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Friday's Mini-Report, 1.11.19

01/11/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This isn't the sort of record anyone should be proud to break: "The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history, while President Trump continued his efforts to sway public opinion on the need for a U.S.-Mexico border wall."

* In case the administration's position wasn't muddled enough already: "The U.S.-led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria, a U.S. military official said Friday, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements."

* A little follow up following Rachel's RBG segment from last night: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will return to work and needs no further medical treatment, the court said Friday."

* Isn't it a little late for this? "Rep. Steve King spoke on the House floor Friday to address what he referred to as 'heartburn that seems to be churning across the media and America today' after the New York Times quoted him questioning how labels like 'white nationalists' and 'white supremacists' became offensive."

* At least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures attended Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017, which "prompted interest from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as he investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election, and has spawned a number of related inquiries by federal prosecutors."

* A case of interest: "Six families of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School won a legal victory Friday in their fight against controversial radio and internet personality Alex Jones. A judge in Connecticut has granted the families' discovery requests, allowing them access to, among other things, InfoWars' internal marketing and financial documents."

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President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in San Diego.

During border visit, Trump gets border apprehensions backwards

01/11/19 12:57PM

When Donald Trump talks about record-setting developments, it's probably a good idea to be skeptical. He argued this week, for example, that the number of jobs created in December was "record setting," It wasn't. In fact, December wasn't even the best month for jobs in 2018, much less all of American history.

But this is how the president likes to see the world: good news isn't just good, it's the best of all time, even when that's absurd. Over the summer, for example, the Republican boasted of "record" enrollments in association health plans, despite the fact that the plans hadn't yet gone on sale. Trump has similarly bragged several times that he set a "record" by increasing defense spending, even though the record doesn't belong to him.

Occasionally, the president talks about setting records without explaining what they are. In August, Trump told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, "We've already broken every record in the book." As Daniel Dale noted, the Republican did not specify "which records or which book."

Yesterday, Trump traveled to southern Texas, where he highlighted another non-existent record set by Customs and Border Patrol officials. "They have done a fantastic job," the president said. "Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history."

That's not just wrong; it's backwards.

In fact, apprehensions at the southern border are at historic lows. Border Patrol agents caught just under 400,000 people trying to illegally cross the border in 2017, and just over 300,000 in 2016. Yet from 1983 to 2006, border apprehensions topped one million 19 times, with the agency setting a record in 2000 with 1,643,679 apprehensions, according to Customs and Border Patrol data.

And while it's problematic when Trump peddles claims that aren't true, in this case, the issue is made more serious by how the president intends to respond to his confusion.

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 1.11.19

01/11/19 12:00PM

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

* After his initial attempt at an apology fell short, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) again yesterday expressed his regret in response to women who endured sexual harassment while working for his 2016 presidential campaign.

* In Texas, the Tarrant County Republican Party considered removing Shahid Shafi, a trauma surgeon and Southlake City Council member, as the local GOP's vice chairman because he's Muslim. Yesterday, local Republican officials decided to let him keep his post.

* In 2020 news, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will reportedly make a trip to Iowa next weekend. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is preparing a similar trip.

* On a related note, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has scheduled a few events in New Hampshire, where he'll be in a couple of weeks.

* Virginia's Corey Stewart, a controversial failed candidate for governor and U.S. Senate, announced this week that he's leaving politics "for the foreseeable future."

* The latest Public Policy Polling survey in North Carolina found Donald Trump trailing Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in hypothetical 2020 presidential match-ups, and the Republican tied Elizabeth Warren.

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Trump claims 'professional' expertise when it comes to technology

01/11/19 11:20AM

Three weeks ago today, ahead of the government shutdown deadline, Donald Trump acknowledged technological advancements along the U.S./Mexico border, though the president dismissed them as insufficient. We should take his word for it, Trump argued at the time, because as he put it, "I know tech better than anyone."

Twelve days later, during his first-ever remarks in the White House press briefing room, the president noted proponents of using drones at the border. Again, Trump said they wouldn't make a significant difference. "I think nobody knows much more about technology, this kind of technology certainly, than I do," he said.

Yesterday, Trump inflated his expertise to a new level. The president isn't just a technological expert; he has "professional" skills in the area.

