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Empty hospital emergency room. (Stock photo by  DreamPictures/Getty Images)

Why Trump is suddenly eager to cut funding for medical research

03/29/17 10:47AM

Donald Trump, who ran on a platform of America "winning," has been losing quite a bit lately. What the president may not appreciate is the fact that his troubles are likely to get worse before they get better.

The White House's radical budget proposal is already deeply controversial -- and likely to face quite a bit of resistance on Capitol Hill, even from his Republican allies -- but it refers to a spending blueprint Trump has in mind for the next fiscal year. What's less appreciated is the administration's plans for the current fiscal year, which runs through September.

Politico reported, for example, that Trump "doesn't want to wait until next year to slash government spending on everything from education to mental health programs"; he wants to cut billions of dollars in spending right away. The White House's latest plan includes deep cuts to the State Department and the National Institutes of Health -- which is why you've probably seen headlines about Trump wanting to "cut $1.2 billion from medical research."

Military spending, meanwhile, would get a boost, while $2 billion would go towards Trump's border wall.

All of this, according to the White House, should be approved by Congress in the coming weeks -- before current federal funding is exhausted on April 28.

As the New York Times reported, no one seriously expects Trump's requests to pass.
Democrats said such a plan would arrive dead at the doorstep of the Senate, and Republicans on Tuesday sounded no more enthusiastic. "We just voted to plus up the N.I.H.," said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who has also been lukewarm on the border wall plan. "It would be difficult to get the votes to then cut it."

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, was more blunt. "I think it is too late for this year," she said about the proposed cuts, echoing several Republican colleagues. As for a border wall, which is not well supported by American voters, "that debate belongs in the next fiscal year," she said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was asked yesterday whether Congress is likely to approve a $1.2 billion cut to the NIH. "No," Blunt said, adding, "No."

What's striking about this is watching the White House put itself in a lose-lose situation.
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2011 Ford Motor Co. Flex sport utility vehicles (SUV) sit on display at the Capital Ford dealership in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 26, 2011. (Photo by Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg/Getty)

Trump's 'big' jobs announcement points to Obama-era success story

03/29/17 10:00AM

Donald Trump declared with pride yesterday morning, "Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!" Soon after, Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to the president, added that Ford's investments come just "two weeks after" Trump's meeting with auto-industry executives.

The implication wasn't subtle: Americans are supposed to believe that the president met with industry leaders, which led to Ford's good news soon after.

But the White House's latest effort to take credit for good economic news is eerily similar to its previous efforts -- which is to say, it was wildly misleading. CNBC reported:
The White House on Tuesday promoted a Ford investment in American plants, most of which was part of a plan the automaker first announced in 2015.

The U.S. auto giant on Tuesday outlined new details of its planned $9 billion in U.S. facility investments through 2019. The company said it planned to create or retain 8,500 jobs as part of its 2015 contract with the United Auto Workers.
A company spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed that "the majority of what was announced" yesterday was the result of "the 2015 UAW contract."

Steven Rattner, who oversaw President Obama's successful rescue of the American auto industry eight years ago, noted the news and asked, "When will [Trump] stop misleading people?"

That need not be a rhetorical question. As we discussed the other day, Trump has trumpeted jobs announcements in recent months -- from Ford, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Walmart, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Softbank, Sprint, Alibaba, and Charter Communications -- in which the president sought credit for developments he not only had nothing to do with, but also, in most instances, pointed to Obama-era news.

A fact-check piece from the Washington Post added, "Trump's bravado on these jobs announcements is becoming a bad joke."
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Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation

House Intelligence Chair's antics generate bipartisan criticism

03/29/17 09:26AM

At one point yesterday afternoon, in a Capitol Hill hallway, a reporter asked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) if he's prepared to recuse himself from the Russia investigation the Republican congressman compromised. Nunes responded to the reporter, "Why are you so lame?"

That's emblematic of the state of the debate surrounding Nunes and his increasingly strange behavior.

One of the key points of contention surrounding the House Intelligence Committee chair is his effort last week to bolster Donald Trump's conspiracy theory about being the subject of covert surveillance. Nunes claims to have a secret source, whom he met secretly at the White House complex last week, who gave him secret information Nunes was eager to share with the media last week in vague and unhelpful ways.

