As Rachel highlighted on last night's show, Wells Fargo chairman and chief executive John Stumpf visited with the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, and members seemed quite eager to rake him over the coals in response to the banking giant's recent scandal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in particular, went after Stumpf and urged him to resign.
The CEO's cool welcome hardly came as a surprise. We've been keeping an eye on the Wells Fargo controversy, uncovered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is obviously outlandish. The company was caught allegedly bilking consumers, enrolling customers in banking services without their permission, then charging them fees for accounts and services they neither sought nor authorized.
Several outlets noted that yesterday's hearing featured a rare display of bipartisanship. The Wall Street Journal, for example, reported that Senate Republicans, especially those up for re-election this year, weren't at all eager to defend Wells Fargo's alleged wrongdoing.
Republicans also took a tough stance, especially around the bank's "cross-selling" business model where consumers have more than one product or service with the firm. "This isn't cross-selling, this is fraud," said Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), referring to Wells Fargo employees setting up accounts for customers in products they didn't ask for or know about. "Wells Fargo executives [were] completely out of touch."
And at a certain level, this is as it should be. There's nothing partisan or ideological about financial industry corruption. Warren, Sen. Sherrod Brown, and other Democrats were in high dudgeon during yesterday's hearing, but it's a positive development that Toomey and other conservatives made no effort to let Stumpf and Wells Fargo off the hook.
There is, however, a catch in this case. As we discussed last week, Toomey may have said the right things yesterday, the Pennsylvania Republican has also said he doesn't want the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- the agency that identified Wells Fargo's misdeeds -- to exist. read more
Longtime readers may recall my favorite episode of "Cheers," aired back in 1993, featuring a city councilman who goes to the bar to ask voters for support. "Kevin Fogarty, City Council. I hope I have your vote on election day," he says. Frasier Crane asks, "And why exactly should I vote for you, Mr. Fogarty?"
The councilman replies, "Well, because I'm a hard worker, and I take a stand." Crane adds, "On what, exactly?" "The issues of the day," Fogarty replies. "Which are?" Crane asks. "The things that concern you and your family -- the most," the councilman concludes.
The folks in the bar thought this was a great answer, failing to notice that the candidate clearly had nothing of substance to say and was simply faking his way past the questions, hoping no one would notice.
I thought of the episode watching Donald Trump's new campaign ad, unveiled yesterday, which is titled, "Movement." For those who can't watch clips online, here's the voiceover script:
"It's a movement, not a campaign. Its leader: Donald Trump. Builder, businessman, success.
"Doing what others called impossible. Donald Trump's priority: you. Dreaming big, building bigger. United for family, jobs, country. Defined by freedom. Standing together, pushing ahead. Leaving the past behind. Changing our future. Together, we'll make America great again."
As the rhetoric continues, viewers see a series of not-so-subtle, all-caps words on screen: "Success," "Freedom," "Future," "Together," "Great."
If the election comes down to hollow, vague platitudes, Donald Trump has nothing to worry about.
But I'm also struck by Trump's belief that his candidacy constitutes a "movement." In fact, according to the Republican, this might be the greatest movement in the history of the United States. read more
Following the recent developments in New York and New Jersey, it was only a matter of time before we heard this.
[Donald Trump] celebrated catching bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami, who he called an "evil thug," and seemed to push for him to be tried as an enemy combatant. "We must also use whatever lawful methods are available to obtain information from the apprehended suspect to get information before it's no longer timely," Trump said. "And Congress should pass measures to ensure that foreign enemy combatants are treated as such. These are enemies. These are combatants."
This statement puts Trump in rare agreement with Sen. Lindsay Graham, who also pushed for the suspect to be tried as an enemy combatant. "Holding Rahami as an enemy combatant also allows us to question him about what attacks may follow in the future," Graham said in a statement.
As Rachel has explained on the show, the purpose of the designation is to deny suspects Miranda warnings and prevent the appointment of defense counsel -- despite, you know, the U.S. Constitution.
If this sounds familiar, there's a good reason for that: every time there's an incident like this, Lindsey Graham and his ideological allies almost reflexively roll out the "enemy combatant" argument. Unfortunately, the idea isn't improving with age.
The Boston Marathon bombing case is instructive given the circumstances. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- like Rahami -- was a naturalized American citizen, captured on American soil, accused of committing a crime in America. Graham, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and other Republicans immediately urged the Obama administration to label Tsarnaev an "enemy combatant."
The administration ignored the pleas and instead stuck to the rule of law and the American justice system -- and we now know that was the right decision. read more
There were some questions yesterday about whether or not former President George H.W. Bush really said he intends to vote for Hillary Clinton, but there are ample reasons to believe he did. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the original source of the news, confirmed the account to NBC News late yesterday.
What's more, by some accounts, Bush made his election plans clear to "a room of roughly 40 people," and the former president and his aides have made little effort to dispute the reports.
As of last night, Donald Trump's campaign certainly gave every indication that it believes the story to be true -- and went after H.W. Bush accordingly.
"If it is true that some of the Bushes are going to be supporting Hillary Clinton, then I think it really offers vindication for a lot of the tea party goers who felt like Republicans were starting to govern as Democrats," Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on Fox News's "The Kelly File."
"The establishment is going to stick with the establishment," she continued.
Pierson remarked on a situation where "you have Republicans in a record number turn out for Donald Trump and you have former leaders of the party just essentially slap them in the face."
Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, seemed to think the former president's age is worth emphasizing. "I respect the 92-year-old former president very much -- and his decision," Conway told CNN last night. "And I think Americans are very thankful to the Bush family for their service. That's his right." read more
Senator Elizabeth Warren explains to Rachel Maddow why it is important that Democrats re-take the Senate to give Hillary Clinton the confirmation and regulatory support she will need if she is elected president. watch
Senator Elizabeth Warren talks with Rachel Maddow about the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Committee and why she's waiting for an answer from the FBI on why there has been no public explanation of their lack of criminal referrals. watch
* The latest out of New York: "When bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was captured, he was carrying a notebook containing a 'rambling' missive that praised a slain Al-Qaeda leader and mentioned several deadly terror attacks, NBC News learned Tuesday."
* Related news: "The Rahami family first appeared on the FBI's radar two years ago after police responded on Aug. 25, 2014 to a report that he'd stabbed his brother in the left leg."
* Sound advice: "President Obama on Tuesday called for a 'course correction' in the march to an integrated world, saying the gains made in recent decades were threatened by 'uncertainty and unease and strife.' Mr. Obama, making his valedictory address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, painted a picture of nations struggling with economic inequality, sectarian conflict and rising nationalism."
* Oklahoma: "Video footage released Monday showed Tulsa police shooting an unarmed man to death on Friday night after he approached his SUV with his arms raised."
* Capitol Hill: "Senator Elizabeth Warren pulled no punches as the disgraced CEO of Wells Fargo was grilled on Capitol Hill Tuesday for his part in the bank's opening of millions of phony accounts without customers' permission."
* Texas: "A federal judge sided with the Department of Justice after it accused Texas of violating a court-ordered agreement to soften the state's voter ID law, which an appeals court previously ruled discriminatory."
* Remember the Jesse Benton case? "The chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential bid was sentenced Tuesday to probation and home confinement rather than prison, and two other top aides were awaiting their sentences for a scheme to cover up campaign payments to a former Iowa state senator who agreed to endorse their boss."
* An investigation worth watching: "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how Exxon Mobil Corp. has valued its assets in the face of the current plunge in oil prices -- and how it estimates their future worth in a world of increasing climate change regulations, according to people familiar with the matter."
* Quite an editorial from the Detroit Free Press: "Punitive. Self-serving. Cowardly. There's no other way to describe the latest revelation about the State of Michigan's unprecedented and irresponsible actions concerning the City of Flint: that this spring -- at the direction of Gov. Rick Snyder, and with the support of GOP legislators -- the state barred the city from suing it, without approval by a state-appointed board." read more
Ex-Christie spox re: @tomamoran: “Hate that fucker, I want to beat him with a lead pipe..That would put everyone on notice” #Bridgegatetrial
Just when it seemed the controversy surrounding the Donald J. Trump Foundation couldn't get any worse, the Washington Post's David Fahrenthold published new revelations this morning that, if true, suggest serious wrongdoing.
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire's for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump's charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against "self-dealing" -- which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
This is hardly the first controversy surrounding Trump's charitable foundation, but it may be the most damaging for one straightforward reason: it doesn't require a lot of explanation. As Josh Barro put it, the summary fits in a sentence: "Donald Trump took money other people gave his charity and used it to pay his businesses' fines."
Not to put too fine a point on this, but what's being described here sounds an awful lot like a slush fund.
The issue of "self-dealing" came up a bit last week, when we learned that Trump allegedly used foundation money to buy a giant portrait of himself, which was apparently then sent to one of Trump's golf resorts. As Fahrenthold explained, "If Trump did not give the painting to a charity -- or find a way to use it for charitable purposes -- he may have violated IRS rules against 'self-dealing,' which prohibit nonprofit leaders from spending charity money on themselves."
But today's story takes the issue quite a bit further, raising the possibility that Trump routinely used foundation money -- funds that often came from other people, intended for charitable purposes -- to pay off settlements when his business enterprises faced lawsuits.
The obvious question, of course, is whether or not it was legal for Trump to use charitable money to pay off legal settlements from for-profit businesses. The Post's report said Trump's alleged practices "may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy." read more
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* According to this week's NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by five, 50% to 45%, among likely voters in a four-way match-up. Last week, Clinton was ahead by four.
* Clinton turned her attention directly to younger voters yesterday, with a speech in Philadelphia and a new op-ed at mic.com on "what millennials have taught me."
* The Commission on Presidential Debates announced yesterday that the topics for next week's debate will be "America's Direction," "Achieving Prosperity," and "Securing America."
* Republican mega-donors Joe Ricketts and Sheldon Adelson are opening their deep pockets for the GOP right now in ways that Democrats should probably find alarming.
* Speaking of campaign finance, some members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus are refusing to donate to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
* In case there were any doubts about Sen. Roy Blunt (R) being vulnerable in Missouri, note that the National Republican Senatorial Committee made its first ad buy on his behalf this week, and "more ads are on the way."
* The latest Monmouth University poll shows Trump ahead of Clinton in Georgia by only three points, 45% to 42%, despite Georgia's traditional status as a "red" state.
* And speaking of competitive Southern states, a new Elon poll shows Trump leading Clinton in North Carolina by the narrowest of margins, 44% to 43%. read more
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.