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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.6.17

06/06/17 12:00PM

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

* There's a congressional special election in California today featuring two Democrats, and by all accounts, state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez is considered the favorite over local lawyer Robert Lee Ahn. The election will fill one of four existing vacancies on Capitol Hill.

* Speaking of voting today, it's primary day in New Jersey. Among the most notable races are the gubernatorial primaries in both parties, ahead of November's general election. The Garden State is one of only two states to hold gubernatorial races this year.

* Though Republicans are favored in South Carolina's upcoming congressional special election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just invested $275,000 to help boost Archie Parnell's (D) candidacy. The general election is two weeks from today.

* In Montana, where Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte (R) is preparing for a court appearance as part of a misdemeanor assault charge, the Republican yesterday filed for re-election next year.

* In Georgia over the weekend, state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) kicked off her gubernatorial campaign, and immediately picked up an endorsement from EMILY's List.

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U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., speaks at the Freedom Summit, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

Trump's radical budget director sees himself as a great success

06/06/17 11:20AM

Donald Trump's far-right budget director, Mick Mulvaney, sat down with the New York Times the other day and expressed confidence that he's doing a great job.

Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, may be one of the most maligned men in Washington because he is the bearer of budget cuts. He has been accused of everything from ethnic cleansing to wanting to kill a million people. He gets "fan mail" with fake business cards tucked in that give his job title as a "starver of hungry children and elderly."

To Mr. Mulvaney, this is evidence of a job well done.

"In our business that's usually seen as a sign that the other side doesn't know what to say substantively," Mr. Mulvaney said during an interview Friday in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Aside from the president himself, if there's one person in the Trump administration who should avoid boasts about "substantive" debates, it's the Republican leading the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

It was just last week, for example, that Mulvaney told the Washington Examiner, in reference to his budget plan and the administration's tax-reform ambitions, ''I wouldn't take what's in the budget as indicative of what our proposals are.''

That, of course, didn't make any sense. A budget is, practically by definition, a document intended to reflect proposals.

But the comment offered a mere peek into a deeply radical perspective that makes Mulvaney one of the most extreme and indefensible members of Team Trump.

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Trump's hotel profited from Saudi lobbying campaign

06/06/17 10:47AM

Before taking office, Donald Trump and his team came up with a purported solution to one of the new president's legal problems. The Constitution doesn't allow a president to receive money from foreign governments, but Trump's hotels -- which he continues to own and profit from -- welcomed foreign officials as guests.

So, we were told, to avoid running afoul of the law, Trump vowed that his business would monitor receipts and make sure the president didn't profit from foreign governments. Except two weeks ago, NBC News reported that the Trump Organization decided not to keep that promise, determining that it'd be too difficult.

I'm not unsympathetic to the practical realities -- keeping the promise would create a real logistical challenge -- but there is no "this is too tricky and impractical" exception to the Constitution. Trump could do what he's supposed to do -- divest from his private-sector investments -- and avoid the problem altogether.

The president, at least for now, refuses to divest, making reports like this one in the Wall Street Journal all the more problematic for Trump World.

President Donald Trump's Washington hotel received roughly $270,000 in payments linked to Saudi Arabia as part of a lobbying campaign by the Gulf kingdom against a controversial piece of terrorism legislation last year.

The payments -- for catering, lodging and parking -- were disclosed by the public relations firm MSLGroup last week in paperwork filed with the Justice Department documenting foreign lobbying work on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other clients.

Saudi Arabia's Washington lobbyists and consultants started spending the money in the fall, while lobbying against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which passed in the fall, before Trump became president.

The payments, however, extended from Nov. 2016 into Feb. 2017 -- which included the period after Trump's inauguration.

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Image: YEAR IN FOCUS - NEWS (1 of a set of 85) Republican National Convention: Day Two

Trump's family can't seem to stop blurring ethical lines

06/06/17 10:09AM

ABC News aired a segment this morning featuring Donald Trump's adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., talking about expanding the Trump Organization's hotel business with a series of "mid-market properties it's calling the American Idea."

