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E.g., 12/5/2016
Ivanka Trump, right, listens as her father Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a policy speech on child care, Sept. 13, 2016, in Aston, Pa. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

GOP assumptions about Trump's conflicts of interest put to the test

12/05/16 10:00AM

The list of Donald Trump's conflict-of-interest controversies is painfully long, and there are all kinds of relevant questions that need answers. For example, when the president-elect met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, why in the world did the meeting include Ivanka Trump?

The president-elect's daughter, after all, will soon help oversee her father's business empire, and to avoid improprieties, she's supposed to have no official governmental role. So what explains her participation in the post-election meeting between Trump and Abe? A New York Times report published yesterday adds some key details:
When Donald J. Trump hosted a foreign leader for the first time as president-elect, the guest list included a curious entry: Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka, who looked on last month while he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan chatted on a white couch high above Manhattan.

Some 6,700 miles from Trump Tower, in Tokyo, another exclusive gathering was already underway: a two-day private viewing of Ivanka Trump products, teeming with Trump-branded treasures like a sample of the pale pink dress Ms. Trump wore to introduce her father at the Republican National Convention.

Ms. Trump is nearing a licensing deal with the Japanese apparel giant Sanei International, both parties told The New York Times. The largest shareholder of Sanei's parent company is the Development Bank of Japan, which is wholly owned by the Japanese government.
These are exactly the kind of conflicts a responsible leader is supposed to avoid. Ivanka Trump was finalizing a Japanese business deal, with a bank owned by the Japanese government, and neither she nor her father saw anything wrong with her participating in a meeting with the Japanese prime minister -- for no reason that has anything to do with U.S. interests.

As Rachel noted on the show a couple of weeks ago, Trump simply does not appear to care about the blatant appearance that he's using the presidency as a means of making him and his family more rich: "These are the types of things we assume a president or a president-elect would hide, and eventually some intrepid journalist would uncover them and win a Pulitzer Prize. But in this case, no Pulitzer. Donald Trump is not hiding this. Everybody gets to report it. He is doing all of this stuff in plain sight."

Congressional Republicans are aware the problems, of course, but they're prepared to look the other way. Politico reports that GOP officials are willing to bet Americans just don't care.
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Donald Trump shakes hands with Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and former 2016 Republican presidential candidate, during a news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fl., March 11, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Ignoring qualifications, Trump nominates Carson for cabinet

12/05/16 09:22AM

Donald Trump has made all kinds of dubious cabinet selections. This is probably the most ridiculous.
President-elect Donald Trump will nominate "tough" former Republican primary rival Ben Carson as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the transition team announced Monday.

A statement described Carson as a "distinguished national leader who overcame his troubled youth in the inner city of Detroit to become a renowned neurosurgeon."
The news does not come as a surprise, since Trump and Carson signaled their plans two weeks ago, but that doesn't make the announcement any less outrageous. It's difficult to even know where to start.

1. Carson is spectacularly unqualified. Carson has literally no background in housing policy, urban development, or running a large organization. In fact, as recently as a few weeks ago, Carson said he didn't even want to try. By his own admission, Carson believes his qualifications are rooted in the fact that he lived in an inner city as a child. (In related news, I've driven on a variety of highways and can't imagine why I wasn't considered for the Secretary of Transportation.)

It's part of a broader push on the part of the Trump/Pence team to reject the importance of expertise and competence among policymakers. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the president-elect has no governing experience; his White House chief of staff has no governing experience; his chief strategist has no governing experience; and now much of Trump's cabinet will be led by officials with no relevant knowledge of their subject matter, no background in public service, or both.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

To explain Trump's Taiwan move, there are 3 alarming possibilities

12/05/16 08:40AM

It's been a long while since a phone call, in which nothing of significance was said, rattled international affairs quite this much.
President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan's president, in a move that broke with decades of U.S. policy and could put a strain on the relationship between the U.S. and China.

The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1979. As part of the agreement establishing official diplomatic relations with China, the U.S. government established a "One China" policy, recognizing the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government and ceasing all diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
I hope you watched Rachel's segment on this on Friday night, because while some Americans may not appreciate why the call was such a big deal, this was a dramatic moment for U.S. foreign policy. As Rachel explained, it took decades for bipartisan policymaking to carefully craft America's approach to China, but Trump "took that silverware drawer out of the kitchen cabinet today and turned it upside down, over his head, and just started shaking the silverware.... It took decades to develop the grounds on which we talk to China -- and Donald Trump tore it up."

