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Image: Rep. Devin Nunes Briefs Press On House Intelligence Cmte Russia Investigation

Nunes: There's 'no one left' for Mueller to indict in Russia scandal

03/16/18 10:45AM

Politico  reported late yesterday that House Republicans "are privately venting that they've fumbled the release of their own Russia probe report."

Ya think? The GOP leadership of the House Intelligence Committee abruptly ended their own investigation of the Russia scandal, long before they had all the facts. They also released a ridiculous pre-cooked report, rejected the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia backing Donald Trump, and then spent the rest of the week conceding that this core conclusion of the GOP report was wrong.

"Fumbled the release" seems like a charitable way of saying the House Intelligence Committee's Republicans screwed up spectacularly (again). Four days after the release of a GOP document intended to exonerate their party's president, the only people who even remember the report are those who recognize its insulting absurdities.

But the committee's embattled chairman and unyielding Donald Trump ally, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), is undeterred. Indeed, he spoke at a private dinner this week, hosted by a conservative magazine called the American Spectator, and toed the White House line in an interesting way. The Washington Examiner reported:

Nunes said that he doesn't see who [Special Counsel Robert Mueller] could indict for collusion if all the indictments to date have been on other charges.

"Now look at who Mueller has prosecuted at this point, and who is left to prosecute for collusion?" he wondered. "I mean, there's no one left. [Former Trump campaign manager Paul] Manafort would be the obvious guy to think of that was colluding, right? If you could have gotten him on collusion, he would have been the obvious choice. Flynn, I mean, I knew Flynn very very well, and he is not a secret communist supporting Putin. So, they can't get him on that. So who else do they have?"

Was that a rhetorical question? Because if Nunes really wants to know -- if he genuinely believes there's literally no one else who might be prosecuted by the special counsel's team -- the California Republican probably should've run a real investigation and kept it going.

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Buildings are seen near the ocean as reports indicate that Miami-Dade County could be one of the most susceptible places when it comes to rising water levels due to global warming, on March 14, 2012 in North Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

In FEMA's strategic plan, climate change is nowhere to be found

03/16/18 10:00AM

The first sign of trouble came when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau changed its mission statement to show that in the Trump era, the CFPB would be less focused on protecting consumers' finances.

Soon after, it was U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services changing its mission statement, eliminating the phrase "America's promise as a nation of immigrants." Then it was the Department of Housing and Urban Development mission statement, which will apparently no longer reference "free from discrimination," "quality homes," or "inclusive communities."

The Interior Department's mission statement no longer references native Americans or providing "scientific and other information." The State Department's mission statement no longer prioritizes the goal of a "just and democratic world."

And then there's FEMA and its new strategic plan.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government's first responder to floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, has eliminated references to climate change from its strategic planning document for the next four years.

That document, released by FEMA on Thursday, outlines plans for building preparedness and reducing the complexity of the agency.

FEMA's strategic plan mentions expected cost increases "due to rising natural hazard risk," but makes no mention of the global crisis that contributes to those risks.

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Image: Donald Trump, Justin Trudeauo

After admitting he makes stuff up, Trump clings to bogus claim

03/16/18 09:20AM

Even for Donald Trump, it was a bizarre moment. The president boasted at a fundraiser this week that he hosted a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the two leaders discussed which country had a trade deficit with the other. According to his own version of events, Trump insisted the U.S. has a trade deficit with our neighbor to the north, though he had no idea whether or not that was true.

It was striking for several reasons. The president not only admitted that he makes stuff up, Trump also acted as if this is worth bragging about -- even in the context of trying to mislead the prime minister of one of the United States' closest allies. It also served as a reminder that the president doesn't feel like doing his homework, even on one of his signature issues.

But nearly as important is what Trump did when this news caused a stir: the president repeated the falsehood he's so fond of:

"We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive). P.M. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn't like saying that Canada has a Surplus vs. the U.S.(negotiating), but they do...they almost all do...and that's how I know!"

The child-like logic is a sight to behold:

1. Trump believes the United States has a trade deficit with almost every country.
2. Canada is a country.
3. Ergo, the United States must have a trade deficit with Canada. QED.

Meanwhile, in reality, the United States does not have a trade deficit with Canada. We know this largely because of data provided by ... wait for it ... the Trump administration.

Faced with the evidence, Trump seems determined to dig in further, and the rest of his team feels compelled to play along with the fantasy.

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Ben Carson watches as Donald Trump takes the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Why Ben Carson's office decorating mess matters

03/16/18 08:40AM

As if Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson wasn't already struggling enough, things got worse for the brain-surgeon-turned-politician a few weeks ago. The New York Times  reported Carson's agency spent more than $31,000 on furniture for the cabinet secretary, despite a law that requires congressional approval for furniture costing more than $5,000.

A HUD spokesperson said at the time that Carson "didn't know the table had been purchased," a point amplified by the secretary himself in a Facebook post. "I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered," he wrote.

As Politico  reported this week, there's new reason for skepticism about the official Carson line.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was involved in selecting a $31,000 dining table set for his office suite, emails show, despite Carson and HUD's statements that he had no knowledge of the costly request.

A cache of emails obtained by the advocacy group American Oversight show a HUD employee referring to "print outs of the furniture Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out" on Aug. 29, 2017.

The emails, for what it's worth, came by way of a Freedom of Information Act request (as opposed to a leak from agency staffers who don't like Carson).

At a briefing yesterday, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about whether Carson misused public funds. The president's spokesperson said, "Look, this is something we're looking into."

