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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 6.14.16

06/14/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Paris: "France's president called Tuesday for increased security in this tense nation after an apparent Islamic State-inspired attacker fatally stabbed a police officer and his partner before he was killed by police."
 
* Pakistani and Afghan forces "exchanged heavy gunfire on Sunday and Monday in an unusually serious escalation of tensions at the border, leaving at least 13 people wounded on the Pakistani side and killing at least one Afghan police officer, according to the police and military officials in both countries."
 
* Economy: "Retail sales rose more than forecast in May, showing consumer spending will help boost economic growth in the second quarter. The 0.5 percent increase in purchases followed a 1.3 percent jump the previous month that was the biggest gain in a year, Commerce Department figures showed Tuesday in Washington."
 
* True: "Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson stipulated Tuesday that responsible homeland security entails passing meaningful gun control reforms."
 
* Good for him: "Centrist Rep. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) broke with members of his party on Tuesday and called on the House to take up legislation to increase scrutiny on gun purchases in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Orlando."
 
* Sadly predictable: "The National Rifle Association late Monday broke its silence on the slaughter of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, labeling calls for restrictions on assault-style weapons as a 'transparent head-fake.'"
 
* NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today "dismissed criticism from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that the alliance is irrelevant. 'We are as relevant as ever,' said Stoltenberg on the first day of a two-day defense ministerial meeting at the alliance headquarters in Brussels."
Sen. Joseph McCarthy's (R-Wis) at a March 9, 1950 session of a hearing on  McCarthy's charges of Communist infiltration in the state department. McCarthy, testifying before a senate foreign relations subcommittee, termed the subcommittee a "Tool" of...

After Orlando, some Republicans ready for McCarthyism

06/14/16 04:15PM

In 2008, then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made a memorable appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball," telling Chris Matthews that she wanted an investigation into members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America." It was hard not to notice the parallels between the right-wing lawmaker and McCarthyism.
 
Two years later, one of Bachmann's closest allies, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), voiced support for the revival of the House Internal Security Committee, the 1960's-era successor to the McCarthyite House Un-American Activities Committee. "I think that is a good process and I would support it," King said in 2010.
 
What's striking is the degree to which the GOP's McCarthyite instincts just won't go away. TPM reported this morning:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed the creation of a new version of the controversial House Un-American Activities Committee to root out American citizens who plan to commit terrorist attacks in the U.S.
 
"We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We're going to presently have to go take the similar steps here," Gingrich said in a Monday appearance on "Fox and Friends." [...] In 1959, former President Harry Truman infamously called the committee "the most un-American thing in the country today."
Occasionally, we'll hear Democrats accuse Republicans of embracing shades of McCarthyism, and in rare occasions, prominent GOP officials are quite candid while proving Democrats right.
 
The broader question, meanwhile, is whether Republicans mind. Gingrich is no doubt aware of the House Un-American Activities Committee's scandalous legacy, so his explicit endorsement of this as a contemporary model is a reminder that, for much of the right, Joseph McCarthy wasn't necessarily wrong.
President Barack Obama speaks following a National Security Council meeting on the Islamic State at the Department of Treasury in Washington, DC on June 14, 2016. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Obama shreds Republicans' terror talking points

06/14/16 02:30PM

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, Republicans have raised plenty of questions about President Obama's counter-terrorism strategy. Today, he answered those questions in rather dramatic fashion.

After a meeting of the president's National Security Council, Obama spoke at some length, not just about where things currently stand, but also about the misguided rhetoric coming from the far-right.
"For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase 'radical Islam.' 'That's the key,' they tell us. 'We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.'
 
"What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away.
 
"This is a political distraction.... There is no magic to the phrase 'radical Islam.' It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy."
The president went to explain that he's "careful" in his language, not because of political correctness, but because of a practical security strategy.
 
"Groups like ISIL and Al Qaida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West," Obama explaining, highlighting facts Republicans choose not to understand. "They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion of Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.
 
"They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That's their propaganda, that's how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them."
 
The president then turned his attention to Donald Trump's ideas directly.
St Basil's Cathedral

Russia hacked DNC network, accessed Trump research

06/14/16 12:49PM

In a big speech two weeks ago about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton highlighted her Republican rival's affection for Vladimir Putin and Russia's autocracy. "It's clear he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about," Clinton said, adding, "If Donald gets his way, they'll be celebrating in the Kremlin."
 
The question, of course, is just how much interest the Kremlin has in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. We're starting to get a pretty good idea.
The Democratic National Committee's computer network was breached by a Russian government cyber operation that has had access to the group's communications and databases since at least last summer, NBC News confirms.
 
