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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Watching Donald Trump reach the 'total meltdown' stage

10/13/16 01:05PM

Two months ago, Time magazine ran a cover story on Donald Trump's increasingly unhinged presidential candidacy, featuring an image of Trump's head starting to dissolve. The headline read, simply, "Meltdown."

This week, Time updated its cover with a bookend of sorts, showing Trump's face in nothing more than a pool of liquid. The new headline: "Total meltdown."

Individually, many of Trump's most unhinged moments yesterday are striking stories, but collectively, they create a mosaic of a candidate who's come unglued in ways no modern major-party presidential candidate has.


* Trump called for the imprisonment of his opponent and her attorneys, while vowing to investigate Justice Department officials who failed to prosecute his rival to his satisfaction.

* Trump said that if Hillary Clinton is president, ISIS terrorists will "take over this country, they'll take over this part of the world. Believe me."

* He added that a Clinton victory would produce "the almost total destruction of our country as we know it."

* Trump insisted Clinton "shouldn't be allowed" to be a presidential candidate.

* Trump accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of being part of a "sinister" conspiracy against him.

* Trump accused the independent Commission on Presidential Debates of orchestrating a "rigged deal."

* Trump said independent public-opinion polls are "crooked" and part of a "rigged system."

* At the start of a rally in Florida, Trump blasted yet another fire marshal.

"Total meltdown" seems like a fairly reasonable description under the circumstances. Has anyone ever heard a candidate for the U.S. presidency whine this incessantly -- and this angrily -- about so many things?
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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.13.16

10/13/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* According to an NBC News report, Donald Trump's campaign is giving up on competing in Virginia, a state Republicans won in every presidential election between 1968 and 2004.

* On a related note, Hillary Clinton's campaign is making its own electoral decisions, and eyeing possible expansion of its efforts in Utah, Arizona, and Georgia, three red states that may be competitive this year.

* Part of the Republican defense of Trump's 2005 comments on sexual assault has been that the rhetoric was just "locker-room talk." Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) has apparently taken the talking points too literally, telling an audience yesterday Trump's groping remarks were made "in a locker room." (They weren't.)

* Also on the campaign trail yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, in his capacity as a Trump surrogate, said to a group of supporters, "Hillary, we don't want your socialized medicine. Take it and stuff it up your... I didn't say it!" He's quite the charmer, isn't he?

* In Wisconsin, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the latest Marquette Law School poll shows Clinton leading Trump in the state by seven, 44% to 37%.

* More surprisingly, the same poll found former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) by just two, 46% to 44%.

* In Pennsylvania, a new Bloomberg Politics poll shows Clinton well ahead of Trump, 51% to 42%, thanks to the Democrat's big advantage in the Philadelphia suburbs.

* The same poll found a more competitive U.S. Senate race, with Katie McGinty (D) leading incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R), 47% to 45%.

* In Nevada, PPP now shows Clinton with a modest advantage over Trump, 47% to 43%.

* The same poll found Catherine Cortez Masto (D) ahead in Nevada's U.S. Senate race, 43% to 39%, over Rep. Joe Heck (R).
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In this Feb. 6, 2016, file photo, then Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gets in his car after a campaign event in Bedford, N.H. (Photo by Elise Amendola/AP)

Misconduct case against Chris Christie will move forward

10/13/16 11:20AM

It's no secret that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was a finalist for the Republican Party's vice presidential nomination, but given the latest developments, GOP officials are probably quite pleased he's not the party's national ticket. WNBC in New York reported this morning:
A judge has found probable cause for a complaint of official misconduct against Gov. Chris Christie related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

The case now goes to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, which will decide whether to bring the issue to a grand jury for possible indictment.
As the report explained, the case was brought by Bill Brennan, an activist and retired firefighter, who has accused the governor of knowing about the lane-closure conspiracy and failing to stop the scheme. Today's court ruling allows the case to move forward, raising the possibility -- just the possibility -- of Christie facing charges.

