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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 1.11.18

01/11/18 12:00PM

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

* In Virginia, the Democratic candidate in the tied House of Delegates race, Shelly Simonds, conceded the contest yesterday to Republican David Yancey.

* Donald Trump this morning touted a new Quinnipiac poll that found two-thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is "good" or "excellent." What he didn't mention was that the same poll found that a plurality of Americans credit Barack Obama for the state of the economy and a majority don't believe Trump's policies are helping.

* On a related note, Quinnipiac found the president with a 36% approval rating. Asked to grade Trump's first year, most of the public gave him a "D" or an "F."

* In Ohio's gubernatorial race, former state Attorney General Richard Corday (D), who recently led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, introduced former Rep. Betty Sutton (D) as his running mate yesterday. Up until this week, Sutton was Cordray's rival for the Democratic nomination.

* On a related note, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), who has been running for governor, is reportedly prepared to end that campaign and launch a U.S. Senate candidacy in his home state.

* As Republicans feel increased anxiety about the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th district, Vice President Mike Pence is planning to campaign in the district later this month in support of Republican Rick Saccone. The election is scheduled for March 13.

* As if California Republicans didn't already have enough to worry about, the L.A. Times  reports that a federal grand jury "is slated to hear evidence this month regarding certain transactions in Rep. Duncan Hunter's campaign treasury, which has been under scrutiny since the spring of 2016 as a result of frequent personal expenditures."

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott during his State of the State speech Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

As Trump gives Florida a special deal, states demand equal treatment

01/11/18 11:20AM

After Donald Trump unveiled an expansive plan for coastal oil drilling last week, 14 governors -- including several Republicans -- denounced the policy. Only one of the 14 got a special deal: the Trump administration announced this week that Florida would be exempt from the policy.

By all appearances, the move seems to be a ham-fisted political scheme to help Gov. Rick Scott's (R) as-yet-unannounced Senate candidacy. Indeed, when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the special favor for the Sunshine State, he went out of his way to sing the praises of the state's Republican governor, celebrating his "leadership" -- twice -- in a statement that sounded more like a campaign endorsement than a policy announcement.

Zinke added, however, that the president believes "local voices count." If that's true, the administration is hearing from quite a few local voices right now. The Washington Post  reported:

"We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline," South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who backed President Trump in his state's competitive 2016 primary, said in a statement.

"Not Off Our Coast," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) wrote in a tweet. "We've been clear: this would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities."

They're not alone. Policymakers from both parties and both coasts were publicly outraged yesterday, and several suggested that the Trump administration's special treatment for Florida could have been affected by the president's real-estate holdings in the state.

"What else am I supposed to think?" Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) asked rhetorically.

What's more, as state attorneys general get ready to challenge the legality of Trump's coastal-drilling policy, the administration's carve-out for Florida -- coupled with its political defense for the exception -- is making things vastly easier for the policy's opponents.

"The Administrative Procedure Act requires there to be a reasonable rationale behind agency decisions, and that they can't be arbitrary and capricious," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Washington Post, referring to a 1946 law governing major regulatory changes. "So, saying Florida is exempt because Rick Scott is straightforward and trustworthy? That Florida's coastlines are unique? That seems to be the definition of arbitrary and capricious."

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Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to President-Elect Donald Trump, takes questions from the media at Trump Tower on Nov. 21, 2016 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty)

Kellyanne Conway: Trump has 'discovered' border-wall concerns

01/11/18 10:40AM

During Tuesday's White House discussion on immigration, Donald Trump stumbled in important ways. As we discussed yesterday, the president accidentally endorsed a Senate Democrat's request for a clean DACA bill, extending protections to Dreamers, only to have a House Republican quickly interject, reminding Trump of what his position is supposed to be.

The contradiction was compounded yesterday when he initially told reporters he'd support any bipartisan immigration agreement reached in Congress. Five seconds later, Trump added, "No, no, no. It's got to include the wall."

Got it. The president will support any congressional bill, no matter what's in it, unless he doesn't like what's in it.

