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Friday's Mini-Report, 5.20.16

05/20/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* White House: "A man was shot outside the White House grounds after approaching a checkpoint with a gun and refusing commands to drop it, officials said. The White House was placed on lockdown after the shooting near 17th and E streets. The shooting was reported shortly after 3 p.m."
* Flight MS804: "Egypt's military said it found the first pieces of a missing EgyptAir passenger plane -- though there were no signs officials were any closer to solving the puzzle of what sent the aircraft falling out of the sky."
* News out of Oklahoma, Part I: "Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday vetoed a measure that would have banned abortion in Oklahoma, saying the bill was vague and would not withstand a criminal constitutional legal challenge."
* News out of Oklahoma, Part II: "A grand jury investigation into Oklahoma's execution mistakes during 2015 found that the department of corrections and others in the process 'failed to perform their duties' with the care and attention required when attempting to carry out capital punishment."
* News out of Oklahoma, Part III: "No, states can't actually impeach U.S. presidents. But Oklahoma Republican lawmakers are urging Congress to take up their cause. Reuters reports the Republican-dominated state legislature filed a measure Thursday calling for Obama's impeachment over the administration's recent recommendations that public schools accommodate transgender students in bathrooms."
* Maybe someone should let congressional Republicans know: "More than 270 pregnant women in the U.S. are infected with the Zika virus and are at risk of their babies being born with birth defects, federal health officials announced Friday."
* Given California's size, this may be a very important policy: "The state Senate on Thursday approved sweeping new restrictions on using guns in California... Lawmakers approved 11 bills including measures mandating background checks for Californians buying ammunition and outlawing the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines."
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, W.V., May 5, 2016. (Photo by Chris Tilley/Reuters)

GOP senator sparks conversation about Trump's tall tales

05/20/16 03:50PM

Donald Trump this week unveiled a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees, which impressed Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Referring to his conservative colleagues on Capitol Hill, many of whom aren't sold on the presumptive Republican nominee, Grassley told Bloomberg Politics, "If anybody had any doubts -- and I think a lot of people do have doubts -- this will help settle that."
But for some on the right, the fear is that the list is a sham, which Trump will abandon if elected. Grassley added that these concerns are unfounded.
Asked about concerns Trump wouldn't honor list, Grassley says he has "heard a lot of misstatements and corrections by Trump" but has "never heard him accused of being a liar."
Really? Never?
This morning, for example, Donald Trump told MSNBC he "would have stayed out of Libya," which isn't true. In the same interview, Trump boasted he "didn't want to go to Iraq" in 2003, which also isn't true. Soon after, the GOP candidate said British Prime Minister David Cameron has invited Trump to visit 10 Downing Street in London, and that wasn't true, either.
Keep in mind, we're talking about some obvious, lazy whoppers just this morning, in one interview. This is a candidate who makes demonstrably false claims with such ease and regularity that it's genuinely tough to keep up.
Grassley may have "never" heard anyone accuse Trump "of being a liar," but I have. Ted Cruz called Trump a "pathological liar" two weeks ago. Marco Rubio has called Trump a "liar." Jeb Bush has also called Trump a "liar." And those are just some of the Republicans who've used the label.
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler recently explained, "Trump makes Four-Pinocchio statements over and over again, even though fact checkers have demonstrated them to be false. He appears to care little about the facts; his staff does not even bother to respond to fact-checking inquiries."
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders shakes hands with rival Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of the Democratic presidential candidates debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Dec. 19, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Latest polling casts 2016 race in new light, especially for Dems

