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E.g., 12/13/2017
]Sen. Kristen Gillibrand listens to testimony in the Russell Senate Office Building May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC.

After calling for Trump's resignation, Gillibrand becomes a target

12/12/17 10:09AM

Late last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointing to the women who've accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, wrote, "We have a president who acknowledged on tape that he assaulted women. I would hope that he pays attention to what's going on and think about resigning." A day later, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told MSNBC, "The president should resign because he certainly has a track record, with more than 17 women, of horrific conduct."

A day after that, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) added, "I just watched Sen. Al Franken do the honorable thing and resign from his office. My question is, why isn't Donald Trump doing the same thing -- who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward?"

Oddly enough, the president didn't respond to any of these Democratic senators. Yesterday, however, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote, "President Trump should resign. But, of course, he won't hold himself accountable. Therefore, Congress should investigate the multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations against him."

And that's when Trump lashed out.

"Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!"

As presidential responses go, this one seemed nastier than most of Trump's usual retorts. The connotations surrounding "would do anything," for example, struck me as especially ugly rhetoric.

For that matter, it's not clear why the president said nothing when Sanders, Merkley, and Booker suggested he resign, but Trump quickly went low when Gillibrand said the same thing.

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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

Trump's legal team wants appointment of another special counsel

12/12/17 09:22AM

As part of Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) dramatic shift in posture -- from Donald Trump critic to Donald Trump flatterer -- the senator issued a curious call late last week.

As Graham sees it, the Justice Department should appoint another special counsel, presumably to run an investigation that runs parallel to Robert Mueller's probe, to investigate Hillary Clinton's email server protocols. And Uranium One. And Fusion GPS. And "bias" among officials at the FBI and the Justice Department.

This all seemed a bit bizarre, even by 2017 standards, but it now appears Graham isn't the only prominent Republican thinking along these lines. Axios reported this morning that members of Donald Trump's legal team "want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators."

Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate."

Ari Melber, MSNBC's chief legal correspondent, added this morning that Sekulow has confirmed to NBC News that he's calling for a new special counsel to investigate the Justice Department.

The point of this political strategy is hardly subtle. For Trump World and its allies, the Russia scandal is an existential threat to this presidency, so it's become necessary to undermine public confidence in the investigation and muddy the waters with unrelated, trumped up controversies.

Republicans may be doing this in a clumsy and ham-handed way, and the whole ploy may reek of desperation, but that doesn't appear to be much of a deterrence.

But the nonsense won't actually amount to anything, will it?

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Trump claims he 'never met' women who accused him of misconduct

12/12/17 08:40AM

The Washington Post  reported this morning that Republicans close to Donald Trump are increasingly uneasy about his ability to withstand a revived spotlight on his behavior toward women amid the dramatic attitude shift happening nationwide in response to accusations of sexual misconduct against men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill."

The piece added that the president's allies are "also wary of the potential political costs if the president goes on a sustained attack against his accusers."

It's against this backdrop Trump decided to publish a new tweet this morning.

"Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent, the Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia - so now they are moving on to the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don't know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!"

Let's start by getting the easy part out of the way: the evidence of collusion between Donald Trump's political operation and Russian operatives is pretty obvious at this point. As House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) explained over the weekend, "The Russians offered help. The campaign accepted help. The Russians gave help. And the president made full use of that help. And that's pretty damming."

Yes, it is.

But then there's the fascinating notion that the president never even met the many women who've accused him of sexual misconduct. I have a hunch he's going to regret having published this.

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump hosts former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

Did Team Trump direct Michael Flynn to lie?

12/12/17 08:00AM

For months, there have been a variety of questions about whether Donald Trump obstructed justice as part of the broader Russia scandal. As Rachel noted on last night's show, new reporting from NBC News raises the volume on those questions quite a bit.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn's firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

This is no small story. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn may have been compromised by the Russians, but that didn't stop Trump and his team from keeping Flynn around for 18 days. Mueller apparently wants to know why.

More to the point, according to NBC News' report, the special counsel "appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why."

The piece added, "If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn."

So, why is this important? A couple of reasons.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 12.11.17

12/11/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* NYC: "The suspect in the New York City subway blast Monday told investigators he detonated a crude bomb after he spotted a holiday display and did it in the name of ISIS to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world, law enforcement officials said."

* Trump's military transgender ban: "A federal judge on Monday rejected President Donald Trump's request to further delay the ability of transgender people to enlist in the military, and the Pentagon said enlistments would begin on Jan. 1."

* Alcee Hastings: "The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call."

* There are six accusers in this case: "A former clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski said the powerful and well-known jurist, who for many years served as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually."

* Filling a leadership vacuum: "A year ago, no one would have envisioned President Emmanuel Macron of France as the public face of Western diplomacy in the Middle East. But that is not the case anymore."

* The vote in this case was, of course, 5 to 4: "The Trump administration may temporarily shield documents concerning its decision to end a program that protected some 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants from deportation, the Supreme Court ruled Friday in a brief, unsigned order. The court said it would consider the matter further, and it set an expedited briefing schedule."

* Quite a story: "Northern Alaska is warming so fast, it's faking out computers."

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Image: White House news conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Gary Cohn

Trump's Treasury Dept embarrasses itself with one-page 'analysis'

12/11/17 12:57PM

As regular readers know, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured lawmakers and the public that he had dozens of officials working on creating a detailed analysis of the Republican tax plan he helped craft. The report, Mnuchin added, would be available before Congress voted.

None of that was true. The New York Times reported two weeks ago that officials inside the Treasury's Office of Tax Policy claim to have been "largely shut out of the process" and haven't "worked on the type of detailed analysis" that Mnuchin described.

