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Friday's Mini-Report, 8.19.16

08/19/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* President Obama will travel to Louisiana on Tuesday to meet with officials and assess flooding damage.
* CDC: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [issued] a new travel advisory for pregnant women, telling them to consider avoiding Miami-Dade County altogether due to evidence of widespread transmission of Zika, which can cause birth defects."
* Syria: "A Pentagon spokesperson confirms that the Syrian Air Force dropped bombs Thursday in an area where U.S. Special Operations forces were operating on the ground."
* Russia is "bolstering its military presence on its western border, sending tens of thousands of soldiers to newly built installations within easy striking distance of Ukraine."
* Automatic voter registration faces a second Christie veto: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made it easier for people to register to vote, claiming the measure would increase voter fraud."
* Sadly predictable: "Texas experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011, the same year the state slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women's health programs, according to a study in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology." [Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but her work is unrelated to affiliates in Texas.]
* Good advice: "Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake says Donald Trump needs to issue specific apologies to Sen. John McCain, the judge in the Trump University lawsuit, and to Mexican immigrants."
Paul Manafort of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's staff listens during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In latest shake-up, Trump's campaign chairman resigns

08/19/16 12:40PM

As recently as a few months ago, Donald Trump's presidential campaign appeared to be at odds with itself, with a civil war of sorts between campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
In June, the Republican presidential hopeful parted ways with Lewandowski. As of this morning, Manafort is out, too.
Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort resigned from the campaign Friday morning. The move comes days after a campaign shake-up that brought two new members to the top of the organization, including new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon.
In a statement Trump said: "This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."
Whether Manafort stepped down voluntarily (maybe he didn't want to be associated with a likely defeat) or was pushed out (he was at the center of many ongoing controversies and wasn't leading the operation to success) is, at least for now, unclear.
Either way, Manafort's resignation comes just two days after the Associated Press reported that the Republican lobbyist "helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy."
Making matters worse, Politico reported late yesterday, "In an effort to collect previously undisclosed millions of dollars he's owed by an oligarch-backed Ukrainian political party, Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been relying on a trusted protégé whose links to Russia and its Ukrainian allies have prompted concerns among Manafort associates, according to people who worked with both men."

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.19.16

08/19/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump's presidential campaign unveiled its first television ad of the general election this morning, a spot encouraging Americans to be afraid of immigrants, refugees, and terrorism. It's part of a $4 million ad buy that will focus on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.
* Trump will also travel to flood-ravaged Louisiana today. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) wasn't consulted on the visit.
* The Wall Street Journal reports that Bill and Chelsea Clinton "plan to stop raising money for the Clinton Foundation and turn over operations to independent parties if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president."
* While most recent national polling shows Clinton leading Trump nationally by seven to eight points, the new Pew Research Center poll shows the Democrat up by only four, 41% to 37%. An unusually high 14% of voters in this survey sided with third-party candidates.
* In Nevada, the latest Suffolk poll shows Clinton leading Trump by two, 44% to 42%.
* The same poll shows Nevada's U.S. Senate race all tied up, with Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Joe Heck (R) each garnering 37% support.
* In Georgia, a poll commissioned by the Fox affiliate in Atlanta shows the Peach State as a 2016 battleground, with Clinton and Trump tied at 43% each.
* On a related note, the Trump campaign reportedly began inquiring about ad rates in Georgia this week. Republican presidential candidates have won Georgia in each of the last five elections.
* In Iowa, Quinnipiac shows Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) with a fairly comfortable lead over Patty Judge (D), 51% to 42%.
* In Colorado, Quinnipiac also found Sen. Michael Bennet (D), once thought to be the cycle's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, leading Darryl Glenn (R), 54% to 38%.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015.

Trump adviser accused of anti-Semitism

08/19/16 11:02AM

Donald Trump's outreach to Jewish voters hasn't gone especially well during the Republican's presidential campaign. In December, for example, he spoke at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, where he told attendees, "I'm a negotiator, like you folks. Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room?"
More recently, Trump used a social-media account to promote a message that included anti-Semitic imagery.
McClatchy reported yesterday on a new, related problem: one of Trump's foreign policy advisers is facing allegations of anti-Semitism.
Joseph Schmitz, named as one of five advisers by the Trump campaign in March, is accused of bragging when he was Defense Department inspector general a decade ago that he pushed out Jewish employees. [...]
In his complaint, [Daniel Meyer, a senior official within the intelligence community] said Crane also said Schmitz played down the extent of the Holocaust.
"In his final days, he allegedly lectured Mr. Crane on the details of concentration camps and how the ovens were too small to kill 6 million Jews," wrote Meyer, whose complaint is before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
Schmitz has called the allegations "completely false and defamatory," and said his accusers are lying.
Still, it's hardly the kind of story the Trump campaign wants to see right now. What's more, if Schmitz's name sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that.
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Dems push bill on tax returns, presidential candidates

