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The skyline of Washington, D.C., including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, US Capitol and National Mall, is seen from the air at sunset in this photograph taken on June 15, 2014. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Trump's DHS community outreach director quits over racist record

11/17/17 09:20AM

Marc Short, the White House's legislative affairs director, recently told NBC News, "I think the president believes it is his role to improve race relations." If so, Donald Trump and his team have quite a bit of work to do.

The Washington Post reported late yesterday, for example:

A political appointee in the Department of Homeland Security abruptly resigned after the disclosure Thursday he previously made derogatory remarks about black people and Muslims on conservative talk radio.

Rev. Jamie Johnson, who was appointed the head of the DHS's Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships in April, appeared on the program in 2008. The comments resurfaced Thursday after CNN published a report about them with audio snippets.

And what a report it was. Johnson, who was appointed to lead the DHS's outreach office by John Kelly, now the White House chief of staff, established quite a record of ugly rhetoric towards minority groups.

CNN's piece highlighted one particularly striking instance in which Johnson explained his belief that black people were anti-Semitic out of jealousy of the success of Jewish people.

"I think one of the reasons why is because Jewish people from their coming to America in great waves in the early part of the 1800's immediately rolled up their sleeves and began to work so hard and applied themselves to education and other means of improvement and other means of climbing the, I hate this phrase, but the social ladder if you will," Johnson said. "And they have done exceptionally well for themselves. For only representing about 1.4% of America's population, they make up 12% of America's millionaires. Why? Because they work.

"And it's an indictment of America's black community that has turned America's major cities into slums because of laziness, drug use and sexual promiscuity."

Remember, the Trump administration put this guy in charge of the DHS's "neighborhood partnerships."

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An activist holds up a sign outside the State Department during a protest of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 7, 2014 in Washington.

After spill, Trump's Keystone XL assurances appear ridiculous

11/17/17 08:40AM

Two years ago, during the Republican presidential primaries, Donald Trump denounced President Obama's decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. As the Republican put it at the time, there was no "no downside" to the project.

Two years later, Trump is now president and fond of pointing to his approval of the Keystone pipeline as one of his favorite accomplishments. That's problematic on a variety of levels, starting with the emergence of a "downside" Trump said wouldn't exist.

Part of the controversial Keystone Pipeline was shut down Thursday after more than 200,000 gallons of oil leaked in South Dakota, the state and the company that runs the pipeline said Thursday.

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist for the Ground Water Quality Program of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, told NBC News that TransCanada, the Calgary-based company that operates the Canada-to-Texas line, reported the leak Thursday morning in a sparsely populated area of Marshall County, near Amherst in the northeastern part of the state.

As Rachel noted on last night's show, the environmental impact matters, as does the timing. In just a few days, officials in Nebraska are scheduled to decide whether to permit the Keystone XL project to run through their state. Chances are, they'll hear quite a bit about the South Dakota spill between now and their decision.

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland joint news conference

Trump goes after Al Franken, but remains silent on Roy Moore

11/17/17 08:00AM

Kellyanne Conway was asked yesterday morning why Donald Trump has said nothing in response to Roy Moore's sexual-misconduct allegations. "He's been very busy here working," Conway said from the White House.

Evidently, the president managed to pry himself away from his work to weigh in on the sexual-misconduct allegations surrounding Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

"The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?"

Let's just get some of the basic details out of the way. First, we don't know that any other related photographs of Franken exist. Second, on the heels of mocking Hillary Clinton for misspelling a Russian word nearly nine years ago, Trump spelled "Frankenstein" wrong. Third, in the Mary Shelley story, Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster.

But even putting all of that aside, whether the president understands this or not, Trump is playing a dangerous game here.

For example, Trump may prefer to pretend the controversy didn't happen, but he was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women. The Republican said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers attractive – "I don't even wait," Trump claimed at the time – which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

"When you're a star, they let you do it," Trump said on the recording. "You can do anything. Grab 'em by the p—y."

