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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Unwilling to focus on substance, Trump sidelines policy team

12/06/16 11:28AM

Before the election, Donald Trump and his team made a deliberate decision to avoid substance and policy details. One of the Republican candidate's top policy advisers said after the conventions that the typical American voter would be "bored to tears" if the campaign focused on substance -- a sentiment Trump himself endorsed in June when he said "the public doesn't care" about public policy.

In May, Politico quoted a campaign insider saying Trump didn't want to "waste time on policy." The Trump source added at the time, "It won't be until after he is elected ... that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do."

Well, the election has come and gone, and as Politico reports today, Trump still isn't focused on what, exactly, he's going to do.
While Donald Trump dines on frog legs with Mitt Romney and meets with a parade of lawmakers and governors in his gold-plated Midtown skyscraper, most of his transition staff are hunkered down in Washington, D.C., writing detailed governing plans for his first 100 days.

But so far, Trump and his inner circle have largely ignored those plans as they focus on top appointments and lean on the advice of politicians, CEOs and donors, rather than on their transition staff, say sources close to the transition.

The president-elect, meanwhile, has been more likely to set policy on Twitter than through consultation with his D.C. advisers.
The article quoted a Republican official involved in past transitions who said Team Trump's approach "is not a recipe for smooth governance."

Politico added that Trump's focus is on "personality" over "policy."
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Then, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump's lawyer suggests the president-elect's fraud claim isn't true

12/06/16 10:40AM

As you've probably heard, there are progressive efforts underway to force recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- three traditionally "blue" states where Donald Trump narrowly prevailed. Had these three states, where literally every independent poll showed Hillary Clinton ahead in the months leading up to Election Day, voted Democratic, Trump would've lost.

But therein lies the problem for the president-elect's detractors: in order to make a difference in the election's outcome, these recounts would have to flip all three states, which is extraordinarily unlikely. If I were on Team Trump, I'd probably tell recount activists, "Go ahead and waste your money on this. Knock yourself out while we get ready for Inauguration Day."

Oddly enough, however, Trump and his supporters are actually pushing back aggressively against the recounts, filing lawsuits and making every possible effort to derail the process.

It's difficult to speculate about their motivation. Maybe Trump is feeling a little touchy about losing the popular vote by such a wide margin, and any attempt to further undermine the legitimacy of his looming presidency triggers fierce resistance.

Whatever the cause for the pushback, the Washington Post read the court filings from Trump's attorneys and came across a fascinating tidbit.
In court filings submitted in an effort to block recount efforts by Green Party candidate Jill Stein in Michigan and Pennsylvania, attorneys for the president-elect stated unequivocally that there was, in fact, no evidence that any voter fraud had occurred.

The most direct statement was made in the Trump campaign's filing in Michigan.

"On what basis does Stein seek to disenfranchise Michigan citizens? None really, save for speculation," it reads. "All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."
Is that so. Perhaps now would be a good time to ask whether or not Donald Trump's lawyers have talked to Donald Trump.
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President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence wave as they visit to Carrier factory, Dec. 1, 2016, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump's claims about jobs saved at Carrier come into question

12/06/16 10:00AM

Donald Trump visited a Carrier plant in Indiana last week, touting his role in a controversial deal in which the company will receive $7 million in taxpayer money to save some domestic jobs, even as Carrier announced plans to move even more jobs to Mexico. As part of his appearance, the president-elect referenced some relatively specific numbers.

"I will tell you that United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up," he said, "and now they're keeping -- actually the number's over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so great."

Is that true? Not exactly. WTHR, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, took a closer look and found that the agreement "may not have saved as many factory jobs" as Trump claimed.
"We found out today that more jobs are leaving than what we originally thought," [Carrier worker T.J. Bray, who's also a communications rep for the union] said. "It seemed like since Thursday, it was 1,100 [jobs saved] then it was maybe 900 and then now we're at 700. So I'm hoping it doesn't go any lower than that."

