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File photo taken in November 2017 shows U.S. President Donald Trump (and Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a welcome ceremony in Beijing.

Evidence knocks down Trump claims on China, tariffs (again)

11/26/19 10:03AM

Late last week, Donald Trump called into Fox News for a rambling, 53-minute interview in which the president made an astonishing number of ridiculous claims. Among them, however, was a familiar refrain.

"We're taking in hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs [from China]," Trump said. "We never took in 10 cents. We are not paying like, you know, you -- they fed the line, you know, the media fed the line about us paying."

All of this, of course, was wrong. In reality, for example, we're not taking in hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs from China. What's more, we have taken in more than "10 cents" from Beijing in years past.

As for blaming "the media" for telling the public that American consumers are actually paying for the White House's tariffs on Beijing, journalists aren't the only ones telling people the truth. Liberty Street Economics published this report yesterday, answering a straightforward question: "Who Pays the Tax on Imports from China?"

Tariffs are a form of taxation. Indeed, before the 1920s, tariffs (or customs duties) were typically the largest source of funding for the U.S. government. Of little interest for decades, tariffs are again becoming relevant, given the substantial increase in the rates charged on imports from China.

U.S. businesses and consumers are shielded from the higher tariffs to the extent that Chinese firms lower the dollar prices they charge. U.S. import price data, however, indicate that prices on goods from China have so far not fallen. As a result, U.S. wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, and consumers are left paying the tax.

As Catherine Rampell noted, "This is at least the fifth independent analysis finding that Americans are bearing the cost of Trump's tariffs."

And yet, with unnerving frequency, the president keeps telling Americans the opposite, reality be damned. All of which brings us back to a question that's difficult to answer: does Trump actually believe the nonsense he keeps asking us to believe?

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Image: President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

On centennial coins, Trump struggles with how time works

11/26/19 09:21AM

There was a point last year at which Harley-Davidson announced plans to move some of its production overseas as a result of Donald Trump's trade policies. The president. outraged, responded that customers were so angry with the developments that they'd pushed down Harley-Davidson's sales numbers in 2017.

That, of course, didn't make any sense. Consumers upset by developments in 2018 can't affect sales in 2017. Trump was so eager to make a strange political point that he briefly seemed to forget how time works.

Yesterday, it happened again, when Trump signed the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, which directs the Treasury to issue a commemorative coin to honor the 100th anniversary of American women getting the right to vote. After signing the measure -- which passed both the House and Senate unanimously -- the president decided to take a moment to reflect on what he considered important: his own awesomeness.

"I am curious why wasn't it done a long time ago and also, well, I guess the answer to that is because now I am president and we get things done.

"We get a lot of things done that nobody else got done."

Well, if Trump is "curious" why other presidents didn't sign the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, I can help. In this country, the women's suffrage movement led to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919, and its ratification in 1920.

No one tried to honor the centennial of this because -- and this is important -- centennials mark the hundredth anniversary of things. In order to recognize the centennial of something that happened in 1920, we had to wait until around 2020, because that's how time works.

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After echoing Russian propaganda, GOP senator tries to walk it back

11/26/19 08:41AM

U.S. officials have urged policymakers, more than once, not to promote Russian disinformation about the attack on our 2016 elections. In fact, the New York Times reported late last week that American intelligence professionals have "informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow's own hacking of the 2016 election."

It was against this backdrop that Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) appeared on Fox News over the weekend, fielding a question from Chris Wallace about which country was responsible for Russia's attack. "I don't know, nor do you, nor do any of us," the Republican senator replied.

The host reminded the Louisianan that the entirety of his own country's intelligence community pointed to Russia's culpability. "Right, but it could also be Ukraine," Kennedy said, apparently indifferent to the fact that he was helping disseminate the Kremlin's bogus message.

As Politico noted, the GOP senator adopted a different position last night.

Sen. John N. Kennedy (R-La.) walked back on a comment he made Sunday supporting the debunked theory that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails in 2016.

"I was wrong," Kennedy said Monday night on CNN. "The only evidence I have, and I think it's overwhelming, is that it was Russia to tried to hack the DNC computer." [...]

[S]peaking with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday, Kennedy said he misheard Wallace's question.

Because it's uncommon to see politicians publicly admit mistakes, there's something refreshing, even heartening, about Kennedy's on-air acknowledgement that he was wrong.

But at the risk of sounding picky, the senator's walkback wasn't as compelling as it could've been.

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After judge rejects Trump's 'absolute immunity' claim, now what?