Complicating matters a bit, the WNBC report noted that sending the case to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey raises an additional wrinkle: the acting county prosecutor was appointed by the governor directly. To avoid a conflict of interest, the prosecutor may need to recuse himself from the case.
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Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Team Trump can't keep its story straight on imprisoning Clinton

10/13/16 10:40AM

The more Donald Trump calls for imprisoning his opponent after the election, the more unease he creates, even in his own party. A variety of officials from Republican administrations have openly acknowledged that Trump's rhetoric is as radical as it is dangerous.

Yesterday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said his party shouldn't tolerate Trump "threatening to jail his opponent after the election." The Arizona senator added, "That is not who we are."

For their part, Trump and his team can't quite keep their story straight. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN yesterday that when Trump says Hillary Clinton "has to go to jail," he doesn't mean Clinton has to go to jail.
"(Trump) is talking about going around the Democratic process, I mean talking about jailing your political opponent is something --" CNN's Briana Keilar told Conway on "The Situation Room."

"No he's not, he's talking about the result. No, he's not. You're taking it literally," Conway responded.
Trump has explicitly said, over and over again, he intends to abuse his power, politicize federal enforcement, prosecute his former rival, and put her "in jail." Yesterday, the GOP nominee went so far as to tell supporters that Clinton's attorneys also "have to go to jail."

Does Conway perceive a subtle metaphor in these vows that eludes me?

If Trump doesn't mean it literally, what exactly does he mean by, "She has to go to jail"?
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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)

Trump sees Paul Ryan involved in a 'sinister deal'

10/13/16 10:01AM

On Monday, with Republican politics facing crisis conditions, Jerry Falwell Jr. shared a new conspiracy: maybe GOP leaders on Capitol Hill were responsible for the 2005 "Access Hollywood" recording in which Donald Trump boasted about sexual assault.

"I've got some independent information, but I'm not going to reveal it on the air, but I think some of the establishment folks who reluctantly endorsed him had this planned all along as a way to slither out of the endorsement," the Liberty University chief said. "It wasn't a coincidence that it came out right before Trump was supposed to appear with Paul Ryan at a rally, and it conveniently gave Paul Ryan a way to disinvite Trump."

Breitbart News, true to form, found this quite compelling.

The conspiracy theory is obviously hard to take seriously, but it may have helped influence Donald Trump a bit. Yesterday, the Republican presidential hopeful said the Speaker of the House didn't congratulate him on his latest debate performance -- which  is proof of something "sinister."
"Wouldn't you think that Paul Ryan would say 'Good going'? In front of just about the largest audience for a second night debate in the history of the country?" Trump began. "You'd think they would say 'Great going, Don. Let's go. Let's beat this crook. She's a crook. Let's beat her. We've got to stop it!'"

"No, he doesn't do that," Trump said as the crowd booed along. "There is a whole deal going on there. There is a whole deal going on and we're going to figure it out. I always figure things out. But there's a whole sinister deal going on."
Let's unpack this a bit, because while much of this is nonsensical, something important is lurking in the background.
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Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Some of Trump's GOP critics reverse course, re-endorse him

10/13/16 09:21AM

On Saturday, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) heard the recording of Donald Trump boasting about groping women and decided she'd had enough. The Nebraska Republican denounced her party's presidential nominee and declared that Trump ought to "step aside and allow Mike Pence to serve as our party's nominee."

By Tuesday, Fischer had reversed course, announcing that she'd vote for Trump after all. As the New York Times reported, she wasn't alone.
Stung by a fierce backlash from Donald J. Trump's ardent supporters, four Republican members of Congress who had made headlines for demanding that Mr. Trump leave the presidential race retreated quietly this week, conceding that they would still probably vote for the man they had excoriated just days before.

From Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the only member of the Republican leadership in either chamber who had disavowed Mr. Trump, to Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, who is in a difficult re-election fight, the lawmakers contorted themselves over Mr. Trump.
For some of these Republicans, the quick reversal is tough to explain. Thune, for example, made his thoughts quite clear on Saturday afternoon: "Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately." Trump, of course, didn't withdraw, and Thune has decided he wants Trump to be president anyway.

