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Jealous: What a real convention looks like

Ben Jealous: This is what a real convention looks like

07/25/16 08:03PM

Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP, Bernie Sanders supporter and now Hillary Clinton endorser, discusses the hard political work taking place at the Democratic National Convention and why he is satisfied with the progress made with the Democratic Party. watch

Are Democrats having a Tea Party moment?

Are Democrats having a Tea Party moment?

07/25/16 07:14PM

Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, compares the Ted Cruz drama on the RNC opening night and the Bernie Sanders drama on the DNC opening night and where there are similarities between the supporters for Sanders and Cruz. watch

Sanders loses control of angry supporters

Sanders loses control of angry supporters

07/25/16 07:03PM

Rachel Maddow shows how even Bernie Sanders was booed by his own supporters when he emphasized the importance of electing Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, causing alarm over how far the disruptions would go. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 7.25.16

07/25/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* Another mass shooting, Part I: "At least two people were killed and more than a dozen others injured after a shooting outside a Florida nightclub hosting an event for teens, officials said early Monday.... Some of the victims are as young as 12, according to authorities."
* Another mass shooting, Part II: "Four people were killed during a shooting at a Texas apartment complex on Saturday night, police said. The victims included a three-year-old boy, two women and a man, Bastrop Police Department said in a statement. The shooter was among the dead, police said."
* Afghanistan: "Three suicide bombers killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 230 others at a protest in Kabul on Saturday, according to the Afghan interior ministry, where thousands had gathered to demonstrate against plans to reroute a new power line."
* Iraq: "A suicide bomber attacked a security check point in northern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said. The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device at one of the busy entrances of the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, killing at least 10 civilians and four policemen, a police officer said. At least 31 other people were wounded, he added."
* Germany: "The Syrian who blew himself up in southern Germany, wounding 15 people, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State on a video found on his mobile phone, the Bavarian interior minister said on Monday."
* Turkey's crackdown is far from finished: "One journalist, who was on vacation, had his home raided in the early morning by the police. Others were called in to their bosses' offices last week and fired, with little explanation. Dozens of reporters have had their press credentials revoked. A pro-government newspaper, meanwhile, published a list of names and photographs of journalists suspected of treachery."
Donald Trump Jr. is interviewed by the media prior to the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Trump campaign believes job numbers are 'massaged'

07/25/16 04:58PM

Late last week, as Donald Trump made claims about the U.S. crime rate that were demonstrably untrue, many began to wonder why the campaign was presenting fiction as fact. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, said the FBI's data may show a steady decline in the crime rate, but Americans shouldn't necessarily trust the FBI. Federal law enforcement, Manafort argued, is "suspect these days."
Three days later, Don Trump Jr. appeared on CNN in his official capacity as a campaign surrogate, and Jake Tapper reminded him that not only has the crime rate improved, but "unemployment is much, much lower than when President Obama took office. Trump Jr. wasn't impressed.
"These are artificial numbers, Jake. These are numbers that are massaged to make the existing economy look good and make the administration look good when in fact it's a total disaster."
It prompted the Huffington Post's Sam Stein to note, "So, to be clear, the Trump campaign trusts the National Enquirer but not the Bureau of Labor Statistics."
It's a good line, which has the benefit of being true. Donald Trump Sr. was singing the National Enquirer's praises on Friday, touting the tabloid's credibility, when talking up his conspiracy theory involving Ted Cruz's father and the JFK assassination. Two days later, Donald Trump Jr. said the Labor Department is "massaging" the job numbers.
This has been a common complaint among far-right voices who've struggled to explain President Obama's jobs record. The conspiracy theory is common enough to have picked up a label: "Unemployment truthers."
But in this case, we can go one step further.
A crest of the Federal Bureau of Investi