The Huffington Post noted yesterday that the beleaguered GOP lawmaker said yesterday he'll never identify his source -- even to the Intelligence Committee he ostensibly leads.
"We will never reveal sources and methods," Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said to ABC News' Mary Bruce on Tuesday.

Even other members of the committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the presidential campaign, will not learn how Nunes obtained information he said indicated that key figures close to Trump were monitored by U.S. intelligence, Nunes said.
Reuters had a related report, noting that Nunes will not divulge information on who gave him intelligence information on Trump, even to his colleagues on the intelligence panel.

This isn't a situation in which other committee members lack the necessary clearance, but rather, Nunes simply wants to keep a secret from his colleagues related to the investigation on which they're supposed to be working together. It's as if the Intelligence Committee is proceeding with a bifurcated process: one investigation from the panel, and another from the panel's chair.

If there's a compelling defense for this, Nunes hasn't come up with it yet.
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A laptop in use. (Photo by TEK/Science Photo Library/Corbis)

Republicans roll back the clock on Internet privacy protections

03/29/17 08:40AM

Advocates of Internet privacy protections received some very bad news yesterday. Slate's report summarized the developments on Capitol Hill nicely:
In a defeat for digital privacy advocates, the House of Representatives voted Tuesday to allow internet service providers to sell information about consumers' browsing history without their knowledge or consent.

The bill repeals FCC the broadband privacy rules passed during the final months of the Obama administration. In addition to protecting customer data, the rules, which never had a chance to go into effect, also required the providers to notify customers when they experienced a data breach. The Senate voted to revoke the rules last week.
Politico tweeted overnight that the House voted "nearly unanimously to revoke broadband privacy rules." That's not even close to being true: the House voted 215 to 205. Literally zero Democrats voted for the bill, while nearly every Republican voted for it. In the Senate, the same legislation passed 50 to 48, again along party lines. (Sen. Rand Paul missed the vote, but was a co-sponsor of the legislation.)

Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure sometime soon.

And for privacy advocates, that's discouraging. As the Washington Post reported, service providers, including online giants such Verizon and Comcast (MSNBC's parent company), "will be able to monitor their customers' behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads -- making them rivals to Google and Facebook in the $83 billion online advertising market. The providers could also sell their users' information directly to marketers, financial firms and other companies that mine personal data -- all of whom could use the data without consumers' consent."
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Image: US President Donald J. Trump participates in a health care discussion with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady

Trump's lawyers try to shield him from sexual misconduct lawsuit

03/29/17 08:00AM

In the weeks leading up to the presidential election, nearly a dozen women came forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. The Republican denied each of the allegations and vowed to sue the women after the election.

Like so many of Trump's claims, the promise turned out to be untrue, but that doesn't mean the accusations are behind him. On the contrary, one of the women has now sued the president for defamation, and as USA Today reported, Trump's attorneys have responded to the litigation by saying he should be immune from the lawsuit -- because he's too busy being president to be distracted by the case.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant from The Apprentice, sued Trump in New York on Jan. 17, just days before the inauguration. She came forward in October and accused Trump of kissing and groping her in a Beverly Hills hotel room in 2007. Trump denied the accusation, including a series of tweets calling the sexual misconduct allegations "100% fabricated and made-up charges," "totally false" and "totally made up nonsense."

Zervos' attorney, Gloria Allred, demanded a retraction, to no avail. So, she sued. Zervos' lawsuit claims the alleged defamation was "detrimental to Ms. Zervos's reputation, honor and dignity."
Trump's lawyers -- his private counsel, not the White House counsel -- told the court this week the case could "distract a President from his public duties to the detriment of not only the President and his office but also the Nation."

If all of this sounds kind of familiar, there's a good reason for that: a couple of decades ago, Paula Jones sued then-President Bill Clinton under similar circumstances, and the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Clinton. Those involved in the legal proceedings would need to accommodate the president's unique schedule, the justices said, but no one, not even the Leader of the Free World, is immune from civil litigation for conduct unrelated to his office.

So why is this even an issue? Because according to Team Trump, this case is a little different: Jones filed a federal sexual harassment case, while Zervos' lawsuit is in a state court. What's more, the Jones case unfolded during Clinton's presidency, while Zervos filed before Trump was inaugurated.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 3.28.17

03/28/17 07:26PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Quite a concession: "The top American general in Mosul says the initial military assessment into civilian casualties allegedly caused by a March 17 U.S. airstrike shows the U.S. 'probably had a role in these casualties,' according to the top American general there."

