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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.6.17

07/06/17 12:00PM

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

* Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) made it official today, telling the Nevada Independent that she's giving up her House seat to take on incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) next year. Rosen received encouragement from "Nevada's political godfather, Harry Reid."

* Politico reports that congressional Democratic leaders are working on a midterm-election agenda, called a "Better Deal," that is being "polled in battleground House districts," and "aims to convince voters that Democrats have more to offer than the GOP and the self-proclaimed deal-maker in the White House."

* In Oklahoma, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) promised voters that, if elected, he'd retire after three terms in order to honor his commitment to the principle of term limits. This week, Mullin announced he'll seek a fourth term next year.

* In Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) reportedly raised more than $1 million online in just two months in advance of his campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year. That's a decent haul given Cruz's odds of winning a second term.

* Speaking of fundraising, Randy Bryce‏, the Democratic candidate running to take on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) next year, raised $430,000 in just 12 days last month. That's pretty impressive, too.

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U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Trump sticks to Obama's ISIS plan, but hopes it looks different

07/06/17 11:20AM

When Donald Trump claimed during the campaign to have a secret to plan to defeat ISIS "quickly and effectively," he was obviously lying. Indeed, as regular readers know, it's been clear for months that Trump's plan would mirror the Obama administration's plan -- the plan Trump said was a failure -- and Trump administration officials have little interest in abandoning Obama's strategy.

The Washington Post reported last week that Trump's "new" ISIS policy is nearly complete and it "looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued."

With this in mind, the Daily Beast reported an interesting tidbit yesterday.

Trump's changes to the campaign so far have been tactical -- namely, giving the military more autonomy to strike, including special operators. But the effectiveness of the current Obama-era strategy of attacking ISIS via local forces together with allies calls into question whether there's a need for more dramatic revision.

That's presented a dilemma for those working on the Trump anti-ISIS strategy and slowed its public unveiling, U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast. The White House has asked defense officials to come up with new ideas to help brand the Trump campaign as different from its predecessor, according to two U.S. officials and one senior administration official.

Ah yes, let's not overlook the importance of branding a national security strategy. Sure, Trump's policy towards ISIS will be the same as Obama's, but officials have now been tasked with identifying ways it might appear different.

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

Every GOP health plan has something in common: Trump's backing

07/06/17 10:45AM

Senate Republican leaders missed two related, self-imposed deadlines last week. First, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies originally planned to hold a vote on their regressive health care overhaul on Thursday, but they had to retreat when the bill fell short of 50 votes.

Second, McConnell and the GOP leadership planned to craft a bill by Friday that enjoyed enough Republican support to pass, send it to the Congressional Budget Office, and then vote on it when senators return to Capitol Hill next week. That plan quietly fell apart, too.

That said, McConnell did send a proposal to the CBO for a score -- it's like the original bill, only with changes recommended by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) -- not because it has enough support to pass, but because the CBO's report would produce information that could prove useful as the deliberations continue.

Donald Trump and his team are already on board with Cruz's version.

The White House is backing a health care proposal that would make it easier for insurance companies to avoid complying with consumer protection standards, siding with some of the most conservative senators, though Senate Republican leaders remain leery of the idea. [...]

Under the proposal, insurers could sell almost any kind of health plan they wanted as long as they also offered at least one plan that complied with federal mandates like those in the Affordable Care Act, including coverage for maternity care and mental health services.

Obviously, the details of Cruz's approach matter, but it's a little tough to scrutinize right now. The New York Times ran a good overview yesterday on the outline of the Texan's plan, but the details haven't been released to the public, so there's a lot we don't know about its effects.

But while we wait to hear what the CBO has to say, let's pause to ask a different question: have you noticed just how eager Trump World is to support literally every Republican plan?

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Image: CIA Director David Petraeus Rings The Opening Bell At The New York Stock Exchange

David Petraeus: Trump's fitness for office is 'immaterial'

07/06/17 10:11AM

Retired Gen. David Petraeus appeared at the Aspen Idea Festival last week, and fielded an awkward question about Donald Trump. His answer, however, is worth considering in detail.

As the Washington Post reported, political affairs scholar David Rothkopf noted at the event that, throughout his lengthy career, he never confronted questions from foreign officials about "whether or not the president of the United States was fit to serve and whether or not the president of the United States was actually mentally ill." Now, however, with Trump in the White House, such questions arise "every couple of days from senior leaders around the world."

Rothkopf's question for his fellow panelists was straightforward: "Do you think the president of the United States is fit to serve as president?" Given a chance to answer, Petraeus didn't seem at all eager to respond.

"As I used to say in uniform, that sounds like a policy question. [LAUGHTER] And look, I think it's immaterial. Again, what I'm focusing on is the team. [GROANS]

"Let me explain. You know, pronouncing yes or no, I don't think that changes a darn thing. What I'm pointing out is that around him, he has a very good team...."

From there, Petraeus went on to say he sees elements of this administration's foreign policy with which he broadly agrees.

The response, while evasive, is nevertheless telling.

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Donald Trump, Kris Kobach

Trump administration raises alarm with dubious voting inquiries

07/06/17 09:20AM

Donald Trump's voting commission, led in part by notorious voter-suppression pioneers such as Kansas' Kris Kobach, sent letters to every state in the nation last week, requesting full voter rolls, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits, and voting history for every voter going back more than a decade.

The move, not surprisingly, faced broad, bipartisan opposition -- though the Trump administration prefers not to look at it that way. The White House issued a written statement yesterday, on Kobach's behalf, that read in part, "While there are news reports that 44 states have 'refused' to provide voter information to the Commission, these reports are patently false, more 'fake news.'"

