Almost immediately after Maine Gov. Paul LePage's (R) abuse-of-power scandal came to light, talk of gubernatorial impeachment became common. The Portland Press Heraldreported yesterday that for some in the state legislature, the move remains very much on the table.
A group of House lawmakers will introduce an impeachment order against Gov. Paul LePage this week calling for a special committee to investigate eight separate charges against Maine's controversial governor.
The "order for impeachment" is the first step in a long-shot campaign to remove LePage from office and is likely to fan political tensions in the Maine House, where Republicans are expected to largely oppose it and some Democrats are leery of opening a legislative session on a highly partisan note. The House could take up the issue as early as Wednesday when lawmakers return for the first day of the 2016 legislative session.
The local paper published a copy of the order itself online here (pdf). For now, it has four co-sponsors: three Democrats and one independent.
To briefly recap for those who may need a refresher, a Maine charter school hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) for a top position, but LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school -- either fire Eves or the governor would cut off the school's state funding. In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, "It's a nice school you have there; it'd be a shame if something happened to it."
The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don't like. For many, this looked like an abuse of power that constitutes an impeachable offense.
The governor's critics, however, nevertheless face long odds. Even if the impeachment order passed the Maine House, which is by no means an easy task, the Maine Senate has a Republican majority. By all accounts, getting a two-thirds majority in the chamber would be a very tall order.
Last summer, a super PAC that had been created for the sole purpose of stopping Chris Christie's presidential campaign made an announcement: it was closing up shop. The New Jersey governor's bid for national office was going so poorly, the super PAC no longer saw the point of existing.
About five months later, Christie's standing has improved -- to the point at which he's now relevant enough to attack. National Reviewreported yesterday on Marco Rubio's super PAC actually investing in attacks targeting the Republican governor.
Marco Rubio has his eyes on Chris Christie, who is increasingly viewed as the dark horse who could, with an impressive showing -- even a victory -- in New Hampshire, become the GOP's surprise establishment favorite.
Starting [Tuesday], the super PAC supporting Rubio's presidential bid is set to go up on the air and online with two attack ads against the New Jersey governor in New Hampshire, where Christie has focused all of his efforts. A source with the Rubio PAC says the ads are "a major part of an ongoing multi-million dollar buy in New Hampshire over the next couple of weeks."
As attack ads go, these spots are at least honest. The first hammers Christie for his support for Medicaid expansion, as well as the governor's work with President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The second reminds voters about Christie's "Bridgegate" scandal and New Jersey's weak economy on the governor's watch.
Asked for his response yesterday, Christie told Bloomberg TV, "I just wonder what happened to the Marco who so indignantly looked at Jeb Bush and said, 'I guess someone must have convinced you that going negative against me helps you.' I guess that same person must now have convinced Marco that going negative against Chris Christie is what he needs to do."
Stepping back to look at this in the bigger picture, how happy must Christie be at this point to be worthy of attacks?
As the Affordable Care Act has taken root, its implementation has moved in only one direction: forward. The health care law has seen more consumers, more Medicaid expansion, and more coverage. Aside from occasional, pointless repeal votes in Congress, there's been no meaningful effort to go backwards on "Obamacare."
Which is why Kentucky created such an interesting test. The Bluegrass State has been a national leader in ACA implementation, slashing its uninsured rate, and excelling in overhauling its health system. The results have been amazing for state residents. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, however, vowed to make Kentucky the first state to reverse course, starting with the elimination of Medicaid expansion.
The assumption has long been that it's far more difficult to take Americans' health care benefits away than to block those benefits from existing in the first place. Would Bevin prove these assumptions wrong? Would he keep his campaign promise and scrap coverage for thousands of Kentucky families?
It now appears the answer to both of these questions is no. The Lexington Herald Leaderreported late last week:
Gov. Matt Bevin says he intends to draft a plan to overhaul the state's expanded Medicaid program by the middle of next year, one that could be implemented by the start of 2017. [...]
He said Wednesday that his plan will be fashioned after the one in Indiana, which uses waivers from the federal government that allow states to create their own system for providing coverage to the poor.
"Indiana's is the model that frankly is most likely that we will look to replicate," the governor added last week.
The trouble for Bevin's right-wing allies, of course, is that Indiana is already a Medicaid-expansion state. The new Kentucky governor, in other words, is planning to make the transition from Medicaid expansion to a slightly less generous version of Medicaid expansion.
This isn't at all what the Tea Party Republican promised as a candidate early last year, but there's apparently an important difference between vowing to take away health care benefits and actually following through on the threat.
