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Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.8.16

07/08/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Hillary Clinton was scheduled to campaign in Scranton, Pennsylvania, today with Vice President Biden, but in light of the Dallas shootings, the event has been postponed. Donald Trump's campaign also canceled its events scheduled for today.
 
* A new national poll from the Pew Research Center shows Clinton leading Trump, 51% to 42%, in a head-to-head match-up. Adding Libertarian Gary Johnson to the mix, the poll still found Clinton ahead by nine percentage points -- which is larger than President Obama's leads at this point in the race in 2008 and 2012.
 
* Though Bernie Sanders generally talks about his desire to see Trump lose, yesterday the senator went a step further, saying, "We have got to do everything that we can to defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton." Sanders will reportedly endorse Clinton next week.
 
* Newt Gingrich was asked on Fox last night if he'd accept the vice presidential nomination if Trump were to offer it.  "I would feel compelled to serve the country," he responded.
 
* The DCCC will begin airing new ads next week, tying House Republicans to Trump in a "seven-figure television and online ad campaign." The ads are already available here and here.
 
* Ted Cruz still hasn't endorsed Trump, but the Texas senator nevertheless accepted an invitation yesterday to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Texas Republican raises eyebrows with response to mass shooting

07/08/16 11:20AM

About a month ago, on the heels of the mass shooting in Orlando, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) raised a few eyebrows by arguing that the murders weren't related to the LGBT community. "It was a young person's nightclub, I'm told," the congressman said -- overlooking the fact that Pulse described itself as "the hottest gay bar in Orlando."
 
Nearly five weeks later, Sessions told MSNBC, in the wake of the murder of five police officers in Dallas, that he was concerned that officers "let their guard down."
 
Perhaps realizing that the comment didn't make any sense, his office clarified soon after that the Texas Republican "did not have all of the facts of the case" when he made the comment.
 
When MSNBC asked about how a Trump administration might handle these kinds of situations, Sessions initially talked about singling out the most effective police departments as a model for others to follow, before taking his answer in a stranger direction.
"This is done not through America having a terrible unemployment problem. It's done through having a vibrant, strong nation where people help each other. And I think Donald Trump will bring 10 million new jobs to America. And we desperately need GDP growth and jobs."
I watched the clip a few times, trying to make heads or tails of this, but I'm still not sure what Sessions is trying to say. Putting aside the fact that Trump lacks a credible economic plan -- one recent independent estimate found that Trump's economic vision would likely create heavy job losses -- the truth is, the job market has already improved dramatically under President Obama. Since the end of the recession, the U.S. economy has created 14 million jobs, but that hasn't stopped mass shootings.
 
Addressing societal challenges like these is incredibly difficult, but to assume that Trump has a solution, and that Trump can lower unemployment beyond Obama's successes, is a mistake.
Government Shutdown Looms on Capitol Hill

Florida Democrat latest member of Congress to face indictment

07/08/16 10:39AM

For criminal-defense attorneys in D.C., this has been one heck of a Congress.

As we first reported a year ago, then-Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) got the ball rolling with an indictment and conviction. Two months later, then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) was forced to resign and still faces the threat of possible criminal charges. A month after that, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted. A month after that, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was indicted and later sentenced to prison.

And two months after that, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) was added to the list, charged in a 29-count indictment, with charges that included bribery, fraud, and money laundering. As we discussed a month ago, Fattah has since been convicted.

And now, the Orlando Sentinel reports that another current lawmaker has been indicted.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown has been indicted on public corruption charges and is expected to arraigned in federal court in Jacksonville on Friday, two U.S. law enforcement officials said Thursday.
 
The charges are related to the Jacksonville Democratic lawmaker's involvement with an unregistered charity in Virginia. The officials, citing grand jury secrecy rules because the indictment remains sealed, declined to provide the exact nature of the charges.
The reports of the allegations against Brown have not yet been independently confirmed by NBC News, though if the congresswoman is arraigned today, it will remove all doubt.
 
Politico's report added, "It had been known publicly since March that Brown, a Democrat, was facing a Department of Justice Investigation related to 'fraudulent activities,' and whether or not she improperly solicited charitable donations and misused campaign funds. DOJ officials asked the House Ethics Committee to halt a separate investigation while they conducted their probe."
 
