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History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

GOP again moves to help keep Trump's tax returns secret

09/08/17 09:20AM

For the most part, the controversy over Donald Trump's secret tax returns has been replaced with other presidential scandals, forcing the story out of the headlines. Much of the political world has accepted the fact that the materials will likely never reach the public.

Trump said he'd release them, as every major-party presidential nominee has done since Watergate, but for reasons the Republican hasn't explained, he refuses to be transparent in this area.

But some congressional Democrats remain tenacious on the issue. reported overnight:

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. tried once again Thursday to force President Donald Trump to release his income tax returns. And once again walked away empty-handed.

The Republican majority on the House Ways and Means Committee turned down Pascrell's latest motion, as it has his previous attempts to force the president to follow a 40-year precedent and release his financial information.

Pascrell, who's measure demanded Trump's personal and business returns, argued, "How can we debate tax reform proposals without seeing the president's tax returns? [...] Congress has the authority and the duty to obtain and review President Trump's tax returns to ensure there are no potential conflicts of interest in the tax policies he is proposing."

This, evidently, did not prove persuasive. The Ways and Means Committee voted 21 to 14 to reject the New Jersey Democrat's motion, which would've directed the Treasury Department to provide the documents to Congress, with literally zero Republicans breaking ranks.

Why did the panel bring up the motion in the first place if the majority intended to kill it? Well, it's an interesting story.

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ACA repeal crusade starts to look like 'the zombie apocalypse'

09/08/17 08:41AM

At 1:50 p.m. (ET) yesterday, Politico reported that the Republican campaign to overhaul the nation's health care system has effectively run its course.

Senate Republicans are throwing cold water on the idea of holding another Obamacare repeal vote before their opportunity to gut the law on a party-line vote expires at the end of this month.

Almost exactly an hour later, at 2:52 p.m. (ET), Bloomberg Politics reported the exact opposite.

Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham said Thursday they will introduce a revised version of their proposal to replace Obamacare, with the goal of getting a vote by the end of this month.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote in September if the senators can line up 50 of their colleagues to back the measure, Cassidy said in an interview, adding that President Donald Trump is supportive of the plan.

So, which of these reports is correct? As odd as this may seem, they're both largely right.

A week ago, when the Senate parliamentarian announced that Senate Republicans have until the end of the month to pass their health care bill with just 50 votes, it looked like the GOP's repeal crusade was just about dead. Indeed, one of the most striking political aspects of this was that practically no one on the right responded to the parliamentarian's ruling by saying, "Quick, let's get this done before it's too late!" Instead, the news was met with quiet resignation.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to throw a lifeline to the repeal campaign this week, before clarifying that he expects any health care bill to follow regular order, which involves a process anti-health care forces simply don't have time for.

GOP leaders, reluctant to keep banging their heads into this particular wall, and still recovering from its last attempts at health care legislating, sent every signal that they'd welcome the Sept. 30 deadline and leave this issue behind them.

The trouble is, there are 52 Senate Republicans -- and they're not all on the same page.

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Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA)

A rare Republican moderate decides to walk away from Congress

09/08/17 08:00AM

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) likes to say he's from the "governing wing" of the Republican Party, which is a  helpful summary of how the Pennsylvania Republican approaches his responsibilities. In an era of radical Republican politics, with GOP "moderates" in short supply, Dent has seen his party jump off a right-wing cliff -- and he's refused to follow.

As the Morning Call reported last night, after nearly three decades of serving in elected office, Dent has apparently seen enough.

Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent stunned his colleagues and constituents Thursday evening when the seven-term Lehigh Valley lawmaker announced that he will not seek re-election next year. [...]

Dent, 57, said his decision against an eighth term was one that had been building since 2013 and became final in mid-summer, after consulting with his family, close friends and senior staffers.

The GOP lawmaker said his thinking was "driven by personal matters," though he added that conditions in D.C. were "a factor, to be sure." Dent told the Morning Call that "even the most simple basic tasks of government have become excruciatingly difficult."

His departure probably won't help matters. As The Atlantic's James Fallows noted, Dent was one of the few congressional Republicans who "looked for solutions, not tribal war." It's not that the Pennsylvania congressman relied on a center-left ideology -- the era of "Rockefeller Republicans" has long since passed -- but Dent has long believed in compromise and constructive policymaking.

And that left him out of step with the contemporary GOP, to the point that Dent did not vote for his party's 2016 presidential ticket. As he put it last year, Donald Trump was simply "a bridge too far."

Looking ahead, as the ideological median of the party moves even further to the right, it's worth considering what retirement announcements like these tell us about Republicans' national direction.

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 9.7.17

09/07/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The Category 5 storm has already been blamed for at least nine deaths: "Tourists scrambled to evacuate from Turks & Caicos and the Bahamas on Thursday as the deadly Hurricane Irma threatened to rake the islands and continue ravaging the northern Caribbean."

* Have I mentioned lately that I'm a Miami native with family and friends in the city? "Hurricane Irma was on a track to slam Miami this weekend as it continued to cut a fatal and destructive swath through the Caribbean islands Thursday."

