* Prosecutors in Baltimore "have dropped the remaining cases against the three officers to be tried in the death of Freddie Gray, bringing the case to an end without a conviction. Officer Garrett E. Miller's trial was slated to start Wednesday with Sgt. Alicia D. White to begin in October."
* No end in sight: "Turkey's government has ordered the closure of dozens of media outlets -- including news agencies, television channels, radio stations and newspapers -- as part of its widespread crackdown in the wake of a failed coup attempt on July 15."
* Doing nothing remains the right call: "The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged on Wednesday, but it issued an upbeat assessment of economic conditions that suggested a growing chance that it would increase rates later this year."
* 35 years later: "John Hinckley Jr., the would-be assassin who almost killed President Ronald Reagan, will be freed after 35 years in a mental hospital, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. The judge granted Hinckley, 61, permission to live full-time in the home of his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia, after finding that his continued treatment at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., is 'no longer clinically warranted or beneficial.'"
* Orlando: "Pulse Nightclub, a queer club that became the location of the worst mass shooting in American history, is slated to become a permanent memorial for the 49 individuals, most of them queer people of color, who lost their lives on June 12 when an armed shooter opened fire."
* I've always liked Jackson Park: "The Obama Presidential Library has found a home. Sources told The Associated Press and Chicago Tribune Wednesday that the president has settled on Jackson Park, a green area of more than 500 acres on Chicago's South Side, east of the University of Chicago. Jackson Park beat out rival Washington Park, another South Side green space rumored to have been in the running for the institution."
Donald Trump made quite a bit of news this morning. At a press conference, the Republican nominee called for Russia to use its espionage services to obtain Hillary Clinton emails, apparently in the hopes that the Putin government would help Trump win the U.S. election.
And while that's a career-ending moment for normal candidates in normal parties in normal election cycles, in Trump's case, it wasn't the only notable exchange from this morning's event.
QUESTION: Do you think the Geneva Conventions are out of date?
TRUMP: I think everything's is out of date. We have a whole new world.
Pressed further, Trump added, "I am a person that believes in enhanced interrogation, yes. And by the way, it works."
In reality, it doesn't "work" at all, but Trump too often doesn't seem to care about pesky details like facts and evidence. (When the Senate Intelligence Committee examined the Bush/Cheney administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques," investigators found torture was ineffective, illegal, brutal, and "provided extensive inaccurate information." Trump, in other words, has no idea what he's talking about.)
But let's not brush past the news too quickly. As far as Trump is concerned, the Geneva Conventions are "out of date." Asked about possible changes, the Republican told NBC News' Katy Tur, "I would renegotiate so much of everything."
There's a temptation among some to believe Americans have seen it all before. No matter how ridiculous our politics can get, no matter how outlandish an election, no matter how severe the dysfunction, there are those who will tell you there's nothing politically new under the sun.
Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Russia to help find the missing emails from Hillary Clinton's private server.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump proposed from a podium at his Doral Resort. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
The Republican presidential hopeful added that he doesn't believe Russia was responsible for hacking DNC materials -- there's overwhelming evidence that suggests Trump is wrong -- but the GOP candidate said that if Russia did steal Democratic documents, he "hopes" the Russians have Clinton's emails.
Let's be very clear about what happened this morning. The Republican candidate for president held a press conference in which he urged Vladimir Putin's espionage services to help sabotage the American election and put Trump in the White House.
No, seriously. That's the level of genuine insanity that we've reached. Against the backdrop of allegations that Russia is already trying to intervene in the U.S. presidential race on Trump's behalf, Donald J. Trump took the next step towards true madness today, publicly calling on a foreign government to commit a felony against his American rival on his behalf.
There is literally nothing in the American tradition that's similar to this. Nothing. Trump is taking his candidacy, his party, and his country into uncharted waters.
The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, a conservative Fox News contributor, asked this morning, "How can any Republican support a candidate who openly hopes for foreign cyberattacks on a political opponent?" I don't know the answer to that question, but I'd love to hear Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and others defend their choice in candidates.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* President Obama told NBC News, in a report that ran this morning, that Democrats need to recognize the possibility of a Donald Trump victory. "I think anybody who goes into campaigns not running scared can end up losing," he said. Directing his comments to Dems, the president added, "Stay worried until all those votes are cast."
* At a press conference this morning, Trump insisted that "they" -- he didn't say who "they" are -- believe he's received the biggest post-convention poll bounce "in memory." No one is actually saying that because it's not at all true.
* In Florida's U.S. Senate race, Rep. Alan Grayson (D) is facing new allegations of spousal abuse. Politicoreported yesterday on the congressman's ex-wife "repeatedly" reporting accusations of domestic abuse to police "over a two-decade period."
