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A voter walks to an empty electronic voting booth at a Madison, Miss., precinct, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

Trump manages to make his voting commission even worse

07/11/17 10:40AM

I was under the mistaken impression that Donald Trump's ridiculous "voter integrity" commission couldn't possibly get any worse. I stand corrected.

President Donald Trump announced on Monday night that J. Christian Adams, a conservative attorney who has spearheaded efforts around the country to purge voters from the rolls, would be joining the president's commission to investigate voter fraud. [...]

After leaving a post in the Voting Section of the Department of Justice, Adams began a quest to purge voter rolls around the country. As detailed by Mother Jones, Adams has sent threatening letters and filed several lawsuits against counties that he claims have too many names on the voter rolls. The actions largely target rural counties with large minority populations, although last year he and his former colleagues began targeting areas with large Democratic populations in swing states as well.

J. Christian Adams first crossed my radar several years ago. After joining the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, Adams rose to public prominence as the "chief agitator" behind the ridiculous New Black Panther Party story -- alleging two black men with braids in their beards were intimidating white people while loitering outside a Philadelphia voting precinct in 2008.

In the years that followed, Adams began "pushing restrictive elections laws and voter purges across the country."

And now, he's been tapped by the Trump White House to serve on a voting commission, which exists because the president's feelings were hurt when he received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.

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Iraqi special forces advance towards the city of Mosul, Iraq on Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Despite condemning the mission, Trump praises success in Mosul

07/11/17 10:02AM

When ISIS seized control of Mosul two years ago, it sent a chilling signal to much of the world. The fact that Iraqi forces have now effectively driven ISIS out of Iraq’s second largest city is therefore a major development.

Indeed, Donald Trump issued a statement late yesterday, celebrating the developments. It read in part:

"We have made tremendous progress against ISIS -- more in the past 6 months than in the years since ISIS became a major threat. The victory in Mosul, a city where ISIS once proclaimed its so-called 'caliphate,' signals that its days in Iraq and Syria are numbered. We will continue to seek the total destruction of ISIS."

What the White House statement neglected to mention is just how opposed Trump was to the mission from the outset.

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, Nov. 29, 2016 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Mike Pence voices support for radical health care alternative

07/11/17 09:20AM

If Senate Republicans fail to pass their regressive health care plan, there's quite a bit of support among GOP members to strike a bipartisan deal with Senate Democrats and move on to other issues. There is, however, a radically different approach that's also on the table.

Donald Trump published a tweet two weeks ago in which he said he supports a repeal-and-delay model in which Congress immediately repeals the Affordable Care Act, and then figures out a replacement model at some point down the road. Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh asked Mike Pence if he's on board with such an approach, and the vice president, after dismissing the idea of bipartisan policymaking out of hand, replied:

"We believe if they can't pass this carefully crafted repeal-and-replace bill -- do those two things simultaneously -- we ought to just repeal only, and then have enough time built into that legislation to craft replacement legislation."

First, to describe the current Senate Republican blueprint as "carefully crafted" is plainly ridiculous. For anyone who takes this issue seriously, the legislation is a joke. Second, it's not exactly a good sign that GOP leaders are currently arguing about what to do after their health care legislation dies.

But let's put that aside and consider the substantive, policy implications of what the vice president just publicly endorsed.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

McConnell far from giving up on a far-right health care overhaul

07/11/17 08:40AM

It's hard not to feel a sense of déjà vu. A few weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), after writing a health care bill in secret, said he'd unveil his legislation on a Thursday, receive a report from the Congressional Budget Office the following Monday, and then hold a vote a few days later.

And here we are again, with McConnell writing a revised bill in secret, announcing a plan to unveil the legislation on Thursday, getting word from the CBO on Monday, and holding a vote a few days later. Politico reported:

Republican leaders are frantically pushing for a vote on the Senate's ailing Obamacare repeal bill next week, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell racing to placate warring moderates and conservatives with a new draft due within days, according to senators and aides.

