Shortly after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against the Trump administration in the controversy surrounding the president's Muslim ban, Donald Trump himself declared on Twitter, "SEE YOU IN COURT."
In a brief exchange with NBC News soon after, the president added, when asked about his reaction to the court ruling, "Well, we will see them in court." Asked about his plans for an appeal, Trump added, "We'll see them in court. It's a political decision and we're going to see them in court.... We look forward, as I just said, to seeing them in court."
Even at the time, the reaction didn't make sense. "See you in court" is something a person says before litigation begins, not after having lost at the district and appellate levels. (Trump's vow also may be factually wrong: the White House hasn't decided on its appeal plans.)
President Trump on Saturday morning increased his attacks on the judiciary, declaring on Twitter that "our legal system is broken!"
"Our legal system is broken! "77% of refugees allowed into U.S. since travel reprieve hail from seven suspect countries." (WT) SO DANGEROUS!" he tweeted, quoting a Washington Times article published Thursday.
White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's alleged talks with Russia in December are the basis for an important ongoing scandal. But the latest revelations also shed light on a separate, parallel controversy that may end up being every bit as important.
As part of its reporting on Flynn's communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the Washington Postnoted on Friday:
The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. [Emphasis added]
[C]urrent and former American officials said that conversation -- which took place the day before the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia over accusations that it used cyberattacks to help sway the election in Mr. Trump's favor -- ranged far beyond the logistics of a post-inauguration phone call. And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues. [Emphasis added]
It's hard to overstate the significance of this detail, which risks doing real harm to Donald Trump's White House.
Let's back up a minute to provide some context. read more
Multiple reports from late last week indicate that White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, despite repeated denials from leading members of Donald Trump's team, spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about U.S. sanctions before Inauguration Day. Flynn, who previously insisted no such conversations took place, is now saying he's not sure whether sanctions came up during his calls with Kislyak or not.
The scandal is starting to snowball, and as the Washington Post's David Ignatius, who first broke the news of Flynn's calls a month ago, noted in a new column over the weekend, there's no shortage of questions in need of answers.
Michael Flynn's real problem isn't the Logan Act, an obscure and probably unenforceable 1799 statute that bars private meddling in foreign policy disputes. It's whether President Trump's national security adviser sought to hide from his colleagues and the nation a pre-inauguration discussion with the Russian government about sanctions that the Obama administration was imposing.
"It's far less significant if he violated the Logan Act and far more significant if he willfully misled this country," said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a telephone interview late Friday. "Why would he conceal the nature of the call unless he was conscious of wrongdoing?"
That's a good question, and it's one of many.
Why did Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer tell the public Flynn didn't talk about sanctions with the Russian ambassador?
There are really only two possibilities: Either Flynn told his colleagues a lie, which they repeated because they believed him, or Flynn told them the truth, and they chose to help cover up his alleged wrongdoing.
For his part, Pence and his office have gone out of their way to say that the vice president relied entirely on Flynn's word when he addressed the subject publicly. In other words, the VP is arguing that he was lied to, not that he did the lying.
If the White House national security advisor misled his own West Wing colleagues, how can he keep his job? read more
The fact that Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of "Hamilton" on Broadway wouldn't have been especially notable, were it not for the hullabaloo that followed -- including some unexpectedly robust whining from Pence's running mate.
During a Friday-night curtain call, Pence was headed for the exits when actor Brandon Victor Dixon, one of the show's co-stars, appealed to the far-right Republican directly. "We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," Dixon said, reading off a piece of paper. "But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."
Donald Trump is demanding an apology from the cast of "Hamilton" after Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a performance of the Broadway show Friday night — and was greeted with a chorus of boos from the audience.
"The Theater must always be a safe and special place," Trump tweeted Saturday morning, after videos of the jeering emerged on social media. "The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!"
Trump also tweeted Saturday morning that Pence was "harassed" at the show -- there's no evidence of this actually happening -- before adding, "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."
