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Actor Leslie Odom Jr., actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (R) and cast of "Hamilton" perform on stage during "Hamilton" GRAMMY performance for The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Richard Rodgers Theater, Feb. 15, 2016. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage/Getty)

Following principled appeal, Trump demands 'Hamilton' apology

02/13/17 12:23AM

The fact that Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of "Hamilton" on Broadway wouldn't have been especially notable, were it not for the hullabaloo that followed -- including some unexpectedly robust whining from Pence's running mate.

During a Friday-night curtain call, Pence was headed for the exits when actor Brandon Victor Dixon, one of the show's co-stars, appealed to the far-right Republican directly. "We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," Dixon said, reading off a piece of paper. "But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."

Donald Trump, who was not in attendance, was apparently outraged.
Donald Trump is demanding an apology from the cast of "Hamilton" after Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the Broadway show Friday night — and was greeted with a chorus of boos from the audience.

"The Theater must always be a safe and special place," Trump tweeted Saturday morning, after videos of the jeering emerged on social media. "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"
Trump also tweeted Saturday morning that Pence was "harassed" at the show -- there's no evidence of this actually happening -- before adding, "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."

Yesterday, Trump was still complaining about the Broadway show, complaining about "very inappropriate" remarks directed at the incoming vice president.

Now, I could note that the theater, for centuries, has been a place for political and societal commentary. I could also note that conservatives aren't supposed to show concern for "safe spaces." We could take a moment to mention that Donald J. Trump, given his cringe-worthy record, should avoid complaining about rudeness. We might also mention that the "Hamilton" cast was actually quite polite towards Pence, making Trump's little tantrum that much more peculiar.

But while all of these relevant details are worth keeping in mind, let's put all of that aside and shine a light on the overarching problem: Trump is a thin-skinned crybaby who has an alarming aversion to public dissent.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University Jan. 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Va. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

This Week in God, 10.15.16

02/13/17 12:23AM

After a hiatus, the God Machine is back this week, and first up is a story about one of the nation's more politically active evangelical colleges, which is facing a familiar schism.

Virginia's Liberty University, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, is now run by his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., who also happens to be one of Donald Trump's most loyal and enthusiastic allies. Indeed, during the Republican presidential primaries, while many social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement were rallying behind Ted Cruz, Falwell bucked the trend and offered his spirited support (no pun intended) a secular, thrice-married adulterer and casino owner who's never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith.

Even this week, after Trump was heard boasting about sexual assault and accused by a variety of women of sexual misconduct, Falwell continued to express his enthusiastic support for the Republican nominee. The interesting twist, however, came when Liberty students -- a conservative, evangelical bunch -- balked. The Washington Post reported this week:
Students at Virginia's Liberty University have issued a statement against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as young conservatives at some colleges across the country reconsider support for his campaign.

A statement issued late Wednesday by the group Liberty United Against Trump strongly rebuked the candidate as well as the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for defending Trump after he made vulgar comments about women in a 2005 video. [...] The students at Liberty University wrote that they felt compelled to speak out in light of Falwell's steadfast support for Trump even after the candidate's comments about women and sexual assault.
The statement, released under the Liberty United Against Trump name, read, "Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.... He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose."

As of Thursday, the total number of Liberty students, alumni, and faculty who signed on to the letter stood at more than 1,300.

Falwell called the statement, among other things, "incoherent and false."
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Donald Trump introduces Trump University at a press conference in Trump Tower, New York, May 2005. (Photo by Dan Herrick/KPA/ZUMA)

After vowing to do the opposite, Trump settles fraud case

02/13/17 12:23AM

One week from today, President-elect Donald Trump was scheduled to take the stand in a fraud case surrounding his scandal-plagued "Trump University," which has been accused of ripping off students and making ridiculous claims about the value of its lessons. The Republican was poised to be the first president-elect to ever give sworn testimony in his own fraud case.

As it turns out, Trump won't have to take the stand after all. As Politico reported, the controversial businessman who vowed not to settle this case ended up settling this case.
President-elect Donald Trump, who once declared "I don't settle lawsuits," took to Twitter Saturday to justify his decision to pay $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar program. He also hinted that had he not been so busy preparing to take office, he might not have settled.

"The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!," Trump tweeted.
The settlement resolves a class-action case and an investigation launched by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Note, as recently as March, Trump boasted during a GOP debate, "This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don't settle cases very easily when I'm right." After boasting that the Better Business Bureau gave Trump University an "A" rating -- a claim that turned out to be a brazen lie -- Trump added, "Again, I don't settle cases. I don't do it because that's why I don't get sued very often, because I don't settle, unlike a lot of other people."

