The Rachel Maddow Show Weekdays at 9PM


... more Duration: {{video.duration.momentjs}}

Rachel Maddow StoriesRSS

select from:

E.g., 3/24/2017
E.g., 3/24/2017
Image: US President Trump addresses Joint Session of Congress in Washington

To get what they want, Republicans learn to play Trump against Ryan

03/10/17 10:14AM

It's a trick many children learn at a young age: if one parent won't give you what you want, quietly ask the other parent, who might offer a more satisfying answer.

A similar dynamic is unfolding in Washington right now. The Huffington Post reported yesterday:
Leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, unhappy with the Republican health care legislation being rushed through the House by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), are taking their concerns directly to President Donald Trump.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and former Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) spent Thursday afternoon at the White House, meeting with budget staffers, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and Trump himself.... Freedom Caucus members are demanding changes to the health care bill that Republican House leaders refuse to make.
Paul Ryan has told his members that he's simply not prepared to make major changes to his health care reform bill, the American Health Care Act, which some have begun calling "Trumpcare." The White House, however, is far more flexible, with the president telling everyone he's ready to negotiate.

The result is hardly surprising. When the Huffington Post asked House Freedom Caucus member Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) if he and his allies who are critical of Ryan's bill are deliberately circumventing the Speaker's office to negotiate with the White House, the congressman didn't exactly deny it.

"We're appealing to a president who likes to negotiate, who likes to win, and who likes to keep his promises," Labrador said.

At a certain level, this may lead some to believe that the bill's odds of passage are improving. After all, if Freedom Caucus members are positioned to possibly kill the legislation in the House, and Trump is prepared to make concessions that makes these far-right members happy, perhaps the White House is taking steps to ensure the bill's success in the lower chamber.

Except, it's not quite working out that way.
read more

Night falls over the U.S. Capitol.

Republicans take aim at Congress' nonpartisan scorekeepers

03/10/17 09:23AM

As the debate over health care heats up, Republicans are fighting battles on multiple fronts. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his allies have to worry about, among other things, intra-party divisions, Democratic criticisms, denunciations from industry stakeholders, spirted progressive activism, and opposition from most of the nation's most prominent conservative organizations.

But one foe looms larger than any other. The New York Times reports:
President Trump showed an affinity for “working the referees” in his race to the White House, criticizing a federal judge as biased, panning polls as rigged and even questioning the aptitude of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Now, with Mr. Trump’s administration aggressively pitching the House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper — the Congressional Budget Office — is coming under intense fire. As it prepares to render its judgment on the cost and impact of the bill, the nonpartisan agency of economists and statisticians has become a political piñata — and the latest example of Mr. Trump’s team casting doubt on benchmarks accepted as trustworthy for decades.
At some point very soon, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is going to issue a non-partisan report on the impact of the Republicans' American Health Care Act, which some are calling "Trumpcare." The analysis will provide all kinds of important data, including the cost of the GOP bill and how many Americans are likely to have health insurance if the Republican proposal is implemented.

The CBO's conclusions are not likely to be flattering -- which is why Republican leaders are scrambling to push their bill now, before lawmakers and the public have all the facts, since reality is likely to cast "Trumpcare" in a very unflattering light.

But GOP officials can only rush so much, and the CBO score will be available long before the American Health Care Act comes to the floor for a vote. That, in turn, leads Republicans to believe it's time to go after the Congressional Budget Office's credibility now, so when the report is released, assorted partisans and pugilists will dismiss the findings.

On the surface, this is plainly ridiculous. No one's ever suggested the CBO is perfect, but to preemptively attack Congress' scorekeepers, with a series of claims that aren't true, in order to mask a bad bill's flaws, adds insult to legislative injury.
read more

New jobs data shows 2017 is off to a strong start

03/10/17 08:44AM

It's increasingly difficult to believe Donald Trump inherited an economic "mess."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 235,000 jobs in February, down just a little from January's total. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remains low at 4.7%, returning to where it was in December. Last month was the 17th consecutive month the rate has been at 5% or lower.

As for the revisions, December's job totals were revised down a little, while January's totals were revised up a little, and combined they show a net gain of 9,000 previously unreported jobs.

If recent political developments are any guide, Trump and his supporters will tout the encouraging jobs data as evidence of his economic prowess. And while everyone should always be glad to see good news, it's worth noting that these boasts continue to be misplaced. Trump didn't actually implement any meaningful economic policies in February, and the president's repeated claims about his accomplishments fall apart under scrutiny.

Indeed, the question for the White House and congressional Republicans remains difficult to answer: how can the job market remain so healthy with all of those nasty Obama-era policies -- the Affordable Care Act, environmental protections, Wall Street safeguards, et al -- in place? Why are the February 2017 numbers nearly identical to the February 2016 and February 2015 numbers?
read more

Image: President Trump and Prime Minister Abe Press Conference at White House

Why did Trump put a former foreign agent in a key security post?