New bill text could be unveiled to senators as soon as Thursday, according to sources familiar with the proposal. A Congressional Budget Office score is likely to follow as soon as next Monday.

What's unclear is whether the Senate Republican leadership will have more success this time than the last.

An increasingly popular talking point among GOP lawmakers is the idea that their unpopular health care bill no longer exists, since McConnell's office is rewriting it. Like too many of the Republican arguments on health care, that's deliberately misleading: by all accounts, McConnell is looking to tweak, not fundamentally overhaul, the blueprint he unveiled in June.

And so we're left with another head-counting exercise. Are 50 GOP senators prepared to vote for this thing or not?

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Donald Trump, Jr., son of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, speaks during the second day session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Collusion allegations come into focus in the Trump-Russia scandal

07/11/17 08:00AM

Yesterday afternoon, a Trump Organization spokesman confirmed that Donald Trump Jr. has hired a private attorney, Alan Futerfas, to represent his interests as the investigation into the Russia scandal continues. In light of the latest reporting from the New York Times, the decision to lawyer up was probably wise.

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting.

For context, it's important to appreciate the evolution of the story in recent days. On Saturday night, the Times first reported on Trump Jr. having met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, which the president's son said was a discussion about adoption policy. A day later, the story advanced: Trump Jr. acknowledged that he participated in the meeting because he hoped to acquire dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian attorney.

Trump was, in other words, effectively admitting that he tried to collude with a Russian national.

But this latest revelation is clearly the most dramatic to date. Trump Jr. was reportedly told, in writing, that the Russian government wanted to help elect his father -- at which point the Republican's son agreed to a meeting in order to collude with Moscow.

It's hard to overstate the significance of revelations like these. Dan Pfeiffer, a former top advisor in the Obama White House, noted overnight, "Not in the wildest Democratic fantasy did we think there would be an email to a Trump clearly stating a Russian government effort to help."

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Monday's Mini-Report, 7.10.17

07/10/17 05:33PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Russia scandal: "The Senate Intelligence Committee is interested in talking to Donald Trump. Jr., the eldest son of the president, about his meeting with a Russian lawyer last June, a well-placed committee source tells NBC News."

* Mosul: "Iraqi security forces have wrested control of Mosul from ISIS and are now clearing portions of the city's historic quarter of explosives and hidden enemy fighters, the U.S. military said Monday."

* Turkey: "Addressing huge throngs of people at a rally in Istanbul on Sunday, the leader of Turkey's mainstream opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, issued a thunderous demand for an end to an ongoing government crackdown under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The rally represented the largest public display of opposition to the clampdown Erdogan's government since he survived a failed military coup attempt nearly a year ago."

* It's curious why China would do this for Russia: "Beijing has blocked any mention of Vladimir Putin on popular posts on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service, giving Russia's president an immunity from public criticism usually reserved for China's Communist party elite."

* The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau isn't dead yet: "The nation's consumer watchdog is adopting a rule on Monday that would pry open the courtroom doors for millions of Americans, restoring their right to bring class-action lawsuits against financial firms."

* Bad idea in Kentucky: "In a move the state says would save money but cut another 9,000 people from Medicaid, Gov. Matt Bevin's administration is seeking permission from the federal government for more changes to the state-federal health plan that serves 1.4 million Kentuckians."

* True: "Politics aside, we know how to fix Obamacare."

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Trump accuses Comey of illegal leak in latest dubious charge

07/10/17 04:39PM

We've come a long way since Donald Trump blew a kiss to James Comey at a White House gathering six months ago. The president, who fired the former FBI director because of his opposition to the investigation into the Russia scandal, today took his contempt for Comey in a new direction.

President Donald Trump went after former FBI director James Comey on Twitter Monday, accusing him of breaking the law by leaking classified information to the news media.

But that isn't true, according to Comey's friend, Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman, who received some of the memos and shared some elements with reporters.

"James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media," the president declared. "That is so illegal!"

It's tempting to say that it's not every day that a sitting president of the United States accuses the former director of the FBI of a felony, but in the Trump era, I'm afraid developments like these tend to occur quite regularly.

