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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)

Another Pence claim about Russia scandal turns out to be untrue

11/14/17 08:40AM

Just a few weeks before Election Day 2016, then-Gov. Mike Pence (R) appeared on Fox News, where he faced a question about WikiLeaks that's even more interesting now than it was at the time:

FNC: Some have suggested, on the left, that all this bad stuff about Hillary, nothing bad about Trump, that your campaign is in cahoots with WikiLeaks.

PENCE: Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was literally that same day -- Oct. 14, 2016 -- that Donald Trump Jr., who'd been in communications with WikiLeaks, used social media to promote a link he'd received from WikiLeaks in order to help disseminate stolen materials, intended to help put his father in power.

In other words, the exact same day that Mike Pence said the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks were not in cahoots, we now know that the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks were clearly in cahoots.

With this in mind, the vice president's office last night released a written statement, which said Pence "was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks. He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight."

What Pence told the public was false, but we're now supposed to believe he didn't know it was false at the time.

If only this were an isolated incident.

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Image: POLITICS-US-TRUMP

Why Trump Jr's campaign contacts with WikiLeaks matter

11/14/17 08:00AM

Even now, a year after the 2016 presidential election, we're still learning about previously unreported communications between Trump World and Russia and its compatriots. Take the revelations from late yesterday, for example.

President Donald Trump's oldest son on Monday released a series of direct messages he received from the Twitter account behind the WikiLeaks website, including his responses to the communications.

Donald Trump Jr.'s release of the messages on Twitter came hours after The Atlantic first reported them.... The documents released by Trump Jr. show him responding three times, at one point agreeing to "ask around" about a political action committee WikiLeaks had mentioned. He also asked the site about a rumor about an upcoming leak. The messages began in September 2016 and ran through July.

Julia Ioffe's report in The Atlantic, documenting the exchanges that occurred during WikiLeaks' dissemination of stolen materials, is well worth your time. Among other things, it makes clear that Donald Trump's eldest son was communicating -- during the campaign -- with the same people who were helping carry out the Russian intelligence operation that was mounted during our election to put his father in power.

What's more, as Rachel added on last night's show, Trump Jr. has effectively admitted that he helped Russia's allies distribute their stolen materials.

What's more, Trump Jr. hadn't exactly gone rogue while these events unfolded. The Atlantic's reporting added, "[O]n the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks."

Team Trump has a standard move in circumstances like these, but it's not available to them in this specific case.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.13.17

11/13/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Middle East: "At least 414 people were killed and almost 6,500 others injured after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck near Iran's border with Iraq, authorities said Monday. Rescuers were trying to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings but their efforts were hindered in many places by landslides. More than 100 aftershocks were registered, according to Iranian officials."

* New Jersey: "Jurors in the bribery trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez sent the judge a note on Monday saying they 'can't reach a unanimous verdict on any of the charges.' The judge excused the jurors and told them to return Tuesday to continue deliberating the Democratic senator's fate."

* A sixth woman "has come forward to accuse former President George H.W. Bush of groping in years past -- in this case, when she was 16 and had her picture taken with him in Texas."

* A terrifying scene in Poland: "Tens of thousands of Poles marched across downtown Warsaw on Saturday, in an independence-day procession organized by a nationalist youth movement that seeks an ethnically pure Poland with fewer Jews or Muslims."

* Christopher Sharpley: "Two former CIA employees are accusing the Trump administration's choice for CIA chief watchdog of being less than candid when he told Congress he didn't know about any active whistleblower complaints against him."

* It's about time: "The Senate unanimously approved legislation late Thursday that institutes mandatory sexual harassment training for senators and aides -- a potentially meaningful shift amid calls for overhauling Capitol Hill's system for handling harassment complaints."

* Niger: "The body of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four U.S. soldiers killed in an ambush by Islamist militants in Niger last month, was found with his arms tied and a gaping wound at the back of his head, according to two villagers, suggesting that he may have been captured and then executed."

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Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore speaks to the congregation of Kimberly Church of God, June 28, 2015, in Kimberley, Ala. (Photo by Butch Dill/AP)

Alabama's Roy Moore faces yet another accuser

11/13/17 04:26PM

As part of his pushback against sexual misconduct allegations, Alabama's Roy Moore suggested on Friday that other accusers may yet come forward. Today, that's precisely what happened.

A fifth woman accused Roy S. Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, on Monday of making sexual or romantic advances toward her when she was a teenager, as senior Republicans in Washington called for him to drop out of the race and threatened to expel him from the Senate if he wins.

The new accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, told a news conference in New York that Mr. Moore attacked her when she was 16 and he was a prosecutor in Etowah County, Ala. Ms. Nelson was represented at the news conference by Gloria Allred, a lawyer who has championed victims of sexual harassment.

In a statement she read to the press this afternoon, Nelson said, "I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch," She added that, during the incident, Moore told her that no one would believe her if she reported the incident.

At the same vent, Nelson, who identified herself as a Trump voter, produced a page from high-school yearbook that she said was signed by Moore. (If this is legitimate, he literally signed the yearbook, "Roy Moore, D.A.," removing any doubt that if may have been a different person with the same name.)

As for what happens now, the initial response from Republican officials last week was that Moore should end his candidacy "if the allegations are true." As of today, however, a variety of GOP senators have become less circumspect about the prospect of Moore joining their ranks.

