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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.1.17

11/01/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest out of New York: "The Uzbek immigrant who turned a rented pickup truck into a killing machine had been planning the deadly attack on lower Manhattan for weeks and was following the Islamic State playbook 'to a T,' the New York City police department's top anti-terrorism official said Wednesday."

* A dreadful idea: "President Donald Trump's Twitter demand Wednesday morning that a repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate be inserted in the Republican tax bill came out of the blue—and it's going over like a lead balloon on Capitol Hill."

* He signed it in private, suggesting he knows not to be proud of his actions: "President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the repeal of a banking rule that would have allowed consumers to join together to sue their bank or credit card company to resolve financial disputes."

* The report was released this afternoon: "President Trump's commission on the opioid crisis called Wednesday for a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain, part of a wide-ranging menu of improvements it said are needed to curb the opioid epidemic."

* Seems like a good idea: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote in a letter to the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday that Congress should make sexual harassment training mandatory for all new employees and those who have not received it."

* Preventable collisions: "The Navy has determined that two deadly crashes involving destroyers earlier this year could have been prevented, according to a report released Wednesday."

* White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a weird hypothetical story yesterday about buying beers in the hopes of selling tax cuts. A closer, more substantive look shows her story didn't make sense.

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump meets with members of the House Ways and Means Committee

Trump reportedly wants to name GOP tax plan the 'Cut Cut Cut Act'

11/01/17 04:06PM

About a month into his presidency, Donald Trump hosted a White House meeting with business leaders and boasted, "I'm good at branding." That may be true, but it's not clear if the president has other priorities he takes as seriously.

For example, two senior administration officials told ABC News the president is determined to name the Republican tax plan "the Cut Cut Cut Act" -- and this does not appear to be a joke.

Less than 24 hours before the bill is slated to be revealed, there is still dispute over the name, according to a senior congressional aide and a senior White House official.

The sources said it has been decided that the Ways and Means Committee will have the final say over the name.

According to the ABC News report, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) apparently told the president he could take the lead on naming the bill, though that proved problematic when Trump picked "the Cut Cut Cut Act."

Ryan and House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) "pushed back" on the president's choice, but, the report added, "Trump has held firm."

And while we wait for additional confirmation on this, it's worth noting how very easy the report is to believe.

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A general view of the "Golden Dome" on the campus of Notre Dame University on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Ind. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Notre Dame takes advantage of Trump rule, drops birth control coverage

11/01/17 12:40PM

It's about a month since the Trump administration dramatically altered the Affordable Care Act's approach to birth control, opening the door to practically every U.S. employer refusing to cover their workers' contraception. All it takes is showing "sincerely held" religious or moral objections.

Once the policy was made official, one of the obvious questions was just how many employers would take advantage of the shift. Trump's Department of Health and Human Services suggested the number would be quite modest, and most Americans wouldn't notice any change, but once the door was open, it was difficult to guess how many would walk through.

Slate noted that one rather high-profile employer wasted little time in embracing Trump's policy.

On Friday, Indiana Public Media reports, Notre Dame notified employees and students that starting next year -- on Jan. 1, 2018, and Aug. 15, 2018, respectively -- birth control will no longer be covered under the insurance plans the university offers.

Thousands of Indiana women stand to lose their contraception coverage in coming months, putting them on the hook for a greater risk of unwanted pregnancies or, if they choose to pay out of pocket, thousands of dollars in expenses their male colleagues will never have to pay.

Before Trump changed the policy, Notre Dame abided by a compromise created by Obama administration: the universities' employees and students could have contraceptive coverage through a third-party system that cost the university nothing. All Notre Dame had to do was raise an objection by submitting a waiver.

But the school was one of the entities that said the paperwork was itself morally objectionable.

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.1.17

11/01/17 12:00PM

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

* With six days remaining before Virginia's gubernatorial race, the final Washington Post poll of the race shows Ralph Northam (D) with a five-point lead over Ed Gillespie (R), 49% to 44%. About a month ago, the same poll showed Northam ahead by 13 points, so this suggests the race has tightened considerably as the candidates approach the finish line.