The sophisticated Russian group, which has previously targeted the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, specifically concentrated on the DNC's research units and had access to all of the committee's internal communications, including chat and email applications.
 
The DNC's opposition research unit, which sources indicate was specifically targeted by the hackers, is tasked with compiling unflattering information on Republican opponents -- particularly presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump -- to potentially use against them in the course of a political campaign.
Just when it seemed 2016 couldn't possibly get any stranger, Russian government hackers helped kick things up a notch.
 
The Washington Post, which was the first to report this story, also noted that the hackers specifically gained access to "the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump." The article added:

Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.14.16

06/14/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* The new NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump nationally, 49% to 42%. Last week, the poll showed Clinton ahead by four points.
 
* Bill Kristol still hopes to find a Republican alternative to the Republican Party's presidential nominee, and to that end, the GOP pundit helped launch something called Better for America this morning. Its website says, "We are Americans clearing a path to the presidency for an independent presidential candidate who demonstrates honor, lives with integrity, and seeks the best for all citizens." In practical terms, I have no idea what that means.
 
* In Wisconsin's closely watched U.S. Senate race, a new PPP survey shows Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) by 10 points, 51% to 41%.
 
* I'm skeptical, but U.S. News' Robert Schlesinger talked to some Democratic officials, including DCCC Chairman Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), who continue to believe the party has a legitimate chance to win back the House majority.
 
* The number of notable Republicans endorsing Clinton is quite small, but former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) joined the club yesterday. "If someone had told me 10 years ago I would do this, I wouldn't have believed them," he said.
 
* On a related note, Meg Whitman, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate and Mitt Romney's finance co-chair in 2012, is also prepared to support Clinton.
A Muslim takes part in a special morning prayer. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Poll: One-in-three Americans support special ID cards for Muslims

06/14/16 11:20AM

It's too soon to say how, and whether, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history will affect public opinion polls on the 2016 elections, but Gallup published a report yesterday on Americans attitudes about responding to terrorist threats in general. The survey was in the field in December, six months before the massacre in Orlando, but the snapshot into the public's thinking is nevertheless informative.
Americans strongly favor military options as effective ways to carry out the U.S. war on terrorism, and have minimal agreement that actions relating to restrictions on Muslims either entering the country or already in the country would be effective.
 
Gallup gave Americans a list of 11 proposals on dealing with terrorism in a survey conducted last December after the San Bernardino mass shooting, and asked them to indicate how effective they thought each would be in reducing terrorist attacks.
The most popular idea was increasing U.S. airstrikes against ISIS targets, which was hardly a surprise. Not only do most Americans have a great deal of confidence in the power of the nation's military might, but much of the public also has no idea that President Obama has launched several thousand airstrikes against ISIS targets since he began a military offensive in August 2014 -- nearly two full years ago.
 
Nearly as popular was banning gun sales to people on the no-fly watch list, which understandably seems like a fairly obvious thing to do, Republican opposition notwithstanding.
 
But further down on the list, 38% of Americans backed "a new law that would prevent any Muslim from entering the U.S." while 32% said they supported requiring Muslims, including those who are U.S. citizens, "to carry a special ID."

Republicans' 2016 email advantage starts to evaporate

06/14/16 10:40AM

If nothing else, Republicans at least had emails.
 
The GOP presumptive presidential nominee may make ignorant, dishonest, vulgar, and racist comments, and may have a platform to match, but Hillary Clinton did not properly follow cabinet-level email server protocols -- and as has become abundantly clear, the political world has collectively decided that cabinet-level email server protocols are extremely important.
 
But it now appears even this advantage is slipping away. USA Today reported yesterday that Donald Trump was accused in a lawsuit of "destroying email evidence."
In 2006, when a judge ordered Donald Trump's casino operation to hand over several years' worth of emails, the answer surprised him: The Trump Organization routinely erased emails and had no records from 1996 to 2001. The defendants in a case that Trump brought said this amounted to destruction of evidence, a charge never resolved.
 
At that time, a Trump IT director testified that until 2001, executives in Trump Tower relied on personal email accounts using dial-up Internet services, despite the fact that Trump had launched a high-speed Internet provider in 1998 and announced he would wire his whole building with it. Another said Trump had no routine process for preserving emails before 2005.
According to transcripts obtained by the newspaper, Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld, who oversaw the case, found Team Trump's claims about missing emails literally unbelievable.
 
"If somebody starts to put forth as a fact something that doesn't make any sense to me and causes me to have a concern about their credibility in the discovery process, that's not a good direction to go, and I am really having a hard time with this," the judge said at the time.
 