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The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

Republicans take church politicking bill in a radical direction

11/13/17 12:53PM

Since before last year's election, Donald Trump has promised the religious right he'd deliver on one of the movement's top priorities: allowing houses of worship to engage in partisan activities without fear of losing their tax-exempt status. To that end, Republican legislation to change federal tax law has slowly been working its way through Capitol Hill this year.

But that bill may not be necessary. GOP policymakers have also included repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the tax law provision that prohibits church politicking, in the Republican tax plan. As a strategic matter, this makes sense: the proposed tax cuts aren't especially popular, so it stands to reason GOP officials would try to generate some support from their Christian conservative allies.

Late last week, however, The Hill noted that House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) made some changes to the tax plan, including one big one related to non-profits and political activities.

Under the amendment, churches and other nonprofits with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status would be able to engage in political speech from 2019 to 2023. The initial bill would not have had a sunset date but would have only applied to houses of worship, rather than all 501(c)(3) organizations.

Let's unpack this a bit. Under current law, tax-exempt houses of worship that engage in partisan political activities risk losing their tax exemption. Under the initial Republican plan, the law would be changed to allow ministries to intervene in elections and keep their tax-exempt status anyway.

Under the latest GOP proposal, which passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, all tax-exempt groups -- houses of worship, universities and other educational organizations, charities, publications, etc. -- could engage in partisan politicking without fear of punishment from the IRS.

In other words, every U.S. non-profit that is now, by law, non-partisan could start endorsing candidates, aligning with super PACs, contributing to political parties, etc.

Faced with a controversy over their efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, Republicans managed to make their effort quite a bit more radical.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.13.17

11/13/17 12:00PM

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

* Though I'd recommend caution when reading polls conducted in the middle of a firestorm, JMC Analytics' latest poll of Alabama's U.S. Senate special election found Doug Jones (D) leading Roy Moore (R), 48% to 44%.

* Asked specifically this morning whether he believes the claims made by Roy Moore's accusers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters this morning, "I believe the women, yes." [Update: McConnell added this morning, in reference to Moore, "I think he should step aside."

* The New York Times reported that GOP officials have weighed a plan in which they'd urge Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) to cancel the Dec. 12 special election, "giving the party time to ease Mr. Moore from the race." The governor's office said yesterday that this isn't going to happen.

* In Green Bay this morning, Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, kicked off his Democratic gubernatorial campaign, hoping to deny Gov. Scott Walker (R) a third term. Mitchell is the first African American to run for governor in Wisconsin.

* In Massachusetts, Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email as a teenager, was running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Over the weekend, he re-launched his statewide bid and is now running as an independent.

* Though Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hasn't officially announced his 2018 election plans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is taking a variety of steps in preparation for a Senate campaign in Utah.

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Image: President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

Trump taps former pharmaceutical industry executive to lead HHS

11/13/17 11:20AM

It's been about six weeks since Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price was forced to resign, stemming from a controversy in which he repeatedly had taxpayers pay for his travel on private jets. Today, Donald Trump announced his nominee for Price's replacement.

President Donald Trump said Monday that he will nominate former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar as secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Azar, 50, had until last January served as president of the American arm of drug giant Eli Lilly and Company. The Yale Law graduate Azar also had served as general counsel of HHS in the administration of President George W. Bush.

To be sure, Azar's nomination doesn't come as too big of a surprise. Nearly a month ago, reports surfaced that Azar was the frontrunner for the job; he's a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act; and he's a doctrinaire partisan on the Republican Party's regressive health care agenda, especially on issues such as gutting Medicaid through block grants.

What is surprising, though, is that this president would tap a drug company executive to oversee federal health care policy.

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A person man uses a laptop. (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa/AP)

As Russia scandal unfolds, Cambridge Analytica draws new scrutiny

11/13/17 10:41AM

There's no shortage of relevant angles to Donald Trump's Russia scandal, but it's worth appreciating the significance of Cambridge Analytica's role in this mess.

As you've probably seen Rachel mention on the show, Cambridge Analytica is the data firm the Trump campaign hired during last year's presidential election. The firm took on added significance two weeks ago when the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump donor Rebekah Mercer asked Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix "whether the company could better organize the Hillary Clinton-related emails being released by WikiLeaks," which allegedly received stolen documents from Russian hackers.

The WSJ added some additional details to the timeline late Friday, reporting that Cambridge Analytica initiated contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in "early June 2016."

When Mr. Nix's approach to WikiLeaks was reported by The Wall Street Journal last month, it wasn't clear whether Cambridge was working for the Trump campaign at the time. Federal Election Commission records show the first payment by the campaign to Cambridge Analytica is dated July 29, 2016.

New details about the timing of Cambridge Analytica's Trump campaign work show that the firm's effort to obtain the Clinton emails—which U.S. intelligence agencies later determined had been stolen by Russian intelligence and given to the Sweden-based WikiLeaks—came as the company was in the advanced stages of contract negotiations with the campaign and had already dispatched employees to help it.

The same article added that Cambridge Analytica "collected close to $9 million from the campaign, including $6 million that was publicly disclosed and additional funds routed through Giles Parscale, a firm run by Trump digital director Brad Parscale, according to a person familiar with the payments -- about 50% more than publicly reported."

Trump World, true to form, has tried to downplay its connections with the firm. It's an odd thing to lie about.

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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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