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A woman points a handgun with a laser sight on a wall display of other guns during the National Rifle Association convention Friday, April 13, 2007, in St. Louis.

House Dems eye new measures following latest mass shooting

11/08/18 12:48PM

The details are still coming into focus, but we know a fair amount about the overnight mass shooting at a California bar. NBC News reported:

Twelve people including a police officer were killed by a veteran of the Marines at a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks, California, late Wednesday, officials said.

Several hundred people were inside the venue, which was hosting a "college country night" for students, when Ian David Long, 28, walked inside and opened fire, police said.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean described the incident at the Borderline Bar and Grill as a "tragic, tragic situation."

Among those killed were Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, a husband and father, who rushed inside the venue, exchanged fire with the gunman, and later died at the hospital.

In recent years, in the wake of tragedies like these, those hoping to see policymakers explore new ways to keep Americans safe from gun violence have been left wanting. Congress' Republican majority has made no effort to hide their disinterest in even considering new legislation on the issue.

But as we learned this week, Congress is poised to see some changes very soon. Roll Call  reported this morning, "With a new majority in the House, Democrats say they're emboldened to make changes once they take control in January."

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.8.18

11/08/18 12:00PM

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

* Things are likely to get a little messy in Maine's 2nd congressional district, where incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) is ahead by 0.3%, but where the winner will be determined by the state's ranked-choice voting process.

* There's a new controversy in South Florida, where 24,000 voters in heavily Democratic Broward County, voted in the state's gubernatorial race, but failed to vote in the U.S. Senate race. According to the Sun-Sentinel, there was some confusion about the layout of the ballot.

* In the wake of her defeat in Missouri this week, outgoing Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) believes Fox News contributed to her loss. "It's time we all quit dancing around what is now a state-owned news channel," she said yesterday.

* As of last night, Democrats at the state level had flipped "more than 300 state legislative seats while also claiming a majority of the nation's attorney general offices."

* In North Carolina's only undecided race, Dan McCready (D) has conceded to Mark Harris (R) in the 9th district. Harris is perhaps best known as a former minister with a lengthy record of controversial remarks about women and religious minorities.

* In Georgia, Brian Kemp (R) has declared victory in the state's problematic gubernatorial race. Stacey Abrams said last night, "We know our opponent has had the secretary of state's office declare he is the winner. We are here to say we don't accept that."

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Trump is eager to tell you about the Dems who secretly agree with him

11/08/18 11:25AM

One of the stranger developments in Republican politics this year is the campaign against tech giants and social media companies, which the right sees as conspiring against conservatives. Some GOP members of Congress and prominent Republican media figures have spoken openly in recent months about government regulation of social media as if they were "public utilities."

Donald Trump, who loves nothing more than embracing conspiracy theories that make him look like a victim, has been only too pleased to endorse the underlying idea, and he's toyed publicly with the idea of government regulation. The topic came up briefly at yesterday's White House press conference.

Q: You expressed some concerns about social media companies unfairly censoring conservatives during the election. Do you anticipate working with Democrats to regulate these companies, or are you satisfied with the way things are?

TRUMP: I would — I would do that. Yeah. I would look at that very seriously. I think it's a serious problem. At the same time, you start getting into speech; that's a very dangerous problem. That could be the beginning. So it's very dangerous.

Believe it or not, I'm one that really likes free speech. A lot of people don't understand that. But I am a big believer. And when you start regulating, a lot of bad things can happen.

But I would certainly talk to the Democrats if they want to do that. And I think they do want to do that.

There's a lot wrong with this, but it was those last few words that stood out as especially striking. The president believes Democrats want government regulation of social media? I'm obviously not in a position to speak with authority as to what Democratic policymakers are prepared to negotiate with the White House about, but I'm aware of zero Dems who've expressed even passing interest in this.

At the same press conference, a reporter asked about funding for Trump's dream of a giant wall along the U.S./Mexico border. The president insisted, "Look, I speak to Democrats all the time. They agree that a wall is necessary. Wall is necessary. And as you know, we're building the wall. We've started."

Putting aside the fact that the administration hasn't "started" building a wall -- this is one of Trump's favorite lies -- the number of Democrats who believe a wall "is necessary" is effectively zero.

