The report from the Associated Press yesterday came with a headline designed to raise eyebrows: "More than half those who met Clinton as Cabinet secretary gave money to Clinton Foundation." The story's lede leaves no doubt that the AP believes it's uncovered something resembling wrongdoing:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money -- either personally or through companies or groups -- to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
The proportion is considered "extraordinary" because, well, apparently the Associated Press says so.
But right off the bat, the first sentence undercuts the provocative headline: "more than half" of those Clinton met with "outside of government" supported her husband's charitable foundation. In other words, to arrive at the controversial figure, the Associated Press had to exclude all kinds of people: State Department officials, diplomats, ambassadors, foreign leaders and officials, White House personnel, military servicemen and women, etc.
In other words, after excluding the people any Secretary of State might ordinarily see on a typical day, and looking exclusively at this smaller subset of people Hillary Clinton met with, more than half of them contributed to Bill Clinton's charity.
Of course, the implication is that we're looking at some kind of pay-for-play controversy: people hoping to influence the Secretary of State, the argument goes, offered support to the Clinton Foundation, and in turn, they gained access to Hillary Clinton. The controversy, for lack of a better word, is based on the implication that charitable contributions helped some powerful people gain access to the United States' top diplomat.
But at least for now, there's no evidence of actual wrongdoing. Even Clinton's critics have not yet pointed to any specific instances of impropriety or ethical lapses. We're looking at a story with smoke, but no fire.
There's some truth to the old cliché, "The first step is admitting you have a problem." In Donald Trump's case, the Republican's presidential campaign is burdened by public perceptions that he's overtly racist, and as the election season enters the home stretch, the Washington Postreports that the candidate and his team are "rapidly trying" to improve Trump's bigoted reputation.
Guided by his new campaign leadership, the Republican nominee has ordered a full-fledged strategy to court black and Latino voters and is mobilizing scores of minority figures to advocate publicly for his candidacy.
Trump is planning trips to urban areas -- with stops at churches, charter schools and small businesses in black and Latino communities -- and is developing an empowerment agenda based on the economy and education, aides said. Under consideration is an early September visit to Detroit, where retired neurosurgeon and former Republican primary rival Ben Carson would guide him on a tour of the impoverished neighborhoods where he grew up.
There's no great mystery as to Team Trump's motivations: racism isn't just morally reprehensible; in presidential politics, it's also an electoral loser. In an increasingly diverse country, Republican candidates will continue to lose national elections unless they improve their standing with racial and ethnic minorities.
Recent polling suggests, however, that Trump is on track to do far worse than any modern presidential hopeful with these communities. Thus, the new "strategy."
Rachel Maddow reports on a new Hillary Clinton campaign office opening in Utah, where Clinton is still considerably behind in polls, but less so than any Democrat in a long time and in a year when red/blue conventions don't necessarily apply. watch
Rachel Maddow reviews how the Baltic states put themselves in the service of the United States after the 9/11 attacks, and reports on Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Latvia to reassure those countries feeling threatened by Russia aggression, that the U.S. honors its treaty promises, including the NATO alliance, and Donald Trump doesn&... watch
Rachel Maddow reports exclusive new poll results from The Feldman Group showing the presidential race tied 39-39 in South Carolina, a typically securely Republican state. Jaime Harrison, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, joins to discuss. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on major Republican donors like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers who can't bring themselves to support Donald Trump, instead sinking large amounts of money into Senate races. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the billionaire, Robert Mercer, who supported the unseating of Republican establishment figures, finances Breitbart News, and is the link between the Donald Trump campaign and its new CEO, Breitbart's Steve Bannon. watch
"Once Obama locks the farmers in FEMA camps, he’ll need to repopulate the farms. That’s where the lesbians come in." https://t.co/qXPaq6d4vJ
* Louisiana: "President Obama met with survivors in flooded Louisiana Tuesday, touring a hard-hit Baton Rouge suburb strewn with debris and rubble. 'Sometimes when these kinds of things happen, it can seem like too much to bear. But what I want the people of Louisiana to know is you're not alone, even after the TV cameras leave,' Obama said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon after walking through destroyed homes and shaking hands with residents."
* Afghanistan: "A U.S. service member was killed after their patrol triggered an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan Tuesday, officials said. Another American service member and six Afghan soldiers were wounded in the blast, near the city of Lashkar Gar, in Helmand Province, according to a U.S. military statement."
* A big step backward in Ohio: "The state got permission again to shorten early voting and eliminate the so-called 'Golden Week' that allowed people to register and vote early at the same time. In a 2-1 ruling, a panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a lower court's decision."
* The news was better for voting advocates in Wisconsin: "On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit refused to block a lower court decision invalidating large chunks of Wisconsin's Republican-sponsored voting restrictions. The ruling effectively ensures that Wisconsin's most burdensome new voting laws will not be in effect during the 2016 election, unless the Supreme Court intervenes -- an extremely remote possibility."
* An important trip: "Vice President Joe Biden promised a U.S. response to any act of Russian aggression in Europe and told Baltic leaders on Tuesday to ignore Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's dismissive comments about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."