05/20/16 12:48PM

A New York Times/CBS News poll, released last night, found Hillary Clinton with a six-point lead over Donald Trump, 47% to 41%. Given that the Republican race has been over for weeks, while Democrats are still battling it out, the margin probably brings some comfort to those hoping to avoid Trump's inauguration.
Indeed, the Times' piece on the results noted that Republican voters "are starting to fall in line with Mr. Trump now that he is their presumptive nominee -- and that they expect party officials to do the same. Eight in 10 Republican voters say their leaders should support Mr. Trump even if they disagree with him on important issues."
...Mrs. Clinton is still contending with resistance to her candidacy from supporters of Mr. Sanders as their contest carries on and grows more contentious. Twenty-eight percent of Mr. Sanders's primary voters say they will not support her if she is the nominee, a figure that reflects the continuing anger many Sanders supporters feel toward both Mrs. Clinton and a process they believe is unfair.
To a certain degree, this reinforces the intense anxiety many Democrats are feeling. The 2016 race poses a variety of challenges for the party, but if a significant chunk of Sanders supporters refuse to support the Democratic nominee, Clinton will lose, Trump will be president, and the Supreme Court will be lost for a generation.
But some context is in order. At this point eight years ago, 60% of Clinton backers said they were ready to vote for then-Sen. Barack Obama in a general election. Now, in this poll, 72% of Sanders backers say they'll vote Clinton.
Obviously, Democrats would prefer to see that number at 100%, but the point is, Democratic divisions were even more dramatic eight years ago, though that didn't stop Obama from winning the general election with relative ease in 2008. After the convention, the party and like-minded allies came together, as they nearly always do.
Similarly, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent noted this morning that Clinton's favorability ratings among Democrats are even higher now than Obama's at roughly this point eight years ago.

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.20.16

05/20/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in a general-election match-up, 47% to 41%.
* Democratic officials, hoping to help satisfy concerns raised by Bernie Sanders' campaign, have offered the senator's team an expanded role on convention committees -- a top concern raised by Sanders' aides this week.
* Paul Manafort's role in Donald Trump's campaign operation continues to steadily expand: the longtime operative is now the Republican candidate's campaign chairman and chief strategist.
* In an observation that seemed obvious, but which nevertheless caused a stir, Hillary Clinton noted yesterday that Trump "is not qualified to be president of the United States."
* In a long-forgotten proposal, Trump liked the idea of pitting white contestants against black contestants in a proposed version of his television reality show. When pitching the idea in 2005, Trump described it as "fairly controversial."
* Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the only senator to officially endorse Bernie Sanders, said this week that he will not support the Vermonter's effort to force a convention fight, relying on party insiders to overrule the will of the voters.
* Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, was asked yesterday about the senator needing to win 68% of the remaining delegates to catch up to Clinton. Weaver called the statistic a "media narrative," but it happens to be true.
* Speaking of statistics, Clinton's popular vote advantage in the race for the Democratic nomination really is 2.9 million votes.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel walk along a section of the recently-constructed fence at the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 26, 2013 in Nogales, Ariz. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

When is a 'wall' not a wall? When it's in a GOP campaign platform

05/20/16 11:20AM

Earlier this year, Donald Trump was quite candid about how he communicates with his audiences at campaign rallies. "You know, if it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, 'We will build the wall!' and they go nuts," the Republican said.
There's some truth to that. As we discussed a couple of months ago, if "Yes We Can" was the optimistic mantra that helped propel Barack Obama's candidacy in 2008, "Build That Wall" has similarly been embraced by Trump's supporters as the phrase that captures their motivation.
But what exactly is the GOP candidate talking about? Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump, told the Buffalo News this week that he chooses not to take the candidate's rhetoric literally.
"I have called it a virtual wall," Rep. Chris Collins said in an interview with The Buffalo News.
"Maybe we will be building a wall over some aspects of [the border]; I don't know," the Clarence Republican said of Trump's proposed barrier to keep illegal immigrants and drugs from crossing the southern border.
And what about Trump's vow to deport 12 million undocumented immigrants from U.S. soil? Apparently that's not literal, either. "I call it a rhetorical deportation of 12 million people," Collins said in the Buffalo News interview.
Pointing to the door of his congressional office, the New York lawmaker added, in reference to the immigrants, "They go out that door, they go in that room, they get their work papers, Social Security number, then they come in that door, and they've got legal work status but are not citizens of the United States.... We're not going to put them on a bus, and we're not going to drive them across the border."
Is this the new line Republicans use to help themselves feel better about their party's presumptive presidential nominee?
A magnifying glass is posed over a monitor displaying a Facebook page in Munich on Oct. 10, 2011. (Photo by Joerg Koch/AP)

