* Probation: "Former CIA director and retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus was sentenced Thursday to two-years of probation and must pay a $100,000 fine for leaking classified military information to a woman with whom he had a relationship while serving as head of the intelligence agency, according to NBC News."
* Deal's off? "Comcast could drop its mega-merger bid for Time Warner Cable as early as Friday, a source told CNBC on Thursday. Time Warner Cable declined to comment to CNBC on an earlier report of an intent to drop the bid."
* Something to keep an eye on: "NATO's chief on Thursday reported a sizeable Russian military buildup on the border with Ukraine that he said would enable pro-Moscow separatists to launch a new offensive with little warning."
* Earthquakes: "Man-made earthquakes associated with wastewater disposal wells from oil and gas extraction are on the rise in parts of the United States, according to a report the U.S. Geological Survey released Thursday."
* He was the only senator to skip the vote: "Sen. Ted Cruz skipped the vote to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general on Thursday -- just three hours after he took to the Senate floor to rail against her nomination." He had a fundraiser to go to.
* Ferguson: "The family of Michael Brown -- the unarmed black teen who was killed last August by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri -- is filing a civil suit against the city for wrongful death."
* $15? "Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate's labor committee, has been reaching out to her Democratic colleagues to rally support for a more ambitious minimum wage proposal, according to a Senate source familiar with the conversations."
The legal fight over marriage equality is ongoing, but as the Supreme Court gets ready to hear arguments in the case that may resolve the issue, the court of public opinion has effectively already issued its decision.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found a 61% majority support equal-marriage rights, while only about a third of the country still disagrees. It's the most lopsided results ever in this poll, and it's a complete reversal from public attitudes from a decade ago.
It's against this backdrop that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), gearing up for a presidential campaign, has a New York Timesop-ed today proudly declaring he's "holding firm" against the push for equal treatment under the law.
Much of the argument is familiar, boilerplate rhetoric, including an unpersuasive defense of a pending state discrimination measure, but of particular interest was the governor's disdain for the private sector's guidance on the issue.
In Indiana and Arkansas, large corporations recently joined left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty.... That political leaders in both states quickly cowered amid the shrieks of big business and the radical left should alarm us all.
As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath.
The Republican governor added that business leaders have "already contacted" him about moving away from a discriminatory agenda, "but they will not deter me."
It's a curious form of far-right cultural populism -- when the left stands up to Corporate America on workers' rights and the minimum wage, Republicans are shocked by liberals' hostility towards "job creators." When the right stands up to Corporate America on marriage equality, they brag about it in New York Times op-eds.
President Obama nominated U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to serve as the nation's Attorney General way back on Nov. 8. The ensuing delay was, at various times, exasperating, ridiculous, and unprecedented.
After an unprecedented delay of more than 160 days, the Senate on Thursday finally voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general. She makes history as the first African-American female to serve as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
The Senate confirmed Lynch in a 56-43 vote on Thursday, after a historic delay caused in part by partisan wrangling over an anti-human trafficking bill.
The margin of today's vote was larger than expected. As recently as last month, it was an open question as to whether Lynch, despite her qualifications and unimpeachable record, would find enough Republican support to be confirmed. Indeed, as recently as mid-March, only four GOP senators publicly endorsed her nomination -- enough to get Lynch to 50.
Reflecting on Lynch's nomination in February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reportedly boasted, "Oh, she's going down."
Evidently not. Lynch actually picked up 10 Republican supporters -- twice as many as expected -- with Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
It's no coincidence that Ayotte, Johnson, Kirk, and Portman are seen as vulnerable GOP incumbents, and they're eager to demonstrate their mainstream bona fides. McConnell's vote, meanwhile, caught nearly everyone off guard, especially given the fact that he was chiefly responsible for months of needless delays.
As for Cochran, another unexpected pro-Lynch vote, it's worth noting for context that the Mississippi Republican wouldn't even be in the Senate right now were it not for African Americans saving his career in a GOP primary last year.
