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Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore speaks to the congregation of Kimberly Church of God, June 28, 2015, in Kimberley, Ala. (Photo by Butch Dill/AP)

Roy Moore becomes the latest Alabama Republican to fall

04/20/17 08:41AM

When it comes to the state's elected leaders, it's been a rough 10 months for Alabama. In June, Mike Hubbard (R), the state's former House Speaker, was forced to resign in disgrace after being convicted of multiple felonies. Last month, Robert Bentley (R), the state's then current governor, was forced to resign as part of a plea agreement in the wake of his sex/corruption scandal.

And then there's state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore (R). The Alabama Media Group reported yesterday:
The Alabama Supreme Court today upheld the decision that removed Roy Moore from his position as chief justice. [...]

Moore can't appeal the ruling to the federal courts because there are no federal issues. "This is it," he said.
Moore's term on the state bench wasn't up until 2019, but the suspension is effective immediately, and it has the effect of ending his judicial career. Because of his age, AL.com's report added, "he cannot run for the office again."

In case anyone needs a refresher on how we reached this point, let's recap. Last year, Moore, in his official capacity, ordered Alabama’s probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. The federal courts, not surprisingly, were not amused by Moore’s “creative” approach to American jurisprudence.

And neither was Alabama’s Judicial Inquiry Commission, which accused Moore of having “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority” – a charge that appears to coincide nicely with reality. Moore responded to the accusations by continuing to argue that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages is still state law, because as far as he’s concerned, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t count.

If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because Moore, a cause celebre for many on the far-right fringe, has been kicked off the bench once before for official misconduct.
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Image: US President Donald J. Trump and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel joint press conference

Following aircraft carrier fiasco, Trump alienates another ally

04/20/17 08:00AM

Vice President Mike Pence has visited several Asia-Pacific countries in recent days, hoping to solidify U.S. relationships in the region, and his trip included some time at the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea. The Washington Post reported that the vice president wasn't scheduled to go outside a South Korean building at the DMZ, but he said he wanted to make a point.

"I thought it was important that we went outside," Pence told the Post. "I thought it was important that people on the other side of the DMZ see our resolve in my face."

I'm not at all sure what that's supposed to mean. Does the vice president seriously believe that North Koreans, looking through binoculars and telescopes, would see his steely gaze and adopt a new posture, intimidated by Pence's face?

As a rule, that's not how foreign policy works. On the contrary, foreign countries recognize "resolve" when they see the United States following through on its commitments -- which is why it's a bit of a problem that Donald Trump and top members of his team told the world an aircraft carrier and its support ships -- the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group -- were headed towards the Korean peninsula, when in reality, they were not.

The New York Times reports that U.S. allies in South Korea, who assumed the White House was telling the truth, are not pleased.
When news broke less than two weeks ago that the Trump administration was sending the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson to the Korean Peninsula, many South Koreans feared a war with North Korea. Others cheered for Washington, calling the deployment a powerful symbol of its commitment to deterring the North.

On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country's most important ally. [...]

Compounding their anger over the Carl Vinson episode, many South Koreans were also riled at Mr. Trump for his assertion in a Wall Street Journal interview last week that the Korean Peninsula "used to be a part of China." Although Korea was often invaded by China and forced to pay tributes to its giant neighbor, many Koreans say the notion that they were once Chinese subjects is egregiously insulting.
An Associated Press report added this morning, "Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous. Many South Koreans are using those words to describe the president of their most important ally, rather than the leader of their archrival to the North."
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 4.19.17

04/19/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Prepare a back-up plan: "Top generals have been insisting for years that if North Korea launched a missile at the United States, the U.S. military would be able to shoot it down. But that is a highly questionable assertion, according to independent scientists and government investigators."

* The story at the intersection of other stories: "Exxon Mobil is pursuing a waiver from Treasury Department sanctions on Russia so it may drill in the Black Sea in a venture with the Russian state oil company Rosneft, a former State Department official said Wednesday. An oil industry official confirmed the account."

* He was rewarded with a seat on the dais, which is unheard of for a donor: "Sheldon G. Adelson, the casino magnate and stalwart Republican donor, gave $5 million to support the festivities surrounding President Trump's inauguration, according to federal election filings."

Interesting case: "Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed sympathetic to a Missouri church that claimed its exclusion from a state playground improvement program was a violation of constitutional rights."

* Occasional criticism shouldn't bother him quite this much: "Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly offered a sharp rebuttal to critics of his department on Tuesday, challenging lawmakers who dislike its approach to immigration enforcement to change the law or 'shut up.'"

This guys later said he meant "no disrespect," which only made this more ridiculous: "Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles dropped the n-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation Monday night -- after calling one of them a 'f**king a**hole,' a 'b***h' and a 'girl,' the two senators said."
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White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017.

Sean Spicer's newest trick: debating the meaning of the word 'is'

04/19/17 04:42PM

Donald Trump's White House has already struggled with tough questions about its credibility, but yesterday brought a rather brutal turn of events. Press Secretary Sean Spicer's efforts to clean up the mess aren't going well.

Let's quickly review. Last week, Donald Trump said he's "sending an armada" to the Korean peninsula, in response to rising tensions with North Korea. He wasn't alone: Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Sean Spicer all said publicly, over the course of a few days, that the United States had dispatched an aircraft carrier and its support ships -- the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group -- to head towards the Korean peninsula.

