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Thursday's Mini-Report, 2.22.18

02/22/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* It's a safe bet this will be on tonight's show: "New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year."

* This, too: "Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates has fired his lawyer, The Daily Beast has learned."

* I'll have more on this tomorrow: "Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday afternoon by a St. Louis grand jury on felony invasion of privacy."

* EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt: "On Tuesday, House oversight committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) sent the EPA administrator a letter requesting all documentation related to Pruitt's work-related flights over the past year, including details about the cost, how many staff and security personnel traveled with him, and any waivers the agency issued that would permit first-class travel."

* This is quite a strike: "Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job Thursday amid a dispute over pay and benefits, causing more than 275,000 students to miss classes even as educators gathered at the state Capitol in Charleston."

* Turnout should far exceed that of Trump's inauguration: "Organizers of a rally against mass shootings planned for next month in Washington are expecting up to 500,000 attendees, according to an event permit application."

* Donald van der Vaart: "The Trump administration is considering a North Carolina regulator who questions mainstream climate science to be the next White House environmental adviser, just weeks after withdrawing a previous nominee who held similar views."

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Gamers play video games during the Gamescom 2014 fair in Cologne on Aug. 13, 2014. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

Why blaming gun violence on video games doesn't make sense

02/22/18 02:46PM

Just two days after the massacre at a Florida high school, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) called for an important new public restriction. "We need to have an honest conversation as to what should and should not be allowed in the United States as it relates to the things being put in the hands of our young people," Bevin told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Was he referring to guns? No, when the Republican governor mentioned "things being put in the hands of our young people," he was talking about video games.

Donald Trump is apparently thinking along similar lines.

The president also proposed regulating the content children consume in video games, movies and on the Internet because, he said, the "level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts" and "bad things" are happening to their minds.

"We have to do something about maybe what they're seeing and how they're seeing it," Trump said, adding that some movies are "so violent" but don't feature sex so they're often available for children to see and he wondered if some type of rating system might be necessary to address the issue.

Of course, there's already a ratings system in place for video games and movies, though it's entirely possible the president doesn't know that.

Regardless, if this line of argument sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that. A couple of months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) argued on MSNBC, "I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people."

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On guns, pay attention to what Trump does, not what he says

02/22/18 12:48PM

On Twitter this morning, Donald Trump appeared to lay out his agenda on stemming the tide of gun violence in one handy summary.

"I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!"

The political context, of course, matters a great deal. The president has a great many flaws, but he's generally aware of the prevailing political winds, and despite his fealty to the NRA -- which, incidentally, he praised again this morning -- Trump is reluctant to appear indifferent to public demands on public safety.

This is, after all, a president who declared in his inaugural address, "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." Of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, three have happened since that speech.

So, the White House's vision is coming into focus. Let's take these one at a time:

1. "I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks." That sounds like a worthwhile reform, though it would be a rather dramatic reversal for Trump, who, as Rachel noted on last night's show, has weakened the background check system.

Indeed, the L.A. Times  reported this week, Trump administration officials "have quietly chipped away at the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the federal system that stores consult to make sure buyers are eligible to purchase guns." The piece added, "In his recently released budget for the coming fiscal year, Trump proposed slashing millions of dollars from the budget for the background check system."

2. "...with an emphasis on Mental Health." Again, Trump is the one who, shortly after taking office, took steps to make it easier for the mentally impaired to buy guns. What's more, as the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell explained last week, Trump's proposed budget calls for significant cuts that, if implemented, would limit access to mental-health services for many Americans.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.22.18

02/22/18 12:00PM

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

* We're supposed to hear about Sen. Bob Corker's (R-Tenn.) campaign plans "before Friday," so I suppose that means he'll have an announcement sometime today about whether he's un-retiring or not.

* Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reportedly made some curious comments yesterday, suggesting Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign should've done more about Russian intervention in the campaign. Politico  reported, "Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate."