It's discouraging to realize the number of indicted lawmakers from this Congress exceeds the number of important bills passed into law during this Congress.
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump waves after meeting with House Republican members in Washington, D.C., July 7, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Trump creates more controversy with congressional GOP meetings

07/08/16 09:49AM

Donald Trump's presidential campaign has a variety of hurdles to overcome, including his lack of support from congressional Republicans. The more the presumptive GOP nominee gets himself into trouble, the less Republicans on Capitol Hill step up to defend him.
 
And with that in mind, Trump spent some time with lawmakers yesterday, addressing House and Senate Republicans separately, hoping to cultivate a stronger relationship. How'd that go? The closed-door discussions appear to have gone in a very Trump-like direction.
Donald Trump's attempts to win over skeptical Congressional Republicans grew tense Thursday when Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake confronted the presumptive GOP presidential nominee over his incendiary comments about Sen. John McCain, according to a source familiar with the closed-door meeting.
 
Flake stood up for his fellow Arizona lawmaker by introducing himself to Trump as "the other senator from Arizona, the one who didn't get captured," referring to Trump's criticism of McCain's time as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
 
"Listen, I'm not part of this never Trump movement," Flake said, according to the source, "But I'm in a very uncomfortable position where I can't support you yet."
According to the Washington Post's account, Trump was the one who picked the fight, complaining about Flake's criticisms. After their heated back and forth, Trump reportedly threatened to go after Flake publicly and ensure his defeat in 2016 -- which led the Arizona senator to remind Trump that he's not actually going to be on the ballot in 2016.
 
While the gathering was not recorded, and we can't say with certainty exactly who said what, Flake later told NBC News' Hallie Jackson on camera that the story of the meeting "was reported accurately." He added that his confrontation with Trump "was pretty intense."
 
Remember, this was supposed to be a nice, friendly chat among Republicans, helping the party feel more comfortable with its presidential candidate. But even an informal get-together between GOP senators and Trump can be the basis for a new controversy.
 
After the meeting, several GOP senators were seen "emerging from an alley next to the gas station," suggesting they weren't exactly proud of their attendance at the Republican gathering.
 
Wait, it gets worse.

U.S. job market bounces back in a big way

07/08/16 08:58AM

At this point a month ago, Americans were confronted with the worst jobs report since the end of the Great Recession. The question was obvious: were the numbers an outlier or the start of a serious downturn in the U.S. job market?
 
This morning that question was answered in a rather emphatic way. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the U.S. economy added 287,000 jobs in June, making it the strongest month for job creation so far this year and the best overall since October 2015. The unemployment rate ticked higher to 4.9%, but that's not necessarily bad news: more people entered the job market last month, which affects the broader rate.
 
For the first time in over eight years, we've been at or below 5% unemployment for nine consecutive months. What's more, the dramatic rebound from May to June represents the largest one-month shift in employment since before the recession began.
 
As for the revisions: April's job totals were revised up, from 123,000 to 144,000, while May's were revised down, from 38,000 to an even more woeful 11,000. Combined, that's a modest loss of 6,000.
 
Over the last 12 months, the overall economy has created 2.45 million new jobs, which is a pretty healthy number, and if the current pace keeps up, we're on track to create more than 2 million jobs in 2016, despite May's dreadful totals. What's more, June was the 69th consecutive month of positive job growth, which is the longest on record.
Dallas police work near the scene where eleven Dallas police officers were shot and five have now died on July 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty)

Police murders bring a 'nightmare' to life in Dallas

07/08/16 08:00AM

It was already a tragic week in the United States, with the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota in police shootings. These tragedies prompted a series of protests in communities nationwide last night, nearly all of which were held peacefully and without incident.
 
In Dallas, however, terror struck. NBC News reported:
Downtown Dallas was in lockdown early Friday after snipers shot 11 officers, five fatally, during a protest over deadly police shootings of black men elsewhere.
 
Three people were in custody and a fourth suspect exchanged gunfire with authorities in a parking garage at El Centro Community College into the morning, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said.
 
