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Trump already squirming on primary principles

Trump already squirming on primary principles

05/11/16 08:59PM

Rachel Maddow notes that no sooner has Donald Trump eliminated the competition for the Republican presidential nomination, than he has begun to soften his stance on familiar campaign refrains: calling his Muslim ban "just a suggestion," planning fundraisers instead of "self-funding," and even making up excuses to avoid... watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 5.11.16

05/11/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Iraq: "A car bomb ripped through a commercial area in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 63 people in an attack that was swiftly claimed by ISIS. Two other bombings in the Iraqi capital later killed 28 others, authorities said. The initial blast occurred in a crowded outdoor market in the predominantly Shiite district of Sadr City and also wounded 85 people."
 
* Texas: "A 2013 fertilizer plant blast in Texas that killed 15 people and leveled hundreds of homes was caused by a 'criminal act,' federal officials said Wednesday. The findings were revealed in a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation into the origin of the deadly fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17, 2013, in the rural town of West."
 
* Brazil: "After a chaotic couple of days, Brazil's Senate votes Wednesday on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, who is charged with using state funds to fill budget gaps."
 
* Tom Cotton loses this round: "The Senate on Wednesday rejected a Republican amendment that had renewed tensions over the Iran nuclear deal and threatened to derail chamber leaders' efforts to pass spending bills this year."
 
* In geo-political terms, there are few places on the planet as interesting as these waters: "A U.S. warship sailed within 12 miles of one China's largest artificial islands Tuesday, part of a continuing effort by the Pentagon to demonstrate that the United States remains undeterred by the rapid Chinese military buildup in the South China Sea."
 
* Zika: "Brazilian researchers studying the Zika virus say they've found evidence it may have evolved into a new form that's more likely to damage brain cells and cause birth defects."
 
* That's a lot of money: "U.S. multinational companies are saving $100 billion a year by shifting their profits overseas to lower their tax bills, according to a study released Tuesday that found that corporate tax-dodging is a bigger problem than previously estimated."
In this May 19, 2006 file photo, Ted Nugent performs during the opening ceremony of the National Rifle Association annual convention in Milwaukee.

NRA's Ted Nugent sparks yet another ugly controversy

05/11/16 04:02PM

About four years ago at this time, Ted Nugent, a musician, reality-show personality, and National Rifle Association board member, was doing his best to help Mitt Romney get elected. Appearing at the NRA's national convention, Nugent said, "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.... We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?"
 
He went on to say, "It isn't the enemy that ruined America. It's good people who bent over and let the enemy in. If the coyote's in your living room pissing on your couch, it's not the coyote's fault. It's your fault for not shooting him."
 
The comments, not surprisingly, generated a Secret Service investigation.
 
Four years later, Nugent has a new target, but he appears to have learned very little. Media Matters noted this week:
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who will deliver a speech at the NRA's annual meeting this month, shared a fake video that depicts Hillary Clinton being graphically murdered by Bernie Sanders with a handgun during a presidential debate.
 
In a May 10 post on his Facebook page, Nugent shared a video with the descriptions "Bernie Sanders destroys Hillary Clinton in debate on Vermont gun laws" and "Bernie Sanders absolutely killed Hillary over this issue."
The video takes footage from a recent debate between Clinton and Sanders, but it's manipulated to show Sanders shooting Clinton in the chest -- complete with an animated blood spurt.
 
Just to be clear, Nugent does not appear to have created the video, but he helped disseminate it through social media, and he endorsed it with his own poorly written message: "I got your guncontrol right here bitch!"
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts on May 2, 2016 in Carmel, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Trump prepared to keep tax returns hidden from public

05/11/16 12:42PM

In the modern era, major-party presidential nominees are expected to make certain disclosures, just as a matter of course. Candidates for the nation's highest office are expected to release information related to their personal health and public scrutiny of candidates' tax returns is a given.
 
