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People wait to vote in the U.S. presidential primary election outside a polling site in Glendale, Ariz. on March 22, 2016. (Photo by Nancy Wiechec/Reuters)

Voting lines in Arizona spur Democratic lawsuit

04/15/16 08:40AM

While the results of last month's presidential primaries in Arizona were notable in their own right, the lasting significance of the contests has very little to do with who won and who lost.
 
In Arizona's most populous area, Maricopa County, some voters were forced to wait as long as five hours to cast a primary ballot. Some in downtown Phoenix were reportedly in line until after midnight, long after polls were supposed to have closed. It wasn't long before we learned that local officials, hoping to save some money, slashed the number of available precincts dramatically, forcing a large number of voters into a much smaller number of polling places.
 
In the recent past, the Voting Rights Act might have prevented such a move, but five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the landmark law, opening the door to the mess Arizonans saw three weeks ago.
 
This is not, however, one of those instances in which people complain and move on to the next problem. The Washington Post reported yesterday on an important new lawsuit, filed by Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sanders' presidential campaigns, targeting the state of Arizona over voters' access.
The lawsuit, which will be filed on Friday, focuses on Maricopa County, the state's most populous county, where voters faced the longest lines on March 22 during the Democratic and Republican primaries after the county cut the number of polling places by 85 percent since 2008.
 
Arizona's "alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters county-wide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines," the lawsuit says.
The case, to be filed in federal court, also alleges that the system was "particularly burdensome" on minority communities, and as the Post added, Maricopa County's black, Hispanic, and Native American communities "had fewer polling locations than white communities and in some cases no places to vote at all."
This handout crime scene evidence photo provided by the Connecticut State Police shows a damaged door of the Sandy Hook Elementary School following the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting rampage. (Photo by Connecticut State Police/Getty)

Sandy Hook lawsuit roils Democratic presidential race

04/15/16 08:02AM

After Bernie Sanders sat down with editors from the New York Daily News last week, the interview raised a few eyebrows, in part because the senator struggled a bit when pressed for details on elements of his platform. But it was Sanders' approach to gun policy that may have mattered most.
 
The newspapers editors noted a lawsuit "waiting to be ruled on in Connecticut. The victims of the Sandy Hook massacre are looking to have the right to sue for damages the manufacturers of the weapons." The editors asked if Sanders believes those family members should have the right to sue gun manufacturers for damages. "No," Sanders replied. "I don't."
 
In last night's debate in New York, CNN's Wolf Blitzer brought up the same issue. From the transcript:
BLITZER: You recently said you do not think crime victims should be able to sue gun makers for damages. The daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed back in the 2012 mass shooting, says you owe her and families an apology. Do you?
 
SANDERS: What we need to do is to do everything that we can to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who do not have them. Now, I voted against this gun liability law because I was concerned that in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody, and that person then goes out and kills somebody, I don't believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to be held accountable and be sued.
Pressed further on whether he owes Sandy Hook families an apology, the Vermont senator said he does not. "They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue," Sanders concluded.
 
There's some awkwardness to his position. Sanders believes these families deserve support as they press their case in the courts, but at the same time, he also backs legal restrictions on the viability of their efforts. As the Huffington Post put it, "[W]hat Sanders was saying is that he believes the Sandy Hook victims should have a right to sue -- and lose."
 
A few hours before the debate, a state court said it's willing to go in a different direction.
Bribery a bad idea for securing GOP delegates

Bribery a bad idea for securing GOP delegates

04/14/16 10:25PM

Steven Dettelbach, former U.S. attorney for Northern Ohio, talks with Rachel Maddow about Ohio's specific law against bribing delegates at political conventions and what that means for the Republican National Convention to be held in Cleveland this year. watch

Provocateur Trump speaks at hate crime site

Trump brings provocative message to hate crime site

04/14/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow revisits the history of racist attacks in the small town of Patchogue, New York, and reports on Republican front-runner Donald Trump bringing his provocative, anti-immigrant campaign message to a spot mere yards from the site of a deadly hate crime attack. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 4.14.16

04/14/16 05:31PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Getting the world's attention: "A series of extremely low passes by two Russian jets over a U.S. destroyer this week was a dangerous example of brinkmanship by Moscow in what has become an increasingly worrying trend, according to Western analysts."
 
* Texas: "A Texas deputy who was shot four times after a late night traffic stop on Thursday is expected to survive, authorities said. Deputy Alden Clopton, an 11-year veteran and field training officer with the Harris County Constable Precinct 7, was the victim of an 'ambush,' Lt. Holland Jones told reporters."
 