NBC Dallas Fort-Worth reported the fourth suspect had been "neutralized" at around 2:45 a.m. (3:45 ET). Earlier, he had told police negotiators that "the end is coming" and that "there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown," Brown said.
As is always the case after a tragedy of this scale, many of the details are still coming together, but reports indicate that multiple snipers targeted law enforcement last night during a peaceful protest. This morning, extensive sweeps of the downtown area are still underway. [Update: As Friday progressed, local accounts now suggest only one gunman may have been responsible for the slayings.]
 
While the casualty count may yet change, this was the deadliest attack on American law enforcement since 9/11.
 
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said, "Our worst nightmare happened."
 
President Obama, in Poland for a NATO conference, spoke to Rawlings directly this morning, and condemned the "vicious, callous and despicable attack."
 
The president went on to tell reporters, "There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement. Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done." Referring to law enforcement officials, Obama added, "Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices they make for us.... When people say 'black lives matter,' it doesn't mean that blue lives don't matter."
House GOP confronts Comey over Clinton mails

House GOP confronts Comey over Clinton mails

07/07/16 09:41PM

Steve Kornacki shares highlights from FBI director James Comey's testimony before Congress as he was confronted by Republican House members upset over the outcome of the Hillary Clinton investigation. watch

New police shootings put nation on edge

New police shootings put nation on edge

07/07/16 09:00PM

Pastor Danny Givens, the pastor to Philando Castile's family, and Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, talks with Steve Kornacki about the recent spate of shootings of African-American men by police officers. watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 7.7.16

07/07/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Minnesota: "Outrage continued to grow Thursday over the fatal shooting of a Minnesota man whose girlfriend captured the aftermath of the incident on live video. Philando Castile's grief-stricken girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, claims he was shot five times during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of the Twin Cities."
 
* Related news: "An 'appalled' Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday that police wouldn't have shot and killed Philando Castile if he'd been white and called for justice 'with the greatest sense of time urgency.'"
 
* Baton Rouge: "In the end, Alton Sterling lay nearly spread-eagle on the pavement outside the Triple S Food Mart early Tuesday, a wide bloodstain on the front of his red shirt as a police officer called on his radio, 'Shots fired. Shots fired,' then shouted an expletive. Moments before, Sterling, pinned to the ground, had been struggling with two Baton Rouge police officers on top of him. Then at least six shots rang out."
 
* A statement from President Obama: "All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. We've seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who've suffered such a painful loss."
 
* That's that: "No charges will be brought against Hillary Clinton after the FBI found there's no evidence she committed a crime by using a personal email server while she was secretary of state, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday."
 
* In advance of Jobs Day tomorrow: "The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, offering further confirmation that the labor market remains on solid footing despite tepid job gains in May.... Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 70 straight weeks, the longest stretch since 1973."
 
* United Kingdom: "Britain on Thursday moved a step closer to having its second female prime minister as the contest to lead the country's ruling Conservative party narrowed to two women. Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom emerged as the favorites in a ballot of lawmakers that was triggered by David Cameron's resignation over last month's Brexit vote."
FBI Director James B. Comey listens to a question from a reporter during a media conference in San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 27, 2014. (Photo by Ben Margot/AP)

GOP accidentally does Clinton a favor with James Comey hearing

07/07/16 04:11PM

Congressional Republicans had a nice, simple morality tale to tell. The main narrative was a little thin -- any story built around email server protocols is going to be dry -- but GOP lawmakers had clearly identified protagonists and antagonists. Just as importantly, they'd convinced much of the media that their tale was as important as it was riveting.
 
Today, however, Republicans lost the plot.
 
On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that while Hillary Clinton's email server protocols were careless, no sane prosecutor would find her actions worthy of an indictment. House Republicans, who were counting on an indictment to improve the GOP's election chances, were apoplectic and hastily threw together a hearing, forcing Comey to go to Capitol Hill to explain himself.
 
What Republicans didn't realize is the degree to which they were doing Clinton and Democrats a favor. NBC News reported on the proceedings:
FBI director James Comey stuck to his guns Thursday and defended his decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
 
Summoned to appear before the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Comey insisted again that Clinton "did not break the law" and that there was not enough evidence to charge her with a crime. "That's just the way it is," Comey said.
I honestly have no idea what Republicans thought they were going to achieve with this spectacle. Did GOP lawmakers expect Comey to declare, "Now that you've yelled at me for a few hours, I've changed my mind and now support criminal charges against Clinton"?
 
