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Trump's magic words: 'A lot of people don't know that'

07/13/17 04:17PM

The presidential learning curve has been steep at times for Donald Trump, America's first amateur leader. We've all been witness to the president learning things that many of us have known for quite a while.

This awkward process of discovery has, however, produced a phrase of underappreciated beauty: "A lot of people don't know that." These seven words are Trump's way of saying, "I just learned something new, and I'm going to assume others are as ignorant as I am."

Today, for example, Trump held a joint press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, where the U.S. president declared, "France is America's first and oldest ally. A lot of people don't know that." If you watch the brief clip, you'll note that the first sentence was part of the prepared text, but the second sentence was ad libbed.

Trump probably wouldn't admit this out loud, but I'm reasonably sure he said this because he considers this rather obvious historical detail -- already familiar to much of the country -- to be an interesting bit of trivia that only recently came to his attention.

It's reminiscent of remarks Trump delivered in March when he said, in reference to Abraham Lincoln, "Most people don't even know he was a Republican. Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don't know that."

Referring to the president as "Captain Obvious," the Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted soon after just how frequently Trump reflects on what he assumes others don't know.

That Bill Clinton signed NAFTA: "A lot of people don't know that."

What a value-added tax is: "A lot of people don't know what that means."

That we have a trade deficit with Mexico: "People don't know that."

That Iraq has large oil reserves: "People don't know this about Iraq."

That war is expensive: "People don't realize it is a very, very expensive process."

Whether he thinks "people" are incredibly uninformed, or whether he's simply oblivious himself, will remain a subject of some debate.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

McConnell unveils regressive new health care plan

07/13/17 02:57PM

About a month ago, when the Senate Republican leadership unveiled its initial health care proposal, it was widely assumed that the less conservative GOP senators wouldn't like the plan. Party leaders, however, were confident that the so-called "moderates" would succumb to pressure and toe the party line.

"Moderates always cave," one senior GOP aide said at the time.

This was certainly true in the House, where more centrist lawmakers proved to be useless, and it appears that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hopes that it's true in the upper chamber next week. The Huffington Post explained that the new GOP is "basically the same as the old one."

[T]he revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act ― which McConnell pulled two weeks ago because too few Republican senators planned to vote for it ― remains a vehicle for massive cuts to Medicaid, less financial assistance for people who buy private health insurance, and the return of skimpy junk insurance policies and discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Taxes on the rich would remain, but health care companies would enjoy a major tax cut.

The Senate Republican leadership, in other words, is still counting on the so-called "moderates" to cave. Today's proposal is effectively a dare to the Collins/Murkowski wing of the GOP conference.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2016. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

McConnell sells his health plan in the most cynical way possible

07/13/17 12:30PM

As the political fight over health care continues, congressional Republicans are divided along several lines, but one of the more contentious issues is the GOP's deep proposed cuts to Medicaid. In the Senate, several Republicans have pushed back against their leadership, insisting that the plan simply goes too far -- doing too much damage to too many people.

The Washington Post reports today, however, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has an argument intended to reassure his members concerned about Medicaid's future.

Here's what McConnell has told several hesitant senators (including Portman and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.): The bill's deepest Medicaid cuts are far into the future, and they'll never go into effect anyway.

"He's trying to sell the pragmatists like Portman, like Capito on 'the CPI-U will never happen,'" a GOP lobbyist and former Hill staffer told me.

In other words, the current iteration of the Republican health care legislation will include brutal cuts to Medicaid, but the GOP's less conservative senators can vote for it anyway, confident in the idea that, in the future, policymakers will intervene to make sure this policy isn't actually implemented.

Take a moment to consider just how cynical this is. Senators are supposed to vote, on purpose, for legislation they know would do real harm to their constituents, based on assurances from Mitch McConnell that someone, at some point, in some way, will clean up the mess they voted for.

This isn't how responsible legislating in a mature democracy is supposed to work.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.13.17

07/13/17 12:00PM

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

* Fresh off his better-than-expected showing in a GOP gubernatorial primary, Virginia's Corey Stewart (R) is launching a 2018 U.S. Senate campaign in the commonwealth, hoping to take on incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D). "I'm going to run, as I always do, a very vicious, ruthless campaign," Stewart told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

* In New Jersey, one of only two states hosting gubernatorial races this year, the latest Monmouth University poll shows former Ambassador Phil Murphy (D) leading Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) by a two-to-one margin, 53% to 26%.

