Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* President Obama has been careful not to use Donald Trump's name recently, so it was of interest when he told Bloomberg Politics in a new interview, "There's no successful businessman in America who actually thinks the most successful businessman in America is Donald Trump."
* Trump's campaign claimed yesterday that it raised $2 million in less than 12 hours after sending out a fundraising appeal this week. The Trump Victory Fund, which is a joint fundraising committee that partners with the RNC, raised an additional $3 million.
* To the disappointment of his supporters who still believe he may be the Democratic presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders conceded on C-SPAN yesterday, "Well, you know it's hard to say, it doesn't appear that I'm gonna be the nominee." The senator has also scheduled a "Where We Go From Here" speech, to be delivered in New York later this afternoon.
* In an unexpected move, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) did not endorse Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) re-election yesterday, instead offering encouragement to Rubio's most notable primary rival. "Carlos Beruff is a good friend of mine, a businessman and an outsider to politics," the governor said in a statement. "The voters of Florida deserve the opportunity to consider his candidacy alongside Senator Rubio and make their own decision."
* Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), however, who frequently clashed with Rubio during their presidential campaign, quickly threw his support behind the incumbent senator yesterday, as did former rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
* The Libertarian Party's presidential ticket participated in a prime-time town-hall event on CNN yesterday, but it was overshadowed by the sit-in drama on the floor of the House of Representatives.
In November 2014, soon after the midterm elections, President Obama announced he'd found a way forward on overhauling immigration policy, relying exclusively on his executive authority. As regular readers may recall, the result was a policy known as DAPA -- Deferred Action for Parental Accountability -- in which the White House, among other things, extended temporary status to millions of undocumented immigrants, shielding them from deportation threats and allowing them to apply for work permits.
At the time, the Justice Department took the unusual step of publishing a dense, 33-page legal memo, explaining in great detail exactly why the president’s executive actions are legally permissible under existing laws, rulings, and precedents. Federalist Society members couldn’t come up with a constitutional objection; Obama’s actions are in line with what some of his Republican predecessors did without incident; and the whole legal argument against Obama’s actions seemed a little silly.
And yet, the White House's Republican critics felt a little differently, and 26 states filed a suit challenging DAPA. In an unexpected result, the far-right opponents of the administration's policy have won -- at least for now. NBC News' Pete Williams reported this morning:
The U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 Thursday over a challenge to President Obama's immigration policy, a result that prevents the administration from putting the program into effect during the rest of his term. [...]
The death of Antonin Scalia left the Supreme Court evenly divided on the issue. Thursday's tie vote means the justices were unable to announce a ruling, an outcome that leaves in place the lower court rulings against enforcing the plan.
Ordinarily, we'd get more guidance from the ruling itself, but in this case, the decision is literally one sentence: "The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court." It doesn't even say which justices voted which way, though it doesn't take a legal expert to guess how the justices were divided.
As a substantive matter, Americans won't see a shift in policy -- DAPA was already on hold by court order -- but millions of immigrants were poised to benefit from President Obama's policy, and as a result of the Supreme Court's tie, that will not happen, at least not this year.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), after swearing up and down for months that he would not seek re-election to the Senate, announced yesterday that he's breaking his promise. But an unexpected Politicoreport noted that the far-right senator did so in the most Rubio-eque way possible.
Marco Rubio missed a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday morning -- at the same time he was announcing plans to run for reelection.
The first-term Republican senator, who was pilloried during his presidential run for his record of missed votes and hearings, skipped a closed hearing on security for sales of military equipment to other nations, according to attendees from both parties.
Meet the new Marco Rubio; he's the same as the old Marco Rubio. For several years, the Floridian has routinely blown off votes, committee hearings, and policy briefings -- he's generally treated his Senate responsibilities as not particularly important -- so it seemed beautifully fitting that Rubio, who could have made his announcement anytime this week, scheduled his remarks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Meanwhile, some of the editorial boards from Florida's largest newspapers didn't exactly welcome Rubio back with open arms. The Miami Heralddescribed the senator's change of heart "hard to believe," adding, "[H]is flip-flop will seem too pat, too orchestrated, too opportunistic to anyone not firmly planted in the Rubio camp."
