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Trump directs the Pentagon to create a 'Space Force'

06/19/18 10:41AM

I guess Donald Trump wasn't kidding about the whole "Space Force" idea.

Vowing to reclaim U.S. leadership in space, President Donald Trump announced Monday he is directing the Pentagon to create a new "Space Force" as an independent service branch aimed at ensuring American supremacy in space. [...]

Trump had previously suggested the possibility of creating a space unit that would include portions equivalent to parts of the Air Force, Army and Navy. But his directive will task the Defense Department to begin the process of establishing the 'Space Force' as the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces.

If this is real, and federal policymakers follow through on this -- a president cannot unilaterally declare a sixth military branch -- it will be the first time the U.S. military added a branch since 1947.

In his remarks at a White House event yesterday, the president declared, "That's a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force -- separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important."

Trump added, "Remember, economically, militarily, scientifically -- in every way, there is no place like space."

No, seriously, that's what he said.

It's important to emphasize that this idea, by the president's own admission, started as an offhand joke. Trump said in March, describing a conversation with White House staff, "You know, I was saying it the other day, because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said, 'Maybe we need a new force. We'll call it Space Force." And I was not really serious. Then I said. 'What a great idea. Maybe we'll have to do that.'"

It's hard not to wonder, though, whether there's any kind of serious policymaking purpose to creating a sixth military branch, or whether Trump just thinks "Space Force" sounds cool.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his Topeka, Kan., office, Aug. 1, 2013. (Photo by John Hanna/AP)

Kansas' Kobach suffers humiliating loss in federal court

06/19/18 10:01AM

Following up on a story we've been keeping an eye on, it's been several years since Kansas Republicans first imposed voting restrictions on state residents, including requirements that Kansans show proof of citizenship when registering. The ACLU, among others, challenged the measure in federal court, while Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) personally defended them.

That is, of course, the same Kobach who's championed voter-suppression techniques at the national level, and helped lead Donald Trump's ridiculous voting commission, which ended in failure.

So, too, did his defense of the Kansas law. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson yesterday struck down the measure as unconstitutional.

No other state has been as aggressive as Kansas in imposing proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements. Alabama and Georgia have proof-of-citizenship laws that are not currently being enforced, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Arizona is the only other state with a similar law in effect, but that law is far more lenient and allows people to satisfy it by writing their driver's license number on the voter registration form.

The lead case filed by the ACLU on behalf of several named voters and the League of Women Voters is centered on the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the Motor Voter Law, which allows people to register to vote when applying for a driver's license. The case required Kobach to prove that Kansas has a significant problem with noncitizens registering to vote.

Not surprisingly, Kobach struggled to offer evidence that doesn't exist. The judge's ruling is online here.

And while this was clearly an embarrassing outcome for the Kansas Republican -- who also happens to be running for governor this year -- what made yesterday especially brutal for Kobach was the extent to which the judge in this case humiliated him over his professional standards.

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Image: Jeff Sessions

Sessions: comparing family-separation policy, Nazi Germany is an 'exaggeration'

06/19/18 09:20AM

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) talked to MSNBC's Chris Hayes about Donald Trump's family-separation policy last night, and she used the kind of rhetoric we rarely hear from the longtime lawmaker.

"This is the United States of America; it's not Nazi Germany," Feinstein said. "We don't take children from their parents -- until now."

Two hours later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat down with Fox News' Laura Ingraham and addressed the kinds of concerns raised by the senator:

INGRAHAM: Nazi Germany, concentration camps, human rights violations. Laura Bush has weighed in. Michelle Obama, Rosalynn Carter, you've got all of the first ladies, going back to Eleanor Roosevelt, she's apparently weighed in as well. General Sessions, what's going on here?

SESSIONS: Well, it's a real exaggeration, of course. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country.

The Alabama Republican went on to present a defense of the administration's immigration policies in general, as if he hadn't just talked about the nuances that separate the Trump administration's family-separation policy from the Nazis' family-separation policy.

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U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen speaks to reporters after she, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats briefed members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

What Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen considers 'offensive'

06/19/18 08:40AM

As if Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wasn't already having problems, Donald Trump has effectively made her the face of his deeply controversial family-separation policy, which she appears to have already lied about. Yesterday, in the White House press briefing room, the embattled DHS chief did little to restore her failing credibility.

For example, early on in her appearance, Nielsen insisted, "Congress and the courts created this problem and Congress alone can fix it." As is painfully obvious to everyone involved in the debate, this is plainly false: the president ordered this policy and he can undo it at any time. For now, Trump simply chooses not to.