* In Colorado, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) isn't just scrapping the gubernatorial campaign he launched in April; he's also decided not to run for re-election to the House, choosing not to be on the ballot at all next year.

* The Louisiana Democratic Party became the latest state to change the name of its annual "Jefferson-Jackson" dinner. Going forward, it'll be the "True Blue Gala" in Louisiana.

* House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) continues to lead an impressive fundraising operation, with his political organization bringing in nearly $33 million in the first six months of the year -- which is amazing given that this isn't an election year.

* Helping guarantee that he remains in the national spotlight, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), asked about whether he'll run for president again in 2020, said yesterday it's "much too early" to decide, but he's "not taking it off the table."

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Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Kellyanne Conway: collusion with Russia not proven 'yet'

07/13/17 11:24AM

This was the week the Trump-Russia scandal fundamentally changed. Americans were confronted with documented evidence of Vladimir Putin's government not only offering assistance to members of Donald Trump's inner circle during the campaign, but top members of Trump's team welcoming the foreign support.

Nevertheless, Kellyanne Conway, a top White House aide, appeared on Fox News last night -- with some props -- to argue that these revelations do not "yet" prove collusion.

"I just want to review in case you run out of time. This is how we see it so far. This is to help all the people at home. What's the conclusion? 'Collusion'? No. We don't have that yet.

"I see 'illusion' and 'delusion.' So just so we're clear everyone, four words: conclusion, collusion? No. Illusion, delusion, yes."

The visuals of this were a bit bizarre. Conway, who has an unfortunate track record of saying things in interviews that are completely untrue, held up pieces of paper during the Fox appearance -- as if she were trying to emulate Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" -- which lent itself to some easy (and amusing) online mockery.

But it's also worth pausing to consider Conway's specific phrasing: "We don't have that yet." Um "yet"?

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The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

Trump World has found its enemy: the Congressional Budget Office

07/13/17 10:47AM

Later today, Senate Republican leaders will unveil the latest iteration of their regressive health care plan, and we'll take a closer look at its details once it's released. In the meantime, however, proponents of the GOP's approach are hard at work -- trying to tear down the Congressional Budget Office's credibility.

If all goes according to plan, the Republican bill will be unveiled today; it will receive a CBO score on Monday; and then the GOP-led Senate will vote on the proposal soon after. Of course, if that plan sounds familiar, it's because this is identical to the schedule created a few weeks ago by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) -- a schedule that was derailed when the Congressional Budget Office found that the GOP legislation would take health care benefits from 22 million Americans.

This time around, Republicans are investing more energy in trying to convince the relevant players that the CBO's numbers are not to be trusted. The Huffington Post explained yesterday:

The White House attempted to discredit the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday, releasing a video that questions the accuracy of the agency's previous projections on health insurance coverage under Obamacare.

Issued as a heated health care debate continues on Capitol Hill, the administration seems to be arguing that because CBO estimates have been off before, there is no reason to trust its recent reports predicting that a Republican-led effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have devastating effects.

But just 10 seconds into the video, the White House instead managed to strain its credibility with a misspelling of the word "inaccurately."

Now, I'm aware of the dangers of throwing rocks in a glass house. I've been known to publish a few typos of my own from time to time, so I'm generally cautious about criticizing -- or worse, mocking -- others' typographical missteps.

Then again, my blog posts are not official White House materials, created to deceive the public about millions of Americans' health security.

Of course, while the typo was probably embarrassing for Team Trump, there are two broader angles to this that are worth keeping in mind.

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The Eiffel Tower is lit with the blue, white and red colors of the French flag in Paris, France, Nov. 16, 2015, to pay tribute to the victims of a series of deadly attacks on Friday in the French capital. (Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Despite a record of insults, Trump arrives in Paris

07/13/17 10:01AM

If it seems like Donald Trump just got back from a European trip, it's not your imagination. The president was in Germany late last week for a G-20 summit, but that didn't stop him from taking another sojourn this week, arriving in Paris today.

There's ample evidence to suggest the French won't be glad to see him -- Barack Obama was very popular in France, Trump is not -- but that didn't stop him. The Washington Post reports on why the Republican agreed to make the trip.

President Trump was not expected to attend France's Bastille Day, which this year will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.

But then he learned there would be a military parade.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a June 27 phone call about the event, which this year will feature U.S. and French troops marching through the historic streets near the Arc de Triomphe, fighter jets cutting through the skies above, and flags, horses and military equipment on display -- the sort of spectacle that Trump wanted to stage at his own inauguration in January.

