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Senate Democrats start climbing aboard the impeachment train, too

09/24/19 12:51PM

The number of House Democrats endorsing Donald Trump's impeachment continued to grow this morning, with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) -- a man who's been described as "the conscience of Congress" -- adding his voice to the chorus.

"There comes a time when you have to be moved by the spirit of history to take action to protect and preserve the integrity of our nation," the Georgia Democrat said on the House floor today. "I believe, I truly believe, the time to begin impeachment proceedings against this president has come."

As of this minute, I believe there are now 152 House Democrats and one House independent on board with the idea, though these numbers are subject to change at any moment. For those keeping score, there are currently 235 House Dems, which means 65% of the conference -- very nearly a two-thirds majority -- supports, at a minimum, pursuing presidential impeachment.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the few top 2020 contenders who hasn't endorsed impeachment, will reportedly announce today that if Trump refuses to comply with Congress' investigations, lawmakers will have no choice but to draw articles. (The other most recent Democratic vice president, Al Gore, also suggested yesterday he supports an impeachment process.)

And in case this weren't quite enough, Senate Democrats are starting to climb aboard the same train. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) endorsed Trump's impeachment yesterday, and early this morning, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) issued a written statement along the same lines.

"It is now my belief that the House of Representatives must begin an impeachment inquiry into the president's corrupt efforts to press a foreign nation into the service of his reelection campaign. As part of the inquiry, the House should take steps to assure that the pending whistleblower complaint be presented to Congress in full, and an investigation must take place into the full extent of the Trump administration's demands that the Ukrainian government become agents of the president's political agenda. If, as it appears Mr. Trump has already acknowledged, the president violated his oath of office by using the constitutional powers entrusted to him to try to destroy a political rival, then the president much be impeached.

"I am deeply sorry that our nation must begin this journey toward impeachment. Up until these recent developments, I had resisted calling for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, choosing instead to allow the House to consider its options free from senatorial advice. But circumstances have changed, and the seriousness of the moment requires all of us to speak out in order to preserve our nation's commitment to the rule of law."

Soon after, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed the call, as did Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.24.19

09/24/19 12:00PM

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

* In Nevada, a new Suffolk University/Reno Gazette Journal poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers shows Joe Biden leading, but his margin over Elizabeth Warren is shrinking. The former vice president has 24% support, followed by Warren at 19%, and Bernie Sanders at 14%. Every other Democratic presidential hopeful was below 5% in this poll.

* Speaking of Sanders, the Vermont senator unveiled a new wealth tax today, including a steep tax specifically targeting billionaires. The longtime independent added that he hopes "the day comes when" billionaires no longer exist.

* According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, a combined 69% of voters say they don't like Donald Trump personally, "regardless of their feelings about his policy agenda." Before Trump, the worst any modern president has fared on this question was George W. Bush in March 2006, right after Hurricane Katrina, when 42% of voters said they didn't like the president personally, regardless of his policies.

* The Democratic National Committee announced new qualifying thresholds for the party's November presidential primary debate: participants will need to reach 3% support in four polls and 165,000 unique donors. There is, however, a notable twist: the DNC also said that candidates can reach the polling threshold by reaching 5% support in two approved polls from the early nominating states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and/or South Carolina).

* With virtual caucuses ruled out as a result of cybersecurity concerns, Iowa Democrats are moving forward with a series of "satellite" caucuses that will be held on February 3, though not necessarily at the same time.

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When Trump confronts scandal, projection remains his go-to move

09/24/19 11:20AM

Just over the last month or so, the corruption allegations against Donald Trump have piled up quickly. It seems like ages ago, but it was just last month when the president announced an effort to have the next G-7 summit held at one of his Florida properties, creating a dynamic in which several key world leaders would have no choice but to effectively put money in his pocket by way of one of his struggling businesses.

Soon after, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Ireland for meetings in Dublin, but at the president's "suggestion," he stayed three hours away at a Trump-owned property on the other side of the country. This, of course, was followed by reports about military personnel staying at Trump's business in Scotland, while supporting a nearby airport on which the president's business heavily relies.

And then, of course, the public learned about Trump's alleged efforts to get Ukraine to help his re-election campaign by digging up dirt on one of his Democratic rivals -- a story the president appears to have lied about, changed his story about, and taken steps to cover up.

It was against this backdrop that the Republican spoke to reporters yesterday, sitting alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda. Trump turned to a familiar tactic:

"[T]here was no pressure put on [Ukrainian officials] whatsoever. I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have. I think it would probably, possibly, have been okay if I did. But I didn't. I didn't put any pressure on them whatsoever. You know why? Because they want to do the right thing. And they know about corruption. And they probably know that Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. They probably know that.

"Joe Biden and his son are corrupt. All right? But the fake news doesn't want to report it because they're Democrats."

In reality, there's simply no evidence of the former vice president engaging in any corruption. Republicans are playing a little game, and expecting everyone to play along, but they're pushing an unsubstantiated claim.

