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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 6.20.17

06/20/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Brussels: "The main train station in the Belgian capital was evacuated Tuesday evening after security forces shot a person following a small but fiery blast, officials said. Nobody besides the alleged perpetrator was hurt in the incident, which happened around 9 p.m. local time at Brussels Central Station, the prosecutor's office reported."

* His first instinct is to always blame his predecessor: "President Trump on Tuesday called the death of Otto Warmbier, who was detained in North Korea for nearly a year and a half, 'a total disgrace' and indirectly blamed former president Barack Obama for not securing the University of Virginia student's release sooner."

* On a related note, Trump had this tweet this afternoon, and it's not at all clear what it means: "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!"

* The footage is important, but not for the faint of heart: "Authorities on Tuesday released graphic dashcam footage of officer Jeronimo Yanez firing seven shots into Philando Castile's car last year, killing him as viewers watched the aftermath on Facebook Live."

* This isn't fine: "A U.S. military official says a Russian fighter jet flew within several feet of an American reconnaissance plane in what the U.S. says was an unsafe maneuver over the Baltic Sea. Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a U.S. European Command spokesman, said the Russian pilot was flying at high speed and had poor control of the aircraft."

* As p.r. gimmicks go, this was a pretty good one: "Democratic Sens. Cory Booker, Brian Schatz, and Chris Murphy decided to take their hunt for the GOP's healthcare bill on the road Tuesday."

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Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.

Republicans intend to execute 'a legislative heist'

06/20/17 12:59PM

The news last night was in line with expectations, but was nevertheless extraordinary: Senate Republicans really are moving forward with plans to hold a vote next week on a health care overhaul, bringing a still-secret bill to the floor. There will be no hearings, no testimony from industry stakeholders or subject-matter experts, and no meaningful deliberation among lawmakers themselves.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes, apparently flabbergasted, wrote on Twitter, "This is quite literally unprecedented. I've run out of adjectives for it. It's like a legislative heist."

The more I thought about it, the more I liked that analogy.

To a very real extent, Americans have already seen Senate Republicans pull off one of the most important political heists in at least a generation. GOP senators recently stole a Supreme Court seat, taking it from one administration and handing it to another, affecting the direction of American jurisprudence for decades.

Last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared, "One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy.'" As regular readers know, this is the kind of pride one feels when they steal something and know they've gotten away with it.

But just as every great heist movie seems to get a sequel, McConnell & Co. may be pulling off an even bigger robbery in plain sight.

Consider what goes into every successful heist:

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.20.17

06/20/17 12:00PM

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

* Georgia's long-awaited congressional special election is today, pitting Jon Ossoff (D) against Karen Handel (R) in a district that's been a Republican stronghold for many years. Polls opened at 7 a.m. local time and will close at 7 p.m. Check out tonight's show for results.

* Though it's received less attention -- and far less money -- South Carolina is also hosting a congressional special election today, with Ralph Norman (R) facing off against Archie Parnell (R) in a deep-red district. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, "The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the biggest outside contributor to the race, has spent $275,000 to test a host of messages aimed at driving black voters to the polls. The results, officials say, will inform Democratic turnout efforts in African-American communities in the 2018 elections."

* In Nevada, the latest Public Policy Polling survey found Sen. Dean Heller (R), who's up for re-election in a battleground state, with an approval rating of just 31%, with 44% disapproving. In a test against a generic Democrat, the poll found Heller trailing by seven percentage points.

* With this in mind, it was of interest last night when Politico reported that Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) intended to take on the Republican incumbent in Nevada next year, with a formal announcement coming "in a couple weeks."

* In the race to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who'll resign from Congress next week, Utah Democrats have chosen physician Kathie Allen as the party's nominee for the special election. There will be no primary, and Allen is considered the underdog in this heavily Republican district.

* The field of candidates in Michigan's 2018 gubernatorial race continues to grow, with Shri Thanedar, a businessman and scientist, kicking off his campaign last week. Thanedar, the CEO of a chemical testing lab in Ann Arbor, is running as a Democrat.

