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PHOTOBLOG: People stand near a burnt car at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Why Trump's latest Benghazi theory matters more than most

10/11/16 10:57AM

Donald Trump has said so many strange things about the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, it may be tempting to look past his latest tirade, assuming it's more of the same. But when it comes to the Republican candidate's rhetoric last night, don't be too quick to dismiss it out of hand.

Trump addressed a crowd in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, where he talked about Benghazi while holding a piece of paper in his hand. According to the GOP nominee, he was holding the printout of an email Sidney Blumenthal sent John Podesta -- two prominent Hillary Clinton allies -- in which, Trump said, Blumenthal "admitted they could have done something about Benghazi."

As the crowd chanted, "Lock her up!" Trump dropped the printout and said, "This just came out a little while ago."

So, what was Trump referring to? This gets a little complicated, but stick with me.

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald wrote a lengthy piece about Benghazi a year ago, which acknowledged, among other things, missteps from Clinton's State Department in advance of the attack. Blumenthal emailed the article to Podesta, now Clinton's campaign chairman, whose emails were recently hacked, probably by Russian officials, and published online by Wikileaks.

Yesterday, a Russian-controlled news agency screwed up the details, and published what it characterized as a bombshell: "Blumenthal believed that the investigation into Benghazi was legitimate because it was 'preventable' and the result of State Department negligence." Apparently, Sputnik thought Blumenthal wrote Eichenwald's Newsweek piece, and interpreted last year's article, which has been online for 12 months and is consistent with everything we know about Benghazi, as a new, "major revelation."

Eichenwald asked last night:
This false story was reported only by the Russian-controlled agency (a reference appeared in a Turkish publication, but it was nothing but a link to the Sputnik article). So how did Donald Trump end up advancing the same falsehood put out by Putin's mouthpiece? [...]

The Russians engage in a sloppy disinformation effort and, before the day is out, the Republican nominee for president is standing on a stage reciting the manufactured story as truth. How did this happen? Who in the Trump campaign was feeding him falsehoods straight from the Kremlin?
Those need not be rhetorical questions.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes questions, alongside New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, during a campaign press event in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 01, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty)

After days of silence, Christie speaks up on latest Trump scandal

10/11/16 10:12AM

About a year and a half ago, after the shooting massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, a heated political debate ensued over the official display of the Confederate battle flag. Facing pressure and media inquiries, all kinds of politicians -- in South Carolina, but also across the country -- weighed in with their perspective.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was getting ready to launch his ill-fated presidential campaign, preferred silence. While other GOP White House candidates felt compelled to say something, Christie took his sweet time, watching what others did before raising his head.

As the Daily Beast reported at the time, "[A]fter the entire Republican primary field -- including Donald Trump and George Pataki -- had taken a position on the Confederate flag, and after the Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, had asked for its removal from the state capitol grounds, Chris Christie seemed to calculate that it was politically safe to do the same."

Sixteen months later, Christie has again blown his chances of winning a Profile in Courage Award.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he was "really disturbed" by the predatory comments Donald Trump made about women a decade ago, but he is still supporting the Republican nominee for president.

Christie had been mum on the matter since the video was released late last week, but broke his silence Tuesday as he co-hosted WFAN's "Boomer & Carton" sports radio show with Craig Carton.
The political world erupted on Friday afternoon when the audio emerged of Trump's 2005 comments on sexual assault, prompting dozens of Republicans to reject his candidacy. The uproar continued on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

And now that just about everyone has had something to say about the matter, New Jersey's governor, a leading Trump campaign surrogate, has decided it's finally safe to let the public know how upset he is. "It's completely indefensible and I won't defend it and haven't defended it," Christie said. "That kind of talk and conversation even in private is just unacceptable."
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University on Oct 9, 2016 in St Louis, Mo. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty)

With new vigor, Trump pushes for Clinton's imprisonment

10/11/16 09:37AM

Just a few months ago, during the Republican National Convention, far-right activists embraced the "Lock her up!" mantra with unnerving enthusiasm. Rank-and-file Republican voters, adopting a strange fascination with cabinet-level email-server protocols, were convinced that Hillary Clinton was a criminal deserving of incarceration, and a variety of GOP leaders were only too pleased to egg them on.

But as the ridiculous line of attack snowballed, Donald Trump's team advised caution. In the United States, leaders don't try to lock up their political opponents after an election. To avoid sounding like a tin-pot dictator, Trump's aides said, he should steer clear of this garbage.

Three months later, Trump is not only expressing his admiration for dictators; he's decided he no longer cares if he sounds like one.

As we discussed yesterday, Trump used the second presidential debate to declare his intention to abuse his power and order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton after the election -- for the express purpose of putting her "in jail." It was the first time in American history a major-party presidential candidate vowed to a national audience he'd lock up his opponent if elected.