* Guantanamo: "After 14 years of detention, Abu Zubaydah, the suspected terrorist brutally tortured after his capture in 2002, appeared for the first time at a Guantanamo Bay hearing on Tuesday morning and said he should be released because he posed no threat."
* Central Africa: "Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Monday condemned a recent outburst of violence in South Sudan as 'tragic and in some cases even reprehensible,' and said the United States would not automatically continue to provide humanitarian support for the country unless its leaders commit to peace."
Over the weekend, some of Donald Trump's top staffers and advisers made some comments that suggested the Republican was hedging on his hardline immigration views. It quickly became clear that the candidate himself would have to address the issue and clarify where he stands.
And in theory, that'd be helpful, but in practice, the GOP nominee spoke at some length to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly last night, and his on-air comments seemed to raise as many questions as they answered.
The host asked at the outset, for example, "Are you really rethinking your mass deportation strategy?" Trump replied, somewhat cryptically, "I just want to follow the law." He then changed the subject.
The host pressed further, and according to the Nexis transcript, here's Trump explaining his current position:
"We are going to obey the existing laws. Now the existing laws are very strong. The existing laws, the first thing we are going to do if and when I win, is we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones. We have got gang members, we have killers. We have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country.
"We are going to get them out. And the police know who they are. They are known by law enforcement who they are. We don't do anything. They go around killing people and hurting people. And they are going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin. We have existing laws that will allow to you do that as far as everybody else, we are going to go through the process. What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing and I just said that."
I've seen quite a bit of analysis of this, and I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. Trump seemed to suggest he'd prioritize enforcement against undocumented immigrants who commit violent felonies, but if so, that'd put him in line with President Obama's position.
Indeed, note that while Trump said "we don't do anything" about deporting dangerous people, the Republican added moments later that President Obama has already deported a "tremendous" number of felons.
As for "the process" other undocumented immigrants would have to "go through," Trump hasn't explained in detail exactly what that process might look like.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* The latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump nationally by eight points, 50% to 42%. That's a slight change from her nine-point advantage in the same poll a week ago.
* While addressing the issue of election "poll watchers" at an event in Ohio last night, Trump told supporters, "[W]hen I say 'watch,' you know what I'm talking about, right? You know what I'm talking about. I think you gotta go out and you gotta watch."
* Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer is intervening in Arizona's GOP Senate primary, hoping to boost Kelli Ward in her race against Sen. John McCain with a six-figure investment. The primary is a week from today, but early voting is already underway in the state.
* In Ohio, the latest Monmouth University poll shows Clinton leading Trump in the Buckeye State, 43% to 39%, with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 10%.
* The same poll found incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) in good shape against former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), 48% to 40%.
* It's a bit of an outlier, but a new Roanoke College Poll shows Clinton with a 19-point lead over Trump in Virginia, 55% to 36%. With third-party candidates in the mix, the Democrat's lead shrinks to a still-dominant 16 points.
* The Associated Press researched the social media accounts of Trump's paid campaign staffers and found that they've written "Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war."
* James Glassman, a former State Department official in the Bush/Cheney administration, and the founder of the George W. Bush Institute, yesterday became the latest high-profile Republican to announce his support for Clinton's presidential candidacy.
Michele Bachmann may no longer be in Congress, but that doesn't mean she's withdrawn from the arena. On the contrary, to hear the far-right Minnesotan tell it, she has a role in the Republican presidential campaign as a policy adviser to Donald Trump.
Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann says she is advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on foreign policy.
The former Minnesota congresswoman attended a fundraiser in the state for Trump on Saturday, where she revealed to the press that she has his ear on foreign policy.
"[Trump] recognizes there is a threat around the world, not just here in Minnesota, of radical Islam," Bachmann told Minnesota Public Radio.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, there's a good reason: Bachmann was already identified as a Trump adviser in June, when the Republican nominee announced the creation of an "executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America."
The name at the top of the alphabetical list: Michele Bachmann.
The violent crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago rattled the country in a variety of ways, but one of the lasting debates focused on the militarization of local law enforcement. Many Americans weren't just shocked by the unrest; they were surprised to see police officers carrying weapons of war while confronting civilians.
Soon after, there was considerable interest on Capitol Hill about reforming the Pentagon's "1033" program that makes military equipment available to police departments. Though most of the support for changes was spearheaded by Democrats -- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) were particularly invested -- even some Republican lawmakers agreed it was time to take another look at the policy.
Congressional action never materialized, but as we discussed last year, the Obama administration followed through, banning the transfer of at least some types of military weapons to local police.
As Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday, Donald Trump wants to undo what President Obama has done.
Police union members in Ohio today quizzed Donald Trump about protective gear, saying President Obama has banned practice of sales of surplus military equipment to police department.
Trump says he would resume such sales, saying "Yes, I would. I think it's ridiculous" the practice was stopped.
Keep in mind, under the White House's reforms, items like grenade launchers are no longer made available to local police departments. NBC News' reported last May that if local departments "want other, less-imposing military equipment, local law enforcement agencies will have to submit to stringent federal oversight and restrictions."