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(L to R) President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, Nov. 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, N.J. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Defense Secretary reportedly ignored Trump request for Iran options

02/09/18 08:41AM

When Donald Trump's presidency was just getting started, the new president seemed eager to receive advice from James Mattis, the retired general who now serves as the Defense secretary. That did not, however, last very long.

Mattis urged the president not to move the U.S. embassy in Israel, and Trump ignored him. Mattis explained to the president that the international nuclear agreement with Iran was the basis for regional stability, and Trump ignored him again. Mattis spent weeks lobbying behind the scenes to help shape the president's June address to NATO leaders, and Trump "deleted" the language the Pentagon chief helped write.

But as it turns out, the Defense secretary occasionally ignores the White House, too. The Washington Post published an interesting profile on Mattis this week, which included an amazing anecdote.

For weeks, Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels.

"Why can't we sink them?" Trump would sometimes ask about the boats.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president's request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused, according to several U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.

"In the weeks that followed," the article added, "the options never arrived."

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Image: Rand Paul

A 'remarkably stupid' government shutdown wraps up quickly

02/09/18 08:00AM

Millions of Americans probably went to bed last night, not realizing that their federal government was poised to shut down. Those same Americans may also be surprised this morning to learn that the shutdown began and ended quite quickly.

Indeed, while we generally measure shutdowns in days and weeks, this one lasted hours.

After a temporary lapse in government funding that lasted through the night, the House passed a pricey two-year spending deal early Friday that will also fund the government for an additional six weeks.

The government temporarily closed after Congress failed to pass a government funding bill before a midnight deadline due to the objections of one senator, shutting down non-essential government services.

Around 1:30 a.m. (E.T) this morning, the Senate voted 71 to 28 to pass its spending bill, and roughly fours later, the House followed suit, voting 240 to 186.

At issue was a $400 billion bipartisan package, funding federal operations through next year -- this is the agreement Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) worked out earlier this week -- but that bill is a broad blueprint, the details of which still need work.

With that in mind, the bill that passed this morning to end the shutdown is another stopgap spending measure -- a "continuing resolution" (or C.R.) -- giving lawmakers until March 23 to finalize the specifics of their two-year plan.

And why, pray tell, couldn't Congress pass this before last night's midnight deadline? Because of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 2.8.18

02/08/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Still waiting for those Trump tweets: "The Dow plunged more than 1,000 points just before the final bell clanged Thursday. It represented a full market correction, defined as a 10 percent drop from its 52-week high. The S&P 500 also dropped 3.7 percent to a new low for the week."

* Everything they said for years was a lie: "Republicans are pouring government stimulus into a steadily strengthening economy, adding economic fuel at a moment when unemployment is at a 16-year low and wages are beginning to rise, a combination that is stoking fears of higher inflation and ballooning budget deficits."

* He's quite a congressman: "House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has weighed whether it would be possible to bring Chief Justice John Roberts to 'testify' before Congress as part of his investigation into political malfeasance at the Department of Justice."

* Trump says a lot of things that aren't true: "A range of data shows Trump's crackdown on MS-13 has had a discernible impact. But there's nothing showing that 'thousands and thousands' of the gang's members have been deported or imprisoned since the president took office."

* His Ex-Im Bank nomination failed, and this is apparently the fallback gig: "Scott Garrett, a former Republican lawmaker known for criticizing what he considered government overreach by Wall Street regulators, has landed a senior role at the Securities and Exchange Commission."

* The war on science continues: "The political fight over global warming has extended to science education in recent years as several states have attempted to weaken or block new teaching standards that included information about climate science. But only in Idaho has the state legislature stripped all mentions of human-caused climate change from statewide science guidelines while leaving the rest of the standards intact."

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Image: House Votes On Trump's American Health Care Act

House Intel Committee reportedly planning to 'construct a wall'

02/08/18 12:40PM

Under the "leadership" of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee has seen its reputation falter badly. The chairman has repeatedly embarrassed himself with his partisan antics, and House Democrats have taken the unusual step of imploring Republican leaders to replace Nunes on the panel with a more responsible lawmaker.

But to assume conditions can't get worse would be a mistake. CBS News had this unexpected report this morning:

In a sign of increasing partisan hostilities, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee plan to construct a wall -- a physical partition -- separating Republican and Democratic staff members in the committee's secure spaces, according to multiple committee sources. It's expected to happen this spring.

For now, some Republican committee members deny knowing anything about it, while strongly suggesting the division is the brainchild of the committee's chairman, Devin Nunes, R-California.

"I'm not part of that decision," said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas. "You've got to talk to Devin. I don't know what they're trying to do one way or the other."

It's worth emphasizing that CBS News' report hasn't been independently confirmed by NBC News or MSNBC.

That said, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the panel, suggested he's at least heard about the partition plan. "We have heard reports that the chairman may seek to erect a 'wall' to divide the staff of the intelligence committee on a partisan basis -- this would be a terrible mistake," Schiff said. "While we have more than our share of difficulties, the important oversight work of the committee continues with our staff working together irrespective of party. This would be a very destructive decision."

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.8.18

02/08/18 12:00PM

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

* In Quinnipiac's new national poll, Democrats lead Republicans on the generic congressional ballot, 49% to 40%. That nine-point margin is down a bit from the 13-point lead Dems had in the same poll a few weeks ago.

* DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) will tell his House Democratic colleagues today that the party will contest all but 12 of the 238 districts currently held by Republicans.

* Former Vice President Joe Biden, reportedly weighing a 2020 presidential bid, addressed the House Democratic retreat yesterday, and by all accounts, he received a warm welcome.

* Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, told NBC News yesterday she believes Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election.

* The Public Policy Institute of California released a new poll this week, which found Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) as the top candidates in this year's gubernatorial race. The same survey showed Sen. Dianne Feinstein with a sizable lead over her Democratic rival, Kevin de Leon, 46% to 17%.

* Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), rumored to be interested in running for his old job again, announced this week that he's stepping down as head of the Financial Services Roundtable. In the wake of his failed presidential 2012 campaign, Pawlenty became a leading advocate for Wall Street's biggest and most powerful banks -- which probably isn't a great launching pad for a statewide campaign in Minnesota.

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Casino mogul Steve Wynn during a news conference in Medford, Mass., Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

As Wynn parts ways with his company, the RNC keeps his donations

02/08/18 11:20AM

It's been nearly two weeks since billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn, facing misconduct allegations, resigned as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. This week, as NBC News reported, he's also parted ways with the company he helped create.

Billionaire casino magnate Steve Wynn stepped down as CEO of Wynn Resorts, the company said Tuesday.

Wynn, who has donated millions to the Republican Party, was accused of sexual misconduct by several people who have worked at his Las Vegas casinos, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal in late January. The article detailed a pattern of behavior that spans decades and included accusations by employees that they were coerced by him to perform sex acts.

This would ordinarily be the point at which the RNC announces that it's giving up the money it received from Wynn, but that's apparently not the case.

A Wall Street Journal reporter noted yesterday that an RNC spokesperson said Wynn stepping down as his company's CEO "doesn't change" the party's position on keeping his contributions.

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Image: Donald Trump

Even some Trump allies aren't on board with his military parade

02/08/18 10:51AM

Donald Trump reportedly wanted to include military vehicles in his inaugural parade last year. He didn't get them, of course, but the Republican president hasn't given up his dream: we learned this week that Trump has directed the Pentagon to prepare for a military parade in D.C., which he reportedly wants to proceed along Pennsylvania Avenue.

I assumed that Republicans would endorse the idea simply as a matter of partisan loyalty, so it came as a nice surprise when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested such a display would be "a sign of weakness." Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) was thinking along the same lines.

"I don't think it's a particularly good idea. Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud," he told ABC News.

"When you're the most powerful nation in all of human history, you don't have to show it off, like Russia does, and North Korea, and China," Kennedy continued. "And we are the most powerful nation in all of human history. Everyone knows that, and there's no need to broadcast it. I think we would show our confidence by remaining silent, and not doing something like that."

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) told CNN, "I don't believe we should have tanks or nuclear weapons going down Pennsylvania Avenue."

That is, of course, the appropriate reaction. And yet, Defense Secretary James Mattis yesterday did his best to explain the rationale behind the event.

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

Rob Porter controversy is 'going to be hard to explain away'

02/08/18 10:04AM

At first blush, yesterday's developments at the White House may have seemed relatively straightforward. Staff secretary Rob Porter, facing allegations that he was physically abusive toward both of his ex-wives, announced his resignation, even while insisting the claims are untrue.

But if you watched last night's show, you know there's more to this one. Indeed, Rachel explained that this is a story that's "going to be hard to explain away."

In his capacity as the staff secretary in the West Wing, Porter was an Oval Office gatekeeper, responsible for, among thing, screening every document that reached the president's desk. That meant Porter needed a security clearance, which required an FBI background check.

The Washington Post  reported that the FBI spoke to both of his ex-wives, Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby, who relayed their alleged experiences with Porter.

Willoughby and Holderness said they talked to the FBI about Porter twice last year, once in late January and then again months later. Willoughby provided the contact information for the FBI agent she spoke with, who declined to comment when reached Wednesday. Holderness said that when the FBI asked her whether Porter was vulnerable to blackmail, she answered affirmatively, because of the number of people aware of his abusive behavior.

"I thought by sharing my story with the FBI he wouldn't be put in that post," Holderness said.

But he was given the job anyway, despite apparent delays in his security clearance. Whether Porter had direct access to sensitive Oval Office materials is not yet clear and is one of the unanswered questions surrounding the controversy.

But it's not the only one.

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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)

Trump's EPA chief talks up benefits of climate crisis

02/08/18 09:20AM

In October 2007, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the then-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was poised to testify before a Senate panel on the impact of climate change on public health. The Bush/Cheney White House, however, intervened, "eviscerating" Gerberding's draft testimony before lawmakers could see it.

When reporters asked then-White House Press Secretary Dana Perino for an explanation, she said, in her best passive voice, "[T]he decision was made on behalf of CDC to focus that testimony on public health benefits" associated with global warming. Perino added at the time, "There are public health benefits to climate change."

More than a decade later, Republicans are still trying to make the case that we should try to focus on the silver linings of a planetary disaster. E&E News reported yesterday:

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt questioned yesterday if rising global temperatures are harmful to humans, a claim that adds new insight to his alternative views on climate change.

In an interview with KSNV television in Nevada, Pruitt suggested that global warming could be seen as a good thing for people. He said civilizations tend to flourish when it's warm.

"I think there's assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing," Pruitt said.

"Is it an existential threat, is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have?" Donald Trump's EPA chief added. "We know that humans have most flourished during times of, what, warming trends?"

Jon Chait was understandably unimpressed: "This is an old and not very well-reasoned talking point by people who want to continue unregulated carbon pollution.... Drastic, severe changes in the temperature of the oceans and air will lead to extinctions, famines, and disease, not to mention the abandonment of coastal cities, of which many humans have grown rather fond."

And while that's certainly true, I wonder if Pruitt's absurd posture might offer hints of possible hope.

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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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