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US under Trump shifts toward Putin worldview

US under Trump shifts toward Putin worldview

07/18/17 09:46PM

Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of State for political affairs, talks with Rachel Maddow about how the Trump administration's dismantling of the U.S. State Department serves Vladimir Putin's goals as the US abandons its role as leader of the community of nations. watch

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.18.17

07/18/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Wait, what? "During the annual G-20 conference, President Trump sat down with Russian President Vladimir Putin [in] a second, informal meeting on the sidelines."

* Add Ike Kaveladze to the list: "An American-based employee of a Russian real estate company took part in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., bringing to eight the number of known participants at the session that has emerged as a key focus of the investigation of the Trump campaign's interactions with Russians."

* Striking figures: "Civilian casualties from the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State are on pace to double under President Donald Trump, according to an Airwars investigation for The Daily Beast. Airwars researchers estimate that at least 2,300 civilians likely died from Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House -- roughly 80 each month in Iraq and Syria."

* Labor Department: "As the White House champions a 'hire American agenda, the administration wants to slash funding for a small government office that many U.S. companies say they rely on to stay ahead of foreign rivals, underscoring how competing political interests are complicating President Trump's pledge to restore the manufacturing industry."

* In case you missed this on last night's show: "New York prosecutors have demanded records relating to up to $16 million in loans that a bank run by a former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump made to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to a person familiar with the matter."

* A story to watch: "Republicans are divided over whether to raise the debt ceiling before the August recess, with senators preferring to act soon and members of the more conservative House reluctant to take the contentious vote before the break."

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Image: First Lady Melania Trump Hosts A Celebration Of MilitaryMothers Event

Trump wants to let the health system fail, but won't accept blame

07/18/17 04:16PM

The health care bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled in June failed, unable to secure enough Republican support. The bill he unveiled last week, has now also failed for the same reason. The GOP leader's Plan C was a "repeal and delay" bill, but before lunchtime today, three Senate Republicans -- Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Shelley Moore Capito -- all balked, effectively killing the latest iteration of the party's gambit.

It's against this backdrop that Donald Trump made the case to reporters that he's actually done a good job. "Essentially, the vote would have been pretty close to, if you look at it, 48 to 4," the president said. "That's a pretty impressive vote by any standard."

To the extent that reality has any meaning, there's nothing "impressive" about a Republican president failing to persuade Republican lawmakers to support a Republican health care plan. The vote wouldn't have been 48 to 4; it would have been 48 to 52 -- and perhaps worse -- which isn't worth bragging about.

But more important was the president's explanation of his vision for the road ahead.

"I've been saying for a long time, let Obamacare fail then everybody's gonna have to come together and fix it and come up with a new plan and a plan that's really good for the people with much lower premiums, much lower costs, and much better protection. I've been saying that, Mike [Pence], I think you'll agree I've been saying for a long time: let Obamacare fail. It will be a lot easier.

"And I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you that the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they're going to say. 'How do we fix it? how do we fix it? Or how do we come up with a new plan?

"So we'll see what happens. There are some other things going on right now as we speak. But I am disappointed because for so many years I've been hearing repeal and replace. I'm sitting in the Oval Office right next door pen in hand waiting to sign something, and I'll be waiting and eventually, we're going to get something done and it's going to be very good..... Something will happen and it'll be very good."

Let's unpack this a bit, because it's an amazing statement.

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Image: U.S. President Trump celebrates with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington

Collapse of the GOP health plan leaves House Republicans in a bind

07/18/17 12:41PM

As the Republicans' health care gambit unraveled last night, I thought about a quote Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) gave to the Washington Post after the far-right House plan passed in May, with his support.

"Is this bill good? No, I don't like it," Diaz-Balart said. But he suggested that voting for the bill would allow him to be part of future negotiations: "So my decision was, how do I stay involved?"

As we've discussed, even at the time, this seemed more like wishful thinking than a credible legislative strategy.

But the political context matters. House Republican leaders went to Diaz-Balart and members like him with a specific message: let's just keep the process moving. Vote for the flawed House bill, the argument went, and the Senate will make it better. Lawmakers will have more than one bite at this apple, and voting "no" would derail the entire initiative, years in the making.

The pitch worked, but just barely: 217 House Republicans linked arms and voted for a dreadful piece of health care legislation. Among the 217 were 33 members of the Tuesday Group, made up of "moderate" GOP lawmakers, who succumbed to party pressure, followed House Speaker Paul Ryan's lead, and toed the party line.

