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Image: FILE PHOTO --  U.S. President Trump and German Chancellor Merkel give a joint news conference in Washington

Kushner's infrastructure plan sounds familiar for a reason

06/15/17 10:05AM

A few months ago, Donald Trump put his young and inexperienced son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of a newly created White House Office of American Innovation. The idea, reportedly, was for Kushner, his ties to the Russia scandal notwithstanding, to lead "a SWAT team of strategic consultants," who'd collectively craft solutions to assorted challenges, all while answering only to the president.

Vanity Fair reported this week on Team Kushner's progress.

"We've been working in partnership with the National Economic Council on all aspects of the infrastructure package and taking the lead role in certain aspects of it," one White House official told me about the Office of American Innovation's work. Members of the O.A.I. meet with either the National Economic Council, legislators, or private-sector experts every day to tackle various aspects of the plan.

In terms of infrastructure and jobs, the team plans to focus on four areas. The first is reforming the permit system for large-scale projects, which, as it stands, can take more than eight years to push through (one goal is to get this closer to two years). The second is what the O.A.I. calls "transformative projects," or cutting-edge solutions that would "unleash a significant amount of economic growth," the official explained, such as building an underground high-speed rail system across the Northeast corridor. Third, is an emphasis on building rural technology, like broadband networks. And last, the team is focused on retraining American workers to address the growing skills-gap problem that the White House says has left hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled.

The White House's infrastructure plan is already overdue, but Kushner and his "SWAT team of strategic consultants" are apparently moving forward with a series of "transformative" ideas.

And that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, except the plan sounds awfully familiar.

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Then FBI Director Robert Mueller arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2012, to testify during a hearing.

Would Trump fire Special Counsel Mueller during the investigation?

06/15/17 09:20AM

Former FBI Director Bob Mueller is the Justice Department's special counsel, overseeing the investigation into the expanding Russia scandal, which now reportedly includes allegations that Donald Trump obstructed justices. There's no shortage of questions surrounding the controversy, but among them is what kind of job security Mueller currently enjoys.

A Trump confidant this week said, for example, the president has "considered" firing Mueller. Christopher Ruddy, a longtime Trump ally, added, "I think he's weighing that option."

The comments caused quite a stir, and it was soon bolstered by a report from the New York Times.

Last month's appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia enraged President Trump. Yet, at least initially, he holstered his Twitter finger and publicly said nothing.

But behind the scenes, the president soon began entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller even as his staff tried to discourage him from something they believed would turn a bad situation into a catastrophe.... For now, the staff has prevailed.... But people close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind about Mr. Mueller if he finds out anything to lead him to believe the investigation has been compromised.

Note, this report was published before we learned that Trump is now himself the subject of a criminal investigation as part of Mueller's overall probe.

What's worth considering  whether this means Trump is more likely to fire Mueller or less likely.

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President Trump addresses rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29, 2017. Screenshot from NBCNews.

Trump warned of a 'constitutional crisis' if president faced an investigation

06/15/17 08:43AM

In June 2016, after the Democratic presidential primaries, Barack Obama officially threw his support behind Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, borrowing a page from Fox News, pushed a very specific line: "Never before," the Republican tweeted, "has a president endorsed someone under investigation" by the Justice Department.

Because, obviously, if someone seeking the nation's highest office is under investigation from the Justice Department, that's inherently cause for alarm, right?

In November 2016, less than a week before Election Day, Politico reported on Trump's closing message:

Trump predicted that Clinton's election would bring "an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis" because of the looming investigation and suggested Americans would not want to endure a second Clinton administration marred by scandal.

Three days later, Trump insisted that Clinton, as president, couldn't possibly be expected to govern -- because the investigation into her email server protocols would make such an endeavor impossible.

Of course, at the time, the federal investigation into Clinton's emails had wrapped up, and the FBI found no criminal wrongdoing. Trump's rhetoric served as fuel for his rabid followers, but it had no meaningful basis in reality.

But about eight months later, his rhetoric is suddenly relevant anew -- because it's Trump who is now a sitting president who's under a criminal investigation, facing allegations he obstructed justice as part of the Russia scandal. It leads to a question the White House should at least try to answer: does Trump still believe the nation is forced to endure a "protracted constitutional crisis" when the American president is the subject of a federal probe?

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty)

The irony of the criminal investigation into Donald Trump

06/15/17 08:00AM

Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency obsessing over whether he's personally under investigation as part of the probe into his Russia scandal. Ironically, the president's focus grew so intense, he may have taken actions that put him under investigation.

Rachel noted on last night's show the blockbuster new report from the Washington Post.

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump's conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.

The piece added that Trump had received assurances from then-FBI Director James Comey that he wasn't personally being investigated, but that changed for the president "shortly after Comey's firing."

Remember, Trump admitted publicly that he fired Comey, who was leading a counter-espionage investigation into the Russia scandal, because of the president's dissatisfaction with the probe. He also reportedly leaned on top officials in the intelligence community, asking them to intervene in the matter, adding weight to concerns about Trump's alleged obstruction efforts.

What's more, it's not just the Post. The Wall Street Journal reported that it was Trump's firing of Comey that is "now a subject of the federal probe ... which has expanded to include whether the president obstructed justice." The New York Times, meanwhile, added that the special counsel "has requested interviews with three high-ranking current or former intelligence officials, the latest indication that he will investigate whether President Trump obstructed justice."

For months, the Russia scandal has focused on events that occurred before Trump and his team took office in January. These reports point to an important twist: Trump is now the subject of a criminal investigation because of actions he took as president.

