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Manafort appears to choose jail over helping Trump Russia probe

Manafort appears to choose jail over helping Trump Russia probe

06/15/18 09:17PM

Rachel Maddow points out that while the charges Paul Manafort is being prosecuted for are not connected to the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia, his Russian intelligence-tied co-defendant and his key position between Trump and Russia suggest that he has the kind of information that would help him avoid jail if he cut a deal with... watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 6.15.18

06/15/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Trump could stop this at any time: "The Trump administration separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults between April 19 and May 31, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said Friday."

* In case you missed today's big development earlier: "Paul Manafort is going to jail. Special counsel Robert Mueller's office convinced a federal judge on Friday to revoke the bail of President Donald Trump's former campaign chief after he was accused of witness tampering."

* Trade war: "The Trump administration said on Friday that it would move ahead with tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from Beijing and escalating a trade war between the world's two largest economies."

* It just never ends with this guy: "Senior staff members at the Environmental Protection Agency frequently felt pressured by Scott Pruitt, the administrator, to help in personal matters and obtain special favors for his family, according to interviews with four current and former E.P.A. officials who served as top political aides to Mr. Pruitt."

* A worthwhile endeavor: "Mick Mulvaney, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau acting director, wants to do away with the searchable database of complaints, but former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann plans to pick up the slack."

* Losing control: "Weeks of escalating strain between press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and reporters boiled over in the White House briefing room on Thursday, as press members tussled with Sanders over immigration issues, she insulted the intelligence of one reporter, and another interrupted the proceedings with a dramatic outburst."

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Image: U.S. President Trump listens to  Speaker Ryan as he gathers with Republican House members after healthcare bill vote at the White House in Washington

Trump rejects immigration 'compromise' he's supposed to support

06/15/18 04:17PM

The immigration gambit from House Republican "moderates" to force a vote on a bipartisan immigration measure looked promising, right up until this week, when the effort collapsed. Relieved Republican leaders in the chamber scheduled two votes next week on the issue: one on a far-right plan and another on a "compromise" measure.

Calling the latter a "compromise," however, isn't quite right. The bill, released yesterday, is the result of negotiations between conservative Republicans and not-quite-as-conservative Republicans. There was a bipartisan package touted by proponents of the GOP's recent discharge petition, but the bill that's headed to the floor is a far cry from that.

Republican leaders, however, believe their "compromise" plan has a chance of success, since it goes out of its way to meet Donald Trump's demands. It must've come as quite a surprise this morning when the president denounced the bill he's supposed to support.

President Donald Trump said Friday he would refuse to sign a new compromise Republican immigration bill that would bar his administration from implementing its policy of separating children from their parents or legal guardian at the border.

In an interview Friday morning with "Fox and Friends," Trump said he was "looking at both" immigration proposals put forth by GOP members of the House -- the compromise bill, as well as a more conservative measure.

But he added, "I certainly wouldn't sign the more moderate one."

Predictably, Trump's comments on Fox News roiled the debate and appeared to signal the end of the fight.

Which only made it more amazing when the White House later said Trump actually likes the bill he said he wouldn't sign.

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Image: Donald Trump

By falsely claiming 'exoneration,' Trump takes gaslighting to a new level

06/15/18 03:11PM

The Justice Department inspector general's office didn't do Donald Trump any favors in its new report. Following an extensive examination of federal law enforcement's behavior during the 2016 presidential election, the IG effectively shredded every bogus narrative the president has peddled for months.

Trump argued that the FBI was biased against his candidacy, and the IG found the opposite. Trump claimed the Justice Department went easy on Hillary Clinton, and the IG found the opposite. Trump insisted Clinton should've been indicted, and the IG found the opposite. Trump whined incessantly for months about the system being "rigged" against him, and the IG found the opposite.

Common sense suggests the president should focus his attention elsewhere, and not bring attention to the report that discredited his talking points, but Trump had a different idea: he'd play make believe and pretend that the document answered questions the IG never even asked.

On Fox News this morning, the president claimed that the inspector general's report found that federal law enforcement official "were plotting against my election." That's not even close to what the report said. But soon after, in an informal Q&A with reporters, Trump went further:

"I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you'll see that."

This is gibberish. The report doesn't have anything to do with the Trump campaign's alleged cooperation with the Russians who attacked our election. The Justice Department IG made no effort to examine this in any way.

Frustrated reporters eventually pressed the president on his brazen lying:

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A doorman stands as people walk past the Trump Tower in N.Y. on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

President tries to brush off lying about infamous Trump Tower meeting

06/15/18 12:30PM

It was two years ago this month that top members of the Trump campaign hosted a private meeting in Trump Tower with a group of Russians. As regular readers know, the intended point of the gathering was for the future president's operation to acquire anti-Clinton intelligence from Moscow, which Team Trump was eager to receive, bolstering allegations of cooperation between the Republican campaign and its benefactors in Moscow.

Last summer, after the meeting came to light, Donald Trump Jr. issued a written statement to the New York Times saying participants "primarily discussed" an adoption program, which was "not a campaign issue." That statement was obviously deceptive and has reportedly drawn the interest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump's legal defense team later conceded that the president himself personally dictated the wording of his son's dishonest statement.

This morning, Trump was offered an opportunity to shed additional light on the subject.

Q: Did you dictate the statement about [the Trump Tower meeting]?

TRUMP: Let's not talk about it. You know what that is? It's irrelevant. It's a statement to the New York Times. The phony, failing New York Times. It's not a statement to a high tribunal of judges. That's a statement phony New York Times.

