to you about something,'" Wildstein recalled.

"(He said) there's a tremendous amount of traffic in Fort Lee ... and you'll be pleased to know Mayor (Mark) Sokolich is very frustrated," Wildstein said.

Wildstein said that he and Baroni boasted to the governor about not returning Soklolich's repeated phone calls. Christie responded that he wasn't surprised Fort Lee's mayor "wouldn't be getting his phone calls returned," Wildstein said.
As Wildstein put it, the three of them joked about the tactics on the third day of the deliberate scheme.

If the testimony is true, Christie lied about what he knew and when, and the likelihood of this scandal leading to the governor's impeachment will increase.

Of course, this isn't the only revelation of interest. In fact, Wildstein, prosecutors' star witness in the case against Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, has been a fount of information.
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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.27.16

09/27/16 12:00PM

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

* Rudy Giuliani, a leading Trump campaign surrogate, told reporters last night, "If I were Donald Trump I wouldn't participate in another debate unless I was promised that a journalist would act like a journalist and not an incorrect, ignorant fact checker." The second presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 9.

* Though there's apparently been some chatter about Trump defeating Hillary Clinton in a post-debate CBS News poll, it's worth noting that there was no post-debate CBS News poll.

* Trump campaign aides apparently want voters to be impressed with the GOP nominee for not bringing up Bill Clinton sex scandals during last night's debate.

* Yesterday, ahead of the debate, the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey tracking poll showed Clinton leading Trump by five points in a four-way contest, 45% to 40%. In a head-to-head match-up, Clinton's advantage grows to seven points, 51% to 44%.

* A Monmouth University poll released yesterday showed a closer contest, with Clinton leading in a four-way affair, 46% to 42%, and narrowly ahead in a head-to-head race, 49% to 46%, among likely voters.

* Though nearly all recent polling out of Iowa shows Trump ahead, a Loras poll released yesterday found Trump and Clinton tied at 38% each.
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A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Following controversy, Trump adviser exits campaign

09/27/16 11:00AM

In March, Donald Trump sat down with the Washington Post, which asked the Republican candidate to name some of his top foreign-policy advisers. Trump listed a handful of people, but near the top of the list was a man named Carter Page.

Last week, this became something of a problem. As we discussed yesterday, Yahoo News published a report on Friday that said U.S. intelligence officials are "seeking to determine whether [Page] has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials -- including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president."

A day later, a Trump campaign spokesperson made no effort to deny the accuracy of the report, instead arguing that Page "is not an advisor and has made no contribution to the campaign. He's never been a part of our campaign, period." Sunday, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway added that Page is "certainly not part" of Team Trump.

It therefore came as something of a surprise yesterday afternoon when Page announced he's parting ways with the candidate's operation.
One of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisers said Monday he was stepping down from the campaign, while pushing back on allegations that he had engaged in private communications with top Russian officials.

Carter Page said in an interview with Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin that the claims were "just complete garbage," but nonetheless he had chosen to take a leave of absence from campaign because the accusations were causing a "distraction."
So, according to the Trump campaign, Page has "never been a part" of the team. According to Page, he's been part of the team, but he's now taking a leave of absence (announced hours before a highly anticipated debate, when news like this is likely to be noticed).

Hmm.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Donald Trump's favorite lie isn't doing him any favors

09/27/16 10:00AM

When the first presidential debate of the year turned its attention to national security, Hillary Clinton reminded the audience of a fact Donald Trump simply won't accept.
CLINTON: Well, I hope the fact-checkers are turning up the volume and really working hard. Donald supported the invasion of Iraq.

TRUMP: Wrong.

CLINTON: That is absolutely proved over and over again.

TRUMP: Wrong. Wrong.
Soon after, moderator Lester Holt tried to use the truth in order to pivot to a question: "Mr. Trump, a lot of these are judgment questions. You had supported the war in Iraq before the invasion. What makes your..."
Trump refused to concede the point. "I did not support the war in Iraq," the Republican insisted, blaming the confusion on "mainstream media nonsense put out by her."

The NBC anchor tried to reference reality, which the GOP nominee didn't appreciate.
HOLT: My question is, since you supported it...

TRUMP: Just -- would you like to hear...

HOLT: ... why is your -- why is your judgment...

TRUMP: Wait a minute. I was against the war in Iraq. Just so you put it out.

HOLT: The record shows otherwise, but why -- why was...

TRUMP: The record does not show that.
Actually, yes, it does. Trump desperately wants voters to believe he opposed the war from the start, but reality keeps getting in the way. The Republican candidate was reduced last night to arguing that Fox News' Sean Hannity, a prominent Trump supporter, will back up his Iraq claims, but neither the candidate nor his media ally has any proof at all to support the obviously untrue claim.

The question is why in the world Trump keeps repeating the bogus claim that everyone already recognizes as untrue.
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