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Trump moves away from the deal he struck with Dems on Dreamers

10/09/17 12:51PM

At the time, it seemed like Donald Trump might have done something important. A week after rescinding the DACA policy that extended protections to nearly 1 million Dreamers, the president appeared to reach an agreement with Congress' top two Democrats -- Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi -- to protect the young immigrants.

Though a variety of details needed to be worked out, Trump and the Democratic leaders appeared to endorse a framework in which the White House accepted DACA protections, while Dems agreed to boost border security. The fight over the border wall, the president said at the time, would "come later."

Almost immediately, Trump received a round of positive press; his approval rating started improving; and there was chatter about his impressive "independent" streak. The president had every incentive to follow through on the agreement he reached with Schumer and Pelosi.

A month later, Trump is nevertheless headed in a regressive direction.

The Trump administration Sunday sent Congress a list of tough immigration reforms it would require to be included in any legislation that would allow immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to remain. The proposals include funding for a southern border wall and are likely to be rebuked by Democrats. [...]

[T]he policies outlined by the White House on Sunday night are likely to push Democrats away from the negotiating table. Some of the toughest proposals include removing protections for unaccompanied minor immigrants, allowing state and local police to investigate immigration status more broadly and limiting visas given to spouses and family members of immigrants who come to the United States to work to curb a pattern referred to as chain migration.

The list of demands also includes money for his proposed border wall, though the list didn't specify how much money the White House expects to see for the project in exchange for DACA protections.

In other words, the terms of a fairly straightforward agreement were reached in September -- a shield for Dreamers in exchange for increased border security measures -- only to see Trump change the terms in October.

If you thought the president was becoming more pragmatic and responsible a month ago, I have some very bad news for you. The White House knows Dems will never accept these terms, which is probably why Trump World made the demands in the first place.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.9.17

10/09/17 12:00PM

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

* In a bit of a surprise, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) announced this morning that she'll seek another term in California next year. At 84, the Democratic senator, first elected in 1992, is currently the chamber's oldest member, and it's not yet clear whether she'll face a primary rival.

* Virginia's gubernatorial election is five weeks from tomorrow, a new Wason Center poll shows Ralph Northam (D) with a seven-point advantage over Ed Gillespie (R), 49% to 42%.

* Over the weekend, Donald Trump's re-election campaign sent a solicitation to donors using the Las Vegas mass shooting as the basis for a pitch.

* On a related note, some House Democrats, including Ohio's Tim Ryan and Minnesota's Tim Walz, have decided to donate previous contributions they received from the NRA to charity.

* And speaking of returned donations, a variety of prominent congressional Democrats are starting to "give charities thousands of dollars in donations they had received from disgraced Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein."

* In New Hampshire, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) announced late last week she won't seek re-election in 2018. Her competitive district is likely to be a hard-fought battleground in the midterms.

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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)

The problem with Donald Trump's interest in 'equal time'

10/09/17 11:20AM

A few weeks ago, the New York Times updated its list of the "people, places, and things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter." At last count, the list was up to 379.

Over the weekend, NBC "Late Night" host Seth Myers apparently became #380 -- at least I think so. The president's missives read as  follows:

"Late Night host are dealing with the Democrats for their very "unfunny" & repetitive material, always anti-Trump! Should we get Equal Time? [...] More and more people are suggesting that Republicans (and me) should be given Equal Time on T.V. when you look at the one-sided coverage?"

The president doesn't write well -- he struggles regularly on things like capitalization and subject-verb agreement -- so it's difficult to know whether he was referring to late-night hosts in general or specifically to "Late Night" host Seth Myers.

Either way, what struck me as interesting is the notion that Trump believes he may be entitled to "equal time" on broadcasts he doesn't like. As Slate noted, "Although no one can say for certain, it seems Trump was referring to the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to present different points of views on controversial issues. But that rule was eliminated by the Federal Communications Commission in 1987."

And in general, Republicans were (and are) delighted by the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, in large part because it helped give rise to several far-right radio hosts, who in turn have shaped Republican politics over the last generation or so.

In fact, all of this reminds me of a funny story from nearly a decade ago.

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Red velvet drapes hang at the back of the courtroom at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, June 20, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Facing the consequences of a Supreme Court ruling on corruption

10/09/17 10:40AM

There are a few too many modern examples of congressional corruption, many of which have put elected lawmakers behind bars, but Louisiana's William Jefferson (D) is particularly memorable. It's not that his misdeeds were more offensive than others', but when a member of Congress hides tens of thousands of dollars in cash in his freezer, it tends to stand out.