* Though Donald Trump's approval rating has inched higher in some recent polling, Quinnipiac shows the president's support dropping to 37%. It was 40% in the same poll in early February. Gallup's latest report also found Trump slipping from 40% to 37%.

* Because politics can be weird, Shannon Edwards, who reportedly had an extra-marital affair that ended the career of former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), is now running for Congress. She intends to run as a Republican against Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) in his Pittsburgh-area district.

* It's not just GOP leaders who are pressuring Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to appoint himself to replace ailing Sen. Thad Cochran (R); Trump has also reportedly pressured the governor on this.

* Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa), a top target for Democrats in this year's midterms, has reportedly violated House ethics rules "by failing to disclose his role in a company that he formed."

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks to media outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 22, 2016. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Asked to reject NRA money, Rubio avoids the question

02/22/18 11:30AM

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has earned an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, which means when it comes to casting votes on issues the far-right group cares about, the Florida Republican has been in lock step with the organization.

The NRA, in turn, has shown its appreciation for Rubio's support by offering plenty of support of its own: in 2016, Rubio received more financial backing from the NRA than any other statewide candidate in the country.

With this in mind, Rubio participated in a forum last night on CNN, in his home state of Florida, where the Republican faced more than a few unwelcome questions -- including this one.

...Rubio was asked by junior Cameron Kasky, a prominent face among those driving a nascent student movement to strengthen gun laws, whether he would "accept a single donation from the NRA" going forward.

Rubio avoided the question, saying instead that the NRA "buys into my agenda, I don't buy into theirs," which again evoked jeers.

To appreciate how difficult the exchange was for the senator, you'll have to watch the clip. Note that the young student asked the question twice, though Rubio doesn't give a direct answer either time.

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Image: President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

Trump struggles to defend push for armed school teachers

02/22/18 10:47AM

At yesterday's White House event on school shootings, Donald Trump didn't unveil a specific proposal to bring more guns into schools, but the president also didn't leave any doubts about the kind of proposals he'd prefer to see implemented.

This morning, he apparently saw media coverage of his comments, leading Trump to argue that he didn't say he wanted to give teachers guns, so much as he wants to give guns to teachers.

"I never said 'give teachers guns' like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving 'concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience - only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A 'gun free' school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!

"History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!

"If a potential 'sicko shooter' knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won't go there...problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won't work!"

Even for Trump, this made for jarring reading. On the one hand, he wants the public to believe he "never said 'give teachers guns.'" On the other hand, he also wants the public to believe it would be awesome if we had militarized groups teachers who were armed and prepared to take down "savage sickos."

At yesterday's event, the president described the scourge of school shootings as a "very difficult" problem, which is "very complex." This morning, however, the complexities have apparently melted away.

"Problem solved," Trump declared.

I hate to be a stickler about such things, but I have a few follow-up questions the White House might want to consider:

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Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing Recent IRS Screening Scandal

To protect gerrymandering, Pennsylvania GOP eyes impeachment push

02/22/18 10:00AM

Several years ago, Pennsylvania Republicans engaged in the kind of congressional gerrymandering that's tough to defend. The GOP-led state legislature took an evenly divided state, drew up 18 congressional districts, and put 13 of them safely in Republican hands.

It created a dynamic in which Democratic candidates won 51% of the vote in Pennsylvania, but received only 28% of the power.

The state Supreme Court rejected that map -- calling it "clearly, plainly, and palpably" unconstitutional -- and unveiled a new one last week when state policymakers couldn't come up with a compromise on their own. Republicans still have an advantage under the new district lines, but it's not nearly as outrageous as the GOP's previous version.

Not surprisingly, Republicans aren't pleased, but it's important to understand what GOP officials intend to do with their dissatisfaction.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) said Wednesday during a press conference that the state's legislature should have a "conversation" about potentially impeaching the state's Supreme Court justices over a newly redrawn map. [...]

