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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 9.7.16

09/07/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Videgaray helped arrange Trump's visit to Mexico: "Luis Videgaray, Mexico's finance minister and one of President Enrique Pena Nieto's closest allies, has resigned and been replaced by Jose Antonio Meade, the president announced on Wednesday."
 
* This can't continue: "A U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane had a close encounter with a Russian fighter that came within 10 feet of the aircraft as it flew in international airspace over the Black Sea. It is the latest encounter between the two militaries that American officials have labeled 'unsafe and unprofessional.'"
 
* Thank the ACA: "The number of uninsured people in the U.S. remained at a historic low in early 2016, according to a federal survey that found 8.6% of respondents without health coverage at the time of the interview. That translates to about 27.3 million people who lacked medical insurance when they were asked about it between January and March as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health Interview Survey."
 
* Louisiana: "Climate change has increased the likelihood of torrential downpours along the Gulf Coast like those that led to deadly floods in southern Louisiana last month, scientists said Wednesday."
 
* Syria: "The Obama administration has told Russia that it is at the end of its patience in trying to arrange a cease-fire in Syria, along with proposed joint U.S.-Russia counterterrorism operations, and that it expects a decision from Moscow in the next several days."
 
* It's September 2016 and in Republican politics, comments like these are still news: "Donald Trump's running mate, Mike Pence, on Wednesday said he accepts that President Obama was born in the U.S., something the GOP presidential nominee himself has shied away from discussing."
 
* Will senators be prepared to act or talk? "The Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations on Wednesday announced that it is opening an inquiry into recent surges in the price of EpiPens."
History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Trump discredits his own talking points on tax returns

09/07/16 03:33PM

Whenever the issue of his secret tax returns comes up, Donald Trump has a go-to answer: the Republican presidential candidate claims he's being audited by the IRS. If that's true -- and it's hard to say with certainty whether or not the audit is real -- it's not much of an excuse, since he could release the materials anyway, just as then-President Nixon did during his audit.
 
Nevertheless, Trump is sticking to his line, just as he did during a Fox News interview last night. "Just so you understand, I'm under audit," the GOP nominee said. "A routine audit. And when the audit's complete I'll release my returns. I don't know when that's gonna be. But when the audits complete I will release my returns."
 
Host Bill O'Reilly added, "But people say you can do it while being audited," which is true. Trump replied, "No one would recommend that."
 
True to form, the Republican candidate quickly tried to change the subject, turning the discussion into an attack against Hillary Clinton, though he may not have thought this one through.
"In the meantime, [Clinton] has 33,000 emails that she deleted. When is she going to release her emails? She probably knows how to find it. Let her release her emails, and I'll release my tax returns immediately."
As a factual matter, Trump is referring to personal messages that are long gone. There's no real point to the demands.
 
But even putting that aside, NBC News' First Read team noticed the more pressing problem: "That last line -- 'Let her release her emails, and I'll release my tax returns immediately' -- undermines the audit argument. It implies the audit isn't the real excuse."
A view of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse that houses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Washington.

Obama breaks new ground with Muslim judicial nominee

09/07/16 02:53PM

At first glance, this press statement from the White House yesterday seemed like a routine announcement: President Obama sent a new judicial nominee to the Senate for consideration. The nominee is an accomplished attorney, a Harvard Law grad, a partner at a prominent DC firm, and someone with the kind of background that qualifies him for the district court bench.
 
But just below the surface, Abid Riaz Qureshi's nomination is a little different than most.
Muslim-American groups are applauding President Barack Obama's nomination of a Washington lawyer to serve in U.S. District Court -- a move that could make him the first ever Muslim-American federal judge, according to advocates.
 
Muslim-American organizations hailed the historic announcement. "The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord," Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, said in a statement.
NBC News' report noted a striking detail: Muslim Americans have served as state judges, but not federal judges. Qureshi would be the first.
 
It's unlikely, however, that he'll get that opportunity, at least this year. It's not because of anti-Muslim sentiments on Capitol Hill -- as best as I can tell, no senator has denounced the president's nomination -- but because the Senate has effectively ended confirmation votes for the remainder of the Congress.
 
That said, nominating Qureshi raises his visibility and stature, and makes it that much more likely he'll be re-nominated in a future Democratic administration.
Ripped Donald Trump signs lay on the floor at a rally in Radford, Va., Feb. 29, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Why Trump focuses on corruption despite his many controversies

09/07/16 01:03PM

In a speech this afternoon, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of being "unstable" and "reckless." By all appearances, he wasn't trying to be ironic.
 
Indeed, projection at this point seems to be one of the foundations of Trump's campaign pitch. When he's accused of being overly cozy with Vladimir Putin government, the Republican accuses Hillary Clinton of being too friendly with Russia. When Trump is accused of racism, he calls Clinton a "bigot." When the GOP nominee's temperament is questioned, he lashes out at Clinton's temperament.
 
Four years ago, we talked about Mitt Romney and Republicans playing a bizarre game of "I'm rubber and you're glue," but Trump is taking the same dynamic to strange, new levels.
 
Arguably the most striking aspect of this is Trump's insistence on focusing on "corruption" as a central campaign theme, despite his unfortunate record of corruption. The New York Times reported today:
Mr. Trump's payment of a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service over [his improper campaign contribution to Florida's Pam Bondi] amounted to only the latest slap of his wrist in a decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.
 
In the 1980s, Mr. Trump was compelled to testify under oath before New York State officials after he directed tens of thousands of dollars to the president of the New York City Council through myriad subsidiary companies to evade contribution limits. In the 1990s, the Federal Election Commission fined Mr. Trump for exceeding the annual limit on campaign contributions by $47,050, the largest violation in a single year. And in 2000, the New York State lobbying commission imposed a $250,000 fine for Mr. Trump's failing to disclose the full extent of his lobbying of state legislators.
Writing in the Washington Post yesterday, Paul Waldman added, "[T]he truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has." Waldman put together a list of 12 corruption-related controversies surrounding the Republican presidential hopeful, each of which include credible allegations of serious wrongdoing.
 
In July, New York's Jon Chait added that Trump "may actually be the most corrupt presidential candidate ever."
Donald Trump speaks at a town hall event in Rochester, N.H. on Sept. 17, 2015. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

Trump has 'no idea' if birther theories alienate black voters

09/07/16 12:10PM

It's gone largely overlooked in the presidential race, but Donald Trump's first real foray into politics came during President Obama's first term, when the New York Republican helped lead the "birther" brigade. Trump not only embraced the racist conspiracy theory, he became one of its key boosters, bragging about having sent a team of investigators to Hawaii to uncover damaging information. (He was lying; no investigators were dispatched.)
 
Since launching his presidential campaign, however, Trump has largely ignored what used to be his signature issue. Fox's Bill O'Reilly broached the subject last night:
O'REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?
 
TRUMP: I don't know. I have no idea. I don't even talk about it anymore, Bill.... I guess with, maybe some. I don't know why. I really don't know why. But I don't think -- very few people, you are the first one that's brought that up in a while.
For the record, Trump fielded a question about this as recently as Monday -- the day before this O'Reilly interview. When the candidate said no one has brought up this issue "in a while," that clearly wasn't true.
 
Nevertheless, note that Trump isn't prepared to denounce his ridiculous embrace of a nonsensical conspiracy theory; he simply prefers not to "talk about it anymore."
 
Trump could acknowledge he was wrong, or perhaps show some kind of contrition, but that's clearly not his style. Instead, the Republican presidential nominee is left to say he has no idea why African-American voters might be bothered by Trump's promotion of a racist conspiracy theory.

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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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