Still hoping to exploit the 2012 Benghazi attack as a 2016 campaign issue, Donald Trump declared on Twitter last week: "If you want to know about Hillary Clinton's honesty & judgment, ask the family of Ambassador Stevens."
For Republican conspiracy theorists, that may not be the best idea. The New Yorker's Robin Wright spoke this week with Dr. Anne Stevens, Ambassador Chris Stevens' sister, about whom she holds responsible for the terrorism that claimed his life.
"It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.
"I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn't a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself."
Dr. Stevens went on to lament the degree to which her brother's death has been "politicized," while also complaining about Congress' reluctance to "focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world."
She added, "With the many issues in the current election, to use that incident—and to use Chris's death as a political point -- is not appropriate.... I know he had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture."
It should be interesting to hear Trump and other conspiracy theorists explain why Anne Stevens' perspective doesn't matter.
For much of the Democratic presidential primary process, Bernie Sanders focused largely on his own candidacy. The Vermont senator did not, for example, raise money for the national Democratic Party, support any state party, or engage in any party-building efforts. When Rachel asked in March whether he might eventually back any Democratic candidates in any other race, Sanders replied, "We'll see."
In April, however, that changed, and Sanders began extending his support to down-ballot Democrats in specific contests. True to form, the senator preferred progressive allies who didn't necessarily enjoy the party's backing, but the Vermonter nevertheless endorsed and helped raise money for some other candidates.
How are they doing? It's been a mixed bag so far. Nevada's Lucy Flores enjoyed Sanders' enthusiastic backing, but she lost in a Democratic congressional primary two weeks ago by a wide margin. As the Huffington Postreported, Sanders had better luck in New York yesterday, but only in one of the two races he was involved in.
Zephyr Teachout soundly bested organic farmer Will Yandik in New York's 19th Congressional District on Tuesday. Although she received a boost from Sanders' endorsement, Teachout has long been a progressive favorite and was already known statewide after running against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2014 Democratic primary.... Teachout will face Republican John Faso in November to replace outgoing Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).
Sanders' candidate didn't fare as well in New York's 24th District. There, Eric Kingson lost to Colleen Deacon, who had the backing of the DCCC and both the state's U.S. senators. Deacon worked for the mayor of Syracuse and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and often stressed her experience as a single mother living on food stamps. She will face incumbent Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) in the fall.
Sanders campaigned for Kingson in the Syracuse-area district last week, but it wasn't enough to put him over the top. He lost to Deacon by roughly 16 points.
Sanders-backed congressional candidates still have plenty of other chances of success, however. In the state of Washington, Pramila Jayapal's congressional primary is Aug. 2, and in Florida, Tim Canova's race against DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on Aug. 30.
The state of Washington has a law that requires pharmacies to dispense medications, even if individual pharmacists have religious objections. One family-owned pharmacy challenged the law in court, saying it shouldn't be required to sell emergency contraception, which the pharmacy's owners consider immoral.
An appeals court sided with the state, and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the justices announced they would not hear the case, which has the effect of leaving the lower court's ruling intact.
And while that would ordinarily be the end of the dispute, yesterday offered a bit of a twist. The Supreme Court said it wouldn't hear the appeal out of Washington, but at the same time, Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas released an angry rebuttal, saying they not only wanted to hear this case, they also consider the majority's disinterest in the matter to be "an ominous sign."
"This case is an ominous sign," Alito wrote in an unusual, 15-page response to the court refusing to hear Stormans v. Wiesman.... "If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead," Alito continued, sounding a lot like a man who foresees a bleak future for his side, "those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern."
The 2016 map tends to favor Democrats when it comes to U.S. Senate races: there are 34 races this year, and Republicans have to defend 24 of them, including several in traditionally "blue" states. That said, GOP officials are not without targets of their own.
Arguably the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent is Colorado's Michael Bennet, who eked out a narrow win 2010 after having been appointed to the seat in 2009, and Republicans decided early in this cycle that his seat would be competitive.
All they would need is a candidate.
That turned out to be vastly more difficult than the GOP hoped, especially after many of the top-tier Republican contenders bowed out of consideration. The result was one of the year's strangest primary contests, which, as the Denver Postreported, wrapped up last night in ways Democrats found very encouraging.
Darryl Glenn did it again. With little money and an all-volunteer staff, the county commissioner from El Paso shocked the Republican establishment again Tuesday by clinching the party's nomination for U.S. Senate and earning a chance to unseat Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet in November.
The resounding victory -- called 30 minutes after polls closed -- catapulted Glenn back into the spotlight after he won a surprising victory at the state GOP convention in April. This time, he defeated two self-funded millionaires and a party rising star to emerge with a double-digit victory over his closest competitor in a five-way race.
The article added this gem of a sentence: "The Election Night results capped a bizarre primary that featured a menagerie of chaos from forgery charges and millionaire candidates to an exploding toilet and a Great Dane named Duke."
The Republican establishment had rallied behind Jon Keyser, a far-right former state lawmaker whose campaign struggled with ballot-access issues, and who ended up finishing a distant fourth out of five candidates. Darryl Glenn, however, enjoyed support from Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, and cruised to an easy win.