Two weeks later, the good news is that Donald Trump's Treasury Department has prepared an analysis and made it available to the public. The bad news is, it's so absurd, I almost feel sorry for the officials who work there. Politico reported:

The Treasury Department said Monday that the GOP tax plan currently before Congress would need an assist from other Trump administration priorities to pay for itself.

Tax cuts alone aren't enough, Treasury said in a one-page analysis, citing welfare reform and infrastructure spending as additional boosts to the economy.

The entire document is online here (pdf).

There are three key angles to this, and let's start with the substance of the Treasury's document. Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration have sworn up and down that the GOP's tax package would pay for itself, ignoring the conclusions of every independent analysis, including data from Congress' own Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Treasury Department argued this morning that the Republican promise will prove to be true if (a) we assume that the regressive tax breaks supercharge the economy; and (b) policymakers also agree to pass Trump's non-existent infrastructure plan, Trump's non-existent welfare reform plan, and wait for Trump's regulatory reform plan to work wonders.

In other words, the Trump administration is conceding that Republicans are wrong about one of the core promises of the party's own tax plan. The Treasury effectively declared this morning, "The tax plan will pay for itself if everyone agrees to pass a bunch of other proposals, which haven't been written, and which have nothing to do with the tax plan."

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.11.17

12/11/17 12:00PM

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

* Though it seems hard to believe, a new Fox News poll out of Alabama shows Doug Jones (D) leading Roy Moore (R) by 10 points, 50% to 40%. A couple of other new polls, meanwhile, show Moore up by about five points.

* Donald Trump has dropped all pretenses and has decided to campaign on Moore's behalf, including recording a new robocall in support of the right-wing candidate.

* On a related note, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have reportedly both recorded robocalls on Jones' behalf.

* On the last weekend before Alabama's election, Moore held no public events, and apparently wasn't even in the state on Saturday, choosing instead to go to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

* Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has kept a relatively low profile in recent months, but he was in Alabama over the weekend, campaigning alongside Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in the hopes of boosting Jones' support with African-American voters.

* Joyce Simmons, a Republican National Committee member from Nebraska, resigned from the RNC this morning, citing the party's official support for Roy Moore's campaign.

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U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham talks to a reporter as he arrives at Capitol Hill in Washington U.S. on May 10, 2016. (Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Lindsey Graham makes the transition to Trump cheerleader

12/11/17 11:20AM

During the 2016 presidential campaign, after his own candidacy failed, Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-S.C.) principal focus was on stopping Donald Trump from becoming his party's nominee. Two years ago at this time, the Republican senator described Trump as a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" who should be told to "go to hell."

After Trump became president anyway, Graham appeared well positioned to be an intra-party thorn in the White House's side, mocking Trump's dismissal of Russia's attack on the American elections, for example. For his part, the president was publicly admonishing Graham as recently as August.

The two have evidently put their differences behind them. The South Carolinian, who now complains about pundits criticizing the president in the same ways he used to, has become one of Trump's high-profile cheerleaders.

Indeed, Graham's Twitter feed took a turn toward the bizarre in recent days, promoting conspiracy theories and anti-Clinton nonsense. TPM's Josh Marshall explained yesterday:

Note here the things that Graham is including in his call. They range from things that are fairly unreasonable or without significant merit to things that are totally crazy. He is asking for a Special Counsel to reinvestigate Clinton's private server, the Uranium One story, which is completely ludicrous, and anti-GOP bias at the FBI, which is not only factually nonsensical but seems intended to lay the groundwork for ideological purges of the primary national law enforcement agency which already has a very Republican-leaning political culture.

One might expect some of Graham's over-the-top rhetoric from a conservative pundit or a House Freedom Caucus member, but the senator is supposed to be above such things.

Except he's not.

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Then FBI Director Robert Mueller arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2012, to testify during a hearing.

Unanswered question hangs over the GOP's anti-Mueller offensive

12/11/17 10:41AM

Promoting a piece from a far-right pundit yesterday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller "has got some explaining to do." It was a timely reminder that when it comes to the Trump-Russia scandal, many Republicans have begun turning their fire, not on the White House or its benefactors in Putin's government, but on the official overseeing the investigation.

GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee, for example, appeared desperate last week to tear Mueller down. Several congressional Republicans have also called for Mueller's resignation. Conservative media, meanwhile, has become almost hysterical in targeting the special counsel, eager to discredit the entire probe.

Clearly, Mueller's investigation is causing some of Donald Trump's allies to panic, and their fears are well grounded. It's hardly unreasonable to think the Russia scandal poses an existential threat to this presidency -- a threat made more potent following the arrests of Trump's former national security advisor, campaign chairman, and others.

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne today touched on a question that too often goes unasked.

Because we are inured to extreme partisanship and to the political right's habit of rejecting inconvenient facts, we risk overlooking the profound political crisis that a Trumpified Republican Party could create. And the conflagration may come sooner rather than later, as Mueller zeroes in on Trump and his inner circle.

Only recently, it was widely assumed that if Trump fired Mueller, many Republicans would rise up to defend our institutions. Now, many in the party are laying the groundwork for justifying a coverup. This is a recipe for lawlessness.

There was a point earlier this year in which Mueller, a Republican and a former FBI director, received bipartisan praise. With him at the helm, the political establishment declared in unison, there was reason to feel confidence in the integrity of the investigation.

But as the threats to Trump's presidency have grown more serious, so too has the GOP's willingness to attack Mueller. Trump's conservative media allies have begun practically begging the president to fire the special counsel before Mueller brings down the White House.

So what happens if he does?

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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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