The Washington Post  reported overnight that Carson is "considered at risk for being fired," and the Weekly Standard, a prominent conservative magazine, had a related piece.

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Image: President Trump announces steep tarrifs on imported steel and aluminum

Donald Trump's latest head-scratcher: The 'bowling ball test'

03/16/18 08:00AM

Donald Trump had all kinds of curious things to say at a fundraiser in Missouri this week, but as the Washington Post  reported, one of the more notable head-scratchers came when the president was describing gimmicks Japan uses to deny U.S. auto companies access to its consumers.

"It's called the bowling ball test; do you know what that is? That's where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car," Trump said of Japan. "And if the hood dents, then the car doesn't qualify. Well, guess what, the roof dented a little bit, and they said, nope, this car doesn't qualify. It's horrible, the way we're treated. It's horrible."

No one had any idea what he was talking about. Yesterday, the White House insisted the president was kidding.

Hours after President Donald Trump told a group of Missouri donors that Japanese regulators were dropping bowling balls on American automobiles to keep them off the market, the White House insisted the president's anecdote was just an allegory.

"Obviously, he's joking about this particular test," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday afternoon, telling a reporter who said he'd covered the auto industry in Japan that Trump's anecdote was merely "illustrative of creative practices" countries use to keep American goods out of their markets.

But the president, delivering the story Wednesday evening, offered no indication that he was joking.

Indeed, if you read the transcript, the only thing that's perfectly clear about this story is that Trump most certainly wasn't kidding. The president believes there are stringent Japanese regulations in place, including the "bowling ball test," that American manufacturers struggle to overcome, creating an unfair advantage for Japanese auto companies.

Another White House reporter added that, according to a White House aide, Trump "frequently" mentions this bowling ball test in meetings, for reasons no one understands.

So, what's going on here?

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 3.15.18

03/15/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* It's about time: "The Trump administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals in retaliation for interference in the 2016 presidential elections and other 'malicious cyberattacks.' It was the most significant action taken against Moscow since President Trump took office."

* A terrifying scene: "A pedestrian walkway in Miami collapsed on Thursday, killing several people. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the fatalities after multiple vehicles were crushed by the span near Florida International University's campus. According to Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue, there were people on the bridge and several cars underneath it."

* Unexpected news from the FDA: "The Food and Drug Administration plans to try to lower the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to make them less addictive — an unprecedented move by the agency. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Thursday the agency would propose the rule, opening a long bureaucratic process."

* Parkland: "Surveillance video released on Thursday showed that the only armed sheriff's deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., remained outside during the Feb. 14 massacre at the school, taking cover behind a wall."

* Oklahoma "announced Wednesday that after failing to obtain lethal injection drugs, it will seek to execute inmates on death row by asphyxiating them with nitrogen gas."

* Eight years: "The fighting in Syria enters its eighth year on Thursday. A conflict that began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime escalated into a full-scale civil war that is now one of this century's deadliest."

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Image: US-POLITCS-FBI-MULLER

Robert Mueller reportedly subpoenas the Trump Organization

03/15/18 04:22PM

The role of Donald Trump's private business in the investigation into the Russia scandal appears to be increasingly unavoidable. Last night, for example, Rachel noted on the show that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee reported that the Trump Organization was actively negotiating a business deal in Moscow with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 election. That's no small revelation.

And while it's not clear if today's news is related to the sanctioned Russian bank, the New York Times  reports that the president's business has now been subpoenaed by Robert Mueller.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to President Trump's businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor was it clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents from the company, an umbrella organization that oversees Mr. Trump's business ventures. In the subpoena, delivered in recent weeks, Mr. Mueller ordered the Trump Organization to hand over all documents related to Russia and other topics he is investigating, the people said.

When the president's attorneys assured him this investigation would end by the end of March, that was clearly wrong.

The next question -- well, one of them -- is whether and to what extent these developments cross the president's "red line."

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Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attends the 2018 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 27, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

New evidence links Trump Organization and Stormy Daniels

03/15/18 12:51PM

There have been quite a few reports over the last couple of days on Donald Trump's Stormy Daniels controversy, so let's take a look at what we've learned. NBC News, for example, reported last night:

A top lawyer for the Trump Organization was involved in trying to enforce a secrecy agreement that adult film star Stormy Daniels signed in exchange for $130,000 before the 2016 election, new documents show.

Jill A. Martin, whose LinkedIn profile says she is assistant general counsel for the company, last month signed two legal papers linked to a temporary restraining order against the actress, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

At issue is the "hush agreement" intended to silence Daniels, and while we've known for a while about the NDA, the Wall Street Journal noted that these new documents "for the first time tie President Donald Trump's flagship holding company to the continuing effort to silence a former adult-film actress who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump."

The president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, created an LLC shortly before the 2016 presidential election in order to facilitate the $130,000 payment to the porn star, buying her silence. But we now know it was also a Trump Organization lawyer who was recently involved in arbitration proceedings intended to ensure Daniels' silence.

NBC News' report added that Clifford's attorney, Michael Avenatti, argued that Jill Martin's signature on the paperwork "is another piece of evidence that Trump knew about the nondisclosure agreement, the payment and the more recent efforts to stop his client from talking."

And while I don't think the revelations definitely show what, exactly, the president knew, the larger point is that the connections are growing, linking Trump's lawyer, Trump's business, Trump's alleged former mistress, and the effort to keep her quiet.

What else have we learned of late? Quite a bit, actually. Politico reported late yesterday that BuzzFeed "may have found a legal opening" for Daniels and her lawyers to exploit.

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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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