* ISIS: "President Barack Obama assured the American people on Wednesday that the United States has 'momentum' in the war against the Islamic State. 'We have momentum, and we intend to keep that momentum,' Obama said, delivering a statement at the CIA headquarters following a meeting with his National Security Council."
 
* In related news: "After several months of almost daily air strikes on the emerging Islamic State faction in Afghanistan, U.S. commanders in Kabul are scaling back their threat assessment for the Iraq-and-Syria-based extremist group that was gaining a foothold last year in one key Afghan province."
 
* Be alarmed: "Emerging from a winter that has had staggeringly warm Arctic temperatures, scientists monitoring the vast Greenland ice sheet announced Tuesday that it is experiencing a record-breaking level of melt for so early in the season."
 
* Coal's future appears bleak: "In the starkest sign yet of declining fortunes in the coal industry, St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, the largest and most storied U.S. coal company, announced early Wednesday that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy."
 
* Canada "unveiled an assisted death bill Thursday designed to ease the end of life for terminally ill patients while slamming the door on 'suicide tourism' to ensure Americans and others won't flock there to die. People with psychiatric problems also would be excluded, and no advance consent would be allowed."
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders listens to the first question at an African American Community Conversation town hall event in Philadelphia, Penn., April 6, 2016. (Photo by Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

Bernie Sanders finds 'the right candidates'

04/14/16 04:38PM

It's no secret that Bernie Sanders' fundraising juggernaut has amazed much of the political world, exceeding Hillary Clinton's financial support over each of the last few months. The Clinton campaign has been quick to note, however, that the Democratic frontrunner has spent the year raising millions of dollars, not just for her candidacy, but also for the Democratic Party and more than 30 state Democratic parties, in the hopes of building a broader foundation for the 2016 elections.
 
The Vermont independent, meanwhile, has collected stunning sums for his own campaign operation, but so far in 2016, Sanders hasn't raised any money for the Democratic Party, any of the state Democratic parties, or even any specific Democratic candidates. When Rachel asked in a recent interview whether that might eventually change, the senator replied, "We'll see."
 
But Jane Sanders said something interesting on the show last week. Asked whether her husband might be willing to help other campaigns financially, she said Sanders would definitely lend a hand -- for "the right candidates."
 
Yesterday, we got a better sense of what that means. Politico reported:
Bernie Sanders is raising money for a trio of progressive House candidates who have endorsed him, a move that comes just weeks after he faced friendly fire for not committing to fundraise for down-ballot Democrats. [...]
 
The trio of candidates -- New York's Zephyr Teachout, Nevada's Lucy Flores, and Washington state's Pramila Jayapal -- is running in primaries that pit them against more establishment-aligned foes.
In a fundraising solicitation that went to donors yesterday, Sanders wrote, "I've told you throughout this campaign that no candidate for president, not Bernie Sanders, not the greatest president you could possibly imagine, can take on the billionaire class alone.  When I am elected president, I am going to need progressives in Congress who are willing to continue the fight we started in this campaign."
 
The pitch makes the case for Teachout, Jayapal, and Flores, and the letter included a link to a fundraising page in which donors were offered a choice: make a contribution that would be divided evenly four ways (the three congressional candidates and Sanders), or specify a personalized allocation for the contribution.
 
And in some ways, this new endeavor is itself emblematic of the larger Democratic fight.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) pauses while speaking to the media after closed-door meeting with House Republicans, on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Paul Ryan falling far short of his own goals

04/14/16 12:54PM

The recent interest in Paul Ryan's presidential plans (or lack thereof) was understandable. Republicans have been looking for a possible savior candidate to come riding into the convention on a white horse, and the House Speaker seemed like a viable alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
 
But let's not allow speculation about Paul Ryan's future plans obscure the fact that he's struggling badly in his current job. The Associated Press reported yesterday:
House Republicans are about to blow through a statutory deadline to pass an annual budget, a major embarrassment for Speaker Paul Ryan that raises questions about his stewardship of the House despite his high profile on the national stage.
 
A day after rampant speculation forced him to call a news conference to deny he wants to run for president this year, Ryan insisted Wednesday that he hadn't given up on the House's obligation to pass its annual spending blueprint, even though the Friday deadline looks impossible to meet.
In fairness, I should note that some budget deal may yet come together, but no one seems to think that's at all likely. The Hill reported last night, "House Republicans are coming to a consensus on this year's budget bill: There won't be one. GOP lawmakers are universally accepting that the party will blow past a budget deadline on Friday, and say voting on a budget at all this year is unlikely."
 
