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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 2.6.18

02/06/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The next deadline is the day after tomorrow: "President Donald Trump cheered on the idea of another government shutdown on Tuesday, telling lawmakers at a White House roundtable that he would 'love' to see one if it helped get a tough immigration deal through Congress."

* So, Trump's going to claim he fixed the stock market, right? "Wall Street had a wild ride Tuesday as the Dow Jones industrial average swung back into the green, ending the day up 550 points after a dramatic opening saw the blue-chip index sink by almost the same amount."

* The House of Representatives "easily passed major reforms to the way sexual harassment is reported in Congress Tuesday, a measure aimed at overhauling the secretive, excessively complicated system in place for decades."

* Finance industry: "Banks are closing branches at the fastest pace in decades, as they leave less profitable regions and fewer customers use tellers for routine transactions."

* An unhelpful mistake: "The US Defense Department was forced to correct several mistakes in its Nuclear Posture Review after an initial version of the report released last week labeled Taiwan as part of China and included the disputed Kuril islands in a chart depicting Russia."

* Is this supposed to make Americans feel safer? "On a recent Wednesday morning, Syed Ahmed Jamal was getting ready to take his daughter to school when he was stopped outside his home in Lawrence, Kan. Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were on his front lawn. Before Jamal, 55, could say goodbye to his wife and three children, the ICE agents detained him and led him away in handcuffs."

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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)

Challenge to Trump University settlement rejected by appeals court

02/06/18 12:44PM

About a year ago, a federal judge approved a settlement in the Trump University fraud case, requiring Donald Trump to pay $25 million to his former "students." There was, however, a small catch.

One of the plaintiffs wanted to opt out of the settlement and pursue a separate case against the president. Today, as Politico  reported, that effort failed.

A federal appeals court has upheld the $25 million settlement President Donald Trump agreed to in a bid to resolve long running lawsuits claiming fraud in his Trump University real estate seminar venture.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a challenge brought by Florida bankruptcy lawyer Sherri Simpson, who said she wanted to take Trump to trial over the $19,000 she paid for classes and a mentorship program.

Lawyers for Simpson said notices sent to thousands of Trump University participants earlier in the litigation promised the right to opt out of the class-action suits immediately or after any settlement was proposed, but the three-judge appeals court panel disagreed.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who brought the fraud case against Trump U, issued a statement after today's news from the 9th Circuit.

After keeping a close eye on this case for a long while, I think it's a shame to see the case end -- because I've long believed this is one of the underappreciated controversies of Trump's recent career.

Indeed, as regular readers may recall, the upheld settlement agreement wasn't supposed to happen at all -- according to the president.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.6.18

02/06/18 12:00PM

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

* There will be four state legislative special elections in Missouri today. All four seats were recently represented by Republicans.

* Speaking of Missouri, intra-party questions about state Attorney General Josh Hawley's (R) Senate candidacy have reached the point that some GOP officials have reached out to Rep. Ann Wagner (R), asking her to reconsider her decision not to run.

* And in case that weren't enough news about the Show-Me State, a grand jury is reportedly hearing evidence in a case against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who's been caught up in a sex/blackmail scandal.

* In Pennsylvania's congressional special election, the national Republican Party has reportedly "deployed its full arsenal" ahead of March 13. By one count, GOP-allied groups have outspent their Democratic counterparts in this race by a 17-to-1 margin.

* Former Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.), who had said she was waiting for divine guidance on whether to run for the Senate this year, announced yesterday that she's skipping the race.

* Though there were no real doubts about his plans, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) officially filed for re-election yesterday. It means that we now know there will be no Senate Democratic retirements this cycle.

* The Columbus Dispatch  reports today, "Republicans, Democrats and a coalition of redistricting-reform advocates reached a deal to put a proposal on the May ballot aimed at curtailing partisan gerrymandering of Ohio's congressional map."

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while meeting with President-elect Donald Trump following a meeting in the Oval Office Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

GOP lawmaker claims the Russia probe is 'essentially birtherism'

02/06/18 11:20AM

I've heard some creative Republican attempts to dismiss the Trump-Russia scandal, but TPM highlighted one yesterday that managed to surprise me.

Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA) on Monday compared special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to the right-wing conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

"Imagine that there were a partly political-funded investigation into President Obama's place of birth, right? Because this Russia investigation is essentially birtherism," Garrett said during an interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar.

"Imagine if political money, $9 million from the Clinton campaign and the DNC to Fusion GPS, were levied to do an investigation against President Obama as to his origin of birth," he added. "That would be ridiculous and un-American, and this is too."

Asked about the contacts between Russians and members of Team Trump during the Russians' attack on the United States, the Virginia Republican said, "You don't get to pick the people with whom you interact."

I've seen the clip, and I can assure you, Garrett wasn't kidding. This was his sincere attempt at trying to explain his belief that the entire scandal is "much ado about nothing."

Let's unpack this one, because even by 2018 standards, this pushback against the controversy was amazing.

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Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media while entering Trump Tower on Nov. 14, 2016 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)

The 'Mayberry Machiavellis' tackle the opioid crisis

02/06/18 10:43AM

Early on in George W. Bush's presidency, the Republican White House launched a "faith-based initiative," intended to dramatically increase the role of religious institutions in providing social services. Bush tapped John DiIulio, a University of Pennsylvania political scientist, to oversee the project.

DiIulio had high hopes for his role, which were soon dashed. "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," he conceded in 2002. "What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

The Mayberry Machiavellis are now tackling the opioid crisis. Politico  reported this morning:

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a "just say no" campaign.

Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the "drug czar" office, just as he attempted in last year's budget before backing off. He hasn't named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office's top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.

The acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy hasn't even been invited to Conway's opioid cabinet meetings.

The Politico  piece added that members of Congress "who have been leaders on opioid policy and who are accustomed to working with the drug czar office, haven't seen outreach from Conway or her cabinet."

In other words, the administration has taken a bifurcated approach. On the one hand, there's the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has been marginalized, understaffed, and is facing significant budget cuts. On the other hand, there's a group of political appointees, led by a Republican pollster, who have no relevant background, qualifications, or expertise.

What could possibly go wrong.

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Donald Trump

Trump rejects yet another bipartisan compromise on immigration

02/06/18 10:14AM

In the wake of last month's government shutdown, policymakers continue to look for possible solutions on immigration, but at this point, progress is hard to find. As his tweet yesterday morning helped prove, Donald Trump isn't exactly playing a constructive role.

"Any deal on DACA that does not include STRONG border security and the desperately needed WALL is a total waste of time. March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!"

At face value, presidential missives like these are genuinely odd. It was Trump who stripped Dreamers of their DACA protections, creating an arbitrary March 5 deadline, and putting their futures in jeopardy. The tweet was effectively Trump's way of saying he's holding Dreamers' fate hostage, and Democrats "seem not to care" about meeting the president's ransom demands.

It's against this backdrop that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) unveiled a bipartisan compromise on immigration yesterday, which the White House immediately rejected.

It came on the heels of an immigration framework that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached with the president, which the White House also rejected.

That came on the heels of a bipartisan compromise on immigration crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), which the White House also rejected.

That came on the heels of an immigration framework that Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reached with the president last September, which the White House also rejected.

And yet, despite this reality, the line in GOP circles is that Democrats are deliberately derailing efforts to protect Dreamers.

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Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation

Just when it seemed the GOP's Nunes memo couldn't look worse...

02/06/18 09:20AM

For months, the line from Trump World and its allies was that the federal investigation of the Russia scandal was initiated by Christopher Steele's dossier. Last week, at the president's behest, Republicans unveiled their "Nunes memo," which showed that the GOP's favorite talking point isn't true.

Never mind that, Republicans said. It was time to move on to their next big talking point: when the FBI sought court warrants to scrutinize one of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisers -- a suspected agent of a foreign adversary -- federal law enforcement failed to notify the court of the political origins of the Steele dossier.

