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A man carries an umbrella in the rain as he passes the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 16, 2014.

Dems take aim at Wall Street lawyer before he oversees Wall Street

03/23/17 10:05AM

Of all the many Goldman Sachs veterans Donald Trump has tapped for key posts in his administration, perhaps the toughest to defend is Jay Clayton, the president's choice to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. He is, after all, a Wall Street lawyer who's been asked by the president to help oversee Wall Street.

In a new op-ed, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), members of the Senate Banking Committee that will consider Clayton's nomination today, sounded a skeptical note.
American families need an SEC chairman who will watch out for their interests -- not short-term corporate profits. That's why we'll be asking Clayton about his willingness to be more vigilant and increase oversight of stock buybacks. We also want to know if Clayton will be willing to help investors identify companies that choose to invest in the U.S. economy and American workers.

If the SEC would require publicly traded companies to disclose more detailed information about jobs moved overseas -- and jobs brought back home -- investors could choose to invest in companies that make our economy stronger. Additionally, requiring public, country-by-country disclosure of profits stashed overseas would reveal to investors the companies that rely on tax havens to avoid U.S. taxes.
Though the op-ed didn't mention Clayton's background, it doesn't offer much hope for those seeking robust oversight of the finance industry. As the Washington Post recently reported, "As chairman of the SEC, Clayton would help police many of the same large banks he has spent decades representing as a lawyer, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays."
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Image: Sean Spicer

White House struggles with questions about the Russia scandal

03/23/17 09:20AM

At yesterday's White House press briefing, a reporter asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the day's most shocking report: Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was paid millions of dollars a year to "benefit" Vladimir Putin's government in Russia. Spicer responded by talking about Hillary Clinton -- mentioning her seven times.

Later, at the same briefing, NBC News' Peter Alexander asked the press secretary, "[C]an you say with certainty with right now that there isn't anybody else that's working in the interests of another foreign government working for this government right now?" Spicer wouldn't answer the question directly.

And then, of course, there were the questions about whether the president was aware -- or should have been aware -- of Manafort's foreign lobbying work. Spicer didn't seem to appreciate the line of inquiry. From the official transcript:
"[Manafort] was a consultant, he had clients from around the world. There is no suggestion that he did anything improper. But to suggest that that the president knew who his clients were from a decade ago is a bit insane. There is not -- he was not a government employee. He didn't fill out any paperwork attesting to something. There is nothing that he did that suggests, at this point, that anything was nefarious. He was hired to do a job; he did it. That's it -- plain and simple."
As part of the same Q&A, Spicer added, "No, the president was not aware of Paul's clients from last decade. No." Asked if that lack of scrutiny is a problem, the press secretary said, "What else don't we know? I mean, where he went to school, what grades he got, who played he played with in the sandbox?"

That's a nice little soundbite, but it's hardly persuasive.
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Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation

House Intel chair trashes what's left of his credibility

03/23/17 08:49AM

House Intelligence Committee Chairman David Nunes (R-Calif.) has forgotten some important things. The California Republican no longer remembers, for example, that he doesn't actually work for Donald Trump's White House.

At the same time, Nunes has also forgotten that powerful members of Congress who intend to serve as sycophantic cheerleaders for their party's president should at least try to pretend to be credible and responsible.

When it comes to the Russia scandal, Nunes announced in mid-December that he had no intention of even looking into the matter, though he later changed his mind under pressure. Two months later, he tried to exonerate then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, shortly before the White House fired him for lying about his communications with Russia.

By Valentine's Day, Nunes was making the White House's arguments about executive privilege, while contacting reporters and trying to wave them off of a controversy he was ostensibly investigating. In fact, the Intelligence Committee chairman has spent the better part of 2017 running interference for Donald Trump -- who's presidential transition committee he helped lead.

And then yesterday happened. As Rachel explained on last night's show:
"[Nunes] held not one, but two fairly breathless press conferences alleging ... something, he couldn't quite say what, about the intelligence community and the Trump transition, of which he was an executive member. Things that he had seen, but he could not describe, that made him feel alarm, that made him feel concern, that ought to make us all feel alarm and concern, and they certainly would make us feel those things if only we knew what these things were, but he would not tell us.

"In fact, he did not even have those things in his possession, and he had not shown them to the rest of the people on his committee, who are participating in this investigation he's supposed to be leading."
It is exceedingly rare to see a powerful member of Congress, in the middle of an investigation into a serious scandal, commit an act of self-sabotage in such a dramatic fashion.
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Key Dem points to evidence of collusion between Russia, Team Trump

03/23/17 08:00AM

Russia's intervention in last year's presidential campaign is no longer in doubt. What's unclear is whether Vladimir Putin's government received cooperation from the Republican campaign officials in Moscow and was eager to help.

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who's helping lead a congressional investigation into the Russia scandal, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" over the weekend, and raised a few eyebrows with vague references to circumstantial evidence.

"There is circumstantial evidence of collusion," Schiff said, referring to alleged cooperation between Russia and Donald Trump's campaign. "There is direct evidence, I think, of deception and that's where we begin the investigation.... There is certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation. The American people have a right to know and in order to defend ourselves, we need to know whether the circumstantial evidence of collusion and direct evidence of deception is indicative of more."

Schiff made related comments to Rachel a day later.

But on MSNBC yesterday afternoon, the California Democrat again talked to Chuck Todd, and this time he took another step forward when describing the nature of the evidence.
TODD: But you admit, all you have right now is a circumstantial case?

SCHIFF: Actually, no, Chuck. I can tell you that the case is more than that. And I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now. So, again, I think -

TODD: You have seen direct evidence of collusion?

SCHIFF: I don't to want go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial, and it very much worthy of investigation. So, that is what we ought to do.
When we contacted the congressman's office, asking if Schiff may have misspoken, and giving him a chance to walk this back, his office said Schiff meant what he said.
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 3.22.17

03/22/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest from London: 'Three people were killed and 20 others were wounded Wednesday in a terrorist attack at Britain's Parliament that sent crowds of tourists and lawmakers running for their lives. The victims included a police officer who was stabbed at the House of Commons and died despite the efforts of doctors and a passing government minister to save him."

* Despite all the focus on the far-right opponents of the Republican health care bill, this afternoon, two center-right House GOP lawmakers announced their opposition to their party's legislation. For Republican leaders, that's really not a good sign.

* Supreme Court: "About 40 minutes after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began his second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight of the justices he hopes to join said a major disability decision Gorsuch wrote in 2008 was wrong."

* The U.S. Secret Service "requested $60 million in additional funding for the next year, offering the most precise estimate yet of the escalating costs for travel and protection resulting from the unusually complicated lifestyle of the Trump family, according to internal agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post."

* NATO: "President Trump will travel to Brussels in May for a NATO summit, the White House said Tuesday. The announcement comes as Trump has roiled the alliance with renewed complaints about how much European allies are paying for their defense. "

* Trump's first Labor Secretary nominee was forced to withdraw. His second Labor Secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta, is facing some serious questions about a deal he struck with Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire money manager, who faced allegations that Epstein "sexually abused more than 40 minor girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17."

* What's Trump's net worth? It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer.

* GOP governors hate the White House's health care plan and also hate the White House's budget: "As Mr. Trump and his advisers press for bone-deep cuts to the federal budget, Republican governors have rapidly emerged as an influential bloc of opposition. They have complained to the White House about reductions they see as harmful or arbitrary, and they plan to pressure members of Congress from their states to oppose them."
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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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