* In light of the report, both the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America, which had been supporting Grayson's campaign, withdrew their support. Florida's Senate primary isn't until Aug. 30; Grayson is facing Rep. Patrick Murphy in a Democratic match-up.
* In Indiana yesterday, the state Republican Party's central committee chose Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb to be the GOP's gubernatorial candidate in this year's election. Holcomb replaces Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee.
* In Indiana, the Freedom Partners Action Fund, backed by the Koch brothers, is investing $1 million in attack ads targeting former Sen. Evan Bayh (D).
The controversy surrounding Russia's alleged efforts to help elect Donald Trump isn't going away anytime soon, but there are some core questions that need to be addressed. We'll need to know, for example, whether Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC network and leaking private materials.
NBC News' report on this didn't leave much in the way of doubt.
Many U.S. officials and cyber security experts in and out of government are convinced that state-sponsored Russian hackers are the ones who stole 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee and leaked them to the public just in time to disrupt the Democrats' national convention in Philadelphia.
The NBC News assessment was based on a variety of considerations, including geography, language, forensic evidence, motive, and history.
Similarly, ABC News ran a similar report yesterday, quoting a security expert who investigated the hack. Michael Buratowski, the senior vice president of cybersecurity services at Fidelis Cybersecurity, said, "I come from a law enforcement background, and it's [about being] beyond a reasonable doubt. And I would say it's beyond a reasonable doubt" that Russians stole the DNC materials.
The New York Timesadded this morning, "American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have 'high confidence' that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee, according to federal officials who have been briefed on the evidence."
Now, even if these reports are accurate, and Russian officials stole the Democratic materials, that doesn't answer the "why" question. Russia's alleged involvement is an important piece of the puzzle, but we'll still need to know the Putin government's motivation.
It's one thing to take DNC documents; it's something else to leak those documents at a strategic moment in the hopes of dictating the outcome of an American presidential election.
One of the most important U.S. Senate races in the country is in Pennsylvania this year, pitting incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R), the former head of the far-right Club for Growth, against Katie McGinty (D), the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
As Penn Live reported this week, the Democrat used some unfortunate language this week about the Republican.
U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty had a few choice words to describe her Republican opponent at a minimum wage rally Monday during the Democratic National Convention.
"I think I might borrow from Chris' speech there," she said, referring to Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton, "in terms of Pat Toomey. He's an a**hole dammit. We know that, I'll tell you."
The comments weren't made on the convention floor, but rather, at a union office in Philadelphia. It was nevertheless caught on video and it didn't take long for the clip to circulate.
McGinty quickly backtracked. "I regret the language I used and apologize to Senator Toomey. Our campaign is about moving Pennsylvania forward and we're going to continue to talk about the issues that are important to Pennsylvania families," McGinty said in a statement. The incumbent senator accepted.
But Republicans aren't quite prepared to let this one go. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), for example, expressed his disappointment in McGinty yesterday because she used a "vulgarity," and cited this as proof of Democrats being "more focused on insults than solving problems."
And it was at this point that I wondered whether Tom Cotton has ever heard of Donald Trump -- the presidential candidate the Arkansan has already endorsed.
Since Watergate, every presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, has released his or her tax returns. It's not required by law, but there's a tradition of disclosure that Americans have come to count on: candidates for the nation's highest office are expected to release information related to their personal health and their tax filings.
In 2016, Donald Trump will only meet one of the two standards. In December, his campaign released an unintentionally hilarious letter from someone claiming to be Trump's personal physician. But this morning, the GOP candidate's campaign chairman said we can pretty much stop waiting for the tax documents -- because they're not coming, tradition be damned.
A top aide to Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee "will not be releasing" his taxes.
"Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them," Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort told "CBS This Morning."
As recently as mid-May, Trump said that he'd "like to" disclose the tax documents, "hopefully before the election," but he's waiting for the end of an IRS audit. Manafort's on-air comments this morning, however, suggest there will be no scrutiny of the documents before voters head to the polls.
Indeed, as we've discussed before, even Richard Nixon, during his presidency, released his tax materials in the midst of an IRS audit. Trump could, if he wanted to, release these returns whenever he feels like it. For reasons he won't explain, the GOP candidate just doesn't want to.
It's as if the campaign has decided to wave a big, unmistakable sign that reads, "We have something to hide."
Just last week, Donald Trump's campaign made a staffing announcement: going forward, Team Trump's director of African-American Outreach would be Theresa "Omarosa" Manigault. It was an odd move: Manigault isn't a political professional, but rather, she's a television personality known for having been a contestant on some reality shows (including Trump's).