After Trump denied having done what he bragged about doing, several women came forward to accuse the Republican of sexual misconduct. He insisted the allegations were false -- the official White House position is that each of the accusers are liars -- though some of those women accused him of actions Trump boasted about on the "Access Hollywood" recording.

If the president has somehow convinced himself that he has some credibility on this issue, and that the political world should focus on Franken's controversy instead of his own, Trump is mistaken.

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 11.16.17

11/16/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Trump-Russia: "President Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner received and forwarded emails about WikiLeaks and a 'Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite' that he kept from Senate Judiciary Committee investigators, according to panel leaders demanding that he produce the missing records."

* Quite a story out of Afghanistan: "No one will ever know what went through the mind of Afghan Police Lt. Sayed Basam Pacha in those moments when he came face to face with a man he suspected of being a suicide bomber on Thursday afternoon, but whatever it was, he did not hesitate to act."

* EPA: "Two Republican senators have announced they oppose President Donald Trump's controversial pick to become the nation's top regulator of toxic chemicals, putting his nomination in serious jeopardy. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both of North Carolina, said Wednesday they could not support Michael Dourson to lead the Environmental Protection Agency's office of chemical safety, citing concerns about his record."

* Another step backwards: "The Trump administration confirmed Thursday it lifted a ban that had prohibited hunters from importing trophies of elephants killed in two African nations, reversing a 2014 rule put in place by the Obama White House."

* I hope you're following this: "Sinclair Broadcasting, which could soon own more U.S. television stations than any other company, has a plan to create a near-national network of local stations delivering the news with a conservative bent. And thanks to some help from federal officials, that plan is inching closer to reality."

* A painful story to read: "Ohio called off the execution of an ailing 69-year-old killer Wednesday after the executioners couldn't find a vein to insert the IV that delivers the lethal drugs. It was only the third time in modern U.S. history that an execution attempt was halted after the process had begun."

* This one isn't over just yet: "A federal appeals court heard arguments Wednesday about whether to upend a $25 million deal President-elect Donald Trump agreed to last year to settle long-running federal lawsuits over alleged fraud in his Trump University real estate seminar program."

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Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) leaves the Senate Democrats' policy lunch in the Capitol on July 6, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

Judge declares a mistrial in Menendez's corruption trial

11/16/17 04:38PM

Only one sitting senator is currently under indictment, and as of this afternoon, the effort to prosecute him came up short.

The bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial Thursday afternoon when jurors were again deadlocked in a case that threatened to end the Democratic lawmaker's political career.

Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict -- the second time in four days -- even though they reviewed evidence slowly and thoroughly, defense attorney Abbe Lowell told U.S. District Judge William Walls.

One of the 12 jurors later told the press that two of them wanted to convict the Democratic senator, while the other 10 wanted to acquit Menendez on all counts. Unable to reach an agreement, the judge said today he had "no alternative but to declare a mistrial."

Though we don't yet have a full sense of the deliberations, the New Jersey lawmaker likely benefited from the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agreeing last year to make it more difficult to convict politicians on corruption charges in U.S. v. McDonnell.

Federal prosecutors have the option of trying again -- in other words, they can refile the charges and try their luck with another jury -- but given the circumstances, that seems unlikely.

So what happens now to Menendez, who's up for re-election next year? In theory, once a senator faces federal bribery charges, it's tempting to think his or her career probably won't recover, but I'd caution against assuming that in this case.

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U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives at a House Republican Conference meeting June 22, 2016 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

House Republicans approve their regressive tax plan

11/16/17 03:23PM

In the end, the vote wasn't especially close.

The House passed a nearly $1.5 trillion tax bill on Thursday that would slash tax rates on corporations and private businesses, overhaul the individual tax code, and eliminate taxes on wealthy heirs.

The 227-205 vote on the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" is a victory for Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and for President Donald Trump, who spoke to Republican members ahead of the vote.

The full roll call on today's vote is online here. Note that zero Democrats voted for the regressive tax plan -- Dems were not invited to participate in this process in any way -- and 13 House Republicans broke ranks and voted against it.

