The Rachel Maddow Show Weekdays at 9PM

Help

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

Rachel Maddow StoriesRSS

select from:

E.g., 9/26/2017
E.g., 9/26/2017

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.6.17

09/06/17 12:01PM

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

* When Donald Trump makes the pitch for tax reform in North Dakota today, he'll be joined by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who's up for re-election in this red state next year, and who'll be on hand for the presidential event. It's worth noting for context that Trump won North Dakota last year by more than 30 points.

* Though the White House has started to hedge on its support of Sen. Luther Strange (R) in Alabama's Republican Senate primary, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) continues to rally behind the appointed incumbent, and will headline a high-dollar fundraiser for Strange tomorrow.

* It was a safe bet that David Clarke, who resigned his law enforcement position last week, would end up somewhere in Trump World, and it now appears the controversial former Milwaukee County Sheriff has signed on with a pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action.

* The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a lower court's injunction yesterday and agreed to allow Texas to continue enforcing its controversial voter-ID law. A federal district court ruling recently said Texas' law amounted to a "poll tax" on minority voters.

* Speaking of the Lone Star State, former Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas), after losing two tough races against Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), announced yesterday he will not try again in 2018.

* Politico reports that Democrats are launching a new super PAC this week called Forward Majority, which will focus on "winning back state legislatures ahead of the next round of redistricting in 2021." The project is reportedly being run in part by "a group of Barack Obama campaign alums."

read more

Some Republicans ready to use Dreamers as a bargaining chip

09/06/17 11:25AM

There was no consensus yesterday among congressional Republicans in response to Donald Trump ending the DACA policy protecting Dreamers. Some GOP officials condemned the move as needlessly cruel, others praised the move, while others complained the president's policy isn't punitive enough.

But as the afternoon progressed, one thing became clear: many Republican lawmakers see Dreamers as a bargaining chip and are eager to make a deal. The HuffPost had a good piece on this:

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill broadly agreed on Tuesday that something should be done about young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and who will eventually lose deportation protections if Congress does not step in to help them.

But Republicans are already placing conditions on their support that could kill the effort entirely. They are willing to vote for protecting so-called "Dreamers" -- but not without getting something in exchange for it.

Some suggested trading the Dream Act for a down payment on Trump's proposed border wall. Others suggested trading the Dream Act for the RAISE Act, a far-right bill that would slash legal immigration to the United States. A variety of other possible deals were floated, though none were specifically endorsed by either party's leadership.

But as this chatter moves forward, it's worth appreciating some of the underlying flaws to this entire approach.

read more

Image: US President Donald J. Trump and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland joint news conference

How committed is Trump to his plan to punish Dreamers?

09/06/17 10:54AM

At 11 a.m. (ET) yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration had rescinded the DACA policy that extended protections to nearly 1 million Dreamers. As of 10 a.m. (ET) yesterday, according to a New York Times report, administration officials "privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind."

That's an extraordinary sentence in its own right. The president is so ignorant that officials in his administration are left to wonder if Trump might abandon his own plans after learning what they are and what they'll do.

This isn't how the executive branch of a global superpower is supposed to operate. But in an unexpected twist, as of last night, those fears from administration officials appeared well grounded.

Trump started the day by telling members of Congress that when it came to the DACA policy, they should "get ready to do [their] job." Soon after, the White House effectively challenged lawmakers to address immigration policy within six months -- or else. Trump's Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, began moving forward with plans predicated on the assumption that Congress would fail, putting in writing that DACA recipients should "prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States."

But by the end of the day, the president was expressing a very different sentiment via Twitter:

"Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!"

Oh. So, just hours after the president demanded that Congress tackle immigration, this master negotiators announced publicly that if Congress fails, he's prepared to "revisit" his needlessly cruel policy? Effectively negating the point of the threat?

read more

Marijuana plants are displayed for sale.

Trump's new 'drug czar' poised to roll back the clock

09/06/17 10:01AM

After years of regressive and reactionary policies associated with the "war on drugs," Americans saw real progress in the Obama era. As we discussed in April, voters in a variety of states voted in recent years to legalize recreational marijuana use -- a step that seemed hard to imagine in the not-too-distant past -- and when Barack Obama commuted the sentences of many non-violent drug offenders, few blinked an eye.