Yesterday morning, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, dismissed the line's importance, telling MSNBC this was merely a debate "quip." She was mistaken. Trump and his team quickly embraced the put-Clinton-in-jail message, touting the line via social media, and by midday, Mike Pence was bragging about it on national television. By last night, the idea was effectively part of Trump's platform, with the candidate himself re-embracing the argument during a campaign rally.

Which is all the more reason to shine a light on Trump's undemocratic, dictatorial rhetoric. The New York Times reported this morning:
[Trump's] move would take American democracy to a dangerous new place, legal specialists across the ideological spectrum said.

"It's a chilling thought," said Michael Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge who also served as the secretary of Homeland Security and head of the Justice Department's criminal division in the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Chertoff, who has announced that he will vote for Mrs. Clinton, added, "It smacks of what we read about tin-pot dictators in other parts of the world, where when they win an election their first move is to imprison opponents."
Politico added that Trump's over-the-top vow "provoked a sharp blowback from former U.S. prosecutors," including many who served in Republican administrations.
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Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and U.S. president Barack Obama greet supporters during a campaign rally on July 5, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Prominent Trump ally says Obama and Clinton are literal demons

10/11/16 08:54AM

A couple of years ago, some Colorado voters elected former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt to the state's General Assembly, which struck me as rather amusing. For those who follow the religious right movement closely, Klingenschmitt is a rather notorious figure, best known for, among other things, writing a book that argued, in all seriousness, that President Obama is possessed by demons.

Things didn't go particularly well for Klingenschmitt in the state legislature -- even other Republicans kept their distance -- and the right-wing lawmaker will be out of office next year. But Klingenschmitt and his wacky ideas nevertheless came to mind yesterday, because apparently the idea of the president being demon possessed isn't limited to one obscure state lawmaker.

Media Matters noted yesterday that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones told his audience yesterday that both Obama and Hillary Clinton are literal demons.
"There are dozens of videos and photos of Obama having flies land on him, indoors, at all times of year, and he'll be next to a hundred people and no one has flies on them. Hillary, reportedly, I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she's demon-possessed, okay? I'm just going to go ahead and say it, okay?

"I'm telling you, she is a demon.... I've been told this by high-up folks. They say, 'Listen, Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur.' I never said this because the media will go crazy with it, but I've talked to people that are in protective details, they're scared of her."
I suppose it's worth emphasizing that Jones wasn't being metaphorical. We've all heard expressions about people battling their own personal "demons," but that's not what the Info Wars host was referring to. He's talking about actual demons, running the government, and Jones believes all of this because unnamed, "high-up folks" assure him it's true.

The next obvious question, of course, is why anyone should care. Alex Jones has spent years saying all kinds of bizarre, wild-eyed things, all of which was easy to ignore. So why bother taking note now?

Because those previous quotes pre-date the Donald Trump era.
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Ripped Donald Trump signs lay on the floor at a rally in Radford, Va., Feb. 29, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

As Election Day looms, Republican Party faces crisis conditions

10/11/16 08:00AM

With four weeks until Election Day, the question is not whether the Republican Party is facing crisis conditions; it's how severe and consequential this crisis will be. As Rachel noted on the show last night, NBC News reported on the Republican National Committee's latest efforts to calm the intra-party waters.
In another battle in the Republican Party's civil war, the Republican National Committee sought to downplay any split among the party over its presidential nominee, holding an emergency conference call with its party members to tell them that the party stands with Donald Trump.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus assured the party's 168 members that "nothing has changed" in their support of Trump. He said that the RNC and the Trump campaign are working well together and are completely coordinated, adding that Trump top officials had volunteered to also join the call in a show of unity.
"So everything is on course, and I want you to understand that," Priebus assured RNC members.

The party chairman's pep talk may have helped some Republican officials feel a little better, but the fact remains that "everything" is clearly not on course.

Priebus' call came on the heels of House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) latest efforts to distance himself from his party's controversial presidential nominee, which came on the heels of a weekend in which dozens of Republican officials, including several sitting senators and governors, withdrew their support for Trump, called for his removal from the ticket, or both.

By midday yesterday, Trump had turned to Twitter to take a shot at Ryan, while Fox's Sean Hannity, one of Trump's closest allies, was telling his audience that the House Speaker and his allies are "done" -- though "they don't know it yet."

It was around this time that Trump's Republican backers protested outside RNC headquarters -- one carried a sign that read, "Better to grab a p***y than to be one" -- at a gathering that was reportedly organized by Trump's state director in Virginia, who was later removed from his post.

At Trump campaign headquarters, meanwhile, the candidate's chief spokesperson is threatening the party with an alarming warning: Trump voters will reject down-ballot Republicans. That followed the presidential hopeful's campaign manager defending Trump's 2005 remarks on sexual assault by arguing that members of Congress are themselves guilty of sexual assault.
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The Republican Party is Donald Trump's party

The Republican Party is Donald Trump's party

10/10/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the assurances by Reince Priebus that the RNC is in full support and coordination with Donald Trump, and points out that empty gestures by Republican leaders like Paul Ryan to "stop defending" Donald Trump have no bearing on their endorsements and continued support for him to be president. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 10.10.16

10/10/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Haiti "is facing a surge in cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, doctors warned as the death toll on the devastated island climbed past 1,000. U.S. Marines delivered badly-needed food aid Sunday, after Haiti's government said more than 1.5 million people had been affected by the storm and 350,000 of those were in need of immediate assistance. Ninety percent of crops have been destroyed in worst-hit areas of the country according to U.N. World Food Program officer for Haiti, Lorene Didier."