The Tampa Bay Timesadded, "Rubio's decision gives Florida voters an opportunity to judge his thin record in the Senate, his tortured policy on immigration and his out-of-step positions on Cuba, guns, climate change and other major issues. And where has Rubio been for the past six years? Many communities would need to form a search party to discover that Florida has two members in the Senate. This race should be a reminder that this office cannot be taken for granted."
For now, Rubio won't even commit to serving a full term if re-elected. "I'm not going to get into any of these unequivocal pronunciations," the senator said, despite months of unequivocal pronunciations about doing the exact opposite of what he's doing now.
It's striking to realize Rubio is effectively saying, "Please give me the job I said I didn't want, and which I might decide to stop doing partway through my term."
It may seem like ancient history, but in the not-too-distant past, the Republican Party took foreign policy seriously. When it came to international affairs, the GOP had several influential "grown-ups" who served in positions of authority.
In recent years, however, as the Republican Party has become increasingly radicalized, the GOP's elder statesmen have fallen out of favor. Members of the party's old guard discovered that they agreed with many key Democratic priorities -- the international nuclear agreement with Iran, the New START treaty, etc. -- only to discover that contemporary GOP officials no longer cared what the Republican foreign policy establishment had to say.
It's even reached the point at which the party's "grown-ups" are comfortable endorsing a Democratic presidential candidate.
Last week, Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush/Cheney administration and a longtime member of the Republican Party's foreign policy establishment, conceded, "If Donald Trump is the nominee, I would vote for Hillary Clinton." Yesterday, as USA Todaynoted, brought a related surprise.
Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to two Republican presidents, said Wednesday he's backing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.
In a statement, Scowcroft said Clinton "brings truly unique experience and perspective to the White House," citing her time as secretary of State, as a U.S. senator and as first lady.
"She brings deep expertise in international affairs, and a sophisticated understanding of the world," Scowcroft said. No where in the statement did he allude to Clinton's opponent, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. "I believe Hillary Clinton has the wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time," the statement concluded.
Scowcroft served as national security adviser to Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. He also held key positions in Richard Nixon's administration and served as chairman of George W. Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
As MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell put it yesterday, when Scowcroft endorses Clinton, "you know something is wrong in the GOP world."
There's a fair amount of precedent for presidential candidates traveling abroad ahead of the election. In July 2008, for example, then-Sen. Barack Obama wowed international audiences with a historic visit to Berlin. Almost exactly four years later, in July 2012, Mitt Romney took an overseas trip of his own. (It really didn't go well for the Republican.)
So when Donald Trump's campaign said the presumptive GOP nominee would travel to Scotland ahead of the Republican convention, it was only natural to assume Trump was headed abroad to bolster his foreign policy credentials.
But as the New York Timesreported, the truth is a little more complicated.
His campaign is desperately short of cash. He has struggled to hire staff. Influential Republicans are demanding that he demonstrate he can run a serious general election campaign.
But, for reasons that emphasize just how unusual a candidate he is, Donald J. Trump is leaving the campaign trail on Thursday to travel to Scotland to promote a golf course his company purchased on the country's southwestern coast.
This may sound like some sort of joke, but it's quite real. This isn't a situation in which an American presidential hopeful has scheduled meetings with foreign officials, and he's checking in on his business interests while he's there; it's largely the opposite. Trump's Scottish sojourn appears to have practically nothing to do with the office he's seeking.
The Times report added that Trump's business interests "still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled." The Republican's itinerary "reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation," complete with "a ceremonial ribbon cutting."
Scott W. Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, added, "Everyone knows this is the wrong thing for the nominee to be doing now, and it is amazing this can't be stopped."
For those who believe watching Congress is always boring and monotonous, yesterday's developments -- followed by additional drama in the early hours of this morning -- offered powerful proof to the contrary.
Revolt in the House of Representatives turned raucous overnight, with protesting Democrats shouting down Speaker Paul Ryan's attempts to restore order during a gun-control protest that stretched into its 18th hour.
Earlier, Republicans branded the move as a publicity stunt before summarily adjourning the chamber until after the Fourth of July.
