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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points at supporters after speaking at rally at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8, 2016. (Photo by Justin Lane/EPA)

Trump may not fully understand what a 'witch hunt' is

02/27/18 09:20AM

About four years ago, Republicans could hardly contain their excitement about assorted Benghazi conspiracy theories, prompting congressional Democrats to complain about the GOP's witch hunt.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), unimpressed, responded on the House floor, "Well, Mr. Speaker, that must mean there is a witch somewhere."

It was one of my favorite political quotes of all time. Sessions, so caught up in partisan fervor, managed to get the meaning of "witch hunt" backwards. In the Texas Republican's mind, to hunt for a witch necessarily means that the witch must exist. That's exact opposite of what the phrase means.

The congressman's unintentionally hilarious gem came to mind this morning seeing Donald Trump's latest missive.

President Trump tweeted out several guest segments from various Fox News shows on Tuesday, denying claims his campaign colluded with the Russians.

"WITCH HUNT!" Mr. Trump tweeted.

This was hardly an unusual message for the president. According to the Trump Twitter Archive, he's tweeted the phrase "witch hunt" 24 times since last January, including three times just this month.

Usually, there's some context to the words, but not today. Apparently worked up by something he saw on television, Trump just decided to randomly tweet the words "WITCH HUNT!" with the assumption that we'd all know what he was trying to say.

And while that's amusing, in a slightly uncomfortable sort of way, we should probably consider the possibility that Trump, like Pete Sessions, doesn't seem altogether sure what a "witch hunt" is.

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Image: President Trump Holds White House Business Session With U.S. Governors

Trump confronts something unusual: an in-person critic

02/27/18 08:40AM

Donald Trump hosted a White House event yesterday with governors, which wouldn't have been especially noteworthy were it not for something unusual that happened.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) noted that the president has suggesting arming school teachers, which prompted Trump to interject, saying he only wants to arm "gun-adept" teachers, at which point "you're not going have any problems anymore."

And while it's tempting to explain how misguided this is, take a look at the Democratic governor's response, delivered directly to the president:

"If I may respond to that. Let me just suggest, whatever percentage it is -- I heard at one time you might have suggested 20 percent -- whatever percentage it is, speaking as a grandfather, speaking as the Governor of the state of Washington, I have listened to the people who would be affected by that. I have listened to the biology teachers, and they don't want to do that, at any percentage. I've listened to the first-grade teachers that don't want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I've listened to law enforcement who have said they don't want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agents, which takes about six months.

"Now, I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen, that educators should educate, and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first grade classes.

"Now, I understand you have suggested this. And we suggest things, and sometimes then we listen to people about it, and maybe they don't look so good a little later. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening. And let's just take that off the table and move forward."

If you watch the video of the exchange, it's hard not to notice the awkward body language: the more Inslee tries to set Trump straight, the more the president folds his arms, rocks back and forth, and signals his dissatisfaction.

Which is probably why this moment seemed so striking: we hardly ever see Trump confronted by someone telling him what he doesn't want to hear.

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The silhouettes of a travelers are seen walking past Delta Air Lines airplanes parked at gates of Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

To protect the NRA, Georgia Republican threatens Delta

02/27/18 08:00AM

More than a few of the National Rifle Association's corporate partners no longer want anything to do with the far-right group, and that includes two major airlines. Delta and United Airlines were offering discounted rates through a group-travel program for those attending the NRA's annual meeting, but both companies ended the contract.

That didn't sit well with a Republican policymaker in Georgia with an A+ rating from the organization.

Georgia's lieutenant governor on Monday threatened to prevent Delta Air Lines from getting a lucrative tax cut after the company ended its discount program with the National Rifle Association, in the latest fallout from a deadly school shooting in Florida. [...]

Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, president of the state Senate and a leading candidate to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, tweeted that he would use his position to sink the proposed sales tax exemption on jet fuel.

"I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA," Cagle said via Twitter. "Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back."

If this sounds a bit like political extortion, it's not your imagination. One of Georgia's top officials is targeting one of Georgia's top private employers, effectively saying, "It's a nice tax break you have there; it'd be a shame if something happened to it."

