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Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential nomination during a rally on June 24, 2015 in Kenner, La. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty)

Jindal changes his mind about the GOP being 'the stupid party'

02/15/18 10:50AM

Republicans genuinely believed Mitt Romney was going to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, right up until the Democratic president won with relative ease. Many in the GOP expressed their disgust with the results in colorful ways, but none were as memorable as then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

Jindal spoke to Politico the week after the 2012 election and said his party would recover if it learned to "stop being the stupid party." He added, "It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments -- enough of that. It's not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can't be tolerated within our party."

The then-governor went on to say, "We've also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters." The GOP, he advised, should "stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same."

Jindal, of course, was an awful messenger for the message. His approach to governance decimated Louisiana's finances, and he tried to parlay his failure into a doomed presidential campaign. But five years after he denounced Republicans' embrace of "offensive, bizarre comments" and "dumbed-down conservatism," Jindal has apparently changed his mind.

Here was his latest pitch in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday:

You hear it all the time from Trump supporters: "I like a lot of what he's done, especially the judges and tax cuts. But I wish he'd stop tweeting and picking fights. I wish he acted more presidential and stopped insulting reporters, entertainers, senators, foreign leaders and Gold Star families."

Sounds right, seems smart. Yet for millions of Trump voters it misses the point entirely. Mr. Trump's style is part of his substance. His most loyal supporters back him because of, not despite, his brash behavior. He would not be in the Oval Office today had he followed a conventional path or listened to the advisers telling him to tone down his rhetoric and discipline his behavior.

In other words, Trump rose to power because he did the opposite of what Jindal said Republicans should do -- which Jindal apparently now finds quite impressive.

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In this Oct. 23, 2015, file photo, Jay Sekulow speaks at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

Trump lawyer keeps making headlines for all the wrong reasons

02/15/18 10:15AM

When Donald Trump took steps to assemble a legal team as the Russia scandal intensified, the president made a series of strange decisions -- though none were as curious as bringing Jay Sekulow onto his team.

Sekulow, who has no experience as a defense or criminal attorney, and is perhaps best known for leading a radical televangelist's legal group and overseeing a highly dubious fundraising scheme that benefits several members of his immediate family. (My hunch is, Trump hired him solely because he saw Sekulow making lots of appearances on Fox News.)

The attorney has struggled at times since joining Team Trump -- it's hard to forget Sekulow arguing on national television that the president is and isn't under investigation -- but Politico this week highlighted something else Trump's lawyer is doing that's rather ... unique.

As President Donald Trump's legal team privately debates its strategy for dealing with special counsel Robert Mueller, the president's most visible lawyer has publicly gone on the attack.

In recent weeks, Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow has turned the live weekday talk-radio show he hosts into a regular forum for trashing the legitimacy of the federal probes into Trump's Russia connections.

Fourteen of the past 19 episodes of "Jay Sekulow Live" have involved freewheeling conversations about the Trump-Russia saga and what he calls the "deep state" bureaucrats out to get the president. Sekulow also piles on during his regular appearances on Fox News.

This isn't illegal. It's also not unethical. But it's nevertheless deeply bizarre behavior for a lawyer who's helping defend a sitting president from a scandal of historic significance.

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Trump finds a tax he wants to raise: the one you pay at the pump

02/15/18 09:20AM

Donald Trump's long-awaited infrastructure plan was finally unveiled this week, and it immediately landed with a thud. Among it's many problems: the White House doesn't know how to pay for it.

The Washington Post  reports, however, that the president has apparently warmed up to a provocative idea.

President Trump tried Wednesday to persuade his fellow Republicans to raise the gas tax. In a closed-door meeting on infrastructure with members of both parties, Trump pitched the idea of a 25-cent increase in the gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1993.

There's a growing rift among Republicans about whether it's worth considering a tax hike to fund much-needed upgrades to America's roads and bridges.... Republicans, who just passed major legislation to reduce taxes on businesses and families, are lukewarm on the idea of turning around and raising taxes at the pump. Last month, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said he has "complete confidence" that the gas tax won't go up. It's currently 18.4 cents a gallon.