The president's point wasn't exactly subtle: lying in a written statement to a major news organization shouldn't necessarily be seen as wrong.

Mueller and his investigators may have a very different perspective on this -- because at face value, it suggests the president may have been personally involved in an attempted cover-up when describing one of the key moments in the overall scandal.

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.15.18

06/15/18 12:00PM

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

* With the launch of his latest ad campaign in Florida's U.S. Senate race, Gov. Rick Scott's (R) "spending onslaught" is now "approaching $20 million." It's not even July yet.

* Speaking of big spenders in the Sunshine State, billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene (D) kicked off a gubernatorial campaign in Florida this week, suggesting he might end up spending $100 million on the race. Greene ran an unsuccessful Senate campaign in Florida six years ago.

* In Pennsylvania, the latest Franklin & Marshall poll found incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D) with a surprisingly large lead over Rep. Lou Barletta (R), 44% to 27%.

* The same poll found incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) with a comparable lead over his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner, 48% to 29%.

* Though there's been some chatter about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R) leaving Capitol Hill and running for governor in Louisiana, the Republican congressman this week ruled out the possibility.

* With Rep. Martha McSally (R) increasingly concerned about her Senate primary in Arizona, a group called One Nation, "aligned" with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), is launching a new ad campaign in support of the Republican congresswoman.

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Image: FILE PHOTO: Manafort departs U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia

Trump pretends to barely know the man who led his campaign

06/15/18 11:19AM

It's going to be a very big day for Paul Manafort, the suspected criminal who ran Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016. Manafort, who was already facing multiple criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was recently accused of witness tampering. A longtime Manafort associate, a Russian intelligence operative named Konstantin Kilimnik, was also indicted last week.

As you've likely seen Rachel explain on the show, Manafort is scheduled to be back in court today for an arraignment, and his bail agreement may be revised or revoked. Or put another way, the man who led the president's political operation may find himself in jail later today.

Trump was asked about the legal developments this morning, and true to form, the president acted as if he barely knew Manafort, telling reporters:

"Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. I'll tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago?

"You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.... He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something? A very short period of time."

Asked about possible pardons, Trump added, "I don't want to talk about that. But look, I do want to see people treated fairly. That's what it's all about."

It was March 2017 when the White House first tried to dismiss Manafort as someone "who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time." Fifteen months later, Trump has taken this line in a direction that would be hilarious if this weren't so serious.

To the extent that reality matters, let's do a little fact checking:

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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

White House turns to conservative job fair to find willing staffers

06/15/18 10:42AM

About three months ago, Donald Trump acknowledged the staffing exodus in his White House, but he rejected the idea that it was a problem.

"You know, I read where, 'Oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump.' And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House," the president insisted. "They all want a piece of that Oval Office; they want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their resume; it's just a great place to work."

Given the revolving door at the White House, it was difficult to take Trump's assurances seriously. Indeed, his comments look a little worse after reading this report from Politico this week.

The White House -- which has been having trouble filling positions as it bleeds staffers -- is now trying to find recruits at a conservative job fair on the Hill.

"Interested in a job at the White House?" is the subject line of an email that was blasted out widely to Republicans on the Hill late Wednesday advertising the upcoming event.

The job fair, scheduled for this afternoon on Capitol Hill, is being hosted by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is a fairly new group created by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who also used to lead the Heritage Foundation.

The Politico piece added, "Recruiting at a job fair is seen as an unusual step for a White House to take.... A former Obama administration official said it would have been unheard of in the previous administration.... The Trump White House, however, has had difficulty bringing new people in."

For many observers, especially the president's detractors, it's probably tempting to laugh at all of this. It is, after all, pitiful.

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Image: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with President Donald Trump

Trump suggests he wants to be treated the way Kim Jong-un is treated

06/15/18 10:12AM

Donald Trump has already made major concessions to North Korea's Kim Jong-un in exchange for nothing, and also offered public praise for the brutal dictator. How can the American president make matters worse?

Perhaps by expressing some admiration for the authoritarian's governing style.

Trump was asked this morning whether Kim might someday visit the White House. The Republican said it "could happen," before adding:

"Hey, he's the head of a country, and I mean he's the strong head. Don't let anyone think any different. [Kim] speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same."

In context, "my people" appeared to refer to White House staff, not Americans in general, though that's hardly reassuring. What Trump neglected to mention is that Kim's "people" sit up at attention when he speaks because they realize that failure to do so may lead to their execution.

The president's comments coincided with a Washington Post  report on the events surrounding this week's summit in Singapore. Trump was reportedly impressed with North Korea's state-run television news, and was struck by "how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim." He added "that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television."

Taken in isolation, one might be tempted to shrug off ridiculous rhetoric like this, but there's a broader pattern of concern. Trump has repeatedly expressed public admiration for dictators, not despite their authoritarian practices, but because of them.

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump

Defamation lawsuit grows more serious for Trump

06/15/18 09:20AM

As if Donald Trump's lawyers weren't already busy, the president's defense team has made repeated efforts to make Summer Zervos' civil suit go away. As we were reminded yesterday, those efforts aren't going well.

New York's highest court on Thursday denied President Donald Trump's attempt to put the brakes on a defamation suit from former "Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos.

The decision by the New York Court of Appeals marks another failed bid from Trump to halt or delay the lawsuit brought by Zervos.

Zervos' lawyer, Mariann Wang, said in a statement to CNBC. "This is now the third time the courts have rejected defendant's effort to block the progress of this case. We look forward to continuing the discovery process and exposing the truth."

It's that discovery process that should worry the president.

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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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