A variety of words and phrases come to mind, but it's important to understand that Casey Cagle's tactic bears no resemblance to conservatism.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 2.26.18

02/26/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* No one should give Trump any ideas: "China's plan for President Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely saw censors block satirical commentary and online searches for 'two-term limit,' also triggering comparisons to North Korea's ruling dynasty."

* North Pole: "Temperatures may have soared as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) at the pole, according to the U.S. Global Forecast System model.... Such extreme warm intrusions in the Arctic, once rare, are becoming more routine, research has shown. A study published last July found that since 1980, these events are becoming more frequent, longer-lasting and more intense."

* Alarmingly typical: "President Trump's personal pilot is 'in the mix' to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, a White House official confirmed Sunday night."

* Trying to accommodate the American president's idiosyncratic views: "President Trump's threat to rip up the Iran nuclear deal has touched off an urgent scramble in European capitals to preserve the agreement -- not by rewriting it, but by creating a successor deal intended to halt Iran's ballistic missile program and make permanent the restrictions on its ability to produce nuclear fuel."

* Sign of the times: "A former law student and male stripper prosecuted for invasion of privacy for secretly filming sex partners two decades ago is now seeking a pardon from Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, indicted under the same criminal statute last week."

* Four years ago, Trump said the U.S. Olympic team's lackluster showing in the medal count was "another Obama embarrassment." Oops.

* I wish he'd stop doing this: "As conspiracy theorists accuse survivors of the Florida school shooting of being 'crisis actors,' President Trump on Saturday retweeted a fringe radio host who once used identical language to peddle hoaxes about the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in 2012."

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A doorman stands as people walk past the Trump Tower in N.Y. on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

The many bills the RNC is willing to pay for Trump

02/26/18 05:00PM

It started, oddly enough, with legal bills. We learned in the fall that the Republican National Committee, for reasons that have never been altogether clear, paid for Donald Trump's and Donald Trump Jr's attorneys as part of the Russia scandal -- but no one else's.

The story took a turn when we learned last week that the RNC is also paying Trump's former bodyguard generously as part of a consulting contract.

CNBC moved the ball forward the other day, noting that the RNC eventually stopped paying the president's legal bills, at which point it started covering Trump's re-election campaign expenses.

The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump's company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence's nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump's re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign's deputy executive director.

Campaign finance experts who spoke to CNBC said this type of spending by a party committee on behalf of a campaign is highly unusual but legal, and it appears the RNC disclosed it correctly.

"This is permissible and it's being reported properly, but why they are doing it is a mystery," said Brendan Fischer, senior counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. "One would think the RNC could be spending their money more effectively right now on the 2018 campaign, rather than spending it to pay Trump's rent."

Quite right. The point isn't that the arrangement is somehow untoward. Rather, what's amazing about this is that our self-professed billionaire president has a re-election campaign operation in place, housed in a building the president still owns and profits from, and despite the fact that the operation has millions of dollars in the bank, it's the Republican National Committee that's using donor money to help Trump's campaign with the rent.

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Trump on Parkland: "I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon"

02/26/18 12:43PM

No one knows until it happens how they'd react when confronted with a crisis, though it's often amusing to hear some describe the heroism they think they'd display when the pressure's on.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), for example, appeared on Fox News this morning and reflected on what she would've done if she were in Parkland two weeks ago during its mass shooting. "When you have a school full of students, and your duty is to protect those students, if I was there and I didn't have a firearm, I would have gone into that scene," Bondi said.

Apparently, this hypothetical bravery extends to Bondi's ally in the White House.

President Donald Trump is telling the nation's governors that he would have run into the deadly Florida high school shooting "even if I didn't have a weapon."

The president is again finding fault with officers who didn't stop the Florida gunman who carried out the massacre earlier this month. Trump said the deputies "weren't exactly Medal of Honor winners."

He told 39 of the nation's governors, "I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon."

To borrow a Chris Hayes line, there is such a thing as "down-the-block tough." As Chris put it on his show several years ago, "You're familiar with the concept of down-the-block tough, if not the phrase. Down-the-block tough is when you start jawing with someone or get into a little fisticuffs, and once it's all over, and you've walked a block away from that person, you say, 'Yeah and your mother.'"