Facebook takes its pitch to the right, finds a voice of reason

05/20/16 10:45AM

It's been a couple of weeks since a Gizmodo report about Facebook caused a considerable stir. The article, citing unnamed sources, claimed contract employees have admitted that the social-media behemoth suppresses conservative stories in its Trending Topics feed. Facebook denied the allegations and noted there's no evidence to substantiate the claims.
The political impact, however, was immediate. As we discussed last week, Republicans, including the RNC itself, have been throwing a fit, condemning Facebook for "censoring" the right in ways that are "beyond disturbing." One Republican senator said he's considering hauling Facebook employees before Congress to explain themselves.
Facebook is taking all of this very seriously, for understandable reasons. The company wants as many users and content creators as possible, and if conservatives start to believe the site is stacked against them, that could pose a real threat to the business. All of which led to an interesting meeting at Facebook headquarters yesterday. NBC News reported:
Acknowledging that "many conservatives don't trust that [Facebook] surfaces content without a political bias," Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg met with about a dozen prominent right-wingers Wednesday at the company's California headquarters.
The meeting — on the fourth anniversary of the day Facebook issued its initial public offering and became a public company — was closed to reporters, but in a statement afterward, Zuckerberg noted that "Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate. And Fox News drives more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world. It's not even close."
Among the participants were Glenn Beck, Fox News' Dana Perino, the Heritage Foundation's Jim DeMint, Ben Carson, and representatives of groups such as the Media Research Center, American Enterprise Institute, and Tea Party Patriots.
And in an unexpected development, one of them was actually a voice of reason.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts on May 2, 2016 in Carmel, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Why it matters that Donald Trump never vetted himself

05/20/16 10:00AM

It's Campaign Management 101: It's not enough to research your rivals; you have to research yourself. Taking a close look at your opponents' backgrounds will help uncover their strengths and weaknesses, which in turn will help shape your strategy, but digging through your own background will help you anticipate and prepare for upcoming lines of attack.
None of this is controversial. There are professional researchers who, for a handsome fee, do nothing but this and I've never heard of a modern national candidate who chose not to take advantage of these services.
That is, until now. Mother Jones' David Corn reported yesterday on a detail that should make Republicans nervous.
For most major presidential campaigns, it is a routine act: You conduct opposition research on your own candidate. The reason is obvious; campaign officials and candidates want to know what they might have to contend with once the you-know-what starts flying. But not Donald Trump.
At least not at the start of the campaign that would lead to him becoming the presumptive GOP nominee. According to a source with direct knowledge, when Trump was considering entering the presidential race early last year, his political advisers, including Corey Lewandowski, who would become his campaign manager, suggested that he hire a professional to investigate his past. But the celebrity mogul said no and refused to pay for it.
It would be a mistake for any national candidate to skip this part of the process, but for a guy like Trump -- who's record includes a long list of personal and professional controversies -- it's incredibly reckless.
Corn's report added, "The candidate, who now refuses to release his income taxes, did not want his own campaign scrutinizing his past. He was not willing to be transparent -- not even for his own team."
It's not a good sign, but just as importantly, it dovetails with an interesting conspiracy theory that some Trump fans have been floating over the last week or so.
Confederate battle flags mark the graves of soldiers in the Confederate States Army in the U.S. Civil War in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston

Congress' fight over Confederate Flag takes an unexpected turn

05/20/16 09:20AM

One of the unexpected consequences of last summer's brutal massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church was a renewed debate over public display of the Confederate flag. In fact, less than a week after the nine African-American parishioners were murdered, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) endorsed removing the Confederate battle flag from the capitol grounds.
A month later, on Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats said it was time to curtail the display of Confederate flags on graves in federal cemeteries and the sale of Confederate flags in national park gift stores. Southern Republicans balked.
It took nearly a year, but the political conditions appear to have changed. The Post and Courier in Charleston reported yesterday:
The House of Representatives voted to bar the Confederate flag from being flown at cemeteries operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the latest movement against displaying the rebel banner at federal sites. [...]
Eighty-four Republicans joined with nearly all of the Democrats in the 260-164 vote in favor of the amendment. All six of the Republicans in the South Carolina delegation voted against it.
It's not, however, a done deal. The policy was added as an amendment to a larger defense spending bill, and since the Senate and House bills differ, it'll be a while before lawmakers send a package to the White House. Even then, depending on the final outcome, we don't know whether President Obama will sign the broader legislation.
But the fact that the amendment passed at all represents progress that wasn't possible a year ago. Most Republicans opposed yesterday's measure, but not enough to prevent it from passing.
Before moving on, however, it's worth noting just how much some on the right opposed the amendment. ThinkProgress noted yesterday:
House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan walks to a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill on Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington.