An American held by al-Qaida for four years, and two other U.S. citizens who fought for the terror group, were killed in U.S. military strikes in January along the Afghan-Pakistan border, the U.S. government acknowledged for the first time Thursday. An Italian citizen held hostage since 2012 was also killed in one of the strikes on an al-Qaida compound. [...]
The surprise announcement revealed that Warren Weinstein, a 73-year-old U.S. aid worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2011 and pleaded for his life in a video released by the group, was killed in January in a U.S. drone strike. According to a statement from White House spokesman Josh Earnest, Weinstein was killed along with Ahmed Farouq, a U.S. citizen and al-Qaida fighter. A separate strike, also in January, killed Adam Gadahn, a long-sought American who worked for al-Qaida and was on the FBI's most-wanted list.
Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al Qaeda hostage since 2012, was among those killed. The press secretary's full statement with the details is available online here.
President Obama, speaking from the briefing room, said this morning, "As president and as commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni. I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families."
Josh Earnest added, "The operation targeted an al-Qa'ida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy."
Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* Marco Rubio, riding a wave of positive press, now leads the Republican presidential field in the new Quinnipiac poll with 15% support. Jeb Bush is a close second with 13%, followed by Scott Walker with 11%. Ted Cruz is fourth with 9%, followed by Rand Paul with 8%.
* In the same poll, Hillary Clinton leads each of her GOP rivals in hypothetical match-ups, though by much smaller margins than nearly all other national polling.
* Maryland's Democratic Senate primary is getting very crowded with several big-name candidates, including former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who launched her statewide campaign this morning.
* As Rachel noted on the show last night, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will kick off her Republican presidential campaign on May 4, the same day as Ben Carson's campaign announcement.
* As hard as this may be to believe, Donald Trump has reportedly signed a lease for a campaign office in New Hampshire, which will open a week from tomorrow.
It may be tempting to think the nation's campaign-finance system can't get much worse. An under-appreciated AP story this week, however, suggests the few remaining pillars still standing, trying to maintain some semblance of limits, are starting to look pretty shaky.
The traditional presidential campaign may be getting a dramatic makeover in Jeb Bush's bid for the White House as he prepares to turn some of a campaign's central functions over to a separate political organization that can raise unlimited amounts of money.
The concept, in development for months as the former Florida governor has raised tens of millions of dollars for his Right to Rise super PAC, would endow that organization not just with advertising on Bush's behalf, but with many of the duties typically conducted by a campaign.
David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, told the AP, "Nothing like this has been done before."
And for good reason. In theory, donors have to weigh a variety of considerations before making a contribution: they can donate to a candidate, knowing the money will benefit him or her directly, but there are strict legal caps. They can donate to a party or a party's campaign committee, but the donor has no way of knowing which candidates in which races will get the help.
Super PACs offer appeal -- unlimited funds from anyone, including corporations -- but contributors realize in advance that the super PACs cannot legally coordinate with allied candidates. There's no guarantee the super PACs will make decisions -- or utilize resources -- in a way the campaigns themselves will like.
But Jeb Bush and his team seem determined to blur the lines in ways we've never seen.
The congressional committee that investigated the Pearl Harbor attack took about nine-and-a-half months to complete its work. The committee investigating the JFK assassination took about the same amount of time. After the Iran-Contra scandal, a select committee investigated for a little over 10 months.
But the Select Committee on Benghazi has lasted longer than all of them, investigating the deadly 2012 attack for over 11 months. And we learned yesterday, it's on track to just keep going.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi might not release its findings about the 2012 attacks until 2016 -- in the midst of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
"Factors beyond the committee's control, including witness availability, compliance with documents requests, the granting of security clearances and accreditations -- all of which are controlled by the Executive branch -- could continue to impact the timing of the inquiry's conclusion," committee spokesman Jamal Ware said in an email.
The committee -- the eighth congressional committee to investigate the attack -- now expects to wrap up next year, with a report due just a months before the 2016 presidential election.
What a remarkable coincidence. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, called yesterday's announcement "a political charade." Few seem able to argue otherwise with a straight face.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the process would move more quickly if Hillary Clinton were willing to "actually cooperate." Given reality, the Speaker's charge is hard to take seriously.