Union workers got a letter at the plant saying Trump's deal with Carrier will save only 730 factory jobs in Indianapolis, plus 70 salaried positions -- 553 jobs in the plant's fan coil lines are still moving to Monterrey, Mexico. All 700 workers at Carrier's Huntington plant will also lose their jobs.
As for Trump's "1,100" figure, the president-elect was apparently including 350 research and development jobs that, according to the local report, "were never going to move to Mexico in the first place. Those were jobs that Carrier said all along would stay in Indianapolis."

Hmm. So Trump is directing $7 million to a company that's sending more jobs to Mexico than it's keeping in the U.S.; he's relying on the opposite policy he promised to pursue as a candidate; and he's exaggerating the number of saved jobs.

This is the president-elect's big public-relations triumph?
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Republican Electoral College member announces opposition to Trump

12/06/16 09:00AM

Add up the states Donald Trump won in this year's presidential election, and you end up with 306 electoral votes, more than enough to put the Republican amateur in the White House. In practice, however, that's probably not the number he'll end up with.

When members of the Electoral College meet in two weeks to officially choose the next president and vice president, most of their votes aren't automatic. Actual people, effectively anonymous to the American public, will be responsible for casting ballots that decide the election.

And though it's widely assumed that electors will vote the way they're supposed to, history offers plenty of examples of "faithless electors" who go their own way. This year will apparently add to the list: Texas' Christopher Suprun, pledged to the Trump/Pence ticket, has decided he cannot support the GOP nominees. In a New York Times op-ed, Suprun, a paramedic and 9/11 first-responder, explained his reasoning.
The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be.

Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.
This is, of course, exactly what many progressive activists have been hoping for: a Republican elector, driven by a sense of patriotic duty, concluding that Trump simply doesn't belong in the Oval Office.

But while I don't like dashing progressive hopes, it's worth noting that Suprun's declaration isn't likely to change the outcome of the election.
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Obamacare Tax Subsidies Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Why the GOP will regret making health care promises it can't keep

12/06/16 08:00AM

Most Republican leaders have coalesced around a health care strategy called "repeal and delay," which we discussed late last week. The basic idea is that GOP officials, once they take control of every lever of federal power, will pass a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but delay the implementation for a few years, leaving "Obamacare" intact until at least 2019.

Between now and then, the gambit will move on to its second phase: Republicans will use those three years to come up with their own ACA alternative, an effort that's already been ongoing for seven years, to no avail.

There are all kinds of problems with this scheme, which we'll cover in more detail as the process moves forward, and with the House Freedom Caucus already balking, it's not a foregone conclusion that "repeal and delay" can pass. But putting that aside for now, it's worth pausing to appreciate the health-care promises Republicans are making -- which they almost certainly won't be able to keep.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) talked to "60 Minutes" the other day, and told CBS's Scott Pelley that ACA repeal will be "the first bill" Congress tackles in January. When the correspondent asked if Republicans are "pulling the rug out from under the 20 million people," the Republican leader said, "No, no," as if the very idea was absurd.

"We want to make sure that we have a good transition period, so that people can get better coverage at a better price," Ryan said. The Speaker then committed to protecting consumers with pre-existing conditions -- he called it "a very important feature of any health-care system" -- and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' plan until the age of 26. It led to this exchange:
PELLEY: Is your plan going to cover everyone in America?

RYAN: We will give everyone access to affordable health-care coverage.
Yesterday, the Speaker added, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that the Republican approach will make sure that "no one is left out in the cold" and "no one is worse off."

Ryan's writing checks that his party can't cash.
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Monday's Mini-Report, 12.5.16

12/05/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* A lone juror produced an indefensible outcome in the Michael Slager case: "A judge declared a mistrial Monday afternoon in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man at the hands of a South Carolina former patrolman, after the jury said they could not come to a unanimous verdict." There will be a retrial.