* Irma isn't alone: "Two other menacing hurricanes, Jose and Katia, were swirling in the Atlantic Ocean basin and forecast to strengthen and impact land areas late Friday into the weekend."

* Today's vote was 80 to 17: "The Senate easily passed a $15 billion disaster relief bill Thursday that would also keep the government open for an additional three months and lift the debt ceiling to keep the U.S. Treasury from defaulting." (All 17 "no" votes were from Republicans.)

* Another step backwards: "During a planned press conference on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that 'the era of rule by letter is over' with regards to campus sexual assault."

* Gregory Katsas: "President Donald Trump has tapped one of his own White House attorneys for a judgeship on one of the most important federal appeals courts, opening the door for confirmation hearing questions about the legal controversies that dominated the first seven months of Trump's presidency."

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Image: Republican National Convention: Day One

The latest evolution in Trump Jr's Russia scandal story

09/07/17 12:59PM

Two months ago tomorrow, the New York Times published a report that changed the trajectory of the Trump-Russia scandal in a rather dramatic way. As regular readers no doubt recall, we learned that in in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had a private meeting with, among others, a Kremlin-linked Russian attorney and a former Soviet counterintelligence officer.

This contradicted claims Trump Jr. made in March, when he said he hadn't met with Russians. Making matters worse, in response to the Times' reporting, he issued a written statement -- a statement approved by his father -- claiming the meeting was about adoption policy. That wasn't exactly true, either.

Soon after, Trump Jr. changed his story again, admitting that the campaign meeting was about obtaining information from Russia about Hillary Clinton, which in turn offered evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin government. Indeed, emails about the meeting made it quite clear that Moscow wanted to help Trump, and Trump Jr. welcomed the assistance.

The New York Times reported earlier today on the latest iteration of the argument from the president's eldest son.

Donald Trump Jr. told Senate investigators on Thursday that he set up a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer because he was intrigued that she might have damaging information about Hillary Clinton, saying it was important to learn about Mrs. Clinton's "fitness" to be president.

But nothing came of the Trump Tower meeting, he said, and he was adamant that he never colluded with the Russian government's campaign to disrupt last year's presidential election.

"To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out," he said. "Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration."

As the Times' report added, "The acknowledgment by the president's eldest son that he intended to seek legal counsel after the meeting suggests that he knew, or at least suspected, that accepting potentially damaging information about a rival campaign from a foreign country raised thorny legal issues."

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.7.17

09/07/17 12:00PM

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

* Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) yesterday became the latest congressional Republican to announce his retirement, and Democrats see his competitive district as a key pick-up opportunity.

* In North Dakota yesterday, Donald Trump traveled on Air Force One with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), thanked her from his stage, shook her hand, and told the audience she's a "good woman." With Heitkamp running for re-election in a red state next year, voters should expect to see this moment again.

* In Alabama's Senate Republican primary runoff, a new Southeast Research poll found former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading appointed Sen. Luther Strange, 52% to 36%. The primary runoff is Sept. 26, which is less than three weeks away.

* On a related note, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, formally announced yesterday he's supporting Moore's candidacy.

* The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump with a 40% approval rating, unchanged from June. The president's favorability rating is even lower, dropping to just 36%. The same poll found Barack Obama is easily the nation's most popular political figure.

* In Illinois, state Sen. Daniel Biss, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, raised a few eyebrows last week when he chose Chicago alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a member of Democratic Socialists for America, as his running mate. Yesterday, however, the NBC affiliate in Chicago reported the two parted ways over Ramirez-Rosa's support for the "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement, which support boycotts of companies that do business with Israel.

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President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan.20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Whatever happened to the money from Trump's inaugural committee?

09/07/17 11:30AM

Following up on a presidential commitment, the White House announced yesterday that Donald and Melania Trump have made "a personal donation of $1 million dollars to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and have designated twelve organizations to receive contributions." Among the 12 beneficiaries are charitable groups created by TV preacher Pat Robertson and Christian evangelist Franklin Graham.

But this led The Daily Beast to ask a good question: whatever happened to all that money from Trump's inaugural committee, which was also supposed to go to charity?

Trump's inauguration committee has millions of dollars on hand that it did not spend on ceremonies in January, according to Tom Barrack, a friend of the president's who leads the inaugural committee. The committee has said since January that that money will be given to charity, a pledge that Barrack reiterated to The Daily Beast. But even as some internally press for the unspent funds to go toward hurricane relief efforts, Barrack is signaling that donations may not be made for months.

As regular readers may recall, Trump's inaugural committee was a fundraising juggernaut, eliminating caps on individual contributions -- caps that George W. Bush and Barack Obama both utilized -- and selling "exclusive access" for seven-figure contributions.

But because Trump's inauguration was not well attended, and there weren't that many events, much of the money raised went unspent. We don't know with any specificity exactly what was left over because the president's inaugural committee has not disclosed how the money was used or where the excess funds may end up.

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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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