FBI scrutinizing alleged Russian hack of DNC network

07/25/16 03:29PM

For much of the political world, the focus in recent days has been on the content of stolen Democratic National Committee emails, and the degree to which they prove hostility between party officials and their critics in Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. As of yet, there's no proof the DNC "rigged" the process to help Hillary Clinton, but the ugly controversy has nevertheless led to the ouster of the DNC outgoing chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But taking a step back, a related controversy, which is arguably far more serious, is unfolding. It's focused not on what the individual emails say, but rather, the theft itself.
The DNC email leak ... remains under investigation by the FBI.
"A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace," the bureau said in a statement Monday.
NBC News' Richard Engel added this afternoon that three leading U.S. cyber-security companies told NBC News "they have a high degree of confidence" that Russia was responsible for the leaking of the DNC materials.
As we discussed this morning, the available evidence is raising questions about Vladimir Putin's government and its possible intervention in the American presidential campaign, but we're still dealing with unproven allegations. A growing number of experts appear to believe Russian officials were responsible for the hacking and the leaking, but the investigation has not come to definitive conclusions.
But while that probe continues, relevant details continue to raise concerns about the seriousness of the controversy. Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff reports today, for example, that a DNC staffer who was researching Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's ties to Russia's government found that her personal email account had been hacked.
The staffer's private account was targeted after she'd reached out to a number of investigative journalists abroad "who had been providing her with information about Manafort's political and business dealings in that country and Russia."
Voting booths are set up for early voting at the Black Hawk County Courthouse on September 27, 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Latest polls shed light on Trump's post-convention bounce

07/25/16 12:56PM

Two weeks ago, I published a warning of sorts: "Don't be shocked if Trump's narrow deficit turns into a narrow advantage after the Republican National Convention."
How does that hold up? As of this morning, pretty well.
A pair of new polls out Monday give a conflicting picture of whether Donald Trump emerged from the Republican National Convention with a significant bump in support.
In a new survey from CNN, Trump now leads Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, 48 percent to 45 percent.... But a new poll from CBS shows that the two candidates remain tied after the Cleveland convention, at 42 percent apiece, compared to 40 percent apiece before the conventions began.
Adding third-party candidates to the mix doesn't change the equation much: Trump still has a modest lead in the CNN poll, while the major-party candidates are still tied in the CBS poll.
One detail to keep in mind is the ongoing significance of the education gap: in the CNN poll, among white voters with college degrees, Hillary Clinton leads by four points, but among white voters without college degrees, Donald Trump enjoys a 37-point advantage. (Trump's boast earlier this year, "I love the poorly educated," comes to mind.)*
Maybe now is a good time to pause and take stock of where things stand.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.25.16

07/25/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

* According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, 90% of consistent Bernie Sanders supporters are backing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

* Though Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he's now shifting his posture to coincide with Hillary Clinton's opposition to the trade agreement.
* Donald Trump says he'd consider Michael Flynn, a controversial retired Army general, to be his Secretary of Defense if elected, but no matter what happens in the election, that won't happen: Flynn isn't eligible for the Pentagon post.
* Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-Independent, will reportedly endorse Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention this week.
* Ambassador Chris Stevens's mother is publicly objecting to Trump's and the GOP's partisan exploitation of her son's death in 2012. "I know for certain that Chris would not have wanted his name or memory used in that connection," Mary Commanday wrote in a New York Times letter to the editor. "I hope that there will be an immediate and permanent stop to this opportunistic and cynical use by the campaign."
* With the White House supporting Kamala Harris's (D) U.S. Senate campaign in California this year, her rival, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D), is trying to make this into a racial controversy because Harris and President Obama are both African American.
The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

The wrong campaign picks the wrong fight over religion

07/25/16 11:20AM

Of all the controversial emails stolen from the DNC's network and leaked online, arguably none was more damaging than a message related to religion.
On May 5, the week after Hillary Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination, one DNC staffer raised the prospect of someone making an issue of Bernie Sanders' faith. If voters in Kentucky and West Virginia were led to believe that the senator is an atheist, it "could make several points difference" in the results, the staffer said.
There's no evidence any kind of plan was ever hatched, and according to Sanders himself, the senator is Jewish, not an atheist. But the fact that such a topic was even discussed in this way is impossible to defend.
There are, however, limits to the pushback. Don Trump Jr., for example, appeared on CNN yesterday, and seemed eager to discuss this controversy. Referencing the May 5 email, Trump, in his capacity as a surrogate for his father's Republican candidacy, told Jake Tapper:
"If Republicans did that it would be disgusting and that's what you're going to see in a Clinton administration. This sort of divisiveness has to stop. They should be ashamed of themselves.
"And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father's campaign did that they'd be calling for people to get the electric chair."
Actually, it's a funny story, because whether he realizes it or not, his father's campaign has actually done this more than once. In fact, Trump's actions are worse: he didn't just talk about the possibility of attacking a rival's faith in a private email; he explicitly went after others' religious beliefs over and over again.
The main stage on the convention floor at the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, is prepared for the upcoming RNC, as workers stand in a man lift, July 13, 2016. (Photo by Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Republican Convention audience fails to live up to expectations