Or put another way, if you're one of those voters who planned to vote on the basis of email server management, I'm afraid both of the major-party candidates are in roughly the same boat.
Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Senator draws a curious connection between assault rifles, bombs

06/14/16 10:00AM

It didn't come as a surprise yesterday when Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) rejected the idea of gun reforms in the wake of Orlando's mass shooting. What was surprising, however, was the comparison he made to prove his point.
 
As Politico reported, Johnson told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that fully automatic weapons are already banned, so policymakers should go no further.
A puzzled Blitzer pressed Johnson, seeking clarity on the Republican senator's distinction between banned fully-automatic weapons and the legally purchased semi-automatic rifle used by shooter Omar Mateen.
 
"The AR-15 that was used in this terror attack, killing 49 people, you wouldn't describe that as an assault weapon?" Blitzer asked. "You're differentiating between that and a fully automatic assault weapon? Because that weapon certainly did kill a lot of people."
 
"So do bombs," Johnson replied. "So there are other ways that terrorists can slaughter people."
Um, OK, but does Johnson -- who somehow was made chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee -- realize that bombs are already heavily regulated, tightly controlled, and legally restricted for personal ownership?
A Washington Post newspaper box (L) stands beside the empty box of competitor Washington Times (R) outside the Washington Post on August 5, 2013 in Washington, DC, after it was announced that Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had agreed to purchase...

Trump picks a fight with one of the nation's largest newspapers

06/14/16 09:23AM

In 2009, after President Obama had been in office for about eight months, he and some of his top aides had some unkind things to say about Fox News. The Beltway establishment quickly called for the fainting couch. The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, in particular, was outraged -- not that the president had something untrue, but because Obama had the audacity to criticize a major news organization directly.
 
Marcus called the White House's Fox criticisms "dumb," "childish," "petty," and "self defeating." She added that Obama comments had "a distinct Nixonian ... aroma." Soon after, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) took the Senate floor to complain that the White House's criticism of a news organization was evidence of the president's team creating an "enemies list."
 
All of this was the result of a few pointed remarks directed at a news outlet. Nothing more.
 
Seven years later, maybe the Beltway establishment owes Obama an apology -- because mild criticism of Fox News is nothing compared to what Donald Trump is up to.
 
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee announced via social media yesterday that his campaign is "hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post." He elaborated in a press statement:
The Washington Post unfortunately covers Mr. Trump very inaccurately. Today's headline, "Donald Trump Suggests President Obama Was Involved With Orlando Shooting" is a perfect example. We no longer feel compelled to work with a publication which has put its need for "clicks" above journalistic integrity.
 
They have no journalistic integrity and write falsely about Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump does not mind a bad story, but it has to be honest. The fact is, The Washington Post is being used by the owners of Amazon as their political lobbyist so that they don't have to pay taxes and don't get sued for monopolistic tendencies that have led to the destruction of department stores and the retail industry.
All of this, for what it's worth, was in response to this article that largely just quotes Trump's on-air comments from yesterday morning. (The wording of the headline was later changed.)
 
Complicating matters is just how often the Republican candidate and his team pick fights like these.
Gay Activists Gather At Mormon Temple For "Kiss In"

Could Utah be a presidential battleground state?

06/14/16 08:40AM

Both political parties have certain states that they consider locks at the presidential level. Democrats, for example, have plenty of reasons to believe that there's simply no way their party's national ticket could lose in states like Hawaii and Vermont.
 
Republicans, meanwhile, have some of their own. There's no way the GOP ticket will have to worry about states like Oklahoma and Utah, which are about as red as red states get.
 
But what if 2016 is such a weird year that some of these assumptions need a second look? The Washington Post reported yesterday:
No state voted more heavily for the GOP presidential nominee in 2012 than Utah. And in 2008, it was the third-most Republican state in the union.
 
A new poll shows that Donald Trump is tied with Hillary Clinton in Utah.
That's not a typo. The latest poll from SurveyUSA for the Salt Lake Tribune, released yesterday, found Clinton and Trump tied in Utah at 35% each. Libertarian Gary Johnson is running a pretty strong third with 13% support.
 
It's not too hard to understand the electoral dynamic here: there appears to be quite a few Utah Republicans who find Trump offensive, but don't want to support a Democrat, which makes Johnson look quite appealing.
 
And while it's obviously still early, let's not forget that the Deseret News published a related poll a few months ago showing Clinton with a narrow lead over Trump in Utah. Soon after, Trump lost Utah's GOP presidential caucuses -- finishing a distant third with a woeful 14% of the vote.
 
As for why, exactly, Mormons, who make up more than 60% of Utah's population, are so skeptical of Trump, McKay Coppins had a great piece on this in the New York Times yesterday:

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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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