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A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

The politics of having a Putin 'puppet' as president

10/20/16 08:40AM

At a certain level, Donald Trump must realize that his spirited defenses of Russian President Vladimir Putin do his campaign no favors -- but the Republican nominee just can't seem to help himself.

Earlier this week, Trump said he'd like to incorporate the Russian autocrat into his post-election presidential transition process, effectively rewarding Putin for suspected criminal efforts surrounding intervention in the American election. Last night, Trump read from the same script, pretending Russia may have had nothing to do with the recent email hacks -- ignoring his own intelligence briefings that told him the opposite -- and raving about Putin "outsmarting" U.S. leaders.

Trump also referred to the START arms agreement as "the start up," and proceeded to get every relevant detail of the policy wrong.

The result was a stunning exchange, starting with Hillary Clinton's explanation that Putin would "rather have a puppet as president of the United States."
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it's pretty clear...

TRUMP: You're the puppet!

CLINTON: It's pretty clear you won't admit...

TRUMP: No, you're the puppet.
Yes, Americans were treated to a debate in which one of the candidates effectively rolled out the "I know you are but what am I" defense when discussing foreign policy.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton looks on during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by Mark Ralston/Pool/Getty)

In the final debate, Trump ensures democracy is on the ballot

10/20/16 08:00AM

At the very end of the first presidential debate of 2016, NBC News' Lester Holt asked the candidates whether or not they'll accept the outcome of the election, regardless of the outcome. Hillary Clinton answered first and didn't hesitate: "I support our democracy. And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I certainly will support the outcome of this election."

When it was the Republican's turn to answer, Donald Trump initially rambled about 800 immigrants who became U.S. citizens. Holt pressed on, asking again, "Will you accept the outcome of the election?" The GOP nominee eventually said, "The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her."

Last night, in the third and final debate, Fox's Chris Wallace returned to the subject and heard a very different answer.
WALLACE: Mr. Trump, I want to ask you about one last question in this topic. You have been warning at rallies recently that this election is rigged and that Hillary Clinton is in the process of trying to steal it from you.  Your running mate, Governor Pence, pledged on Sunday that he and you -- his words -- "will absolutely accept the result of this election." Today your daughter, Ivanka, said the same thing. I want to ask you here on the stage tonight: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now. I'll look at it at the time.
The Republican candidate proceeded to complain about news organizations, fraudulent voter registrations, and his belief that his opponent "shouldn't be allowed to run" for president.

Wallace, to his credit, reminded Trump of some basic American norms the candidate may not be aware of: "[T]here is a tradition in this country -- in fact, one of the prides of this country -- is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you're necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle?"

Trump wouldn't budge. "What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time," he replied. "I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"

Actually, no. It's not OK.
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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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