But while the two Trump brothers were there, they apparently thought it'd be wise to mix business and politics. The president's sons tried to dismiss the seriousness of the Russia scandal, for example, and as Politico noted, Don Jr. decided to go after the mayor of London, too.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan's time would be better spent addressing the terrorism in his own city instead of attacking U.S. President Donald Trump, the president's son said in an interview that aired Tuesday morning.

"Rather than the mayor of London attacking maybe he should do something about it," Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." "Maybe he should do something to fix the problem rather than just sit there and pretend there isn't one. I think that's an important message."

Look, I realize how easy it is to grow inured to bizarre political circumstances, but this should be difficult for anyone to defend.

The U.K. is one of our closest allies. London just suffered a deadly attack. The fact that the American president and his surrogates are going after the city's mayor -- who, by all appearances, has done nothing at all wrong, and hasn't "pretended" that terrorism isn't a problem -- is plainly ridiculous.

But even putting aside the awful arguments Trump's sons were making during the interview, it's important to ask why they're playing the role of presidential surrogates in the first place.

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Night falls over the U.S. Capitol.

GOP congressman on terrorist suspects: 'Kill them all'

06/06/17 09:20AM

Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) has only been in office for five months, but his reaction to Saturday's terrorist attack in London suggests the far-right lawmaker is poised to have a provocative career.

In the Facebook post, Higgins wrote that "the free world" and "all of Christendom" is at war with "Islamic horror."

"Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter," he wrote. "Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all."

This kind of dangerous and inflammatory language would be alarming from anyone, but the fact that it's coming from an elected federal lawmaker is even more unsettling.

The GOP lawmakers' office later said, "Rep. Higgins is referring to terrorists. He's advocating for hunting down and killing all of the terrorists. This is an idea all of America & Britain should be united behind."

Perhaps, but note that in the original online missive, the congressman specifically referred to "suspects." He also seemed eager to characterize this in explicitly religious terms, arguing that it's "Christendom" that's at war with terrorists.

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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)

EPA chief, White House get caught making bogus jobs claims

06/06/17 08:40AM

On "Meet the Press" over the weekend, former Vice President Al Gore told NBC News' Chuck Todd the truth about a struggling industry: "The loss of jobs in the coal industry started with the mechanization of the coal industry. Natural gas started displacing coal and the fossil fuel sector. And promising to re-create the 19th century is not a visionary strategy for a successful 21st century."

The host asked Donald Trump's far-right EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, whether Gore is right. "Dead wrong," Pruitt replied. "Because the numbers show exactly the opposite. In fact, since the fourth quarter of last year to most recently, we've added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs."

The Republican EPA administrator made the nearly identical claim on ABC and Fox News, suggesting it wasn't just a verbal slip-up. This was the message Pruitt prepared in advance and was eager to tell the public.

It was not, however, true. The Washington Post reported:

Here's the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on coal jobs. As you can see, it has been in a tight range for months, with a slight gain. In the last four months of the Obama administration, September to January, there was a gain of 1,400 jobs. In the first four months of the Trump administration, there has been a gain of 1,000 jobs. [...]

[R]ather than the gain of 47,000 jobs touted by Pruitt, the reality is that 1,000 coal jobs have been added since Trump became president. For the month of May, the gain was 400 jobs, not 7,000.

If we add jobs in the entire "mining" sector of the economy, the overall number grows, but (a) it's still short of what Pruitt claimed, and (b) the majority of mining jobs created in recent months have nothing to do with the coal industry, which in context, is exactly what he was referring to in the interviews.

Or put another way, Scott Pruitt's favorite talking point is ridiculously and demonstrably untrue.

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Image: President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

Trump launches infrastructure initiative with fake signing ceremony

06/06/17 08:00AM

Donald Trump, a fan of spectacles and spotlights, has a habit of signing executive orders that don't actually do anything. The president likes to appear before cameras and give the appearance of work, but in nearly every instance, Trump's "accomplishments" are little more than political theater.