The assertion that doesn't "get sued very often" also turned out to be a demonstrable falsehood, as was the boast about never settling.

To the extent that reality still matters, it's worth remembering that the case against Trump was quite strong. The Washington Post reported in September that the New York Republican was the namesake of a "university," where students sometimes "max[ed] out their credit cards to pay tens of thousands of dollars for insider knowledge they believed could make them wealthy."
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Friday's Mini-Report, 2.10.17

02/10/17 05:32PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This won't make the issue go away: "Still regrouping from a federal appeals court's refusal to reinstate President Trump's controversial ban of nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries, White House lawyers are working on a rewrite of his executive order that could pass legal muster, NBC News has learned."

* This guy's in trouble: "National Security Advisor Mike Flynn discussed hacking-related sanctions with the Russian ambassador before the Trump administration took office, contrary to the public assertions of Vice President Mike Pence and White House spokesman Sean Spicer, a U.S. intelligence official told NBC News."

* This was a strange White House event: "President Donald Trump on Friday praised the U.S.-Japan relationship, calling the country an 'important and steadfast ally.'"

* Quite a start: "Newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had to enter a middle school in Southwest Washington through the back door after protesters blocked the front entrance."

* In the middle of the night, the Senate voted to confirm Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Every Republican voted for him; every Democrat voted against him.

* Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) "postponed eight executions on Friday, two weeks after a federal judge ruled that the state's lethal injection method might be too painful to be legal."

* How badly did Trump screw up the One China fiasco? Chinese state-run media is now openly trolling him on Twitter.
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Image: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks to members of the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida

Trump voter-fraud allegations start to look 'deranged'

02/10/17 05:00PM

The fact that Donald Trump continues to talk incessantly about the election from three months ago doesn't bother me. The fact that Donald Trump continues to embrace and repeat delusional conspiracy theories about the election worries me a great deal.
On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.

As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or "Sherpa," on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.
According to the Politico article, the president told attendees that he and Ayotte would have won New Hampshire -- both narrowly lost in reality -- were it not for "thousands" of "illegally" cast ballots. Trump reportedly added that he believes these voters were "brought in on buses" from neighboring Massachusetts.

There was, according to one of Politico's sources, "an uncomfortable silence" in the room after Trump made the comment.

Which is the proper response under the circumstances. As MSNBC's Chris Hayes put it, these ridiculous presidential assertions, bolstered by literally no evidence, are clearly "deranged."

Worse, they're part of a pattern.
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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

What happened to Donald Trump's Russia scandal?

02/10/17 04:15PM

For a while, it looked like the biggest political scandal in at least a generation. Russian officials, acting at Vladimir Putin's behest, intervened in the American presidential election, in order to put a pro-Russian candidate in the White House.

As recently as Inauguration Day -- three weeks ago today -- we saw reports that a U.S. counter-intelligence investigation was ongoing, "examining intercepted communications and financial transactions" between Moscow and associates of Donald Trump."

Trump's presidency was already dogged by questions of legitimacy given that nearly 3 million more Americans voted for his opponent, but the idea that a foreign adversary helped tip the scales in his direction raised the volume on those concerns. There was every reason to believe this scandal would help define Trump's time in office.

And yet, the story has generally faded from front pages, replaced with other, newer Trump-related controversies, failures, and mistakes. Mother Jones' David Corn noted yesterday that we're talking about "the biggest election-related scandal since Watergate," but it's "largely disappeared from the political-media landscape."
It is true that the intelligence committee probes are being conducted secretly, and there are no public hearings or actions to cover.... Still, in the past, pundits, politicians, and reporters in Washington have not been reluctant to go all-out in covering and commenting upon a controversy subjected to private investigation.

In this instance, the president's own people may be under investigation, and Trump has demonstrated no interest in holding Putin accountable for messing with US elections in what may be considered an act of covert warfare. Still, there has been no loud demand from the DC media (or most of the GOP) for answers and explanations. This quietude is good news for Putin -- and reason for him to think he could get away with such an operation again.
It's a good point, though it's worth emphasizing that the story is far from finished -- and if Trump supporters are hoping the scandal has simply faded away, they're likely to be disappointed.
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Republican nominee Donald Trump is seen during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty)

Trump slowly realizes he can't run the government like a business

02/10/17 12:56PM

Just two days after winning the presidential election, Donald Trump had a private meeting with President Obama in the White House, where the Democrat started walking the Republican through some of his duties. Trump, according to the Wall Street Journal's sources, "seemed surprised by the scope" of the presidency.