Later, she argued, "The kids are being used by pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. Again, let's just pause to think about this statistic: 314 percent increase in adults showing up with kids that are not a family unit. Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13, those are criminals, those are abusers." A Washington Post analysis explained how wildly misleading her argument was.

But perhaps the most important exchange from the briefing was this back and forth between a reporter and the cabinet secretary:

Q: Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out? Are you intending for parents to be separated from children? Are you intending to send a message?

NIELSEN: I find that offensive. No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?

Q: Perhaps as a deterrence?

NIELSEN: No.

And this gets to one of the more glaring political problems facing this White House: Trump and his team can't seem to keep their stories straight.

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP

Republicans back Trump on family separations, but US mainstream doesn't

06/19/18 08:00AM

Donald Trump generally assumes that the American public strongly supports his presidency and his agenda, even when there's ample evidence to the contrary. With this in mind, the president will almost certainly want to ignore the latest polling on his policy separating immigrant children from their families at the border.

A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday, for example, suggests Americans at large aren't buying what the White House is selling.

American voters oppose 66 - 27 percent the policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border into America, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. [...]

"When does public opinion become a demand that politicians just can't ignore? Two- thirds of American voters oppose the family separation policy at our borders," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "Neither quotes from the Bible nor get-tough talk can soften the images of crying children nor reverse the pain so many Americans feel."

A CNN poll released soon after offered nearly identical results: 67% of American disapprove of the policy, while 28% support it.

An analysis from Chris Warshaw, a political scientist at George Washington University, found that Trump's family-separation policy is now the least popular federal policy in recent memory -- with lower support than the Republicans' tax cuts for the wealthy, the Republican plan to take health care benefits from millions of families, and even the president's idea for a giant border wall.

There is, however, a catch: the American mainstream appears largely repulsed by the White House's policy, but Trump's base feels quite differently: 55% of self-identified Republican voters in the Quinnipiac poll said they approve of the president separating immigrant children from their families. In the CNN poll, the number was slightly higher: 58% of GOP voters back the policy.

And for this president, who sometimes acts as if he believes his core supporters are the only Americans who really count, it's entirely possible this effectively ends the conversation. Trump probably doesn't much care what Democratic and independent voters think, so long as he impresses his base.

But congressional Republicans, many of whom are deeply concerned about their re-election prospects, know better. The Washington Examiner  reported overnight:

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Trump accelerates rate of taking migrant kids from parents

Trump accelerates rate of taking migrant kids from parents

06/18/18 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the growing outrage over the Donald Trump administration's policy of forcibly removing children from their parents when they seek asylum in The United States, and notes that the rate at which children are being removed and placed in camps increased from an average of 43 last month to 67 as of this month. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 6.18.18

06/18/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The White House faces pushback: "Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he will not send the Massachusetts National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border due to the 'cruel and inhumane' decision by the Trump administration to separate children from their parents as families arrive at the border."

* In McAllen, Texas, "hundreds of young migrants are being kept behind metal wire -- the type you'd see on a neighborhood batting cage or a dog kennel -- inside the country's largest immigration processing center."

* CFPB: "President Donald Trump intends to nominate an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget to lead the government's consumer watchdog agency, the White House announced Saturday."

* The latest round in an avoidable fight: "The Justice Department and House Republicans appear to be careening toward their tensest confrontation yet in a long-running dispute over documents, with one GOP lawmaker warning that the House could seek to hold officials in contempt of Congress if the FBI and DOJ fail to comply with subpoenas for information."

* After creating a series of cartoons critical of Donald Trump, Rob Rogers was ousted as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial cartoonist.

* Trump does like leaders with an authoritarian streak: "President Donald Trump is congratulating Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary on his recent re-election."

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Image: U.S. President Donald Trump departs from the G7 summit in the Charlevoix city of La Malbaie

What Trump chooses not to understand about immigration negotiations

06/18/18 04:07PM

As the uproar over his family-separation policy continues to erupt, Donald Trump took a few minutes this morning to address immigration at an unrelated White House event. True to form, the president lied quite a bit, but in this case, Trump's false claims were notable for other reasons.

He began by insisting that "all of the problems that we're having" on immigration are "the Democrats' fault." He added, "They're obstructing. They're really obstructionists. And they are obstructing."

There's obviously no reason to take any of this seriously, but I was intrigued by why he's so convinced the buck stops with the minority party with no power in Washington, D.C. Trump made his case:

"If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly -- good for the children, good for country, good for the world. It could take place quickly.

"We could have an immigration bill. We could have -- child separation -- we're stuck with these horrible laws. They're horrible laws. What's happening is so sad -- is so sad. And it can be taken care of quickly, beautifully, and we'll have safety.

