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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2016. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Without a hint of irony, McConnell decries high court obstructionism

01/05/17 08:43AM

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Rachel on the show this week that he's "absolutely" prepared to hold open the Supreme Court's vacancy, agreeing that Republicans effectively "stole" a high-court seat with their partisan blockade last year.

The comments did not escape the attention of his Republican counterpart.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed a pledge from his Democratic counterpart to block President-elect Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, insisting "the American people simply will not tolerate" such a move. [...]

"Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," McConnell said, adding: "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate, and we'll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it."
Look, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in the subtleties of Americans' attitudes on the federal judiciary, but if there's one thing the 2016 elections made abundantly clear, it's that most of the public couldn't care less about Supreme Court obstructionism. Senate Republicans, for 11 months, refused to even consider a moderate, compromise nominee -- and GOP senators had little trouble keeping their majority.

Ahead of Election Day, three Republican senators suggested they were prepared to block all Supreme Court nominees, regardless of merit, until 2021 at the earliest. Two of the three senators were on the ballot in November. Both won.

The American people "simply will not tolerate" senators refusing to confirm a high-court nominee? It's a nice idea, and there may have been a point at which I even agreed with the assertion. But McConnell, who somehow managed to make this argument with a straight face, has already provided all the proof we need to know how very wrong he is.
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A man crosses the Central Intelligence A

Confronted with intel he didn't like, Trump eyes major CIA changes

01/05/17 08:00AM

On Tuesday night's show, Rachel talked to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about Donald Trump's overt hostility towards U.S. intelligence agencies. "You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you," the Democratic leader said. "So even for a practical supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he's being really dumb to do this."

When Rachel asked if the president-elect may have "an agenda to try to dismantle parts of the intelligence community," Schumer replied, "Whether you're a super liberal Democrat or a very conservative Republican, you should be against dismantling the intelligence community."

Just 24 hours later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump has some dramatic changes in mind at the agencies that have told him what he didn't want to hear.
President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation's top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said.

The move is prompted by his belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized, these people said.
Quoting sources familiar with Trump's plans, the Journal reported that the incoming president, who's publicly mocked and taunted intelligence professionals, intends to "restructure" the Central Intelligence Agency.

"The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized," the source said. "They all need to be slimmed down."

We don't yet have any details about how many cuts would be involved in a "slimming down" and "paring back" of intelligence agencies, but it's the kind of sentiment that's bound to cause alarm in national security circles.
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 1.4.17

01/04/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Turkey: "The Turkish authorities said on Wednesday that they had identified the fugitive gunman who went on a deadly rampage at an upscale Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of New Year's Day, although they did not release his name."

* Iraq: "American troops have been operating alongside Iraqi forces inside of ISIS-held Mosul, a coalition spokesperson acknowledged for the first time Wednesday. 'They have been in the city at different times,' Col. John Dorrian said during a teleconference briefing Wednesday morning."

* An important hire: "Former Attorney General Eric Holder will back the California Legislature in potential legal clashes with the incoming Trump administration. Holder, currently a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling, will serve as an adviser and outside counsel to help 'resist any attempts to roll back the progress California has made' -- in particular with climate change, health care, civil rights and immigration issues, legislative leaders said Wednesday."

* Netanyahu might pardon him: "An Israeli soldier was convicted of manslaughter Wednesday for fatally shooting an unarmed Palestinian assailant as he lay wounded -- ending a trial that sharply divided Israel and could bring more showdowns as backers push for a hero-style pardon."

* South Carolina: "Speaking in public for the first time about the massacre of nine people at a South Carolina church, avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof tried to assure jurors on Wednesday that 'there is nothing wrong with me psychologically.'"

* Kentucky Republicans "opened 2017 by introducing a slate of anti-union bills in both chambers of the state legislature, including legislation that would make the state the last in the South to adopt a so-called 'right-to-work' law."

* You don't say: "The oil industry's top lobbyist said companies are looking forward to a pro-oil, anti-regulation agenda from President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress."
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Image: POLITICS/US/TRUMP/PENCE

Trump sides with Julian Assange over U.S. intelligence agencies

01/04/17 04:13PM

As recently as 2010, Donald Trump called Julian Assange's WikiLeaks "disgraceful." He added, in apparent reference to the website's operators, "I think there should be like death penalty or something."

Like much of the right, Trump's opinions on Assange have changed quite dramatically.
[O]n Wednesday, Trump continued to cast doubt on intelligence findings as he cited WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange's claim that a "14-year-old kid could have hacked" the emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. "Also [Assange] said Russians did not give him the info!" Trump added.
Even for the president-elect, this was an odd tweet. Trump specifically wrote, "Julian Assange said 'a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!"

Note, for example, that he believes John Podesta's emails were on DNC servers, which isn't even remotely true. Even after all of these months, Trump still doesn't understand the most basic details of the underlying controversy.

But more important is the fact that Assange claims that Russia was not WikiLeaks' source for stolen Democratic materials -- a claim U.S. intelligence agencies dispute. Donald Trump, for reasons he hasn't explained, chooses to believe Assange, not the intelligence professionals whom he'll lead in two weeks.

We don't have to speculate about how the American agencies, which Trump has repeatedly mocked and publicly taunted, feel about the president-elect's derision. George Little, the former spokesperson for the CIA, said plainly today, "On Jan. 20, we will be less safe."
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A man carries an umbrella in the rain as he passes the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 16, 2014.

Ignoring promises, Trump taps Wall Street lawyer to oversee Wall Street

01/04/17 12:40PM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump led his followers to believe he had no use for Wall Street and its corrupt ways. In fact, the Republican went out of his way to tell voters that it was Hillary Clinton who was far too cozy with the financial industry.