Two months later, what do they have to show for it? After having stuck out their necks to support a regressive health care plan the American mainstream abhors, what's their reward for their risk?

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.18.17

07/18/17 12:00PM

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

* On the heels of Rep. Ann Wagner (R) announcing she won't take on incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in Missouri next year, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R) yesterday made the same decision, saying she'll run for re-election to the House instead.

* The Associated Press asked House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) yesterday about his party's core message to voters. "That message is being worked on," he said. "We're doing everything we can to simplify it, but at the same time provide the meat behind it as well. So that's coming together now." (Of course, in 2010, the House Republican minority had no core message, and they nevertheless picked up 63 seats.)

* State officials in Colorado announced yesterday their state will be the first "to regularly conduct a sophisticated post-election audit that cybersecurity experts have long called necessary for ensuring hackers aren't meddling with vote tallies."

* When eyeing potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020, most of the focus is on senators, but Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is creating a new political action committee and appears to have a national audience in mind. "I believe the time is right to lend my voice, the voice of someone that after getting elected has been able to govern in what's viewed as a red state," he told the New York Times. "Some of the things that I've been able to do in Montana can also translate beyond just the state's border."

* Speaking of ambitious Democratic governors, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) saw his favorability rating drop from 61% to 52% in a new Siena poll, at least in part because of New York City's public transit woes.

* The latest Monmouth University poll offers more bad news for Donald Trump: at the national level, the percentage of Americans who want to see him impeached (41%) is larger than the percentage of Americans who believe he's doing a good job (39%).

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An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.

With tax reform on deck, GOP is unprepared for its next big fight

07/18/17 11:12AM

With the Republicans' health care push having effectively imploded, the White House is already looking ahead, identifying the next mountain to climb. Axios reported yesterday that Donald Trump and his team are working on tax reform and allegedly learning from their recent mistakes.

Activists and business leaders who've been meeting with Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin, Marc Short & Paul Teller from legislative affairs, and Sean Spicer (who's leading the comms strategy), all tell us the same thing: They're surprised about how much planning and organizing the White House has already done, given its ham-handed approach to the health care rollout.

The administration will start pitching the tax reform effort in mid-August, according to sources involved. They're hoping to get the bill itself finalized for mark-ups after Labor Day (count us as skeptical on that.) But while that happens, expect to see CEOs, White House surrogates, and high-profile conservative activists start talking up the plan.

Let's pause for a moment to note an inconvenient detail: there is no "plan." By all accounts, Republicans are working on one, but an actual proposal is nowhere close to finished.

Indeed, the trajectory of the incomplete plan has already been bizarre. The Trump administration initially told reporters in the spring that the White House's proposal would take months to complete. Trump said the opposite soon after reading a conservative op-ed he liked and telling his aides to adopt it immediately as his own policy.

The result was a one-page outline -- basically a table of contents without the content -- that Trump heralded as his "plan," counting on others to do the heavy lifting on the policy details.

Trump's Treasury Department then said the goal was to have a detailed blueprint ready by the "beginning of September." White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short said soon after that the plan should actually be ready before August. Now it's "after Labor Day."

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In this March 23, 2010, file photo, President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act into law in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (Photo by Charles Dharapak/AP)

'Obamacare' successes undermine Republicans' repeal crusade

07/18/17 10:16AM

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued last week that the Affordable Care Act was "designed to fail," as part of an elaborate Democratic ruse., As Graham sees it, those Democrats knew all along that "Obamacare" would collapse, at which point those rascally Dems would open the door to a single-payer system.

This is obviously ridiculous for all sorts of reasons, but let's focus for now on the most pressing truth: the Affordable Care Act is actually doing pretty well. Vox's Ezra Klein explained this morning that the ACA, despite facing real challenges, is both popular and effective, "and that makes it damn hard to replace."

[In the Republicans' telling, the ACA] is always “imploding,” “failing,” “dying,” “disastrous.” How can a law in such crisis command such healthy public support? The answer is that the law is, for the most part, not in crisis. There are areas of the country where the exchanges have struggled to attract insurers, and there are markets in which premiums have increased rapidly. These problems are real and, if the party in power were interested in improving the law, solvable.

But even without improvements, the reality is that for most people, in most places, the Affordable Care Act is working.

This isn't just true in the broad sense -- the ACA has, for example, pushed the uninsured rate to record lows -- it's also true when we consider the latest details.

NBC News reported last week, for example, that private insurers participating in ACA exchange marketplaces are seeing increased profits, "a sign that the market is stabilizing and that Republican claims of collapse have not come to pass."

