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House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan whispers to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy during the House Republican leadership media availability after the House Republican Conference meeting, March 19, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

GOP Majority Leader last year: Trump is on Putin's payroll

05/18/17 08:40AM

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) isn't known as an accomplished legislator, but once in a while, he makes headlines for accidentally blurting out the truth. In 2015, for example, the GOP leader admitted on national television that his party's committee to investigate Benghazi conspiracy theories was created to undermine Hillary Clinton's presidential  campaign.

A year later, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, McCarthy was equally candid about a politically sensitive subject.
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy -- made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump," McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy's assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.
When the Post reached out to the House Speaker's office, Ryan's spokesperson, Brendan Buck, initially said of the McCarthy story, "That never happened.... The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false."

Told that the newspaper had a recording of McCarthy's comments, Ryan's spokesperson switched gears, saying the House Majority Leader's comment may have happened, but he was kidding.

Hmm.
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FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 19, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty...

Appointment of special counsel raises stakes in Trump's Russia scandal

05/18/17 08:00AM

When it comes to the Justice Department's handling of the investigation into Donald Trump's Russia scandal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already recused himself, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge. And as recently as Friday, Rosenstein said he saw no need to appoint a special prosecutor.

A lot can happen in five days.
Bowing to public and Congressional pressure, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller on Wednesday to be a special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, Justice Department officials said.

Mueller will take command of the prosecutors and FBI agents who are working on the far-reaching Russia investigation, which spans multiple FBI field offices on both coasts.
OK, let's dig in.

Is Mueller the right person for the job?

Almost certainly, yes. Finding someone who has bipartisan credibility, prosecutorial expertise, and experience with the FBI is exceedingly difficult, but Mueller fits the bill.

Is his appointment good news or bad news for those who take the scandal seriously?

That's a matter of perspective, of course, but there can be no doubt that the White House and its allies just got a lot more nervous. Donald Trump's Russia scandal was already heating up, but yesterday's announcement raised the temperature by several degrees.

Isn't it a little ironic that Trump's firing of James Comey led to Mueller's appointment?
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 5.17.17

05/17/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Perceptions are starting to change: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 372.82 points on Wednesday, bringing the giddy post-election rally of the past few months to a halt as investors began to worry about the daily revelations of disarray with President Donald Trump's administration."

* Afghanistan: "Suicide bombers besieged the state television offices in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, officials said, fighting for three hours and leaving at least six people dead."

* An ugly scene: "D.C. police announced they are pursuing charges against additional suspects involved in Tuesday's violent clash between demonstrators and guards for visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

* The Senate Judiciary Committee "demanded Wednesday that the FBI and the White House turn over evidence relating to former FBI Director James Comey's interactions with President Trump after reports of a memo that Comey was said have written detailing a request from Trump to wind down the Russia investigation."

* Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee "sought Wednesday to invite former FBI director James Comey to testify and also requested documents related to the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections:"

* As of this afternoon, five Republican senators now support an independent investigation of Trump's Russia scandal: Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

* A story worth watching: "Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is under scrutiny by ethics investigators for his role in soliciting investors for an Australian biotech company, according to a news report."

* On a related note: "Rep. Duncan Hunter's spending habits are once again under scrutiny in light of reports he used campaign money on a Las Vegas trip. The California Republican's campaign spent $1,042 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and $896 at the hotel's bar called the Chandelier, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported."
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CPAC Vignettes

Trump to give David Clarke an inexplicable promotion

05/17/17 04:52PM

Just a few weeks ago, Americans learned that Sheriff David Clarke's jail in Milwaukee kept water from a mentally ill inmate for days, until the man died of "profound dehydration."

Now, however, Donald Trump's administration has decided to reward David Clarke with a promotion.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. will leave office next month to accept a federal appointment as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

He will work in the department's Office of Partnership and Engagement as a liaison with state, local and tribal law enforcement and governments.  "I'm looking forward to joining that team," Clarke said Thursday afternoon on the Vicki McKenna talk show on 1130 WISN Radio.
Even if a bipartisan majority in the Senate were to conclude that Clarke is dangerously unhinged, and should be kept far away from any federal responsibilities, it wouldn't matter -- because as Politico recently noted, the position Clarke is taking "does not require Senate confirmation."

If you're not familiar with Clarke, his career, or his political activism, it's worth appreciating the fact that he's not a typical American sheriff.
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President Trump addresses rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29, 2017. Screenshot from NBCNews.

Trump whines to Coast Guard: No president has ever 'been treated worse'

05/17/17 04:10PM

It may only be Wednesday, but it's been an odd week for presidential speeches. On Monday, Donald Trump spoke at the annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, where his remarks veered in some unusual directions. He noted, for example, that police officers supported his campaign "big league," which seemed inappropriate, given the context.

The president also thought it'd be a good idea to use the memorial service to toss a hat during his remarks to the son of a fallen officer. The hat featured a big "45" in honor of himself (Trump is the 45th president).

Today, Trump spoke to graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and took the opportunity to whine about what a victim he is.
"Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair. You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine.

"Look at the way I've been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history -- and I say this with great surety -- has been treated worse or more unfairly."
Presidents don't usually feel sorry for themselves in front of large audiences -- public whining and self-pity tends to undermine a sense of stature -- but Trump doesn't care. He feels put upon, gosh darn it, and he wants the graduating cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to know about his hurt feelings.

And so, in what was supposed to be a congratulatory speech for Academy graduates veered into the president complaining about his detractors, the press, and others who fail to appreciate his perceived awesomeness.
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Image: U.S. President Trump listens to  Speaker Ryan as he gathers with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington

Paul Ryan isn't done carrying water for Donald Trump

05/17/17 12:48PM

This morning started to feel a little different. Donald Trump has been able to maintain steadfast support from Republicans through a series of brutal controversies, but the revelations from a memo written by former FBI Director James Comey changed things for many Republicans.

Suddenly, GOP lawmakers who are ordinarily eager to appear on television started turning down invitations. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made the case that we're seeing a new Watergate. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) believes impeachment may be necessary. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) now wants an independent commission, and he's not alone. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said, "While I'm no Comey fan, I won't defend anyone who obstructs justice."

Even Wall Street, which had largely shrugged off Trump's recent scandals, fell sharply this morning as the prospect of political instability in the White House grew more real.

Some things, however, haven't changed at all.
House Speaker Paul Ryan cautioned against jumping to conclusions about President Donald Trump's alleged meddling in an FBI investigation of his administration and dismissed the need for more outside oversight of the Department of Justice probe into Trump campaign ties to Russia, as calls for a special prosecutor grow louder on Capitol Hill.

"We need the facts. It is obvious there are some people out there that want to harm the president," Ryan told reporters at a news conference.
In reality, that's not "obvious" at all. No one made Donald Trump fire the FBI director, for example, and no one forced him to admit that the president did so because of his dissatisfaction with an ongoing investigation into his political team.
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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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