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The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stands in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Trump's EPA pick has fought vehemently ... against the EPA

12/07/16 04:11PM

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump sat down for a lengthy interview with the New York Times, where he emphasized his commitment to the environment. "I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important," the president-elect said. "Clean water -- crystal clean water -- is vitally important. Safety is vitally important."

If his choice for the Environmental Protection Agency is any indication, Trump didn't mean a word of it.
Donald Trump intends to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior transition official confirmed to NBC News Wednesday -- the clearest sign yet the president-elect will pursue an agenda that could undue President Obama's climate change legacy.

An ally to the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt has aggressively fought against environmental regulations, becoming one of a number of attorneys general to craft a 28-state lawsuit against the Obama administration's rules to curb carbon emissions.
A Washington Post report added that Pruitt "has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the agency he is being nominated to lead." That includes Pruitt's refusal to believe in climate change.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but Scott Pruitt, if confirmed, will be the most anti-environmental EPA chief in history. He's practically a caricature of what a ridiculous Republican choice for the agency looks like.

When Trump and one of his adult children met with Al Gore this week, some clung to hopes that the president-elect might temper some of his far-right attitudes and be halfway reasonable when it comes to natural resources. Those hopes now appear quite foolish. Pruitt's nomination is the punchline to a bad joke.
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President-elect Donald Trump arrives at a rally at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Trump faces unanswered questions about his stock portfolio

12/07/16 01:07PM

Donald Trump's conflict-of-interest problems are well documented, but they've largely dealt with his real-estate holdings around the world. A week ago, the Washington Post added an additional wrinkle: the president-elect "has disclosed owning millions of dollars of stock in companies with business pending before the U.S. government and whose value could rise as a result of his policies."

The article added that Trump's stock holdings have included shares in companies that stand to directly benefit from his administration's policies, which in turn creates "another area rife with potential conflicts of interest that Trump has yet to address as he prepares to take office."

But, the Washington Post reported last week, Trump "has said he will separate" himself from his stock investments "in some fashion."

Yesterday, the issue came to the fore when Trump lashed out at Boeing, a company the president-elect has owned stock in. As the Huffington Post noted, this led to questions for Team Trump, which received an unexpected answer.
President-elect Donald Trump's spokesman said on Tuesday that Trump had sold off all his investments in the stock market more than five months ago, but the Trump transition team has yet to offer any evidence to substantiate this claim.

The statement came during the team's daily conference call with reporters. Asked about a tweet that Trump had sent out earlier Tuesday morning accusing Boeing of overcharging for two new Air Force One planes, spokesman Jason Miller said Trump "sold all of his stock back in June." At the time, Miller seemed to be saying that the president-elect had sold his shares in Boeing. But Miller later told at least two media outlets that Trump had sold his shares in all public companies, not just Boeing.
NBC's Matt Lauer asked Trump this morning why he didn't make some kind of announcement in June when, according to his spokesperson, the Republican sold his entire stock portfolio, with shares valued at tens of millions of dollars. "Oh, I let everybody know," Trump said. "I let everybody know."

By all appearances, that's not at all true -- Trump doesn't appear to have told anyone, at least publicly. And therein lies part of the problem.
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.7.16

12/07/16 12:00PM

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

* Members of Trump's transition team are required to sign "a non-disclosure agreement to make certain they keep all of their work confidential."

* With only a few days remaining before Louisiana's U.S. Senate runoff election, a Tulane University/Lucid poll shows John Neely Kennedy (R) with a big lead over Foster Campbell (D).

* In related news, Donald Trump is scheduled to appear in Louisiana on Friday, the day before the election, potentially giving Kennedy a last-minute boost. Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, campaigned for Kennedy in Louisiana last weekend.

* Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) announced this morning he will resign from Congress if he's chosen as DNC chair in order to focus solely on his party duties.

* Hillary Clinton's lead in the national popular vote yesterday surpassed 2.7 million. At some point, the political world really ought to have a conversation about this.

* There's apparently a rumor circulating that Clinton won just 57 counties. That's not even close to being true.

* Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has heard the chatter about members of the Electoral College voting for him when they convene on Dec. 19, but he issued a statement yesterday encouraging them not to.

* With Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) likely to become the next U.S. Ambassador to China, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is apparently interested in a possible gubernatorial campaign in his home state.
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A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Trump still questions U.S. intelligence on Russia

12/07/16 11:20AM

One of the biggest political developments of 2016 was largely overlooked by voters and the political world in general. There's quite a bit of evidence to suggest a foreign government -- Vladimir Putin's Russia -- took deliberate criminal steps to interfere with the American presidential election, apparently because foreign officials preferred one candidate to the other.