In December, Donald Trump more or less met the first of these two tests. His campaign released an unintentionally hilarious letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who claimed he's been Trump's personal physician since 1980. The physician insisted the Republican candidate's "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary" and his recent lab tests results were "astonishingly excellent." Bornstein added, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
 
And what of this fine physical specimen's tax returns? The Associated Press reported this morning:
Despite pressure, the billionaire also doesn't expect to release his tax returns before November, citing an ongoing audit of his finances. He said he will release them after the audit ends. But he said that he wouldn't overrule his lawyers and instruct them to release his returns if the audit hasn't concluded by November.
 
"There's nothing to learn from them," Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. He also has said he doesn't believe voters are interested.
I can't speak to what voters may or may not find interesting, but if the AP report is correct, it appears Trump will be the first major-party nominee in the modern era to simply refuse to disclose his tax returns. Mitt Romney spent months delaying disclosure and making excuses, but in his 2012 race, even he eventually released his 2011 returns and a topline summary, including his effective tax rate, for the previous 20 years.
 
Trump, in contrast, is prepared to move forward with no disclosure in this area at all, prompting all kinds of questions about what, exactly, the Republican may be hiding from the public. Is he far less wealthy than he claims to be? Has most of his income come by way of television, rather than the purported success of his business?

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 5.11.16

05/11/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* In a bit of a surprise, Donald Trump now says he'd be delighted if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) stayed on as chairman of the Republican National Convention.
 
* On a related note, Trump told the Associated Press that he's narrowed his list of possible running mates to "five or six people." He didn't rule out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who was tapped this week to head Trump's transition planning.
 
* As for the process of narrowing this list of "five or six people" to one, the vetting process for Team Trump will reportedly be led by Corey Lewandowski, the former campaign manager.
 
* Reports that Ben Carson would lead the VP search committee were incorrect: the former candidate reportedly left the vetting team this week.
 
* Though Oregon is expected to be one of Bernie Sanders' strongest states in the closing weeks of the Democratic presidential race, a new statewide poll actually shows Clinton leading the senator in Oregon, 48% to 33%. It's hard to know whether or not this is an outlier, since there have been so few other polls in the state.
 
* Though ostensibly still neutral, Vice President Biden said yesterday that he's "confident" Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, adding, "and I feel confident she'll be the next president."
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at La Escuelita School in Oakland, Calif., May 6, 2016. (Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP)

Hillary Clinton aims high on child care

05/11/16 11:21AM

When it comes to the key issues of the 2016 presidential race, familiar political staples lay the foundation for much of the discourse. But as the Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn reported yesterday, Hillary Clinton appears eager to add child care to the list of dominant issues.
The most concrete part of the agenda, first reported by The Huffington Post, is a pair of narrow but potentially important proposals. One would bolster a highly regarded "home visiting" program designed to help low-income children at risk of emotional, intellectual, and physical harm. If Clinton has her way, the program, known as the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative, would reach twice as many children as it does today.
 
The other initiative would seek to boost pay for child-care workers, as a way to improve retention and attract educators with stronger qualifications. Clinton will call this the RAISE initiative, for "Respect And Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators," and it will be based on successful pilot programs now operating in several states.
As Cohn added, Clinton also intends to cap family expenses for child care at 10% of annual income. When costs exceed this limit, Clinton "would use a combination of subsidized child care and tax credits."
 
Though many of the relevant financing details have not yet been released -- the Democrat's campaign said the policy would continue to be fleshed out in the coming months -- Clinton made the pitch at a Kentucky event that her ambitious plan is part of a real pro-family agenda.
 
"It's time to face up to the reality of what family life is like today and to support families," Clinton said at a Lexington-based social-services center.
 
The New Republic added, "The plan closely resembles a policy proposal published last fall by the left-leaning Center for American Progress, which has close ties to the Clinton campaign. Earlier in the primaries, Hillary also called for universal pre-kindergarten education that would make preschool available to every 4-year-old in the country."
 
The punch-line, however, comes when comparing Clinton's plan to her Republican rival's approach to the same issue.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Trump's tax-cut flip-flop turns out to be a mirage

05/11/16 10:44AM

I've lost count of how many reports I've seen the past few days insisting that Donald Trump "flip-flopped" on tax breaks for the wealthy. It even came up during the Republican's discussion last night with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. From the transcript via Lexis Nexis:
O'REILLY: I was a little upset because my taxes are going to go up if you win. I'm going to be paying more now.
 
