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Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Pence: People care about the climate crisis 'for some reason'

06/02/17 05:03PM

The fact that Mike Pence doesn't accept climate science isn't surprising. The fact that the vice president endorsed Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accords was obviously predictable, too.

What's absolutely amazing, however, is Pence's apparently sincere confusion as to why anyone would care about the environmental crisis facing humanity.

In an interview with "Fox and Friends" Friday, a day after President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Pence expressed bewilderment at the "long been a goal of the liberal left in this country" to advance a "climate change agenda."

"For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world," Pence said.

I don't think he was kidding. The far-right vice president realizes that some people -- here and around the world -- take this issue seriously, but he apparently has no idea why.

Let that sink in for a moment: this is the state of the debate in 2017. With a looming catastrophe on the horizon, and in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, Mike Pence doesn't even know enough about the issue to understand why we're having this fight.

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The White House's secret: Trump's beliefs about climate change

06/02/17 04:30PM

White House officials hosted a briefing call with the media yesterday, and one reporter asked whether Donald Trump believes human activity leads to climate change. The unnamed official -- the ground rules for the call mandated that no one from the president's team be identified by name -- hedged.

"I have not talked to the president about his personal views on what is contributing to climate change," the official said. "That's not the point. Can we stay on topic, please?"

Trump's perspective on the climate crisis, while he withdraws the United States from a landmark international agreement on climate change, is apparently seen as a distraction.

The question, however, remains. Kellyanne Conway was asked this morning, repeatedly, whether Donald Trump believes global warming is a hoax. She refused to say. Soon after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was asked the same question, and he dodged, too.

The Washington Post reported what happened in the White House press briefing room this afternoon.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was asked the same question over and over and over again during a Friday briefing with reporters: Does President Trump still believe global warming is a hoax?

And each time, Pruitt refused to answer with a "yes" or a "no," telling reporters that as he and the president discussed exiting the Paris climate deal, the topic of climate change never came up.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked, too, and like the others, he also refused to give a straight answer.

Just so we're clear, the president's position on one of the world's most pressing issues is, at this point, a White House secret.

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Image: US-POLITICS-TRUMP-MNUCHIN

Democrats face an unprecedented silent treatment from Trump World

06/02/17 12:50PM

Two months ago, congressional Democrats first went public with concerns that the Trump administration had ordered executive-branch officials to withhold information from Democratic offices. The Washington Post reported in April that leading lawmakers said "their staff members were told directly by workers in agencies that they could no longer speak with them."

A month later, Senate Democrats raised the same concerns, accusing Donald Trump's White House of "purposely ignoring requests for information" sent by Democratic offices.

Politico reports today that Dems aren't paranoid; the administration's partisan silent treatment is real.

The White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers' oversight requests, as Republicans fear the information could be weaponized against President Donald Trump.

At meetings with top officials for various government departments this spring, Uttam Dhillon, a White House lawyer, told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats, according to Republican sources inside and outside the administration.... The declaration amounts to a new level of partisanship in Washington, where the president and his administration already feels besieged by media reports and attacks from Democrats. The idea, Republicans said, is to choke off the Democratic congressional minorities from gaining new information that could be used to attack the president.

The White House didn't exactly deny this. On the contrary, a spokesperson said the administration's policy is to "accommodate" oversight requests from committee chairs, "regardless of their political party."

This, of course, is hilarious, since in a Republican-led House and Senate, every committee chair is a Republican. The quote is effectively an admission that Democratic requests for oversight information are not "accommodated" by this administration.

Indeed, Politico's report is amazing in its explicit acknowledgement of circumstances that should not exist: the White House apparently realizes providing official information to Congress "could be used to attack the president," so Team Trump has decided to embrace secrecy and abandon transparency.

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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.2.17

06/02/17 12:00PM

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

* With early voting already underway in Georgia's congressional special election, the House Republicans' super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has launched a new attack ad somehow trying to connect Jon Ossoff (D) to Kathy Griffin's "decapitating Trump" images.

* On a related note, Ossoff's campaign responded quickly that Republicans should pull the ad before children see the offensive images on their home televisions.