But even the White House's position on Trump's proposed border wall is far from clear. What the president promised voters was a wall -- not a fence -- that spanned the U.S./Mexico border, which Mexico would pay for. Trump now expects Americans to pay for the barrier, and according to what Kellyanne Conway told CNN's Chris Cuomo last night, the rest of the president's promise is uncertain, too.

"[A]fter conferring with the experts who are involved in this process, Christopher, the president has discovered that part of it -- well, he knows part of it will be the physical wall, part of it is better technology, part of it is also fencing. You know, there are rivers involved, I'm told, there are mountains involved, but there is terrain that isn't conducive to building an actual physical structure in some places."

So let me get this straight. Trump launched his presidential campaign in June 2015. He was a candidate for a year and a half, during which time he publicly committed, countless times, to build a border wall. He then spent a year as president, promising to follow through on his campaign pledge to build a giant wall with Mexican money.

It's only now Trump has "conferred" with experts and "discovered" problems with his promise?

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During a campaign rally Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reads a statement made by Michelle Fields, on March 29, 2016 in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

Trump takes aim at surveillance law he's supposed to support

01/11/18 10:00AM

One of the bizarre hallmarks of Donald Trump's first year as president has been the frequency with which he blindsides his own aides. White House staffers routinely discover dramatic changes to the Trump administration's position based on tweets published by their erratic boss, which in turn makes their jobs far more difficult.

This morning's Trump tweet, however, published in response to a Fox News segment, was especially bizarre:

"House votes on controversial FISA ACT today." This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?

First, the dossier isn't phony and hasn't been discredited. Second, people close to him were reportedly caught up in regular ol' FISA wiretaps, not the 702 policy that Congress is weighing. Third, there's no evidence of any "abuse" involving surveillance of people in Trump's orbit.

But even if we put all of that aside, what was especially amazing about this was Trump criticizing an intelligence tool that the Trump administration supports. Indeed, the White House issued a statement late yesterday encouraging Congress to extend the 702 policy. The statement came on the heels of Trump's CIA director, Mike Pompeo, hitting the Sunday shows over the weekend, talking up his support for the policy.

In other words, the president, eager to bolster a ridiculous conspiracy theory, undercut his own team, mindlessly criticizing a policy he's supposed to support, based on a Fox News segment he apparently didn't understand. Or as Steve Vladeck‏ put it, "Just to be clear, [Trump] is objecting to Congress's renewal of a piece of important national security legislation because of a completely invented scandal about how an unrelated provision of the same underlying statute (FISA) was allegedly (but not really) abused."

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump hosts former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger

Trump touts 'letters' from 'anchors' that don't appear to exist

01/11/18 09:20AM

Donald Trump hosted a lengthy, televised White House meeting on Tuesday, bringing lawmakers together to discuss immigration policy in the Cabinet Room. It's possible that the conversation was intend to dispel concerns that the president is an unstable television addict.

But if that was the intended purpose, Trump didn't exactly help his own case yesterday when he appeared in the same room to reflect on the hours of television coverage he saw about the discussion from the day before.

"[I]t got great reviews by everybody other than two networks, who were phenomenal for about two hours. Then, after that, they were called by their bosses for saying, 'Oh, wait a minute.' And, unfortunately, a lot of those anchors sent us letters saying that was one of the greatest meetings they've ever witnessed. And they were great. For about two hours, they were phenomenal. And then they went a little bit south on us, but not that bad. It was fine.

"They probably wish they didn't send us those letters of congratulations."

Let's unpack this a bit, because it offers some notable insights into the president's perspective.

First, Trump apparently monitored hours of television news coverage of Tuesday's meeting, for reasons that only make sense to the president. Second, he apparently believes there's a conspiracy involving media "bosses" who require criticism of the White House.

What's more, asked for evidence of "letters" from "anchors" who praised Trump's meeting, the White House sent out a package of complimentary clips and tweets -- which suggests the "letters" from "anchors" exist only in the president's imagination.

But even putting all of that aside, what I cared most about the assertion that Tuesday's immigration "was one of the greatest meetings" observers have ever witnessed.

