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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. 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 Carter 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).

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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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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Donald Trump takes aim at Miss Universe (again)

09/27/16 09:20AM

Towards the end of the first presidential debate featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Democrat delivered one of her most brutal blows against her Republican rival, focusing on Trump's offensive rhetoric towards women.

Clinton noted an incident in which Trump called a Miss Universe pageant contestant "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping" because she was Latina. "Donald, she has a name," Clinton said. "Her name is Alicia Machado. And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet she's going to vote this November."

"OK, good," Trump said, before arguing that some of his anti-women rhetoric is intended as "entertainment," and some of it's deliberate -- such as his attacks on Rosie O'Donnell. "I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her," he added.

Trump retreated to Fox News again this morning, where, inexplicably, the Republican nominee decided to once again return to the subject.
STEVE DOOCY: Going in, [Hillary Clinton] was trying to get under your skin a couple of times. Did she?

DONALD TRUMP: No, not at all. I didn't see it that way. At the end, maybe, the very last question, when she brought up the person that became -- I know that person, that person was a Miss Universe person, and she was the worst we ever had. The worst, the absolute worst. She was impossible, and she was a Miss Universe contestant and ultimately a winner who they had a tremendously difficult time with as Miss Universe. [...]

She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem.
Note, the Fox hosts didn't ask about Alicia Machado or Trump's misogynistic rhetoric. They asked whether Clinton got under his skin.

Trump brought up Machado unprompted -- and proceeded to complain about her weight.

In other words, Trump isn't denying his "Miss Piggy" label, but rather, he's explaining why he feels justified using language like this.
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Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

New polling points to clear debate win for Clinton

09/27/16 08:45AM

It didn't take long a for a consensus to emerge: among pundits, partisans, and prominent political observers, there's no real doubt that Hillary Clinton won last night's debate. Democrats, who were rattled by recent polling, are suddenly walking with a spring in their step. Republicans, who were feeling increasingly optimistic about the presidential race, are choosing to focus on the fact that there are still more debates coming up, where Donald Trump will try to recover.

And though it'll be a while until we have polling data that shows what effect, if any, last night had on the overall race, overnight surveys suggest the public and the pundits are on the same page about the first Clinton/Trump showdown.
Hillary Clinton was deemed the winner of Monday night's debate by 62% of voters who tuned in to watch, while just 27% said they thought Donald Trump had the better night, according to a CNN/ORC Poll of voters who watched the debate. [...]

Voters who watched said Clinton expressed her views more clearly than Trump and had a better understanding of the issues by a margin of more than 2-to-1. Clinton also was seen as having done a better job addressing concerns voters might have about her potential presidency by a 57% to 35% margin, and as the stronger leader by a 56% to 39% margin.
Also overnight, Public Policy Polling released the results of its own post-debate survey, sponsored by VoteVets Action Fund, which found less lopsided results, but which nevertheless pointed to a Clinton victory, 51% to 40%.

The same poll found most respondents believe Clinton has the temperament to be president and is prepared for the job. A majority said the opposite about Trump.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz hosted a focus group last night and found, by a 16-to-6 margin, participants saw Clinton as the debate's winner. CNN, meanwhile, organized a focus group of its own in Florida with a group of undecided voters. Of the 20 participants, 18 said Clinton prevailed.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walk away from their podiums after the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Pool/Reuters)

Debate shows Donald Trump still isn't ready for prime time

09/27/16 08:03AM

Shortly before the first presidential debate of 2016 got underway, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a prominent Donald Trump ally, insisted that the Republican candidate would "pass the test of being adequately competent" during the showdown with Hillary Clinton. The message drew swift mockery for setting the bar for Trump success at such a woefully low level.

But by the time the dust settled on the debate, Gingrich's prediction looked even worse -- because Trump didn't come close to demonstrating "adequate competence."

After the event, Trump told reporters that debate organizers gave him "a defective mic." He quickly added, "I wonder, was that on purpose? Was that on purpose?" Of course, there was no conspiracy involving Trump's microphone, though all things considered, the GOP nominee might have been better off if his mic hadn't worked and the audience didn't hear what he had to say.

When Trump needed to be honest, he lied. When he needed to be poised, he came unglued. When he needed to appear knowledgeable, he rambled incoherently. When he needed to prove that he'd prepared for the debate, he made clear he hadn't done his homework.

When Trump needed to change the trajectory of the presidential race, he offered fresh proof that he's just not ready for prime time.

At one point, towards the end, Trump pointed at Hillary Clinton and proudly declared, "I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?" The audience laughed, which wouldn't have been especially notable, except for the fact that he wasn't trying to be funny.

It's difficult to pick out the most damaging moment of the night -- there are just so many missteps to choose from -- but from where I sat, Trump's entire performance went off the rails when moderator Lester Holt asked the Republican about his "birther" conspiracy theory.
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