* Similarly, America First Policies, an outside group intended to boost Donald Trump's agenda, is investing $1.6 million in new anti-Ossoff attack ads.

* Tax reform appears to be going nowhere in Congress, but the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity announced a new six-figure ad campaign today to encourage Congress to approve a conservative plan.

* In Ohio's U.S. Senate race, Josh Mandell still appears to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), but a primary now appears inevitable. Mike Gibbons, a wealthy and prominent GOP donor, launched a campaign of his own this week.

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Image: TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-TRUMP

Donald Trump's unhealthy preoccupation with being laughed at

06/02/17 11:33AM

When Donald Trump spoke yesterday about his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, he seemed to ad-lib one of his broader concerns:

"At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? ... We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won't be. They won't be."

It's hard to overstate the degree to which Trump obsesses over this point. In his mind, being laughed at appears to be the single worst reaction a person or a country can experience, and so he seems to evaluate decisions based less on merit and more on whether they'll generate laughter from others.

A month ago, for example, Trump sat down with Time magazine, which asked about his decision to launch a strike on Assad forces in Syria, despite having promised to do the opposite before the election. "I think we have to be a strong nation," he replied. "I think we were being laughed at by the world. They're not laughing anymore."

There's no real-world reason to believe anyone was laughing at the United States over its reluctance to attack multiple sides in Syria's civil war, just as there's no evidence of laughter being curtailed in the wake of Trump's strike. But it's becoming increasingly obvious that it's the lens through which this president sees the world: Trump is paranoid about ridicule that doesn't exist, and he makes decisions based on his desire to stifle laughter that only he can hear.

This is a longstanding point of concern for him. In the Reagan era, Trump insisted that "bad guys" were "laughing at" the United States. In 2011, The Atlantic ran a piece noting Trump making the same argument about international laughter, at Americans' expense, during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama eras.

"Everyone is always pointing and laughing at America, in Trump's view," The Atlantic piece noted. "A psychologist might have a field day with this."

Trump's interest in this may actually be intensifying. Twice in recent weeks, the president turned to Twitter to express his concern that his Russian allies are "laughing at" the United States.

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President Trump addresses rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29, 2017. Screenshot from NBCNews.

White House ethics waivers prove 'drain the swamp' was a scam

06/02/17 10:48AM

We learned in April that Donald Trump's White House has hired several lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants who are now crafting policies "for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck." The administration has ethics rules to prevent this from happening, but Team Trump quietly issued waivers, allowing officials to ignore the rules.

What we didn't know at the time was just how common this practice has been in Trump World -- because the White House insisted on keeping information about the waiver secret. The Office of Government Ethics told the administration it had to disclose the details, and the White House relented.

The New York Times reported on the information the Trump and his aides were so reluctant to share.

President Trump has given at least 16 White House staff members dispensation to work on policy matters they handled while employed as lobbyists or to interact with their former colleagues in private-sector jobs, according to records released late Wednesday. [...]

The list of waivers includes high-profile names such as Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump's chief of staff, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser. They had to be granted waivers because of their prior work with organizations such as the Republican National Committee, which Mr. Priebus once ran, and because they continue to have contact with those organizations as part of their White House work.

But the waivers granted by the White House are also going to former lobbyists, despite Mr. Trump's campaign vow to try to reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington.

So, for example, Michael Catanzaro was a corporate lobbyist for an oil company and a coal-burning electric utility. Trump then hired him to help undermine the same environmental safeguards he used to target as a lobbyist, thanks to a waiver that allows Catanzaro to ignore the ethics rules Trump used to brag about.

The White House and its allies will be quick to note that the Obama administration relied on similar waivers. That's true, to a point, but the details matter: not only did the Obama White House volunteer to publicly disclose these waivers, which were narrowly focused, but Trump World has issued more ethics waivers in four months than Team Obama did in eight years.

Obama also didn't extend waivers to much of his senior White House staff, while Trump has done exactly that.

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Heavy waves caused by Hurricane Matthew pound the boat docks at the Sunset Bar and Grill, Oct. 7, 2016 on Cocoa Beach, Fla. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

As hurricane season begins, the Trump administration is unprepared

06/02/17 10:06AM

For much of the country, the start of hurricane season -- which began yesterday -- is a reminder to start getting prepared in a case a storm comes. For Donald Trump's administration, it's a reminder that the president and his team haven't prepared at all.

