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Thursday's Mini-Report, 5.26.16

05/26/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Syria: "American Special Operations forces and the Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters they are advising this week pushed closer to Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in northern Syria."
 
* Migrant crisis: "More than 4,000 would-be refugees were rescued at sea Thursday in one of the busiest days of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, and at least 20 died trying to reach Europe as Libyan-based smugglers took advantage of calmer seas to send desperate migrants north."
 
* Republican radicalism sure is odd: "The House rejected a sweeping $37.4 billion spending bill Thursday with conservative Republicans saying they opposed the inclusion of an amendment related to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
 
* Baylor University "football coach Art Briles was fired Thursday in the wake of a scandal surrounding the school's poor handling of sexual assault and domestic violence allegations against members of the powerhouse football team, NBC News confirms. Kenneth Starr, the former special prosecutor best known for his role in the Bill Clinton impeachment saga, has been removed from his role as university president"
 
* Someone might want to let Congress know: "Pregnant women infected with the Zika virus during their first trimester face as high as a 13 percent chance that their fetus will develop a severe and rare brain defect, according to research published Wednesday."
 
* Louisiana: "Hate crime statutes originated as a response to bigotry, a special penalty for singling people out for abuse based on factors like race, ethnicity, sex, religion, sexual orientation or, most recently, gender identity. On Thursday, Louisiana became the first state to add law enforcement officers to that list."
 
* Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) "said federal authorities have told his attorney there's no indication the governor did anything wrong related to an ongoing campaign finance investigation."
 
* Alabama: "The investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley, and the fallout of his relationship with former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, is apparently moving to the grand jury."
This file photo taken on April 28, 2016 shows US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

House GOP almost ready to release something resembling an agenda

05/26/16 05:06PM

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) published a tweet yesterday, eagerly touting some good news: House Republicans will soon have a policy agenda. The message directed readers to this article from Roll Call.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced Wednesday that House Republicans will roll out the six policy papers that make up their "Confident America" agenda one at a time throughout June, starting with ideas to combat poverty.
 
"What you will see with these [releases] are detailed policy papers," the Wisconsin Republican said. "We're not talking about principles here. This is substance. It's going to be a clear explanation of the policy changes that are needed in these areas."
The clarification was unintentionally amusing -- you can almost hear Ryan trying to persuade people, effectively saying, "No, really, I mean it" -- though it underscores the fact that House Republicans aren't accustomed to presenting any "substance" of any kind.
 
The Speaker added, "This agenda is not an exhaustive list of the things that we believe in as Republicans, and it doesn't cover every issue of public concern. But these are the big ideas that unite all Republicans and address the countries' priorities."
 
We don't yet have a sense of what the proposals might include, though it's likely to be a rehash of the usual GOP priorities, but they'll reportedly cover six areas -- poverty, taxes, healthcare, national security, regulations, and constitutional authority -- and will be rolled out individually in June.
 
It's a safe bet the Republican package won't include measures borrowed from Donald Trump's platform -- no one should expect a detailed policy paper on banning all foreign Muslims from entering the United States -- though Ryan said his staff and the GOP candidate's staff "talk virtually every day."
 
All of this seems at least vaguely encouraging, I suppose, given that House Republicans have shown no real interest in even trying to govern for most of the last decade, but therein lies the key point Ryan left unaddressed. GOP lawmakers have been the majority party in the House of Representatives for more than five years. They're only now coming up with a handful of policy proposals?
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.

Orrin Hatch's partisan games keep catching up with him

05/26/16 01:10PM

There was a fair amount of chatter this morning about Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) writing a controversial op-ed on the Supreme Court for the Deseret News, so I was eager to read it. The newspaper promoted it via social media, but the link didn't work. Google News pointed to it, but that link didn't work, either.
 
The Deseret News' online opinion page highlighted it as today's big feature, but it, too, led to a message that told readers, "Oops, the page you are looking for cannot be found."
 
I knew it existed -- I saw tweets featuring actual text from the piece -- but I just couldn't figure out where it was. Was there some kind of technical glitch? Not exactly. The Washington Post explained what happened:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hasn't yet met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland for what has been a long anticipated encounter between the former Judiciary Committee chairman and the federal appeals court judge he has long praised.
 
But when the meeting does happen, don't expect Garland to succeed in convincing Hatch to support his nomination, because Hatch has already declared that it won't.
Reflecting on a meeting that hasn't occurred, the far-right Utahan wrote, "Like many of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.... Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle."
 
Unless Hatch has uncovered a time machine we're not aware of, his op-ed talking about the yet-to-happen meeting in the past tense suggests the senator has no intention of keeping an open mind about the judge, his qualifications, or the merits of his Supreme Court nomination.
 
Hatch, incidentally, is the one Republican senator who urged President Obama to select Garland, identifying him specifically as the kind of compromise judge who deserved a nomination. Evidently, the longtime GOP lawmaker doesn't care about that anymore, either.
 
The senator's op-ed went on to argue that it would be "unfair" to treat Garland the way other Supreme Court nominees have been treated, suggesting Hatch is confused about the meaning of "fairness."
Donald Trump's campaign adviser Rick Wiley walks into the reception at the RNC Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Fla., April 21, 2016. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Reuters/ZUMA)

Team Trump's 'seething mosh pit' forces key staffer out

05/26/16 12:30PM

Just six weeks ago, Donald Trump's campaign announced an important new hire: it was bringing on Rick Wiley, Scott Walker's former campaign manager, to serve as Trump's national political director. That was April; this is May.
Trump National Political Director Rick Wiley is no longer with the team, the campaign confirmed in a statement late Wednesday night. When asked if Wiley resigned or was fired, spokeswoman Hope Hicks said that the "statement stands alone."
 