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Image: House Votes On Trump's American Health Care Act

Devin Nunes: 'I never recused myself' from Russia probe

06/20/17 11:21AM

By early April, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had become the punch-line to an unfortunate joke. The California Republican, who was supposed to be leading an investigation into the Russia scandal, took steps to effectively blow up his own probe by partnering with the White House, keeping secrets from his colleagues, and lying publicly about his own antics.

With circumstances forcing his hand, and facing an ethics probe, Nunes announced on April 6 that he was recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Responsibility for overseeing the probe quickly shifted to other GOP members of the House Intelligence panel.

All of which brought us to yesterday, when the GOP congressman said he didn't actually recuse himself after all. The Washington Examiner reported:

"I never recused myself," the House Intelligence Committee chairman reportedly said in an interview with KMJ's Ray Appleton. "This was essentially made up by the media."

Nunes announced on April 6 that he'd step away from the House's investigation of the Russia issue, meaning a fair number of reporters were justifiably confused by his interview remarks.

As Rachel noted on last night's show, we were certainly led to believe Nunes had withdrawn from the process, "but he now says that was all fake news. He's still in charge. He's not recused and he's still controlling the subpoena power on that committee. That's weird."

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Attorney General Eric Holder delivers remarks on March 4, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Former AG Eric Holder: 'Now is the time to be heard'

06/20/17 10:50AM

Former Attorney General Eric Holder has been making a variety of public appearances lately, including delivering a speech to the Virginia Democratic Party last weekend. Before his remarks, Holder spoke with NBC News about a recent trip he took with Barack Obama, and the discussion the two had about redistricting reform.

In fact, Obama asked Holder to lead a new organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, "to prepare Democrats for 2020, when states will redraw the boundaries of their legislative and congressional districts for the first time in a decade."

Holder joked, "Part of my job is to make redistricting sexy" for Democrats.

As it turns out, that may not be the only job the former attorney general has in mind. Yahoo News published an interesting piece this morning, noting that Holder is "re-entering the political fray," perhaps with a national campaign in mind.

Seized by a sense of urgency to oppose Trump and restore what he regards as America's best self, Holder is mulling a White House bid of his own, according to three sources who have spoken to him and are familiar with his thinking.

"Up to now, I have been more behind-the-scenes," Holder told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview about his plans. "But that's about to change. I have a certain status as the former attorney general. A certain familiarity as the first African-American attorney general. There's a justified perception that I'm close to President Obama. So I want to use whatever skills I have, whatever notoriety I have, to be effective in opposing things that are, at the end of the day, just bad for the country.

"Now is the time to be more visible," Holder added. "Now is the time to be heard."

He made the comments while in California, helping promote a state proposal "designed to prevent the Trump administration from forcing local police departments to assist in the deportation of undocumented immigrants."

The same report added that Holder is also in the early stages of creating a national "PAC-like organization that would develop and coordinate legal resistance strategies among various states and localities that are determined to stymie Trump."

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to supporters during a rally at Valdosta State University Feb. 29, 2016 in Valdosta, Ga. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty)

New polling shows Trump's support slipping among Republicans

06/20/17 10:20AM

Donald Trump wants to be seen as a popular president, which leads him to seek out polling data, cherry-pick the outlier results that tell him what he wants to hear, and tout the satisfying data with great vigor.

In reality, however, Trump continues to struggle in ways we've never seen in a new American president.

At 36 percent, Mr. Trump's approval rating is now his lowest in CBS News Polls since becoming president. Fifty-seven percent now disapprove.

The drop in the President's approval rating is partially due to ebbing support among Republicans. Seventy-two percent approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing, a decline of eleven points since April.

It's that second part that stands out as notable. The fact that the CBS News poll shows the president's overall approval rating in the mid-30s isn't especially noteworthy -- that's roughly in line with most other major polls of late -- but the more Trump's support slips with voters from his own party, the more significant the political impact.

CBS News' report added that other recent presidents have seen their support drop to similar levels with their party's voters, which is true. What's also true, however, is that Trump's recent predecessors didn't have a 72% approval rating among their ostensible partisan allies five months into their first term.