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Putting the GOP's House losses in context does Trump no favors

11/08/18 10:54AM

There is no consensus about the precise definition of a "wave" election, so there's been a fair amount of debate since Tuesday night about whether Democratic gains this year meet the standard. Whether the argument is constructive or not is a matter of perspective.

Perhaps there's another way of looking at this. I put together the above chart showing House losses and gains for the president's party by midterm cycle since 1914 (the first midterm cycle in which the House had 435 members). Red columns point to years in which the White House was held by a Republican, blue columns point to years in which the president was a Democrat.

Results from this year are still coming into focus, of course, which makes this a little tricky. As of this morning, most news outlets show Democrats with a net gain of 29 or so seats, but FiveThirtyEight projects Dems will end up with a net gain of 37, so I went with that for now.

Let's also talk a bit about averages. Between 1914 and 2014, the president's party lost an average of about 30 House seats in midterm elections. If we narrow the focus to midterms since World War II, the average is about 26. Since Watergate, the average is 23.

If we look only at a president's first midterm cycle -- in other words, after a president has been in office for two years, as opposed to six -- the average between 1914 and 2014 is nearly 33 seats. If we look only at Republican presidents, the average is about 27 seats.

With these metrics in mind, 2018 doesn't look great for Trump's GOP.

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Lucia McBath of Atlanta, Ga., mother of Jordan Davis, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Stand Your Ground" laws October 29, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Georgia Dem flips district formerly held by Gingrich, Tom Price

11/08/18 10:00AM

House Democratic candidates flipped all kinds of districts in every part of the country this week, but some stand out more than others. Take Georgia's 6th, for example.

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel on Thursday conceded to Democrat Lucy McBath in the 6th District congressional race, a major upset that showcased Democrats' strength in suburbs once dominated by the GOP.

"After carefully reviewing all of the election results data, it is clear that I came up a bit short on Tuesday," Handel said in a statement. "Congratulations to Representative-Elect Lucy McBath and send her only good thoughts and much prayer for the journey that lies ahead for her."

McBath declared victory in the race Wednesday afternoon after narrowly leading Handel by several thousand votes.

If Georgia's 6th stands out as significant to a national audience, there's a good reason for that. After Donald Trump tapped then-Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services early last year, there was a special election to fill the vacancy.

On paper, it didn't look like it'd be an especially interesting contest: Democrats were running a young, first-time candidate against a Republican who'd already been elected to statewide office. This was a red district, in a red state, which hadn't elected a Democrat -- or even seen a competitive race -- since the 1970s. Before Tom Price, it's a district Newt Gingrich held for many years.

Jon Ossoff (D), however, did better than expected, losing the special election to Karen Handel by less than four points. Regardless, Republicans crowed: the White House's Kellyanne Conway wrote on Twitter soon after, "Laughing my #Ossoff."

A year and a half later, I guess she's not laughing anymore.

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U.S. Sen. John Tester (D-MT), listens to testimony during a Senate Homeland Security hearing on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on border security as some are calling for an overhaul of immigration...

The 2018 Senate race that likely bothers Trump the most

11/08/18 09:20AM

It's not exactly a secret that Donald Trump has little use for the bright lines that traditionally define American politics, but in April, the president was in rare form. Infuriated by the demise of Ronny Jackson's nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump lashed out at Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in hysterical ways.

In fact, the president publicly called for the Montana senator's resignation -- he was a little fuzzy on why, exactly, the lawmaker should quit -- and boasted that he had secret information on Jon Tester that would ensure "he'd never be elected again."

How'd that work out?

Two-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester is the apparent winner in the Montana Senate race, NBC News projects Wednesday, defeating Republican challenger Matt Rosendale.

The projection came Wednesday afternoon, most than 12 hours after polls closed in state closed. Tester and Rosendale, the Republican state auditor, had been locked in a neck-and-neck race.

With 99 percent of the votes in the state tallied, Tester led Rosendale 49.1 percent to 48 percent with Libertarian Party candidate Rick Breckenridge getting 2.9 percent.

The president has reason to be pleased with Republicans expanding their majority in the Senate, but I have a hunch the outcome of the Montana race stings.

That's because Trump made this one personal.