A Trump campaign source with knowledge of the decision tells NBC News that Wiley was largely uncommunicative with field staff that were in place long before he was hired. "He never really got the read for this campaign," the source said, referencing the campaign's culture.
By all accounts, Team Trump is divided into two warring factions: a contingent that sides with Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski and another backing Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
 
A source close to the campaign told NBC News that the Riley announcement is "a win for Corey."
 
As a rule, it's tough to care about which faction is up or down on any given day, but there is something important about the larger dynamic. The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman, a veteran political reporter who's seen a lot of campaigns come and go, yesterday described "TrumpWorld" as "a seething mosh pit of ambitious egos."
 
I don't think it was a compliment. Indeed, consider this Politico report, published yesterday morning, hours before the news about Riley's departure:

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.26.16

05/26/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* According to the official delegate tallies from NBC News and the Associated Press, Donald Trump has now officially secured the necessary number of delegates to be the Republican Party's presidential nominee.
 
* Bernie Sanders' campaign may not be supporting any state Democratic parties, but it is supporting a growing number of specific like-minded candidates. After endorsing and raising money for four congressional candidates, Team Sanders announced earlier this week that it's also supporting eight down-ballot candidates, and this morning, it threw its backing behind former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who's trying to make a comeback in Wisconsin.
 
* In California, a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found Hillary Clinton narrowly leading Bernie Sanders ahead of the state's June 7 primary, 46% to 44%.
 
* United Autoworkers, one of the nation's larger labor unions, officially endorsed Clinton late yesterday.
 
* The public learned through an accidentally sent email that the Trump campaign is eager to attack Clinton over the discredited Whitewater controversy from 23 years ago.
 
* In North Carolina, PPP shows Trump with a very narrow lead over Clinton, 43% to 41%.
 
* On a related note, the same poll shows incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) with a three-point lead over Deborah Ross (D), 39% to 36%, while Libertarian Sean Haugh (L) is third with 8%.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, May 6, 2016. (Photo by Shawn Thew/EPA)

Obama eager to share his thoughts on Trump nomination

05/26/16 11:21AM

President Obama will be the first two-term incumbent of the television era to aggressively hit the campaign trail during his last year in office, and when it comes to taking on the presumptive Republican nominee, it's easy to get the impression that the president has quite a bit to say.
President Barack Obama said Thursday that world leaders are "rattled" by Donald Trump -- and "for good reason."
 
During a press conference in Japan, Obama said the American presidential election is being "very" closely watched oversees.
"I think it's fair to say they are surprised by the Republican nominee, they are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements, but they're rattled by him, and for good reason," Obama said. "A lot of the proposals that he's made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what it is that's required to keep America safe, secure and prosperous, and what's required to keep the world on an even keel."
 
Politico's report added, "The president appeared to have more specifics to share in private. A reporter overheard snippets of a conversation between Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, with whom he has one of his closer relationships among world leaders, in which he heard the words 'Trump,' and then 'what his mistake was...,' but the reporter was unable to catch the rest."
 
Throughout the primary process, the Democratic president had very little to say about his would-be successors. Obama took a few verbal shots at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) early on, but for the most part, he kept his powder dry.
 
But as the primaries end and the general-election phase begins, it's hard not to notice the eagerness with which the president is talking about the 2016 race.
Donald Trump pauses to look at a demonstrator behind him during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., March 9, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

There are presidential duties Trump 'doesn't want to do'

05/26/16 10:45AM

Paul Manafort, a controversial Republican lobbyist, joined Donald Trump's team in late March, and at least initially, his task was to help oversee delegate recruiting. It wasn't long, however, before Manafort worked his way up to effectively running the entire operation: less than two months after joining the campaign, he's now Trump's campaign chairman and chief strategist.
 
Yesterday, Manafort sat down with the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman for a fairly long interview, and while the two covered quite a bit of ground, there was one exchange in particular that stood out for me.
The vice presidential pick will also be part of the process of proving he's ready for the White House, Manafort said.
 
"He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn't want to do. He seems himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO."
This is no small acknowledgement. For months, it's been clear that Trump has no meaningful understanding of public policy or even how government works at a basic level. By any fair measure, his ignorance and incompetence about affairs of state is unlike anything Americans have ever seen in a major-party presidential candidate. The question has long been when we can expect Trump to get up to speed.
 
And the answer is, he has no intention of doing any such thing. Day-to-governing and overseeing the executive branch apparently represent "the part of the job he doesn't want to do."
 
President Trump, in other words, would prefer to be more of a big-picture kind of guy who isn't overly concerned about details and roll-up-your-sleeves kind of work.
 
As for who, exactly, might be the best person to "do the part of the job he doesn't want to do," Manafort added that there's a "long list" filled with contenders who have "major problems."
 
We should not, however, expect to see diversity on the Republican ticket. Choosing a woman or a member of a minority group to run as vice president, Manafort said, "would be viewed as pandering, I think."

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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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