This week, the story got a little stranger. TPM reported yesterday:
For their counter-programming for the Democratic convention, Republicans brought in Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on the first season of Donald Trump's television show "The Apprentice," to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's foreign policy views on Tuesday.
This may seem hard to believe, but Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's communications director and chief strategist, published this message on Twitter yesterday, highlighting the reality-show personality discussing Clinton's "foriegn [sic] policy failures" at an RNC event.
Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson asked soon after, "How are Republicans not mortally embarrassed by what's become of their party?" MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin, marveling at Sean Spicer's message, called it "another tweet for the 2016 time capsule."
My point, of course, is not to suggest that reality-show contestants can't have worthwhile views on matters of international affairs. Rather, what's striking here is the Republican Party -- which once considered credibility on foreign matter a matter of GOP birthright -- is taking on a former Secretary of State in this presidential election, and the party lacks the kind of credible, experienced, high-profile professionals who can assess Clinton's record on foreign policy in a serious way.
A couple of months ago, there was a flurry of reports about Donald Trump running on economic populism, none of which was quite right. Some reporters, no doubt confused by the Republican's clumsy rhetoric, policy incoherence, and propensity for dishonesty, seemed to misunderstand Trump's far-right economic message.
And at the center of this confusion was Trump's indiscernible position on the minimum wage. Last night, the Republican presidential nominee talked to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who asked about the issue, and the exchange that followed left everyone more confused than before.
The GOP candidate began by stressing, "I'm the one Republican that said in some cases we have to go more than minimum wage -- but what I like is states." That's roughly in line with what Trump has said before: he opposes an increase to the federal minimum, but he's on board with states raising their minimums if they want to. He added last night:
"Let me give you a concept because I think it's a good concept. You go with the states - let the states make the determination because if you take New York it's very expensive to live in New York, they need more than you know seven, eight, nine dollars. So you go with the states and let the states make the determination."
Again, note the emphasis on states. While Democrats push for an increase to the federal minimum, Trump is talking solely about states doing their own thing on wages.
When O'Reilly noted "there has to be a federal minimum wage," Trump replied, "There doesn't have to be." Again, this too is consistent with the Republican candidate's previous arguments that the federal minimum wage may not need to exist at all.
Trump then added, "I would leave it and raise it somewhat." I haven't the foggiest idea what this means. Vowing to change and not change the same policy in the same sentence is the kind of incoherence that reasonable people should find alarming.
In theory, it's a daunting challenge: introduce millions of people to someone they've already known for years. Bill Clinton took on the challenge anyway at the Democratic National Convention last night, at least in part because he believes many of us don't really know Hillary Clinton, so much as we know a caricature painted by her critics.
In Philadelphia, towards the end of the former president's remarks in which he walked his audience through a lifetime of Hillary Clinton's hard work and achievements, Bill Clinton asked how anyone can reconcile her record with what Republicans have said about her. "You can't," he said. "One is real, the other is made up."
"The real one had done more positive change-making before she was 30 than many public officials do in a lifetime in office. The real one, if you saw her friend Betsy Ebeling vote for Illinois today has friends from childhood through Arkansas, where she has not lived in more than 20 years, who have gone all across America at their own expense to fight for the person they know.
"The real one has earned the loyalty, the respect and the fervent support of people who have worked with her in every stage of her life, including leaders around the world who know her to be able, straightforward and completely trustworthy.
"The real one calls you when you're sick, when your kid's in trouble or when there's a death in the family. The real one repeatedly drew praise from prominent Republicans when she was a senator and secretary of state.
"So what's up with it? Well, if you win elections on the theory that government is always bad and will mess up a two-car parade, a real change-maker represents a real threat. So your only option is to create a cartoon, a cartoon alternative, then run against the cartoon. Cartoons are two- dimensional, they're easy to absorb. Life in the real world is complicated and real change is hard."
The point of rhetoric like this is to serve several functions at once. First, obviously, is to paint Clinton in a favorable light and push back against GOP criticism. Second, it creates a contrast: Clinton has devoted her adult life to helping others, which is practically the opposite of Donald Trump's rhetoric. Third, Bill Clinton is no doubt aware of the public's appetite for change, so he positioned Hillary Clinton as someone who's never satisfied with the status quo.
At one point, he added, "She's insatiably curious, she's a natural leader, she's a good organizer, and she's the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life."
And finally, the speech was a straightforward case that, despite perceptions, Hillary Clinton is someone who's spent a lifetime earning the respect of those around her. She's a person of warmth and compassion, not a two-dimensional villain.
Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, offers his assessment of former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, pointing out that painting a more human picture of Hillary Clinton is not how she has campaigned in the past. watch
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, discusses the historic parallels (and lack thereof) of the Clintons as an American political family and the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton. watch
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.