03/10/17 08:00AM

It's been nearly a month since Michael Flynn was forced to resign as White House National Security Advisor, following revelations that he lied about his communications with Russia. Flynn's controversies, however, are not yet over. The Associated Press reported:
President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was fired from his prominent White House job last month, has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before Election Day that may have aided the Turkish government.

Paperwork filed Tuesday with the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Unit said Flynn and his firm were voluntarily registering for lobbying from August through November that "could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey."
As the AP report explained, federal law requires Americans who lobby on behalf of foreign government or political entities to "disclose their work to the Justice Department." Flynn had not, which left him open to possible criminal charges, so in his filings this week, he retroactively disclosed the work he did last year.

Or more specifically, from August through November of last year -- when Flynn was also a trusted member of Donald Trump's inner circle at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign. Soon after the election, the Republican tapped Flynn to oversee matters of national security at the White House, at which point Flynn stopped lobbying.

And that, in turn, creates an awkward dynamic: the Trump campaign and Turkey were paying Flynn at the same time? Trump asked a former foreign agent to be White House National Security Advisor? Did the president not consider why this might be a bad idea?

This came up, not surprisingly, during yesterday's briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, when a reporter asked if Trump was aware of the fact that Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when the president appointed him to serve as NSA. "I don't believe that that was known," Spicer replied, leaning heavily on passive voice.

It's hard to say with confidence whether Spicer is telling the truth or not, but under the circumstances, even if we accept the answer at face value, it's not unreasonable to wonder how and why the president didn't know.
read more

Thursday's Mini-Report, 3.9.17

03/09/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* This is not what grown-up legislating looks like: "Two key House committees have approved a Republican proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, giving the bill its first victories amid a backlash that both Republican leaders and President Trump are trying to tamp down."

* Muslim ban: "Washington state will file for a restraining order against President Trump's revamped travel ban -- a move which could foreshadow a potential legal showdown between the administration and a wave of challenges to the controversial executive order."

* WikiLeaks "is considering releasing more CIA hacking tools if internet security professionals can first help make sure the cyber weapons can't be used any further, the group's founder, Julian Assange, said Thursday."

* Questions in need of answers: "Several members of the Senate panel investigating alleged Russian interference in the presidential election viewed documents at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters on Wednesday and left with more questions than answers, according to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee."

* Fresh evidence that the process is not going well for the GOP: "A Republican House committee chair said he would like White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to keep his nose out of Congress' business on Obamacare repeal, highlighting the tensions between the two branches as they try to come to an agreement on the best path forward."

* Welcome candor: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rarely a man of many words, but this quote may take the cake. When asked if he thinks Mexico will pay for President Donald Trump's border wall with Mexico Thursday, McConnell summed it up in two syllables. 'Uh, no,' he said."
read more

In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Trump's climate-denying EPA chief makes matters worse

03/09/17 04:24PM

Gina McCarthy, who led the EPA during President Obama's second term, reflected this week on her successor. "It's fine to have differing opinions on how to meet the mission of the agency. Many Republican administrators have had that," McCarthy told the New York Times. 'But [with Scott Pruitt], for the first time, I see someone who has no commitment to the mission of the agency.'"

We were reminded today that McCarthy's concerns about Donald Trump's far-right EPA chief are grounded in fact.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said Thursday he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.

"I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"But we don't know that yet ... We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis," he added.
Or put another way, the Republican head of the EPA disagrees with practically every climate scientist on the planet. Pruitt, not yet a month into his tenure as EPA's administrator, also disagrees with the EPA.
read more

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Cedar Rapids, Iowa April 11, 2014.

Paul Ryan flubs the basic idea behind insurance

03/09/17 02:51PM

In an apparent bid to drive me batty, CNN recently published a report that described House Speaker Paul Ryan as "a legendary wonk." In reality, for those who take a closer look the Republican congressman's record and rhetoric, it's painfully obvious that Ryan is neither legendary nor a wonk.

Take today, for example, when the GOP House Speaker did a little presentation on Capitol Hill for reporters in defense of his controversial American Health Care Act, which some have begun calling "Trumpcare." At one point during the slideshow -- complete with Ryan's sleeves rolled up -- the Wisconsin Republican tried to explain what he sees as the Affordable Care Act's fatal flaw:
"The fatal conceit of Obamacare is that we're just gonna make everybody buy our health insurance at the federal-government level, young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people. So, the young healthy person is going to be made to buy health care, and they're going to pay for the person, you know, gets breast cancer in her 40s or who gets heart disease in his 50s. [...]

"The whole idea of Obamacare is ... the people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick. It's not working, and that's why it's in a death spiral."
Let's take these two points one at a time, starting with the latter.

The first problem with Ryan's analysis is that he keeps using the phrase "death spiral" without fully understanding its meaning. As we discussed the last time the Speaker screwed this up, if the ACA were in "death spiral," we'd see declining enrollment numbers, with consumers withdrawing from the system because they can't afford the premiums and would rather pay the penalty than buy insurance they can't afford.

