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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally, Aug. 16, 2016, at the Ziegler Building at the Washington County Fair Park & Conference Center in West Bend, Wis. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Ahead of briefing, Trump wary of intelligence agencies

08/18/16 08:00AM

Donald Trump received his first briefing yesterday from U.S. intelligence officials, though there's a limit as to how much information he received. As NBC News' report explained, the briefing, which lasted about two hours, described "how U.S. intelligence agencies see a variety of global issues," but did not describe "espionage methods, covert operations or nuclear secrets." Rachel's segment from Tuesday explored this in more detail.
 
What we don't know is how engaged the Republican presidential hopeful was during the meeting. As TPM reported yesterday, Trump said ahead of the briefing that he's wary of the U.S. intelligence community and doesn't necessarily consider the agencies reliable.
During an interview with Fox News, Trump was asked about his upcoming intelligence briefing and whether he does "trust intelligence."
 
"Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. Look what's happened over the last ten years. Look what's happened over the years. It's been catastrophic," he said in response. "And in fact, I won't use some of the people that are sort of your standards, you know, just use them, use them, use them. Very easy to use them, but I won't use them because they've made such bad decisions."
At a certain level, some criticisms of the CIA, for example, are understandable. Credible critics of the intelligence community can point to real and important missteps, and no one should suggest the agencies are beyond reproach.
 
But let's not miss the forest for the trees here. Donald J. Trump, if elected president, is inclined to ignore "the people that have been doing it for our country." The "it" in that sentence refers to the collection of sensitive security information provided to American policymakers.
 
The next question is obvious: if the GOP candidate doesn't want to rely on U.S. intelligence agencies, who exactly would Trump listen to when making critical security decisions?
Clinton takes lesson from GOP's Kerry smears

Clinton takes lesson from GOP's Kerry smears

08/17/16 09:10PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the Hillary Clinton campaign rebutting a bizarre and baseless conspiracy theory dragged from the fringe right by Donald Trump and Fox News, perhaps because of how normalized conspiracy theories from the right were seen to damage John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 8.17.16

08/17/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Louisiana: "The forecast for Louisiana on Wednesday was for more rain -- and more pain. With the state still swamped by historic flooding that has left at least 11 dead and displaced tens of thousands more, the National Weather Service warned the deadly deluge was far from done."
 
* A striking related detail: "The country has not seen a natural disaster this bad since 2012, when Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast, according to the American Red Cross."
 
* California: "More than 82,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders Wednesday as a fast-moving fire near San Bernardino, Calif., roared across 15,000 acres in several directions."
 
* Quite a shift: "A prominent Iranian lawmaker has confirmed that Russia is using Iran's Shahid Nojeh Air Base for airstrikes in Syria.... The announcement from Russia marks the first significant stationing of its troops in Iran since World War II."
 
* NSA: "Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the National Security Agency's elite group of hackers have been revealed in recent days, a development that could pose severe consequences for the spy agency's operations and the security of government and corporate computers."
 
* Defection: "A high-ranking diplomat from North Korea who was based in Britain has defected to South Korea, officials in Seoul said Wednesday, making him one of the most prominent North Koreans in recent years to abandon their reclusive government."

* Good call: "The Obama administration on Tuesday issued aggressive new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. The rules are expected to achieve better fuel efficiency and a bigger cut in pollution than the version that was first proposed last year."
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump visits McLanahan Corporation headquarters, Aug. 12, 2016, in Hollidaysburg, Pa. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters)

What to expect from the new Team Trump

08/17/16 12:51PM

For the third time in five months, Donald Trump has overhauled his presidential campaign's leadership team. As of this morning, Kellyanne Conway is now the Republican candidate's campaign manager -- a post that was apparently vacant since June -- and Stephen Bannon, of Breitbart News notoriety, is Trump's campaign CEO.
 