Among U.S. House members, Alabama's Bradley Byrne (R) and New Jersey's Scott Garrett (R) also said over the weekend that Trump should be replaced as the GOP nominee. Yesterday, they both re-endorsed Trump's candidacy.

I'm trying to think of the most charitable interpretation of these events. Let's say for the sake of conversation that these congressional Republicans were outraged by the 2005 "Access Hollywood" recording, but they were also satisfied when Trump apologized and said he didn't actually do what he claimed to have done.

Perhaps Thune, Fischer, and others believe Trump was lying when he bragged about groping women, but he was telling the truth when he denied physical misconduct.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on Oct. 12, 2016 in Lakeland, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Trump's rejection of opposition research comes back to haunt him

10/13/16 08:40AM

As the public learned last night about new allegations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow raised a good point: evidently, none of Trump's Republican primary rivals "have ever heard of oppo research."

It's an important observation. In every presidential election, it's a standard practice for campaigns to hire professional opposition researchers to investigate rivals and look for potentially damaging information about their records. Somehow, even in an enormous, 17-candidate GOP field, Trump's Republican opponents failed to uncover many of the controversies that are currently dogging the party's nominee.

It's easy to imagine folks like Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush turning to their aides last night and asking, "Why didn't you guys find any of this stuff?"

But let's also not forget that opposition research is also supposed to be introspective. As we discussed in May, 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, but digging through your own background will help you anticipate and prepare for potential embarrassments and controversies.

And if it seems as if Team Trump has been caught unprepared for some of its recent scandals, it may have something to do with the fact that the Republican campaign never scrutinized the candidate's past.

Remember this report from Mother Jones' David Corn?
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.
In other words, when any of the various damaging revelations -- about Trump's finances, his boasts about his romances, women who allege he groped them -- the Republican candidate's staff has no prepared response because they don't know what's coming.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen during a press conference at Los Pinos on Aug. 31, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent/Getty)

Trump confronts new allegations of sexual misconduct

10/13/16 08:00AM

Last night, new allegations of sexual misconduct directed at Donald Trump were almost hard to keep up with. Women, who just recently decided to go on the record with their stories, talked to a variety of news outlets about their alleged experiences, and each of the stories are worth considering in detail.

Here's the New York Times report, the Palm Beach Post report, and the People magazine report, each featuring accounts that have not yet been verified by MSNBC or NBC News. There's also this NBC News report on allegations from a former participant in the 1997 Miss USA pageant.

As Rachel emphasized on the show, as of last night, the Republican candidate and his campaign team emphatically denied the accuracy of each of the claims. Because many of the incidents involve actions that may have taken place several years ago, it will be difficult to know with certainty what did and did not occur between Trump and his accusers.

As for the politics of all of this -- the allegations surfaced with just four weeks remaining until Election Day, with early voting in some states already underway -- one of the unusual facets to these developments is the order in which they unfolded.

Late Friday, we learned that Trump was recorded in 2005 boasting about his romantic exploits, which eventually led him to brag about committing sexual assaults. The Republican presidential candidate said, among other things, that he kisses women he considers beautiful -- "I don't even wait," Trump claimed -- which he said he can get away with because of his public profile.

"And when you're a star, they let you do it," Trump said on the recording. "You can do anything. Grab 'em by the p—y."

Two days later, Americans saw this exchange between Trump and Anderson Cooper at the second presidential debate:
COOPER: So, for the record, you're saying you never did [the things you described in 2005]?

TRUMP: I've said things that, frankly, you hear these things I said. And I was embarrassed by it. But I have tremendous respect for women.

COOPER: Have you ever done those things?

TRUMP: And women have respect for me. And I will tell you: No, I have not.
It was this back and forth that apparently encouraged some women to speak up.
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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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