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Monday's Mini-Report, 9.11.17

09/11/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Florida: "On the day after Hurricane Irma roared through their state, many Floridians emerged blinking from boarded-up homes and shelters on Monday to survey the damage -- and were surprised it wasn't a whole lot worse."

* Don't forget Houston: "Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters have left this sprawling metropolis partially ruined and eager to return to something like normalcy. But the storm has also forced many thousands of people out of their homes. As a result, the city is engaged in one giant collective improvisation. Its defining creative endeavor is where to find a place to sleep."

* The U.S. Supreme Court "agreed Monday to maintain President Trump's temporary ban on travel to America by refugees. The court acted after the Trump administration urged the court to act quickly to keep the refugee ban in place. But the government gave up fighting over whether grandmothers and other relatives should also be subject to the ban."

* This probably won't be well received: "Pope Francis is urging President Donald Trump to rethink his decision to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation, saying anyone who calls himself 'pro-life' should keep families together."

* United Nations: "The Trump administration has backed away from some of the most stringent penalties it had sought to impose on North Korea, in an apparent effort to draw Russian and Chinese backing for a new raft of sanctions over the country's nuclear weapons advances."

* A story worth watching: "The congressional campaign of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, has twice purchased Costco memberships. The 'membership dues' -- $50 and $150 -- were paid in November 2009 and December 2012, respectively. U-T Watchdog identified the payments in reviewing some of Hunter's older expenses -- an exercise federal investigators are also going through, as they review his personal spending of campaign funds."

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Image: White House Senior Advisor Bannon attends a roundtable discussion held by U.S. President Trump with auto industry leaders at the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township

Steve Bannon is ready for his ideological war

09/11/17 12:47PM

Breitbart's Steve Bannon, four weeks removed from his role as chief strategist in Donald Trump's White House, covered quite a bit of ground on CBS's "60 Minutes" last night. Bannon apparently sees himself in some kind of protracted ideological battle with the congressional Republican leadership; he has "contempt" for George W. Bush and his team; and he considers the president's decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey as possibly the biggest mistake "in modern political history."

And while all of this was interesting, it wasn't the part of the interview that stuck with me once the show aired. Rather, it was this exchange between Bannon and Charlie Rose that I found myself mulling over afterwards.

ROSE: Everybody listening to you talks about one of the great issues in American life today, which is the plight of the middle class. But they also believe that there is -- on your part and the president's part -- not enough appreciation for some of the values also that made America great. And you don't appreciate that. You don't appreciate the diversity, you don't appreciate the respect for civil rights...

BANNON: I was raised in a desegregated neighborhood. It-- it-- the north side of Richmond is predominantly black, OK? I went to -- I went to an integrated school, a Catholic school. I served in the military. I don't need to be -- I don't need to be lectured by a bunch of -- by a bunch of limousine liberals, OK, from the Upper East Side of New York and from the Hamptons, OK, about any of this. My lived experience is that.

We're all familiar with the old cliché: a person accused of racism will say, "Some of my best friends are (fill in the blank with the relevant minority group)." But that's not quite where Bannon went in the interview.

Instead, his answer was slightly worse. Bannon could've made the case that he respects racial and ethnic diversity, and explained why it's a core element of American strength, but his defensiveness took him in a different direction. In Bannon's case, "Some of my best friends are minorities" has effectively been replaced with, "Some of the people I've been exposed to are minorities."

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.11.17

09/11/17 12:00PM

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

* In Alabama's Republican Senate primary runoff, Donald Trump reportedly told appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) he'd headline an in-state rally on Strange's behalf. With just two weeks remaining, the senator is still waiting.

* Voters in Maine will soon have the opportunity to vote on Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has fought to make sure the benefit is described as "welfare" on the ballot. The Maine Secretary of State's office has rejected the governor's request.

* In Virginia on Friday, the State Board of Elections "directed counties to ditch touchscreen voting machines before November's elections, saying the devices posed unacceptable digital risks." As Politico's report noted, the decision applies to this year's elections, which are just two months away.

