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President-elect Donald Trump,  walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

Why Trump's confusion about what a 'blind trust' is matters

11/11/16 10:46AM

It's a problem that Donald Trump and his team are confused about what a blind trust is. The consequences of this, however, represent a far bigger problem than is generally appreciated.

Politico reported late yesterday on the future of the president-elect's private-sector holdings, and the Republican's lawyer using a phrase he doesn't fully understand.
Donald Trump's vast business holdings will be placed into a blind trust with his oldest three children in charge, according to the president-elect's attorney. [...]

Asked who would run the Trump Organization, a privately held company with international and U.S. dealings in everything from hotels to real estate, golf courses to investments, [Trump attorney Michael Cohen] explained that Trump's adult children Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric would take charge through a blind trust.
"They're really intelligent," Cohen said. "They're really qualified."

And while I'm sure Trump's children appreciate the praise, their intellect and qualifications aren't especially important in the larger context. What matters here is that Trump's lawyer has described a blind trust that isn't the least bit blind.

Politico's report added, "[While Trump's] lawyer Thursday used the term 'blind trust' when discussing the family's upcoming financial arrangement, putting Trump's children in charge of a set of assets that their father is aware of does not constitute a blind trust. Under the legal definition of a blind trust, a public official places his finances under the management of an independent party. The official would have no knowledge of what is in the trust or how it is managed."

In fact, at some level, Trump seems vaguely aware of the problem -- though he doesn't actually care enough to handle the matter in a responsible way.
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Red velvet drapes hang at the back of the courtroom at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, June 20, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Dem senator: A Supreme Court seat is 'being stolen'

11/11/16 09:48AM

As recently as Tuesday -- literally, the morning of Election Day -- Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) became the latest Republican senator to raise the prospect of confirming Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland during the lame-duck session. This was not an uncommon posture within the GOP: Wicker and others believed Hillary Clinton would win the election, so confirming President Obama's compromise choice would be preferable to whomever Clinton picked in 2017.

Except, of course, these same Senate Republicans were as surprised as everyone else to discover that Americans had actually elected Donald Trump. The lame-duck confirmation plan wouldn't be necessary after all -- because the GOP's Supreme Court blockade scheme, once thought to be a historic mistake, had worked like a charm.

Sen. Jeff Merkley's (D-Ore.) outrage is well-grounded -- and perhaps too rare given the circumstances.
A Democratic senator accused the GOP of "theft" for blocking President Barack Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court so it can be filled by the Trump administration.

"We really have to pay attention to the Supreme Court seat. The seat that is sitting empty is being stolen," Sen. Jeff Merkley told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Thursday night. "It's being stolen from the Obama administration and the construct of our Constitution. And it's being delivered to an administration that has no right to fill it."
The Oregon Democrat added, "There's no legitimacy to a Supreme Court justice in a seat that's been stolen from one administration and handed to another. We need to do everything we possibly can to block it ... it won't be DOA unless the American people understand that this is the theft of the court."

Merkley's rhetoric may seem a little over the top, but his position is worth considering in more detail. Senate Republicans launched the first Supreme Court blockade in the history of the country. As regular readers know, Americans -- at least those passively aware of current events -- have never seen such an abandonment of our constitutional process. As Republican politics reached new levels of radicalization, the intensity of their maximalist tactics arrived at an unprecedented and scary point.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did it anyway, gambling that (a) he could get away with it; and (b) his gambit would work.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for his election night rally at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, N.Y. on Nov. 9, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

With the election over, Trump has reclaimed his Twitter account

11/11/16 08:43AM

Leading up to Election Day, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump's aides "wrested away the Twitter account that he used to colorfully -- and often counterproductively -- savage his rivals." The Republican's staffers were so concerned about his erratic and "self-destructive impulses," they felt the need to silence him on social media before Trump could do further damage to his candidacy.

As President Obama joked soon after, "If somebody can't handle a Twitter account, they can't handle the nuclear codes."

Americans, however, didn't much care about Trump's unhinged tendencies, and decided to make him the leader of the free world anyway. And so, the president-elect has now reclaimed his Twitter account.
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure Thursday night at "unfair" protests against his election and accused activists of being paid agents egged on by the media, putting an end to a brief stretch of conciliatory behavior since Tuesday.
Yes, the president elect complained last night that "professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting" his election. This is, Trump insisted, "very unfair!"