07/25/16 10:40AM

Last night on Twitter, Donald Trump seemed eager to boast about, of all things, television ratings. "The ratings for the Republican National Convention were very good, but for the final night, my speech, great," the candidate wrote. "Thank you!"
It was a familiar topic for the Republican candidate, who has said for weeks that the television ratings for his nominating convention -- packed with big stars like Scott Baio and an underwear model whose name I've already forgotten -- would be spectacular. As the New York Times reported, however, the party's gathering in Cleveland "did not live up to the hype."
About 32 million Americans watched Mr. Trump's climactic acceptance speech on Thursday evening on the major cable news and broadcast channels, according to ratings from Nielsen, released on Friday.
Mr. Trump's remarks, at an hour and 15 minutes the longest in modern convention history, just beat out those of the previous Republican nominee, the decidedly less unpredictable Mitt Romney, who was seen by about 1.9 million fewer viewers when he addressed the party's convention four years ago. Viewership throughout the convention week was about the same as in 2012.
To help put this in perspective, the Times piece noted that the first debate for the GOP presidential candidates, aired last August, brought in 24 million viewers. The second night of the Republican convention brought in under 20 million "across all the major news networks."
Adding insult to injury, for all of his interest in television ratings, Trump's audience failed to match that of a certain former POW whose service Trump was quick to denigrate.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke speaks to supporters at a reception, May 29, 2004, in Kenner, La. (Photo by Burt Steel/AP)

White supremacists feel inspired by Trump's 2016 campaign

07/25/16 10:00AM

Former KKK leader David Duke launched a U.S. Senate campaign on Friday, and in his announcement remarks, the Louisianan felt compelled to give a certain presidential hopeful a spirited shout-out. "I'm overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embraced most of the issues that I have championed for years," Duke said.
It's part of an increasingly difficult dynamic for the Republican Party, most of which was quick to denounce Duke's Senate bid. As the campaign season has progressed, Trump's candidacy became a source of inspiration for bigots on the right-wing fringe, as the Associated Press reported over the weekend.
"I don't think people have fully recognized the degree to which he's transformed the party," said Richard Spencer, a clean-cut 38-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, who sipped Manhattans as he matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States.
Like most in his group, Spencer said this year's convention was his first. On his social media accounts, he posted pictures of himself wearing a red Trump "Make America Great Again" hat at Quicken Loans Arena. And he says he hopes to attend future GOP conventions.
"Tons of people in the alt-right are here," he said, putting their numbers at the RNC this week in the dozens. "We feel an investment in the Trump campaign."
Note, the "we" in that sentence refers to white supremacists.
I'll confess my first instinct when it comes to covering extremists like these is to deny their madness any kind of spotlight, but in 2016, that no longer seems like a responsible course. These organized racists have been inspired by a Republican presidential candidate -- who, himself, has been described as a racist on multiple occasions -- in ways the American mainstream simply hasn't seen in modern times.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but if white supremacists are feeling legitimized by a competitive, major-party presidential candidate, that's a development voters should take very seriously.
Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich speak on Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Team Trump eyes new super PAC -- to target Republicans

07/25/16 09:20AM

On Friday morning, Donald Trump made his first public appearance after the end of the Republican National Convention, which offered him an opportunity to look ahead to the general election. Instead, the Republican nominee seemed eager to re-litigate the GOP primaries -- including Trump's ongoing interest in Ted Cruz's father and a JFK assassination conspiracy theory.
It was a striking reminder: Trump may be eager to take on Hillary Clinton in the general election, but the Republican candidate isn't quite done thinking about his intra-party rivals.
The question, however, is just how far down this road Trump intends to go. A prominent Trump ally suggested last Thursday, for example, that the GOP nominee may support a primary challenger to take on Ted Cruz in Texas in 2018.
Trump himself made a similar comment on Friday -- after talking about Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald -- saying in reference to the Texas senator, "Maybe I'll set up a super PAC if he decides to run." Turning to his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump added, "Are you allowed to set up a super-PAC, Mike, if you are the president, to fight somebody?"
By late Friday, sources close to Trump were saying Trump intends to "create and fund super-PACs specifically aimed at ending the political careers of Ted Cruz and John Kasich should either run for office again." On "Meet the Press" yesterday, the Republican nominee confirmed those plans to NBC's Chuck Todd.
"Look, what's on my mind is beating Hillary Clinton. What's on my mind is winning for the Republican Party. With that being said, yeah, I'll probably do a super PAC, you know, when they run against Kasich, for $10 million to $20 million, against Ted Cruz. And maybe one other person that I'm thinking about."
Asked who the other Republican might be, Trump told the host, "I won't tell you that."
All of this should be quite alarming for GOP officials for a variety of reasons, some more obvious than others.