Marco Rubio gave a speech on national security in New Hampshire yesterday, and made a point to single out concerns about the so-called USA Freedom Act.
"If ISIS had lobbyists in Washington, they would have spent millions to support the anti-intelligence law that was just passed with the help of some Republicans now running for president," the Florida senator said, making a not-so-subtle reference to Ted Cruz's support for legislation that limited federal surveillance programs.
The trouble, of course, is that Cruz wasn't alone. As we discussed a couple of months ago, the bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan 67-vote majority, and passed the GOP-led House, 338 to 88. It was backed by members of the Republican leadership in both chambers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
More to the point, many of Rubio's most important congressional allies supported the same legislation. The Daily Beast published a great catch late last week:
[M]ost of Rubio's supporters in Congress supported changes to the NSA's program. In fact, 21 of Rubio's 24 congressional supporters backed the USA Freedom Act -- a bill Rubio has said "weaken[s] ... U.S. intelligence programs" -- this year (a 25th supporter, Rep. Darin LaHood, wasn't in Congress at the time of the vote).
And of these 21 members of Congress, more than a dozen co-sponsored a version of the USA Freedom Act in the previous Congress.
The list includes Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who hit the campaign trail at Rubio's side last week.
It was three years ago next week when President Obama, frustrated by Congress' refusal to act on gun violence, announced 23 executive actions intended to help save American lives. All 23 had one key advantage: they didn't require congressional approval, so all Republicans could do is complain and stomp their feet.
All 23 also had one key disadvantage: they were quite modest in scope. White House officials realized that sweeping changes to the law obviously must originate with Congress, so the administration's initiative included underwhelming measures. These were positive steps -- but they were small.
Three years later, GOP lawmakers are even less willing to consider any reforms whatsoever to the nation's gun laws -- no matter how broad the public support, no matter how many lives may be saved -- but Obama's eagerness for action remains unabated. Republicans won't like his latest actions, but by all appearances, the president couldn't care less whether they're pleased or not.
President Barack Obama directed federal agencies Monday to carry out a series of steps to reduce gun violence, including measures to restrict sales by unlicensed dealers -- sometimes called the gun show loophole.
Regulators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will clarify that anyone engaged in the business of selling firearms must get a federal firearms dealers license and check the backgrounds of all buyers.
The details of the plan will be unveiled by the president later this morning -- a White House event is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. Eastern -- but officials have already sketched out the basic plan. Among the provisions are improved reporting requirements for firearms dealers when guns are lost or stolen, and increased funding for mental health.
The measure likely to generate the most attention, of course, relates to background checks, and the president's effort to expand the requirements imposed on those who sell guns. Vox had a good look at how Obama's plan would narrow some of the existing loopholes.
But while we wait for additional information on the president's latest moves, the politics surrounding the issue continue to amaze. For example, consider what the NRA told the New York Times in reaction to the available information.
Rachel Maddow looks back at the 2012 Republican primary in which Donald Trump had a strong start but was ultimately too embarrassingly fringey for mainstream Republicans, compared to 2016 when Trump, still of-the-fringe, is the Republican front-runner and redefining the party's mainstream. watch
Rachel Maddow emphasizes the important of local newspapers and tells the story of the Boston Globe's distribution problems that led to the paper's editorial staff having to assemble and hand-deliver the newspaper to subscribers themselves. watch
Bryn Mickle, Flint Journal/MLive editor, talks with Rachel Maddow about why his organization is calling for a federal investigation, including subpoena power, of what the Rick Snyder administration knew, and when, about the problems with lead and the new water supply to Flint. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on volunteer efforts in the Flint, Michigan community, like Lanice Lawson's "Bottles for the Babies," to bring free fresh water to people who still can't drink their tap water while the city awaits action from Gov. Rick Snyder on the mayor's declaration of a state of emergency. watch
* Middle East: "Rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia were given fresh fuel on Monday with both sides issuing tit-for-tat verbal volleys. Regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have been trading blows in an escalating war of words since Saturday following the former's move to execute prominent Shiite opposition cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr."
* India: "A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 was recorded before dawn Monday near the India-Myanmar border, the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed. One person was reported dead, a dozen people were injured and several buildings were damaged, Reuters reported."
* VW: "The Justice Department sued Volkswagen on Monday over emissions-cheating software found in nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles sold in the United States."
* An unpleasant day on Wall Street: "New data on Chinese factory activity sent a wave of financial concern across the Pacific Monday on the first day of stock trading in the new year, sending major U.S. indices sharply lower. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down about 275 points, or nearly 1.6 percent of its total value."
* On New Year's Day, a number of state and local minimum wages went up, delivering progress on the issue while federal action remains impossible under a Republican Congress..