There was a burgeoning consensus, backed by plenty of prominent figures from the right and left, that the decades-long "war" was needlessly expensive, punitive, and damaging. It was time to move forward with a newer, smarter approach.

That progress, however, was interrupted by Donald Trump's election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made no secret of his intentions to renew the drug war, and he'll likely have a partner in Tom Marino, a Republican congressman whom the president nominated late last week to take over the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Vox noted yesterday that Marino's voting record "suggests he's to the right of many of his Republican colleagues on the war on drugs." Among other things, the Pennsylvania Republican "voted against a bipartisan measure (which ultimately passed) that blocked the US Department of Justice from cracking down on medical marijuana businesses in states where medicinal pot is legal. He voted against a bill that would've let Veterans Affairs doctors recommend medical marijuana to patients."

But I remain especially interested in this Washington Post piece from April.

As a congressman, Marino called for a national program of mandatory inpatient substance abuse treatment for non-violent drug offenders. "One treatment option I have advocated for years would be placing non-dealer, non-violent drug abusers in a secured hospital-type setting under the constant care of health professionals," he said at a hearing last year.

"Once the person agrees to plead guilty to possession, he or she will be placed in an intensive treatment program until experts determine that they should be released under intense supervision," Marino explained. "If this is accomplished, then the charges are dropped against that person. The charges are only filed to have an incentive for that person to enter the hospital-slash-prison, if you want to call it."

Wait, did he say "hospital-slash-prison" for non-violent drug users?

read more

Two men stand on the plaza of the U.S. Capitol Building as storm clouds fill the sky, June 13, 2013 in Washington, DC.

A way out of the GOP's debt-ceiling mess comes into focus

09/06/17 09:20AM

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Congress that it must raise the debt ceiling by Sept. 29 -- just three weeks away -- to prevent the nation from defaulting on its debts and crashing the economy. That deadline has since been moved up "a couple of days," leaving lawmakers with even less time to do what needs to be done.

And for a while, that looked like it might be a real problem. As recently as two weeks ago, Politico published a piece saying Republicans "are in a really, really bad spot" when it comes to raising the nation's debt limit, adding that GOP leaders "have no plan, nothing on the horizon, and very little time to get this done."

Hurricane Harvey appears to have changed the political landscape, at least a little. The Washington Post reported overnight:

Senate leaders are prepared to vote this week on legislation that would pair an increase in the federal government's borrowing limit with $7.9 billion in disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey despite opposition from conservatives.

The decision to combine the two unrelated measures is a potentially risky strategy that could further alienate conservatives who have insisted that any debt-limit increase be paired with corresponding spending cuts.

Before the deadly storm, congressional leaders were working on a plan to pass a clean debt-ceiling bill with considerable Democratic support. In recent days, however, officials decided it'd just be easier to attach a debt-ceiling increase to a disaster relief bill -- which members of both parties will, by and large, be inclined to support.

For now, the plan is as follows: the House will pass a Harvey-related spending package today, sending the bill to the Senate, which will add a debt-ceiling increase to the legislation, before sending it back to the lower chamber. According to the Post's reporting, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said last night his chamber would likely pass that bill and send to the White House for the president's signature.

There's no guarantee this will work -- quite a few far-right members in both chambers, including the House Freedom Caucus, have said publicly they don't want the two priorities tied together -- but it probably offers the most straightforward path to success, and when it comes to the debt ceiling, the GOP doesn't appear to have a back-up plan.

But even if the plan works, it'd only be the first rung on a tall September ladder.

read more

Image: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Anthony Scaramucci

White House sends a provocative shot across the GOP Congress' bow

09/06/17 08:40AM

In a moment that raised eyebrows in D.C. yesterday, Nancy Pelosi said that if the Republican-led Congress can't address the nation's problems, these failing lawmakers should be replaced with members who know how to get things done.

Wait, did I say Nancy Pelosi? My mistake. It was actually White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, apparently indifferent to the fact that it's her party that controls the legislative branch.