But when push comes to shove, the president can't shake what I like to think of as his "no-puppeting" problem. Confronting allegations of corruption, Trump reflexively accuses his critics of corruption. The Republican has a playbook for defending himself, and projection is the first page.

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Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani comments on a lawsuit filed against video game giant Activision outside Los Angeles Superior court in Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 16, 2014. (Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Giuliani suggests he was on a 'mission' from the State Department

09/24/19 10:48AM

Rudy Giuliani, in his capacity as one of Donald Trump's personal lawyers, has an amazing habit of saying the darnedest things.

The former New York City mayor has already admitted pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in order to help his client in the Oval Office -- something Giuliani considers entirely proper. Last night, he told Fox News' Sean Hannity that State Department asked him to pursue such efforts.

HANNITY: You didn't get involved in this on your own. Did our State Department ask you to go on a mission for them?

GIULIANI: They did. I was called by the State --

HANNITY: And you're a good citizen and you went?

GIULIANI: The State Department called me and said, would I take a call from Mr. Yermak, who's number two or three to the president-elect, now the president. I was put together with Mr. Earmach. I talked to him he gave me enormously important facts. I conveyed them all to the State Department -- unlike the media lies, fake news, I wasn't operating on my own. I was operating at the request of the State Department.

This roughly dovetails with a Wall Street Journal report from the weekend, which said that Giuliani, according to his own account, met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president, as part of a meeting that had been "set up by the State Department."

As a rule, taking Giuliani's rhetoric at face value makes about as much sense as taking Donald Trump's rhetoric at face value. It's entirely possible, if not likely, that the former mayor will walk all of this back, perhaps even claiming he didn't say what a national audience heard him say.

But in case this isn't obvious, if the U.S. State Department was directly involved in dispatching the president's private lawyer to Ukraine, as part of a political scheme intended to help Trump's re-election campaign, it will make the already damaging story quite a bit worse.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks with reporters reporters after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol Aug. 4, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Ignoring irony, McConnell laments efforts to 'politicize' Trump scandal

09/24/19 10:06AM

As Donald Trump's latest scandal increases the odds of his impeachment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is disappointed -- not with presidential misconduct, but with Democratic efforts to "politicize" the controversy.

"I believe it's extremely important that their work be handled in a secure setting with adequate protections in a bipartisan fashion -- and based on facts rather than leaks to the press. It's regrettable that House Intelligence [Committee] Chairman [Adam] Schiff [D-Calif.] and Sen. [Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] have chosen to politicize this issue," McConnell said from the Senate floor on Monday.

At this point, you're probably thinking that I'm about to write several hundred words about Mitch McConnell being the single most partisan human being who's ever lived, making his admonitions yesterday appear hilariously insincere.

But I'm not going to do that. It's tempting, but I have a different area of interest in mind.

Let's say everyone involved in the process, recognizing the seriousness of the allegations against the president, wanted to avoid "politicizing" the issue. Let's say McConnell's concerns were legitimate -- they're not, of course, but let's say they were for the sake of conversation -- and officials committed to a de-politicized process.

In practical terms, what exactly would that look like?

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As scandal brews, Trump brings 'the electric chair' into the debate

09/24/19 09:20AM

Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump spoke to reporters in New York for about 10 minutes, sitting alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda, and the Republican pushed back against his latest scandal by throwing a bit of a tantrum.

"If a Republican ever did what Joe Biden did, if a Republican ever said what Joe Biden said, they'd be getting the electric chair by right now.

"Look at the double standards. You people ought to be ashamed of yourself. And not all. We have some great journalists around. But you got a lot of crooked journalists. You're crooked as hell.

"Okay. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed it."

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, Joe Biden didn't do anything wrong. There's no evidence whatsoever of any misdeeds. I don't agree with every decision the former vice president ever made, and I don't agree with every position he's ever taken, but those looking for real controversies surrounding the Democratic candidate will need to look elsewhere.

The idea that Biden committed some kind of capital offense, deserving of execution, is as indefensible as it is ridiculous.

That said, if the president is eager to talk about "double standards," let's take a short stroll down that road.

National Review, a prominent conservative outlet, published an item late last week, that raised a straightforward observation: "There is not a Republican alive who would find it acceptable for a Democratic president to press a foreign country to work with his personal lawyer to investigate a domestic political rival."

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Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Holds Her Weekly Press Conference At The Capitol

Why the Democratic floodgates are opening on impeachment

09/24/19 08:43AM

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) acknowledged over the weekend that he'd been "very reluctant" to pursue presidential impeachment. He added, "But if the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that that conduct represents.... We very well may have crossed the Rubicon here."

As Rachel noted on the show last night, Schiff isn't the only one thinking along these lines. NBC News' report this morning took stock of the shifting political landscape.

In a Monday night Washington Post op-ed, seven freshman House Democrats called for impeachment hearings in response to the Ukraine scandal, which three sources told NBC News may give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the "cover" she needs to back a formal impeachment proceeding against the president which she has not done to date.

"This is major. It seems to me like it's an inflection point," one source said.

In the op-ed, Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Va., Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., Jason Crow, D-Colo., Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said their experiences in the military, defense and U.S. intelligence agencies helped shape their decision.

