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Image: John F. Kelly

Yet another general agrees to join Trump's team

12/08/16 08:48AM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump did something without any real precedent in modern U.S. political history: the Republican, who has no background in the military or matters of national security, went after American generals in surprisingly aggressive ways.

In fact, to hear Trump tell it, generals are incompetent and pathetic. "I know more about ISIS than the generals do," he insisted a year ago. "Believe me." Several months later, Trump added that U.S. military leaders "don't know much because they're not winning," As recently as September, the Republican said American generals "have been reduced to rubble," adding, "They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing to our country."

Despite these broadsides, Trump won the election -- and proceeded to stock his team with generals.
Retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly has been selected to serve as President-elect Donald Trump's secretary for homeland security, NBC News has confirmed. [...]

The retired four-star general led the U.S. Southern Command, and commanded Marines during some of the most intense fighting in Iraq.
Note, Kelly was still on active duty as recently as January.

Ordinarily, the first question in response to any announcement about a cabinet nominee is the most obvious: is this the right person for the job? Given the scope of the Department of Homeland Security's responsibilities, it's an especially important question now, and Kelly's positions on a range of issues will warrant careful scrutiny.

But under the current circumstances, there's also the broader question of why Trump has chosen quite so many generals for his team, and the degree to which this is democratically unusual.
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President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence wave as they visit to Carrier factory, Dec. 1, 2016, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Stung by criticism, Trump goes after local union leader

12/08/16 08:00AM

Donald Trump should be incredibly busy. The transition period is limited, as we talked about the other day, presidents-elect are expected to maintain a rather grueling schedule, choosing a cabinet, attending security briefings, staffing a White House, speaking to international leaders, shaping a policy agenda, and even preparing for his inauguration. Every hour of every day counts.

Trump, however, hasn't yet learned the value of focusing his attention on what matters most. He instead likes to take time complaining about Broadway productions, sketch-comedy shows, and as of last night, local union leaders.
President-elect Donald Trump pledged to be "so presidential you will be bored" during the election, but he continues to keep Americans on their toes after again taking to Twitter to battle his most recent critic.

Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers 1999, told NBC News that he had been harassed and threatened in the wake of Trump's latest attack -- a broadside against Jones leadership of union workers at a Carrier manufacturing plant in Indiana that took center stage last week.
It should've been a relatively minor story. Trump made claims about the Carrier deal that were demonstrably untrue, and Chuck Jones spoke up about it -- as American citizens are still free to do. Last night, the labor leader appeared on CNN to "correct some of [Trump's] math," and soon after, the president-elect who lacks impulse control decided it'd be a good idea to go after Jones directly.

Jones, Trump said on Twitter, "has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!"

None of this makes sense. For one thing, blaming American workers for corporate outsourcing decisions is bonkers. For another, Trump likes to pretend he's a champion of regular, everyday Americans -- unless, apparently, they cross him, in which case the president-elect will go after them personally.
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Trump to pick EPA antagonist to lead EPA

Trump to pick EPA antagonist to lead EPA

12/07/16 09:24PM

Rachel Maddow reports on Donald Trump's apparent selection of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, and Pruitt's history of not only fighting the EPA on environmental regulations but advocating on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, including rejecting climate science. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 12.7.16

12/07/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Indonesia: "Nearly 100 people were killed early Wednesday and more were feared dead after a powerful earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with many of the victims crushed to death in their homes as they slept."

* Pakistan: "All 48 people aboard a passenger plane that crashed into a mountainside in northern Pakistan on Wednesday were killed, authorities confirmed."

* Tennessee: "Two juveniles were arrested Wednesday on aggravated arson charges in the Tennessee wildfires that killed 14 people, and more charges are possible, authorities said Wednesday."

* A sane choice: "After a campaign filled with tough talk on China and some post-election ruffling of diplomatic feathers, President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday tapped Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to become his ambassador to that nation -- a Midwestern Republican who also happens to have a surprising and long-running relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping."

* Italy: "Matteo Renzi officially stepped down as prime minister on Wednesday, three days after his stinging defeat in a critical referendum, formally ending Italy's 63rd government in 70 years."

* An Ohio bill "that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected is headed to the governor's desk.... The legislation would prohibit most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat."

* It's hard to believe, but the Huffington Post's Nick Baumann is facing an actual FBI investigation in response to a sarcastic joke he told on Twitter.
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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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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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