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An exam room at the Whole Woman's Health clinic, in McAllen, Texas on March 4, 2014. (Photo by Jennifer Whitney/The New York Times/Redux)

Trump thinks he's come up with a 'solution' to the abortion debate

11/08/18 08:40AM

Few issues divide Americans the way the debate over abortion right does. The contentious dispute is very likely to get worse before it gets better.

Not only have Republicans pushed the Supreme Court to the right, making it easy to imagine the demise of the Roe v. Wade precedent, but the political fight continues to intensify. Just this week, voters in West Virginia approved a ballot measure banning abortion just as soon as the Supreme Court allows for such a ban, while voters in Alabama passed a "fetal personhood" policy extending legal rights to "unborn life."

Neither measure has the force of law, at least not yet, but they're not just symbolic efforts, either. In effect, West Virginia and Alabama took steps to prepare for a post-Roe landscape.

It's against this backdrop that someone at yesterday's White House press conference asked Donald Trump about his efforts to "defend the rights of unborn children."

Q: How are you going to push forward your pro-life agenda?

TRUMP: Just going to push. I've been pushing. I've done a very good job, too. Very happy with me. But it's a tough issue for the two sides. There's no question about it.

Q: But what are you going to do to --

TRUMP: There is great division -- what am I going to do? I won't be able to explain that to you, because it is an issue that is a very divisive, polarizing issue. But there is a solution. I think I have that solution, and nobody else does.

Really? After generations of debate over reproductive freedoms, Trump believes he's the president who's uncovered a "solution" that no one else has come up with? And he just happened to blurt this out in response to a question at a press conference?

I suppose anything's possible, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and argue that he's making this up.

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A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty)

Trump taps partisan loyalist to oversee Justice Dept, Mueller probe

11/08/18 08:00AM

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped down yesterday at Donald Trump's insistence, the Justice Department obviously needed an acting A.G. Under normal circumstances, the post would be temporarily filled by a deputy attorney general who'd have the relevant experience and the benefit of having been confirmed by the Senate.

As Rachel explained on the show last night, Trump chose a very different course.

With Jeff Sessions now out as attorney general, President Donald Trump's choice to fill his shoes, at least temporarily, is in the position to have a significant impact on the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

Matthew Whitaker, who has served as Session's chief of staff since late 2017, has been tapped to become acting attorney general and will therefore take over the role of overseeing Mueller's probe from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The game of musical chairs at the DOJ may seem like bureaucratic trivia. It's not. To fully appreciate the scope of the dilemma, it's important to understand who Matt Whitaker is.

After serving as a U.S. Attorney during the Bush/Cheney era, Whitaker more recently was basically a professional pundit who appeared on television quite a bit -- it's probably how Trump came to learn of his work -- where he was a frequent and harsh critic of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russia scandal.

In fact, Whitaker went so far as to call the probe, in Trump-esque language, "Mueller's lynch mob."

In one especially memorable TV appearance, Whitaker described a scenario to CNN in which Sessions would be replaced, and his successor would reduce the special counsel's office's budget "so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt."

As of last night, Whitaker now oversees the Mueller investigation.

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.7.18

11/07/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* He's correct: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Wednesday, moments after Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at President Trump's request, that protecting special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is paramount."

* This process isn't going well: "North Korea called off planned nuclear talks in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, dealing a setback to a rocky diplomatic process and lowering hopes for progress on denuclearization."

* Didn't the White House say Wall Street was worried about Democratic gains? "Wall Street came out of the gate strong on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average seeing an immediate gain of 277 points at the opening bell and topping 400 by mid-afternoon. The Nasdaq was up by 2 percent in early afternoon trading, and the S&P 500 spiked by around 1.5 percent."

* Hmm: "Special counsel Robert Mueller's probe has expanded to include a filmmaker who interviewed Roger Stone for a documentary about alternative media and censorship called 'Sensational' in 2017. David Lugo told NBC News he testified before a Washington grand jury in October about Stone and Stone's alleged backchannel to WikiLeaks, comedian and activist Randy Credico."

* What prompted the change? "The U.S. military mission at the U.S.-Mexico border will no longer be called 'Operation Faithful Patriot,' according to officials. The formerly named 'Operation Faithful Patriot' is a deployment of nearly 5,200 troops, who joined 2,000 troops already stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border."

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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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