TRUMP: That is wrong. No, no, it was incorrectly. If you read the "Wall Street Journal" front-page today, they covered it exactly correct. I am going -- I have the biggest tax cut of anybody running by far and that includes the 16 [other Republican candidates] that are vanquished. Okay? And nobody even came close.
The GOP candidate, pushing back against several days' worth of reporting, once again reiterated his plan to reduce tax rates for "everybody." Trump said he personally wouldn't mind paying a little more, but that's not his plan. He added last night, "The question was asked, 'Would I mind paying more?' I wouldn't mind. But the fact is that everybody is going to be paying less [under the Trump plan]."
 
Over the weekend, Trump said about taxes on the wealthy, "On my plan they're going down. But by the time it's negotiated, they'll go up." The final part of that quote led many in the media to pounce, saying the candidate now plans to raise taxes on the wealthy.
 
But that's not at all what he meant. As we discussed on Monday, when Trump talks about being open to taxes going "up" for the rich, he's talking about changes relative to his written proposal. It's a reference to the negotiations he expects to have with Congress, not a change from the status quo. He was explicit on this point on Monday morning, explaining, "Now, if I increase it on the wealthy, they're still going to pay less than they pay now. I'm not talking about increasing from this point. I'm talking about increasing from my tax proposal."
 
What's more, Politico reports today that the Trump campaign has reached out to some far-right economists to "tweak" his current tax plan -- while ensuring that tax breaks for the wealthy remain a key provision of the blueprint.
 
If you thought Trump flip-flopped on tax policy this week, I'm afraid you got taken for a ride.
The RNC's graphics light up the Quicken Loans Arena, who will host the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Bill Clark/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/ZUMA)

Corporations still 'wary' of sponsoring Republican convention

05/11/16 10:00AM

We learned a couple of months ago that corporate sponsors of the Republican National Convention, which have been common for decades, is proving to be problematic in 2016. Not only are progressive groups pressing business leaders to steer clear, but corporations themselves, fearing possible violence at this year's Republican gathering, reconsidered their role.
 
As we discussed in March, no corporation wants to see photos of fist fights at a national convention with its logo featured prominently in the background.
 
Two months later, the threat of violence at the Republicans' convention has dissipated -- Donald Trump's supporters have already effectively won and will have no reason to "riot," as the candidate warned -- but the New York Times reports that the corporate money still isn't rolling in.
The large corporations that usually fund both parties' conventions have grown wary of becoming involved. They are holding back on sponsorships, leaving Cleveland about $7 million short of its $64 million fund-raising goal just 10 weeks before the festivities begin. [...]
 
[S]ome previous corporate sponsors, like Coca-Cola and Walmart, have been reassessing their commitments. Joe Roman, the vice chairman of the Cleveland host committee, said the large national corporations that were needed to close the $7 million gap the city is facing were taking some time to line up.
In March, the gap was about $10 million, suggesting the party is still struggling to get on track.
 
There is, of course, still time for corporate sponsors to meet the party's $64 million target, but the Times' reporting suggests Republicans aren't accustomed to having these kinds of problems. If this is no longer about the threat of violence, then it's probably about the danger of being associated with Donald Trump himself.
 
Indeed, as we've noted, every time Trump speaks, there are probably some corporate public-relations executives sending an email to their bosses saying, "Maybe we ought to scale back this year."
 
Carla Eudy, a longtime Republican fundraising consultant, told the Times, "I have talked to several people at companies who have said, 'I've always gone to the convention, I've always participated at some level, but this year we're not putting it in our budget, we're not going, we're not going to sponsor any of the events going on.'"
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, W. Va. on May 5, 2016. (Photo by Chris Tilley/Reuters)

Trump's promise: 'I will appoint judges that will be pro-life'

05/11/16 09:21AM

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on Fox News last night, where he fielded a question from a viewer who wanted him to "name one specific thing he would do to protect the sanctity of human life." The GOP candidate quickly turned his focus to judicial nominees:
"I will protect [life] and the biggest way you can protect it is through the Supreme Court and putting people in the court. And actually the biggest way you can protect it, I guess, is by electing me president."
Trump added that he expects to name "as many as five" high court justices in the coming years, adding, "I will appoint judges that will be pro-life, yes."
 
