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This July 26, 2012 file photo shows an AR-15 style rifle. (Photo by Alex Brandon/AP)

Florida GOP rejects gun measures, declares porn a health hazard

02/21/18 08:00AM

It appears the Republican majority in Florida's state legislature has a rather macabre sense of humor.

Just a week after a gunman killed 17 people in a massacre at a South Florida high school, the GOP-led state House had an opportunity to debate a ban on assault weapons; As the Miami Herald reported, the right had reason to be pleased with the outcome.

The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Nikolas Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard.

Amid rising tensions at the Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to try to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

Republicans voted it down, 71-36. Several survivors of the high school massacre, watching from the visitors' gallery, were overcome with emotion, and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media.

The outcome was not unexpected, but that was little solace to those who hoped last week's bloodshed might help Republican policymakers to reconsider their assumptions about gun restrictions.

But to fully appreciate the absurdity of the circumstances, consider the fact that while Florida's state House wasn't willing to tackle efforts to prevent gun deaths, it was willing to debate the public health risks associated with porn. The Tampa Bay Times  reported:

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 2.20.18

02/20/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Look for more on this near the top of tonight's show: "A lawyer who is the son-in-law of a Ukranian-Russian oligarch named in the controversial Donald Trump dossier pleaded guilty on Tuesday to lying to investigators in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. It is not clear, however, if Alex van der Zwaan, 33, has signed a cooperation deal with Mueller."

* SCOTUS: "The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday it will not take up an appeal to California's 10-day waiting period for gun buyers, acting as the issue of gun control is once more in the national spotlight after last week's school shooting in Florida."

* Syria: "Attacks by forces loyal to the Syrian government have killed more than 100 people in a rebel-held Damascus suburb, aid agencies and monitoring groups said Tuesday, calling it one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods in Syria's seven-year war."

* Israel: "The mushrooming corruption scandal plaguing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took a surprising new turn on Tuesday, with an allegation that one of his closest advisers had sought to bribe a judge into dropping a criminal investigation involving the prime minister's wife."

* A slow-moving, ongoing tragedy: "Exactly five months after Hurricane Maria, new figures show suicide rates in Puerto Rico reached a new high after years of steady drops."

* Manafort: "Federal law enforcement officials have identified more than $40 million in 'suspicious' financial transactions to and from companies controlled by President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort -- a much larger sum than was cited in his October indictment on money laundering charges."

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Trump moves forward with plan to ban 'bump stocks'

02/20/18 05:03PM

It was just a few months ago that the United States suffered its deadliest mass shooting in modern history, with a nightmarish attack in Las Vegas that left dozens killed and hundreds wounded. As regular readers know, much of the public, as usual, turned to policymakers, seeking some kind of action.

In this case, officials raised the prospect of action on “bump stocks” – an after-market modification that helps semi-automatic weapons, which are legal, fire like automatic weapons, which are already largely banned. A bipartisan bill was introduced on Capitol Hill, and even some Republicans suggested publicly that action on this issue was at least possible.

The momentum stalled quickly. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced that Congress would look to the Trump administration to deal with the issue with new regulations, rather than have lawmakers tackle this new legislation. Today, Donald Trump indicated he's moving forward with a regulatory fix.

President Donald Trump has directed his attorney general to propose regulations that would ban bump stocks and similar devices "that turn legal weapons into machine guns," he announced Tuesday.

The president, speaking at the start of a Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House, said he expected the "critical" new regulations to "be finalized soon."

It's worth clarifying a few things. First, today's presidential remarks didn't actually change any policy; Trump instead suggested we'll eventually see a change in policy once new regulations are complete. What will the new regulations say? We don't yet have any details.

Second, this afternoon's announcement wasn't altogether new. The Justice Department began its review of bump stock regulations two months ago. Trump's specific direction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, is new.

And finally, let's not forget that as recently as late December, the New York Times  reported that Justice Department officials "have indicated they do not believe the department can regulate the sale of gun bump stocks without congressional action."