Before the hearing Republicans had a series of fairly specific talking points: Clinton lied to the FBI; she created a national security threat; she plays by a different set of rules than everyone else. But instead of simply repeating those talking points, GOP lawmakers invited the FBI director -- a lifelong Republican, whom GOP officials have repeatedly praised for his honesty -- to testify about how wrong the party's arguments are.
 
"We have no basis to believe she lied to the FBI," Comey said. Asked about Clinton benefiting from a different set of rules, he responded, "It's not true." Asked about classified emails, Comey said there were only three messages -- each of which were not properly marked classified when she received them.
 
In other words, congressional Republicans had the bright idea of holding a hearing with a credible witness who was perfectly happy to explain to them how wrong they are.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies during a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Paul Ryan, GOP settle on a new anti-Clinton scheme

07/07/16 02:51PM

For many years, once the national conventions wrap up, major-party presidential nominees have received high-level intelligence briefings ahead of the election. The goal is entirely practical: if someone is poised to possibly become president, it's important that they're up to speed and fully prepared on Inauguration Day.
 
This year, however, isn't a normal year, and several prominent figures -- some in intelligence agencies, some Bush/Cheney administration veterans -- have expressed concern about sharing sensitive information with Donald Trump. The man isn't exactly known for his careful restraint.
 
And it's against this backdrop that congressional Republicans have decided they don't want Hillary Clinton to have classified briefings, either.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says Hillary Clinton can't be trusted with classified information and is formally asking federal intelligence officials to deny the former secretary of State briefings during the fall campaign, a typical practice for both party's nominees.
 
In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper dated Wednesday and released on Thursday, Ryan wrote that the FBI's admonishment of Clinton this week over her lax email practices as secretary of state needs to carry repercussions.
It's not just the Speaker of the House who believes he's in a position to judge who should and shouldn't receive intelligence briefings -- Senate Republicans are making the same demands.
 
If I had to guess, I'd say GOP lawmakers don't actually care whether or not Clinton receives these pre-election briefings, and it's likely they don't believe their own talking points. Republicans are looking for a way to make headlines, and some GOP press secretaries probably argued that this stunt was the best way to keep the email story alive for another day or two.
 
But that doesn't change the fact that it's a pretty dumb pitch.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Sharonville Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 6, 2016. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Following odd tirade, is there 'something wrong with' Trump?

07/07/16 12:44PM

When Donald Trump initially went after Judge Gonzalo Curiel with racially charged criticisms, he created a controversy -- which he immediately made worse by re-emphasizing the same points, over and over again, in subsequent days. The Republican candidate was convinced there was nothing wrong with what he was saying, so he had no qualms about sticking to his offensive line.
 
We saw those same instincts on display last night in Ohio. NBC News reported:
Less than an hour after Attorney General Lynch recommended no charges against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump spoke at length about almost everything else.
 
What began as a point-by-point take down of the inconsistencies in the former secretary of state's statements about her server versus what was found by the FBI quickly devolved into a loop-the-loop of tangents, grievances and alternative headlines.
Trump wanted to talk about the anti-Semitic image in his recent tweet, and his belief that his campaign shouldn't have deleted his original message. Trump wanted to talk about the parts of Saddam Hussein's record he agrees with. Trump wanted to talk about how much he likes the Brexit policy he knows little about.
 
Trump wanted to accuse his critics of "racial profiling," a phrase the GOP candidate likes to use, though it's not clear he knows what it means. Trump wanted to list the various Jewish people he knows personally.
 
The Washington Post added this gem of a sentence: "At one point he also swatted at a mosquito, then pretended the bug was Clinton and spoke to it."
 
The Atlantic's James Fallows, watching this spectacle unfold, wrote, "It would be rash ever to declare Peak Trump. But really, there is something wrong with this man." MSNBC's Chris Hayes added, "I've been watching these now for 13 months ... and that was the most unhinged thing that I've seen from him. It was all over the place. It was like Charlie Sheen during his 'Winning' tour."
 
And then it got worse.

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