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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 10.11.17

10/11/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* California: "The deadly wildfires that have ravaged Northern California, killing at least 21 people, caught many residents by surprise, sweeping into their neighborhoods after they had gone to bed and leaving them precious few minutes to escape."

* It has been three weeks "since Hurricane Maria savaged Puerto Rico, and life in the capital city of San Juan inches toward something that remotely resembles a new, uncomfortable form of normalcy.... But much of the rest of the island lies in the chokehold of a turgid, frustrating and perilous slog toward recovery."

* The Boy Scouts of America "announced on Wednesday that girls will soon be allowed to become Cub Scouts and to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, the organization's highest honor."

* Late yesterday, the Supreme Court "dismissed one of the challenges to a now-expired version of President Trump's travel ban, and the legal battle over his latest efforts to ban some immigrants will need to start anew."

* Trump-Russia: "Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, informed the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he will not be cooperating with any requests to appear before the panel for its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and would plead the Fifth, according to a source familiar with the matter."

* Seems like the sensible decision: "The Salt Lake City Police Department has fired an officer who handcuffed and roughly detained a nurse for refusing to allow him to draw blood from a sedated patient."

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump holds press conference

Trump: It's 'disgusting' press can 'write whatever it wants'

10/11/17 03:58PM

Last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured reporters, "This is a president who supports the First Amendment." Yeah, about that...

President Trump on Wednesday threatened NBC over a news report he called "pure fiction," and he lashed out at the news media, declaring that it is "frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write."

"People should look into it... The press should speak more honestly," Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "I've seen tremendously dishonest press. It's not even a question of distortion."

This comes on the heels of the president suggesting he might want to challenge the broadcasting licenses of outlets that run stories he doesn't like.

Which came on the heels of Trump calling on Congress to investigate American media outlets that publish news he disapproves of.

Which came on the heels of Trump telling a rally audience that journalists are "really, really dishonest people" and "bad people," who "don't like our country."

Which came on the heels of Trump describing the media as "the enemy of the American people."

Which came on the heels of Trump asking whether it's time to "change libel laws," presumably to allow him to target news organizations he doesn't like in court.

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Image:  Bob Corker Donlad Trump ill tempered exchanges

Republicans learn the wrong lessons from Bob Corker's candor

10/11/17 01:22PM

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has effectively staged an intervention of late, making clear his belief that Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency. There have been several reports this week suggesting the Tennessee Republican's GOP colleagues quietly agree with him, but they lack the courage to say so.

And while their silence is tough to defend given the seriousness of the problem, it's arguably worse to hear some Republicans make the case that Corker's criticisms should remain private. Politico reported this morning, for example:

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday downplayed the ongoing feud between President Donald Trump and GOP Sen. Bob Corker, advising the two men to talk through their differences but also joking that he's been there, too.

The Wisconsin Republican, known for his no-drama approach to Trump, quipped that "I've had my share too" when asked about the Corker-Trump spat.... "I think just talk it out amongst yourselves," Ryan suggested. "My advice is for these two gentlemen to sit down and just talk through their issues."

Hmm. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee believes the president of his own party is mentally unstable, may set the nation "on the path to World War III," and should worry "anyone who cares about our nation." Donald Trump, meanwhile, believes Corker is short and cowardly. They should "sit down and just talk through their issues"?

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.11.17

10/11/17 12:00PM

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

* The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is donating to charity the $23,000 it's received from Harvey Weinstein over more than two decades.

* With two months remaining before Alabama's U.S. Senate election, the Senate GOP leadership's super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, apparently has no plans to support Roy Moore. The Senate Leadership Fund enthusiastically supported Moore's rival, Luther Strange, during their primary fight.

* Asked by CBS News about his possible 2020 plans, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said, "I am not running for president, I am running for re-election to the Senate [in 2018]." Pressed on whether he's prepared to rule out a national campaign, the Connecticut Democrat said, "I'll rule it out for you.... I'm running for re-election."

* Hogan Gidley has joined Donald Trump's White House as a deputy press secretary, following stints on Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential campaign and Mike Huckabee's 2016 campaign.

* Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been publicly considering a gubernatorial campaign in 2018, and the Maine Republican said yesterday she'll formally announce her plans this Friday.

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Image: Donald Trump

Trump finds new ways to condemn reporting he doesn't like

10/11/17 11:27AM

Last week, Donald Trump's authoritarian instincts got the better of him, and he called on Congress to investigate American media outlets that publish news he doesn't like. This morning, apparently bothered by the latest reporting on his July 20 meeting at the Pentagon, the president went just a little further.

"With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"

On the one hand, it's not at all healthy in a modern democracy to have a chief executive publicly threaten the broadcast licenses of news organizations that publish reports he disapproves of. We've all grown quite accustomed to Trump's posturing, but that doesn't make his antics any easier to defend.

But on the other hand, it also seems quite likely that Trump's chest-thumping bluster is ultimately meaningless. At what point is it appropriate to challenge news outlets' licenses? I don't know, big guy, maybe after you finish suing the women who accused you of sexual misconduct -- which should coincide with that lawsuit you threatened to file against the New York Times for daring to report on the women's accusations.

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Image: US Secretary of State Tillerson rebukes resignation reports

Trump wanted vast increase to U.S. nuclear arsenal

10/11/17 10:42AM

On July 20, Donald Trump attended a meeting at the Pentagon with members of his national security team and Cabinet officials. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on hand, and after the president left the room, the nation's chief diplomat reportedly called Trump a "moron" -- or more specifically, a "f***ing moron."

It's been unclear, though, exactly what transpired during that meeting. NBC News, which broke the "moron" story last week, moved the ball forward today.

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation's highest ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump's comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

There were reportedly several "tense exchanges" at the July 20 meeting, and it's not clear if the comments on nuclear weapons directly led to TIllerson's Trump criticisms.

Nevertheless, according to the account, the president saw a slide that showed the size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile over the past seven decades. Trump saw the highest point on the chart -- a half-century ago, the American stockpile was at 32,000 -- and "told his team he wanted the U.S. to have that many now."

Officials in the room then had to explain there are "legal and practical impediments" to such a move, which isn't at all necessary anyway. The NBC report added, "Any increase in America's nuclear arsenal would not only break with decades of U.S. nuclear doctrine but also violate international disarmament treaties signed by every president since Ronald Reagan."

It's tempting to explore what the point of such a build-up would be -- it would serve no substantive purpose -- but I think we can safely guess that the president wasn't thinking along these lines. Rather, Trump saw a higher number, and probably assumed that more is better and fewer is worse. Other presidents had more, so he should have more.

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NFL players wait to be introduced to the crowd before playing in a game. (Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters)

Trump takes an interest in the NFL's 'massive tax breaks'

10/11/17 10:07AM

Donald Trump recently decided it'd be a good idea to expand the nation's culture wars to include athletes who engage in civil-rights protests. Yesterday, as the Washington Post reported, the president took the conversation in a very specific direction.

President Trump on Tuesday escalated his tirades against the NFL in an ongoing controversy over players who kneel to protest racial injustice, questioning tax breaks for professional football and attacking an ESPN commentator who has been critical of him and the league.

"Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!," Trump wrote in an early morning tweet.

As a rule, I don't much care about the eagerness with which the president wants to feud with athletes who hurt his feelings -- though he really should have better things to do with his time -- but Trump's tweet got me thinking. Just what kind of "massive tax breaks" do professional football teams actually enjoy?

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

The lies Donald Trump likes a little too much

10/11/17 09:20AM

It's not exactly a secret that Donald Trump tells a staggering number of lies on a nearly daily basis, but I'm especially interested in the ones he returns to, over and over again, even after being told he's wrong.

In this week's interview with Forbes, for example, the president boasted, "I've had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that's ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I'm not talking about executive orders only, which are very important. I'm talking about bills."

This is, of course, demonstrably ridiculous, as Trump surely knows. But there's a rationale behind the lie: the president is embarrassed by his failures, and he can't explain his lack of accomplishments, so he's made up a legislative record that exists only in his imagination.

Similarly, Trump needs a rationale to sell his plan for massive tax cuts. The truth won't do, so as Politico noted, the president is clinging to a specific lie.

