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Trump's effort to be the sole authority for truth hits a snag

02/23/17 09:20AM

One of the hallmarks of Donald Trump's young presidency is his effort to position himself as the sole authority for truth. Since taking office, the Republican has urged Americans to not only follow his lead, but also to reject information from those who might get in his way.

Americans have been told, don’t trust the courts. Don’t trust pollsters. Don’t trust U.S. intelligence agencies. Don’t trust unemployment numbers. Don’t even trust election results.

And perhaps most importantly, don't trust news organizations. The president has described himself as being in a "war" with American media, which he's characterized as "the enemy" of the American public.

As the Washington Post noted, the people Trump is trying to convince don't seem especially persuaded by the attacks.
A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that while people may be broadly unhappy with the mainstream media, they still think it's more credible than Trump. The president regularly accuses the press of "fake news," but people see more "fake news" coming out of his own mouth.

The poll asked who registered voters "trust more to tell you the truth about important issues." A majority — 52 percent — picked the media. Just 37 percent picked Trump.
What's more, according the poll results, 61% of the public also disapproves of the way the president talks about the media.

"The media, so demonized by the Trump Administration, is actually a good deal more popular than President Trump," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said.

There is, however, a catch.
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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sits in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill March 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

When investigating, Chaffetz has an odd definition of 'serious'

02/23/17 08:40AM

Two weeks ago, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) faced a raucous crowd in his Republican-friendly congressional district, and the House Oversight Committee chairman is still complaining about it.

"I thought it was a bit over the top," the GOP congressman said yesterday. "I thought it was intended to bully and intimidate."

Chaffetz, however, seems eager to prove that he won't be bullied or intimidated -- and he can continue to ignore important issues like the political professional that he is, focusing instead on trivia.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is investigating a months-old tweet from his state's Bryce Canyon National Park.

Chaffetz reportedly suspects that the tweet, which was posted in December the day after President Obama designated the more than 1.35-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah, may reveal that the park officials had advanced notice.
Yes, the Oversight Committee's Republican leadership is quite concerned that a national park was alerted to an announcement about the designation of a new national monument.

"The timing," Chaffetz wrote in a letter to Bryce Canyon's superintendent, "is serious."
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U.S. President Donald Trump looks at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S.

Dem reminds Trump: LGBT doesn't stand for 'Let's Go Back in Time'

02/23/17 08:00AM

One of the 2016 campaign's strangest strategies unfolded in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre, when Donald Trump and his allies insisted that LGBT voters, en masse, should move to the right and vote Republican.

The pitch was always a little convoluted, but as Trump saw it, a religious fanatic attacked an LGBT club; he'd target such extremists as president; so LGBT voters should like Trump. At one point, the Republican went so far as to say he, not Hillary Clinton, would be the "better friend" of the "LBGT" [sic] community because of his anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agenda. Just two days after the Orlando mass-shooting, Trump added, "Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs."

Some of his loyalists even believed it. Anthony Scaramucci, a Trump advisor and surrogate, declared earlier this month that Trump "is most pro-LGBTQ rights [president] in history. Why's that story not written in mainstream media?"

Probably because it's not true.
In a complete reversal of the Obama administration's position, President Donald Trump's administration formally rescinded past guidance on transgender bathroom protections in public schools.

Letters from the Justice and Education departments late Wednesday notified the Supreme Court and the nation's public schools that the administration is changing its position on the issue.

Former President Barack Obama instructed public schools that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with a child's chosen gender identity. The guidance was issued as an interpretation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education.

Now, the administration is revoking key guidance on which that policy was based.
It fell to Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to explain, "President Trump seems to think #LGBT stands for Let's Go Back in Time. He's wrong."
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 2.22.17

02/22/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* It was a 6-2 ruling: "For well over a decade, Duane Buck has been challenging his death sentence as based in part on racial prejudice, after a psychologist testified that he was more likely to be a future danger because he is black. On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to give him another try."

* Unwrapping the details of the policy: "This week, the Trump administration unveiled new immigration policies to ramp up border security and expand authorities to deport undocumented immigrants. The new rules, formally released by the Department of Homeland Security, raise several questions about how immigration policy might change."

* A big ruling: "Maryland's ban on 45 kinds of assault weapons and its 10-round limit on gun magazines were upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in a decision that met with a strongly worded dissent. In a 10-4 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the guns banned under Maryland's law aren't protected by the Second Amendment."

* Another big ruling: "A federal judge, on Tuesday, put a halt on Texas' effort to cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood services in the state. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks' preliminary injunction temporarily stopped the state's effort to defund the reproductive health non-profit" (Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but her work is unrelated to the Texas affiliate).

* This ATF story is stunning: "Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren't known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives."
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Image: US President Donald J. Trump holds press conference

Team Trump shares tips on keeping their boss distracted, placated

02/22/17 04:09PM

A month into his term, Donald Trump's aides have been eager to dish behind-the-scenes tidbits about the oddities of the nation's new president. There is, however, a common thread tying together many of these reports.

Politico, for example, recently ran a piece quoting people close to him saying he “gets bored" easily and "likes to watch TV." Soon after, an Axios report quoted presidential aides “jamming his schedule with meetings” in order to keep him distracted and out of trouble. A New York Times report, based on interviews with people close to Trump, soon after highlighted the president’s limitless ability to feel sorry for himself. A Washington Post report quoted sources who characterized him as lazy and petty.

