It would've been fairly easy for House Intelligence Committee Chairman David Nunes (R-Calif.) to maintain some semblance of credibility. Even if he wanted to be Donald Trump's sycophantic cheerleader, even if the Republican congressman wanted to ignore his responsibilities and shield the president from potential embarrassment, Nunes could've at least pretended to take his duties seriously.
But he didn't. The GOP lawmaker, who's spent months trying to protect Trump, going so far as to call reporters to wave them off of a controversy he was ostensibly investigating, engaged in antics so ridiculous this week that the editorial board of the Washington Post today argued that Nunes himself should be investigated.
[On Wednesday], Mr. Nunes himself held a news conference in which he cited a confidential source to describe what clearly appeared to be classified information about intercepted communications involving Trump associates. He did this outside the White House, where he had rushed to brief the president about the intercepts -- even though the House Intelligence Committee he chairs is supposed to be investigating the Trump campaign's possible connections with Russia.
We've said before that it was doubtful that an investigation headed by Mr. Nunes into Russia's interference in the election could be adequate or credible. The chairman's contradictory and clownish grandstanding makes that a certainty. His committee's investigation should be halted immediately -- and Mr. Nunes deserves to be subject to the same leaking probe he demanded for the previous disclosures.
Making matters quite a bit worse, while Nunes breathlessly told reporters -- at two separate press conferences -- that he had secret information about the collection of "incidental" communications involving the Trump transition team, ABC News reported yesterday that the Intelligence Committee chairman "does not know 'for sure' whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president's wiretapping claims against the Obama administration."
It reached the point yesterday at which his own aides have let it be known that they're not comfortable with Nunes' ridiculous antics. The Washington Postreported yesterday, "Nunes's own staff were not aware of the chairman's decision to go public and brief the president and were dismayed by his actions, said several individuals familiar with the matter." read more
It's admittedly challenging keeping up with all of Donald Trump's scandals and assorted controversies, but we're occasionally reminded that he maintains ownership of business ventures he refused to divest from. The enterprise, we've been assured, is in the hands of the president's adult sons, Eric and Don Trump Jr.
As recently as two weeks ago, Don Trump Jr. insisted that there's no cause for concern, and that the current arrangement is working out well. "I basically have zero contact with [the president] at this point," the younger Trump said at a Republican fundraiser.
In a new interview with Forbes, however, it appears his brother has a different perspective. In fact, Eric Trump had all kinds of interesting things to say about his family's controversial business arrangement.
"There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise," he says, echoing previous statements from his father. "I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That's kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it's something that we honor."
But less than two minutes later, he concedes that he will continue to update his father on the business while he is in the presidency. "Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that's about it." How often will those reports be, every quarter? "Depending, yeah, depending." Could be more, could be less? "Yeah, probably quarterly." One thing is clear: "My father and I are very close," Eric Trump says. "I talk to him a lot. We're pretty inseparable."
This is quite a distance from the "I basically have zero contact" posture his brother took two weeks ago. read more
In a last-ditch effort to make far-right lawmakers happy, the White House and Republican leaders have agreed to change their health care bill, scrapping the Essential Health Benefits provision of existing federal law. Team Trump, as of this morning, has an amazing new defense for the shift.
As we discussed this morning, under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers are required to include a series of health care benefits in every plan. These protections guarantee, for example, that American women will have maternity care if they need it.
Under the Republican plan, that guarantee will disappear entirely. How does Team Trump defend such a change? Mick Mulvaney, Trump's extremist budget director, made his pitch to CBS News this morning.
Co-host Alex Wagner asked Mulvaney about people who do not live in a state that requires maternity coverage.
"Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in," Mulvaney replied.
Wagner asked if Mulvaney meant that people should move.
"No, they can try to change their own state legislatures and their state laws," he responded. "Why do we look to the federal government to try and fix our local problems?"
Oh, I see. As far as the White House is concerned, American women shouldn't have the guarantee of maternity care; American women in blue states should have the guarantee of maternity care. read more
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer probably wasn't trying to be funny this week with his answers about Paul Manafort, but he nevertheless generated laughter. Asked about Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, caught up in the Russia scandal, Spicer described Manafort as someone "who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time."
Manafort, of course, effectively ran the campaign when Trump secured and accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
Yesterday, Spicer went just a little further, dismissing the former Trump campaign chairman as someone who was on the team "for five months."
"[Y]ou pull out a gentleman who was employed by someone for five months and talk about a client that he had 10 years ago? No, I can't unequivocally say that nobody ever in his past, who may or not have come in contact with him, sat next to him in a plane, who grew up with him in grade school..."
At this rate, by next week, I half-expect Spicer to describe Manafort as "some guy Trump once said hello to." read more
In about six hours, House Republicans will vote on a wildly unpopular health care bill. They won't have a CBO score; they won't know how much the bill costs; they won't know how many Americans will lose their health benefits if the bill becomes law; and they won't know how many Senate Republicans will even consider it.
That said, House GOP lawmakers will know that Donald Trump's White House expects them to vote for it -- because the president is fully on board with the legislation.
Or is he? There's a fair amount of evidence this morning that Team Trump isn't just expecting defeat when the House bill reaches the floor later today; it's also preemptively distancing itself from this fiasco. The New York Timesreported this morning, for example:
Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan's plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans. [...]
To Mr. Trump and his team, the health care repeal is a troublesome stepchild. His son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who is vacationing with his family in Aspen this week, has said for days that the bill was a mistake to support.