The trouble, of course, is that Trump doesn't appear to have any idea what he's talking about. The tweet came in response to a report he saw on Fox News, which aired a segment based on a report in The Hill, which didn't say what the confused president thinks it said.

Heads of state of global superpowers should, as a rule, read articles before using them to publicly accuse former FBI directors of crimes.

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Image: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence departs a healthcare meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

Team Trump's pre-election Russian contacts draw fresh scrutiny

07/10/17 12:30PM

There's no shortage of interesting angles to the latest reports about Donald Trump Jr. and his chat with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the campaign, but as TPM noted, the revelations have renewed interest in "the Trump administration's denials that any such meetings took place."

"Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?" CBS's John Dickerson asked then Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Jan. 15.

"Of course not," Pence replied.

The specific wording of the question doesn't do Pence any favors: a Russian lawyer trying to meddle in the election had a private chat with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort -- because the campaign thought the lawyer would dish dirt on Hillary Clinton.

We now know, of course, that this is one of several important falsehoods the vice president has peddled since the election, including a variety of bogus claims related to the Trump-Russia scandal.

But what sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the fact that Pence wasn't the only one denying the interactions between the campaign and the foreign adversary trying to help the campaign.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.10.17

07/10/17 12:00PM

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

* Barack Obama will "formally reenter the political fray" this week, headlining a fundraiser in support of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The closed-door event will be held in D.C.

* In New Mexico, Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is kicking off his gubernatorial campaign today, hoping to succeed Gov. Susana Martinez (R), who's prevented by term limits from seeking a third term. This will be Pearce's second attempt at statewide office, following an unsuccessful Senate race in 2008.

* On a related note, with Pearce running for governor, Democrats see New Mexico's 2nd district as a key pick-up opportunity, despite its overall conservative leanings.

* At an event in Poland last week, Donald Trump continued to focus on last year's U.S. election, declaring alongside the Polish president, "Polish Americans came out in droves. They voted in the last election, and I was very happy with that result." There is little evidence to suggest Polish-American voters preferred Trump in 2016.

* Wasting little time, the DSCC has already endorsed Rep. Jacky Rosen's (D) Senate campaign in Nevada, hoping to discourage potential primary rivals.

* After winning yet another term in 2012, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he wouldn't seek another term. Now, however, the 83-year-old Utah Republican says he intends to run for re-election again, though his wife "is not real enthusiastic about it," which gives him "pause."

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President Trump addresses rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29, 2017. Screenshot from NBCNews.

Trump's lawyers push to make defamation lawsuit go away

07/10/17 11:30AM

As much of the world no doubt recalls, Donald Trump was recorded in 2005 boasting about his romantic exploits, which eventually led him to brag about committing sexual assaults. The Republican said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers attractive -- "I don't even wait," Trump claimed -- which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

"And when you're a star, they let you do it," Trump said on the recording. "You can do anything. Grab 'em by the p---y."

After Trump denied having done what he bragged about doing, 11 women came forward to accuse the Republican of sexual misconduct – one of whom, Summer Zervos, is currently suing the president for defamation, stemming from the controversy.

The Washington Post reports that Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, who's also helping defend the president in the Russia scandal, is pushing a few arguments in the hopes of making this case go away, including the curious idea that campaign rhetoric doesn't count.

Kasowitz also argued that Zervos' complaint should be dismissed because her original allegations against Trump were not true and, in addition, because Trump's campaign-trail statements were protected by the First Amendment. A certain level of hyperbole is to be expected in the heat of a political campaign, he wrote, and such statements are legally protected speech.

During the campaign, Trump said the women who accused against him of inappropriately touching them were putting forward "made-up stories and lies" and "telling totally false stories." Kasowitz argued those statements and others could not be considered defamatory but instead were "nothing more than heated campaign rhetoric designed to persuade the public audience that Mr. Trump should be elected president irrespective of what the media and his opponents had claimed over his 18-month campaign."

It's amazing how frequently Trump's lawyers cling to this line in judicial proceedings.

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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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