We can certainly debate the semantics of the word "refused," but Trump's commission made a request for expansive amounts of information, and as of yesterday, officials in 45 states said they would either ignore the request or limit the responses to public data. There's nothing "fake" about this.

But let's not forget that Kobach's letter wasn't the only correspondence Trump World sent to states last week related to voting. The Huffington Post noted yesterday:

The DOJ sent the letter to 44 states last Wednesday, the same day the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter controversially requesting personal voter information. The DOJ letter requests that election officials respond by detailing their compliance with a section of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which covers 44 states and was enacted to help people register to vote, but also specifies when voters may be kicked off the rolls. [...]

Former Justice Department officials say that while there's nothing notable about seeking information about compliance with the NVRA, it is unusual for the department to send out such a broad inquiry to so many states seeking information. Such a wide probe could signal the department is broadly fishing for cases of non-compliance to bring suits aimed at purging the voter rolls.

And given that the Justice Department's letter was sent to states literally on the same day as the ridiculous "voter integrity" commission sent its letter to states, it's hardly a stretch to see them as a coordinated Trump administration push.

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A Hobby Lobby store in Denver on Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

Hobby Lobby becomes controversial for an entirely new reason

07/06/17 08:40AM

There was a point in which Hobby Lobby was just an arts-and-crafts retail chain. Those days, however, are long gone.

Hobby Lobby, owned by Christian conservative Steve Green, rose to political and legal prominence when the company argued that its corporate spirituality entitles Hobby Lobby to deny contraception coverage to its employees. Green also made headlines for creating a Bible curriculum to be used in public schools.

But Hobby Lobby's owners have also become known for collecting rare artifacts for a new museum dedicated to the Bible, which is scheduled to open later this year just a couple of blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. What we didn't know is how Green and his family obtained those artifacts.

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby will pay $3 million to settle a federal case over smuggled Iraqi antiquities it bought to demonstrate its "passion for the Bible."

The Oklahoma-based retailer also agreed to forfeit thousands of clay artifacts it bought in 2010 -- an acquisition that prosecutors said was "fraught with red flags" the company didn't heed.

Green acknowledged "regrettable mistakes" in a written statement.

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Image: First Lady Melania Trump Hosts A Celebration Of MilitaryMothers Event

Trump doubts Russia's role in 2016 attack, mocks US intel agencies

07/06/17 08:00AM

When it comes to Russia's attack on the American elections, the Kremlin wants nothing more than for U.S. officials to raise doubts about Russia's role. Every time an American tries to shield Vladimir Putin's government, or suggests others may bear responsibility, he or she is effectively defending Russia's crimes by boosting the Kremlin's propaganda strategy.

And with that in mind, it was extraordinary to see Donald Trump once again question Russia's role in the attack. The Washington Post reported:

"I think it could very well have been Russia but I think it could well have been other countries, I won't be specific," Trump said at a news conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda. [...]

"Nobody really knows," Trump added. "Nobody really knows for sure."

The American president's lengthy response meandered for a while -- it included extensive whining about Barack Obama, a rather dramatic break with protocol for a sitting president appearing on foreign soil -- and eventually included mockery of American intelligence agencies.

"I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction," Trump said. "How everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess."

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 7.5.17

07/05/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Afghanistan: "One U.S. Army soldier was killed and two others were injured in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Wednesday."

* A stunning scene in Caracas: "Venezuelan lawmakers who oppose President Nicolás Maduro were beaten and bloodied on the floor of congress Wednesday, as pro-government mobs stormed the building, apparently facing little or no resistance from security guards."

* An important ruling: "The Trump administration cannot delay an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule limiting methane pollution from oil and natural gas drilling, a federal court ruled Monday."

* Mass shooting in Arkansas: "Two people remain in critical condition after a mass shooting at a Little Rock nightclub early Saturday, authorities said during a news conference at city hall that afternoon. Twenty-five people were hit by gunfire when shots rang out during a rap show around 2:30 a.m."

* Pentagon: "A plan to allow transgender recruits to join the United States military beginning on Saturday has been delayed for six months by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a Pentagon spokeswoman said on Friday."

* Sign of the times: "In their campaign program for the German election, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have dropped the term 'friend' in describing the relationship with the United States."

* "Medicaid Worsens Your Health? That's a Classic Misinterpretation of Research."

* I'm glad we could get this straightened out: "A report on Alex Jones' InfoWars claiming child sex slaves have been kidnapped and shipped to Mars is untrue, NASA told The Daily Beast on Thursday."

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Anthony Kennedy

Justice Kennedy's future plans can change the nation's direction

07/05/17 04:27PM

No one expected the Supreme Court to issue any stop-the-presses, landmark rulings on the last day of their term last week, but much of the political world was keeping an eye on the high court anyway for one important reason: there were rumors that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy might retire.

By any fair measure, such a move would set off a political earthquake, which is why many legal observers breathed a sigh of relief when the 80-year-old Reagan appointee did not announce the end of his tenure. The reprieve, however, was temporary. NPR's Nina Totenberg reported over the holiday weekend:

[I]t is unlikely that Kennedy will remain on the court for the full four years of the Trump presidency. While he long ago hired his law clerks for the coming term, he has not done so for the following term (beginning Oct. 2018), and has let applicants for those positions know he is considering retirement.

Kennedy's position on the court is more than consequential. In the most hotly contested and closely divided cases, his vote often decides the outcome.

Given the timing of next fall's term -- the one for which Kennedy has not hired clerks -- don't be too surprised if the justice steps down around the time of next year's midterm elections.

And if that happens, the events that follow will likely change the direction of the nation for a generation. Indeed, a Washington Post report added that it's "difficult to overstate the significance of all this."

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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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