Ryan, you'll recall, is the former chairman of the Budget Committee. In other words, House Republicans chose a Speaker who knows a thing or two about writing and passing budgets. It's ostensibly the Wisconsin congressman's specialty.
 
And yet, while John Boehner never missed a budget deadline during his tenure, Ryan is all but certain to miss his tomorrow, largely because right-wing House members don't like the party's budget plan, and the Speaker hasn't been able to persuade them.
 
Politico added yesterday, "Not long ago, congressional Republicans said authoring and passing a budget were the basics of governing. They flew into open rage when Harry Reid's Senate Democrats took a pass on advancing a fiscal blueprint, and threatened to withhold lawmakers' pay as a punishment."
 
Among those who used to mock Democrats relentlessly for missed budget deadlines? A guy by the name of Paul Ryan.

Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.14.16

04/14/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Despite last week's battery charge, Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's campaign manager, will reportedly not be prosecuted after all.
 
* Speaking of Team Trump, as Rachel noted on the show last night, Rick Wiley, who managed Scott Walker's presidential campaign, has signed on as Trump's new national political director.
 
* At a campaign event in New York, a Bernie Sanders supporter helped warm up the crowd by condemning "corporate Democratic whores" from the stage before the senator's speech began. This morning, Sanders denounced the comments.
 
* Hillary Clinton picked up an endorsement yesterday from the New York State Immigrant Action Fund, the largest immigrant rights coalition in the country. Around the same time, Bernie Sanders announced an endorsement from the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents about 42,000 transit workers in the New York region.
 
* New Monmouth University polls show Donald Trump leading the Republican primary in Maryland by 20 points, and in Pennsylvania by 16 points. Both states host primaries in two weeks.
 
* Speaking of Maryland, the White House intervened in the state's competitive Democratic Senate primary after Rep. Donna Edwards' super PAC launched a misleading ad featuring President Obama. White House officials asked that the ad come down.
 
* In Connecticut, the latest Emerson poll shows Trump up by 24 points, though the Democratic race is far more competitive, with Clinton leading Sanders by just 6 points, 49% to 43%.
 
* Notable tidbit: John Kasich will likely have more top-two finishes in April primaries than he's had in the entire race thus far. There are six primaries between April 19 and 26; they're all in the Northeast; and the Ohio governor is well positioned to finish second in each of them. To date, Kasich has only finished second in three states -- New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont -- and D.C. He won his home state of Ohio.
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) of the House Select Committee on Benghazi speaks to reporters. (Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty)

Benghazi panel to issue election-year report

04/14/16 11:08AM

Last week, the House Republicans' Benghazi committee passed the 700-day mark -- the panel has gone on longer than the investigations into 9/11, Watergate, the JFK assassination -- and no one can say with confidence when the partisan endeavor will wrap up.
 
But at some point, the GOP-led committee will issue some kind of report, documenting its findings after one of the longest investigations in the history of the United States. The question of when, exactly, that report will be issued is itself a provocative subject.
 
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who's led the partisan probe, told Fox News last year that he hoped to finish the work "before 2016," and as far as he was concerned, the committee's report wouldn't "come out in the middle of 2016." And yet, here we are.
 
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted today that the trajectory of this story is "about to change."
Gowdy, after blowing through several previous deadlines he set, has said to expect a final report "before summer," and Republicans say they are drafting it now. In another indication that the rollout is approaching, Gowdy last month stopped giving Democrats transcripts of witness interviews. This move, ostensibly to prevent leaks, diminishes the minority's ability respond to allegations contained in the majority report.
 
Depending on how long the declassification review takes, the Benghazi report is on track to drop by mid-July, just before Congress recesses for the conventions and at a time when Republicans will be in need of a distraction from the Trump-Cruz standoff. If the review takes longer (they typically last from a few weeks to a several months), it could come out in September, in the campaign's homestretch.
In case it's not obvious, let's note for the record that the Republican report is likely to take aim at one person in particular -- and she just so happens to be favored to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
 
The challenge for the GOP is trying to convince anyone -- aside from conspiracy theorists, conservative media outlets, and Hillary Clinton's Republican critics -- that their report, once it's available, deserves to be seen as a credible assessment of a deadly terrorist attack.
A view of the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate, Jan. 20, 2016, in Jefferson City, Mo. (Photo by Jeff Roberson/AP)

Missouri Republicans advance a fetal-tissue ban

04/14/16 10:28AM

Missouri was one of a dozen states that investigated Planned Parenthood's fetal-tissue donations, and like the other states, Missouri's attorney general's office found no evidence of wrongdoing. The Republican-led state legislature, unsatisfied, launched an investigation of its own.
 
