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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he leads the news media at the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, March 21, 2016. (Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Team Trump defends his ongoing reality-show work

12/09/16 11:20AM

Before entering politics, Donald Trump was known for several things: his work in real estate, his role in pushing a racist conspiracy theory, his work in professional wrestling, his ghostwritten best-sellers, and of course, his NBC reality show in which Trump appeared once a week to fire people.

As Rachel noted last night, on that last part of Trump's background, it appears the president-elect isn't ready to let go just yet. NBC News reported:
President-elect Donald Trump will remain an executive producer on the reality television show "The Apprentice" even after takes office next month, and could continue earning a profit from the show, it was revealed on Thursday.

His involvement was confirmed by a representative for MGM, the company that owns the show -- which is broadcast on NBC -- and Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email that "Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett."
Trump apparently won't be in front of the camera, but Variety reports the president-elect will likely receive a "per-episode fee," valued in "the low five-figures, at a minimum."

It's unclear if Trump intends to give that money to charity, though it's worth noting for context that in recent years, Trump's "Apprentice"-related charitable claims proved to be untrue.

By way of a defense, I expected the president-elect's team to say that Trump's role as an executive producer would largely be a formality: his name would appear in the credits, and he might get a check, but Americans shouldn't expect Trump to do any real work associated with the reality show.

Except, that's not what Team Trump is saying.
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In this Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, a voter holds their voting permit and ID card at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon, Va. Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S....

Michigan Republicans can't make up their minds about voter fraud

12/09/16 10:47AM

When Donald Trump recently got caught lying about voter fraud, it led to speculation about why he'd push an obvious falsehood. The obvious reason was that the president-elect was embarrassed by how badly he lost the popular vote and needed some kind of excuse, no matter how ridiculous, to soothe his ego.

But the less-obvious reason fits into a larger pattern: usually when Republicans lie about voter fraud, it's because they're planning to impose new voting restrictions intended to tilt the political playing field in their direction.

And with that in mind, The Nation's Ari Berman explained yesterday:
Less than a month after Donald Trump unexpectedly carried Michigan by 10,000 votes, Republicans in the state legislature are already pushing to make it harder to vote. The presidential recount hasn't even finished yet and Michigan Republicans are trying to pass a strict voter-ID law through the lame-duck legislative session before the end of this year. [...]

Already, Trump's discredited lie that "millions" voted illegally in 2016 seems to be impacting Republican actions. "A multitude of candidates have raised the concerns about the integrity of elections," said GOP Representative Lisa Lyons, who sponsored the bill. "We need to respond to those questions. We are going to make sure that we're protecting you -- all voters -- and the integrity of the election."
But those raising "concerns" and "questions" are mistaken: neither Lyons nor any of her Republican colleagues have offered any proof of any voter fraud in the state. Not to put too fine a point on this, but legislators aren't supposed to pass legislation on the basis of ignorance, discredited urban legends, and demonstrable lies from the likes of Donald Trump.

Making matters much worse, when the Green Party's presidential nominee, Jill Stein, sought a recount in Michigan, Republicans in the state immediately balked and demanded the courts block the process -- there was no fraud in the state, GOP officials declared, so there's no point in a recount.

Trump's lawyers made this argument explicitly in its legal filings against the recount in Michigan.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks off his plane at a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sept. 17, 2016. (Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

Trump-owned businesses received millions from Trump's campaign

12/09/16 10:20AM

In 2000, when Donald Trump was openly discussing the possibility of a White House campaign, he made a curious boast: "It's very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it."

Sixteen years later, it's not at all clear he was kidding.

In June, Rachel noted on the show that Trump was spending a striking amount of his campaign resources on Trump corporate products and services. As it turns out, this only intensified as the campaign progressed: NBC News reports this morning that Trump's political enterprise ended up spending $3 million on Trump's other enterprises in the election cycle's closing weeks.
The billionaire real-estate mogul donated $10 million to his campaign in the lead up to the election.... Much of that went back into his and his family's pockets, however, as Trump frequently used his own businesses and properties to host campaign events, provide lodging, transportation and even meals at various points throughout the campaign.

During the home stretch and the three weeks after Nov. 8, the campaign committee spent $2 million on his airline TAG Air to pay for the 737 he used to campaign across the country, and nearly $54,000 at various Trump restaurants. Other payments included more than $236,000 to his hotel in Las Vegas, where he stayed for two nights during the third presidential debate at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Trump's campaign also generated some revenue for his children. Trump's son, Eric Trump's wine manufacturing company, received $21,164 worth of payments.
Remember, Trump spent months insisting without evidence that Hillary Clinton was somehow "corrupt," but it was the Republican's operation that resembled an elaborate shell game.
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People rally in support of a $15 minimum wage at Seattle Central Community College in Seattle, Washington March 15, 2014.

Seattle's minimum-wage experiment offers encouaraging results

12/09/16 09:26AM

When Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, the right predicted an economic disaster for the city. The predictions were entirely in line with what Republican policymakers say anytime the subject comes up anywhere: raising the cost of labor will lead employers to hire fewer workers, which has the effect of pushing unemployment higher.