"I don't think the American people elected Congress to do things that were easy. They elected them to make a government that works, to work properly, and to work for American people. And that's their job. And if they can't do it, then they need to get out of the way and let somebody else who can take on a heavy lift and get things accomplished. [,,,]

"If Congress doesn't want to do the job that they were elected to do, then maybe they should get out of the way and let someone else do it."

In all, the president's chief spokesperson said three times at yesterday's briefing that members of the GOP-led Congress should be prepared to "get out of the way" and let someone else do their jobs.

I can't think of a modern precedent for rhetoric like this, with a White House controlled by one party threatening a Congress controlled by the same party. A former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Sanders' rhetoric "senselessly provocative."

And yet, there's no reason to think Trump World cares. Indeed, the president himself has picked all kinds of fights with individual Republican lawmakers, so Sanders sending a shot across the GOP-led Congress' bow is consistent with the White House's curious political strategy.

read more

Image: Donald Trump

Looking for the method behind Donald Trump's political madness

09/06/17 08:00AM

They're known as "wedge issues." Partisans, looking for a political advantage, identify controversial issues on which their rivals are divided, and use them to drive a wedge between allies. In the Bush/Cheney era, for example, Republicans used same-sex marriage as a wedge, dividing Democrats ahead of the 2004 elections, when marriage equality was far less accepted than it is now.

Donald Trump has developed a unique talent for turning the entire model on its head. The president keeps taking unpopular positions on hot-button issues -- health care, immigration, civil rights -- dividing his allies and uniting his opponents. NBC News' Benjy Sarlin yesterday described Trump's approach as embracing "anti-wedge issues."

One need not be a political scientist to conclude this is bizarre. Instead of taking steps to become more popular, Trump is pitting himself against the attitudes of the American mainstream. Instead of driving a wedge between Democrats and their allies, the president is making divisions among Republicans considerably worse.

This was obviously the case yesterday, when the president, at least for now, decided to end protections for Dreamers -- another unpopular move that exacerbates intra-party tensions.

The question is why in the world any politician, even a hapless amateur like Trump, would do this. Is there a method lurking beneath the president's madness?

read more

Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.5.17

09/05/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* First Harvey, now Irma: "Bottled water, flashlights, batteries and other staples were flying off store shelves across Puerto Rico on Tuesday as nervous residents braced for the arrival of Hurricane Irma -- already one of the strongest storms ever recorded and currently packing 185 mph winds."

* Western fires: "Winds wreaked havoc on wildfires that were threatening two crown jewels of the National Park Service on Monday, pushing the flames toward manmade and natural icons in and around Glacier and Yosemite national parks."

* Russia: "President Vladimir V. Putin seemed to be in top form during a news conference in China on Tuesday, answering a question about President Trump by saying the American leader is 'not my bride, and I am not his groom.'"

* A growing list: "Add the Palm Beach Habilitation Center to the list of charities exiting President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club."

* I'm curious who'd pay money to hear him talk: "Sean Spicer ... has signed with Worldwide Speakers Group, the company confirmed to POLITICO."

* This sounds like the sort of thing the United States could do: "The Canadian government, working with a Toronto-based nonprofit, has quietly allowed gay men and lesbians from the Russian republic of Chechnya to seek safety in Canada over the past three months."

* Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had some notable comments at a policy conference in Italy last week: "I realize that I come to Italy at a time when many are questioning whether America is still committed to remaining engaged in the world, to upholding our traditional alliances, and standing up for the values we share. I also realize -- and there is no point in avoiding a little straight talk here -- that this doubt has much to do with some of the actions and statements of our president."

read more

President Barack Obama speaks at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 6, 2016, about the administration's approach to counterterrorism campaign. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Obama speaks up as Trump targets Dreamers

09/05/17 03:32PM

Just two days before the end of his presidency, Barack Obama hosted a White House press conference in which he said he expected the new administration and Congress to make their own determinations about the nation's direction, and by and large, he intended to stay out of it.