Yesterday, Trump was still complaining about the Broadway show, complaining about "very inappropriate" remarks directed at the incoming vice president.
Now, I could note that the theater, for centuries, has been a place for political and societal commentary. I could also note that conservatives aren't supposed to show concern for "safe spaces." We could take a moment to mention that Donald J. Trump, given his cringe-worthy record, should avoid complaining about rudeness. We might also mention that the "Hamilton" cast was actually quite polite towards Pence, making Trump's little tantrum that much more peculiar.
But while all of these relevant details are worth keeping in mind, let's put all of that aside and shine a light on the overarching problem: Trump is a thin-skinned crybaby who has an alarming aversion to public dissent. read more
After a hiatus, the God Machine is back this week, and first up is a story about one of the nation's more politically active evangelical colleges, which is facing a familiar schism.
Virginia's Liberty University, founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell, is now run by his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr., who also happens to be one of Donald Trump's most loyal and enthusiastic allies. Indeed, during the Republican presidential primaries, while many social conservatives and leaders of the religious right movement were rallying behind Ted Cruz, Falwell bucked the trend and offered his spirited support (no pun intended) a secular, thrice-married adulterer and casino owner who's never really demonstrated any interest in, or knowledge of, matters of faith.
Even this week, after Trump was heard boasting about sexual assault and accused by a variety of women of sexual misconduct, Falwell continued to express his enthusiastic support for the Republican nominee. The interesting twist, however, came when Liberty students -- a conservative, evangelical bunch -- balked. The Washington Postreported this week:
Students at Virginia's Liberty University have issued a statement against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as young conservatives at some colleges across the country reconsider support for his campaign.
A statement issued late Wednesday by the group Liberty United Against Trump strongly rebuked the candidate as well as the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., for defending Trump after he made vulgar comments about women in a 2005 video. [...] The students at Liberty University wrote that they felt compelled to speak out in light of Falwell's steadfast support for Trump even after the candidate's comments about women and sexual assault.
The statement, released under the Liberty United Against Trump name, read, "Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.... He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose."
As of Thursday, the total number of Liberty students, alumni, and faculty who signed on to the letter stood at more than 1,300.
Falwell called the statement, among other things, "incoherent and false." read more
One week from today, President-elect Donald Trump was scheduled to take the stand in a fraud case surrounding his scandal-plagued "Trump University," which has been accused of ripping off students and making ridiculous claims about the value of its lessons. The Republican was poised to be the first president-elect to ever give sworn testimony in his own fraud case.
As it turns out, Trump won't have to take the stand after all. As Politicoreported, the controversial businessman who vowed not to settle this case ended up settling this case.
President-elect Donald Trump, who once declared "I don't settle lawsuits," took to Twitter Saturday to justify his decision to pay $25 million to settle fraud lawsuits over his now-defunct Trump University real estate seminar program. He also hinted that had he not been so busy preparing to take office, he might not have settled.
"The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!," Trump tweeted.
The settlement resolves a class-action case and an investigation launched by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Note, as recently as March, Trump boasted during a GOP debate, "This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don't settle cases very easily when I'm right." After boasting that the Better Business Bureau gave Trump University an "A" rating -- a claim that turned out to be a brazen lie -- Trump added, "Again, I don't settle cases. I don't do it because that's why I don't get sued very often, because I don't settle, unlike a lot of other people."
The assertion that doesn't "get sued very often" also turned out to be a demonstrable falsehood, as was the boast about never settling.
