The first real sign of trouble came earlier this year. In January, in the middle of a spat with Fox News, Donald Trump boycotted a debate in Iowa, instead holding a fundraiser for veterans. The Republican boasted at the time that he'd raised $6 million for vets, and he'd contributed $1 million out of his own pocket.
The story unraveled once the Washington Poststarted asking about the money, and some of Trump's claims turned out to be wrong. Most notably, in May, his campaign said Trump had already made a $1 million contribution, which wasn't true.
Putting aside the question about what kind of person lies about veterans' charities, it wasn't long before others started pulling on the same thread.
BuzzFeed, for example, found that Trump received $2 million to advise Mike Tyson on the boxer's business decisions, and he said the money would go to charities. There's no evidence that ever happened. In 1989, Trump said proceeds from his game show would go to charities, but there's no evidence that happened, either.
Politicoreported that Trump claimed the proceeds of his dealings with Muammar Gadhafi would go to charities, but there's still no proof to substantiate the promise. And the Huffington Postreported that the proceeds of Trump's board game were also supposed to go to charities, but -- you guessed it -- there's nothing to suggest any charity ever received a dime.
The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold has done quite a bit of digging on this front and reported today that despite Trump's promises about millions of dollars in charitable contributions, an investigation turned up less than $10,000 in donations over the last seven years.
In recent weeks, The Post tried to answer the question by digging up records going back to the late 1980s and canvassing a wide swath of nonprofits with some connection to Trump.
That research showed that Trump has a long-standing habit of promising to give to charity. But Trump's follow-through on those promises was middling.... In the 1980s, Trump pledged to give away royalties from his first book to fight AIDS and multiple sclerosis. But he gave less to those causes than he did to his older daughter's ballet school. In recent years, Trump's follow-through on his promises has been seemingly nonexistent.
Under normal political rules, this is the sort of thing that could bury a presidential candidate. It's not just a question about greed or stinginess, it's also one about honesty.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In the wake of yesterday's major Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights, neither Donald Trump nor his campaign team have said a word about the decision.
* The new online NBC News/Survey Monkey poll shows Hillary Clinton expanding her national lead over Trump to eight points, 49% to 41%.
* Public Policy Polling released a new report this morning with several state-based results. In Wisconsin, Clinton is up by eight points; in Iowa she leads by two points; and in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Hampshire, Clinton has a four-point advantage in each. The same report, meanwhile, found Trump up by four points in Arizona.
* The Washington Postreported this morning, "Long-time Republican strategists and campaign consultants privately acknowledge they are so certain of Hillary Clinton's victory -- and so worried about its impact on Senate races and GOP control of the Senate -- that they are already considering a controversial tactic that explicitly acknowledges Donald Trump's defeat."
* In Pennsylvania's closely watched U.S. Senate race, PPP also found incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) with a very narrow advantage over Katie McGinty (D), 40% to 39%.
* In Texas, where President Obama lost badly in both of his elections, a University of Texas poll shows Trump leading Clinton by eight points, 41% to 33%.
* In Maine, the latest Portland Press Heraldpoll shows Clinton leading Trump by seven points, 42% to 35%.
* Asked yesterday to explain Trump's bizarre comments about Brexit while in Scotland, a spokesperson for the Republican candidate responded by talking about Benghazi.
When House Republicans created the Select Committee on Benghazi two years ago, tasking the panel to investigate a deadly attack that had already been thoroughly investigated by other committees, GOP activists, conspiracy theorists, pundits, and election staffers had high hopes of what Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-S.C.) committee could accomplish.
That was quite a while ago. More than two years and $7 million later, the Republicans' Benghazi panel has wrapped up the longest congressional investigation in the history of the United States, and it couldn't avoid this lede in the New York Times.
Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.
The full report, which is over 800 pages long, is online here. By all accounts, the GOP members of the panel raised a variety of criticisms and concerns, including inadequate security resources in Libya, bureaucratic inertia, and breakdowns in coordination between agencies.
Or put another way, the Select Committee on Benghazi came to the same conclusions all of the other investigations reached quite a while ago, raising questions anew about why in the world this committee was necessary in the first place.
As regular readers know, some congressional Republicans admitted the panel was a partisan exercise, which was created and sustained for purely political reasons. Committee Democrats, who released their own 339-page report yesterday, said in a press statement, "Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation."
The evidence to bolster the point is overwhelming. Given the panel's abuses, the inescapable fact is clear: the Republicans' Benghazi Committee didn't investigate a scandal; the Republicans' Benghazi Committee was the scandal.
