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Image: Democratic Congressional Candidate Conor Lamb Holds Election Night Event

Trump: Pennsylvania Dem won because he's 'like Trump'

03/15/18 08:40AM

Ahead of this week's congressional special election in Pennsylvania, Republicans insisted that Conor Lamb (D) was a liberal Democrat who had no business representing a conservative district that backed Donald Trump by a 20-point margin. After Lamb's apparent victory, GOP leaders decided they no longer agreed with their own talking points.

The Republican National Committee insisted that Lamb "essentially" ran as a Republican. A White House spokesperson said the Democrat "really embraced the president's policies and his vision."

As The Atlantic  reported, Trump went a little further while reflecting on the race yesterday at a private fundraiser in Missouri.

"The young man last night that ran, he said, 'Oh, I'm like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.' He ran on that basis," Trump said. "He ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me. I said, 'Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.'"

Look, I realize that the president, by his own admission, occasionally makes stuff up, but the GOP spin on Pennsylvania's special election is getting more than a little silly.

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Image: Donald Trump

Celebrating ignorance, Trump boasts about making stuff up

03/15/18 08:00AM

About a year ago, Donald Trump sat down for an interview with the Associated Press, which touched on the president's criticisms of NATO. He referenced an exchange he had during the campaign with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in which then-candidate Trump expressed deep concerns about the security alliance despite "not knowing much about NATO."

In other words, according to Trump, he spoke with great conviction about a key area of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that -- by his own admission -- he had no idea what he was talking about.

Yesterday, something very similar happened. The president spoke at a fundraiser about a conversation he had had with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in which the two leaders discussed which country had a trade deficit with the other. As the Washington Post  reported, Trump bragged last night that he made the private comments without having a clue as to whether or not he was correct.

"Trudeau came to see me. He's a good guy, Justin. He said, 'No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,' " Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. "Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in -- 'Donald, we have no trade deficit.' He's very proud because everybody else, you know, we're getting killed.

"... So, he's proud. I said, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' I didn't even know.... I had no idea. I just said, 'You're wrong.' You know why? Because we're so stupid. ... And I thought they were smart. I said, 'You're wrong, Justin.' He said, 'Nope, we have no trade deficit.' I said, 'Well, in that case, I feel differently,' I said, 'but I don't believe it.' I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, 'Check, because I can't believe it.'"

So, Trump started with the premise that the United States is "stupid" -- a curious assumption for an American president -- and then based his assumptions on that dubious foundation. It then led him to assume, without having any facts or having done any homework ahead of his meeting with the Canadian prime minister, that we have a trade deficit with our neighbors to the north.

According to last night's story, Trump's aide then came back to him to assure the president that he was, in fact, correct about the trade imbalance -- which is bizarre, since, according to the Trump administration's own data, the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.

What's amazing about this story, however, isn't just the American president being wrong about a simple issue he's talked about for years.

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 3.14.18

03/14/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Spy poisoning: "Britain is to expel 23 Russian diplomats allegedly operating as undeclared intelligence officers after Moscow ignored a midnight deadline to explain how its nerve weapon was used in the attempted assassination of a former double agent on U.K. soil."

* I wish her boss were as forceful on the issue: "U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Wednesday the United States believes Russia is responsible for the attempted assassination of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain -- and the U.N. Security Council should hold the Kremlin 'accountable.'"

* House Intelligence Committee: "One day after the GOP announced they had completed a draft report concluding that the Trump campaign had not colluded with Russians in an effort to defeat Hillary Clinton, Democrats issued a 22-page document specifying unresolved issues they said the committee needed to continue exploring -- and that they would attempt to do so even without the GOP's cooperation."

* Hmm: "U.S. retail sales fell for a third straight month in February as households cut back on purchases of motor vehicles and other big-ticket items, pointing to a slowdown in economic growth in the first quarter."

* Minnesota: "Three men charged Tuesday with illegally possessing a machine gun are suspected of bombing a mosque in Minnesota and attempting to bomb an abortion clinic in Illinois last year, federal officials said."

* Everyone realizes how absurd this is, right? "Before House Republicans had even learned the details of a new White House proposal for a three-year renewal of DACA paired with three years of border wall funding, the White House had already walked back the idea."

* ICE: "A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned over what he described as 'false' and 'misleading' statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE acting director Thomas D. Homan."

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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)

Trump taps CNBC anchor for White House's top economics job

03/14/18 03:13PM

During a brief Q&A with reporters yesterday, Donald Trump conceded he's looking "very strongly" at CNBC's Larry Kudlow to lead the White House's National Economic Council. As of today, he's apparently done looking.

President Donald Trump plans to name longtime supporter Larry Kudlow as his top economic adviser, sources told CNBC Wednesday.

Kudlow would replace National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who resigned earlier this month after clashing with the president over controversial steel and aluminum tariffs. Kudlow also was not a fan of the policy, although Trump said Tuesday that "he has now come around to believing in tariffs as a negotiating point."

There's every reason to believe the CNBC anchor will fit in just fine on Team Trump. As a Washington Post  analysis noted yesterday, Kudlow is "as standard a Wall Street Republican as you'll find. He believes in the Reaganite Holy Trinity of low taxes, low inflation and free trade. He believes in them so much that he's spent the better part of the last 20 years proclaiming them on TV and radio."

That, alas, hasn't always worked out for him. By some measures, Kudlow has been consistently mistaken about many of the major economic debates of the last several years.