The real-world evidence, however, points in the opposite direction. As Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Huffington Post in January, "It seems to me that enrollment holding steady amidst tremendous uncertainty about the future of the law and big premium increases is a positive sign. There is no evidence of a market collapse or insurance death spiral."

The second problem is that Ryan doesn't seem to understand what "insurance" means.
read more

Image: Jeff Sessions

Sessions considers special counsel, but not for Trump

03/09/17 12:55PM

One of the oddities of 2017 is how much time Republicans have spent looking backwards. Donald Trump, for example, has invested an enormous amount of energy focusing on his predecessor, the 2016 election, and voter fraud that exists only in the president's mind. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), meanwhile, remains focused on Hillary Clinton's email server from eight years ago.

And at the Justice Department, as Politico reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is apparently amenable to the idea of appointing a special counsel, not to investigate Trump's scandals, but to look over the work done by Sessions' predecessors.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that he would be open to bringing in an outside counselor to investigate the practices of his Department of Justice predecessors under former President Barack Obama.

Sessions was asked about such an arrangement during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who suggested that Sessions might ask outside counsel to look into the department under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.
According to the published transcript, Hewitt argued that the Obama era was "a bad eight years" for the Justice Department, specifically pointing to "the IRS case, the Fast and Furious case, Secretary Clinton's server." Hewitt, who didn't appear to be kidding, asked, "How about an outside counsel, not connected to politics, to review the DOJ's actions in those matters with authority to bring charges if underlying crimes are uncovered in the course of the investigation, and just generally to look at how the Department of Justice operated in the highly-politicized Holder-Lynch years?"

Sessions said he's eager to "restore the independence and professionalism of the Department of Justice," adding that he and his team would "consider" outside special counsel.

Hewitt argued that the IRS matter was a particular point of concern, to which the A.G. added that the story remains "a matter of real concern to me."

Even by 2017 standards, this is remarkably misguided.
read more

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.9.17

03/09/17 12:00PM

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

* If there are any lingering tensions between Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, they're hiding it very well. The DNC's chair and deputy chair are reportedly launching a road trip, which they're calling a "Democratic Turnaround Tour." The first event is in two weeks in Michigan.

* After months of airing ads touting a Republican health care plan that didn't exist, the American Action Network is now poised to air new commercials in support of the GOP's American Health Care Act. The ads will air in the districts of 30 House Freedom Caucus members. The American Action Network is aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan's leadership team.

* In Georgia's congressional special election, Jon Ossoff (D) launched a new ad this week, telling local voters, "When President Trump embarrasses our country or acts recklessly, I'll hold him accountable." Trump narrowly won this traditionally Republican district in the fall.

* Hillary Clinton has kept a relatively low profile this year, but the former Secretary of State appeared at the annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards yesterday, and urged attendees to keep up the "resistance."

* During a contentious conference call with Bernie Sanders supporters, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the Senate's most conservative Democrat, effectively dared his progressive critics to try to defeat him. "What you ought to do is vote me out," the West Virginian said. "Vote me out! I'm not changing. Find somebody else who can beat me and vote me out."

* Missouri Republicans would love to defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year, but they haven't yet recruited a top-tier challenger. State Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) this week waved off those encouraging him to run, saying, "I'd like to be left alone to do my job that I got elected to do."
read more

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., heads to the Senate subway following a vote in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Conservative senator to House GOP: 'Start over' on health care

03/09/17 11:26AM

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is in a fairly unusual position. On the one hand, he's an ambitious, far-right Republican, a loyal partisan, and a fierce red-state critic of anything related to Barack Obama's presidency. When looking for GOP senators who'd be inclined to support the House Republicans' American Health Care Act -- what some are calling "Trumpcare" -- one might assume the Arkansan would stick with his party.

But on the other hand, Cotton recently hosted a contentious town-hall forum with his constituents, where he was reminded that Arkansas has benefited more from the Affordable Care Act than almost any other state. The senator may hate "Obamacare," but he also isn't eager to strip away health security for hundreds of thousands of people in his home state.

And with that in mind, when Cotton this morning called on House Republicans to "start over" on a new reform bill, it jolted GOP politics quite a bit.
[Cotton] drew swift attention Thursday morning when he tweeted that the House should "start over" in its process. "House health-care bill can't pass Senate [without] major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don't get it fast," Cotton wrote from his political account.

"GOP shouldn't act like Dems did in O'care. No excuse to release bill Mon night, start voting Wed. With no budget estimate!" he continued. "What matters in long run is better, more affordable health care for Americans, NOT House leaders' arbitrary legislative calendar."
Let's note for the record that Cotton is mistaken about how the Affordable Care Act was passed.

But even putting this aside, the Arkansas senator's online comments carried considerable weight and reinforce perceptions that "Trumpcare" is in serious trouble.
read more


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.



Latest Book