Indeed, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all reached the same conclusion: Russia apparently stole American materials in order to interfere with the U.S. political process.

Before the election, Trump said he simply did not believe American intelligence agencies when it came to Russia. After the election, he evidently hasn't changed his mind. Time, which today named Trump "Person of the Year," reports:
For reasons that remain unclear, Trump still refuses to acknowledge the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Putin's agencies were responsible for stealing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails released on WikiLeaks. "I don't believe it. I don't believe they interfered," Trump says.

Asked if he thought the conclusion of America's spies was politically driven, Trump says, "I think so."
It's not at all clear why, exactly, Trump believes this, and he's never explained what's led him to question the veracity of American intelligence -- other than his own personal preferences.

It does help explain, however, why the president-elect has blown off most of the available national-security intelligence briefings that have been made available to him during the transition process: Trump doesn't seem to believe what U.S. agencies have to tell him.

Once he's in office, making life-or-death decisions about international affairs, Trump's skepticism about his own intelligence agencies might make things ... how do I put this ... problematic.
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In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., talks to reporters near the subway on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

McCain thinks it's 'outrageous' to ask him about Trump

12/07/16 10:44AM

As a candidate on the campaign trail this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wasn't exactly pleased to have Donald Trump leading his party's ticket. McCain, whose military service was mocked by Trump, tried to be a loyal partisan for months, before eventually withdrawing his endorsement of the Republican nominee in early October, after the public learned of Trump's boasts about sexually assaulting women.

That, of course, was when McCain and nearly everyone else assumed Trump would lose, and the senator was trying to save his own skin. Nevertheless, a month later, both Republicans prevailed in their respective races.

But as it happens, McCain's discomfort is ongoing. Last week, the Republican senator grew quite agitated with reporters who dared to ask him about his party's new leader. "I'm not talking about President-elect Trump," McCain declared. "I will not talk about Donald Trump.... Do not ask me again about Donald Trump."

Since reporters don't take orders from the Arizonan, McCain blew up again yesterday. The Huffington Post reported:
He got mad at a Bloomberg reporter who asked him about Trump’s tax plan, and repeatedly told him he’s not going to talk about the president-elect of the United States. When a PRI reporter asked when he would talk about Trump again, the Arizona senator responded, now somewhat playfully, "On the first of January, I promise to start answering these stupid, idiotic questions."
When the Huffington Post asked if this means McCain won't comment on anything the president-elect does between now and Inauguration Day, the senator reportedly "became visibly angry." He said, "I'm sick and tired of only being asked about everything that Donald Trump says or does. I think it's outrageous and ridiculous that people like you should continue to do so."

In reality, however, it's neither outrageous nor ridiculous. In fact, there's ample evidence that McCain himself doesn't believe his own rhetoric.
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Republican Senators Hold News Conference On NLRB

Leading GOP obstructionist decries 'senseless obstruction'

12/07/16 10:09AM

Watching irony die can be an exasperating experience.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 4 Republican, said that on issues like health care, he hopes [Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer] "works closely with us, listens to the voices of the voters around the country and ends this really senseless obstruction."
Let's take a minute to unwrap this, because it's one of the more jarring quotes of the year.

First, listening to voters' voices isn't a bad idea, but in the most recent election cycle, voters (a) preferred Hillary Clinton by a considerable margin; (b) shrunk the Republican majorities in both chambers; and (c) keep telling pollsters that they're not on board with the GOP's repeal plans.

Second, for John Barrasso to decry "senseless obstruction" without appreciating the irony is completely bonkers. The far-right Wyoming senator has been almost hysterically obstructionist when it comes to health care policy in recent years, at one point going so far as to demand that officials "stop celebrating" good news related to the ACA reform effort.

But even if we look past these highly relevant details, Barrasso seems to genuinely believe Democrats should "work closely" with Republicans hellbent on tearing down the existing health care system and replacing it with some alternative no one can identify. The response from Democratic leaders, in effect, has been, "Um, no."

And if Barrasso and other Republicans find that surprising, they haven't been paying close enough attention.
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A sign identifies the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building in Washington, D.C. on May 7, 2010. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Congress holds IRS impeachment vote as Trump eyes new commissioner

12/07/16 09:20AM

The 114th Congress is, mercifully, nearly over, but as we saw yesterday, lawmakers aren't quite done considering ridiculous ideas. The Wall Street Journal reported:
The House of Representatives turned aside an attempt by conservative hard-liners to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his handling of congressional investigations into the tax agency.