To the extent that reality still matters, it's worth remembering that the case against Trump was quite strong. The Washington Postreported in September that the New York Republican was the namesake of a "university," where students sometimes "max[ed] out their credit cards to pay tens of thousands of dollars for insider knowledge they believed could make them wealthy." read more
California State Senator Kevin de León talks with Rachel Maddow about discrepancies between what the federal government is saying about immigration enforcement and the ICE raids taking place nationwide in the past 48 hours. watch
Congressman Adam Schiff talks with Rachel Maddow about new reporting that Donald Trump's National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, spoke to Russia about U.S. sanctions before Trump took office, and in fact, had contact with Russia through the campaign. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the still-developing scandal that Donald Trump national security adviser, Mike Flynn, reportedly discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia before Trump was in office, and that communication existed during the campaign. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the giant Oroville Dam and its adjacent spillway that is steadily destroying itself as it continues to be used despite a massive hole, to prevent the dam from over-topping. watch
* This won't make the issue go away: "Still regrouping from a federal appeals court's refusal to reinstate President Trump's controversial ban of nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries, White House lawyers are working on a rewrite of his executive order that could pass legal muster, NBC News has learned."
* This guy's in trouble: "National Security Advisor Mike Flynn discussed hacking-related sanctions with the Russian ambassador before the Trump administration took office, contrary to the public assertions of Vice President Mike Pence and White House spokesman Sean Spicer, a U.S. intelligence official told NBC News."
* This was a strange White House event: "President Donald Trump on Friday praised the U.S.-Japan relationship, calling the country an 'important and steadfast ally.'"
* Quite a start: "Newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had to enter a middle school in Southwest Washington through the back door after protesters blocked the front entrance."
* In the middle of the night, the Senate voted to confirm Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Every Republican voted for him; every Democrat voted against him.
* Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) "postponed eight executions on Friday, two weeks after a federal judge ruled that the state's lethal injection method might be too painful to be legal."
* How badly did Trump screw up the One China fiasco? Chinese state-run media is now openly trolling him on Twitter. read more
The fact that Donald Trump continues to talk incessantly about the election from three months ago doesn't bother me. The fact that Donald Trump continues to embrace and repeat delusional conspiracy theories about the election worries me a great deal.
On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that he won the presidential election.
As soon as the door closed and the reporters allowed to observe for a few minutes had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison, or "Sherpa," on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch.
According to the Politicoarticle, the president told attendees that he and Ayotte would have won New Hampshire -- both narrowly lost in reality -- were it not for "thousands" of "illegally" cast ballots. Trump reportedly added that he believes these voters were "brought in on buses" from neighboring Massachusetts.
For a while, it looked like the biggest political scandal in at least a generation. Russian officials, acting at Vladimir Putin's behest, intervened in the American presidential election, in order to put a pro-Russian candidate in the White House.
As recently as Inauguration Day -- three weeks ago today -- we saw reports that a U.S. counter-intelligence investigation was ongoing, "examining intercepted communications and financial transactions" between Moscow and associates of Donald Trump."
Trump's presidency was already dogged by questions of legitimacy given that nearly 3 million more Americans voted for his opponent, but the idea that a foreign adversary helped tip the scales in his direction raised the volume on those concerns. There was every reason to believe this scandal would help define Trump's time in office.
And yet, the story has generally faded from front pages, replaced with other, newer Trump-related controversies, failures, and mistakes. Mother Jones' David Corn noted yesterday that we're talking about "the biggest election-related scandal since Watergate," but it's "largely disappeared from the political-media landscape."
It is true that the intelligence committee probes are being conducted secretly, and there are no public hearings or actions to cover.... Still, in the past, pundits, politicians, and reporters in Washington have not been reluctant to go all-out in covering and commenting upon a controversy subjected to private investigation.
In this instance, the president's own people may be under investigation, and Trump has demonstrated no interest in holding Putin accountable for messing with US elections in what may be considered an act of covert warfare. Still, there has been no loud demand from the DC media (or most of the GOP) for answers and explanations. This quietude is good news for Putin -- and reason for him to think he could get away with such an operation again.
It's a good point, though it's worth emphasizing that the story is far from finished -- and if Trump supporters are hoping the scandal has simply faded away, they're likely to be disappointed. read more
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.