And as we discussed last week, it's a doozy of a probe. While the local Planned Parenthood affiliate has said it's prepared to share documents about the handling of fetal tissue with lawmakers, GOP state senators have also subpoenaed consent forms, which the health group says includes private patient information.
 
Because the organization has only been willing to comply with part of the legislature's subpoena, Missouri Republicans began a contempt process that could, in theory, put a regional Planned Parenthood official in jail. That process was supposed to begin yesterday, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that no vote has been scheduled and Planned Parenthood "is attempting to negotiate" a compromise solution.
 
While that dispute moves forward, Missouri Republicans are also taking a keen interest in the issue that helped sparked the broader controversy in the first place. The state Associated Press reported yesterday:
The Missouri House is advancing legislation to ban donation of fetal tissue from abortions.
 
House members in a voice vote Tuesday gave the legislation initial approval.... It needs a second vote in the House to move to the Senate.
I'm a little surprised this hasn't happened more.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivers remarks to supporters on at his rally in Kissimmee, Fla., March 10, 2016. (Photo by Joe Burbank/TNS/ZUMA)

Sanders says Southern primaries 'distort reality'

04/14/16 09:47AM

Bernie Sanders has made clear he much prefers talking about his political vision, not the campaign process, but there's one part of the process the Vermont senator talks about quite a bit. Time magazine reported:
Bernie Sanders told "Nightly Show" host Larry Wilmore at a taping Wednesday evening that scheduling Southern states early in the Democratic primary "distorts reality." [...]
 
"Well, you know," Sanders said, "people say, 'Why does Iowa go first, why does New Hampshire go first,' but I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well."
Comments like these are an extension of a standard argument from the Sanders campaign: it may look like Hillary Clinton enjoys a sizable advantage, but her lead only exists because of the South. The "reality," when it's not "distorted," is a lot different.
 
But the more Sanders makes this argument, the less sure I am of the point he's trying to make.
 
I'm absolutely certain that the senator isn't trying to dismiss the importance of African-American voters -- such an argument would be completely contrary to his progressive values and campaign strategy -- but when Sanders says "reality" is "distorted" by primary results from states in which black voters dominate, it's not at all clear which reality he's referring to.
 
Perhaps Sanders' aides have encouraged him to make this argument. Maybe it's not too late for him to remove this rhetorical arrow from his quiver.
A health worker sprays insecticide to combat the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that transmits the Zika virus under the bleachers of the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 26, 2016. (Photo by Leo Correa/AP)

White House: Congress is 'passing out umbrellas in a hurricane'

04/14/16 08:40AM

Angry disputes between President Obama's White House and the Republican Congress are fairly routine, but the dispute over the federal response to the Zika virus is a little different than most.
 
When the process began two months ago, it didn't seem especially contentious. The Obama administration requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to respond to the looming public-health threat. The White House noted at the time, "This sort of falls in the category of things that shouldn't break down along party lines."
 
But that's exactly what happened anyway. Congressional Republicans responded to the request by telling the administration to use $600 million that had been allocated to combat Ebola. The trouble, of course, is that this money (a) is far short of the $1.9 billion needed, and (b) still being used to address Ebola in West Africa.
 
And so, the White House kept pushing, saying Congress needs to step up to help address the Zika threat. Then the Office of Management and Budget soon after said in effect, "No, really, Congress needs to step up to help address the Zika threat." Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention effectively said, "No, really, Congress needs to step up to help address the Zika threat." Then the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases effectively said, "No, really, Congress needs to step up to help address the Zika threat."
 
Roll Call reported that Congress did pass a bill, intended to create incentives for drug makers to speed work on Zika treatments, but it allocates none of $1.9 billion the administration says is necessary. It's reached the point at which the White House has stopped being polite and started getting real.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest compared a Zika bill the House sent to President Barack Obama's desk on Tuesday to "passing out umbrellas in the event of a hurricane." [...]
 
Earnest called the bill (S 2512) "insufficient" because it would not allocate a single dollar for things the Obama administration says are needed to combat the virus before mosquitoes are out in force across the U.S. That list includes targeting specific Zika-carrying mosquito populations, diagnostic testing and other efforts, according to the White House.
Earnest told reporters, "In this case, Congress is two months late and $1.9 billion short in providing the assistance that our public health professionals say that they need to make sure that they respond appropriately to this situation."
 
In response, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) complained that the White House hasn't given Congress enough information on what, specifically, the $1.9 billion would be used for, fearing that the administration's plan amounted to the creation of a "slush fund" with money that "could be used for any purpose."
 
Appropriations Committee Democrats said they have no idea what Rogers is talking about.

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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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