The same report added, "The analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation examined first-quarter earnings in 2017 and found insurance companies are paying a lower share of premiums out in medical claims than in any comparable period since the law went into effect. The current mix of enrollees do not appear to be less healthy than in the past, an important factor in whether companies can turn a profit."

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP-ORDER

Trump wonders 'why legislators don't seem to listen to him'

07/18/17 09:24AM

The timing could've been better. Donald Trump hosted a strategy meeting on health care last night with a group of Republican senators -- each of whom already agrees with the White House. Politico reported:

President Trump convened a strategy session over steak and succotash at the White House with senators Monday night, trying to plot an uphill path to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a GOP alternative.

He made an impassioned pitch on why Republicans needed to do it now – and the political peril they could face if they didn't "repeal and replace" after promising to do it for years. He also vented about Democrats and the legislative process. "He basically said, if we don't do this, we're in trouble," said one person briefed on the meeting. "That we have the Senate, House and White House and we have to do it or we're going to look terrible."

What neither the president nor anyone on his team realized was that during Trump's pitch, Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), were coordinating their announced opposition to their party's plan, effectively killing the plan the president expected to sign.

At a White House event yesterday, Trump boasted, in reference to health care, "I think we're going to surprise a lot of people." Five hours later, it was the president who was caught off guard.

The Politico piece added this sentence, however, that stood out for me: "Trump has privately wondered why legislators don't seem to listen to him, and the blow from Moran and Lee illustrated the limits of the president's capacity to master the art of the Washington deal."

And while the unraveling of the GOP's health care legislation matters a great deal -- this is, after all, a life-or-death issue for much of the country -- it's Trump's failures that will continue to reverberate.

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Image: President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

Trump grudgingly admits Obama's Iran nuclear deal is working

07/18/17 08:40AM

The New York Times reports that Donald Trump had an hour-long meeting with his top national security advisers last week, including the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the White House National Security Advisor, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They all told the president the same thing: he needs to preserve the international nuclear agreement with Iran.

Trump, however, reportedly spent 55 minutes of the 60-minute meeting "telling them he did not want to."

He did it anyway.

President Donald Trump's administration on Monday declared that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement with world powers, but warned that Tehran was in default of the spirit of the accord and that Washington would look for ways to strengthen it.

It was the second time Trump certified Iranian compliance with the agreement since he took office in January, despite criticizing it during the 2016 campaign as "the worst deal ever."

Circling back to our previous coverage, it's worth emphasizing that there's no reason to believe Donald Trump has any idea what the Iran deal is or what it does, but the president is nevertheless sure he doesn't like it. The Republican has called the deal “terrible” and “horrible.” As a candidate, Trump declared, “My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

Just one month into his candidacy, he said the Iran deal “poses a direct national security threat.” Two weeks later, Trump added that the international agreement “will go down as one of the dumbest [and] most dangerous misjudgments ever entered into in [the] history of our country.” After wrapping up the GOP nomination, he went so far as to say the deal is likely to “lead to nuclear holocaust.”

And yet, here we are.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bows his head in prayer during an event on Capitol Hill, Feb. 24, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

The Republican health care gambit falls apart

07/18/17 08:00AM

Just 24 hours ago, Republicans were cautiously optimistic about their health care gambit. Two GOP senators -- Maine's Susan Collins and Kentucky's Rand Paul -- had announced their opposition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's latest proposal, but other Republican skeptics were still holding their fire, leading some in the party to believe the bill still had a chance.

That didn't last. About 12 hours ago, two more GOP senators -- Kansas' Jerry Moran and Utah's Mike Lee -- said they'd vote against their party's legislation, bringing the total number of "no" votes to 52. Soon after, McConnell pulled the plug.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Monday night that he lacked the votes to pass the Senate health care bill after two more Republican senators came out against it, leaving the party short of a majority.

Instead, he said the Senate would vote on a full repeal of Obamacare, with two years before the repeal goes into effect to allow time to create a new system. The new plan may appear to fulfill a seven-year GOP promise, but it faces extremely difficult odds after many moderate Republican senators have already come out against repeal without an immediate replacement.

This is a story with a lot of moving parts, so let's unpack the developments with some Q&A.

So, the Republican crusade is dead?

Sort of. The legislation Mitch McConnell unveiled last week clearly doesn't have the votes to pass and GOP leaders don't believe they're in a position to twist a few arms and change a few minds. That legislation, at least for now, is dead.

Now what?

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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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