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Police work at the scene where Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested following a shootout with police, Sept. 19, 2016, in Linden, N.J. (Photo by Justin Lane/EPA)

Rahami arrest renews misguided 'enemy combatant' debate

09/21/16 08:42AM

Following the recent developments in New York and New Jersey, it was only a matter of time before we heard this.
[Donald Trump] celebrated catching bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, who he called an "evil thug," and seemed to push for him to be tried as an enemy combatant. "We must also use whatever lawful methods are available to obtain information from the apprehended suspect to get information before it's no longer timely," Trump said. "And Congress should pass measures to ensure that foreign enemy combatants are treated as such. These are enemies. These are combatants."

This statement puts Trump in rare agreement with Sen. Lindsay Graham, who also pushed for the suspect to be tried as an enemy combatant. "Holding Rahami as an enemy combatant also allows us to question him about what attacks may follow in the future," Graham said in a statement.
As Rachel has explained on the show, the purpose of the designation is to deny suspects Miranda warnings and prevent the appointment of defense counsel -- despite, you know, the U.S. Constitution.

If this sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that: every time there's an incident like this, Lindsey Graham and his ideological allies almost reflexively roll out the "enemy combatant" argument. Unfortunately, the idea isn't improving with age.

The Boston Marathon bombing case is instructive given the circumstances. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- like Rahami -- was a naturalized American citizen, captured on American soil, accused of committing a crime in America. Graham, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and other Republicans immediately urged the Obama administration to label Tsarnaev an "enemy combatant."

The administration ignored the pleas and instead stuck to the rule of law and the American justice system -- and we now know that was the right decision.
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George HW Bush

Team Trump complains about H.W. Bush's 'slap in the face'

09/21/16 08:00AM

There were some questions yesterday about whether or not former President George H.W. Bush really said he intends to vote for Hillary Clinton, but there are ample reasons to believe he did. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the original source of the news, confirmed the account to NBC News late yesterday.

What's more, by some accounts, Bush made his election plans clear to "a room of roughly 40 people," and the former president and his aides have made little effort to dispute the reports.

As of last night, Donald Trump's campaign certainly gave every indication that it believes the story to be true -- and went after H.W. Bush accordingly.
"If it is true that some of the Bushes are going to be supporting Hillary Clinton, then I think it really offers vindication for a lot of the tea party goers who felt like Republicans were starting to govern as Democrats," Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on Fox News's "The Kelly File."

"The establishment is going to stick with the establishment," she continued.

Pierson remarked on a situation where "you have Republicans in a record number turn out for Donald Trump and you have former leaders of the party just essentially slap them in the face."
Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, seemed to think the former president's age is worth emphasizing. "I respect the 92-year-old former president very much -- and his decision," Conway told CNN last night. "And I think Americans are very thankful to the Bush family for their service. That's his right."
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 9.20.16

09/20/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest out of New York: "When bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was captured, he was carrying a notebook containing a 'rambling' missive that praised a slain Al-Qaeda leader and mentioned several deadly terror attacks, NBC News learned Tuesday."

* Related news: "The Rahami family first appeared on the FBI's radar two years ago after police responded on Aug. 25, 2014 to a report that he'd stabbed his brother in the left leg."

* Sound advice: "President Obama on Tuesday called for a 'course correction' in the march to an integrated world, saying the gains made in recent decades were threatened by 'uncertainty and unease and strife.' Mr. Obama, making his valedictory address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, painted a picture of nations struggling with economic inequality, sectarian conflict and rising nationalism."

* Oklahoma: "Video footage released Monday showed Tulsa police shooting an unarmed man to death on Friday night after he approached his SUV with his arms raised."

* Capitol Hill: "Senator Elizabeth Warren pulled no punches as the disgraced CEO of Wells Fargo was grilled on Capitol Hill Tuesday for his part in the bank's opening of millions of phony accounts without customers' permission."

* Texas: "A federal judge sided with the Department of Justice after it accused Texas of violating a court-ordered agreement to soften the state's voter ID law, which an appeals court previously ruled discriminatory."

* Remember the Jesse Benton case? "The chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential bid was sentenced Tuesday to probation and home confinement rather than prison, and two other top aides were awaiting their sentences for a scheme to cover up campaign payments to a former Iowa state senator who agreed to endorse their boss."

* An investigation worth watching: "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how Exxon Mobil Corp. has valued its assets in the face of the current plunge in oil prices -- and how it estimates their future worth in a world of increasing climate change regulations, according to people familiar with the matter."

* Quite an editorial from the Detroit Free Press: "Punitive. Self-serving. Cowardly. There's no other way to describe the latest revelation about the State of Michigan's unprecedented and irresponsible actions concerning the City of Flint: that this spring -- at the direction of Gov. Rick Snyder, and with the support of GOP legislators -- the state barred the city from suing it, without approval by a state-appointed board."
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump Foundation starts to look like a slush fund

09/20/16 12:35PM

Just when it seemed the controversy surrounding the Donald J. Trump Foundation couldn't get any worse, the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold published new revelations this morning that, if true, suggest serious wrongdoing.
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump's charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against "self-dealing" -- which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
This is hardly the first controversy surrounding Trump's charitable foundation, but it may be the most damaging for one straightforward reason: it doesn't require a lot of explanation. As Josh Barro put it, the summary fits in a sentence: "Donald Trump took money other people gave his charity and used it to pay his businesses' fines."