At face value, this may seem like lazy whining, and to a certain degree, it is. But it offers a peek into Trump's unique perspective: when he sees thousands of Americans taking to the streets to protest his election, it doesn't occur to him to reflect on deep national divisions or the damage his candidacy did to civil norms. Instead, Trump concocts yet another conspiracy: his critics must be "professional" protesters, because spontaneous outbursts of outrage from dissenting Americans are, in his mind, hard to even fathom.

What's more, the protesters must be "incited by the media" because news organizations, from Trump's perspective, must be in on the conspiracy that only he can see.

Remember, Trump said this less than 48 hours after becoming the president-elect -- a time when the Republican should be taking steps to reassure the public and the world that he's prepared to be a responsible leader.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, June 2, 2016, in Janesville, Wis. (Photo by Andy Manis/AP)

After GOP wins, Paul Ryan puts Medicare in the crosshairs

11/11/16 08:00AM

After the 2004 presidential election, Republicans were right where they wanted to be. A GOP president had narrowly prevailed, and he was eager to work with a House and Senate that were also controlled by his own party. And what was one of the top priorities for this ascendant Republican Party? At the time, it was privatization of Social Security.

This did not go over well. The public was not on board with the plan -- many voters said it wasn't what they had in mind when they voted for Republican candidates -- and the privatization push not only failed, it sparked a rather intense backlash.

Twelve years after the last GOP sweep, Republicans are once again poised to take control of entire federal government, party leaders are establishing their new goals, and privatizing a popular social-insurance program is once again a top priority. In fact, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told Fox News' Bret Baier yesterday that Medicare privatization is high on the party's to-do list. New York's Jon Chait explained:
"Your solution has always been to put things together, including entitlement reform," asks Baier, using Republican code for privatizing Medicare. Ryan replies, "If you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well.... Medicare has got some serious issues because of Obamacare. So those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare."

Ryan tells Baier, "Because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke."
This is critically important, in part because Ryan is brazenly lying. The budgetary reality, whether Republicans like it or not, is that the Affordable Care Act improved Medicare's financial stability, extending the system's solvency by more than a decade. There's an inside-the-Beltway assumption that when it comes to fiscal arithmetic, Ryan can be trusted to get the numbers right. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

But in this case, it's also worth appreciating why Ryan is so shamelessly trying to deceive the public.
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Can US intelligence trust Donald Trump?

Can US intelligence trust President-elect Trump?

11/10/16 09:00PM

Rachel Maddow shares reports that members of Donald Trump's campaign team were in contact with Moscow at the same time that U.S. intelligence determined Russia was conducting a psyop to interfere with the U.S. election, and wonders how the U.S. intelligence community will feel about sharing top secrets about Russia and Vladimir Putin with... watch

Thursday's Mini-Report, 11.10.16

11/10/16 05:35PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* More respect for democratic norms: "After their first face-to-face meeting, President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump pledged to work together following a rancorous election, with the sitting president saying he wants to make Trump and his family 'feel welcome as we prepare to make this transition.'"

* And he's still correct: "White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that President Barack Obama stands by his characterization of President-elect Donald Trump as fundamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief."

* Afghanistan: "Taliban insurgents struck at the German consulate in the northern commercial hub of Mazar-i-Sharif late Thursday night, killing at least two people and wounding at least 84, Afghan officials said."

* It begins: "Officials at universities in Louisiana and California said the police were investigating attacks on Wednesday against female Muslim students, and officials described one of the episodes as a 'hate crime.'" [Update: In one of these cases, local police now believe the claims are untrue.]

