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Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.25.17

05/25/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The U.K. isn't happy: "President Donald Trump on Thursday called the alleged intelligence leaks following the Manchester Arena bombing 'deeply troubling' and ordered the Justice Department to find out who was behind them."

* I guess the "Joementum" didn't last: "Former senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman withdrew himself from consideration to be the next director of the FBI on Thursday, saying his work with an attorney President Trump has retained to represent him in the Russia investigation would be a potential conflict of interest."

* One of them can brag about large, supportive crowds: "Thanks to an awkward coincidence, President Trump is in Brussels at the same time as predecessor Barack Obama is in Berlin. These two trips are certainly offering contrasting views of the United States' relationship with Europe."

* The Speaker of Israel's parliament said "a proposal that Donald Trump would speak before the Knesset during his visit to Israel was scrapped over fears that the American president would be interrupted and heckled by some lawmakers."

* The result of a two-month probe: "A Pentagon investigation has found that more than 100 civilians were killed after the U.S. dropped a bomb on a building in Mosul, Iraq, in March. The probe found that the U.S. bomb triggered secondary explosions from devices clandestinely planted there by ISIS fighters. And the military says the secondary blasts caused the concrete building to collapse."

* Trump World: "A top Mar-a-Lago employee is also working for the government to help prepare for President Trump's visit to Taormina, Italy, for the G-7 Summit -- an unconventional arrangement that further blurs the line between the president's business empire and the White House."

* Virginia: "Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) pardoned an undocumented mother of two on Wednesday for a years-old conviction for driving without a license in the hope that it will help spare her from deportation. But the fact that she is no longer defined as a criminal might not matter to the Trump administration."
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Image: U.S. President Donald Trump signs a revised executive order for a U.S. travel ban on Monday, leaving Iraq off the list of targeted countries at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S.

Appeals court delivers another blow to Trump's Muslim ban

05/25/17 04:41PM

Remember Donald Trump's Muslim ban? The original executive order failed spectacularly in the courts, prompting the president to throw a tantrum questioning the legitimacy of American judicial system, and the president's legal team to scramble in the hopes of finding a comparable policy that could pass court muster.

At least for now, that effort has failed, too.
A federal appeals court Thursday upheld one of two bans on enforcing President Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel from six predominately Muslim countries.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, voted 10-3 to uphold a ruling by a federal judge in Maryland who declared in March that the president's revised travel order amounted to unconstitutional religious discrimination.
The ruling, which is available in its entirety here (pdf), doesn't pull any punches. The 4th Circuit -- hardly the nation's most progressive -- found that Trump's order "in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination."

The ruling added, "Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles -- that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy, or favor or disfavor one religion over another. Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation."
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Image: GOP Congressional Candidate Greg Gianforte Campaigns In Great Falls, MT

Montana's Gianforte draws mild GOP rebukes following violent incident

05/25/17 12:56PM

It seems a little too easy to under-react to last night's developments in Montana. On the eve of the state's congressional special election, Republican Greg Gianforte, who said he'd take a position on his party's health care plan once a CBO score was available, was approached by a reporter to ask for his stance. The candidate appears to have assaulted that reporter, sending him to the hospital.

Gianforte's campaign was then caught lying about the incident, making claims that were clearly contradicted by an audio recording of what transpired.

NBC News' First Read team wrote this morning, "What is wrong with our politics? It's shameful that ANYONE considers this good strategy. Also in this current state of politics -- where winning is everything -- there is notable silence from the Republican Party. A little bit more of our democracy was weakened last night.... Don't we deserve better than this?"

While GOP officials had very little to say last night as the story unfolded, we started hearing some comments this morning. Most of reactions fall into the "violence is wrong, but..." category.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), for example, was quoted by the Associated Press saying, "It's not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it." Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) denounced violence, but said "the left" has "precipitated this tense, confrontational approach" nationwide. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) went further, but even his concerns came with a caveat.
"I do not think this is acceptable behavior, but the choice will be made by the people of Montana," Ryan said during a press conference in Washington.

"There is no time when a physical altercation should occur with the press and just between human beings. So that is wrong and it just should not have happened.... I think he should apologize."
It's the "but the choice will be made by the people of Montana" part of the answer that stood out for me.
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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.25.17

05/25/17 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* In Montana's congressional special election, which is today, Republican Greg Gianforte said he'd publicly take a position on his party's far-right health care plan once the Congressional Budget Office's score came out. Last night, however, when asked about the CBO report, Gianforte sent the inquiring reporter to the hospital.

* On a related note, Donald Trump recorded a newly released robocall in support of Gianforte, describing him as a "wonderful guy."

* In a new Fox News poll, Trump's approval rating is down to 40%, dropping five points since last month's poll. His disapproval rating is now up to 53%, climbing five points since April.