According to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who attended yesterday's discussion, the president emphasized the idea of a 25-cent increase in the gas tax "several times throughout the meeting."

Would a GOP-led Congress seriously consider a gas-tax increase on the heels of the Republicans' regressive tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations? I rather doubt it.

But unlike so much of what we hear from this White House, what Trump is recommending isn't crazy.

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Image: Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting incident in Parkland

Why Trump's response to Florida's school shooting is so inadequate

02/15/18 08:43AM

A gunman using a semiautomatic rifle killed at least 17 people in a Florida high school yesterday, wounding 14 others, five of whom suffering life-threatening injuries. Though modern presidents often offer words of consolation in response to deadly tragedies of this scale, Donald Trump has said very little since the school massacre took place.

He did, however, publish a tweet this morning.

"So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!"

First, part of the problem with this is the subtext: the president's message gives the impression that the suspected gunman's "neighbors and classmates" should have done more to prevent yesterday's violence. In case the reality of this dynamic isn't already obvious, let's make it plain: the Parkland shooting wasn't their fault.

Second, let's say we take Trump's rhetoric at face value, and communities report instances of disturbed individuals to authorities "again and again." Then what? Would the Republican White House and its allies in Congress support new restrictions on those individuals' access to firearms? Are they prepared to make significant new investments in a robust mental-health network?

What is it, exactly, the president believes should happen after Americans go to authorities "again and again"?

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump

After demanding a deal, Trump rejects another immigration compromise

02/15/18 08:00AM

It seems like ages ago, but it was just last month when Donald Trump hosted immigration talks at the White House and shared his vision for the road ahead. In fact, the president surprised many by saying he'd sign a bipartisan agreement -- no matter what's in it.

"I'm not going to say, 'Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.' I'll be signing it," Trump said. He added that if lawmakers negotiate a policy "with things that I'm not in love with," he'd embrace it anyway.

Someone apparently changed his mind.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged senators to vote against any immigration proposal other than his own plan, courting a showdown with Republican and Democratic senators who oppose the White House's desire to curb family-based migration and would like to cut a narrower deal. [...]

Mr. Trump's stance amounted to a demand that the Senate significantly cut legal immigration as part of any legislation.

That Wall Street Journal report coincided with a Politico  article that said the president has urged lawmakers to reject any proposal "that does not mirror his own."

The timing of Trump's posture was especially important because a bipartisan group of senators, calling themselves the "Common Sense Caucus," unveiled another bipartisan package last night that gives the White House much of it wants.

No matter. The Washington Post  reported, "In an interview late Wednesday, a senior administration official denounced the bipartisan bill, calling it a 'giant amnesty' that did nothing to secure the border, and vowed the White House would strongly lobby against it Thursday."

The article quoted the senior administration official saying, "We're doing everything in our power" to block the bipartisan bill.

For those keeping score, Trump -- who, a month ago, said he'd sign practically anything put in front of him -- has now rejected (1) the Graham-Durbin bipartisan agreement; (2) the McCain-Coons bipartisan agreement; (3) the bipartisan agreement Trump negotiated with Democratic leaders last fall; (4) the bipartisan framework Trump negotiated with Chuck Schumer last month; (5) the Gardner-Bennet bipartisan agreement; (6) and the Common Sense Caucus' bipartisan agreement.

The president has, however, endorsed a Republican plan that would give him everything he's asked for without exception.

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Once unimaginable gun massacres become familiar

Once unimaginable gun massacres become familiar

02/14/18 09:17PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the latest developments in the deadly gun tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and notes the elements that have become familiar in gun massacres, including the deflection of gun questions by politicians with vague answers about mental health. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 2.14.18

02/14/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest school shooting: "A gunman opened fire at a South Florida high school on Wednesday afternoon, killing multiple people, officials said. The Broward County Sheriff's Office tweeted that there were 'at least 14 victims' after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It was not immediately clear how many of those victims were injured and how many had died."

* Today's other notable shooting: "Three people were injured Wednesday when intruders in an SUV tried to ram through a barrier at the Maryland military base where the National Security Agency is headquartered -- and gunfire broke out, officials said."