A delegate to the Republican National Convention filed a class action lawsuit in federal court late last week, "challenging a state law that binds delegates to support the primary winner at the nominating convention." Around the same time, a group called "Delegates Unbound" launched a new television commercial, intended to rally support for Republican convention delegates to vote their conscience when they meet next month in Cleveland.
The point of this is plainly obvious: there are more than a few Republican delegates who still hope to deny Donald Trump the party's presidential nomination, and they're looking for any possible, last-gasp, Hail-Mary solutions in the hopes of preventing the inevitable.
Trump and the Republican National Committee are taking the possibility seriously, "moving quickly and aggressively to head off the fledgling effort to stage a revolt," but let's not miss the funny part of all of this: Republican officials aren't the only ones worried about Trump getting derailed by a convention coup.
Politico published a piece last week with an off-hand observation thrown in: Democratic donors and Hillary Clinton's allies "are no longer convinced that Donald Trump is sure to be the GOP nominee." A day later, Politicofleshed this out further.
Hillary Clinton's top fundraisers are encountering an unexpected obstacle a month out from the party conventions: big money donors suddenly reluctant to give for fear of running Donald Trump out of the race before he locks up the nomination.
"They're worried about giving money to attack Trump before the convention," said longtime Clinton ally James Carville, who has been raising money for the campaign in New York.... There's no evidence that Trump is considering dropping his presidential bid, and it's unlikely Republicans will dump him as the party nominee. But Clinton's well-heeled supporters are nevertheless worried by the prospect of running against anyone other than him.
An unnamed Clinton donor added, "That's all anyone's worried about."
A bipartisan group of senators recently endorsed a bill to limit suspected terrorists from buying guns. "I hope we can pass this," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters seven days ago. "Let's put it this way: If we can't pass this, it truly is a broken system."
A week later, it's getting easier to say it really is a broken system.
Last week, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) presented a compromise bill, which would make it "illegal for anyone on the federal "no-fly list" or "selectee list" (which targets people for extended inspections at airports) to legally purchase a gun." It reached the Senate floor, where members had an opportunity to kill the measure, but it survived its first test, despite NRA opposition.
Soon after, a bipartisan group of House members unveiled an identical bill in the lower chamber, further fueling the hopes of reformers.
But as The Hillnoted, it's best to start lowering expectations.
Instead of setting up a vote to add the Collins legislation to the pending appropriations bill on the Senate floor, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] scheduled a vote to discard it.
The Collins bill survived that test in a 46-52 vote, but it fell far short of winning 60 votes, the threshold necessary to overcome procedural hurdles.
The result allows Republicans to argue that no other action is necessary.
In other words, in the Senate, Collins' bipartisan compromise is stuck in legislative limbo: it's not advancing, but it's not dead. McConnell allowed a "motion to table" vote, which gave some cover to vulnerable Republican senators worried about re-election, but which will very likely be the last time this Congress that Collins' bill sees daylight.
In the House, a vote on a companion bill is about as likely, but if the lower chamber were to somehow approve the proposal, the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster just aren't there.
When it comes to the religious right movement, there have long been two broad camps: those who put politics above theology, and those who do the opposite. When TV preacher Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani's 2008 presidential campaign, for example, he was clearly representing the former, to the consternation of many social conservatives who value principle over party.
James Dobson, best known for his Focus on the Family empire, has generally been part of that latter camp, occasionally even butting heads with the Republican Party when it's fallen short of his expectations. Dobson, for good or ill, has never been a "team player" in GOP politics.
It made thisNew York Times report all the more surprising.
Has Donald J. Trump become a born-again Christian? That is the suggestion of James C. Dobson, one of America's leading evangelicals, who said Mr. Trump had recently come "to accept a relationship with Christ" and was now "a baby Christian."
Dr. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and one of the country's most prominent social conservatives, gave his account at a meeting Mr. Trump had in New York on Tuesday with hundreds of Christian conservatives.
Dobson, speaking with the Rev. Michael Anthony, reportedly said he knew the individual who led Trump to this spiritual conversion. "I don't know when it was, but it has not been long," Dobson said. "I believe he really made a commitment, but he's a baby Christian."
It's important to note that, in Christianity, phrases like "born again" and "accepting a relationship with Christ" are terms of art. This isn't a situation in which Trump was a Christian before and a slightly different kind of Christian now; it's far more specific.
If Dobson is correct, Trump, at some point quite recently, underwent a rather dramatic religious conversion. As the Times' report noted, "For evangelicals, 'accepting Christ' is at the heart of becoming a genuine Christian, and refers to acknowledging sin and declaring the need for Jesus Christ as savior."