It relates to an important detail that went largely overlooked during the 2016 race: Donald Trump, the only president in American history with literally no background in public service, not only has little understanding of current events and government institutions, but he's also never really understood the presidency itself. As ridiculous as it may sound, Trump applied for a job -- by some measures, one of the most difficult jobs on the planet -- he knew precious little about.

If his posturing and rhetoric are any indication, the New York Republican seemed to believe he already had the necessary skill set because of his private-sector background, and he may have assumed he could run the executive branch like he ran his business. Politico reports today that Trump is slowly realizing that doesn't work, and he's "growing increasingly frustrated."
In interviews, nearly two dozen people who've spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he's faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks. [...]

Trump often asks simple questions about policies, proposals and personnel. And, when discussions get bogged down in details, the president has been known to quickly change the subject -- to "seem in control at all times," one senior government official said -- or direct questions about details to his chief strategist Steve Bannon, his son-in-law Jared Kushner or House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump has privately expressed disbelief over the ability of judges, bureaucrats or lawmakers to delay -- or even stop -- him from filling positions and implementing policies.
Everyone who's ever held the presidency has grown frustrated with the institutional limits and constraints, but it's Trump's "disbelief" that's notable. It's as if, in his mind, the power of the presidency is vast enough that he should be able to do as he pleases, simply by making a decision.

One of the most common and underappreciated phrases he used during the campaign was "very quickly" -- he used to describe how he'd resolve a wide variety of challenges -- because as Trump imagined the presidency, he'd simply bark orders and implement his vision, without excessive thought or study.

Little did he know there are whole other branches of government that play a role -- made more complicated by federal agencies with their own ideas.
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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.10.17

02/10/17 12:00PM

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

* The Republican National Committee has already launched a fundraising campaign hoping to capitalize on the 9th Circuit's ruling against Donald Trump's Muslim ban.

* Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, may represent one of the most Republican districts in the nation, but when the Utah Republican hosted a forum last night with constituents, he faced aggressive pushback from local citizens, many of whom chanted, "Do your job!"

* On a related note, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) has cancelled an upcoming event for constituents, because, according to his communications director, the event had been "re-branded by a group of liberal activists."

* Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) also cancelled a local event this week, which had been billed as a "town hall" gathering that was free and open to the public.

* Public Policy Polling has published online the full report that Rachel featured exclusively on last night's show. Long story short: Trump and his agenda aren't doing well.

* Moving with incredible speed, Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) was sworn in yesterday afternoon as the new U.S. senator from Alabama, filling Jeff Sessions' vacancy.

* With Mike Pompeo giving up his congressional seat to lead the CIA, Kansas Republicans chose a nominee to succeed him last night, rallying behind state Treasurer Ron Estes. The special election will be held April 11, and Democrats are not expected to seriously compete.
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Image: US President Trump signs executive order to allow Dakota,. Keystone pipelines

Some Trump orders are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

02/10/17 11:20AM

Since taking office three weeks ago, Donald Trump hasn't spent much time signing bills into law, at least not yet, but he's been quite aggressive with executive orders, actions, and directives. Some, such as his controversial Muslim ban, have had an enormous policy impact, affecting thousands of people.

Others, however, appear almost meaningless. The New York Times reported yesterday on the latest batch from the Oval Office.
At an Oval Office ceremony for the swearing in of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, President Trump announced that he was also going to sign three executive orders "designed to restore safety in America," to "break the back" of cartels and "stop as of today" violence against the police. [...]

[A]bout 45 minutes later, when the White House released the actual text of the three orders, they turned out to contain few specific policy steps.
One of the orders noted Trump's disapproval of international criminal cartels. The other two ordered the attorney general's office to look for ways to reduce crime rates (which the president continues to describe in demonstrably wrong ways).

In other words, Trump put on a little show in the White House, with leather-bound documents and a well-covered signing ceremony, to sign executive directives that don't actually do anything, other than send rhetorical signals about the new administration's priorities.

Or put another way, we're talking about glorified press releases. These actions may help pave the way for future actions -- I'd expect Republicans to take up some kind of "Blue Lives Matter" legislation in this Congress -- but that doesn't mean the orders themselves carry real policy weight.
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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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