NPR noted yesterday:

This year, key federal agencies that state and local governments and the public depend on still don't have leaders. Nearly five months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, NOAA, the agency that oversees the government's weather forecasting, is still without an administrator, as is the agency that responds to disasters, FEMA.

The president has at least nominated someone to lead FEMA, though the Republican-led Senate has been slow to advance Trump's choice, but the White House has not yet nominated anyone to serve as FEMA's deputy administrator or to lead FEMA's office for protection and national preparedness.

And with a long congressional recess coming up at the end of next month, it may be a long while before anyone is confirmed to oversee these agencies and offices.

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Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin responds to a question during a press conference in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda, Nov. 6, 2015, in Frankfort, Ky. (Photo by Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Republican governor hopes to fight crime with 'prayer patrols'

06/02/17 09:25AM

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) told the Louisville Courier-Journal this week that solutions to violence in his community "are many, but a lot of them require resources obviously" from housing to education and health care.

Kentucky's Republican governor apparently has a different approach in mind.

Gov. Matt Bevin said in a jam-packed meeting Thursday that his plan to confront Louisville's growing violence is to have roaming prayer groups in the West End.

Bevin urged faith leaders, public officials and residents to take a 10-block span, walk corner to corner, and pray with the community two to three times a week during the next year.

On Twitter, the far-right governor added, "Prayer WILL change things.... Prayer is powerful, and a people united in prayer will make a difference in their communities."

It's worth clarifying, Bevin isn't talking about supplementing new investments in housing, education, and health care with faith-based community activism. By all appearances, the governor wants Louisville residents to effectively create "prayer patrols" -- in lieu of increased spending on housing, education, and health care.

It's probably best to put aside questions about whether prayer is an effective tool in combating urban violence. Instead, let's deal with the substantive problems with Bevin's recommended approach.

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U.S. job growth cools a bit in the spring

06/02/17 08:48AM

Before withdrawing from the Paris climate accord yesterday, Donald Trump told the public, "The economy is starting to come back, and very, very rapidly." As proof, the Republican said the nation has added "more than a million private-sector jobs."

It's difficult to know whether Trump actually believes what he's saying, but both of these assertions are belied by reality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 138,000 jobs in May, an underwhelming total. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, inched lower to 4.3%.

As for the revisions, the totals for March and April were both revised down, and combined they show a net loss of about 66,000 jobs.

What about the president's claim that we've added "more than a million private-sector jobs"? That's only true if we start fiddling with the definition of "we." In the four full months Trump has been in office, the U.S. economy, as of this morning's new data, has added 601,000 private-sector jobs. If we're generous and add January to the total -- Obama was president for two-thirds of the month -- the economy's added 805,000 private-sector jobs.

To get to "more than a million," Trump would have to claim credit for economic progress that happened before he took office.

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Image: U.S. President Trump arrives to announce decision to withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement in the White House Rose Garden in Washington

Trump positions the Republican Party as a global outlier

06/02/17 08:00AM

When I say there's nothing in the world like the contemporary Republican Party, I'm being quite literal. This Washington Post piece about the global mainstream and the climate crisis helped drive home the point.

Donald Trump today announced that he's withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, breaking ranks with 190 other countries on the question of what to do about climate change.

As with so many other issues -- military might, moral authority, economic prowess -- this appears at first blush to be a simple question of American exceptionalism. The rest of the world does one thing and we do another, because we're America and we're Number One.

But climate politics aren't as much about American exceptionalism as they are about American Republican exceptionalism.

Mainstream views in the United States on global warming are roughly in line with the rest of the world. The same is true of the Paris climate accord Trump just abandoned: polling shows the agreement is broadly popular with the American public.

But regular readers know that as Republican politics has become radicalized, the party has positioned itself as a global outlier to an amazing degree. Our contemporary GOP is the only major party in any advanced democracy on the planet to oppose health care coverage as a core benefit of citizenship. It's the only major party that believes citizens should have largely unfettered access to firearms.

And it's the only major party to reject climate science and show indifference toward the escalating crisis.

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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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