Of the 13, five represent districts in New York (Dan Donovan, John Faso, Peter King. Elise Stefanik, and Lee Zeldin), four represent districts in New Jersey (Rodney Frelinghuysen, Leonard Lance, Frank LoBiondo, and Chris Smith), three represent districts in California (Darrell Issa, Tom McClintock, and Dana Rohrabacher), and they were joined by North Carolina's Walter Jones.

The significance, of course, is that New York, New Jersey, and California stand to lose the most from the Republican plan because of the state-and-local-tax-deduction (SALT) issue.

There's no shortage of angles to this afternoon's historic vote -- it's the first major vote on overhauling the federal tax code in three decades -- but let's consider just four.

1. This is a bad bill. The Republican tax plan disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Americans and corporations, and raises taxes on many in the middle class, ostensibly the intended beneficiaries of the entire GOP endeavor. The bill would blow a hole in the budget, and there's no credible reason to believe these massive tax breaks will boost the economy in a meaningful way. Members who voted for it will face brutal, accurate attack ads.

2. This is a bad bill passed in a bad way. The 1986 tax reform effort took two years of bipartisan work to complete. This year, the House GOP leadership wrote a bill behind closed doors and passed it in two weeks -- literally just 14 days.

What's more, the House acted without a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the economic effects of the bill, without a meaningful congressional hearing, and without considering amendments.

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Senator Al Franken speaks to students at the University of Minnesota, Sept. 3, 2014. (Photo by Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/ZUMA)

Minnesota's Franken faces sexual misconduct allegations

11/16/17 12:34PM

Sexual misconduct from men in powerful positions is a societal problem, not a partisan problem.

A radio news anchor on Thursday accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of forcibly kissing and groping her a decade ago when they were overseas entertaining U.S. troops.

Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor with KABC in Los Angeles, said she met Franken in December 2006 before he became a lawmaker at a USO show to perform for service members that included a skit he wrote that featured a kiss between the two.

As Tweeden described it in a written piece published this morning, Franken, two years before launching his U.S. Senate bid, insisted on rehearsing a kiss before a USO show, to the point that she became uncomfortable. When she reluctantly agreed to the rehearsal, Tweeden alleges that Franken "came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth."

She later found a photograph, which is now publicly available, of Franken with his hands on her breasts while she was sleeping aboard the military airplane.

"I couldn't believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep. I felt violated all over again. Embarrassed. Belittled. Humiliated. How dare anyone grab my breasts like this and think it's funny?" she said.

In a written statement also released this morning, the Minnesota Democrat said through his spokesperson, "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."

If Franken is under the impression that this three-sentence statement is a sufficient response, he's going to be disappointed.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.16.17

11/16/17 12:01PM

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

* I'd take this with a big grain of salt, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a poll out of Alabama yesterday showing Roy Moore (R) trailing Doug Jones (D) by 12 points. It's worth noting for context that the NRSC desperately wishes Moore would go away.

* In a sign of the times, Moore's campaign website yesterday took down its list of endorsements.

* The Washington Post's Greg Sargent has a good piece today noting that the controversy surrounding Moore is starting to affect statewide races outside of Alabama.

* Now that Richard Cordray is stepping down as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that he'll launch a Democratic gubernatorial campaign in Ohio, where Cordray served in a variety of offices, including state attorney general.

* Speaking of Ohio, state Rep. Wes Goodman (R), considered a rising star in GOP politics and a possible successor to U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R) in the future, resigned this week after party leaders confronted him about unspecified "inappropriate behavior."

* As Democratic officials continue to make plans for the next presidential election cycle, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the party's most recent vice presidential nominee, called this week for the end of superdelegates.

* In Pennsylvania, state House Speaker Mike Turzai (R), who's considered statewide races in recent cycles without following through, has decided to take on incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf (D) next year. Turzai is perhaps best known nationally for controversial comments he made in 2012 about Pennsylvania's voter-ID law and its benefits for the Republican Party.

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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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