Instead, in a 342-72 vote, the House sent the issue back to the Judiciary Committee, which hasn't held a formal impeachment hearing or voted on the matter.
The vote effectively ends the impeachment crusade, at least for a while. The House's GOP majority could start the process anew next year, but there wouldn't be any point.

The fact that this even reached the House floor yesterday is something of an embarrassment. Circling back to our previous coverage, the IRS "scandal" was discredited years ago -- Koskinen wasn't even at the tax agency when the imaginary controversy unfolded -- and as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) documented in May, charges that Koskinen was part of some kind of after-the-fact cover-up don't make any sense.

Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty -- the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, a sizable group of far-right House Republicans have tried to impeach him, for reasons even they have struggled to explain.

Of course, whether or not Congress approves, Koskinen won't lead the IRS much longer. As the Journal's article added, Koskinen, who's now 77, "serves a fixed term that ends in November 2017. [Donald Trump] could force him out or could wait until the end of Mr. Koskinen's term and appoint his successor, who must be confirmed by the Senate."

And that raises some interesting possibilities.
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Empty hospital emergency room. (Stock photo by  DreamPictures/Getty Images)

Hospitals: GOP may create 'an unprecedented public health crisis'

12/07/16 08:40AM

Hospitals are not known for being especially political or ideological. Everyone gets sick; everyone occasionally has a medical emergency; and so everyone has a vested interest in making sure hospitals are stable and secure facilities.

And with that in mind, when American hospitals start to panic in response to Republican threats, the public ought to take note. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
The nation's hospital industry warned President-elect Trump and congressional leaders on Tuesday that repealing the Affordable Care Act could cost hospitals $165 billion by the middle of the next decade and trigger "an unprecedented public health crisis."

The two main trade groups for U.S. hospitals dispatched a letter to the incoming president and Capitol Hill's top four leaders, saying that the government should help hospitals avoid massive financial losses if the law is rescinded in a way that causes a surge of uninsured patients.
The dire warning was issued alongside this study (pdf) from the AHA and the Federation of American Hospitals, detailing the severe financial consequences for the industry if the nation's current system unravels as a result of the Republican agenda.

Joann Anderson, the president and CEO of Southeastern Health in Lumberton, North Carolina, told reporters yesterday that hospitals face dangerous and systemic disruptions from the GOP's plans. "A repeal-and-replace initiative is frightening," Anderson said. "To think about going through another dramatic, sudden, rapid change for an organization that teeters on being able to stay alive and provide services is gut-wrenching."

I'm curious about how easily warnings such as these can be dismissed as trivial. In recent years, Republicans and their allies have reflexively ignored related warnings about the repeal crusade by dismissing the ideologies of the messengers: reports from universities are ignored because scholars are liberals; reports from news organizations are ignored because journalists are liberals; reports based on arithmetic are ignored because math is liberal, and so on.

But what about hospitals? Does the right see major medical institutions as political enemies whose warnings don't matter?
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President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, on Nov. 14, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Without mentioning his name, Obama sends Trump a subtle reminder

12/07/16 08:00AM

President Obama will wrap up his second term next month, leaving him limited opportunities for major, big-picture speeches. As was clear in Tampa yesterday, however, Obama is eager to take advantage of his remaining time in office to speak to his legacy -- and his successor. Slate's Fred Kaplan helped set the stage:
President Obama on Tuesday delivered his final national security speech as commander in chief. The address had been planned well before the election, his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, had told reporters in advance. The intention was to summarize the things the president had accomplished and the guidelines that the next one, whoever he or she might be, would be wise to follow in the year ahead.

But the unmistakable subject of the speech Obama gave in front of a crowd of servicemen and women at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, was the man he never actually named, Donald Trump.
If you missed the speech, the transcript is online, and if you read it, pay particular attention to the repeated instances in which Obama sent not-so-subtle shots across his successor's bow.

* On torture: "We prohibited torture, everywhere, at all times -- and that includes tactics like waterboarding. And at no time has anybody who has worked with me told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence. (Applause.) When we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law."

* On civil liberties: "[W]e have to uphold the civil liberties that define us. Terrorists want us to turn on one another.... The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom."

* On Muslims: "We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam. But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America's military. If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists' narrative. It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill. If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we're not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we'll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend."

* On American principles: "[O]ver these last eight years, we have demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values.... We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are."
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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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