After Capitol Hill 'chaos,' Democrats name names

05/20/16 08:40AM

In recent years, not much has gotten done in Congress, so there aren't a lot of opportunities for drama. And yet, yesterday, multiple headlines highlighted the "chaos" that erupted on the floor of the House of Representatives. So, what happened?
It was a chaotic scene on the House floor Thursday morning after an amendment to help protect LGBT people from discrimination failed by just one vote as Republicans succeeded in convincing a few members of their own party to switch their votes to help ensure the measure would not pass.
House Democrats could be heard chanting "shame, shame, shame" on the floor as the measure went from garnering up to 217 votes at one point down to just 212 when the vote was gaveled. Boos erupted from the House floor as the measure failed.
There are a couple of relevant angles to this. The first is the substance: two years ago, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting government contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and applicants. Congressional Republicans won't consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, so the White House did what it could under the law.
Two years later, House Republicans want to undo that policy. When putting together this year's big defense spending bill, the GOP quietly added a provision to restore contractors' ability to discriminate. Pushing back, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) sponsored an amendment yesterday to nullify the anti-LGBT provision and protect the White House's anti-discrimination policy.
It didn't go well -- the Republican majority defeated Maloney's amendment. In 2016, the House GOP is still willing to go to the mat to allow businesses to discriminate, even when taxpayers' money is being used.
Which brings us to the second angle: how House Republicans waged this fight.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., heads to the Senate subway following a vote in the Capitol on Jan. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)

Far-right senator demands vastly larger U.S. prison population

05/20/16 08:00AM

When making the pitch for criminal-justice reform last year, President Obama emphasized just how unique the issue is: partisans and ideologues may not agree on much in these divisive times, but there's broad agreement on overhauling the costly and ineffective status quo.
"This is a cause that's bringing people in both houses of Congress together," Obama told the NAACP. "It's created some unlikely bedfellows. You've got Van Jones and Newt Gingrich. You've got Americans for Tax Reform and the ACLU. You've got the NAACP and the Koch brothers.... That's good news."
There is, however, bad news. While there's broad support for sweeping reforms, far-right opponents haven't given up the fight to derail the entire initiative. In fact, as Politico reported, one right-wing senator argued yesterday that the United States doesn't lock up nearly enough of its population.
Sen. Tom Cotton on Thursday slammed his colleagues' efforts to pass sweeping criminal justice reforms, saying the United States is actually suffering from an "under-incarceration problem."
Cotton, who has been an outspoken critic of the bill in Congress that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences, smacked down what he called "baseless" arguments that there are too many offenders locked up for relatively small crimes, that incarceration is too costly, or that "we should show more empathy toward those caught up in the criminal-justice system."
Speaking at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, the Arkansas Republican argued, in all seriousness, "Take a look at the facts. First, the claim that too many criminals are being jailed, that there is over-incarceration, ignores an unfortunate fact: for the vast majority of crimes, a perpetrator is never identified or arrested, let alone prosecuted, convicted, and jailed. Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes."
"If anything," Cotton argued, "we have an under-incarceration problem."
The GOP senator went on to argue against letting Americans vote after they've served their time, and against the "Ban the Box" campaign. He also boasted that the bipartisan criminal-justice reform legislation, co-sponsored by members of the Democratic and Republican leadership, "is dead in this year's Congress."

Citations for the May 19, 2016 TRMS

05/20/16 12:56AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Deborah Hersman, former chair of the NTSB, now President and CEO of the National Safety Council
  • Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times correspondent focusing on ISIS and al Qaeda

Tonight's links:

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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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