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In this Oct. 2015 file photo, Republican Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a town hall meeting in Auburn, Maine. (Photo by Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Maine's LePage suggests he likes to 'make up' news stories

07/07/17 12:00PM

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has a striking track record for inflammatory and offensive rhetoric, much of it directed at the media. A few years ago, for example, the Republican governor climbed into the cockpit of a fighter-jet simulator and declared, "I want to find the [Portland] Press Herald building and blow it up."

Yesterday, LePage added to his greatest-hits package with a new curious claim.

Gov. Paul LePage lashed out at the media for reporting he planned to leave the state during a budget impasse, and he suggested he sometimes concocts stories to mislead reporters. The Republican governor also characterized the state media as "vile," "inaccurate" and "useless."

"I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they'll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it's awful," he told WGAN-AM on Thursday.

LePage added, "The sooner the print press goes away the better society will be."

Note the phrasing: in the governor's mind, it's a foregone conclusion that the print press will die. He just hopes it happens sooner rather than later.

We've come a long way from Thomas Jefferson writing in 1787, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

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Voting booths are illuminated by sunlight as voters cast their ballots at a polling place in Billings, Mont., Nov. 6, 2012.

Trump's voting commission relies on evidence that doesn't exist

07/07/17 11:19AM

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), a member of Donald Trump's ridiculous "voter integrity" commission, appeared on MSNBC yesterday and had a rather unpleasant exchange with Katy Tur. After he eventually let Tur ask her first question about the absence of evidence of widespread voter fraud, Blackwell turned to a familiar talking point.

"Let me say that the Pew Foundation found that we have corrupted voter registration files, which means that we have folks who have either registered to vote in two states or we have folks who are still registered to vote who happen to be dead and you create vulnerabilities for the integrity of the system."

If you watch the clip, Katy Tur reminded viewers of the relevant detail that Blackwell chose not to mention: the Pew study didn't point to any evidence of voter fraud. He was asked about fraud, but Blackwell's "proof" was unrelated to the question.

For voter-suppression advocates, this Pew Center report has become a life-preserver of sorts. Whenever Donald Trump has been asked to substantiate some of his more outlandish voter-fraud claims, he insists that Pew provided iron-clad evidence that backs him up. Kris Kobach has also repeatedly cited the Pew research as proof.

Perhaps they didn't understand what they read -- because the report plainly doesn't say what they think it says.

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Job growth picks up steam as spring turns to summer

07/07/17 10:42AM

Monthly job growth was a little underwhelming as 2017 got underway, leading to questions about when we might see more robust numbers. Apparently, we now have an answer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 222,000 jobs in June, which is a very healthy total. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, inched higher to 4.4%.

As for the revisions, the totals for April and May were both revised up, and combined they show a net gain of about 47,000 jobs.

Above you’ll find the chart I run every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction: red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush and Trump administrations, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.

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Former Gov. Rick Perry addresses the National Press Club's Newsmaker Luncheon on his economic plan on July 2, 2015. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Rick Perry's economics 'lesson' goes horribly awry

07/07/17 10:19AM

One of my favorite moments from Rick Perry's second ill-fated presidential campaign came in September 2015, when the Texas Republican responded to criticism from Donald Trump. "A broken clock is right once a day," Perry said at the time, unaware of his mistake.

Two years later, Perry leads the Department of Energy, where's he's still confused about things he thinks he understands. The Washington Post reported:

Speaking at a coal-fired power plant in Maidsville, W.Va., on Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry made a strange argument about supply and demand, seeming to confuse the relationship between two of the essential forces in the economy.

"Here's a little economics lesson: supply and demand," Perry said, according to Taylor Kuykendall of Standard & Poor's. "You put the supply out there, and demand will follow."

Call it the "Field of Dreams" approach to economics: if you build it, they will come.

What Rick Perry apparently doesn't appreciate is that this isn't how capitalism works.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks with reporters reporters after the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol Aug. 4, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

On health care, Republicans have a no good, very bad day

07/07/17 08:00AM

According to the Senate Republican leadership's plan, GOP lawmakers should be gearing up to pass a major overhaul of the nation's health care system early next week. That plan, however, is now in shreds.