* In a bit of a surprise, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, announced he'll retire at the end of this term. Hensarling represents one of Texas's reddest districts, which seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

* In response to a report that Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) may be eyeing an independent run in 2018, the Arizona Republican said on Twitter this week, "Not gonna happen."

* Some on the far-right are looking for a conservative challenger to Sen. Angus King (I) in Maine next year, and Ann LePage, Gov. Paul LePage's (R) wife, conceded the other day she was approached by Breitbart News' Steve Bannon about the race. Ann LePage said she "didn't take it very serious," though local reports didn't indicate whether she's ruled out the possibility.

* Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, who earned a national reputation as a hardline Republican on immigration, announced this week that he's running for governor in Colorado again. The far-right lawmaker ran failed statewide bids in 2010 and 2014.

* Republican megadonor Robert Mercer is reportedly targeting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) in advance of her 2018 re-election bid in Massachusetts next year. Though Warren isn't considered vulnerable, the effort is apparently intended to help weaken her in advance of the 2020 presidential election.

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A sign at an Affordable Care Act outreach event in Los Angeles, California, September 28, 2013.

The ACA open-enrollment period is a little different under Trump

11/01/17 11:09AM

As of this morning, American consumers can sign up to have health care coverage in 2018. The website is up and running, and though Donald Trump has pushed prices higher, many consumers will find that insurance costs in this open-enrollment period are very affordable.

That said, as TPM noted, many in the industry have low expectations for the first enrollment period of the Trump era.

On the eve of the first full open enrollment period of the Trump era, several independent studies estimate that enrollment will drop this year as a result of the administration's actions to gut outreach funding, cancel planned subsidy payments to insurers, and sow confusion with public statements declaring the Affordable Care Act "dead."

S&P Global Ratings published a report Tuesday projecting that enrollment will drop between 7 and 13 percent compared to last year -- meaning between 0.8 and 1.6 million more people will go uninsured in 2018.

It's important to realize that this isn't an accident or a symptom of systemic troubles. It's the result of deliberate policy decisions made by Republican officials who don't want the existing American system to succeed.

There are quite a few veterans of the previous administration, however, who intend to do what the current administration won't: encourage people to sign up for health care coverage.

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Image: Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton: 'It appears they don't know I'm not president'

11/01/17 10:27AM

Hillary Clinton was in Chicago this week promoting her book, and as the Washington Post  noted, she raised a notable observation about some of her critics.

[Clinton] quipped about conservative media outlets' preoccupation with a vanquished presidential candidate while big news surrounded the one who won.

"All the networks except Fox are reporting what's really going on.... It appears they don't know I'm not president," tweeted NBC News politics reporter Alex Seitz-Wald, quoting Clinton, who held an event at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on Monday night.

This struck a chord because it's true in a rather literal sense. One former Trump aide appeared in conservative media over the weekend and called for increased scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's administration, which, the last time I checked, does not exist.

Two days later, another Trump ally in conservative media referred to "President Clinton" -- and he was referring to Hillary, not Bill.

Of course, it's not just media personalities who seem confused. Donald Trump can't stop talking and tweeting about his former rival. The president's aides appear fixated on Clinton. Congressional Republicans, who ostensibly have responsibility to oversee the executive branch, are launching investigations into Clinton.

"It appears they don't know I'm not president" is a phrase with surprisingly broad applicability.

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump hosts former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

Following New York attack, Trump flunks another leadership test

11/01/17 09:29AM

In the immediate aftermath of the suspected terrorist incident in New York yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump tweeted a series of clumsy but inoffensive messages. "My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack," the president said at one point. "God and your country are with you!"

Trump did not, however, wait long before following his worst instincts.

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Uzbek immigrant suspected of murdering eight people in New York City with a rental truck entered the U.S. through the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program" and the president charged Sen. Chuck Schumer and Democrats had loosened the nation's borders.