Bloomberg View's Barry Ritholtz published a piece this week taking a look at how those predictions are holding up in Seattle's case study.
As one of my colleagues wrote last week, the “unemployment rate in the city of Seattle – the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments – has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%.” Meanwhile, a University of Washington study on the minimum wage law found little or no evidence of job losses or business closings.

Although you can never declare a game over until the final whistle, this experiment is starting to look like a rout.
In June 2014, local officials approved the $15 minimum wage, to be phased in over several years, and at the time, the city's unemployment rate was 5.4%. The law first took effect in April 2015, when Seattle's unemployment rate was 4.3%. As of last month, after the wage hike, the city's unemployment rate was down to 3.4%.

There are a couple of relevant caveats to keep in mind. For one thing, Seattle's minimum wage has gone up each of the last two years, but it's not yet at $15 an hour. Depending on the size of the business, it's currently between $10.50 and $13 -- well above the federal floor, but not yet at its destination. For another, local economies can vary quite a bit for all sorts of reasons, and Seattle's successes may or may not be easily duplicated elsewhere.

But in this experiment, the right's predictions were plainly wrong. The question then becomes what conservatives will learn from this case study.
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Republican nominee Donald Trump is seen during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/AFP/Getty)

As Trump skips intel briefings, questions intensify

12/09/16 08:41AM

One of the more surprising aspects of Donald Trump's transition period is his habit of skipping intelligence briefings. Immediately after the election, President Obama ordered national security officials to give Trump and Mike Pence access to the same information he receives daily, so that they're up to speed and fully prepared when they take office in January.

But as NBC News and the Washington Post reported, a team of intelligence analysts "has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump," but the Republican president-elect has generally blown them off. As of earlier this week, Trump had reportedly only received four of these briefings -- for an average of one per week -- since Election Day.

That's consistent with a new Reuters report on the matter,
President-elect Donald Trump is receiving an average of one presidential intelligence briefing a week, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter, far fewer than most of his recent predecessors.

Although they are not required to, presidents-elect have in the past generally welcomed the opportunity to receive the President's Daily Brief (PDB), the most highly classified and closely held document in the government, on a regular basis.

It was not immediately clear why Trump has decided not to receive the intelligence briefings available to President Barack Obama more frequently, or whether that has made any difference in his presidential preparations.
This hasn't gone unnoticed. In a USA Today op-ed yesterday, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking members on the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, respectively, noted they find it "particularly troubling" that the president-elect "has mostly declined to take the daily intelligence briefing" -- breaking with what other presidents-elect have done for decades.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta added this week that "one of the concerns I have right now is that this president is not getting his intelligence briefings."
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Trump, his supporters, and the persistence of the 'reality gap'

12/09/16 08:00AM

With Election Day having come and gone, the political world's obsessive interest in polling has largely dissipated, and for good reason: we no longer need to comb through data in the hopes of figuring out who's going to win.

But that doesn't mean survey results are suddenly unimportant. It matters, for example, that Donald Trump's presidential honeymoon is over before it starts, with a new report from the Pew Research Center showing the Republican headed into Inauguration Day with strikingly weak public support. Similarly, new results from Public Policy Polling, which Rachel noted on the show last night in an exclusive sneak-peak, found a majority of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the president-elect.

For all the Republican talk about Trump having a "mandate" as a result of his "landslide" victory, the fact remains that Trump, who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, is not held in high regard. The Pew data found most of the country still considers him ill-qualified, reckless, hard to like, and lacking in sound judgment.

To think Trump will take the White House with the American mainstream on his side, with the electorate rallying behind his vision and agenda, is plainly ridiculous.

But what struck me as especially notable about the new survey results is the persistence of the so-called "reality gap."

* Unemployment: Under President Obama, job growth has been quite strong, and the unemployment rate has improved dramatically. PPP, however, found that 67% of Trump voters believe the unemployment rate went up under Obama -- which is the exact opposite of reality.

* Stock Market: Since the president was elected, the stock market has soared, nearly tripling since the height of the Great Recession. PPP found that 39% of Trump voters believe the market has gone down under Obama -- which is also the exact opposite of reality.
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Thursday's Mini-Report, 12.8.16

12/08/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The madness is out of control: "A Florida woman who said the Sandy Hook massacre of 26 people -- including 20 children -- was a hoax has been indicted for making death threats to one of the shooting victim's parents, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday."

* Dylann Roof's trial began today in South Carolina: "Faced with perhaps his only chance to persuade the jury to spare Mr. Roof's life, the lawyer, David I. Bruck, used his opening statement to concede Mr. Roof's guilt and suggest doubts about his stability."

* A stunning statistic: "Opioid deaths continued to surge in 2015, surpassing 30,000 for the first time in recent history, according to CDC data released Thursday. That marks an increase of nearly 5,000 deaths from 2014. Deaths involving powerful synthetic opiates, like fentanyl, rose by nearly 75 percent from 2014 to 2015."

* President Obama said this week that during his tenure, "no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland." The right may not like it, but that's true.