Controversial Republican economist Arthur Laffer was recently asked about his handiwork in Kansas. It was Laffer who crafted Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) radical -- and radically unsuccessful -- economic experiment, which has failed to deliver on its promises and which has ruined Kansas' finances.
"Fine" is a subjective word, though when a state finds that some of its schools don't have enough money to keep the doors open, it's safe to say everything isn't "fine."
Six school districts in Kansas will close early this year, following budget cuts signed in March by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Two school districts, Concordia Unified School District and Twin Valley Unified School District, announced earlier this month that they would end the year early because they lacked the funds to keep the schools open. This week, four more districts confirmed they would also shorten their calendars, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
One superintendent told the Topeka Capital-Journal he doesn't want to permanently change the school calendar, but at least for this year, budget concerns made it necessary to wrap up early.
If the news sounds familiar, we learned earlier this month about two school districts that couldn't afford to stay open for the full academic year. That number has evidently grown to six.
And as we joked a few weeks ago, nothing says "21st-century super power" like American schools closing early because a state can't afford to keep the lights on.
At a certain level, a 50-state strategy may seem like common sense for any national party or candidate. Those who choose to compete only in specific states are either taking some states for granted or conceding defeat in some areas before a campaign even begins.
But when Howard Dean, in his capacity as DNC chair, first threw his support behind a 50-state strategy in 2006, he faced fierce resistance, most notably from then-DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel. The pushback wasn't necessarily absurd -- parties have limited resources, so they have to take advantage of opportunities where they exist. When Democrats invest resources in uncompetitive areas, practically by definition, they're denying resources that could be put to use in competitive races
Dean, however, largely ignored Emanuel, and the former governor got the last laugh when the 50-state strategy proved effective -- Democrats rode a wave to the congressional majority in 2006 and fared even better in 2008, thanks in part to the Obama campaign's embrace of a very similar strategy.
Nearly a decade after Dean's ambitious gambit, the Huffington Postreports that Hillary Clinton is on board with a 50-state strategy of her own.
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is launching a major grassroots organizing effort Wednesday, sending staffers to every single state to start building an infrastructure of volunteers ready to pound the pavement.
What's being called the "Ramp Up Grassroots Organizing Program" will have paid staffers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories through the end of May. They'll be working with Clinton supporters to organize local meetings, volunteer trainings and other grassroots events, according to the campaign.
In a video unveiled by Team Clinton yesterday, Marlon Marshall, Clinton's director of state campaigns, tells viewers, "Organizing is the heart and soul of this campaign. As we speak, things are ramping up in all 50 states and the territories. Face-to-face conversations with your friends and neighbors are how we will win. So we're doubling down on old-school organizing."
It's no small development. Indeed, this tells us quite a bit about the Democratic frontrunner's intentions for the cycle.
Initial unemployment claims were expected to improve a bit after last week's disappointing report, but that's not quite what happened.
The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits ticked up 1,000 to 295,000 in the week that ended April 18, signaling a low level of layoffs, according to government data released Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected jobless claims to decline to 288,000 from 294,000 in the prior week.
The average of new claims over the past month, a less volatile figure than the weekly data, rose by 1,750 to 284,500, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 26 of the last 32 weeks.
Under the American system of government, elected legislators are responsible for writing laws. If those statutes are legally controversial, they're challenged in the courts and evaluated by judges. It's Civics 101.
But once in a while, some far-right lawmakers decide they're not entirely comfortable with separation of powers and the idea of judicial review. Yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), usually known for his fierce opposition to immigration, issued a press release announcing a new proposal related to marriage equality.
Congressman Steve King released the following statement after introducing his bill "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015." This bill strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases related to marriage. The effect of the bill would prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases, leaving the issue to the States where it properly belongs. [...]
"My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction, 'to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.'"
The "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act" has already picked up seven House co-sponsors -- all of them Republican -- including some familiar names like Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).
And that's a shame because, even by 2015 standards, this idea is just bonkers.
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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