As of last week, however, Jefferson is going free. The Times-Picayune  reported:

A federal judge in Virginia has thrown out the most substantial charges against former congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans and ordered "his immediate release" from prison while his new sentence is determined. He is five years into a 13-year term for corruption, but seven of the 10 charges against him have been thrown out on appeal.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of Virginia issued the order Wednesday (Oct. 4) indicating he had thrown out Jefferson's convictions for two counts of soliciting bribes, two counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering.... Jefferson's lawyers exhausted their first avenue of appeal, getting one of his convictions removed, but they renewed their efforts full force following the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling in the United States v. McDonnell.

Ah yes, U.S. v. McDonnell. For those who may have forgotten about this one, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife accepted lavish gifts from a dietary supplement executive, including vacations, trips on a private jet, use of a Ferrari, an engraved gold Rolex, high-end clothing, thousands of dollars in golf equipment, and much, much more. In return, the then-governor used his office to intervene on behalf of his wealthy benefactor.

McDonnell was tried and convicted of 11 criminal counts, but the Supreme Court disagreed with the outcome. In a unanimous ruling, the justices sided with the Virginia Republican and narrowed the scope of federal bribery laws -- focusing on the governor's half of the quid-pro-quo.

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In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Investigation expands into EPA's Scott Pruitt

10/09/17 10:01AM

There was already an investigation underway into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's controversial flights, and as the Washington Post reports, that examination is now broadening.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general acknowledged plans Friday to expand its inquiry into Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel habits, marking the latest Trump Cabinet member to face scrutiny from his own agency for taxpayer-funded trips.

The move came after recent disclosures that Pruitt had taken at least four noncommercial and military flights since mid-February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000 to fly him to various parts of the country, according to records provided to a congressional oversight committee and obtained by The Washington Post.

The initial controversy focused on Pruitt's flights to his home state of Oklahoma -- where, rumor has it, the former state attorney general is eyeing a possible gubernatorial campaign -- between March and May. The newly expanded probe will scrutinize other taxpayer-funded flights the EPA chief through September.

This story comes on the heels of reports that Pruitt holds "back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates -- and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates."

He also made time to chat with officials from the Family Research Council, a right-wing culture-war organization, which at first blush, pushes social issues that are unrelated to the EPA's work. (Media Matters noted that Pruitt's schedule omitted several interviews he did with far-right media outlets.)

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Image: U.S. President Trump tosses rolls of paper towels to people at a hurricane relief distribution center at Calvary Chapel in San Juan

Trump defends 'beautiful, soft towels' he tossed to Puerto Ricans

10/09/17 09:25AM

Donald Trump seemed to enjoy his briefing in Puerto Rico last week, and it's easy to understand why. The president got to host an event where people took turns praising him; he congratulated himself on an "incredible" job well done; and he chided Puerto Rico for interfering with the U.S. budget, before telling locals they didn't suffer a "real catastrophe."

But perhaps the indelible image from Trump's brief visit to the island was watching him lob paper towels to locals as if he were having fun shooting free throws.

As the Toronto Star's Daniel Dale noted, this was a moment the president was eager to defend when he sat down with Mike Huckabee, who now has a new show on a Christian cable network.

U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at the "fake" journalists who criticized him for tossing rolls of paper towel to Puerto Rican hurricane victims.

The paper towels, he said, were beautiful. And soft.

"They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels," Trump said in a conversation that aired Sunday on Christian television network Trinity Broadcasting. "And I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people. And they were screaming and they were loving everything. I was having fun, they were having fun. They said, 'Throw 'em to me! Throw 'em to me, Mr. President!'"

These towels were amazing. Incredible. They were just tremendous. They were quite possibly the paper-towel equivalent of the chocolate cake served at Trump's luxury golf resort in Florida.

And let's not forget, for an island devastated by a hurricane, with residents struggling without electricity or potable water, "beautiful, soft towels" are no doubt in high demand.

We also learned during the interview that Trump believes:

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Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Mike Pence pulls off expensive public-relations stunt at NFL game

10/09/17 08:43AM

Nearly half of Donald Trump's cabinet is under scrutiny for wasteful, taxpayer-financed travel -- a controversy that's already forced one high-profile member of the president's team to resign. With this in mind, it's hard to imagine what the White House was thinking when it planned yesterday's public-relations stunt at an NFL game.