Note, the GOP-led House was supposed to be in session, doing actual work, today and four days next week ahead of the holiday break. But Republican leaders, unsure what to do about the Democratic sit-in and unwilling to schedule a vote on possible gun reforms, decided they no longer saw any point to sticking around.
Exasperated, House Speaker Paul Ryan took his House and went home. What will happen when the chamber reconvenes on July 6 is unclear, but Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who helped lead yesterday's protest, told the Washington Post, "We will continue to fight.... When we come back in July, we'll start all over again."
But to fully appreciate the scope of yesterday's drama, it's important to note how Republican leaders tried to end the Democratic protest.
House Democrats interrupt Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan by singing We Shall Overcome as the speaker attempts to hold a vote on a matter unrelated to the issue of gun safety, which is what Democrats are calling for. watch
Senator Cory Booker talks with Rachel Maddow about the historic protest held by House Democrats and the mounting political pressure for Congress to pass gun safety legislation even as Republicans continue to block new bills. watch
Rachel Maddow reports that while House Democrats stage a sit-in on the floor of the House, calling for new gun safety regulations, protesters are gathering outside as well to show their support for the action taking place inside. watch
Congressman John Lewis and Congresswoman Katherine Clark talk with Rachel Maddow about the genesis of the idea to stage a sit-in protest on the House floor to demand a vote on gun legislation, and where they see the action taking them. watch
* This is still ongoing: "Georgia congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and the viral nature of social media to stage a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control."
* And it's not limited to House members: several senators, including Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), joined their House colleagues.
* President Obama can't join them on the House floor, but it's worth noting that he's extended his support to the House Dems' efforts.
* "We are seeing a pickup in growth. There's been a sharp increase in consumer spending," [Fed Chair Janet Yellen] told the House Financial Services Committee. "I'm very hopeful that we will see a pickup in growth." So long as she doesn't raise rates anytime soon, I'll be hopeful, too.
* We've seen reports like these before, so keep expectations in check: "The Colombian government and the country's largest rebel group said Wednesday that they had agreed to a cease-fire, clearing a major hurdle in the effort to end one of the world's longest-running conflicts."
* That's quite a announcement: "The Justice Department announced Wednesday it had charged a record 301 people with schemes that defrauded government health programs by submitting $900 million in fraudulent health claims."
* A serial child molester starts his sentence: "Once two heartbeats from the most powerful office in the land, an ailing Dennis Hastert wheeled himself into a federal penitentiary Wednesday to begin serving a prison sentence for breaking the law while trying to conceal his past sexual abuse of teenage boys."
* This is at odds with a lot of conservative predictions: "Rates of marijuana use among Colorado's teenagers are essentially unchanged in the years since the state's voters legalized marijuana in 2012, new survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows."
Donald Trump's campaign, such as it is, has spent the past couple of weeks signaling the Republican's plan for a big anti-Hillary Clinton speech. There wasn't any other real point to the planned address -- there was never any pretense about a specific issue or policy area -- except the presumptive GOP nominee's intention to complain a whole lot about his Democratic rival.
And so, Trump did exactly that this morning. Addressing supporters at a Trump hotel in New York -- his campaign will no doubt pay a generous price for use of the venue owned by the candidate -- the Republican candidate relied on his trusted teleprompter to go on the offensive.
Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton "a world class liar" who thinks she is "entitled" to the presidency during a speech attacking his Democratic rival Wednesday.
"Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the United States," Trump said in a speech at one of his properties in New York. [...]
"Her campaign slogan is 'I'm with her,'" Trump said. "You know what my response to that is? I'm with you: the American people."
Right. Because if there's one thing that's obvious about Donald J. Trump, it's that he isn't a narcissist.
Most of the attacks were predictable and clumsily delivered, but the most striking thing about this morning's scripted address was its breathtaking dishonesty. In theory, if Clinton were as awful as Trump and Republicans claim, it should be fairly easy to deliver a speech condemning her using facts and real-world evidence.
Instead, as Slate's Jamelle Bouie put it, Trump leaned on "an avalanche of falsehoods."
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