This is part of an amazing self-aggrandizing pattern:

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Eric Greitens Founder and CEO, The Mission Continues speaks at the Robin Hood Veterans Summit at Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum on May 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty for The Robin Hood Foundation)

Missouri's GOP governor caught up in ugly sex scandal

01/11/18 08:40AM

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) is not the first governor to be caught up in a sex scandal, but this story isn't quite like the one's we're used to.

The revelations broke last night with this report from KMOV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis.

Governor Eric Greitens on Wednesday night confirmed to News 4 he had an extramarital affair, an admission a months-long News 4 investigation prompted.

In a recording obtained by News 4, a woman says she had a sexual encounter with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and that he tried to blackmail her to keep the encounter quiet.

The details were provided to News 4 by the woman's ex-husband, claiming the sexual relationship happened between his now ex-wife and Greitens in March 2015. News 4 is not naming the woman and she has not made an on-the-record comment about the story.

Greitens' extra-marital affair, which occurred before he was elected governor, would not ordinarily be a career-ender in contemporary politics. The Republican, who's only been in office for a year, might have difficulty explaining why he presented himself to voters as a committed family man, but politicians have survived controversies like these before.

What makes this story different is that the Missouri governor is accused not only of "horrible and disgusting" private acts, but also of allegedly attempting to blackmail his mistress.

"He took a picture of my wife naked as blackmail," the ex-husband told the local station. "There is no worse person."

A report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch added that while the relationship was consensual, the alleged photography was not: "She said in the audio that she wasn't aware he was doing it until she saw a flash of light through the blindfold, followed by his alleged verbal threat."

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points at supporters after speaking at rally at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8, 2016. (Photo by Justin Lane/EPA)

Trump wants GOP allies to 'take control' of Russia scandal probe

01/11/18 08:00AM

We recently learned that Donald Trump, feeling the heat as the Russia scandal was intensifying last summer, personally urged Republican lawmakers to end congressional scrutiny of the controversy. The president's lobbying campaign targeted, among others, the Senate majority leader and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

As we discussed at the time, when Congress is investigating a scandal involving the president, the president isn't supposed to call lawmakers to pressure them to stop.

Yesterday, however, as Politico  noted, Trump took his lobbying campaign in a more public direction.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Republicans in Congress to "take control" of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, prompting some head-scratching from a top GOP investigator on Capitol Hill.

"The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!"

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was asked to respond to the president's plea. His answer wasn't exactly encouraging.

"I don't know what the president has in mind, and I don't think I better comment until I have a discussion with the president on that," Grassley told reporters on Capitol Hill yesterday.

The problem, of course, is that the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee isn't supposed to have a "discussion" with the president whose scandal is facing scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Quickly realizing that he'd said the wrong thing, Grassley added, And I don't intend to have a discussion with the president on that point, and I hope he doesn't call me and tell me the same thing that you said he said."

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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 1.10.18

01/10/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* California: "Rescue crews waded through thick mud in Southern California on Wednesday to extricate stranded residents and clear roads made impassable by mudslides that have left at least 15 people dead and destroyed around 100 homes."

* ICE: "U.S. immigration agents raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores before dawn Wednesday and arrested 21 people in the biggest crackdown on a company suspected of hiring undocumented workers since President Donald Trump took office."

* This doesn't sound like a team that's nearly done: "Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team, filling what has long been a gap in expertise and potentially signaling a recent focus on computer crimes."

* Fortunately, the damage appears to have been limited: "One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the Caribbean in modern times struck off the coast of Honduras on Tuesday night, shaking the mainland and setting off tsunami warnings that were canceled about an hour later."

* In case you missed Rachel talking about this last night: "A senior National Security Council official proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump presidency, according to two former administration officials."

* This would be less discouraging if there was any reason to believe Trump understood what it is about NAFTA he doesn't like: "Canada is increasingly convinced that U.S. President Donald Trump will soon announce that the United States intends to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, two government sources said on Wednesday."

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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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