But what I think is the most important takeaway of today's news is that there are few tools in the United States more important than Donald Trump's television remote control.

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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

After another election setback, GOP scrambles to find its footing

03/14/18 12:45PM

Over the weekend, Donald Trump assured the public that Republican candidates are undefeated -- five wins and no losses -- in recent congressional special elections. That's plainly wrong, though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared the same day, "There's already been five special elections and Republicans have won all five of those."

Using that same faulty arithmetic, some Republicans are content with recent results.

Walking into the meeting, New York. Rep. Chris Collins, a close ally of President Donald Trump, called the race a "one-off."

"We've won five [special elections]; they've won one. I'm feeling pretty good," he added.

I'll confess to being mystified by this. There was a congressional special election in California's 34th district last summer, which a Democrat won easily. There was also a U.S. Senate special election in Alabama in December that the GOP may have noticed.

Pretending losses didn't happen doesn't make them go away.

But even if we put Chris Collins' curious blind spots aside, the larger issue is the Republican Party's reaction to Conor Lamb's (D) apparent victory over Rick Saccone (R) in Pennsylvania's special election. Politico's report added, many GOP officials "seemed to be in denial."

The most common argument seems to be that Lamb ran "as a conservative," and since the vast majority of Democratic candidates will run on progressive platforms, this race was a fluke. There are two key problems with the assertion. First, Lamb may be to the right of the Democratic Party at the national level, but on several core issues, he's very much within the Dems' mainstream.

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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.14.18

03/14/18 12:00PM

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

* Four days ago, at a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Donald Trump said, in reference to Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone, “This guy should win easily, and he is going to win easy.” Evidently, that was wrong.

* The news wasn't all bad for Republicans yesterday. A GOP candidate in Tennessee won a state Senate special election in a landslide, even outperforming Donald Trump, who carried this same district by 44 points in 2016.

* It's been a while since we saw data out of New Jersey, so it was of great interest to see the latest Quinnipiac poll yesterday, which showed Sen. Bob Menendez (D) leading Bob Hugin (R) by 17 points, 49% to 32%.

* Donald Trump's re-election campaign continues to add staffers, despite the fact that the race is still years away. This week, former national campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson signed onto the 2020 effort as a senior adviser.

* The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity is reportedly planning to "step up its advertising" in Indiana and Missouri, spending nearly $4 million in the hopes of defeating Sens. Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly.

* While the president draws attention to his unpopularity for reasons that aren't altogether clear, the latest CBS News poll found Trump with a 38% approval rating. (He insisted over the weekend he's "around 50%.")

* Former Attorney General Eric Holder, helping lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, wasn't kidding about focusing on down-ballot races: he'll be in Wisconsin this week, supporting Rebecca Dallet in a state Supreme Court race. The election is April 3.

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A "Help Wanted" sign is posted in the window of an automotive service shop on March 8, 2013 in El Cerrito, California.

On job numbers, White House spins in wildly unnecessary ways

03/14/18 11:22AM

If you stop by the White House's homepage right now, you'll see a headline at the top of the site that reads, "The Strongest Average Monthly Job Growth in More Than Two Decades." It leads to a piece that makes the case that job growth in January and February -- and only January and February -- has the U.S. on track for the best year since the mid-1990s.

This is not a good argument. Sure, job growth in the first two months of the year was great -- combined, we saw growth of 552,000 jobs -- but no one seriously tries to extrapolate annual results from just two months.

Except Donald Trump and his team, that is.

I'm not unsympathetic to the White House's eagerness to brag about encouraging economic news. What Team Trump shouldn't do, however, is try to spin good data in misleading ways.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for example, told reporters last week, "Jobs are coming in at record numbers." No, actually, they're not. Job growth in Trump's first year, for example, was slower than any year of Barack Obama's second term. We topped 300,000 jobs in February, which is fantastic, but we crossed that same threshold nine times during Obama's presidency. No records are being broken.

As for the 552,000 jobs created in the first two months of 2018, that's excellent news, but it's easy to find even better back-to-back monthly totals in recent years. In June and July of 2016, for example, when Trump first launched his campaign. the U.S. economy created 610,000 jobs in just those two months -- though it didn't stop Trump from telling Americans the economy was terrible.

Indeed, while the truth should be good enough, the Republican president is himself describing the latest job numbers in ways that are plainly and demonstrably dishonest.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during a news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.

Pressed on gun policy shift, White House points at Obama

03/14/18 10:42AM

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump endorsed an ambitious vision for "comprehensive" reforms to the nation's gun laws, including everything from hiking age requirements on long-guns to "powerful" background checks to gun confiscation without prior due process. This week, the White House announced that the president's vision has been dramatically curtailed and moved in an NRA-friendly direction.

At a briefing this week, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "Why he didn't go forward with what he has proposed earlier?" She responded by pointing on the need for congressional support, before changing the subject -- to Barack Obama.

"Let's not forget that the Obama administration had the White House and all of Congress for two years, and never did anything. This president is actually supporting specific pieces of legislation and still laying out other priorities that he would like to see talked about and implemented, whether we have to do that on a state level..."

I realize Team Trump tends to see almost everything through an Obama-centric lens, but this is getting a little silly. The Republican White House is bothered by Democratic inattention to new gun laws in 2010? As if any such measure wouldn't have died at the hands of a GOP filibuster?

But as it turns out, the Trump White House is also taking this argument a step further. The New York Times  reported this week:

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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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