That didn't happen. The USS Carl Vinson was actually 3,000 miles away, headed in the opposite direction. This raised a variety of questions, including some obvious ones: did the Trump administration simply lie? Was the aircraft carrier supposed to head towards North Korea but fail to do so? Did the Trump administration lose track of this aircraft carrier strike group?

Today, after having a chance to think about it, Spicer rolled out his best defense. The Huffington Post reported:
Spicer ... denied that Trump misspoke when he talked about the ships. "The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact, it happened," Spicer said.

But then Spicer corrected himself, noting that it had not in fact happened. "It is happening, rather," he said.
Oh dear, we're headed into a debate over the meaning of "is."
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Image: Vienna

Trump's newest foreign policy challenge: the Iran deal is working

04/19/17 12:57PM

Donald Trump may not know what the international nuclear agreement with Iran is or what it does, but he knows he hates it. The Republican has called the deal "terrible" and "horrible." As a candidate, Trump declared, "My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran."

Just one month into his candidacy, he said the Iran deal "poses a direct national security threat." Two weeks later, Trump added that the international agreement "will go down as one of the dumbest [and] most dangerous misjudgments ever entered into in [the] history of our country." After wrapping up the GOP nomination, he went so far as to say the deal is likely to "lead to nuclear holocaust."

It therefore must have been terribly disappointing for the Trump administration to declare that the dreaded deal is ... working.
The Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and says the U.S. has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.
Oh. That's probably not quite what Trump expected to say about the agreement he loves to hate.
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.19.17

04/19/17 12:00PM

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

* In a surprise move, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has decided not to seek re-election next year, and he won't run for any other office in 2018. It's the first big retirement announcement of this Congress.

* As Rachel noted on the show last night, Alabama's U.S. Senate special election will be held this year, instead of next year as originally scheduled. That's not good news for  Sen. Luther Strange (R), whose ties to former Gov. Robert Bentley (R), who appointed Strange to the post, are likely to be a problem.

* On a related note, AL.com reported last night, "Rep. Ed Henry, the lawmaker who launched the move to impeach former Gov. Robert Bentley last year, announced today he will run for the U.S. Senate." It's a safe bet Henry won't be the last Republican to enter the primary.

* The Virginia Republican Party has scheduled a big fundraiser for next month, which wouldn't ordinarily be especially notable except in this case, (a) the featured speaker is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer; and (b) the event will be held at a Trump-owned property.

* The latest national poll from the Pew Research Center shows Trump with a 39% approval rating, which appears to be taking a toll on support for Republicans overall.

* The far-right 45Committee, financed in large part by Sheldon Adelson and the wealthy Ricketts family, is apparently starting a feud with the far-right Club for Growth, using Georgia's congressional special election as a proxy fight.

* In Missouri, where Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is likely to be a key Republican target, Majority Forward, the non-profit tied to the Democratic Senate leadership's Senate Majority PAC, is investing $500,000 in new radio ads in support of the incumbent senator.
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Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Prominent GOP senator expresses concern over Trump's 'flaws'

04/19/17 11:36AM

Three months into Donald Trump's presidency, congressional Republicans tend to offer their public support for the White House in practically every instance, which makes it all the more interesting to find exceptions. TPM reported yesterday:
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) on Tuesday said she wishes President Donald Trump "would spend more time in Washington, D.C." and host state leaders there rather than at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

An audience member at a town hall in Wall Lake, Iowa, asked Ernst about Trump's "weekends in Florida, costing us $3 million-plus in 100 days." [...]

"I agree with you," Ernst said. "I do wish that he would spend more time in Washington, D.C." Ernst said she has "had the same concerns."
She added that this has been "bothering not just me but some other members" of the Senate Republican caucus. Ernst told the audience, "We would love to see more of those State Department visits in Washington, D.C. I think it's smart that he does business in Washington, D.C. That's what we have the White House for."

Asked at the same event of accusations surrounding the president's mistreatment of women, the Iowa Republican said, "I think that we have a president that has a number of flaws."

This comes on the heels of Ernst calling on Trump to release his tax returns.
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A US Department of Justice seal is displayed on a podium during a news conference on Dec. 11, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty)

Trump admin pursues law-enforcement goals without U.S. attorneys

04/19/17 10:40AM

It's been more than a month since Donald Trump fired dozens of U.S. Attorneys, without having others lined up to take their place. As the Washington Post reports, the White House still hasn't even tried to fill those prosecutorial vacancies.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants and "use every tool" they have to go after violent criminals and drug traffickers.

But the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country. Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations immediately -- and none of them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced.
For those who may need a refresher, let's recap how we got to this point. On Friday, March 10, 46 Obama-era federal prosecutors were told to submit their resignations and clean out their offices before close of business. These federal prosecutors weren't given advance notice or any kind of explanation.

To be sure, they knew this was a possible outcome -- they were appointed by a Democratic president who was no longer in office -- but these U.S. attorneys had been working under the Trump administration for nearly two months, overseeing a series of ongoing federal cases. At least one of these prosecutors, New York's Preet Bharara, was specifically told he could keep his job, before the White House ousted him.

At the time, we knew Trump had no one lined up to take these U.S. attorneys' place. What we didn't know is that the president still wouldn't have new prosecutors in place nearly six weeks later.
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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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