* This took a while: "President Donald Trump spoke out against domestic violence on Wednesday, a week after Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary over allegations that he abused his two ex-wives."

* Shulkin controversy: "U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado is calling for the resignation of Veterans Administration chief David Shulkin in the aftermath of a watchdog report that found Shulkin used much of an official 10-day trip to Europe last summer for sightseeing."

* Senate debate: "After two days of the equivalent of a legislative staring contest, the Senate has decided to move along toward immigration legislation. But this is just the beginning, and feelings are a little raw over how things have unfolded so far. The chamber approved, by voice vote Wednesday morning, a motion to proceed to the expected legislative vehicle for an immigration overhaul."

* A story worth watching: "The judge in the USS Cole terrorism case ordered prosecutors Tuesday to draft warrants instructing U.S. Marshals to seize two civilian defense attorneys who have quit the case and ignored his orders and a subpoena to appear at the war court by video link."

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Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

VP Mike Pence repeats discredited claim about Russia scandal

02/14/18 02:40PM

Last summer, Donald Trump insisted -- in a written statement and in a tweet -- that the foreign attacks on the 2016 election had "no effect on the outcome of the election." That is not, however, what U.S. intelligence agencies said.

A few months later, Trump's CIA director, former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, said during a public event, "[T]he intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election." That wasn't true and Pompeo soon after had to walk back his claim.

If we're being charitable, we'll assume Vice President Mike Pence somehow missed these stories.

Vice President Mike Pence said it is the "accepted view" that despite efforts, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was not impacted by foreign meddling.

"Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election," Pence said at an event in downtown Washington on Wednesday.

That is most certainly not the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities.

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP

White House official describes John Kelly as 'a big, fat liar'

02/14/18 01:51PM

The controversy surrounding former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter is important for a variety of reasons, but one of the angles that's likely to be the most consequential is the fact that officials appear to have turned on Chief of Staff John Kelly in a dramatic way.

The L.A. Times  reported this week, for example, "Over and over again the past few days, various White House aides have buttonholed reporters to tell them -- anonymously -- that they think Kelly either lied to them or tried to get them to lie about what he knew when." Axios had an item that described the Porter mess as "the Kelly cover-up."

A Washington Post  report published overnight painted an even bleaker picture:

...Kelly does not enjoy the confidence of an increasing number of his subordinates, some of whom said they believe that the retired four-star Marine Corps general has misled them.

Kelly is "a big fat liar," said one White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. "To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty."

Reince Priebus did not necessarily command broad respect during his tenure in the West Wing, but we didn't see quotes like these during his time as the president's chief of staff.

It's not a sustainable dynamic.

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VA chief latest Trump cabinet secretary to face ethics mess

02/14/18 12:40PM

It's been tough to keep up with all of the various controversies and investigations into members of Donald Trump's cabinet.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s actions have become the subject of more than one official investigation. There was also HHS Secretary Tom Price, who was also under investigation, right up until the scandal forced his resignation.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under investigation. So is HUD Secretary Ben Carson. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was investigated for violating the Hatch Act. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been caught up in so many controversies, it’s been difficult to keep up with all of them.

The president himself appears to be the subject of an obstruction-of-justice probe.

And it's against this backdrop that the spotlight today turns to VA Secretary David Shulkin, who appears to have an ethics mess of his own on his hands. USA Today  reported:

Investigators determined Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife during a European trip last summer that ultimately cost taxpayers more than $122,000, according to a VA inspector general report released Wednesday.

His chief of staff, Viveca Wright Simpson, made false representations to a VA ethics lawyer and altered an official email to secure approval for taxpayer funding of Shulkin's wife's flights, which cost more than $4,000, the VA inspector general found.

The cabinet secretary told investigators that the Wimbledon tickets came from a personal friend. Ethics officials concluded that wasn't true. Making matters worse were the inspector general's findings that Shulkin spent nearly half of an official 10-day trip in Europe on sightseeing, amounting to a "misuse" of official VA resources.

Shulkin has denied any wrongdoing and described the conclusions as "outrageous" and "totally inaccurate." That said, the VA secretary will reimburse the department for the travel expenses 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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