* I guess we should disregard the opposition Trump voiced about the mission in Mosul: "The United States is sending more than 200 additional soldiers to Iraq to support the Iraqi military’s push to retake western Mosul from the Islamic State, military officials said on Monday."

* Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule is no more: "President Trump signed a bill Monday that killed an Obama-era worker safety rule that required businesses competing for large federal contracts to disclose and correct serious safety and other labor law violations."

* Mass shooting in Cincinnati: "As broken glass and stray shoes are cleaned from the parking lot of an East End nightclub, questions linger about the shooting that killed one person and injured 16 others. Gunfire broke out just after 1 a.m. Sunday at Cameo Night Club on Kellogg Avenue. Witnesses said they heard dozens of shots ring out."

* Hmm: "The former chief financial officer of Fox News Channel, Mark Kranz, is said to have been offered immunity from prosecution by U.S. government attorneys looking into payments by the network and its parent, 21st Century Fox, to women who claimed to be harassed by Roger Ailes, the cable-news outlet’s former chief and leader, according to a report in The Financial Times."

* Justice Department: "Nearly two dozen people from five states are accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his communications with the Russian government and subsequently trying to cover up that lie, according to a complaint sent to the Department of Justice."

* The Washington Nationals offered Donald Trump the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at the team's home opener. He declined. That's probably one of the smarter decisions he's made since becoming president.
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Image: U.S. President Trump displays executive order on "energy independence" during event at EPA headquarters in Washington

Targeting climate policy, Trump makes a promise he can't keep

03/28/17 06:20PM

Given the fact that Donald Trump, as a presidential candidate, described climate change as a "hoax," cooked up by the Chinese as part of an elaborate conspiracy, it doesn't come as too big of a surprise that Trump, as a president, would go after his predecessor's Clean Power Plan. It did, however, come as a surprise to see Trump deliberately mislead some of his supporters about his approach.

NBC News summarized today's developments, noting the president's latest executive order.
The order asks the Environmental Protection Agency to review Obama's Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and is considered one of the past administration's signature pieces of climate policy. The plan's implementation was already put on hold by the Supreme Court in February of 2016.
This is clearly a major development, but it kicks off a larger conflict. As Vox's report explained, "Trump's administration will now spend years trying to rewrite rules and fend off legal challenges from environmentalists. And it's not clear they'll always prevail: Some of President Obama's climate policies may prove harder to uproot than thought."

That's certainly true, though it's still an international embarrassment for the United States to abandoned its leadership role; it risks exacerbating the existing crisis; and it makes it very unlikely we'll meet our own goals and targets as part of the Paris Accord.

But as this process unfolds, it's worth remembering that much of today's regressive shift is built on falsehoods -- and not just about science.
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Image: FILE: Acting Attorney General Orders Justice Department Not To Defend Executive Order On Immigration

Did the White House try to block the former A.G. from testifying?

03/28/17 01:04PM

In the early days of Donald Trump's presidency -- which is to say, just a couple of months ago -- Sally Yates was the administration's choice to serve as the acting U.S. Attorney General, though that did not last. Ten days into her tenure, Trump fired Yates after she directed the Justice Department not to defend the president's Muslim ban, which she considered unconstitutional.

All of this unfolded on Jan. 30. Four days earlier, however, Yates notified the White House that the Justice Department had evidence that then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lied about his post-election talks with Vladimir Putin's government and may be vulnerable to a Russian blackmail campaign.

Yates is now eager to talk to congressional investigators about those developments. The Washington Post reports that the White House has "sought to block" that testimony.
The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump's presidential campaign, The Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.

According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.
You may have heard about a House Intelligence Committee hearing, which was scheduled for yesterday, in which Yates was prepared to testify. The committee's beleaguered chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), abruptly cancelled the hearing late last week, without notifying any of his colleagues.

In case this isn't already painfully obvious, it's hard not to wonder whether Nunes, who already appears to be working with Team Trump to derail the investigation into Team Trump, scuttled the hearing at the behest of his White House allies.
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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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