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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with African American business and civic leaders, Sept. 2, 2016, in Philadelphia, Pa. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump's latest pitch to minority communities falls apart

01/09/18 11:20AM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump routinely told largely white audiences, "Look at how much African-American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: what do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?"

The answer, it turns out, was quite a bit. The Republican president has not only ignited ugly racial controversies in his first year in office, Trump has also taken steps to hurt urban investment, and just last week, announced plans "to delay enforcement of a federal housing rule that requires communities to address patterns of racial residential segregation."

The president, however, has a new pitch. Tweeting in response to something he saw on Fox News, Trump wrote yesterday:

"African American unemployment is the lowest ever recorded in our country. The Hispanic unemployment rate dropped a full point in the last year and is close to the lowest in recorded history. Dems did nothing for you but get your vote!"

In this case, Dems "did nothing" except create the economic conditions Trump is so eager to take credit for.

Slate had a good piece along these lines, explaining, "[T]he bigger issue here is that, much like virtually every other improvement in the labor market over the past year, the employment gains blacks and Hispanics have seen are mostly just a continuation of steady trends that well predate Trump. Joblessness among minorities has been on the decline for the better part of eight years. That's in part because a black president spent the first years of his terms trying to save a mortally injured economy. Now Trump seems to think black voters will forget all of that work."

And while that's problematic, and insulting to voters' intelligence, it's not the only problem.

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The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013.

Trump's '3rd-century solution to a 21st-century problem'

01/09/18 10:40AM

At a press conference at Camp David over the weekend, a reporter asked Donald Trump if he's still working on having Mexico pay for a wall along the United States' southern border. "Yeah," the Republican replied, "I believe that Mexico will pay for the wall.... Mexico will pay. In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall."

In reality, however, the president and his team are moving forward with a very different approach. The New York Times  reports today that Trump World intends to redirect funds -- which is to say, our money, not Mexico's -- away from effective border policies and toward construction of a wall.

The Trump administration would cut or delay funding for border surveillance, radar technology, patrol boats and customs agents in its upcoming spending plan to curb illegal immigration — all proven security measures that officials and experts have said are more effective than building a wall along the Mexican border.

President Trump has made the border wall a focus of his campaign against illegal immigration to stop drugs, terrorists and gangs like MS-13 from coming into the United States. Under spending plans submitted last week to Congress, the wall would cost $18 billion over the next 10 years, and be erected along nearly 900 miles of the southern border.

The article quoted Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA officer and generally a White House ally, saying, "People that are dealing with this issue know that a third-century solution to a 21st-century problem is not going to fix this long-term."

It's the president, however, who doesn't seem to understand this basic detail. Given a choice between investing in policies that have proven effective in improving border security and throwing money at a symbol of far-right politics, Trump prefers the latter -- even if that means taking money away from effective policies.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber as Republicans pushed legislation toward Senate approval to defund Planned Parenthood and the ACA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

McConnell decries 'obstruction' on judicial nominees, irony weeps

01/09/18 10:03AM

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke on the Senate floor yesterday afternoon about one of his favorite subjects: "obstruction in the judicial confirmation process."

At issue are the proceedings on the Senate floor about four district court nominees, each of whom will almost certainly be confirmed, but not at the speed McConnell and his Republican allies would prefer.

"[W]hy will their four nominations consume a week of the Senate's attention? Why do we need to file cloture on each, and then exhaust the full thirty hours of debate? Because Senate Democrats are choosing -- for partisan reasons -- to make these nominations take as long as possible.

"Their goal is to waste the Senate's time and prevent the president from promptly filling judicial vacancies. 2017 was an historic year of partisan obstruction by our Democratic colleagues. Even for uncontroversial judges who went on to unanimous or near-unanimous confirmation votes, my colleagues across the aisle used every possible procedural roadblock to delay and drag their heels. Now 2018 is starting off the same way."

The press statement from McConnell's office specifically denounced "needless Democrat [sic] obstruction."

For the Majority Leader, it's not enough that Donald Trump's judicial nominees be confirmed; he wants the 49-member Senate minority to help the narrow Republican majority move the process along expeditiously.

At this point, we could note that there's practically nothing Democrats can do to block the GOP president's judicial nominees, making complaints about "obstruction" hard to take seriously. Or we might also note that some of Trump's picks have failed in the face of opposition from both parties, not just Dems.

But let's put that aside and focus on the fact that Mitch McConnell appears to be competing for some kind of chutzpah award.

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Trump World's amazing new euphemism: 'Executive Time'

01/09/18 09:20AM

Soon after the 2016 election, Donald Trump had a private meeting in the White House with Barack Obama, and the sitting president walked his successor through his daily duties. Trump, the Wall Street Journal  noted at the time, "seemed surprised by the scope" of the presidency.

It quickly became obvious that Trump sought a job he knew very little about. He soon after admitted as much, telling Reuters, "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier." He added in an Associated Press interview, "I never realized how big it was."

