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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015.

Trying to unwrap Trump's immigration position

08/23/16 01:07PM

Over the weekend, some of Donald Trump's top staffers and advisers made some comments that suggested the Republican was hedging on his hardline immigration views. It quickly became clear that the candidate himself would have to address the issue and clarify where he stands.
 
And in theory, that'd be helpful, but in practice, the GOP nominee spoke at some length to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly last night, and his on-air comments seemed to raise as many questions as they answered.
 
The host asked at the outset, for example, "Are you really rethinking your mass deportation strategy?" Trump replied, somewhat cryptically, "I just want to follow the law."  He then changed the subject.
 
The host pressed further, and according to the Nexis transcript, here's Trump explaining his current position:
"We are going to obey the existing laws. Now the existing laws are very strong. The existing laws, the first thing we are going to do if and when I win, is we are going to get rid of all of the bad ones. We have got gang members, we have killers. We have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country.
 
"We are going to get them out. And the police know who they are. They are known by law enforcement who they are. We don't do anything. They go around killing people and hurting people. And they are going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin. We have existing laws that will allow to you do that as far as everybody else, we are going to go through the process. What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing and I just said that."
I've seen quite a bit of analysis of this, and I'm still not entirely sure what to make of it. Trump seemed to suggest he'd prioritize enforcement against undocumented immigrants who commit violent felonies, but if so, that'd put him in line with President Obama's position.
 
Indeed, note that while Trump said "we don't do anything" about deporting dangerous people, the Republican added moments later that President Obama has already deported a "tremendous" number of felons.
 
As for "the process" other undocumented immigrants would have to "go through," Trump hasn't explained in detail exactly what that process might look like.

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.23.16

08/23/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* The latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump nationally by eight points, 50% to 42%. That's a slight change from her nine-point advantage in the same poll a week ago.
 
* While addressing the issue of election "poll watchers" at an event in Ohio last night, Trump told supporters, "[W]hen I say 'watch,' you know what I'm talking about, right? You know what I'm talking about. I think you gotta go out and you gotta watch."
 
* Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer is intervening in Arizona's GOP Senate primary, hoping to boost Kelli Ward in her race against Sen. John McCain with a six-figure investment. The primary is a week from today, but early voting is already underway in the state.
 
* In Ohio, the latest Monmouth University poll shows Clinton leading Trump in the Buckeye State, 43% to 39%, with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 10%.
 
* The same poll found incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R) in good shape against former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), 48% to 40%.
 
* It's a bit of an outlier, but a new Roanoke College Poll shows Clinton with a 19-point lead over Trump in Virginia, 55% to 36%. With third-party candidates in the mix, the Democrat's lead shrinks to a still-dominant 16 points.
 
* The Associated Press researched the social media accounts of Trump's paid campaign staffers and found that they've written "Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war."
 
* James Glassman, a former State Department official in the Bush/Cheney administration, and the founder of the George W. Bush Institute, yesterday became the latest high-profile Republican to announce his support for Clinton's presidential candidacy.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Dec. 11, 2014. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Bachmann boasts of role as Trump adviser on multiple issues

08/23/16 11:00AM

Michele Bachmann may no longer be in Congress, but that doesn't mean she's withdrawn from the arena. On the contrary, to hear the far-right Minnesotan tell it, she has a role in the Republican presidential campaign as a policy adviser to Donald Trump.
Tea Party firebrand Michele Bachmann says she is advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on foreign policy.
 
The former Minnesota congresswoman attended a fundraiser in the state for Trump on Saturday, where she revealed to the press that she has his ear on foreign policy.
"[Trump] recognizes there is a threat around the world, not just here in Minnesota, of radical Islam," Bachmann told Minnesota Public Radio.
 
If this sounds vaguely familiar, there's a good reason: Bachmann was already identified as a Trump adviser in June, when the Republican nominee announced the creation of an "executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America."
 
The name at the top of the list: Michele Bachmann.
Law enforcement officers, including a sniper perched atop an armored vehicle, watch as demonstrators protest the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo.

Trump eager to return military equipment to police departments

08/23/16 10:00AM

The violent crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago rattled the country in a variety of ways, but one of the lasting debates focused on the militarization of local law enforcement. Many Americans weren't just shocked by the unrest; they were surprised to see police officers carrying weapons of war while confronting civilians.
 
Soon after, there was considerable interest on Capitol Hill about reforming the Pentagon's "1033" program that makes military equipment available to police departments. Though most of the support for changes was spearheaded by Democrats -- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) were particularly invested -- even some Republican lawmakers agreed it was time to take another look at the policy.
 
Congressional action never materialized, but as we discussed last year, the Obama administration followed through, banning the transfer of at least some types of military weapons to local police.
 
As Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday, Donald Trump wants to undo what President Obama has done.
Police union members in Ohio today quizzed Donald Trump about protective gear, saying President Obama has banned practice of sales of surplus military equipment to police department.
 
Trump says he would resume such sales, saying "Yes, I would. I think it's ridiculous" the practice was stopped.
Keep in mind, under the White House's reforms, items like grenade launchers are no longer made available to local police departments. NBC News' reported last May that if local departments "want other, less-imposing military equipment, local law enforcement agencies will have to submit to stringent federal oversight and restrictions."
A voting booth awaits voters at the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center on the morning of U.S. presidential election in Racine, Wisconsin November 6, 2012. (Photo by Sara Stathas/Reuters)

GOP convinces its base about illusory 'voter fraud' scourge

08/23/16 09:00AM

Can a misleading debate cause widespread public confusion? Of course it can. Take this Gallup report, released yesterday, for example.
The survey ... asked Americans about their general concern that ineligible voters would cast votes.... Americans are fairly split on their degree of concern about votes being cast by people who, by law, are not eligible to vote. More than a third view it as a major problem (36%), while nearly as many view it as either a minor problem (32%) or not a problem at all (29%).
 