Yesterday, however, offered a rather extreme example of the phenomenon. The president announced his support for privatizing America's system of air-traffic control, and as the New York Times reported, the decision was accompanied by a rather ridiculous White House display.

At an East Room event that was choreographed like the elaborate ceremonies for enacting major legislation, Mr. Trump signed a memo and letter to Congress outlining his principles for overhauling the nation's air traffic control system. He handed out pens to lawmakers who had been invited to attend, and reveled in several rounds of applause.

But Mr. Trump's announcement did not have any binding effect....

It had all the trappings of a major bill-signing ceremony -- Trump even surrounded himself with Republican members of Congress, who were only too pleased to accept ceremonial pens -- except the president didn't sign any legislation. There wasn't even an executive order. Time magazine reported that a White House aide told reporters Trump had signed a "a decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principles to Congress."

A "decision memo" doesn't really exist in any formal sense; it's just a document in which the president announced he's decided to support an idea. The "letter transmitting legislative principles," in this case, was Trump's way of asking Congress to do something.

In other words, Trump World put on a show yesterday -- part of a public-relations kickoff of the White House's purported interest in infrastructure -- which signified practically nothing.

The debate over whether to privatize air-traffic control will, apparently, now begin in earnest in Congress, where quite a few prominent Republicans have already joined Democrats in voicing skepticism about fixing a problem that doesn't really exist.

And what of Trump's broader infrastructure plan?

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Monday's Mini-Report, 6.5.17

06/05/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Another mass shooting: "A disgruntled former employee at an Orlando, Florida RV accessory business fatally shot five workers Monday morning before turning the gun on himself, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office."

* Afghanistan: "Three explosions on Saturday rocked the funeral service of a victim of antigovernment protests in Kabul, killing at least seven people and injuring dozens after a tense and bloody week in the Afghan capital."

* The privilege claim would've been dubious anyway: "President Donald Trump will not invoke executive privilege to prevent former FBI Director James Comey from testifying before Congress Thursday."

* In case you missed this on Friday night: "The special counsel investigating possible ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia's government has taken over a separate criminal probe involving former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and may expand his inquiry to investigate the roles of the attorney general and deputy attorney general in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, The Associated Press has learned."

* On a related note: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller is already closely managing the Russian election meddling investigation he was appointed to oversee, receiving daily briefings and weighing in on investigative tactics, a spokesman told NBC News Friday."

* This one's also worth watching: "The White House and a Russian state-owned bank have very different explanations for why the bank's chief executive and Jared Kushner held a secret meeting during the presidential transition in December."

* Another promise that's likely to be broken: "Mr. Trump has pledged to overhaul the [nuclear] arsenal, which he has called obsolete. But his challenge is growing: The first official government estimate of the project, prepared by the Congressional Budget Office and due to be published in the coming weeks, will put the cost at more than $1.2 trillion -- 20 percent more than the figure envisioned by the Obama administration."

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan attends Yom HaShoah, the Jewish Community's Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the Barnet Copthall Stadium on May 8, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty)

White House pretends Trump didn't 'pick a fight' with London mayor

06/05/17 04:09PM

At the White House press briefing today, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked a very good question: "Why is [Donald Trump] picking a fight with the mayor of London right after his city was hit with a terrorist attack?" As TPM's report makes clear, the president's spokesperson didn't have much of an answer.

"I don't see that the president is picking a fight with the mayor of London at all," Sanders replied to [ABC News' Jonathan Karl]. "I think, again, the president's point is something he said, frankly, back -- it's been almost two years now, a year and a half ago, when the president talked about how we have to be more committed to national security."

The reporter noted in response that the president, by taking London Mayor Sadiq Khan's words out of context, "directly misrepresented" what was said. Sanders replied, "I don't think that's actually true."

It is actually true.

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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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