The question then became how the Republican amateur would adapt. The answer is coming into focus: he may not be adapting at all. On the contrary, though many hoped the president would rise to the occasion, roll up his sleeves, and begin to tackle his monumental tasks with maturity and vigor, Axios reported over the weekend that Trump is apparently working less, not more.

President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump's demands for more "Executive Time," which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.

The schedule says Trump has "Executive Time" in the Oval Office every day from 8am to 11am, but the reality is he spends that time in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting. Trump comes down for his first meeting of the day, which is often an intelligence briefing, at 11am.

This president's typical work day in the Oval Office reportedly starts around 11 a.m., and wraps up at 6 p.m., at which point Trump likes to return to the White House residence, where much of his time is devoted to watching television.

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Image: Energy Secretary Rick Perry Delivers Remarks At Energy Policy Summit In DC

Why Rick Perry's latest failure on energy policy matters

01/09/18 08:40AM

At first blush, Rick Perry's failure yesterday is the result of an obscure policy fight, but the closer one looks at what happened, the more interesting it becomes. The Washington Post  reported on the outcome:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets.

The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding.

To appreciate why the end of the dispute matters, it's worth understanding how we reached this point.

The coal and nuclear industries have more than a few old power plants, which are struggling badly in the energy marketplace, and which are widely seen as obsolete. Trump administration officials, eager to help their political allies, worked with the industry and its lobbyists on a plan to prop up those plants in ways the market has not. Indeed, the president had run on a platform of rescuing some of these coal plants, and so Trump World had to think of something in order to deliver on the promise.

The result was, well, a little bizarre. As Vox explained a few months ago, Rick Perry unveiled a proposed solution in which utility companies would pay coal and nuclear power plants "for all their costs and all the power they produce, whether those plants are needed or not."

No, seriously, that was the plan. Consumers -- which is to say, us -- would effectively bail out obsolete plants, creating unnatural profits for their owners, even if utility companies had more affordable alternatives, and even if the plants themselves are not economically viable, because the Trump administration would mandate it.

Asked a congressional hearing in October whether he considered the costs to the public, Perry replied, "I think you take costs into account, but what's the cost of freedom?"

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Trump takes the wrong message to America's farmers

01/09/18 08:00AM

Ahead of Donald Trump's speech to the American Farm Bureau's annual convention yesterday, the editorial board of the Des Moines Register published a highly unflattering piece, explaining that the president and his team have offered very little so far in the way of "policies that actually help farmers, consumers and rural America."

"They're just pandering to big corporations. They aren't interested in the family farmer. The USDA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the U.S. Department of Big Agribusiness."

Which liberal uttered that? U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley. The Republican railed on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in October for killing a rule designed to protect the rights of farmers who raise chickens, cows and hogs for large meat processors. The Farmer Fair Practice Rule was rolled out by USDA under President Barack Obama but never took effect.

The USDA, and agriculture in general, doesn't seem to be much of a priority to Trump. Seven of the top 13 USDA officials still haven't been nominated. Perdue is also reorganizing the department in ways that threaten to downplay rural development.

It's against this backdrop that the president was warmly received in Nashville yesterday, though he said alarmingly little. Trump seemed to understand that he's enjoyed strong political support in rural areas, but when it came time to present a substantive vision for how intends to help rural communities, he seemed far more eager to celebrate himself.

"Oh, are you happy you voted for me," Trump said at one point, straying from the prepared text on his trusted teleprompter. "You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege."

He proceeded to talk about the number of electoral votes he received in 2016 -- yes, this remains an area of intense focus for the president -- before badly misstating the ways in which the Republican tax plan will affect farmers and taking credit for recent gains on Wall Street. Trump even found the need to request a standing ovation after discussing changes to the estate tax, which, GOP talking points notwithstanding, has very little to do with farm owners. (I don't recall any modern president ever asking for a standing ovation.)

Trump then signed executive orders on rural broadband that don't appear to actually do anything.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 1.8.18

01/08/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The Trump administration plans "to end temporary protected status for 200,000 Salvadorans currently living in the United States, according to senior administration officials. The Salvadorans will have until September 2019 to seek permanent residency in the United States or risk deportation."

* A case to keep an eye on: "Maine Community Health Options (MCHO) became the first insurer in the country to sue the Trump administration over millions in subsidies that the federal government cut off in October."

* Special Counsel Robert Mueller has "recalled for questioning at least one participant in a controversial meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016, and is looking into President Trump's misleading claim that the discussion focused on adoption, rather than an offer to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton."

* The Securities and Exchange Commission "is investigating the real-estate company run by the family of President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner for its use of a federal investment-for-visa program known as EB-5, according to people familiar with the matter."

* Are we supposed to believe he's a "bad hombre"? "Federal immigration officials said Friday they will proceed with the deportation of an Ohio man who is the sole provider and trained medical caregiver of a 6-year-old paraplegic boy."

* The White House's Stephen Miller was escorted off a CNN set yesterday by security.

* Trump will get to name Rogers' successor: "NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers has decided he will retire this spring, two former U.S. intelligence officials told POLITICO, ending a near four-year tenure bookended by major leaks that rattled the agency."

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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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