The next question is pretty straightforward: why in the world did the president-elect, who's never demonstrated any interest in or knowledge of foreign policy, make such a radical move. There are three possible answers, though none of them is especially encouraging.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, shakes hands with vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., during a town hall, July 25, 2016, in Roanoke, Va. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump allies defend his election lie as 'refreshing'

12/05/16 08:00AM

Throughout his time in public life, Donald Trump has never been truth-oriented, but last week the president-elect told a rather specific lie: "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." This was a demonstrable falsehood, and neither Trump nor any of his allies have been able to bolster the bogus claim with evidence.

So instead, Team Trump has apparently embraced a post-modern debate about the inherent value and meaning of truth.

One pro-Trump pundit argued last week, for example, that there's "no such thing" as facts anymore. Corey Lewandowski added that American voters "understood that sometimes, when you have a conversation with people, whether it's around the dinner table or at a bar, you're going to say things, and sometimes you don't have all the facts to back it up."

Outgoing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who'll soon become the White House chief of staff, was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday about Trump lying about voter fraud. Priebus, without proof, said it's "possible" that millions of illegal ballots were cast. When host John Dickerson noted that there is no evidence to support such a claim, Priebus responded, "I think the president-elect is someone who has pushed the envelope and caused people to think in this country."

This is, of course, bordering on madness. Asked to defend his boss' demonstrable lie, the incoming White House chief of staff thinks it's great that the president-elect is "pushing the envelope" -- as if making transparently false claims to the nation is somehow cutting-edge.

On ABC's "This Week," George Stephanopoulos asked Vice President-elect Mike Pence about Trump's lie, and Pence pointed to a Pew Research Center report as proof to bolster the bogus claim. Given that the Pew report doesn't support the claim at all, the incoming VP defended a lie with a lie.

Pence then tried to change the subject, which led to this exchange:
STEPHANPOULOS: [C]an you provide any evidence to back up that statement?

PENCE; Well, look, I think he's expressed his opinion on that. And he's entitled to express his opinion on that. And I think the American people find it very refreshing that they have a president who will tell them what's on his mind.
This is no small moment. Americans are being told that their incoming president lied to them, got caught, and this is somehow a positive development that should inspire confidence in our reality-challenged leader.
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Friday's Mini-Report, 12.2.16

12/02/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* South Carolina: "A lone juror said they cannot convict a white former police officer who fatally shot a black man in South Carolina, and the judge asked for clarification from the foreperson as to whether the jury is hopelessly deadlocked. The juror in a letter to the court said 'I cannot in good conscience consider a guilty verdict' against Michael Slager, a former patrolman who pulled over Walter Scott in North Charleston, and ended up shooting him as a bystander recorded the incident on video."

* Tennessee: "The death toll in eastern Tennessee's devastating wildfire climbed to 13 on Friday as county officials disputed claims that no evacuation order was sent to mobile devices as the flames approached homes."

* Did this really happen? "U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke on the telephone on Friday with Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte and invited him to the White House next year during a 'very engaging, animated' talk, an aide to Duterte said."

* A New Jersey judge today "dismissed a bid to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Gov. Chris Christie's involvement in the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, leaving the case in the hands of an office led by one of Mr. Christie's appointees."

* I wonder if Trump's deal with Carrier would've been better if the company's workers union hadn't been shut out of the negotiations.

* Overtime: "The Labor Department is appealing an injunction that halted the Dec. 1 implementation of a sweeping overtime-pay regulation, advancing a federal court battle over a rule that could face an eventual challenge from President-elect Donald Trump."

* Lame-duck session: "The House on Friday easily passed this year's annual defense policy bill with bipartisan support in a 375-34 vote. The bill would authorize a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including $59.5 billion for a war fund known as the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account."
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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The Republican health care scheme starts to take shape

12/02/16 05:00PM

Next month, Republicans will take control of the entirety of the federal government for the first time in a decade. What will the radicalized party tackle first? By some accounts, health care.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Tuesday that repealing and replacing ObamaCare would be the first item on President-elect Donald Trump's agenda after Trump takes office early next year.

"It'll be the first thing out of the gate," Pence told Fox News' Sean Hannity on "Hannity." "The President-elect's made it very clear. He wants the Congress when they convene in early January to take up the task of repealing and replacing ObamaCare first."
Pence added at an Ohio rally last night that the Affordable Care Act will be replaced "with American solutions," which was a curious thing to say. For one thing, the ACA blueprint came from Mitt Romney, not a foreign government. For another, Pence knows as well as anyone that the reform law has produced amazing results for Americans -- most notably in Indiana, where the law has slashed the state's uninsured rate by more than a third.

Nevertheless, the far-right vice president-elect's comments, which are consistent with what congressional GOP leaders have been saying, suggest the fight over Americans' access to health security is going to get quite intense almost immediately after Inauguration Day.

Unwrapping the Republicans' plans, however, is a little tricky, and some of the coverage has been a little confusing, so let's take a couple of minutes to set the stage for what's to come.
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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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