Trump did not provide any supporting evidence for the claim about the visa program, which was being discussed on the morning TV program "Fox and Friends" that the president indicated in his tweets that he was watching.

"The terrorist came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based," Trump tweeted.

Apparently relying on the Fox News program instead of his intelligence briefing, the president added he wants "no more Democrat Lottery Systems," before again blaming the Senate Minority Leader for the attack that happened in his own home state.

For the record, we don't actually know whether this suspect entered the U.S. through the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program." Visa records are confidential and the State Department doesn't comment on any specific application. It's possible Trump is correct about yesterday's suspect; it's also possible he made this up or relied on dubious information from conservative media.

Either way, the president waited less than a day after the attack to lash out, exploit the deadly violence, and falsely blame a political opponent -- who happens to represent the area where the attack happened -- for the incident.

Worse, the president did so in a way that didn't make any sense. The program in question was signed into law by the Bush/Quayle administration, following bipartisan talks. More recently, the bipartisan "Gang of Eight' immigration reform bill, which Schumer helped write, would've scrapped the Diversity Visa Program, had the far-right not killed the legislation.

I have a hunch Trump doesn't know that.

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U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives at a House Republican Conference meeting June 22, 2016 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Republicans miss their own deadline on tax plan unveiling

11/01/17 08:41AM

Today was supposed to be the day. After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations and behind-closed-doors legislating, House Republicans recently boasted that their tax plan would be unveiled on Wednesday, November 1.

This wouldn't just be an outline or a vague blueprint; GOP leaders assured everyone that this would be actual legislative text, ready for committee scrutiny. Everyone involved in the debate was ready to see what Republicans had finally come up with.

The wait, however, will continue a little longer.

House Republicans will delay releasing their tax bill until Thursday, it was announced Tuesday night.

The bill had originally been scheduled to be unveiled Wednesday. But speculation over a delay was rampant on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night, with representatives of House leaders pointing to the Ways and Means Committee for any final decision or announcement.... Republican members privately aired their frustration with a process that they feel cut out of, and some issues were still unresolved hours before the bill had been slated for release.

There was a line in the Politico report on the delay that stood out for me: "At the center of the problem were questions about how to pay for the proposed $5.5 trillion in tax cuts, since any major revenue-generator is certain to antagonize some powerful lobby or group of lawmakers who could defeat it."

As complex as overhauling the federal tax code can be, the source of the Republicans' trouble is quite straightforward: they know they want to cut taxes by trillions of dollars, and after months of work, they still don't know how to pay for any of it.

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It's too late for Trump World to balk at 'racially charged' label

11/01/17 08:00AM

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made headlines again this week, following a Fox News interview in which he did fresh damage to his credibility. Asked, for example, whether he's prepared to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), about whom Kelly recently told a false story, Donald Trump's chief of staff replied, "Oh, no. No. Never. Well, I'll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments."

In the same interview, Kelly, while explaining his reverence for history, argued that "the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand." It wasn't long before historians, scholars, and people who know what they're talking about explained just how wrong Kelly's assessment was.

In a press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked, "Does the White House at least acknowledge that the chief of staff's comments are deeply offensive to some folks, and historically inaccurate?" She replied, "No."

And while that wasn't surprising -- this isn't a White House that acknowledges mistakes -- something else Sanders said struck me as especially notable. From the official transcript:

"I think the fact that we keep trying to drive -- the media continues to want to make this and push that this is some sort of a racially charged and divided White House."

I'm afraid it's a little late from Trump World to express discomfort with the "racially charged" label.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 10.31.17

10/31/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* New York City: "At least six people were killed and a person was in custody after a truck apparently drove onto a bike path in lower Manhattan, according to authorities and witnesses. The incident was being investigated as possible terrorism, officials said." As I get ready to publish, there are new reports pointing to a death toll of eight.