"I think state House members and state senators are going to be speaking amongst themselves and their constituents, and the fundamental question is does this blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process, does that rise to the level of impeachment?" Toomey continued.

Just so we're clear, the "blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process," in Toomey's mind, wasn't the corrupt gerrymandered map created by his GOP allies. Rather, he was referring to the court ruling that sought to rectify the blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process.

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Image: Donald Trump

Donald Trump is reminded of his empathy gap

02/22/18 09:22AM

Donald Trump held a narrow card during yesterday's listening session at the White House on gun violence in schools, which I initially thought might include a series of policy proposals the president intended to talk about. That would hardly have been outrageous: it's sometimes difficult to remember specific points of an agenda, especially for a political amateur, so I assumed Trump brought a cheat-sheet with him.

But that wasn't the point of the card. Rather, the president brought with him a five-point guide on how best to interact with the event's attendees. The Washington Post  noted:

[R]ight there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, "I hear you."

Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. "What would you most want me to know about your experience?" the card reads. So two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say and their vantage points.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton may have faced years of mockery for having declared, "I feel your pain," but no one ever accused the Democratic president of lacking empathy.

A generation later, White House aides effectively have to remind the current president to at least try to appear as if he's interested in others' pain.

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Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, speaks during a news conference in Albany, NY on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.

GOP's Tenney: Many mass murderers 'end up being Democrats'

02/22/18 08:40AM

For quite a while, the public could see a headline that read something like, "GOP lawmaker says something nutty," and make certain assumptions about who the Republican was. More often than not, the quotes in question seemed to come from Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, or Paul Broun.

But the torch has now been passed to a ridiculous new generation. Now, "GOP lawmaker says something nutty" can refer to any number of newer members of Congress. Take Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), for example.

Many mass murders are perpetrated by Democrats, New York Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney said Wednesday in a radio discussion on gun control following the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school.

"Obviously, there's a lot of politics in it," the congresswoman told the "Focus on the State Capitol" podcast hosted by Fred Dicker. "And it's interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats, but we don't want to, the media doesn't talk about that either."

Now, Claudia Tenney's name may not sound familiar to a national audience -- she's only been on Capitol Hill for a year -- but the New York Republican is slowly earning an unfortunate reputation. She argued two weeks ago, for example, that Democratic reactions to Donald Trump's State of the Union address were "un-American," adding, "And they don't love our country."

Last week, Tenney offered a strange defense of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who's faced allegations of violence against women.

But yesterday was yet another step away from decency for the GOP lawmaker. After the interview, Tenney added in a statement, "I am fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy."

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump

To prevent shootings, Trump eyes more guns in schools

02/22/18 08:00AM

In recent years, much of the right has embraced the idea that the only credible solution to gun violence is more guns. It gave rise to the NRA's "good guy with a gun" mantra.

And in the aftermath of the massacre in Parkland, Fla., last week, it appears Donald Trump is prepared to address school shootings by bringing more guns into schools.

Trump spoke about potential solutions to address the violence, expressing support for arming school officials and teachers and backing ending gun-free zones, which he said are a sign to shooters that says, "Let's go in and let's attack because bullets aren't coming back at us."

The president conceded that concealed carry "only works" with people who are "very adept at using firearms" but said that if one of the "brave" coaches in Parkland who tried to stop the shooter had had a gun, he could have shot the shooter instead of running at him.

In May 2016, after Hillary Clinton suggested Trump intended to bring guns into school classrooms, the Republican insisted she was wrong. Nearly two years later, it appears he may have changed his mind.

Trump added yesterday that he'd also consider a plan to bring armed retired veterans -- who are "very adept" at handling firearms -- who could be "spread evenly throughout" a school to prepare for a possible shooter.

Indeed, the president told his White House audience yesterday that having more people with guns in schools -- teachers, coaches, principles, veterans -- "could very well solve your problem."

Of course, this isn't just their problem. In the United States, it's our problem.

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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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