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Remember when Trump vowed, 'We're not going into Syria'?

06/20/17 09:20AM

In April, shortly after ordering a missile strike against a Syrian airbase controlled by the Assad regime, Donald Trump said in an interview that "we're not going into Syria." Even at the time, it was a strange thing for a sitting president to say.

After all, not only had he just launched a new military offensive against Bashar al Assad's government -- putting the United States on more than one side in Syria's civil war -- but there's also the fact that American troops are already serving in Syria.

The assertion that "we're not going into Syria" appears even more bizarre now in light of the developments from the last few days, as reported by the Washington Post:

On Sunday, a U.S. fighter jet downed a Syrian warplane for the first time in the conflict. By Monday, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia, had suspended a pact used to prevent crashes with the U.S.-led coalition in the skies over Syria and was threatening to target American jets. [...]

On Monday, Russia condemned that strike as a "flagrant violation of international law" and said its forces will treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft and drones as targets if they are operating in Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates River while Russian aviation is on combat missions.

The circumstances are as stunning as they are treacherous. Syria is in the midst of a horrific civil war, which Donald Trump said he wants to stay out of, except he's now targeting the Assad regime's forces and its ISIS enemies -- both with increasing frequency. Assad's Russia allies, meanwhile, are now threatening to target American forces.

The crisis, in other words, is intensifying in ways the American president may not fully appreciate or understand.

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Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry waits to speak during a campaign stop at the South Carolina Military Museum, June 8, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

Perry sees climate denial as evidence of being 'intellectually engaged'

06/20/17 08:40AM

In the Obama administration, the first Energy Secretary was Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and a physics professor at Berkeley. He was succeeded by Ernest Moniz, who led the physics department at MIT.

In the Trump administration, things are a little ... different.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told CNBC on Monday he does not believe carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the main driver of climate change, joining the EPA administrator in casting doubt on the conclusion of some of the government's top scientists.

Asked whether CO2 emissions are primarily responsible for climate change, Perry told CNBC's "Squawk Box": "No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in."

In an apparent attempt to drive the reality-based community batty, Perry added that his skepticism towards climate data is a sign of a "wise, intellectually engaged person."

It's not just the cabinet secretary's rejection of climate science that rankles; it's also Perry's explanation. He not only fails to accept the effects of carbon pollution, Perry believes climate change is the result of oceans "and this environment."

What does that mean? I have no idea, but just as importantly, there's no reason to believe Perry has any idea, either.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

McConnell, GOP prepare a showdown over secret health care bill

06/20/17 08:00AM

As things stand, they're actually doing this.

Senate GOP leaders have set a timeline to vote next week on legislation to repeal large chunks of the Affordable Care Act, even though they don’t yet appear to have secured enough support to pass it. [...]

GOP aides and others familiar with the negotiations said they anticipate the Senate bill’s text will be released later this week. The CBO is expected to release its estimate of the Senate bill’s impact on the federal budget and insurance coverage early next week, and a vote could potentially be held next Thursday, before lawmakers scatter.

As the Wall Street Journal report makes clear, the Republicans' legislation -- the life-or-death bill that will be voted on next week -- does not yet exist. What's more, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not yet secured the 51 votes he'll need to advance the measure.

But he and the GOP leadership are moving forward anyway. Politico had a related piece noting that McConnell and his cohorts are going through with this, "potentially leaving rank-and-file lawmakers with no more than a week to review legislation that would affect millions of Americans and one-sixth of the U.S. economy."

"Review" is itself a generous term under the circumstances. It might be better to say "speed-read."

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, will likely have even less time with the proposal, since Senate Republicans don't intend to unveil their secret bill until after it's presented to the Congressional Budget Office. It creates the very real possibility that nearly half of the nation's elected senators, representing more than half of the American people, will only have a day or two to scrutinize legislation that would overhaul the nation's health care system.

McConnell swore he'd never try to govern this way. His assurances, we now know, were a lie.

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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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