11/26/19 08:00AM

When it comes to obstruction allegations surrounding Donald Trump, former White House Counsel Don McGahn is not just another witness: few figures play as important a role in the Mueller report as the former White House counsel. As we've discussed, the Republican lawyer spoke with investigators for dozens of hours, and the special counsel's findings cited McGahn more than 150 times.

In some of the episodes in which Trump allegedly obstructed justice, the claims of suspected criminal misconduct are based heavily on what the former White House Counsel told investigators.

Indeed, as the special counsel's findings made clear, McGahn very nearly resigned because the president directed him to "do crazy s**t," including an incident in which, according to McGahn, Trump pressed the lawyer to push the Justice Department to derail the Russia investigation by getting rid of Mueller and creating a false document to cover that up.

Not surprisingly, Congress subpoenaed McGahn to testify. The former White House counsel refused to comply after Trump ordered him to ignore the lawmakers' summons. But is that legal? Can a president direct someone not to comply with a lawful federal subpoena? As NBC News' Pete Williams reported, a federal judge ruled late yesterday that Trump exceeded his authority -- and McGahn must obey the subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee.

Federal District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said McGahn must appear before Congress but retains the ability to "invoke executive privilege where appropriate" during his appearance. The judge did not put her own ruling on hold, but the Trump administration will likely seek one to put the effect of her ruling on hold while it pursues an appeal.

"It is clear to this Court for the reasons explained above that, with respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist," Jackson said in her ruling.

"Presidents are not kings," she added.

The full ruling is online here. As Rachel explained on the show last night, "This is a ruling that is designed to be read by people who are outside this case. This is a ruling, I think, in the specific, that is designed to remind us all what kind of government the Constitution spells out for us and why, when all else fails, we should be able to count on the judiciary, the court system, the rule of law, to protect the Constitution, to make sure that the law is upheld. To make sure that nobody is above the law."

So, what happens now?

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Judge finds limit to Trump ability to block witnesses from House

Judge finds limit to Trump ability to block witnesses from House

11/25/19 09:46PM

Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, talks with Rachel Maddow about the dramatic ruling by U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in which she explains that presidents are not kings and even Donald Trump is not above the law, so former White House counsel Don McGahn cannot ignore a subpoena to testify before the House impeachment inquiry... watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 11.25.19

11/25/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Impressive numbers from an engaged democracy: "After months of sometimes-violent unrest in Hong Kong, an election with record turnout handed a big victory to pro-democracy local district council candidates, posing a new conundrum for Beijing and adding pressure on the city's leader."

* I guess the new policy is the same as the old policy: "United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump's abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive."

* Parnas and Fruman, redux: "Two associates of Rudy Giuliani tried to recruit a top Ukrainian energy official in March in a proposed takeover of the state oil-and-gas company, describing the company's chief executive and the then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of "this Soros cartel" working against President Trump."

* RBG: "Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back home and resting after being hospitalized Friday. Ginsburg, 86, has been released after being admitted with chills and a fever, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court said Sunday."

* More evidence of a climate crisis for the White House to ignore: "The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere has reached a record high, according to a report released Monday by the World Meteorological Organization."

* I'm guessing he didn't consider resigning as an alternative to carrying out the order: "Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday that President Donald Trump had directed him to allow a Navy SEAL acquitted of war crimes to retire without losing his elite status."

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Rick Perry told Trump he's 'the chosen one'

11/25/19 02:19PM

With just a few months remaining before Election Day 2008, John McCain's presidential campaign settled on an unexpected line of attack. "Barack Obama," the Republican campaign said in a national online ad, "may be The One."

As the New York Times noted at the time, "The heavens part in this new Web ad, which wraps Mr. Obama's words around the emerging meme among Republicans ... that the presumptive Democratic nominee is the 'anointed' one, and mocks him with a parting of the seas by Moses."

Twelve years later, Republicans have stopped mocking Obama as the chosen one and started sincerely labeling Donald Trump the chosen one.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said in an interview that he told President Donald Trump that he was God's "chosen one" to lead the United States, just as he chose the kings to lead Israel in the Old Testament. [...]

The former Texas governor said he told Trump that some people "said you were the chosen one."

"And I said, 'You were.'"

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley made related comments to TV preacher Pat Robertson's cable program, saying, in response to a question about a divine hand possibly putting Trump in the Oval Office, "[E]verything happens for a reason... I think that God sometimes places people for lessons and sometimes places people for change."

In the spring, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also sat down with the Christian Broadcasting Network and said he believes God may have sent Donald Trump to Earth to protect Israel.

Two months earlier, then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times, and I think that He wanted Donald Trump to become president and that's why he's there."

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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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