* North Carolina: "Rivers are rising to record crests in North Carolina after more than 17 inches of rain fell during Hurricane Matthew. Water rose over a levee on the Lumber River in Robeson County and hydrologists are concerned about the levees and cities on the Tar, Neuse and Black rivers as billions of gallons of water drain east to the Atlantic."

* Yemen: "A U.S. Navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen came under attack Sunday night in the Red Sea, with two missiles fired at it in the same region where an Emirati-leased vessel was badly damaged by rocket fire last week."

* It would've been tough to match the first one: "Viewership of Sunday night's presidential debate fell sharply, with 66.5 million viewers tuning in -- a more than a 21 percent drop from the 84 million who watched the first showdown between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the end of September."

* Turkey: "Two suicide bombers blew themselves up after refusing to surrender to police during an operation in the outskirts of the capital Ankara Saturday, a senior official said. No one else was killed or hurt."

* Mylan NV "agreed to pay $465 million to settle allegations that it overcharged the government for its EpiPen products, the latest move by the embattled pharmaceuticals firm to quell the furor over its pricing practices."
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listen to a question during the town hall debate at Washington University on Oct 9, 2016 in St Louis, Mo. (Photo by Saul Loeb/Pool/Getty)

What losing a debate looks like

10/10/16 04:35PM

There's no denying the fact that Donald Trump's most rabid followers had reason to cheer last night's presidential debate: the Republican nominee spent 90 minutes throwing red meat at them, fulfilling their dreams of what an unapologetic, uncompromising, angrily partisan debate performance should look like.

And if Trump had gone into the debate as the overall favorite in the presidential race, bolstering his base might have even made sense as an electoral strategy. But given that the GOP nominee is losing, he has limited opportunities to find new support, and he made literally no effort to reach out to anyone beyond his existing backers, last night's spectacle was needlessly strange.

The misguided strategy was only part of the problem. This was a debate in which Trump called for his opponent's imprisonment. It was a debate in which he defended Russian and Syrian leaders, while denouncing his own running mate's foreign policy. It was a debate in which he conceded he exploited tax loopholes to avoid paying his fair share.

And as the New York Times' David Leonhardt explained, it was a debate in which Trump lied -- a lot.
He lied about a sex tape. He lied about his lies about ‘birtherism.’ He lied about the growth rate of the American economy. He lied about the state of the job market. He lied about the trade deficit. He lied about tax rates.

He lied about his own position on the Iraq War, again. He lied about ISIS. He lied about the Benghazi attack. He lied about the war in Syria. He lied about Syrian refugees. He lied about Russia’s hacking. He lied about the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan. He lied about her health care plan. He lied about her immigration plan. He lied about her email deletion. He lied about Obamacare, more than once. He lied about the rape of a 12-year-old girl. He lied about his history of groping women without their consent.
This list is not comprehensive. There are a variety of related fact-checking pieces, which include additional falsehoods, repeated as fact, from the Republican nominee during the debate.

Charles Krauthammer recently urged Trump to "ignore the fact checkers." The GOP nominee took the advice to heart.
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U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan speaks during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept.22, 2016. (Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

On Trump, Paul Ryan's new posture looks a lot like the old

10/10/16 12:37PM

From late Friday to late Saturday, dozens of Republican officials dropped their support for Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, and many publicly called for him to end his campaign altogether. But even as the stampede unfolded, many watched House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to see if the latest revelations, including Trump's comments on sexual assault, would be enough to prompt the GOP leader to finally give up on the controversial nominee.

It was not. Ryan criticized Trump's remarks -- a step the Speaker has taken several times over the course of the campaign -- and said he wouldn't appear alongside the White House hopeful at a Wisconsin event over the weekend, but the congressman couldn't bring himself to withdraw his presidential endorsement.

People close to the Speaker told Politico Ryan "discussed" dropping his support for Trump with aides over the weekend, but ultimately did not. This morning, however, NBC News reports that the House Republican leader is trying to adopt a slightly different posture.
Hours after a contentious second presidential debate, House Speaker Paul Ryan told Republicans Monday he will not be defending Donald Trump or campaign with him for the next 30 days and instead will focus on down ballot races. [...]

"You all need to do what's best for you in your district," Ryan said on a call with House Republicans.
Ryan spokesperson AshLee Strong added that the House Speaker "is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities."

And while I imagine this will draw some praise from pundits, it's hard not to notice that Ryan's new position looks an awful lot like his old one.
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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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