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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015.

Trump adviser accused of anti-Semitism

08/19/16 11:02AM

Donald Trump's outreach to Jewish voters hasn't gone especially well during the Republican's presidential campaign. In December, for example, he spoke at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, where he told attendees, "I'm a negotiator, like you folks. Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room?"
 
More recently, Trump used a social-media account to promote a message that included anti-Semitic imagery.
 
McClatchy reported yesterday on a new, related problem: one of Trump's foreign policy advisers is facing allegations of anti-Semitism.
Joseph Schmitz, named as one of five advisers by the Trump campaign in March, is accused of bragging when he was Defense Department inspector general a decade ago that he pushed out Jewish employees. [...]
 
In his complaint, [Daniel Meyer, a senior official within the intelligence community] said Crane also said Schmitz played down the extent of the Holocaust.
 
"In his final days, he allegedly lectured Mr. Crane on the details of concentration camps and how the ovens were too small to kill 6 million Jews," wrote Meyer, whose complaint is before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
Schmitz has called the allegations "completely false and defamatory," and said his accusers are lying.
 
Still, it's hardly the kind of story the Trump campaign wants to see right now. What's more, if Schmitz's name sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that.
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Dems push bill on tax returns, presidential candidates

08/19/16 10:01AM

In politics, there's an important difference between traditional norms and legal requirements. Since Watergate, every major-party presidential candidate has released at least some of his or her tax returns, not because it's mandatory, but because it's the kind of routine disclosure Americans have come to expect.
 
Donald Trump, of course, is blazing a new trail, refusing to release the materials for reasons that don't make sense.
 
But what if Trump didn't have a choice? The Connecticut Mirror reported yesterday on a legislative effort I've been keeping an eye on.
Since Donald Trump has declined to release his tax returns, Sen. Chris Murphy is backing a way to make them public -- a bill that would force the issue.
 
Partnering with fellow Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Murphy on Thursday pressed for votes for a bill that would require all presidential candidates from major parties to make public their tax returns within two weeks of their parties' national conventions. The effort is part of a renewed Democratic campaign over Trump's tax filings.
The name of the bill is the "Presidential Tax Transparency Act," and as the Mirror's article explained, it would "force the Treasury Department to post presidential candidates' returns on the Federal Elections Commission web site if that candidate did not disclose the information within two weeks of their nominating convention."
 
As of this morning, the measure only has five co-sponsors -- all of them members of the Democratic minority -- including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the Dems' vice presidential nominee. In other words, this bill isn't going anywhere fast, and it certainly won't affect the 2016 election cycle.
 
But circling back to our previous coverage, if we put aside legislative projections, does the idea itself have merit?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry considers his responses at the United Nations Security Council, Sept. 30, 2015, at the U.N. headquarters. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/AP)

GOP rhetoric notwithstanding, that's not what 'ransom' means

08/19/16 09:00AM

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Obama administration's State Department said "that a $400 million cash payment to Iran seven months ago was contingent on the release of a group of American prisoners. It is the first time the U.S. has so clearly linked the two events, which critics have painted as a hostage-ransom arrangement."
 
It didn't take long for Republicans to express outrage, but what the AP report did not explain in detail is that these "critics" are wrong -- and the payment wasn't a "ransom."
 
The background on this story is a little convoluted, but the United States has owed Iran money since 1979 -- they bought some fighter jets, but we didn't deliver (or refund the money) after the revolution and hostage crisis. The subsequent dispute has lasted ever since. The two countries reached an out-of-court settlement after Secretary of State John Kerry's team concluded they were almost certain to lose at an international arbitration tribunal.
 
Vox's Zack Beauchamp summarized what he described as a "dumb controversy" quite nicely.
The payment, which sounds really shady out of context, was actually the end of a boring, decades-old international legal case totally unrelated to the hot-button nuclear and prisoner issues. [...]
 
[T]he basic logic of [the right's criticisms] didn't make any sense. Iran was going to get that money back no matter what through the arbitration process -- probably more, if the Obama administration was right. Why would it release potentially valuable hostages in exchange for money it would have gotten otherwise?
Tony Fratto, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney White House, spent a little time yesterday urging the right to steer clear of this made-up controversy, calling it "silly." Apparently referring to Republicans, Fratto added, "We're not showing how we can be serious."
 
That's true, though GOP officials and candidates don't want to appear serious; they want to appear outraged over a story they don't seem to understand.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Aug. 9, 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Regrets, Donald Trump has a few

08/19/16 08:00AM

Ordinarily, when Donald Trump says something unexpected, he's managed to insult some new group of Americans. Last night in North Carolina, however, the Republican presidential hopeful surprised by doing largely the opposite: as NBC News' report noted, Trump "expressed regret and admitted wrong doing -- though it's unclear exactly for what."
"Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing," Trump said. "I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues."
Trump, who's been repeatedly caught making demonstrably false statements, added that he can sometimes be "too honest."
 
The candidate's comments were scripted in advance and read from a teleprompter.
 
All of this, to be sure, was unexpected. Especially in light of this week's campaign staff shake-up, Trump seemed likely to be even more combative and inflammatory, insisting this week he doesn't want to change or "pivot."
 
With this in mind, was last night's apparent contrition evidence of a candidate ready to shift to a general-election mode? I'd recommend caution before buying into the overly convenient narrative.
Trump doctor touts bogus credential

Trump doctor touts bogus credential

08/18/16 09:39PM

Rachel Maddow chases down a viewer tip that Dr. Harold Bornstein, who signed Donald Trump's health evaluation letter, is not a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology, despite signing his name with F.A.C.G., a credential Bornstein says "has no value" anyway. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 8.18.16

08/18/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Louisiana: "The forecast for Louisiana is for more rain -- and more pain. With the state still swamped by historic flooding that has killed at least 13 people and displaced tens of thousands more, the National Weather Service warned Thursday that heavy rains could produce floods and flash flooding in parts of the state."
 
* Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said "he's not concerned that President Barack Obama has not yet visited Louisiana to see the flood crisis first hand. 'I'm not complaining in any way about our federal partnership,' Edwards said during a news conference on Thursday."
 
* Turkey: "A string of bombings, blamed on Kurdish rebels and targeting Turkey's security forces, killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 220 others, officials said Thursday."
 
* California fire: "[F]or all the devastation that the Blue Cut fire has wreaked, officials have had difficulty determining the damages left by explosive flames that quickly overtook more than 31,000 acres. Damage assessors have been hindered from surveying the destruction due to erratic fire behavior and intense flames that broke through retardants dropped by air crews."
 
* West Virginia: "The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that police in Huntington, W.Va., responded to 26 heroin overdose cases in a span of four hours on Monday evening. To get a sense of the scale of the outbreak, consider this: Huntington is a small city with a population of about 49,000 people, according to the Census Bureau. An overdose outbreak of similar magnitude in New York City (population 8.4 million) would affect more than 4,400 people."
 
* Syria: "The United States and Russia will try again to stop Syria's civil war and forge a new counterterrorism partnership when their top diplomats meet next week in Geneva, U.S. officials said Thursday."
 
* I guess this was probably inevitable: "Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group Inc., two real estate investment trusts that operate prisons for the federal government and other clients, plunged after the U.S. Justice Department announced plans to stop using private correctional facilities."
 
* Chicago's police superintendent "has recommended that seven officers be fired for lying in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. McDonald's death was captured in a video that contradicted the accounts of officers."

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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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