* Keep expectations low: "In an interview with Time magazine ... [Donald Trump] didn't go into specifics but signaled that he could find a way to accommodate the Dreamers." He specifically said, "We're going to work something out that's going to make people happy and proud," though no one knows what that means.

* National Center for Health Statistics: "For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year -- a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States.... In all, death rates rose for eight of the top 10 leading causes of death."

* I've received a few emails about this: "Some on the left are still circulating theories about how to prevent their emerging Supreme Court nightmare by somehow shoehorning Garland into the nation's top court."
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Demonstrators prepare signs supporting the raising of the federal minimum wage during May Day demonstrations in New York, N.Y., on May 1, 2014. (Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Trump eyes the 'worst-case scenario' for the Labor Department

12/08/16 04:35PM

Last week, The American Prospect had a report on the "Fight for 15" campaign, committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the challenges facing the national initiative. Looking ahead to Donald Trump's Labor Secretary nominee, the article added, "Perhaps the worst-case scenario for low-wage workers would be Andy Puzder."

Take a wild guess who's apparently getting the gig.
President-elect Donald J. Trump is expected to name Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that operates the fast food outlets Hardee's and Carl's Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor, people close to the transition said on Thursday.

Mr. Puzder has spent his career in the private sector and has opposed efforts to expand eligibility for overtime pay, while arguing that large minimum wage increases hurt small businesses and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers.
Note, while several news organizations have said Puzder is Trump's choice for the Labor Department, this has not yet been confirmed by NBC News. [Update: It's now official; Puzder will be nominated.]

That said, if the reports are accurate, and Senate Republicans confirm the selection, Puzder would join a long and growing list of Trump's team members who have no background in elected office and no governing experience whatsoever. The list already included Steven Mnuchin (Treasury), Ben Carson (HUD), Betsy DeVos (Education), Wilbur Ross (Commerce), and Stephen Bannon (White House strategist).

As it turns out, Puzder is also the latest in a series of multimillionaires and Republican donors to receive a cabinet slot from Trump.

But the most glaring problem with this selection is that Trump's preferred Labor Secretary is deeply hostile towards practically every proposal that would benefit working people. From the aforementioned American Prospect piece:
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt departs after a meeting with U.S. President elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower New York, N.Y., on Nov. 28, 2016. (Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Trump nominees at odds with the agencies they'll soon lead

12/08/16 12:49PM

In March 2005, then-President George W. Bush, feeling emboldened after winning re-election, made a provocative move: he nominated John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. This enraged congressional Democrats -- along with many diplomats from allied countries -- not just because of Bolton's far-right ideology, but because of his overt hostility towards the institution where he'd soon work.

Bolton, after all, was on record saying that "if the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference" and that "there's no such thing as the United Nations." For Bolton's critics, the principle seemed fairly obvious: if someone opposes the core mission of an institution, and is skeptical about the institution's existence, they probably shouldn't work there.

More than a decade later, we're seeing the same dynamic play out on a much broader scale. For example, Donald Trump announced his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday, and the president-elect chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), who is effectively a caricature of a ridiculous EPA nominee.

But aside from his hand-in-glove relationship with the oil industry, note Pruitt's Bolton-esque problem when it comes to the EPA. As Rachel noted on the show last night:
"If you were not really sure about what he thinks about the EPA, which the Trump administration is going to put him in charge of, this is a line out of his official state bio. [Pruitt] brags, 'Scott Pruitt is a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda.'

"A leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda. He will now be in charge of the EPA's activist agenda. You kind of have to admire the gumption on this one."
So the good news is, Trump's nominee is neither a billionaire nor an amateur with no background in public service. The bad news is, Pruitt fundamentally rejects the work of the department he'll soon lead.

And while that's as disheartening as it is bizarre, this keeps happening.
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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.8.16

12/08/16 12:00PM

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

* Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-Minn.) bid to become the next DNC chairman received a big boost this morning with an endorsement from the AFL-CIO.

* And speaking of the national party committees, the RNC has chosen the venue for its holiday party this year. That wouldn't ordinarily be notable, except Republican officials have decided to rent space in the newly renovated Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

* On the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Newt Gingrich thought it'd be a good idea to praise the Japanese for having "displayed professional brilliance and technological power launching surprises from Hawaii to the Philippines."

* Following up on a heated dispute during a post-election forum last week, Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post today. Among other things, Palmieri argued, "I don't know whether the Trump campaign needed to give a platform to white supremacists to win. But the campaign clearly did, and it had the effect of empowering the white-nationalist movement."

* It looks like the recount in Michigan is ending: "After two days of ballot counting, conflicting court decisions and legal wranglings between frustrated lawyers, a federal judge on Wednesday halted the hand recount of 4.8 million ballots cast for president in Michigan, concluding there's no real evidence of foul play and there's no valid reason to continue the recount."

* Glenn R. Davis Jr., a Republican delegate in Virginia, kicked off his campaign for lieutenant governor the other day, saying in a written statement, "Donald Trump isn't a lawyer and he isn't an insurance salesman. He's a job creator, and so am I." Trump lost Virginia this year by four percentage points.
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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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