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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 2.8.17

02/08/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Yemen: "Angry at the civilian casualties incurred last month in the first commando raid authorized by President Trump, Yemen has withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in the country, according to American officials."

* I'll look forward to hearing the White House's defense of this: "A Russian judge convicted Aleksei A. Navalny, an opposition politician and one of the Kremlin's most charismatic critics, of fraud charges on Wednesday, a move that bars him from running for the presidency next year."

* Really? "People who want to visit the United States could be asked to hand over their social-media passwords to officials as part of enhanced security checks, the country's top domestic security chief said."

* We live in strange times: "[F]or some experts who study terrorism, President Trump's assertion this week that the news media has actually been ignoring and covering up terrorist attacks came as a surprise."

* Expect a rocky tenure: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday delivered her first public message since her rocky confirmation hearing, promising her new staff that she is committed to working with it to 'protect, strengthen and create new world-class education opportunities for America's students.'"

* I'll have more on this in the morning: "Sen. John McCain, chair of the Armed Services Committee, called the recent US raid in Yemen a 'failure' following a classified briefing Tuesday morning on the operation, which ended in the death of a Navy SEAL and an unconfirmed number of civilians."

* Indirectly, money in the president's pocket: "The Department of Defense is seeking to rent space in President Trump's New York skyscraper, Trump Tower, a move that could directly funnel government money into the president's business interests."
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Image: *** BESTPIX *** President-Elect Donald Trump Holds Press Conference In New York

The 'most anti-American statement ever made' by a U.S. president

02/08/17 04:57PM

It's still hard to believe Donald Trump went there. After talking about his respect for Russia's Vladimir Putin, the American president was told, "Putin's a killer," Trump responded, "There are a lot of killers. We've got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country's so innocent?"

In the span of just a few seconds, Trump drew a moral equivalence between the United States and Putin's Russia, abandoned any sense of us having moral authority, and suggested violence may be a legitimate governing tool. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said of the president's comments, "This is as scary as it gets."

But it wasn't just Democrats who noticed. Former Gen. Barry McCaffrey appeared on MSNBC and said of Trump's comments, "One could argue that's the most anti-American statement ever made by the president of the United States."

As Politico noted, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wasn't pleased, either.
Sen. John McCain rebuked President Donald Trump on the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, lashing Trump's defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend as "either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased."

The Arizona senator, who has emerged as one of Trump's chief Republican foils on foreign policy and national security issues, never mentioned Trump by name. But as he spoke in favor of anti-Putin activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, McCain clearly singled out Trump's comments about Putin on Sunday, when Trump compared Putin's strong-armed history of cracking down on dissidents to the United States' own record on human rights.
"[Kara-Murza] knew that there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin's Russia. I repeat, there is no moral equivalence between that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States of America, the country that Ronald Reagan used to call a shining city on a hill," McCain said in his statement. "To allege some kind of moral equivalence between the two is either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased. Neither, neither can be accurate in anyway."

That's a fairly mild rebuke -- if a Democratic president disparaged the United States this way, it's likely the articles of impeachment would already be moving through committee -- but it's nevertheless a good sign a GOP lawmaker was willing to say anything at all on the matter.
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Ivanka Trump, right, listens as her father Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a policy speech on child care, Sept. 13, 2016, in Aston, Pa. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump's White House takes on retailer over his daughter's deal

02/08/17 04:07PM

Nordstrom, a prominent high-end retail chain, had a business arrangement with Ivanka Trump, one of Donald Trump's adult children, which recently ran its course. Nordstrom said last week that her products simply weren't selling: "Based on the brand's performance, we've decided not to buy it for this season," a Nordstrom spokeswoman said Thursday. Other retailers featuring Ivanka Trump's products made a similar decision.

Apparently, the president is not handling the developments well. Donald Trump interrupted his busy work schedule this morning to declare via Twitter, "My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!"

It was a bizarre message, and not just because his poor writing skills made it seem as if he thinks it's terrible that his daughter is always pushing him to do the right thing. In practical terms, the message was unprecedented: a sitting president used his position to criticize a private entity, targeting an American company for hurting his daughter's bottom line.

Given Trump's existing conflicts-of-interest troubles, this showed ridiculous judgment. The president should at least try to separate himself from his family's business interests, instead of using his office to interfere in his daughter's retailing opportunities.

It's one thing to badger companies on issues such as foreign manufacturing; it's something else to use the presidency to harass a company over his family's profits. (Note, Trump's tweet about Nordstrom was soon featured on the official presidential Twitter account, as well as Trump's Instagram and Facebook accounts.)

But as outlandish as this was, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made matters considerably worse with his defense of his boss' tweet:
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Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the February 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fla.  (Joe Raedle/Getty)

On health care, Republicans are lost without a map

02/08/17 12:55PM

So, how's that Republican plan to repeal, replace, and repair "Obamacare" going? Not well.
Senate Republicans have not yet begun to work in earnest on a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Tuesday. It was a rare public admission of what has become obvious from the outside, as Republicans find both the politics and the substance of Obamacare repeal more difficult in practice than in rhetoric.

"To be honest, there's not any real discussion taking place right now," Corker told reporters in the Capitol.
Last night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) participated in a forum on the ACA where he was asked about his party's plans. The far-right senator attacked the law, and committed to eventually repealing it, but Cruz otherwise dodged the question.

As for the president, who's never seemed to understand the basics of the debate or the process, Donald Trump told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly the other day that he and his team are putting together "a wonderful plan," which Americans may be able to see "within the year and the following year."

As the GOP repeal crusade hits a brick wall, let's not lose sight of the fact that this wasn't the way Republicans expected the process to go. As recently as Jan. 10, Trump said his party would repeal the health care reform law "probably sometime next week," and he'd be ready to move forward on a replacement "very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter." A few days earlier, Mike Pence said repealing the ACA would be the "first order of business" for Republican policymakers in 2017.

The entire campaign was going to snowball before Obamacare proponents even knew what hit them -- right up until the snowball melted.
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.8.17

02/08/17 12:00PM

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

* New developments in North Carolina: "A three-judge Superior Court panel has ordered a delay for state Senate confirmation hearings on Gov. Roy Cooper's cabinet pending further hearings on whether a new law giving the General Assembly a say in those picks is constitutional."

* When Jason Miller's personal troubles led to his dismissal as White House communications director, the job went to press secretary Sean Spicer, who's now tackling both positions simultaneously. Team Trump is reportedly now looking to "lighten the load" on Spicer and hire a full-time communications director.

* In Illinois, Democratic businessman Chris Kennedy is moving forward with plans to run for governor next year, taking on incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R). Kennedy, in case you're curious about the family connections, is one of the late Robert Kennedy's sons.

* In Virginia's gubernatorial race, now just nine months away, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D) has chosen Julia Barnes as his campaign manager. Barnes is perhaps best known for overseeing Bernie Sanders' presidential operation in New Hampshire last year.

* Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), fresh off his stronger-than-expected Senate campaign, is launching a new advocacy group "to punish elected officials who advance restrictions on the right to vote." The organization will be called "Let America Vote," and though many details are not yet available, the group has an advisory board with many prominent figures from progressive politics.

* Carly Fiorina, fresh off her failed presidential campaign, acknowledged this week that she may run for the Senate in Virginia next year. It would be Fiorina's second attempt at joining the Senate, following a failed campaign in California in 2010.

* Assuming Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) is confirmed as attorney general, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) is reportedly eyeing state Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to fill the vacancy.
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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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