Soon after, we learned that White House strategist Stephen Bannon is reportedly displeased with the current Republican bill because it doesn't "drive down costs."
CNBC's John Harwood also spoke to a senior White House aide this morning who said the president is already preparing to "walk away" from health care and take on the "next battle," which the aide said will be tax cuts. The same White House staffer said a decisive health care defeat today would work out well for Team Trump.
Given all of this, MSNBC's Chris Hayes asked this morning, "Um, is the White House now whipping against the bill?"
Chris was probably kidding, but it's hardly an outlandish question under the circumstances. read more
The original Republican health care plan, unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a few weeks ago, landed with a thud. Independent estimates found the GOP proposal would strip 23 million Americans of their health coverage, and when Ryan told his members they could either take it or leave it, many House Republicans went with the latter.
So, Ryan tried again, this week unveiling an overhauled version of his plan, which failed to address any of the problems with the first version, and which the Congressional Budget Office found would take coverage from 24 million Americans. The Speaker again told members they had to accept his bill, and GOP lawmakers again said they wouldn't.
And now, with their backs against the wall, Republican leaders are making even more changes, managing to make a bad bill even worse in the hopes of avoiding a humiliating failure.
Eleventh hour changes to the bill were made Thursday night -- one more attempt to appease Republicans on both sides of the spectrum who weren't yet on board.
Those changes include a temporary extension of a 0.9 percent Medicare tax on people making more than $200,000.... The other change would move the Essential Health Benefits from being a federal requirement and allow states to determine which ones they want to include in health insurance plans such as maternity care, hospitalization, emergency care and mental health services.
I can appreciate the fact that "Essential Health Benefits" may sound like some wonky phrase that makes readers' eyes glaze over, but this is a critical element of the debate. Under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers are required to cover a series of health care treatments in every plan. The benefits include things like prescription drugs, maternity care, and various pediatric services, such as vision care for children.
To woo right-wing House members, Republicans have agreed to scrap the Essential Health Benefits from federal law. As Business Insider's Josh Barro explained yesterday, "If the EHB rules were repealed, insurers could literally sell plans that do not pay for you to go to the doctor, or that don't pay for prescription drugs, or that don't cover pregnancy-related care. EHB repeal would also allow insurers to sell plans that do not cover substance-abuse treatment, a key issue for members of Congress from states hit by the opioid epidemic."
That's the new GOP plan, as of this morning. It includes all of the provisions most Americans already hate -- drastic Medicaid cuts, tax breaks for the wealthy, et al -- and then adds additional right-wing cruelty, on purpose. read more
Bill Browder, author of "Red Notice," talks with Rachel Maddow about the condition of Nikolai Gorokhov, lawyer for Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who fell from a fourth floor window, and the dangers for being an opponent of Vladimir Putin. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the assassination of a critic of Vladimir Putin, the latest in a long chain of such attacks, and also reports on the latest developments in the Russian scandal in the U.S. watch
Rachel Maddow looks at how massive, nationwide protest and resistance attached human stories to the consequences of repealing Obamacare and made the Republican legislative plan much more difficult. watch
* The latest from London: "The knife-wielding terrorist who killed an American tourist and two others outside the U.K. Parliament was British-born and previously investigated for 'violent extremism.'"
* Russia: "A former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov was shot and killed in Kiev Thursday in what the Ukrainian president described as an 'act of state terrorism' by Russia, an accusation that has been quickly rejected by the Kremlin. President Petro Poroshenko said Voronenkov's killing 'clearly shows the handwriting of Russian special services shown repeatedly in various European capitals in the past.'"
* Israeli police "arrested a 19-year-old man Thursday in connection with the wave of bomb threats and hoaxes against Jewish community centers in America, authorities in Israel said. The unnamed man -- a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen -- is Jewish himself, officials said."
* I don't think an apology alone will be nearly enough: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes apologized to committee members after going to the White House Wednesday with information about President Donald Trump's wiretapping accusations before sharing it with the committee, a Democrat on the panel said Thursday."
* Chuck Schumer makes some news: "Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the Senate's top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch's confirmation and lead to an overhaul in the way the U.S. Senate conducts its business."
* I remember when Republicans used to say it was a bad thing when Congress created uncertainty, and yet here we are: "Uncertainty surrounding the Republican plan to replace Obamacare is forcing some U.S. hospitals to delay expansion plans, cut costs, or take on added risk to borrow money for capital investment projects, dealing an economic blow to these facilities and the towns they call home." read more
There was a House Republican conference meeting scheduled for this morning, but it was postponed. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was scheduled to host a press conference this afternoon, but it too was scrapped.
And the House was supposed to vote today on the Republicans' wildly unpopular health care plan, but it met a familiar fate.
House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a planned vote on the GOP health care bill Thursday afternoon as they struggled to find sufficient support to pass it. [...]
The move came after House conservatives said there was no deal struck on the bill following a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday.
Right around the time House GOP leaders canceled today's vote, Trump told a group, "Today, the House is voting to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare."
Apparently, the merits of the Affordable Care Act aren't the only things the president is unaware of.
In case this isn't already obvious, these are deeply embarrassing developments for Republican leaders. As recently as yesterday afternoon, GOP officials were declaring, with great bravado, "We're voting tomorrow, no matter what." House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told NBC News' Kasie Hunt that members would not only cast their votes on the American Health Care Act by 7 p.m. (ET), but also that the votes would be there to pass it.
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.