Not to put too fine a point on this, but what's being described here sounds an awful lot like a slush fund.

The issue of "self-dealing" came up a bit last week, when we learned that Trump allegedly used foundation money to buy a giant portrait of himself, which was apparently then sent to one of Trump's golf resorts. As Fahrenthold explained, "If Trump did not give the painting to a charity -- or find a way to use it for charitable purposes -- he may have violated IRS rules against 'self-dealing,' which prohibit nonprofit leaders from spending charity money on themselves."

But today's story takes the issue quite a bit further, raising the possibility that Trump routinely used foundation money -- funds that often came from other people, intended for charitable purposes -- to pay off settlements when his business enterprises faced lawsuits.

The obvious question, of course, is whether or not it was legal for Trump to use charitable money to pay off legal settlements from for-profit businesses. The Post's report said Trump's alleged practices "may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy."
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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.20.16

09/20/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* According to this week's NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by five, 50% to 45%, among likely voters in a four-way match-up. Last week, Clinton was ahead by four.

* Clinton turned her attention directly to younger voters yesterday, with a speech in Philadelphia and a new op-ed at on "what millennials have taught me."

* The Commission on Presidential Debates announced yesterday that the topics for next week's debate will be "America's Direction," "Achieving Prosperity," and "Securing America."

* Republican mega-donors Joe Ricketts and Sheldon Adelson are opening their deep pockets for the GOP right now in ways that Democrats should probably find alarming.

* Speaking of campaign finance, some members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus are refusing to donate to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

* In case there were any doubts about Sen. Roy Blunt (R) being vulnerable in Missouri, note that the National Republican Senatorial Committee made its first ad buy on his behalf this week, and "more ads are on the way."

* The latest Monmouth University poll shows Trump ahead of Clinton in Georgia by only three points, 45% to 42%, despite Georgia's traditional status as a "red" state.

* And speaking of competitive Southern states, a new Elon poll shows Trump leading Clinton in North Carolina by the narrowest of margins, 44% to 43%.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 23, 2016. (Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Wealthy would reap a windfall under Paul Ryan's plan

09/20/16 11:00AM

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has largely pulled off an impressive public-relations gambit in recent years. The Republican leader has recast himself as an anti-poverty crusader, without making any meaningful changes to his far-right agenda, simply by using the word "poverty" a whole lot.

But it's occasionally worthwhile to look past the rhetoric and focus on the hard data. The Washington Post reported the other day:
The House Republicans' proposal for tax relief could force the government to borrow trillions of dollars to continue operating and might even weaken the economy, according to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

By 2025, when the reductions would be fully implemented, 99.6 percent of the tax cuts would benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, according to the analysis. This group would enjoy the greatest relief as a share of their income (increasing their incomes after taxes by 10.6 percent on average) and in terms of dollars (an average annual savings of $240,000 for each household).
The full Tax Policy Center report is online here.

I can appreciate why a bunch of statistics may be difficult to digest, but let these findings sink in for a minute. Ryan's tax plan is crafted in such a way as to give 99.6% of the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy by 2025. The other 0.4% would be divided up across the other 99% of us.

This is a feature, not a bug, of the House Speaker's approach to economic policy. Ryan genuinely believes that massive tax breaks for those at the very top will spur economic growth that would, in time, benefit everyone. For the Wisconsin congressman, trickle-down policy, its track record notwithstanding, remains the most responsible course to broad national prosperity.

If that means designing a tax plan that's ridiculously tilted towards the rich, so be it. Anyone who questions the wisdom of such a proposal will face accusations of "class warfare" -- a phrase intended to end all conversations -- as if Ryan isn't trying to redistribute wealth from the bottom up.

New York's Jon Chait joked yesterday, "The new Paul Ryan tax cuts make the Bush tax cuts look like socialism."
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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at University of North Carolina, Sept. 15, 2016, in Greensboro, N.C. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP)

Clinton takes a keen interest in Wells Fargo controversy

09/20/16 10:04AM

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf will be on Capitol Hill today, where he's likely to receive a very unwelcome reception from the Senate Banking Committee, whose members will be demanding answers about the banking giant's latest controversy.

To briefly recap, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently reached a record settlement with Wells Fargo after the company was caught allegedly bilking consumers, enrolling customers in banking services without their permission, then charging them fees for accounts and services they neither sought nor authorized.

Stumpf has been in damage-control mode -- see, for example, his apologetic op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal -- though there are still some unanswered questions about what Wells Fargo executives knew and when they knew it.

Of course, all of this comes against the backdrop of the U.S. presidential campaign, and the story has not escaped Hillary Clinton's attention. In fact, the Democratic candidate released a well-timed open letter to Wells Fargo customers overnight. It reads in part:
"I was deeply disturbed when, last week, we found out that Wells Fargo had engaged in widespread illegal practices over many years. The bank secretly opened up millions of accounts for customers without their consent – betraying their customers, misusing their personal information and leading many to be slapped with unjust fees and other charges. Today, Wells Fargo's CEO will appear before Congress. He owes all of you a clear explanation as to how this happened under his watch.

"There is simply no place for this kind of outrageous behavior in America.

"Our economy depends on a strong and safe banking system to help keep it moving. But even after Americans spent years working hard to recover from the Great Recession, the culture of misconduct and recklessness that preceded that crisis too often persists. I have a plan to address it."
The first tenet of the plan: defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which uncovered the wrongdoing and negotiated a massive settlement.

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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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