A majority of Republicans (52%) perceive voter fraud as a major problem, which is reflected in the policy stances of many GOP state governors. By contrast, just 26% of Democrats expect ineligible persons voting to be a major problem this year. Southerners (42%) are more likely than those in other regions to view it as a major problem. The South is the most Republican region in the country, and the only region where some variation of a voter ID law is in effect in every state.
In general, I don't much blame Republican voters for getting this wrong. Instead, I blame GOP leaders who've convinced rank-and-file voters to believe something that isn't true.
 
Because as a practical matter, Republicans have been told so many times over the years about the scourge of widespread "voter fraud" -- by GOP officials and prominent media conservatives -- that much of the public is bound to believe that there's a legitimate problem affecting the outcome of elections.
 
Except, there isn't. Objective evidence makes clear that this "fraud" hardly exists, doesn't affect elections, and remains a made-up problem in search of unnecessary solutions. Republican leaders see electoral value in imposing new voting restrictions that help give the GOP an edge, and to justify these hurdles, they have to manufacture a crisis that's largely imaginary.
 
The result is another installment in the "reality gap" file.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Aug. 18, 2016,  in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Trump sees foreign 'war zones' as safer than US cities

08/23/16 08:00AM

Donald Trump's newfound interest in reaching out to African-American voters is off to a bumpy start, but last night in Akron, Ohio, he expanded his message a bit.
 
Hoping to make the case that the status quo is untenable, the Republican presidential candidate insisted that current crime levels have reached a level "nobody's seen." Trump added, "You can go to war zones in countries that we're fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities."
 
But, Trump said moments later, if he's elected, all of these concerns will simply go away. From the transcript pulled together by CBS News' Sopan Deb:
"I will straighten it out. I'll bring jobs back. We'll bring spirit back. We'll get rid of the crime. You'll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot. Look at the statistics."
This echoes the themes and fears the Republican nominee emphasized during his convention speech last month, but if one takes the candidate's advice and "look at the statistics," it becomes clear that Trump has no idea what he's talking about.

Monday's Mini-Report, 8.22.16

08/22/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Louisiana: "Twenty-two districts across a vast swath of southern Louisiana were forced to close last week by a historic flood, delaying or interrupting the start of the school year for tens of thousands of children." Some will remain closed indefinitely.
 
* Legal setback: "A federal judge on Sunday blocked the Obama administration from enforcing new guidelines that were intended to expand restroom access for transgender students across the country."
 
* Virginia: "During a noon ceremony at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he has restored the rights of more than 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis. The governor also detailed his rights-restoration process for other felons who have completed their terms."
 
* Turkey: "The wedding on Saturday night was winding down, and some guests had already left. But the music was still playing and people were still dancing in the narrow streets of Gaziantep, a city not far from the Syrian border. Just then a child -- no more than 14 years old, Turkey's president said later -- meandered into the gathering and detonated a vest of explosives."
 
* The virtues of discretion: "A week after allowing Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from a base inside its borders, Iran reversed course on Monday and withdrew permission for the flights, complaining that the Kremlin had been too public about the arrangement."
 
* Arizona: "A federal judge on Friday referred Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his aides to the U.S. Attorney's Office, requesting that they be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court."
 
* Supreme Court: "For those envisioning a line of moving vans at the Supreme Court and a new president immediately reordering life at the marble palace, this small splash of cold water: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, has already hired the four clerks who will assist her through June 2018."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Briar Woods High School, Aug. 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Va. (Photo by Molly Riley/AFP/Getty)

Mixed messages muddy the waters on Trump, deportations

08/22/16 01:00PM

Perhaps no issue has defined Donald Trump's presidential candidacy as much as his hardline stance on immigration. The Republican nominee, embracing the kind of nativism modern national candidates have generally avoided, has seemingly gone out of his way to alienate immigrants and their allies with talk of mass deportations, bans, and walls.
 
With that in mind, it's something of a surprise to suddenly hear some mixed signals from Team Trump on the matter. The Washington Post reported this morning:
Donald Trump's campaign wavered Sunday on whether he would continue to call for the mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States, the latest in a series of sometimes-clumsy attempts to win over moderate GOP voters without alienating millions who have flocked to his hardline views.
 
After insisting for more than a year that all illegal immigrants "have to go," Trump met with a newly created panel of Hispanic advisers on Saturday and asked for other ideas -- making clear that his position is not finalized, according to two attendees.
To be sure, there's been no explicit shift from the candidate, and there are no exact quotes from Trump's weekend gathering with Hispanic advisers.
 
Last November, however, Trump said on MSNBC that he would use "a deportation force" to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants. Yesterday, when CNN's Dana Bash asked Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway about whether or not "a deportation force" is part of the candidate's plan, Conway replied, "To be determined."
 
Around the same time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a Trump confidant and prominent anti-immigration voice on Capitol Hill, appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" and was asked about Trump' deportation plans. "He's wrestling with how to do that," the Alabama Republican said.
 
On "Fox & Friends" this morning, Trump himself insisted, "No, I'm not flip flopping. We want to come up with a really fair, but firm answer. It has to be very firm. But we want something fair."
 
I don't know what that means. I'm reasonably confident Donald Trump doesn't know, either.

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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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