* Important hearing: "Representatives for Facebook, Twitter and Google were grilled Tuesday by lawmakers following revelations that millions of Americans were exposed to Russian propaganda during the presidential election."

* Paul Manafort's fate: "President Donald Trump refused to answer a question Tuesday about whether he would be willing to pardon his disgraced campaign manager, clamming up and indicating he was done talking to the press."

* Trump-Russia: "President Donald Trump's longtime aide and current communications director, Hope Hicks, is scheduled to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller's team in mid-November, following the president's trip to Asia, multiple people familiar with the schedule told POLITICO."

* NAFTA: "Perhaps no industry has more deeply embraced the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement since it went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994. That helps explain why automakers and auto parts suppliers have become some of the fiercest and most vocal opponents of the Trump administration's plan to renegotiate, and even demolish, NAFTA."

* Afghanistan: "The American military command in Afghanistan has decided to keep secret key figures related to the growth and progress of local security forces, redacting the numbers at the behest of Afghan officials from the latest report by the government's watchdog for spending."

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off the stage as Republican nominee Donald Trump remains at his podium after their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Team Trump sees imaginary 'evidence' of Clinton, Russia collusion

10/31/17 01:08PM

During last year's campaign, whenever Hillary Clinton would criticize Donald Trump, it was a near certainty that Trump would then made the identical accusation against Clinton. After a while, this got a little creepy.

Clinton accused Trump of being unstable and reckless, so Trump said Clinton is "unstable" and "reckless." Clinton said Trump mistreated women, so Trump said Clinton mistreated women. Clinton accused Trump of bigotry, so Trump said Clinton's a "bigot." Clinton questioned Trump's temperament, so Trump said Clinton had a bad "temperament." Clinton said Trump makes a poor role model for children, so Trump said Clinton sets "a terrible example for my son and the children in this country."

And, of course, Clinton accused Trump of being a "puppet" for his allies in Moscow, Trump, showing all of the sophistication of a slow toddler, responded, "No puppet. No puppet. You're the puppet. No, you're the puppet."

This pattern of projection, in which Trump assigns some of his worst qualities onto those who criticize him, wasn't just a campaign tactic. It's also a staple of his presidency, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders helped demonstrate during yesterday's briefing. Asked about the criminal charges against some of Trump's campaign staff, Sanders deflected in an amazing way:

"The real collusion scandal, as we've said several times before, has everything to do with the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, and Russia.

"There's clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence to spread disinformation and smear the president to influence the election."

Trump himself said on Friday that Clinton colluded with Russia. A day later, his press secretary added that the evidence of Clinton-Russia collusion is "indisputable."

There's nothing to suggest these folks were kidding. Trump and his team apparently expect the public to take this line of attack seriously.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.31.17

10/31/17 12:00PM

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

* With only a week remaining in Virginia's gubernatorial race, Quinnipiac's latest poll shows Ralph Northam (D) up big over Ed Gillespie (R), 53% to 36%. No other recent polling shows Northam with an advantage anywhere close to this.

* The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Donald Trump's approval rating slipping to 38% -- an all-time low in this poll -- while Democrats now enjoy a seven-point lead on the generic congressional ballot, 48% to 41%.

* And in still more polling news, Gallup's daily tracking poll from yesterday found the president's approval rating down to just 33%, also a new low. Most modern presidents never reached a level of support this low, and before Trump, no president in the polling era ever dropped to 33% after just nine months in office.

* Trump's re-election campaign unveiled a new 30-second television ad this morning, attacking the "radical left," and demanding that Democrats stop "obstructing" and start "working with our president." In reality, congressional Dems have been blocked from participating in most major policy talks this year.

* The latest statewide poll in Nevada pointed to trouble for Sen. Dean Heller (R): JMC Analytics found him trailing his primary rival, Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian, 44% to 38%.

* In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally (R) is apparently interested in running for retiring Sen. Jeff Flake's (R) seat, but the far-right Club for Growth has already pledged to oppose McSally, deeming her insufficiently conservative.

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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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