* Standing Rock: "The secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers has turned down a permit for a controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota, in a victory for Native Americans and climate activists. A celebration erupted following the Sunday announcement at the main protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others have been protesting against the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline for months."

* Oakland: "Officials released more details Monday and increased the death toll from Friday's massive fire in Oakland, California, but key questions -- including the cause of the blaze and the identities of many of the victims -- remained unanswered."

* Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi "will resign after voters rejected a constitutional referendum that would have given his office sweeping new powers."

* Austria: "Alexander Van der Bellen, who preached moderation and tolerance, won Austria's presidential election Sunday over right-wing populist Norbert Hofer, according to preliminary results that showed Van der Bellen convincingly ahead despite pre-vote polls showing them neck and neck." Note, Hofer received 46.4% of the vote, which is a greater share than Donald Trump received, but Austria doesn't have an Electoral College.

* Only 59 detainees remain at the facility: "The Pentagon said on Sunday that it had sent a Yemeni detainee from the wartime prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Cape Verde, the island nation off the west coast of Africa. It was the first transfer from the prison since the election victory last month by Donald J. Trump, who vowed during the campaign to reverse President Obama's effort to close Guantanamo."

* Scrubbing: "KT McFarland, Donald Trump's pick to be his deputy national security adviser, has taken down her website, Twitter account, and public Facebook 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)

Ryan says Trump wants to 'reset the balance of power' with Congress

12/05/16 04:22PM

In July, then-candidate Donald Trump met with House Republicans on Capitol Hill, and GOP lawmakers looked for some reassurances that the would-be president understood conservative constitutional principles.
"I wasn't particularly impressed," Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said at the time. "It was the normal stream of consciousness that's long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, 'I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,' going down the list."
There are, by the way, seven articles to the U.S. Constitution. Trump apparently didn't realize that there is no Article XII. The exchange led Evan McMullin, a conservative independent presidential candidate who was in the room at the time, to note that Trump "lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution" and seemed to lack "even an interest" in the document.
All of this came to mind last night watching House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on "60 Minutes," when CBS's Scott Pelley broached the subject.
PELLEY: Have you told him being president is not being CEO of the United States, that the Congress is going to have a say?
 
RYAN: Oh, we've talked about that extensively. We've talked about the Constitution, Article I on the Constitution, the separation of powers. He feels very strongly, actually, that-- that, under President Obama's watch, he stripped a lot of power away from the Constitution, away from the Legislative Branch of government. And we want to reset the balance of power, so that people and the Constitution are rightfully restored.
Pelley, somewhat surprised, went on to ask, "You don't think he thinks he's going to run this country the way he wants to?" Ryan responded, "No, I think he understands there's a Constitution."
Raise your hand if you believe the Speaker's claims.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory makes remarks concerning House Bill 2 while speaking during a government affairs conference in Raleigh, N.C., May 4, 2016. (Photo by Gerry Broome/AP)

Short on realistic options, NC's Pat McCrory concedes race

12/05/16 12:48PM

Every gubernatorial race in the nation was resolved weeks ago, with one notable exception. In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) narrowly trailed state Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) on Election Day, but with a margin of fewer than 5,000 votes, out of more than 4 million ballots cast, the Republican incumbent believed he still had a chance.

His odds quickly deteriorated, however, when provisional ballots pushed Cooper's lead to over 10,000 votes, and challenges from McCrory's legal team were rejected, even by local boards run by Republicans.

There's been a fair amount of talk about more radical tactics through the GOP-led state legislature, but this morning, the governor realized it was time to walk away. WRAL reported that McCrory has finally conceded to Cooper.
McCrory issued a video statement, saying the state needs to unite behind Cooper moving forward. "Despite continued questions that should be answered regarding the voting process, I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken, and we now should do everything we can to support the 75 governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper," he said in the statement.

McCrory said his administration will work with Cooper's team in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition. Despite the contested election, Cooper started his transition effort two weeks ago.
The outgoing governor's two-minute long video is available here.