* Speaking of Virginia, the Washington Post reports that the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder and backed by former President Barack Obama, "recently made its first campaign donation: $500,000 to the Democratic Party of Virginia to help elect Ralph Northam as the state's next governor."

* And in still more news out of the commonwealth, former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, who's already failed twice in her bids for public office, announced Friday she won't run for the Senate in Virginia next year.

* To no one's surprise, Hillary Clinton will not seek public office again, telling CBS News in an interview that aired yesterday, "I am done with being a candidate. But I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country's future is at stake."

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Image: TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-ELECTIONS-TRUMP

Even the White House counsel has reportedly lawyered up

09/11/17 11:20AM

When the White House's lawyer needs a lawyer, it's safe to say the Trump-Russia scandal has reached a new level.

President Trump's former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and White House counsel Donald McGahn have reportedly hired the same lawyer to represent them in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. William Burck, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP and a co-chair of the firm's white-collar investigations, will be advising the pair, Law360 reports. [...]

Burck previously served as a White House deputy counsel and is a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan.

The full Law360 report, which is only available to its paid subscribers, is online here.

All of this, of course, follows the news from late Friday, which Rachel noted on the show, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has notified the White House of his intention to interview several top members of Donald Trump's team. The Washington Post reported that among the personnel are Priebus, former press secretary Sean Spicer, and White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, each of whom may be witnesses to "several episodes relevant to the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election." (Hicks has also reportedly lawyererd up.)

We don't yet know when the interviews will happen, but based on the reporting, Mueller and his team will want to chat with these current and former officials once investigators have a chance to review all of the documents that have been requested.

And why is all of this so significant? I'm glad you asked.

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

White House social media director promotes bogus Irma news

09/11/17 10:42AM

Dan Scavino Jr., the White House director of social media, has an unfortunate habit of making headlines for the wrong reasons. A few months ago, for example, after Donald Trump lashed out at the mayor of London following a terrorist attack, Scavino argued the president's criticism was payback for something the mayor said about Trump 13 months ago.

In August, Scavino used his social-media presence to target Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), piling on to the intra-party feud.

Slate noted over the weekend that Scavino made a different kind of misstep related to Hurricane Irma.

Fake images and videos of Hurricane Irma that are making the rounds on social media can fool anyone, including, apparently people who are actually working at tracking the storm. The White House's own director of social media, Dan Scavino Jr., sent out a tweet that he thought showed massive flooding at the Miami International Airport as a way to demonstrate how President Donald Trump's administration was keeping track of Irma's devastation. The problem? The video was not actually of the Miami airport.

Miami International Airport quickly replied to Scavino's tweet to inform him that the video did not depict the situation at the airport.

Scavino eventually deleted the tweet -- roughly a half-hour after publishing it -- though the original message said he was sharing social-media footage of the storm with the president and vice president.

Not surprisingly, the mistake made Scavino the butt of online mockery, but I think there's a serious point just below the surface.

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Image: White House news conference with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Director Gary Cohn

Trump refuses 'to make eye contact' with his top economic adviser

09/11/17 10:03AM

The New York Times had an interesting item over the weekend on White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's operation, which included an anecdote I hadn't seen elsewhere.

The new chief of staff has tried to shield Gary D. Cohn, the chairman of the National Economic Council, from Mr. Trump’s continuing wrath since the former Goldman Sachs executive went public with his disgust at the president’s response to the deadly violence last month in Charlottesville, Va.

Mr. Kelly made a point, one staff member said, of throwing his arm around Mr. Cohn in solidarity, in full view of the news media, as they exited Marine One last week on the South Lawn.

But he has not always been successful. Several aides said Mr. Trump is freezing out Mr. Cohn by employing a familiar tactic: refusing to make eye contact with Mr. Cohn when his adviser greets him.

In related news, the president is reportedly prepared to stop passing notes to Cohn in homeroom and may refuse to write "BFF" in his yearbook.

C'mon. Eight months into Trump's presidency, he doesn't want to look his chief economic advisor in the eye? And in the White House this is considered "a familiar tactic" that the president has used with others?

While this obviously raises unsettling questions about Trump's maturity, let's not forget exactly what Cohn did to earn a spot in the president's dog house.