08/19/16 10:01AM

In politics, there's an important difference between traditional norms and legal requirements. Since Watergate, every major-party presidential candidate has released at least some of his or her tax returns, not because it's mandatory, but because it's the kind of routine disclosure Americans have come to expect.
Donald Trump, of course, is blazing a new trail, refusing to release the materials for reasons that don't make sense.
But what if Trump didn't have a choice? The Connecticut Mirror reported yesterday on a legislative effort I've been keeping an eye on.
Since Donald Trump has declined to release his tax returns, Sen. Chris Murphy is backing a way to make them public -- a bill that would force the issue.
Partnering with fellow Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Murphy on Thursday pressed for votes for a bill that would require all presidential candidates from major parties to make public their tax returns within two weeks of their parties' national conventions. The effort is part of a renewed Democratic campaign over Trump's tax filings.
The name of the bill is the "Presidential Tax Transparency Act," and as the Mirror's article explained, it would "force the Treasury Department to post presidential candidates' returns on the Federal Elections Commission web site if that candidate did not disclose the information within two weeks of their nominating convention."
As of this morning, the measure only has five co-sponsors -- all of them members of the Democratic minority -- including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the Dems' vice presidential nominee. In other words, this bill isn't going anywhere fast, and it certainly won't affect the 2016 election cycle.
But circling back to our previous coverage, if we put aside legislative projections, does the idea itself have merit?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry considers his responses at the United Nations Security Council, Sept. 30, 2015, at the U.N. headquarters. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/AP)

GOP rhetoric notwithstanding, that's not what 'ransom' means

08/19/16 09:00AM

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Obama administration's State Department said "that a $400 million cash payment to Iran seven months ago was contingent on the release of a group of American prisoners. It is the first time the U.S. has so clearly linked the two events, which critics have painted as a hostage-ransom arrangement."
It didn't take long for Republicans to express outrage, but what the AP report did not explain in detail is that these "critics" are wrong -- and the payment wasn't a "ransom."
The background on this story is a little convoluted, but the United States has owed Iran money since 1979 -- they bought some fighter jets, but we didn't deliver (or refund the money) after the revolution and hostage crisis. The subsequent dispute has lasted ever since. The two countries reached an out-of-court settlement after Secretary of State John Kerry's team concluded they were almost certain to lose at an international arbitration tribunal.
Vox's Zack Beauchamp summarized what he described as a "dumb controversy" quite nicely.
The payment, which sounds really shady out of context, was actually the end of a boring, decades-old international legal case totally unrelated to the hot-button nuclear and prisoner issues. [...]
[T]he basic logic of [the right's criticisms] didn't make any sense. Iran was going to get that money back no matter what through the arbitration process -- probably more, if the Obama administration was right. Why would it release potentially valuable hostages in exchange for money it would have gotten otherwise?
Tony Fratto, a veteran of the Bush/Cheney White House, spent a little time yesterday urging the right to steer clear of this made-up controversy, calling it "silly." Apparently referring to Republicans, Fratto added, "We're not showing how we can be serious."
That's true, though GOP officials and candidates don't want to appear serious; they want to appear outraged over a story they don't seem to understand.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Aug. 9, 2016, in Wilmington, N.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Regrets, Donald Trump has a few

08/19/16 08:00AM

Ordinarily, when Donald Trump says something unexpected, he's managed to insult some new group of Americans. Last night in North Carolina, however, the Republican presidential hopeful surprised by doing largely the opposite: as NBC News' report noted, Trump "expressed regret and admitted wrong doing -- though it's unclear exactly for what."
"Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing," Trump said. "I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues."
Trump, who's been repeatedly caught making demonstrably false statements, added that he can sometimes be "too honest."
The candidate's comments were scripted in advance and read from a teleprompter.
All of this, to be sure, was unexpected. Especially in light of this week's campaign staff shake-up, Trump seemed likely to be even more combative and inflammatory, insisting this week he doesn't want to change or "pivot."
With this in mind, was last night's apparent contrition evidence of a candidate ready to shift to a general-election mode? I'd recommend caution before buying into the overly convenient narrative.


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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