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U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Why Trump took a renewed interest in Barack Obama's middle name

11/06/18 08:00AM

The U.S. Senate race in Indiana this year is among this year's most competitive and closely watched contests, so it wasn't surprising to learn that Donald Trump would travel to Indianapolis to rally support for Mike Braun (R), ahead of Barack Obama's visit to the state to boost incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D).

But the way in which the current president acknowledged his immediate predecessor was a little unusual.

Trump also criticized Donnelly for planning to campaign with former President Barack Obama in northwest Indiana this Sunday. Obama won the state in 2008 but lost in 2012.

"It is no surprise that Joe Donnelly is holding a rally this week with Barack H. Obama," Trump said, using his finger to draw the "H," which stands for "Hussein," in the air as he spoke.

The video of the moment helps drive the point home.

It obviously only lasted a few seconds, but Trump managed to say quite a bit by focusing on a single letter. The Republican president, even now, still sees political value in tactics like these. Pointing out Barack Obama's middle name, in Trump's mind, serves to denigrate his predecessor, criticize officials like Donnelly, and perhaps most importantly, generate excitement among GOP voters.

There's a lot of this going around. A Washington Post  analysis added yesterday, "President Trump appears to be banking on his party retaining control of the Senate or even gaining seats. To do so, and presumably in an effort to goose Republican turnout broadly in hopes of averting disaster in the House, he is increasingly surfacing an often-submerged bit of political rhetoric: Vote Republican to protect white America."

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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.5.18

11/05/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest tragic loss in Afghanistan: "A Utah mayor serving in Afghanistan was reportedly killed and another service member was wounded when an Afghan commando opened fire on them on Saturday in Kabul. Maj. Brent Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden, Utah, was killed."

* Friday night's mass shooting: "A gunman killed two people and wounded five others at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday evening before fatally shooting himself, officials said. Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said the shooter, Scott Beierle, 40, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound."

* On a related note: "The man who shot and killed two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs."

* Good call, Part I: "The Supreme Court on Friday night refused to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts to force the federal government to take action on climate change, turning down a request from the Trump administration to stop it before trial."

* Good call, Part II: "The U.S. Supreme Court late Friday refused to stop a lawsuit, scheduled to go to trial on Monday, over the Trump administration's plan to put a question about citizenship on the 2020 census form."

This is a partial list: "There's no U.S. ambassador in Mexico, our troubled neighbor to the south. No ambassador in nuclear-armed Pakistan, arguably the most dangerous country on Earth. No ambassador in Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world. No ambassador in Jordan, a vulnerable ally sandwiched between Syria and Israel. No ambassador in South Africa or Singapore."

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a television cameras view finder during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on March 8, 2016 in Jupiter, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

As networks pull racist ad, Trump says, 'A lot of things are offensive'

11/05/18 04:18PM

It's been called "the most racially charged national political ad in 30 years," and that assessment wasn't hyperbolic. As we discussed last week, Donald Trump released a 53-second online video that was so ugly, even some Republicans found the demagoguery tough to defend.

Making matters worse, the video wasn't just based on racism; it was also based on falsehoods. In this case, the president couldn't even try to scare people without lying.

In recent days, however, what was a racist and dishonest online video became a racist and dishonest television campaign commercial. Today, networks that aired the ad decided to stop.

NBC and Fox News said on Monday morning that they would no longer air an immigration ad from President Donald Trump that has been widely derided as racially divisive.

"After further review, we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible," said Joe Benarroch, a spokesperson for NBC's advertising sales department.

Facebook also took action on Monday, blocking the ad from getting promoted through the company's paid distribution network, though it allowed the ad to remain on Trump's verified Facebook page, where it has been viewed more than one million times.

According to NBC News' report, citing data from the advertising tracking firm iSpotTV, the ad aired a total of 18 times across multiple networks including Fox News, Fox Business Network, and MSNBC.

Asked this afternoon about the offensiveness of the ad, the president told reporters, "Well, a lot of things are offensive.... Your questions are offensive a lot of times."

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On the eve of Election Day, Trump turns again to intimidation tactics

11/05/18 12:53PM

About two weeks ago, apropos of nothing, Donald Trump published a tweet that read, "All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!"

It seemed odd, to put it mildly, to see an American president try to intimidate voters in his own country, seemingly trying to discourage his national constituents from participating in elections. And yet, this morning, he did it again.

"Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday's Election (or Early Voting). Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law. Thank you!"

I do love his use of phrases like "strongly notified." Some presidents may casually notify law enforcement, but not Donald J. Trump. He "strongly notifies" law enforcement -- which presumably means notifications that include randomly capitalized letters as a way of letting everyone know he means it.

All joking aside, presidential warnings like these are offensive, not just because "illegal voting" is ridiculously rare -- Trump is effectively issuing warnings to address a problem that doesn't exist -- and not just because voter-intimidation tactics are inherently undemocratic.