"The only [way] you're going to have border security -- there's only [one] way. You can have all the technology in the world. I'm a professional at technology. But if you don't have a steel barrier or a wall of some kind -- strong, powerful -- you're going to have human trafficking; you're going to have drugs pouring across the border; you're going to have MS-13 and the gangs coming in."

You and I might look at Donald J. Trump and see a television personality, an amateur politician, an amateur conspiracy theorist, and an overleveraged businessman who managed to lose money running a casino, but that's because our focus is too narrow.

We've evidently failed to see that Trump -- a man confused by Google News results -- is actually someone so proficient with technology that he's reached a "professional" level.

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Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a press conference after appearing in court to call for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision in Los Angeles, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014. (Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Giuliani wants to 'correct' Mueller's report before its release

01/11/19 10:45AM

We don't know whether or when Special Counsel Robert Mueller will prepare a report on his findings in the Russia scandal. It's often assumed that Mueller and his team will issue such a document, at least to top officials in the Justice Department, but that's never been officially confirmed.

Inside Donald Trump's legal defense team, however, the president's attorneys are apparently working from the assumption that the special counsel's office will prepare a report. And as of last night, members of Team Trump don't just want to read the document; they want to edit it.

Rudy Giuliani says President Trump's legal team should be allowed to "correct" special counsel Robert Mueller's final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it.

The claim, made in a telephone interview with The Hill on Thursday evening, goes further than the president's legal advisers have ever gone before in arguing they have a right to review the conclusions of Mueller's probe, which is now in its 20th month.

"As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you -- so we can correct it if they're wrong," said the former New York City mayor, who is a member of Trump's personal legal team. "They're not God, after all. They could be wrong."

So, in Giuliani's vision of how the process should work, Mueller and his team would prepare a final report, which may implicate Trump in serious wrongdoing. Before that report is circulated, however, the president's lawyers would have an opportunity to give the document some touch-ups.

This would be done, Trump's lawyer said, as "a matter of fairness."

Giuliani's argument is obviously quite foolish and wholly at odds with how any system of justice is supposed to work. (Name another target of a criminal investigation who'd get the chance to "correct" an investigative report on their suspected misconduct before its release.) But let's also not forget that this is at odds with Team Trump's original plan.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the Hudson Institute May 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

If today's 'national emergency' is at the border, what about tomorrow's?

01/11/19 10:00AM

A week ago, Donald Trump for the first time publicly raised the prospect of building a wall through a "national emergency" declaration. The idea, which the president is apparently prepared to pursue, involves Trump granting himself emergency powers, borrowing the "power of the purse" the Constitution gives to Congress, and spending taxpayer money in defiance of lawmakers' wishes.

I suggested at the time that Republicans may want to consider the implications of such a gambit. What happens, for example, when a Democratic president declares a national health care emergency and begins pursuing a Medicare-for-All system?

Some on the right have raised related questions. Erick Erickson, a prominent voice in conservative media, wrote on Twitter yesterday, "When the next Democratic president declares a national emergency over gun violence and takes executive actions to curtail gun purchases, you can thank the people urging Donald Trump to do the same with regards to the border."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) raised the same concern on CNBC yesterday, though he pointed to a different issue.

The Florida Republican contended that Trump was elected on the promise of building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and the president has to "keep that promise." But "we have to be careful about endorsing broad uses of executive power," he added. "I'm not prepared to endorse that right now."

Such a declaration would set a precedent, Rubio said. "If today, the national emergency is border security ... tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change."

There are some statutory limits about emergency powers to consider, but broadly speaking, these conservatives are right to be concerned. Once the door is open, and presidents start pursuing their ambitions in defiance of Congress, it isn't just Republicans who'll walk through that opening.

In fact, Rubio's example is of particular interest -- since the climate crisis, unlike the need for a giant border wall, is real.

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President Donald Trump talks with reporters after reviewing border wall prototypes, Tuesday, March 13, 2018, in San Diego.

Trump points to border concerns that a wall wouldn't (and couldn't) fix

01/11/19 09:20AM

Donald Trump traveled to McAllen, Texas, yesterday for a photo-op near the U.S./Mexico border, and as part of the public-relations display, the president examined photographs of tunnels criminals dug to smuggle guns and drugs across the border.