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In this July 19, 2015 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team investigates a self-propelled semi-submersible. (Photo by LaNola Stone/U.S. Coast Guard/ AP)

Trump touts the Coast Guard's improved 'brand'

09/11/17 09:20AM

After returning from a presidential cabinet meeting at Camp David, Donald Trump briefly spoke to reporters on the White House south lawn yesterday afternoon, and talked about the federal response to Hurricane Irma. What stood out as notable, however, was the one group of people the president singled out for praise:

"I'll tell you what, we have great people, and a group that really deserves tremendous credit is the United States Coast Guard. What they've done, I mean, they're going right into that, and you never know. When you go in there, you don't know if you're going to come out. They are really -- if you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard."

To be sure, I'm glad to see Trump sing the Coast Guard's praises; those men and women have clearly earned the support. But who exactly was talking about "branding"?

One almost gets the impression that the president personally had no idea what the Coast Guard does or how impressive it is. When he says the Coast Guard's "brand has improved," what I think Trump is effectively saying is he's just now starting to appreciate what guardsmen and women do.

Better late than never?

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Fla. Attorney General Pam Bondi makes introductory remarks for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, before Trump arrives at a campaign event in Tampa, Fla. on March 14, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Despite controversy, Florida's AG accepts role on Trump panel

09/11/17 08:42AM

Donald Trump's controversy surrounding his illegal campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) faded from the news -- only to be replaced with other controversies -- but the Washington Examiner reports that the Florida Republican accepted a role on a presidential commission, which should probably help renew questions that were never really answered.

Trump appointed Bondi, a longtime Trump supporter, to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in March, but has yet to join the commission.

"The President always intended for the Attorney General to be on the Commission -- however, Governor Christie choose [sic] to begin the Commission with only himself and four others. The announcement is protocol before the Executive Order is signed next week," Bondi's spokesperson, Whitney Ray, said in an email.

According to local reports, Bondi will not have to give up her post in state government in order to serve on Trump's panel.

Nevertheless, the timing of the developments is a bit odd. According to the White House, the president's commission on the addiction crisis is supposed to issue a report on its findings by Oct. 1. In other words, Bondi is expected to join the administration's panel a few weeks before the commission wraps up its work.

As for the underlying controversy about Bondi and Trump, let's circle back to our coverage from last fall, and consider a brief timeline of events:

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Image: Trump speaks to reporters after a security briefing at his golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey

Trump sees hurricanes as a reason to 'speed up' push for tax cuts

09/11/17 08:00AM

Donald Trump assembled a cabinet meeting at Camp David over the weekend, apparently in the hope that it would demonstrate White House engagement on disaster response, and though news organizations weren't on hand for the gathering, the president's YouTube page featured a clip of Trump's opening comments -- which included a pitch for tax cuts.

To be sure, the bulk of the president's message was about Hurricane Irma and public safety, but Trump also took the opportunity to reflect on the storm's effect on his broader agenda.

"To create prosperity at home, [my cabinet and I will] be discussing our plan for dramatic tax cuts and tax reform. And I think now with what's happened with the hurricane, I'm gonna ask for a speed-up. I wanted a speed-up any way, but now we need it even more so.

"So we need to simplify the tax code, reduce taxes very substantially on the middle class. And make our business tax more globally competitive. We're the highest anywhere in the world right now."

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin had an item yesterday, which didn't directly reference the president's comments, in which she noted, "You almost get the idea that the entire GOP economic philosophy is dependent on a never-ending stream of tax cuts for the rich."

Look, for now, let's put aside Trump's ongoing confusion about U.S. tax rates relative to international standards, because it's really just the start of what makes his pitch so misguided. For one thing, these comments came on Saturday morning, when tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy probably shouldn't have been at the forefront of the president's mind.

For another, the argument really doesn't make any substantive sense. Victims of these deadly storms and their communities will need considerable public support -- which will be neither cheap nor quick -- but "dramatic tax cuts" isn't high on their list of concerns right now. For the president to exploit hurricanes to sell tax breaks for people who don't need them seems ill-advised.

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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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