Instead of moving closer to their goal, Republicans appeared to be going backwards yesterday. Sen. John Hoeven (R) of North Dakota, for example, became the latest GOP senator to announce he can't support the current version of his party's plan. A far-right effort in Ohio to freeze the state's Medicaid expansion program failed, increasing pressure on Sen. Rob Portman (R) not to vote for the broader GOP gambit. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), meanwhile, made his demands clear, and in the process, narrowed the window of opportunity for Republican leaders to craft a bill that would satisfy the party's competing factions.

It was around this time that Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), another red-state opponent of the current Republican plan, told a town-hall audience in his home state that it's "almost impossible" to overhaul the nation's health care system with GOP votes exclusively -- which to date has been the only approach his party has been willing to try.

And then there was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), who spoke publicly about the process for the first time in a while at an event in his native Kentucky.

In his first public comments in nearly a week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday indicated that passing the GOP's health care bill remains a daunting prospect for a Republican conference so far unable to agree on key details.... But he also said taking no action on health care is not an option for Congress.

"If Republicans are not able to agree among themselves, the crisis will still be there and we'll have to figure out the way forward at that point," McConnell told the crowd Thursday.

And that was an unexpectedly interesting thing for the Senate Republican leader to say.

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Thursday's Mini-Report, 7.6.17

07/06/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Germany: "Violent clashes broke out near the site of the G-20 Summit Thursday as German riot police confronted thousands of protesters demonstrating amid the arrival of President Donald Trump."

* Following up on last night's coverage: "Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday he won't stop the execution of William Morva despite claims that Morva suffers from a delusional disorder and requests for clemency from mental-health advocates, the European Union and a victim's relative."

* A setback for Scalise: "Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House, has been readmitted to intensive care as he recovers from last month's congressional baseball shooting, a Washington, D.C., hospital said Wednesday night."

* A case to watch: "A group of Democratic attorneys general from 19 states announced Thursday they are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for delaying regulations aimed at protecting student-loan borrowers defrauded by colleges."

* A personnel problem: "The process of staffing the Trump administration and filling judicial vacancies has moved slowly on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, with only about one in five of President Trump's civilian nominations receiving confirmation from the Senate, and committees waiting on paperwork for more than two dozen nominees."

* With Tera Dahl out as the deputy chief of staff at the NSC, H.R. McMaster's faction appears to be winning: "As rival factions inside the White House continue to battle over urgent foreign policy decisions, a key ally of Donald Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon is leaving the National Security Council, BuzzFeed News has learned."

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Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin responds to US President Donald Trump ordering missile strikes on Syria

Why is Putin being rewarded with a presidential meeting?

07/06/17 04:39PM

Donald Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow, and by all accounts, a variety of U.S. officials are concerned about whether the American leader is prepared for the discussion. Given what we know about Trump, those concerns appear well grounded.

But before we consider how the meeting will go, it's worth pausing to ask why the meeting is happening at all. When Putin invaded parts of Ukraine and annexed Crimea, the American response was to isolate Russia -- economically and diplomatically. And yet, tomorrow, Putin will nevertheless leave the penalty box and interact with the sitting American president. As Rachel put it on last night's show:

"From what is now our American perspective, how exactly has [Putin] earned his way out of that? How has he earned a face-to-face, full scale bilateral meeting with the U.S. president? What has he done to deserve that meeting and that respect?

"Other than launching a massive cyberattack on our presidential election last year? And threatening to shoot down U.S. jets over Syria just a couple of weeks ago, and sending their Russian fighter jets to buzz American ships and planes all over the world, and these new credible allegations that Russian firms are selling weapons and oil to North Korea as North Korea is shooting off an ICBM? Other than that, what has Putin done to earn this?"

The White House hasn't gone out of its way to explain why this meeting will take place, instead treating it as a rather routine diplomatic development. Except, it's not -- because American diplomacy with a country that launched the most serious attack on us since 9/11 is anything but routine.

Making matters worse, of course, is the fact that Putin is a seasoned head of state -- and a former KGB official -- preparing to engage the least experienced and least prepared American president in history, who, up until fairly recently, was a strange television personality.