* Speaking of polling, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows the president's approval rating down to 37%. The same survey found that a 54% majority believe Trump is abusing the powers of his office.

* Mike Pence headlined a political rally in Louisiana yesterday and touted the White House's far-right budget.

* Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), apparently worried about his political standing, has agreed to host a local event on June 5, but only "a select group of constituents" have received invitations, and these guests have been provided with "a special promotional code" to obtain tickets.
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Image: File Photo: Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing

Betsy DeVos struggles to defend taxpayer-subsidized discrimination

05/25/17 11:25AM

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is having an interesting week. On Monday, for example, the Republican opponent of public education argued that "defenders of current system" of education are "flat-earthers." I don't think she was kidding.

Yesterday, DeVos was on Capitol Hill, testifying at a House Appropriations subcommittee, where the education secretary was eager to defend Donald Trump's budget request for directing taxpayer money to private and parochial schools. Most of the hearing went about as one might expect, but an exchange between DeVos and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) was of particular interest, because it focused on the voucher movement's Achilles' heel: taxpayer-subsidized discrimination.

Slate had a good piece on what transpired:
Clark used Bloomington, Indiana's Lighthouse Christian Academy as an example. The school currently gets more than $665,000 in state funding through a school voucher program, Clark said. It also openly reserves the right to deny admittance to any student in a family where there is "homosexual or bisexual activity" or family members who practice "alternate gender identity." If Indiana applies for federal funding for schools like these, Clark asked DeVos, would her Department of Education require them to stop discriminating against LGBTQ students and families?

DeVos didn't say yes or no. She just smiled and stuck to the generations-old cover for violent oppression in America. "The states set up the rules," she said. "I believe states continue to have flexibility in putting together programs."
The Massachusetts Democrat reminded DeVos that the Department of Education is "the backstop for students and the right to access a quality education." Asked whether she'd be prepared to prevent discrimination with federal funds, DeVos was non-committal.

In fact, the Slate piece added, the education secretary "declined to provide even one example of any kind of discrimination that might preclude a school from receiving federal funding."
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Ben Carson watches as Donald Trump takes the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Why Ben Carson's bizarre perspective on poverty matters

05/25/17 10:46AM

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson's propensity for saying ridiculous things has become the stuff of legend. It was, after all, just two months ago that Carson, the retired brain surgeon who was put in charge of a cabinet agency he knew nothing about, insisted that slaves should be seen as "involuntary immigrants."

Yesterday on SiriusXM Radio, Carson added to his greatest-hits collection, which is notable in its own right, but which is even more important when considered in a broader policy context.
"If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty," Carson started. "She was a person who absolutely would not accept status of victim."

Carson said it's mind over matter. "I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," said Carson. "You take somebody who has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street and I guarantee you in a little while they'll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they'll work their way right back down to the bottom."
This is not an argument that anyone should take seriously. The causes of chronic, generational poverty are complex, but "the wrong mindset" isn't among them.

But Carson's comments nevertheless offered a peek into an important perspective. Just this week, Donald Trump's official White House budget was unveiled, and it laid a brutal blueprint, with needlessly cruel cuts to programs that benefit the nation's most vulnerable communities.
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Blake Farenthold, Chris Matthews - 09/20/2013

GOP's Farenthold relies on 'stuff circulating on the internet'

05/25/17 10:09AM

About a year ago, an Ohio man rushed the stage where Donald Trump was speaking, prompting Secret Service agents to intervene to protect the Republican candidate. The then-candidate soon after claimed the man has ties to ISIS, pointing to online evidence that turned out to be a hoax.

On "Meet the Press," NBC News' Chuck Todd asked the Republican about his willingness to substantiate odds claims with bogus proof. "I don't know," Trump replied. "What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the internet."

It's a sentiment that's become a little too common among Republicans.

This week, for example, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was asked about his role in peddling the garbage conspiracy theory about Seth Rich's murder. "I don't know anything about it," Gingrich said of the story he's been commenting on. "I know exactly what has been said on the various blog sites."

All of which led to Rep. Blake Farenthold's (R-Tex.) appearance on CNN yesterday. The Washington Post reported:
Farenthold was suggesting that questions about any link between Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian actors was "deflecting away from some other things that we need to be investigating in."

"There's still some question," he said, "as to whether the intrusion at the server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians."

CNN's John Berman interrupted. "I'm sorry," he said. "The insider job -- what are you referring to here? I hope it's not this information that Fox News just refused to be reporting."

"Again, there's stuff circulating on the Internet," Farenthold said.
For the far-right Texan -- a chair and vice-chair of several congressional subcommittees -- that's good enough.
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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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