"We are the highest taxed nation in the world," President Donald Trump has repeated over and over again.

He said it Tuesday during a meeting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He said it at a White House event last Friday. He's tweeted it, repeated it in television interviews and declared it at countless rallies. It is his go-to talking point, his favorite line as he tries to lead the Republican Party to a once-in-a-generation overhaul of the federal tax code.

Despite the repetition, the claim is plainly untrue. Indeed, as the president almost certainly realizes, it's not even close to being accurate. Asked for an explanation yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said some other claim that Trump didn't say is true, so there's no need to dwell on the president's bogus argument.

When a reporter noted that this doesn't explain why Trump keeps lying, Sanders responded, "Sorry, we're just going to have to agree to disagree." She then moved on.

The significance of this extends beyond the president's truth allergy. There's a more substantive angle to keep in mind.

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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)

Trump World isn't done running against Hillary Clinton

10/11/17 08:40AM

For much of 2017, the line from Hillary Clinton's conservative detractors was simple: she lost last year, so it's incumbent on her to retreat from public life. No one, the argument went, wanted a failed presidential candidate to be a prominent voice on the major issues of the day. It was time for her to exit the stage.

Oddly enough, the argument recently flipped. Clinton's detractors, after demanding her silence for months, have begun condemning her for not saying more about controversies such as the sexual assault allegations surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Suddenly, everyone wants the failed presidential candidate to be a prominent voice on a major issue of the day.

So, Clinton issued a statement yesterday expressing her disgust with Weinstein, prompting Republicans to complain that she didn't speak out quickly enough.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to blast Hillary Clinton over her slow pace to condemn Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual abuses.

"It took Hillary abt 5 minutes to blame NRA for madman's rampage, but 5 days to sorta-kinda blame Harvey Weinstein 4 his sexually assaults," Conway wrote on Twitter.

It was one of several Clinton-centric tweets the White House adviser published yesterday afternoon.

I suppose the obvious response to this is to focus on Conway's audacious hypocrisy, working for Donald Trump -- a man who was repeatedly accused of sexual assault -- while criticizing Clinton for not issuing a statement condemning Weinstein at a speed Conway considers acceptable.

But what I found even more bizarre is the fact that Conway is focused on Clinton at all. The election, after all, was 11 months ago, and Clinton isn't running again. Why would White House officials care whether (and when) a former secretary of state issued a statement criticizing a Hollywood producer? Why not look past the candidate they defeated nearly a year ago?

The answer, of course, is that Hillary Clinton has apparently taken up permanent residence in Trump World's head.

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes questions, alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, during a campaign press event in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 01, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty)

Two months later, Trump's inaction on opioids is 'not good'

10/11/17 08:00AM

It started on Aug. 10. That was the day Donald Trump, speaking from one of his golf resorts, used the words many in the public-health community wanted to hear.

"The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I'm saying officially, right now, it is an emergency," the president said from Bedminster. "It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis."

As regular readers know, Trump's use of the word "officially" stood out because of its procedural significance: when a president makes an official emergency declaration, a series of steps are supposed to kick into action. NBC News reported at the time, "Experts said that the national emergency declaration would allow the executive branch to direct funds towards expanding treatment facilities and supplying police officers with the anti-overdose remedy naloxone."

Yesterday, meanwhile, was Oct. 10 -- exactly two months later -- and the official written declaration still hasn't happened. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), the man the president appointed to lead a White House opioid commission, conceded yesterday that Trump's inaction is "not good."

Christie said Tuesday that the commission's recommendations are "lessened" without the declaration, but he says it's too soon to say whether not declaring one has made things worse.

"I think the problem is too big to say that if he had declared an emergency two months ago that it would make a significant difference in two months," Christie said. "But I would also say you can't get those two months back. And so it's not good that it hasn't been done yet."

The White House has been less than forthcoming in its explanation for why Trump verbally declared a national emergency two months ago, but has done nothing since. Yesterday's Associated Press report added that officials have described the declaration usually reserved for natural disasters as an "involved process."

In other words, there are some procedural complexities to this, which the administration still has to work through. And while that's entirely plausible, it raises the related question of what in the world Trump was talking about in early August.

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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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