It should have been the year's easiest vote. Back in February, the White House sent Congress an emergency budget request, asking for $1.9 billion to address the Zika virus threat. The Republican majority balked, ignoring the issue for months, before eventually working on a watered down alternative.
With the Senate on track to defeat a bill today, the New York Times helps set the stage.
The military construction and veterans' spending bill forced through by House Republicans with no debate early Thursday morning contains $1.1 billion for Zika preparation and prevention -- but it also contains some poison-pill provisions that are likely to drive off any Democratic support, notably one restricting the use of the money by Planned Parenthood.
Democrats consider that add-on totally unacceptable, noting that the virus can be transmitted sexually. Other provisions also appeared to be added by House and Senate Republicans, who negotiated the measure on their own, to essentially dare Democrats to oppose the overdue Zika money.
Common sense suggests lawmakers would have listened to the CDC, approved the emergency funds, and moved on -- but this is a Republican Congress. After the House and Senate passed competing, inadequate Zika bills, GOP lawmakers reached an agreement among themselves that would block Planned Parenthood funding, take funds from efforts to combat the Ebola virus, and cut the Affordable Care Act.
Not surprisingly, Democrats aren't prepared to go along with these poison-pill provisions and the White House has said President Obama would veto the Republican bill if it reaches his desk.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said last night that Democratic opposition to the far-right House bill is the "most cynical gesture" he's seen during his Senate career. It's possible that the Texas Republican is confused about the meaning of "cynical."
Some proposals are so outrageously ridiculous, there's simply no credible way to put a positive spin on them. As TPM noted yesterday, it's a lesson New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hasn't quite learned.
Despite condemning Donald Trump's Muslim ban on the campaign trail, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has changed course and said last week that Trump's proposal isn't really a ban on Muslims.
"You all continue to call it a Muslim ban. That's not what it is and never has been," Christie told reporters, according to the Bergen Record. "So I've urged him to continue to speak in detail about this, so that it prevents the media from short-handing something and making him look like something that he's not."
Look, this isn't complicated. It's not "the media" that refers to Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban as "a Muslim ban." Trump himself has done it.
In December, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee announced that he wants a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." He put it in writing, and then he read his statement, out loud and in public.
Trump has reiterated his support for this absurd idea several times since, including just two weeks ago after the mass-shooting in Orlando, when he explicitly talked up the benefits of a "ban." Perhaps Christie missed it?
There have been some recent attempts to "clarify" Trump's proposal, but they haven't gone well, either.
Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent at Slate, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Supreme Court overturning former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's corruption conviction by loosening the definition of an official act. watch
Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Women's Health, talks with Rachel Maddow about the Supreme Court's rejection of restrictive anti-abortion regulations in Texas and the implications for similar laws in other states. watch
Rachel Maddow explains the political science principles behind how decisions about running mates are made and notes that political science aside, Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton are developing a close campaign rapport. watch
Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, working their first joint rope line, share a quick hug before Warren heads out pic.twitter.com/YxmSL8kahf
* West Virginia: "As the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management revised its death totals from last week’s widespread flooding, West Virginia residents braced for heavy rain produced by thunderstorms that could lead to more flash flooding in hard-hit counties today."
* The Brexit fallout continues: "Adding to investor concerns Monday, S&P Global Ratings lowered its credit rating on the United Kingdom to 'AA' from 'AAA' and said 'the outlook on the long-term rating is negative.'"
* Stay tuned: "The leaders of Germany, France and Italy have insisted that no Brexit talks of any kind can begin until Britain has formally applied to leave the European Union, which EU officials expect to happen before the end of the year."
* Somalia: "Gunmen stormed a hotel in Somalia's seaside capital Saturday, taking guests hostage and 'shooting at everyone they could see,' before security forces pursued the grenade-throwing assailants to the top floor and ended the hours-long assault, police and witnesses said. At least 14 people were killed."
* Iraq: "Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the country's military wrested full control of Fallujah from Islamic State, paving the way for an offensive to reclaim Mosul, the last major city controlled by the terror group in Iraq."
* Diplomacy: "The Israeli and Turkish prime ministers announced the restoration of full diplomatic relations, frozen for six years following the killing of Turkish activists who sought to break Israel's economic blockade of Gaza."
* Michigan: "The state's top doctor was among high-level Michigan health officials briefed about a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Genesee County nearly one year before it was publicly disclosed, state records show."
* Quite a scene: "Ten people were injured during a white nationalist protest and counter-protest Sunday near the steps of the California state Capitol in Sacramento, authorities said. Five to seven people were stabbed during the melee, California Highway Patrol Officer George Granada told NBC News."
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.