* DHS raids: "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Monday that federal immigration authorities apprehended 121 adults and children in raids over the New Year's weekend as part of a nationwide operation to deport a new wave of illegal immigrants."
* Hawaii is raising its legal smoking age to 21: "The law, which is the first of its kind in America, is intended to curb the public health impact of Big Tobacco's well-known appeals to young people. By bumping the smoking age up, legislators have a good shot at reducing the number of people who take up smoking."
* Another rail delay: "When Congress in October gave railroads extra time to install a badly needed speed-control system, officials at the Federal Railroad Administration vowed to move aggressively to make sure the safety technology would be in place by the end of 2018, the new deadline. This month, Congress struck again."
* A key part of a larger indictment: "Big Oil braced for global warming while it fought regulations."
A group of well-armed militants, including two of Cliven Bundy's sons, took over a federal building at an Oregon wildlife refuge late Saturday, and vowed to stay there indefinitely as an act of civil disobedience. Yesterday, given a chance to reflect on the developments, Republican presidential candidates said ... very little.
To his credit, one of John Kasich's (R) top aides turned to social media to argue, "I know a good federal compound for Bundy and his gang: a U.S. penitentiary." The Ohio governor's GOP rivals, however, said literally nothing.
Today, that started to change. Rand Paul, who cozied up to Bundy in the recent past, told the Washington Post, "I'm sympathetic to the idea that the large collection of federal lands ought to be turned back to the states and the people, but I think the best way to bring about change is through politics.... I don't support any violence or suggestion of violence toward changing policy."
Marco Rubio struck a similar note in an interview with an Iowa radio station, endorsing the idea that there's too much federal land ownership out West, but that the militia members are going too far. "[Y]ou've got to follow the law," Rubio said. "You can't be lawless."
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Monday called for armed protesters who occupied a federal building in Oregon to "stand down peaceably."
"Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds," Cruz told reporters in Iowa. "But we don't have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence against others. So it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation."
Ordinarily, a presidential candidate releasing a new television commercial wouldn't be especially newsworthy, but the new ad from Donald Trump is a little different than most -- both in circumstances and in content.
Consider the message itself, first reported by the Washington Post. Viewers hear a voice-over say:
"The politicians can pretend it's something else, but Donald Trump calls it 'radical Islamic terrorism.' That's why he's calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what's going on. He'll quickly cut the head off ISIS and take their oil. And he'll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our Southern border that Mexico will pay for."
The ad then cuts to Trump himself speaking at a campaign rally, vowing, "We will make America great again."
The imagery, of course, matters. When the commercial references terrorism, the ad shows the San Bernardino shooters. When it touts Trump's proposed Muslim ban, viewers are shown masked terrorists. And when the spot references immigration, there's grainy video of people running at a border.
So, why is this important? For one thing, it's Trump's first television ad of the entire election cycle. While some of his rivals have already invested millions -- Jeb Bush and his allies spent about $38 million on campaign commercials in 2015 -- Trump has spent just $217,000 on some radio advertising. Now, however, campaign is spending $1.1 million to air this spot in Iowa and nearly $1 million for airtime in New Hampshire.
The New York developer is the first modern presidential candidate to excel by relying exclusively on free media and campaign rallies, and it's hard to say with confidence whether his first foray into television advertising will help, hurt, or make no difference.
But let's not brush past the nature of Trump's pitch too quickly.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Some presidential hopefuls have already released their fourth-quarter tallies: Ted Cruz raised nearly $20 million; Ben Carson raised roughly $23 million; Hillary Clinton raised $55 million ($37 million specifically for the primaries); and Bernie Sanders raised $33 million.
* After spending much of 2015 on the sidelines, one of Ted Cruz's super PACs is launching a $4 million ad buy, which will target early nominating states, with an emphasis on Iowa and South Carolina.
* On a related note, Cruz held a conference call with supporters on Thursday, telling them that he not only believes he's winning, but also adding, "[T]here's a very good possibility that the Republican primary will be decided by the end of March."
* WorldNetDaily, a right-wing conspiracy website, last week named Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump its "Man of the Year." Trump responded soon after, calling it an "amazing honor."
* The Make America Awesome super PAC, an anti-Trump initiative started by Republican operative Liz Mair, has launched a radio attack ad against the GOP frontrunner in New Hampshire. The spot takes aim at Trump's business record.
* In an interview last week with the Washington Post, Mitt Romney said he receives encouragement to run for president "every day," including from one of the current candidates (whom he did not name). Romney added, however, "I'm not giving it a second thought."
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.