The other part of the equation is that we've seen efforts like these before, just not from elected American leaders.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.5.18

11/05/18 12:00PM

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

* The racist and dishonest video Donald Trump unveiled last week is no longer just an online fixture: NBC aired it as a televised commercial during a football game last night.

* Each of the major pre-election generic-ballot polls offers good news for Democrats. NBC/WSJ shows Dems with a 7-point lead (50% to 43%); ABC/Post also shows Dems up by 7 (51% to 44%), and CNN puts the Democratic lead at 13 points (55% to 42%).

* In Missouri's U.S. Senate race, the final NBC News/Marist poll found Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) up by three over Josh Hawley (R), 50% to 47%.

* In Florida's gubernatorial race, NBC News/Marist found Andrew Gillum (D) with a small lead over Ron DeSantis (R), 50% to 46%. Quinnipiac, meanwhile, found the Tallahassee mayor with a larger lead, 51% to 44%.

* In related news, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (R) campaigned for DeSantis over the weekend, and at a rally, the Trump cabinet official told supporters this election "is so cotton-pickin' important to the state of Florida."

* And speaking of the Sunshine State, in Florida's U.S. Senate race, NBC News/Marist found Bill Nelson (D) leading Rick Scott (R), 50% to 46%, while Quinnipiac showed the incumbent Democratic senator with a slightly larger lead, 51% to 44%.

* Despite the palpable panic in Democratic circles about Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) re-election bid in New Jersey, Quinnipiac's new poll found him leading Republican Bob Hugin, 55% to 40%.

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A woman places her vote into the ballot box on March 5, 2016 in Bowling Green, Ky. (Photo by Austin Anthony/Daily News/AP)

At the intersection of the gender gap and the education gap

11/05/18 11:20AM

In the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll ahead tomorrow's midterm elections, we find a familiar gender gap: Democrats lead among women voters by 18 points (55% to 37%), while Republicans have a seven-point advantage among men (50% to 43%). This 25-point swing suggests the gender gap in the 2018 elections may be among the largest ever seen.

But CNBC's John Harwood went a step further and added another axis. What happens when we overlay the data on gender and education levels?

Among men with college degrees, Democrats have a 5-point advantage.
Among men without college degrees, Republicans have a 34-point advantage.

Among women with college degrees, Democrats have a 27-point advantage.
Among women without college degrees, Republicans have a 16-point advantage.

These results are not altogether expected. We tend to think of men voting Republican, which is generally correct, though men with degrees prefer Democrats by a narrow margin. Likewise, Dems enjoy a significant lead among women, but this poll suggests women without degrees easily prefer Republicans.

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Pastors from the Las Vegas area pray with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a visit to the International Church of Las Vegas, and International Christian Academy on Oct. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump thinks 'nobody's done more' for religion than him

11/05/18 10:40AM

Donald Trump sat down with TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network the other day, and looking ahead to Election Day, the president expressed confidence that Republican turnout among evangelical Christians will be high.

"Well they're going to show up for me because nobody's done more for Christians or evangelicals or frankly religion than I have. You've seen all the things that we've passed including the Johnson Amendment and so many things we've nullified. Nobody's done more than we have."

As a presidential candidate, religion was frequently a point of concern for the Republican. Trump claimed to go to a New York church that rarely saw him. Asked if he's ever asked God for forgiveness, he said, "I don't think so." Asked whether he's drawn more to the New or Old Testaments, Trump replied, "Both."

And, of course, there was the whole "Two Corinthians" incident.

But two years later, Trump nevertheless believes "nobody" has done more for "religion" than him -- a boast that's even more audacious than the president's usual whoppers. I'm glad he at least tried to back this up with some proof, pointing to the demise of the Johnson Amendment, but there's a problem: the Johnson Amendment isn't anti-religion and Trump hasn't gotten rid of it.

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Trump just can't shake his emoluments case headache

11/05/18 10:00AM

I suspect some readers see the word "emoluments," and immediately lose interest, but as Donald Trump controversies go, this one has a lot of potential. NBC News reported late last week:

President Donald Trump's lawyers cannot try to derail a lawsuit over his ownership of the Trump Hotel in Washington by appealing a key early ruling in the case, a federal judge said Friday, dealing another blow to the president's efforts to block the case from going forward.

The Trump legal team sought authority from the federal judge in the case, Peter Messitte of Maryland, to appeal the judge's pre-trial decision that the emoluments clauses are intended to protect against any type of potentially improper influence.... In his order Friday, Messitte said the government cannot appeal the case piecemeal and must wait for a final ruling after a trial. He also declined to put a hold on the case, which would have blocked the challengers from seeking evidence about his hotel business through the legal process known as discovery.

There are multiple legal disputes surrounding Trump and his emoluments troubles, but this case, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., appears to be the most serious for the president -- and as of Friday, it isn't going away.

There are a couple of angles of interest, including some of the details of Friday's court order, but let's start by recapping what makes the case so interesting.

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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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