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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

After clashing with the White House, top ethics official resigns

07/06/17 02:21PM

Donald Trump's administration has only existed for about six months, but the number of officials who've resigned in frustration is growing.

In May, for example, Mike Dubke stepped down as the White House's communications director after only a few months on the job. A month later, David Rank resigned from the State Department's Foreign Service, ending a career in U.S. diplomacy that lasted nearly three decades and spanned five presidencies.

Earlier this week, Hui Chen gave up her post at the Justice Department's corporate crime unit, frustrated that the president is ignoring the same standards she demanded of those she investigated for criminal wrongdoing.

Today's resignation, however, is probably the biggest to date.

The ethics watchdog who has badgered the Trump administration for months about conflicts of interest says he is leaving the federal government.

Walter Shaub, director of the previously little-known Office of Government Ethics, made a name for himself by criticizing the administration repeatedly, most notably over Trump's refusal to sell his business interests.

Shaub told the Washington Post he wasn't leaving under pressure, adding that no one in the White House or the administration pushed him to resign. He conceded, however, that in this administration, "It's clear that there isn't more I could accomplish," he said.

Shaub, who's term was scheduled to end later this year, will take on a new role at the Campaign Legal Center.

"In working with the current administration, it has become clear that we need to strengthen the ethics program [in government]," he added to the Post.

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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Republicans try to get Democrats to write a health plan for them

07/06/17 01:05PM

Republicans in the White House and Congress have discovered overhauling the nation's health care system isn't as easy as they thought it'd be. This week, however, the Republican National Committee decided it'd be a good idea to turn the tables, demanding that congressional Democrats come up with their own blueprint. The Washington Post reported:

To state the obvious: Partisan video clips are not designed to make the other party look good. There's an art to these things. You compile the worst moments by the other team, or by an opponent, and try to make them go viral.

But a strange, flailing campaign by the Republican National Committee to demand a Democratic fix for the Affordable Care Act goes unusually far in misrepresenting what the opposition party is doing or saying.

The 83-second video features a variety of prominent progressive figures, including Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, acknowledging that they'd like to see changes to the status quo. The RNC believes these concessions are important: if Democrats agree there should be additional reforms, Dems have a responsibility to present their proposals.

Even by the RNC's standards, this is an odd line of argument. First, as the Post's report noted, the video edited out relevant context to make it look like "Democrats are not just evasive, but stumped when asked what they'd be willing to change to fix the ACA. That's not what's been happening."

Second, the challenge itself is flawed. Republicans control the levers of power in Washington, so asking Democrats to do what GOP officials have struggled to do -- present a comprehensive health care blueprint -- doesn't make a lot of sense. Indeed, when Democrats were in power and asked Republicans to present their own ACA alternative, Republicans took more than seven years to come up with a plan that, at least for now, can't pass and most of the country hates.

Third, as part of the public-relations offensive, the RNC said on Twitter yesterday, "Our healthcare system is collapsing, but Democrats refuse to bring anything to the table. Where's THEIR plan?" Putting aside the fact that the system isn't collapsing, Democrats haven't been invited to participate in policy deliberations. Whether the Republican National Committee understands this or not, Dems can't "bring anything to the table" because GOP leaders have effectively hidden the table.

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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.6.17

07/06/17 12:00PM

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

* Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) made it official today, telling the Nevada Independent that she's giving up her House seat to take on incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) next year. Rosen received encouragement from "Nevada's political godfather, Harry Reid."

* Politico reports that congressional Democratic leaders are working on a midterm-election agenda, called a "Better Deal," that is being "polled in battleground House districts," and "aims to convince voters that Democrats have more to offer than the GOP and the self-proclaimed deal-maker in the White House."

* In Oklahoma, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) promised voters that, if elected, he'd retire after three terms in order to honor his commitment to the principle of term limits. This week, Mullin announced he'll seek a fourth term next year.

* In Texas, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) reportedly raised more than $1 million online in just two months in advance of his campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year. That's a decent haul given Cruz's odds of winning a second term.

* Speaking of fundraising, Randy Bryce‏, the Democratic candidate running to take on House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) next year, raised $430,000 in just 12 days last month. That's pretty impressive, too.

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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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