Cooper will take office in early January, becoming one of only three Democratic governors in the South, joining Louisiana's John Bel Edwards and Virginia's Terry McAuliffe.

McCrory, meanwhile, becomes the only Republican governor to lose in 2016.
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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.5.16

12/05/16 12:00PM

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

* In a bit of a surprise, former Gov. Howard Dean, who had hoped to reclaim his job as DNC chair, suddenly withdrew his candidacy on Friday afternoon.

* On a related note, one of the concerns surrounding Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-Minn.) DNC bid is that he'd be a part-time chairman, splitting his time between the party and his congressional duties. On Friday, Ellison said he's considering resigning from his House seat to focus on the DNC leadership post.

* The executive editor of the Associated Press acknowledged the other day that at least one of its reporters had to be pulled off the campaign trail due to a "dangerous situation." In context, the situation appeared to involve threats posed by Donald Trump supporters.

* The president-elect once again turned to his phone late on Saturday night to complain about NBC's "Saturday Night Live" being "totally biased."

* On a related note, Alec Baldwin, a former MSNBC host who portrays Trump regularly on the sketch-comedy show, said he'd stop impersonating Trump if the president-elect agreed to release his tax returns.

* Trump made a surprise appearance over the weekend at a "Heroes and Villians" costume party hosted by an influential Republican megadonor, billionaire Robert Mercer. Kellyanne Conway used the occasion to refer to Trump as "the ultimate hero."

* With time running out in Louisiana's U.S. Senate runoff, Pence appeared on behalf of John Kennedy (R) on Saturday, the same day Trump used his Twitter account to declare his support for the far-right candidate.

* On Friday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) became the first member of Congress to announce he's boycotting Trump's presidential inauguration.
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Republican rhetoric on jobs at odds with data, reality

12/05/16 11:20AM

On Friday, Americans saw the nation's unemployment rate drop to 4.6%, its lowest point in more than nine years, as job growth continued for the 74th consecutive month, the longest on record. On Sunday, Americans also saw House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tell CBS that the Obama administration's regulatory agenda is "really just crushing jobs."

Hmm. Maybe the Speaker hadn't seen the latest jobs report.

The same goes for Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who told ABC's George Stephanopoulos yesterday why Donald Trump and his team are so eager to destroy the Affordable Care Act.
"[W]e're working on President-Elect Trump's commitment to repeal and replace ObamaCare. It's all going to begin right out of the gate by repealing this disastrous policy that's been killing jobs."
Really? The Affordable Care Act has been "killing jobs"? Let's take a closer look to see if Pence has any idea what he's talking about.
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Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn arrives at Trump Tower, Nov. 17, 2016. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Some conspiracy theories come with real consequences

12/05/16 10:44AM

There was a very scary scene in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when a North Carolina man, armed with an assault rifle, walked into a popular pizza place and pulled the trigger. Incredibly, no one was killed, but what makes this story especially notable is the gunman's motivation.

The Washington Post reported that the man told police officers he had come to the restaurant, Comet Ping Pong, in order to "'self-investigate' a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign."
The popular family restaurant ... was swept up in the onslaught of fake news and conspiracy theories that were prevalent during the presidential campaign. The restaurant, its owner, staff and nearby businesses have been attacked on social media and received death threats. [...]

The restaurant's owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant's backrooms. Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons. The restaurant's owner was forced to contact the FBI, local police, Facebook and other social-media platforms in an effort to remove the articles.
The ridiculous conspiracy theory, which came to be known as "pizzagate," was clearly on the fringes of political thought, but there was a striking contingent of conservatives who genuinely believed Hillary Clinton and her aides were overseeing a child sex ring out of the back of a pizza shop in D.C. Some on the right took this quite seriously -- and one man showed up at the restaurant yesterday with an AR-15.

But reading the Post's reporting, it was Michael Flynn's name that stood out as especially noteworthy.
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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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