Vice President Mike Pence's decision to walk out of a National Football League game on Sunday when some players knelt during the National Anthem was planned ahead of time, a senior Pence official said Sunday night.

Pence, a former governor of Indiana, flew to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis so he could watch a ceremony honoring Indianapolis Colts legend Peyton Manning. But he left the arena after about 12 members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt on one knee as the anthem played.

Let me get this straight. Pence was in Nevada before he flew to Indianapolis for the Colts game. The vice president, like everyone else, knew in advance that there would be football players on the field engaging in a civil-rights protest, and when Pence saw some athletes take a knee, it apparently hurt his feelings.

He then insisted that this display of protesting racism "disrespects our soldiers" -- I'm still not clear on how that formulation makes sense -- ahead of Pence's plan to fly west again, this time to California.

All of this, by the White House's own admission, was planned in advance. In fact, when Pence arrived at the stadium before the game, reporters were told to stay in the van in anticipation of "an early departure."

Apparently pleased with the efficacy of the stunt, Donald Trump made sure his vice president was seen as little more than a pawn in the White House's latest culture-war skirmish. The president said Pence was simply following Trump's request, adding this morning that the VP's stunt "was long planned."

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Sen. Bob Corker talks with reporters on July 7, 2016 at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Brandon/AP)

GOP's Corker: Trump's White House is an 'adult day care center'

10/09/17 08:00AM

As political food fights go, the back and forth between Donald Trump and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) offers plenty of drama and entertainment. The key question, however, is what, if anything, happens in the wake of the rhetorical jabs.

Tensions between the two Republicans isn't new, but conditions have escalated now that Corker has announced his retirement, freeing him from some constraints. Last week, for example, the GOP senator made the case that members of the president's cabinet are helping prevent the world from slipping into Trump-imposed "chaos."

Over the weekend, the president returned fire, saying Corker "begged" Trump for an endorsement, and decided to retire after Trump refused. The president added that the Tennessee Republican "didn't have the guts" to seek another term.

On Twitter, Corker responded to the latest Trump tantrum by writing, "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning." In an interview with the New York Times, the senator went quite a bit further.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like "a reality show," with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation "on the path to World War III."

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts "like he's doing 'The Apprentice' or something."

"He concerns me," Mr. Corker added. "He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation."

As for the president's assertions that he refused to back Corker's re-election, both the senator and sources close to him insisted to multiple  news  outlets that Trump offered an endorsement and even urged Corker to reconsider after the senator decided to retire.

"I don't know why the president tweets out things that are not true," Corker added. "You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does."

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At the center of 2016's most intense weekend

At the center of 2016's most intense weekend

10/06/17 09:25PM

Jennifer Palmieri and Glen Caplin, former Clinton campaign officials, talk with Rachel Maddow about the day the Trump "grabbing" tape was revealed while the U.S. government announced that Russia was hacking the election and their campaign e-mails were being published to Wikileaks. watch

Friday's Mini-Report, 10.6.17

10/06/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Gulf Coast: "Tropical Storm Nate is winding up to wallop the Gulf Coast this weekend. The latest NBC News forecast has the storm making landfall somewhere on the Mississippi or Alabama coasts sometime around 1 a.m. Sunday, possibly as a Category 1 hurricane."

* The suspect was arrested before obtaining any weapons. "Federal authorities arrested a Canadian man this summer accused of an ISIS-inspired plot to attack music concerts, landmarks and crowded subway in New York City, according to multiple officials familiar with the case."

* I assume I'm not the only one who found this unsettling: "President Trump said late Thursday that a meeting with his military leaders was 'the calm before the storm,' but what he meant by his ominous comment remained unclear, both to the press assembled in the room and to members of his own staff."

* Donald Trump trying to say "Puerto Rico" in an affected Spanish accent, more than once, was unwise.

* Clearing a hurdle: "House Republicans passed crucial budget legislation Thursday, setting aside months of intraparty squabbles to set the stage for an ambitious tax-overhaul bill they are planning to pass without Democratic help."

* There's a reason Republicans are desperate to radicalize the courts: "The rapid-fire push by the Trump administration to wipe out significant chunks of the Obama environmental legacy is running into a not-so-minor complication: Judges keep ruling that the Trump team is violating federal law."

* I guess the use of the word "moron" touched a nerve: "John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, abruptly scrapped plans to travel with President Donald Trump on Wednesday so he could try to contain his boss's fury and manage the fallout from new revelations about tensions between the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to six senior administration officials."

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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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