In other words, people close to Trump tend to characterize him as a powerful, petulant child.

A new Politico report, quoting sources from Trump's 2016 campaign team, only helps reinforce the thesis.
President Donald Trump's former campaign staffers claim they cracked the code for tamping down his most inflammatory tweets, and they say the current West Wing staff would do well to take note.

The key to keeping Trump's Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise. And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up -- and make sure it made its way to Trump's desk.
It's a fascinating dynamic: while placating and distracting Trump sounds exhausting, it also sounds incredibly easy. According to these campaign staffers, the Republican's ego was routinely bruised by coverage that hurt his feelings, but aides discovered they could quickly make him feel better by planting favorable stories in conservative outlets and then showing them the reports they helped create.

Politico presented this as effectively a how-to guide for White House staffers -- who weren't part of the campaign team -- many of whom are likely now frustrated with their boss.

"If candidate Trump was upset about unfair coverage, it was productive to show him that he was getting fair coverage from outlets that were persuadable," former communications director Sam Nunberg said. "The same media that our base digests and prefers is going to be the base for his support. I would assume the president would like see positive and preferential treatment from those outlets and that would help the operation overall."
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In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)

New emails shed light on EPA chief's industry ties

02/22/17 12:49PM

Donald Trump chose so many top administration officials who were hostile to their agencies' core mission that the nominations almost seemed sarcastic. The president chose Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education despite her opposition to public schools; he chose Andy Puzder to lead the Department of Labor despite his opposition to workers; and Trump chose Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA despite his overt hostility towards environmental safeguards.

Pruitt, who clashed with the EPA during his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, spoke to the agency's employees yesterday, and by some measures, the new administrator's remarks were not well received.

But while Pruitt settles into his new office, we're not yet done scrutinizing the work he did before he reached the EPA. The New York Times reported this morning:
During his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday.

The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health.
If you missed Rachel's coverage of this last week, it's a doozy of a story. Pruitt, in effect, was illegally hiding official emails that documented his cooperation with the oil and gas industries -- the industries he'll ostensibly help oversee as the head of the EPA. The Center for Media and Democracy filed suit to obtain the emails Pruitt wanted to hide, and last week, a judge ordered their release.

This, of course, unfolded before the Senate confirmation vote, which led Democrats to make an obvious request: members should wait a few days to review the documents before deciding whether to give Pruitt the job. Republican leaders refused -- saying it made more sense to vote on the nomination with less information about Pruitt's professional background, instead of more.

Asked why he couldn't wait for senators to have a more complete picture, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), doing his best imitation of Bartleby the Scrivener, said, "Because I choose not to."
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.22.17

02/22/17 12:00PM

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

* After hinting in this direction last week, Howard Dean this morning endorsed South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the race to become the next DNC chair. The election is now just three days away.

* Donald Trump, oddly enough, also commented this morning on the DNC race, noting that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) predicted early on that Trump could win the White House, even as others thought that was ridiculous. This happens to be true. Watch this clip from July 2015, and pay particular attention the reaction from pundits who heard Ellison's comments.

* On a related note, an informal poll from The Hill shows Ellison ahead of Tom Perez in the DNC race, though Perez claims to have nailed down more endorsements.

* In Georgia's congressional special election to replace Tom Price, the Daily Kos community has now raised $927,000 in support of Jon Ossoff (D). The election is scheduled for April 18, with a possible June 20 runoff.

* Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) is scheduled to meet this week with Donald Trump. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said yesterday the meeting was requested by the governor; a leading Kasich adviser said the president requested the meeting.

* In Virginia, the latest Quinnipiac poll offered good news for Sen. Tim Kaine (D). Asked about hypothetical match-ups against Laura Ingraham and Carly Fiorina, the incumbent Democrat, who's up for re-election next year, leads both by 20 points.

* NRSC continues to run into some recruiting troubles. In the wake of Reps. Sean Duffy (Wis.) and Pat Meehan (Pa.) passing on 2018 Senate bids, Rep. Susan Brooks (Ind.) has also said she's skipping the statewide race next year.
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White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017.

The White House's response to Islamophobia is familiar, but wrong

02/22/17 10:40AM

In October, during the second presidential debate, a young woman posed a good question to the candidates: "There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and I'm one of them. You've mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?"

Donald Trump was the first to respond, and he offered a memorable answer. The Republican said, "Well, you're right about Islamophobia, and that's a shame, but..." Trump proceeded to talk at great length about his perceptions about security threats posed by Muslims, his concerns that Muslims don't report potential violence in advance, and his outrage that President Obama and Hillary Clinton don't throw around the term "radical Islamic terrorism."

In other words, an American expressed concerns about Islamophobia, and Trump responded by effectively endorsing Islamophobia.

With this in mind White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked yesterday about a recent report showing that the number of organized anti-Muslim groups in the United States tripled last year. In response to pressure, the president eventually spoke out against anti-Semitism, but will Trump be forceful about addressing Islamophobia? Spicer responded:
"I think that the president, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right in our Constitution. But if you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country or our people harm, he is going to fight it aggressively, whether it's domestic acts that are going on here or attempts through people abroad to come into this country.

"So there's a big difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe so that there is no loss of life in allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment. Those are two very, very different, different, different things."
It's as if he didn't understand the question. Asked about anti-Muslim hate groups, the White House press secretary immediately spoke about Trump's "desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism."
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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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