Given an opportunity to actually be tough, Trump shows weakness. But given an opportunity to reflect on the greatness of his imaginary toughness, Trump has quite a tale to tell.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.26.18

02/26/18 12:00PM

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

* Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) troubles with her party's base continue: over the weekend, the longtime incumbent came up far short when trying to secure the endorsement of the California Democratic Party.

* Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) generally isn't considered one of this year's vulnerable incumbents, but it's worth noting that his rival, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D), has so far raised $8 million for his campaign. Indeed, since Jan. 1, O'Rourke's fundraising haul has tripled Cruz's.

* Speaking of the Lone Star State, early voting in Texas' primary races suggests there's been a surge of interest among Democratic voters.

* In Donald Trump's Fox News interview on Saturday night, host Jeanine Pirro mentioned the president's approval rating four times, assuring viewers that his support is "soaring." It's not. The new CNN poll shows Trump's approval rating dropping to just 35%, while a new USA Today/Suffolk poll puts the president's support at 38%.

* At the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, Republicans didn't seem especially eager to offer support to Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who was indicted last week on charges stemming from his sex scandal.

* Asked if she regrets saying mass murderers are Democrats, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) said, "Not at all. Don't regret.... No. Of course not."

* The Fresno Bee asked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about whether he'll hold any town-hall hearings ahead of this year's election. The Republican responded that his hometown newspaper is "a joke" and "a left-wing rag."

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Supreme Court undermines Trump's immigration strategy

02/26/18 11:29AM

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump could've had the most important policy victory of his presidency. Most congressional Democrats had endorsed a bipartisan compromise that would have extended DACA protections to Dreamers, while also providing funding for the president's proposed border wall.

Trump turned it down -- along with five other bipartisan compromises on immigration legislation. It seemed obvious to most that the president should've accepted the deal, but he thought he could hold out for a bigger ransom. Asked on Fox News over the weekend about his plans for a wall, for example, Trump added, "The Democrats have actually agreed to that. But I have to get more."

The strategy isn't subtle: the president believes he can effectively hold Dreamers hostage until Democrats agree to fund the border wall and agree to cut legal immigration. With Trump's deadline for scrapping DACA looming, the White House appeared to have all the leverage.

That leverage has suddenly evaporated.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the Trump administration's appeal of a federal judge's ruling that requires the government to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program going.

Under a lower court order that remains in effect, the Department of Homeland Security must continue to accept applications to renew DACA status from the roughly 700,000 young people, known as Dreamers, who are currently enrolled. The administration's deadline of March 5, when it intended to shut the program down, is now largely meaningless.

This clearly isn't what the White House wanted to hear.

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Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, speaks during a town hall meeting, Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Iowa Republican faces a doozy of an ethics mess

02/26/18 11:00AM

At first blush, it sounded like a rather mundane controversy. Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), a top target for Democrats in this year's midterms, reportedly violated House ethics rules by "failing to disclose his role in a company that he formed."

Given the scope of some of the recent political scandals we've seen, Blum's disclosure issue seemed easy to overlook. But the Associated Press had a longer report on the Iowa Republican's "mysterious outfit," which suggests this story is a lot more interesting than first assumed.

Rep. Rod Blum was one of two directors of the Tin Moon Corp. when the internet marketing company was incorporated in May 2016, as the Republican was serving his first term, a business filing shows. Among other services, Tin Moon promises to help companies cited for federal food and drug safety violations bury their Food and Drug Administration warning letters below positive internet search results.

Blum said in a statement Wednesday evening that he made an "oversight" in failing to disclose his ties to the company on his personal financial disclosure covering calendar year 2016, which he submitted last August. He said he was amending the form to list his role as director of the company and Tin Moon as an asset, even while he downplayed the significance of the matter.

So, while serving in Congress, Rod Blum helped create a sketchy-looking company intended to help those who are accused of violating FDA standards. The GOP congressman, who was featured on the company's website in a photo featuring his congressional members' pin, was required to disclose his role in the business, but didn't. What's more, as the Associated Press' report noted, the business is based in the same Iowa office as a construction software company Blum also owns.

The congressman called the disclosure failure an "administrative oversight," which isn't exactly a compelling defense.

And while this is probably starting to sound bad, this makes it sound vastly worse.

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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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