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Allies abroad urged to ignore Trump's intemperate tweets

02/20/18 12:40PM

During a tour of Latin America last summer, Vice President Mike Pence boasted that the world recognizes Donald Trump as "a leader who says what he means and means what he says." It's a nice sentiment, which was wholly at odds with reality.

I'm not just referring to the Republican president's penchant for breathtaking dishonesty; I'm also referring to the fact that the world has learned no such thing. In fact, the Washington Post  reported over the weekend that U.S. policymakers continue to travel abroad and assure allies that Trump's bizarre messages are better left ignored.

Amid global anxiety about President Trump's approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message for a gathering of Europe's foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.

U.S. lawmakers -- both Democrats and Republicans -- and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump's Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn't contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

Or put another way, the position of the United States on key international issues is not what the president of the United States says it is.

The result, predictably, is widespread confusion. Even our European allies aren't sure whether to believe the words that come directly from Trump or the reassurances from U.S. officials who insist Trump's rhetoric is better left ignored.

The article quoted one diplomat who wondered aloud whether policymakers like White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and others like him who adhere largely to traditional U.S. foreign policy positions "were falling into the same trap as Germany's elite during Hitler's rise, when they continued to serve in government in the name of protecting their nation."

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 2.20.18

02/20/18 12:00PM

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

* The Pennsylvania Supreme Court yesterday unveiled a new map of congressional districts, and though Republicans still hope to file a lawsuit to block it, NBC News called the new map "the most consequential midterm development of 2018."

* On a related note, while the Pennsylvania GOP intends to attack the map as unfair, Donald Trump weighed in this morning, saying Republicans should challenge the map as a partisan matter.

* Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, announced yesterday that after a decade on Capitol Hill, he won't seek re-election this year. By my count, he's the 34th House Republican to announce his or her retirement (12 are retiring from the House to seek higher office, while 22 are leaving elected office altogether.)

* Which gubernatorial races are likely to be the most competitive this year? It looks like the Republican Governors Association has invested $20 million in ad buys in four states: Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio.

* Among the guests at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year will be Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and oddly enough, White House Counsel Don McGahn.

* In Montana, Republican Senate hopeful Troy Downing was charged "with illegally purchasing resident hunting or fishing licenses in Montana while living in California." A local court announced last week that his jury trial will begin in May. Downing has pleaded not guilty.

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump

Trump helps put the spotlight back on his women accusers

02/20/18 11:35AM

During the 2016 presidential campaign, a recording emerged of Donald Trump bragging years earlier about committing sexual assaults. 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."

When the Republican denied ever having done what he'd bragged about doing, 19 women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Trump dismissed his accusers as liars and vowed to sue them. While he never followed through, one of the women is now suing Trump.

Other members of "The Nineteen," as they're sometimes called, have responded in different ways. The Washington Post today profiled Rachel Crooks, who's making an effort to make sure the allegations against the president don't just fade away.

Crooks, 35, had been publicly reliving this story for much of the past two years, ever since she first described it in an email to the New York Times several months before the 2016 election. "I don't know if people will really care about this or if this will matter at all," she had written then, and after Donald Trump's election she had repeated her story at the Women's March, on the "Today" show and at a news conference organized by women's rights attorney Gloria Allred. Crooks had spoken to people dressed in #MeToo sweatshirts and to her rural neighbors whose yards were decorated with Trump signs.

In early February, she launched a campaign to become a Democratic state representative in Ohio, in part so she could share her story more widely with voters across the state. And yet, after dozens of retellings, she still wasn't sure: Did people really care? Did it matter at all?

"I know there are many worse forms of sexual harassment, but doesn't this still speak to character?" Rachel Crooks told one audience. "I don't want money. I don't need a lawsuit. I just want people to listen. How many women have to come forward? What will it take to get a response?"

This morning, Trump responded.

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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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