I think there are two broad angles to keep in mind with a quote like this one. The first is the extent to which Trump's position relates to his party's Supreme Court blockade. Senators like Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and others don't like to see it framed this way, but Republican lawmakers aren't just holding open a court vacancy for a year in order to empower Trump, they're also doing so to help guarantee the confirmation of "judges that will be pro-life."
 
Or put another way, GOP senators are operating from an informal plan: partner with Donald Trump so the Supreme Court can roll back the clock on reproductive rights.
 
The second is Trump's apparent plan to make the gender gap between the parties much, much worse.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The wrong Republican to pick a fight with Facebook

05/11/16 08:40AM

A Gizmodo report caused quite a stir this week with claims from former Facebook contract employees that the social-media behemoth suppresses conservative stories in its Trending Topics feed. Facebook has denied the allegations and noted there's no evidence to substantiate the claims.
 
But Republicans are nevertheless throwing a fit. The Republican National Committee, among many others in the party, believe Facebook is "censoring" the right. "It is beyond disturbing to learn that this power is being used to silence view points and stories that don't fit someone else's agenda," the RNC said in a statement yesterday, operating from the assumption that the unproven charges are true.
 
But one key Republican senator is doing more than just complain. NBC News reported yesterday that Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) "wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress."
Thune is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee -- which, among other jurisdictions, oversees technology, communications and Internet issues.
 
"If true, these allegations compromise Facebook's 'open culture' and mission 'to make the world more open and connected,'" Thune wrote Tuesday in a sharply worded letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, demanding that employees responsible for Trending Topics brief the Senate committee by May 24.
Senate Democrats were quick to point out that the Republican majority can't be bothered to hold a hearing on a pending Supreme Court vacancy; GOP senators still haven't dealt with the looming Zika threat; and the chamber takes an alarming number of days off; but Republicans nevertheless seem to believe "Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest."
 
That's not a bad line, but given the circumstances, the Senate GOP's bizarre sense of priorities is the least of the troubles here.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally on April 26, 2016, Huntington, W. Va. (Photo by Sholten Singer/The Herald Dispatch/AP)

West Virginia offers Sanders camp good news and bad

05/11/16 08:00AM

Just last week, the Indiana primary, at least on the surface, looked like great news for Bernie Sanders and his presidential campaign. After making a heavy investment in the state, the Vermont senator pulled out a five-point win over Hillary Clinton, adding a net gain of five pledged delegates, and giving Sanders fresh bragging rights about his candidacy.
 
But just below the surface, the news was less good: given Sanders' overall deficit, he needed a far larger victory in the state. This is, after all, a race for delegates, not state-by-state victories, and to the great frustration of the senator's ardent supporters, a modest win in Indiana actually left him worse off than he was before the primary.
 
Last night, it happened again in West Virginia, where Sanders won by 15 points -- which sounds great for his campaign, until a closer look at the delegate math shows that he needed a victory that was over twice as large.
 
Everything we talked about seven days ago at this time remains true, so let's revisit the description of the state of the race: to the consternation of Sanders' die-hard supporters, simply winning primaries at this stage isn't enough to change the trajectory of the race.
 
To earn the Democratic nomination, the senator's campaign continues to have two options: (1) convince party insiders to overrule the will of the voters, which even Sanders' top aides recognize as unrealistic, or (2) catch up to Clinton among pledged delegates by racking up some big wins in the calendar's remaining contests.
 
How big? If Sanders won the remaining primaries and caucuses by 30 points each -- an improbable task, to be sure -- he'd still come up short. That's how significant his current deficit is. None of this, by the way, factors superdelegates into the equation. I'm referring only to pledged delegates, earned exclusively through nominating contests decided by rank-and-file voters.

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