Obama acknowledged at the time, however, that there might be exceptions to the rule. "There's a difference," the outgoing president explained, "between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake." By way of an example, Obama specifically pointed to the fate of Dreamers.

"The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids when they didn't do anything wrong themselves, I think, would be something that would merit me speaking out," he said on Jan. 18.

Which leads us to this afternoon. Just four hours after the Trump administration rescinded the DACA policy Obama crafted in 2012, the former president published a piece on Facebook, expressing his concerns over today's developments. An excerpt:

To target these young people is wrong -- because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating -- because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid's science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn't know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

Let's be clear: the action taken today isn't required legally. It's a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid's softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages.

It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it's up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future.... Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we'd want our own kids to be treated. It's about who we are as a people -- and who we want to be.

For those keeping score, this isn't the first time the former president has broken with his self-imposed silence.

read more

Image: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Holds A Briefing On DACA

Sessions: Trump admin has 'rescinded' protections for Dreamers

09/05/17 12:24PM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump vowed to pursue mass deportations, without exceptions. In a not-so-subtle shot at Dreamers, the Republican vowed, "[U]nlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement." This followed related comments in which he said Dreamers "have to go."

As president, however, Trump seemed to realize how radical a posture this was. As recently as late April, he said Dreamers should "rest easy" about his immigration policies. Trump told the Associated Press at the time that he's "not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals."

Which of these commitments would the president break?

The New York Times reported that as recently as last week, Trump, feeling exasperated, asked his aides for "a way out" the dilemma. Today we learned what they came up with.

President Donald Trump's Justice Department announced Tuesday it would wind down DACA, putting in place a phased termination plan that would give Congress a six-month window to pass legislation that could eventually save the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country. [...]

The decision could affect as many as 800,000 Dreamers who have signed up for the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, since its 2012 inception. Immigrant rights advocates have said 200,000 more have sought DACA status since Trump became president.

Because Trump apparently lacked the courage to make this announcement himself, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long-time opponent of the Dream Act during his Senate career, announced this morning that the DACA program is "now rescinded."

For the hundreds of thousands of young people for whom the United States is the only home they've ever known, the Trump administration's announcement is a nightmare come to life. We're talking about people who are already part of the American fabric -- from soldiers to students, workers to home owners -- who will now confront the threat of deportation for reasons Donald Trump lacks the wherewithal to explain.

It's among the cruelest presidential decisions in recent memory, and it was made for no good reason.

read more

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen in a television cameras view finder during a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on March 8, 2016 in Jupiter, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Identifying Trump's 'primary source of information gathering'

09/05/17 11:37AM

In the fall of 2004, the late Sen. Jim Bunning was facing unsettling questions about his fitness for public office during his re-election bid, and shortly before Election Day, the Kentucky Republican made matters slightly worse.

One of his constituents was at the center of a major controversy -- an Army Reserve soldier in Iraq refused an order to deliver fuel because his truck wasn't properly armored -- and asked for a reaction, Bunning said, "I don't know anything about that." When reporters wondered how that was possible given the attention the story had received in his home state of Kentucky, the GOP senator replied, "Let me explain something: I don't watch the national news, and I don't read the paper. I haven't done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information."

This was a sitting U.S. senator, running for re-election during a time of war. The idea that he'd rely on conservative media as his primary source of information gathering on current events seemed bizarre.

More than a decade later, however, it's even stranger that the president of the United States is in the same boat. The New York Times reported the other day on White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's frustrations after a month on the job.

Mr. Kelly cannot stop Mr. Trump from binge-watching Fox News, which aides describe as the president's primary source of information gathering. But Mr. Trump does not have a web browser on his phone, and does not use a laptop, so he was dependent on aides like Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, to hand-deliver printouts of articles from conservative media outlets.

Now Mr. Kelly has thinned out his package of printouts so much that Mr. Trump plaintively asked a friend recently where The Daily Caller and Breitbart were.

The American president has more access to information than probably any living human, but Donald J. Trump likes conservative outlets that tell him what he wants to hear.

And whether he realizes this or not, this isn't good for Trump's presidency.

read more

Pages

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.

MaddowBlog_Appendix_logo

#Maddow

Latest Book