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Criminal charges filed in Flint water crisis

Criminal charges filed in Flint water crisis

06/14/17 09:45PM

Congressman Dan Kildee talks with Rachel Maddow about the shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice and the criminal charges, including involuntary manslaughter, being filed by the Michigan attorney general against officials in the Flint water crisis. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 6.14.17

06/14/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This morning's mass shooting: "House Majority Whip Steve Scalise ... underwent surgery and was in critical condition, the hospital said Wednesday afternoon, adding that another victim was in good condition."

* This afternoon's mass shooting: "A gunman in a UPS uniform killed three people and wounded two others before turning his weapon on himself as police approached at a company facility in San Francisco early Wednesday, authorities said."

* This was written before the Bay Area shooting: "The attack Wednesday in Alexandria, Va., is the 154th mass shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks information on shootings in the United States. On 165 days through the calendar year, that averages out to a little less than one mass shooting per day."

* Flint: "The head of the Michigan health department was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter, the highest-ranking member of Gov. Rick Snyder's administration to be snagged in a criminal investigation of Flint's lead-contaminated water."

* Sanctions: "The Senate easily voted Wednesday to advance a bipartisan agreement to slap new financial penalties on Russia and let Congress weigh in before President Trump can lift sanctions." The vote was 97 to 2.

* This isn't just a break with U.S. policy; it's also a departure from what our European allies want: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that the U.S. would support efforts by Russia and Ukraine to resolve a yearslong conflict outside of an internationally backed agreement signed by both countries, the implementation of which has long been a U.S. condition for lifting sanctions against Moscow."

* Another AHCA analysis: "The House-passed Obamacare repeal bill would leave 12.6 million more Americans uninsured over the next decade and reduce federal spending by $328 billion, according to an analysis released today by CMS' Office of the Actuary."

* On a related note: "The Obamacare insurance markets aren't as shaky as President Trump seems to believe. On Tuesday, the insurer Centene announced plans to expand aggressively into the state marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act. Centene said it intended to sell individual policies for the first time in Nevada, Missouri and Kansas, and to grow its presence in six other states, including Ohio and Florida."

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Image: James Hodgkinson

Suspected gunman identified in DC-area shooting

06/14/17 01:29PM

Details continue to emerge from this morning's shooting at a congressional baseball practice at an Alexandria, Virginia, this morning, where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was among five who were wounded in the incident.

Federal law enforcement officials identified the suspected shooter to NBC News as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Illinois. President Donald Trump announced during an update from the White House that the suspect died after being taken to the hospital.

Trump said "many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault."

As of now, the gunman, who reportedly asked "are these the Republicans or the Democrats" practicing on the field, appears to be the only fatality from the shooting. That includes the Capitol Police officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Rep. Roger Williams' (R-Texas) office also confirmed that a member of his staff, Zack Barth, was one of the people shot this morning. NBC News' report added that Matt Mika, a director of government relations for Tyson Foods, was also shot.

In all, according to local police, five people were taken to the hospital after the shooting, including Hodgkinson.

The alleged gunman has a history of violence and arrests, including a domestic violence charge in 2006.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who cancelled the day's events on Capitol Hill, was among the members of Congress who spoke from the floor after the incident, declaring, "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us."

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(FILE) Republican Representative from Louisiana Steve Scalise holds a copy of the Affordable Care Act, also known as 'Obamacare', during a news conference held by House Republican leadership, March 8, 2017.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise shot at a Virginia park

06/14/17 08:58AM

Details are still coming together, but NBC News has confirmed that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot at congressional Republican baseball practice in Northern Virginia this morning.

He was in stable condition, said two different senior-level GOP aides. One source said the Republican lawmaker was wounded in the hip area.

Two sources said at least one Capitol Police officer was also shot.

The Alexandria Police Department noted via Twitter that the gunman is in custody. It's not yet clear if there were any fatalities or what motives the shooter may have had.

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

Trump privately criticizes Republican health care plan he celebrated

06/14/17 08:00AM

When House Republicans narrowly approved a far-right health care overhaul in early May, Donald Trump could hardly contain his glee. The president hosted a big celebration at the White House -- a rarity for a bill that had only passed one chamber -- and touted the GOP legislation as a triumph.

"What we have is something very, very incredibly well-crafted," Trump said of his party's proposal, adding, "It's going to be an unbelievable victory, actually, when we get it through the Senate." The president described the House legislation as "a great plan" -- three times.

Evidently, Trump has changed his mind.

In a meeting with Republican senators Tuesday to discuss health care reform, President Donald Trump gave them support to move in a different direction from the House-passed version of the legislation which he described as "mean," according to two Senate aides whose bosses attended the lunch.

"He talked about making sure we have a bill that protects people with pre-existing conditions and helps people. We talked a little bit about the tax credit to make that work for low income elderly people," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who attended the meeting, said. "And he certainly is fine with us taking a different direction with what the House did."

By multiple accounts, the Republican president denounced the House Republicans' proposal in no uncertain terms. A CNN report, for example, quoted a source saying the bill was "cold-hearted." BuzzFeed's article said Trump used the phrase "son of a bitch" to describe the pending legislation.

Before the meeting with Senate Republicans began in earnest, the president told his guests that the Senate version will be "generous, kind, with heart." Left unsaid was Trump's apparent belief that the House version, which he touted vigorously, wasn't generous or kind, and obviously lacked heart.

There's no great mystery as to why Trump would express love for the House bill in May, and disdain for the House bill in June. Indeed, Politico's report fleshed out the key detail:

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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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