But the closer one looks at why this shake-up happened, the harder it is to believe. Consider this tidbit, for example, from the Washington Post's reporting:
While Trump respects [campaign chairman Paul] Manafort, the aides said, he has grown to feel "boxed in" and "controlled" by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus intensely on rousing his voters at rallies and through media appearances.
 
Trump's turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primary with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski's mantra was "let Trump be Trump" and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture, the aides said.
That's right, as far as the Republican nominee is concerned, Americans have seen a constrained version of Donald J. Trump in recent months. This has been the GOP candidate at his most guarded.
 
In other words, with his new team in place, Trump intends to stop pulling his punches and start being even more outlandish in the presidential campaign's final 12 weeks.
 
It's not quite an acceptance of defeat, but it's something similar: a decision to stop caring what might appeal to a broad national audience and start doing what makes the candidate feel good.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.17.16

08/17/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* In Florida, the nation's largest battleground state, the latest Monmouth University poll found Hillary Clinton with a nine-point lead over Donald Trump, 48% to 39%. That margin includes third-party candidates in the mix.
 
* The same poll found Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leading Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), 48% to 43%.
 
* For all the talk about an inevitable Trump "pivot" to expand his appeal for the general election, the Republican nominee told WKBT-TV in Wisconsin that's not likely to happen. "I don't want to change," he said. "Everyone talks about 'oh are you gonna pivot?' I don't want to pivot."
 
* Four years ago, Mitt Romney won Texas by about 16 points. According to a PPP poll in the Lone Star State released yesterday, Trump only leads Clinton in Texas by six, 44% to 38%.
 
* During the GOP presidential primaries, Sen. Cory Gardner (R) described Trump as a "buffoon." This week, the conservative senator nevertheless announced his support for the Republican ticket.
 
* For some reason, Trump continues to use his social-media accounts to promote polls that show him losing.
 
* With two weeks remaining before Arizona's Senate primary, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, taking on Sen. John McCain in a Republican contest, has now picked up endorsements from two GOP House members.
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Penn., Aug. 12, 2016. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters)

Middle East takes note of Trump's conspiracy theories

08/17/16 11:00AM

In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Cairo for some diplomatic talks when her motorcade was confronted with angry protesters. An unfortunate scene unfolded, with people throwing shoes and tomatoes at the U.S. delegation.
 
What was the protest all about? The protesters had apparently heard conspiracy theories from American extremists, who said the Obama administration "harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda" and backs the Muslim Brotherhood. It wasn't in any way true, of course, but Republicans like Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert said it, the comments were picked up by U.S. skeptics in the Middle East, and it wasn't long before many confused people came to believe the nonsense, unaware of the GOP lawmakers' lack of credibility.
 
"I guarantee you nobody in Egypt really knows who Louie Gohmert is or what he's about," said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained in 2013. "So they could very well point to this and say 'Look! He's a member of Congress. This must be serious. There must be something to it.'"
 
Now, of course, there's a related problem that takes the entire dynamic to the next level. The problem's name is Donald Trump.
 
In the New York Times yesterday, there was an interesting piece from Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and at the Center on Law and Security at N.Y.U.'s School of Law, and Daniel Benaim, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. They made the point that when the Republican presidential hopeful shares one of his many conspiracy theories -- including his recent assertion that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are the original "founders" of ISIS -- Americans aren't the only folks who notice.
Public opinion has a profound impact on American interests in the Middle East and around the world. The United States' military strategy against the Islamic State depends on mobilizing local actors to lead the fight on the ground. Imagine how much harder that is when people have been led to believe that President Obama created the group. Or think of the added danger to American troops in Iraq, where Shiite militant groups who are fighting the Islamic State remain deeply wary of the United States military.
 
Just this weekend, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly endorsed Mr. Trump's remarks: "This is an American presidential candidate. This was spoken on behalf of the Republican Party. He has data and documents."
I can think of a few GOP lawmakers who likely winced after seeing that "spoken on behalf of the Republican Party" comment.

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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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