Winning in November, however, will be vastly more difficult.
The latest reports out of Turkey point to an increasing death toll following the terrorist attack at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, with 41 deaths and more than 230 injuries. U.S. officials, of course, have condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms.
In our presidential election, however, Donald Trump wasn't satisfied with a condemnation.
The presumptive Republican nominee appears to have resisted the urge to say, "Called it!" which tends to be his go-to reaction in response to most major events. Trump did, however, manage to respond to events in Turkey in a deeply unsettling way.
Donald Trump on Tuesday prescribed fighting "fire with fire" when it comes to battling terrorism, seemingly making the case for using similarly brutal tactics as terror groups like ISIS have in the past.
The GOP's presumptive nominee has been outspoken on enhanced interrogation, telling Tuesday's enthusiastic crowd once again that he doesn't think waterboarding is "tough enough" and that it's "peanuts" compared to what terrorists have done in the past.
Trump seemed particularly annoyed that the United States feels the need to act lawfully. "We have laws; they don't have laws," the GOP candidate said last night in Ohio, adding, "Their laws say you can do anything you want and the more vicious you are the better."
From there, Trump transitioned to emphasizing his support for barbarism. "You have to fight fire with fire," he declared. "We have to be so strong. We have to fight so viciously. And violently because we're dealing with violent people viciously."
Trump added, "Can you imagine [ISIS members] sitting around the table or wherever they're eating their dinner, talking about the Americans don't do waterboarding and yet we chop off heads? They probably think we're weak, we're stupid, we don't know what we're doing, we have no leadership. You know, you have to fight fire with fire."
In a CNN interview, Trump went on to say he intends to "change our law on, you know, the waterboarding thing" in order to "be able to fight at least on an almost equal basis."
Rukmini Callimachi, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about the unusual relationship between ISIS and Turkey and the increased hostility by ISIS toward Turkey since the U.S. began launching operations from a Turkish airbase. watch
Congressman Elijah Cummings, ranking Democratic on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Republican exclusion of Democrats from the Benghazi investigation as they used the committee to pursue their own political ends. watch
Rachel Maddow notes that while the Benghazi investigation did not produce the damning evidence against Hillary Clinton Republicans had hoped for (and assumed), it did have political consequences for both parties. watch
Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about Turkey's position as a main transit route for ISIS heading to and from Syria and recent reports of ISIS fighters sent specifically to Turkey. watch
* Turkey: "At least two explosions rocked the international airport in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday night, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens more, officials said. Officials could not immediately say whether the blasts were caused by bombs or a suicide attack. Deputy of Istanbul Eren Erdem said on Twitter that 10 people were dead and at least 20 were injured."
* The vote was 172 to 40: "Britain's opposition Labour Party, already reeling after voters defied its advice and chose to leave the European Union, was plunged further into crisis on Tuesday when its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, overwhelmingly lost a no-confidence motion among his fellow lawmakers."
* EU: "Deeply shaken by Britain's vote to quit the European Union, the bloc's leaders met on Tuesday to confront their most urgent conundrum: how to calm the crisis in hopes it fades away, while making the British decision so painful that no other country follows."
* As usual, poison pills kill: "The Senate blocked a plan Tuesday to spend $1.1. billion to fight the Zika virus, as Democrats objected to added provisions that would limit funding for birth control, allow pesticide spraying near water sources, and raise the Confederate flag."
* Rio: "With just a few weeks left until the start of the 2016 Olympics, Brazil is still suffering from serious economic problems. The acting governor of Rio de Janeiro warned that the games could be a 'failure' if his state doesn't get its finances in order."
* Better, but not great: "The U.S. economy's annual growth rate in the first quarter was raised again to 1.1%, revised figures show, but it was still one of the weakest performances in the past several years."
* VW: "Volkswagen has agreed to pay up to $14.7 billion to settle claims stemming from its diesel emissions cheating scandal, in what would be one of the largest consumer class-action settlements ever in the United States."
If you put aside everything you know about Donald Trump, ignore everything in his platform, and simply read the text of today's speech as it exists on the page, you'd think the presumptive Republican nominee was offering little more than old-school protectionism.
Donald Trump told supporters it's time for the U.S. regain its "economic independence" and promised to reverse decades-worth of U.S. trade policies pushed by Hillary Clinton that he says have hurt workers.
"We have become more dependent on foreign countries than ever before," Trump said Tuesday during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time to declare our economic independence once again."
Trump blasted "globalization," the TPP, "financial elites," and "the people who rigged the system for their benefit. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin noted that "a lot of this speech ... could be delivered by [Bernie] Sanders."
That's absolutely true. Sanders' speeches tend to be a lot more honest -- as usual, the fact-checkers had a field day with the GOP candidate, and he continues to lie almost uncontrollably about U.S. tax rates, among other things -- but the broader messages in Trump's remarks, read carefully from his trusty teleprompter, seemed designed to appeal to economic populists who were persuaded by the Vermont senator.
Even if we leave questions about the merits of trade and globalization for another day, there are two problems with Trump's pitch that shouldn't be overlooked.
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.