"These allegations are stunning, both in the national security threat they pose and the potential corruption they represent," wrote the seven freshmen.

The number of lawmakers who've endorsing moving forward with Donald Trump's impeachment has grown over the last 24 hours, but as of this minute, the list includes 149 House Democrats and one independent, Michigan's Justin Amash, who was a Republican up until July.

In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said there were only about 35 members supporting the president's impeachment, and she chided the press at the time for making "a fuss" about a small group of lawmakers.

That group is no longer small, and one House Democratic freshman said there's been a "seismic change" in the party's attitude. It's worth considering why and the practical implications of the shift.

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Raising stakes, Trump accused of personally delaying Ukraine funds

09/24/19 08:00AM

During a brief Q&A with reporters outside the White House on Sunday, Donald Trump was asked how he explains the delay in proving military aid to Ukraine in July. "I didn't delay anything," the president replied.

Overnight reporting from the Washington Post suggests his denial wasn't true.

President Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which Trump is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden, according to three senior administration officials.

Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump's order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They explained that the president had "concerns" and wanted to analyze whether the money needed to be spent.

Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an "interagency process" but to give them no additional information -- a pattern that continued for nearly two months, until the White House released the funds on the night of Sept. 11.

Also last night, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and the New York Times published similar reports, making clear that it was Trump who personally put a hold on U.S. aid to Ukraine ahead of his chat with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

It doesn't take much of an imagination to connect the dots here. The accusation has come into focus: Trump wanted Ukraine to intervene in the American election, but he needed leverage over his Ukrainian counterpart. The Republican took it upon himself to block the promised aid in the days leading up to a scheduled meeting with Zelensky, and then during the meeting, Trump leaned on the Ukrainian leader to participate in a partisan scheme intended to help keep him in power.

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Trump attacks on whistleblower risk promoting future leaks

Trump attacks on whistleblower risk promoting future leaks

09/23/19 09:29PM

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, talks with Rachel Maddow about his concerns about the future impact of the Donald Trump administration's disregard for the whistleblower process, and why he thinks Congress should see the whistleblower report but not the transcript of Donald Trump's call with the Ukrainian president. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 9.23.19

09/23/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, at which point "the dam could break" on impeachment.

* Cairo: "Egypt braced for more unrest this week after two nights of protests resulted in hundreds of arrests in the most significant political challenge in years to President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who is facing corruption accusations."

* The done deal isn't done: "The trade agreement President Trump told Congress he had reached with Japan last week is now hung up amid Japanese concerns that Trump will still move to penalize their auto shipments to the United States, according to two people familiar with the negotiations."

* In case you missed this on Friday night: "The United States is deploying military forces to the Middle East after Saturday's drone attacks on major oil sites in Saudi Arabia that the administration of President Donald Trump has blamed on Iran."

* Yet another unflattering NRA story: "The National Rifle Association's board retroactively approved numerous financial arrangements benefiting top officials of the gun-rights group, their relatives or close friends, according to board minutes reviewed by The Wall Street Journal."

* A scary story: "An Army soldier was arrested for allegedly passing on bomb-making instructions to fellow 'radicals' and sought to blow up cell towers and news stations, authorities announced Monday."

* FAIR Act: "The House just passed a groundbreaking bill that would restore legal rights to millions of American workers and consumers. Lawmakers voted 225-186 Friday to pass the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, a far-reaching bill that bans companies from requiring workers and consumers to resolve legal disputes in private arbitration -- a quasi-legal forum with no judge, no jury, and practically no government oversight."

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Trump's comments on Ukrainian aid make matters worse

09/23/19 12:43PM

Just this morning, I wrote an item about Donald Trump too often making comments that undermine his own best interests, effectively admitting wrongdoing when he doesn't have to. Little did I know he'd soon after do it again.

President Donald Trump on Monday defended his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling it a "perfect" discussion, while suggesting he had tied vital military funding for Ukraine to that country's handling of corruption -- which he has alleged Vice President Joe Biden's family was engaged in there.

"We want to make sure that country is honest. It's very important to talk about corruption. If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?" Trump told reporters when asked what he had spoken about with Ukraine's new president in a July phone call.

"It's very important that, on occasion, you speak to somebody about corruption," he said, moments after telling reporters: "let me just tell you -- let me just tell you. What Biden did was wrong."

Putting aside the fact there's no evidence whatsoever of Biden having done anything wrong, and the fact that the president has an unfortunate record of making all kinds of false allegations against his perceived political foes, this was the first time the public has heard Trump make a connection between his call with the Ukrainian president, U.S. financial/military aid, and Trump's electoral scheme.

The original Republican line was that nothing happened. The second line was that Trump may, in fact, have talked to a foreign government about intervening in an American election. And the brand new line is that Trump, while talking to a foreign government about intervening in an American election, referenced the $250 million the United States committed to Ukraine.

Or to put this in broader strokes, we're witnessing the transition from "the accusation isn't true" to "the accusation is true, but there's nothing actually wrong with misdeed in question."

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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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