Clinton, Trump said, is "nothing more than a Wall Street puppet." Her campaign is "paid for by her bosses on Wall Street," he added. The public was told that Clinton is "owned by Wall Street," "is in [the] pocket of Wall Street," and is "bought and paid for by Wall Street."

If voters actually believed the rhetoric and supported Trump in order to limit Wall Street's influence, they made an unwise decision.
President-elect Donald Trump decided on Wednesday to select Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. [...]

Clayton, who has worked on high-profile initial public offerings, including that of Alibaba Group, met with Trump last month. He is a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, who specializes in public and private mergers and offerings. Clayton has also advised several high-net-worth families regarding their investments.
It's probably worth emphasizing that the Securities and Exchange Commission has a variety of responsibilities, but one of its principal functions is regulating and overseeing Wall Street.

In other words, Donald Trump, who spent months railing against the influence of the financial industry in Washington, has tapped a Wall Street insider to oversee Wall Street.

If you bought into the whole "drain the swamp" nonsense, I have some very bad news for you.
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 1.4.17

01/04/17 12:00PM

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

* Bill and Hillary Clinton will attend Donald Trump's inauguration in two weeks, as will George and Laura Bush. George and Barbara Bush will not be there, citing health concerns, but Jimmy Carter was the first to say he'll also attend.

* Trump had scheduled a press conference in December to discuss his many private-sector conflicts of interest, but he canceled it without explanation. Yesterday, the president-elect said he'll host a "general news conference" on Jan. 11 -- a week from today -- which will be his first since July, when he called on Russia to launch a cyber-attack on his opponent's campaign.

* Note, next week's press conference, if it happens, will coincide with several scheduled Senate confirmation hearings for Trump cabinet nominees.

* The Washington Post reports that the DNC "is building a 'war room' to battle President-elect Donald Trump, pressure the new Republican administration on a variety of policy matters and train a spotlight on Russia's alleged cyberattacks to influence the 2016 election.... The DNC has hired John Neffinger, a longtime operative who runs the Franklin Forum, to serve as interim communications director and oversee the national party's operation."

* With a possible eye towards 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) yesterday to unveil a plan to "cover tuition costs at state colleges for hundreds of thousands of middle-and low-income New Yorkers."

* Trump said yesterday that if officials in Chicago can't reduce the city's climbing murder rate, they should "ask for federal help." I'd love to hear more from the president-elect about the kind of help he believes federal officials could provide to reduce a local murder rate.
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AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Jeff Sessions' AG nomination faces fierce pushback

01/04/17 11:21AM

Donald Trump won't be inaugurated until Jan. 20, which means he can't formally nominate anyone for his upcoming cabinet for at least another two weeks. Senate Republicans, however, are eager to get moving on some of the officials the president-elect has already chosen, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump's choice to be the next Attorney General.

In fact, GOP leaders have already scheduled Sessions' confirmation hearing for next Tuesday. Yesterday, some of the Alabama Republican's critics made clear they'd like to slow the process down a bit.
The NAACP's national president appeared to be arrested after a sit-in at the Mobile, Alabama, office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions to protest his nomination to be the country's next attorney general, according to a Facebook Live stream of the scene. [...]

The sit-in was part of a larger protest by national and local NAACP chapters, which also included press conferences and demonstrations at other Sessions offices.
This was a high-profile part of a broader push against Sessions' nomination. Consider the developments from just the last week or so:

* A group of more than 1,100 law-school professors also released a joint letter to Congress yesterday, urging that the GOP senator's nomination be rejected. "We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation's laws and promote justice and equality in the United States," the letter said.

* Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) wrote a letter of his own to senators, by way of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, about Sessions' efforts to criminalize voting assistance.

* This morning, former attorneys with the Justice Department's civil rights division wrote a Washington Post op-ed, explaining that Sessions didn't work on the civil-rights cases he claims to have tackled. (The Atlantic's Adam Serwer helped break this story a couple of weeks ago.)
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2011 Ford Motor Co. Flex sport utility vehicles (SUV) sit on display at the Capital Ford dealership in Raleigh, N.C. on Feb. 26, 2011. (Photo by Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg/Getty)

Trump keeps claiming credit for jobs he had nothing to do with

01/04/17 10:42AM

The week after Election Day, Donald Trump had an exciting announcement: thanks to his awesomeness, Ford had agreed to keep a Lincoln SUV plant in Kentucky. What the president-elect neglected to mention was that Ford hadn't intended to close the Kentucky plant, and it was't long before Trump's boasts were discredited.

The Republican kept pulling the same trick anyway, in part because the media kept playing along. Trump's claims about jobs saved at Carrier turned out to be untrue. His claims about jobs at Softbank were equally wrong. Trump supporters eagerly credited the president-elect for IBM's plan to expand its workforce, despite the fact that the company's hiring announcement was initially made in May.

Last week, Trump made bold claims about new jobs from Sprint -- the president-elect credited "what is happening and the spirit and the hope" surrounding his upcoming presidency -- which were wildly wrong.

And yesterday, as NBC News reported, it happened again.
Ford Motor Co. announced Tuesday it has scrubbed plans to build a new $1.6 billion assembly plant in Mexico, a project that had been spotlighted by then-candidate Donald Trump, especially after Ford said it would move small car production from the U.S. into that new factory.

But while the move is being hailed by some as a victory for the president-elect, a closer look at the announcement, made by senior Ford executives at a suburban Detroit assembly plant, did not actually reverse the central decision the automaker announced last April.

Small car production, such as the compact Focus model, will still move to Mexico, just into an existing Ford plant in Hermosillo.
The report added that Ford will expand a Michigan factory, adding about 700 jobs, but that project "appears likely to have happened anyway," based on sales of the cars made at that plant.

And yet, there was Trump, crediting himself for the developments.
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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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