"This could really be something very special.... We can do this very quickly if the Democrats come to the table. Everybody wants to do it. We want to do it more than they do. If they come to the table, instead of playing politics, we can do it very, very quickly."

At face value, this may sound vaguely reasonable. Why shouldn't both parties come to the table and try to work out a deal? If Democrats and Republicans both support immigration reform measures -- "everybody wants to do it" -- wouldn't it make sense for policymakers to work on an agreement?

The trouble, whether Trump understands this or not, is that he doesn't really want a deal; he wants a ransom. They're not the same thing.

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee walks to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, for a meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice. Rice continued...

So far, no Republicans endorse the Dems' 'Keep Families Together Act'

06/18/18 12:41PM

The official line from the Trump White House is that critics of the administration's practice of separating children from their parents at the border should simply change the law. The argument is indefensibly wrong: Donald Trump chose to implement a policy that separates these families, and he can change course at any time.

But Democrats have more or less accepted the challenge anyway, and have proposed specific legislation to prevent the Republican president from keeping his current policy in place. Vox highlighted the Senate Dems' effort to pass the "Keep Families Together Act," which was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"Congress has a moral obligation to take a stand and say that families should not be forcibly separated," Feinstein said in a statement. "To traumatize them further is unconscionable, and I hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to put an end to this immoral policy."

The bill would only allow undocumented children to be separated from their parents if there is evidence of parents abusing the children or children being trafficked. Separation could only happen after consultation with a child welfare expert.

As of this minute, the proposal has 48 co-sponsors, which includes literally every member of the Senate Democratic conference except West Virginia's Joe Manchin. [Update: see below]

So what's the hold up? As Feinstein noted yesterday, "We're making progress, but we still need Republicans to join."

For all the talk today about Republican "discomfort" and "concern" over the president's policy, no GOP senators have endorsed legislation that would require Trump to stop doing this -- or proposed rival legislation of their own.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.18.18

06/18/18 12:00PM

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

* Given a chance to weigh in on partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court punted this morning, leaving the broader questions unanswered.

* In case politics in New York weren't quite messy enough, Stephanie Miner, the former mayor of Syracuse and a former top official in the state Democratic Party, is launching a gubernatorial campaign in which she'll run as an independent against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), her former ally. It raises the prospect of a four-way gubernatorial contest in the Empire State this fall.

* In a literal sense, Cambridge Analytica may be no more, but at least four of the firm's former officials have created a new company, Data Propria, which has been quietly working for Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, according to an Associated Press report.

* Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), who's complained bitterly about the White House not doing enough to support his Senate bid in North Dakota, will welcome Trump to his home state next week. Cramer is taking on Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) in one of this year's marquee match-ups.

* On a related note, Trump is also traveling this week to Nevada, where the president will headline a fundraiser for Sen. Dean Heller (R). According to CNN, Trump will also address the Nevada State Republican Convention.

* The Democratic National Committee agreed late last week to hold its 2020 convention from July 13 to 16 -- before the Summer Olympics -- though party officials have not yet chosen a host city. It will be the earliest the DNC has held its convention since 1992.

* On a related note, the Republican National Committee has not chosen the dates for its nominating convention, but it has narrowed the list of possible host cities to Charlotte and Las Vegas.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to U.S. President Donald Trump during the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018.

Why Trump's lies about German crime are so important

06/18/18 11:20AM

The European edition of Politico had a report earlier this month that said, "It's difficult to overstate just how enraged Germany is about Trump. By questioning and criticizing such bastions of the Western order as NATO, the World Trade Organization and even the EU, Trump has thrust Germany's leadership into an existential torpor it has yet to escape."

Around the same time, a senior German official told the New Yorker's Susan Glasser, "It took Germany the longest of all partners to come to terms with someone like Trump becoming president. We were very emotional, because our relationship with America is so emotional -- it's more of a son-father relationship -- and we didn't recognize our father anymore and realized he might beat us."

Just last week in Berlin, Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign minister, delivered a rather brutal speech in which he declared, "Donald Trump's egotistical politics of 'America First,' Russia's attacks on international law and state sovereignty, the expansion of gigantic China: the world order we were used to -- it no longer exists."

It's against this backdrop that the American president bragged on Friday about his "great relationship" with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, only to take his message to Germany in a more contentious direction this morning.

"The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!

"We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!"

Offensive Trump tweets aren't exactly rare, but these missives stand out for a few important reasons.

First, the Republican president is simply lying about crime rates in Germany. Instead of being "way up," they've actually dropped to their lowest points since the early 1990s. Why did Trump say the opposite? Because for him, the line between what is true and what he'd like to be true is easily blurred. (Trump lying about crime rates, especially in urban areas and areas with a lot of immigrants, is one of his favorite things to lie about.)

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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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