Time magazine picked up on the obvious point that the White House may have missed: "Neither border patrol agents nor President Trump explained how a border wall would help stop the flow of drugs through tunnels."

The same presentation featured money seized from a suspected criminal who had overstayed a visa. How would a wall address this? It wouldn't.

As the New York Times  reported, there was a lot of this dynamic to go around.

[Trump] surrounded himself with border agents, victims of horrible crimes, a display of methamphetamine and heroin, an AK-47 and an AR-15 rifle, and a trash bag stuffed with $362,062 in cash that had been confiscated by law enforcement officials.

In his view, it all added up to a single word, "crisis," with a lone solution, building a wall -- a point he emphasized in a discussion with the crime victims, law enforcement officers and McAllen residents. [...]

But there was another reality. The display of drugs, weapons and cash was mainly the product of law enforcement actions stopping criminals at international bridges, where most drugs are smuggled, and conventional ports of entry.

A giant border wall, of course, would not close international bridges or conventional ports of entry.

Similarly, Fox News last night aired Trump's latest interview with Sean Hannity, in which the president complained about the perceived dangers of Central American asylum-seekers. But again, seeking asylum is legal and this is largely unrelated to a possible wall.

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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)

Trump rejects shutdown deal Republicans negotiated with Republicans

01/11/19 08:41AM

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had credible reasons to believe he could help negotiate some kind of resolution to the ongoing government shutdown. Not only does the GOP senator enjoy close ties to Donald Trump, he's also played a key role within his party on immigration policy, having helped craft the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" bill.

With this in mind, when there was scuttlebutt on Capitol Hill this week about Graham working behind the scenes on a possible deal, it was at least worth watching. Yesterday, however, those efforts collapsed -- because of White House opposition. Politico reported:

President Donald Trump has rejected a plan proposed by a bloc of Senate Republicans who had hoped to break an impasse over the government shutdown, leaving Congress and the White House with little obvious way out of the extended battle over Trump's border wall.

On the 20th day of the shutdown, the GOP group tried to jump start bipartisan talks before Trump declares a national emergency to get his wall. But the president rejected their idea to allow congressional committees to sort out his border wall request while the government reopened, deeming the idea likely to leave him with nothing to show for the shutdown.

Some of the relevant details of the plan remain elusive, but by all accounts, there was a proposal on the table. Vice President Mike Pence and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney took it to the president, who balked.

Of particular interest, though, is whom Graham negotiated with. In this case, the Republican South Carolinian worked on a deal with other Republicans, and Democrats were excluded from the process altogether. Despite the fact that Dems control the House, and many Democratic votes would be needed in the Senate, the party was "left out" of the talks and "were never read in" on the proposal.

Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), arguably Congress' most conservative Democrat, and a lawmaker who said he's prepared to work on a possible compromise, wasn't invited to the discussions.

What we're left with is a dynamic in which Republicans negotiated a deal with other Republicans, only to be shot down by a Republican president.

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A Capitol police officer walks through the Capitol Rotunda, empty of visitors after being closed to tours, during the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 1, 2013.

Ignoring pressure, more Republicans break with Trump on shutdown

01/11/19 08:00AM

Assuming there's no breakthrough today, the current government shutdown is poised to become the longest in American history. It's against this backdrop that the White House has an obsessive focus -- and it's not on finding a solution.

When Donald Trump traveled to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, he huddled with Senate Republicans and offered nothing in terms of plans or proposed compromises. Instead, the president focused all of his energy in urging GOP lawmakers to remain united in opposition to Democratic efforts to re-open the government -- despite the fact that Democrats are proposing the same policy Trump and Senate Republicans supported last month.

There's some evidence that the president's lobbying efforts are falling short.

The group of House Republicans voting to buck President Trump and end the government shutdown grew to a dozen members on Thursday -- including the GOP's most recent campaign chairman.

Twelve Republicans voted to fully fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development Thursday afternoon, up a bit from a previous high of eight members on Wednesday.

Joining the defectors yesterday was Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who served as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee in the most recent Congress.

For those keeping score, the first Democratic proposal to pass a clean spending bill and end the shutdown, considered last week, garnered five House Republican votes. The next measure received support from seven House GOP members. On Wednesday, eight House Republicans broke ranks, and yesterday, the number climbed to 12.

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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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