Trump's decision, the article added, forced officials in both countries to quickly schedule "a last-minute trip that will last about 27 hours."

It'll be interesting to hear what "Jim" thinks about all of this. And who's Jim? I'm glad you asked.

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

Trump World audaciously claims to be 'as transparent as possible'

07/13/17 09:20AM

Last month, while writing a secret health care bill behind closed doors, Senate Republican leaders said they were proud to be part of a "transparent and open" process. They did not appear to be kidding.

And as it turns out, Republican confusion over the meaning of the word "transparency" isn't limited to Capitol Hill. At yesterday's press briefing, a reporter asked Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to explain the "plague of amnesia" affecting Donald Trump's team when it comes to disclosing interactions with Russian nationals. It led to this exchange:

SANDERS: Every single day we do our best to give the most accurate information that we have, and we continue to do that every single day, and have offered to be as transparent as possible with all committees and anyone looking into this matter.

REPORTER: This doesn't suggest to you a pattern of not trying to be transparent?

SANDERS: Not at all. Again, like I said, our goal is to be as transparent as humanly possible.

There was a certain irony to the circumstances: the president's spokesperson made these comments off-camera, because the White House has decided it's occasionally uncomfortable with the public being able to see these press briefings -- which, of course, is the opposite of transparency.

Sanders' claims also follow reports that White House aides, with Donald Trump's personal approval, drafted a misleading statement over the weekend on behalf of Donald Trump Jr. in response to the New York Times' questions about his controversial meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the campaign.

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Image: TOPSHOT-GERMANY-G20-SUMMIT

Trump may be the only person in the world who trusts Putin's word

07/13/17 08:41AM

After Donald Trump met privately with Vladimir Putin in Germany, there were different accounts on whether the American president accepted the Russian president's denial about intervening in our presidential election. The answer, however, is now coming into sharper focus.

After Trump returned from the G-20 summit, he assured the public that Putin "vehemently denied" intervening in the American election, which means, as far as the Republican is concerned, it's time to "move forward." The implication wasn't subtle: Trump seems inclined to accept the Russian leader's claims at face value, evidence be damned.

This was bolstered yesterday when the American president sat down with Reuters for an interview.

In the White House interview, the president said he directly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin if he was involved in what U.S. intelligence says was Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and that Putin had insisted he was not. [...]

"I said, 'Did you do it?' And he said, 'No, I did not. Absolutely not.' I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not," Trump said.

Wait, Trump asked the question in two different ways? Well, that changes everything.

Look, this is silly. Trump, a former television personality with no background in government or public policy at any level, has been told repeatedly by his own intelligence agencies that the Russian government orchestrated an attack. He then sat down with Putin, a former KGB operative, and asked if he's responsible for the crime of the century.

Putin denied it twice, which apparently Trump found persuasive. The Russian president must have been thrilled to find the one person in the world naïve enough to believe Putin's obvious lies.

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton walks off the stage as Republican nominee Donald Trump remains at his podium after their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Trump goes backwards, falsely claims Putin preferred Clinton

07/13/17 08:00AM

There's been a steady evolution to the Russia scandal over the course of several months, featuring questions that have incrementally advanced the story. We start with the root question -- "Did Vladimir Putin's government attack the U.S. election?" -- which serves as a foundation for everything that follows.

Did Russian officials attack? Yes. Did they intervene to help put Donald Trump in power? Yes. Was Trump's campaign in communications with Russia during the espionage operation? Yes. Was Trump's campaign willing and eager to cooperate with Russia's scheme? Yes. Will the president or anyone in his operation face any consequences? Stay tuned.

But it's against this backdrop that Trump has a bad habit: he struggles to keep up, at times going backwards to re-ask questions that were answered months ago. Last week, the Republican beneficiary of Russian intervention belittled his own intelligence agencies and insisted "nobody really knows" if Russia was responsible for the attack in the first place.

This week, the president sat down with radical TV preacher Pat Robertson and again tried to raise doubts about a key detail that every honest observer already knows to be true.

He thinks Putin would actually have been happier with Hillary Clinton in the White House because he's building the U.S. military and working to export U.S. energy, which Russia opposes.

"We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I'm a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive. That's what Putin doesn't like about me. And that's why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military, he doesn't want to see that," Trump told Robertson.

The president added, "So what I keep hearing about that [Putin] would have rather had Trump, I think probably not."

This is bizarre nonsense, even by Trump standards.

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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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