The allegation wasn't a peripheral point: this was the cornerstone of the entire Republican memo. By failing to notify judges of the dossier' political context, GOP officials insisted, federal law enforcement committed a grave abuse.

Yesterday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who's responsible for the creation of the Nunes memo, conceded that the point his document explicitly attempted to prove, isn't quite right.

Republican leaders are acknowledging that the FBI disclosed the political origins of a private dossier the bureau cited in an application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, undermining a controversial GOP memo released Friday and fueling Democratic demands to declassify more information about the bureau's actions.

According to Nunes, the FBI may have notified the court, but the information was in a footnote, so it doesn't really count. In effect, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has gone from accusing federal law enforcement of withholding pertinent information from a judge to arguing that the pertinent information wasn't in a large enough font.

For crying out loud, can't anybody here play this game? Is Nunes trying to look ridiculous?

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Image: TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-ELECTIONS-TRUMP

Trump attacks Democrats' patriotism, raises specter of 'treason'

02/06/18 08:40AM

In a Wall Street Journal interview a few weeks ago, Donald Trump lashed out at some FBI officials and suggested they may be guilty of "treason." When the interviewer tried to move on, the president wouldn't let it go, making two more references to "treasonous" acts.

Yesterday, Trump was in Ohio, ostensibly to talk about how impressed he is with his regressive tax plan, but the president strayed from his script and reflected on the partisan differences in how his State of the Union address was perceived.

"You're up there, you've got half the room going totally crazy, wild -- they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country. And you have the other side, even on positive news -- really positive news, like that -- they were like death and un-American. Un-American.

"Somebody said, 'treasonous.' I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."

For the right, the fact that Trump was "playing this for laughs," and using a "flippant" tone, made the rhetoric less offensive.

It's a tough sell. As Jon Chait put it, "It is totally beyond the pale for a president to describe the opposing party as having committed treason for failing to applaud his speech. It is the logic and rhetoric of authoritarianism in its purest form. But if Trump does it in the middle of a Don Rickles–style riff, does that make it better? Worse? Just weirder?"

Or put another way, if Barack Obama jokingly said Republicans committed treason by failing to respond with enthusiasm to one of his speeches, and the Democratic White House said it was just "tongue in cheek," would conservatives let it go? Or would it be Exhibit A in the "Obama's a Dictator" attack?

Whether one is inclined to laugh off the president's rhetoric or not, the broader context is striking. Trump is supposed to be working on preventing another government shutdown and negotiating a bipartisan agreement on immigration policy. Instead, he joshing about Democrats committing treason for failing to applaud his speech to Trump's satisfaction?

Indeed, in that same State of the Union address, the president said, "Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people."

Yeah, how's that working out?

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP-PRISON REFORM

Stock market teaches Trump a lesson he didn't want to learn

02/06/18 08:00AM

For Donald Trump, the stock market has long been a real-time barometer of his economic record. When Wall Street was doing well, it meant he was doing well. When stocks values looked good, it meant the value of his presidency looked good.

None of this ever made sense. Not only are there important differences between the stock market and the economy, but Trump, ignoring warnings, apparently worked from the assumption that the major indexes only move in one direction.

Wall Street is now teaching the amateur president a lesson he didn't want to learn.

World stock markets nosedived for a fourth day running on Tuesday, having seen $4 trillion wiped off from what just eight days ago had been record high values.

Europe's main markets started down as much as 3 percent and shares tumbled in Asia after a wild day for U.S. markets.

Two days of steep losses have erased the U.S. market's gains from the start of this year, ending a spate of record-setting calm for stocks.

It's important not to respond to these events in lazy, partisan ways. In the Obama era, Trump and his allies used to respond to even modest drops on Wall Street as proof that the Democratic White House was failing.

The line of argument proved to be ridiculous, not only because the stock market's performance over the course of Obama's presidency was very strong, but also because blaming short-term Wall Street trends on the White House is always unwise.

The trouble, however, is that Trump has gone out of his way to take credit for stock market gains. It apparently never occurred to him that would mean taking responsibility when stock values started to decline.

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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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