* Open enrollment: "The day after Donald Trump's presidential election victory marked the strongest day of ObamaCare signups in this year's open enrollment period so far. More than 100,000 people selected plans through HealthCare.gov on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced."
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A protester carries an upside down American flag as she walks along Sixth Avenue while demonstrating against President-elect Donald Trump, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP)

'Not my president' protests prompt Republican complaints

11/10/16 05:01PM

Eight years ago, in a variety of cities across the country, many Americans poured into the streets in spontaneous celebration, cheering then-President-elect Barack Obama's victory. Eight years later, there were once again Americans in the streets, but as Rachel noted on last night's show, their message was very different.
Thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of several major cities Wednesday to voice their opposition to the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

Nearly 2,000 protesters gathered in downtown Chicago chanting "Not my president" and "F*** Trump" outside Trump International Hotel & Tower.... In New York, thousands of protesters could be heard chanting and banging drums as they marched past Rockefeller Center up Sixth Avenue, barely even acknowledging the rain.
That's really just a sampling. As Rachel noted on the show, we also saw protests at various times yesterday in D.C., Seattle, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Austin, Tempe, Nashville, and San Jose. In Los Angeles, anti-Trump protesters even shut down a highway.

I should note that such widespread protests are not common in modern American history in response to a presidential election.

Complaining about the protesters, Rudy Giuliani, among a variety of conservatives with concerns, told Fox News, "The reality is they're a bunch of spoiled crybabies."

Or maybe they're Americans practicing their rights to peaceably assemble, expressing their opposition to the election of a bigoted demagogue to the White House. I suppose it's a matter of perspective.
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Vice president-elect Mike Pence, watches as President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election night rally, Nov. 9, 2016, in N.Y. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Who'll serve as a 'check' on President Trump?

11/10/16 12:40PM

For months, one of the most common words from Republicans' lips was "check" -- as in, "Voters need to elect a far-right Congress so that it can serve as a check on Hillary Clinton."

The point of the argument was hardly subtle: with many assuming Clinton's victory was a foregone conclusion, and with some chatter in the early fall about the prospect of a blue "wave," Republicans saw value in positioning themselves as a stopgap against Democratic overreach.

Few stopped to reflect on the possibility of a Trump victory -- and who might be able to serve as a "check" on him.

Writing in Slate yesterday, Reihan Salam raised the point that the president-elect doesn't really "owe" anyone who might try to rein in his ambitions -- Trump doesn't seem to care much about donors or party officials -- which only makes the amateur politician that much more unpredictable.

Around the same time, Vox's Ezra Klein made the case that it's up to "America's institutions, and the people within them, to check his worst instincts."
There is danger in Trump. He's a man with authoritarian impulses, a conspiracy theorist's bent, and a taste for vengeance. He has an alarming temperament, little impulse control, and less decency. He has a demagogue's instinct for finding enemies and a bully's instinct for finding their weaknesses. He is uninterested in policy, unrestrained by shame, and unbound by norms. He surrounds himself with sycophants and enablers, and he believes both the facts and the falsehoods he finds congenial.

But he is entering an office that is weaker than many realize.... He is constrained by the House and the Senate, by the Supreme Court, by the executive agencies, and -- in ways less formal but no less powerful -- by his own staff and party.
And while that's true, in practical terms, those appear unlikely to be effective checks of any kind -- because we're talking about partisans being asked to establish limits on one of their ostensible allies.

The House and Senate, for example, will be led by Republicans. The Supreme Court will have a far-right majority -- for a long time. The executive agencies will have leaders, nearly all of whom will answer to the Trump White House. The president will have a staff, which will be made up of people who serve at Trump's pleasure.

In other words, Americans elected a president with authoritarian instincts, and no meaningful interest in democratic norms and traditions, who'll be checked by allies who have an incentive to let him do what he pleases.

This isn't a recipe for success.
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The dome of the US Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., September 20, 2008.

The future of the filibuster is in doubt

11/10/16 11:26AM

Republican dominance of the federal government, at least for now, is not in doubt. In two months, a radicalized GOP will control the White House, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House. Soon after, Republican appointees will also dominate the Supreme Court -- probably for a long while.

What can Democrats cling to in the hopes of stopping a far-right stampede? Well, there's always the Senate filibuster.

Democratic hopes of reclaiming the Senate majority came up short this year, but the party did add two seats to their caucus, setting up a likely 52-48 Senate. As anyone who watched Congress during the Obama era knows, it takes 60 votes to get anything of any significance through the chamber, which means Dems have an opportunity to do exactly what Republicans did when the tables were reversed.

Naturally, it means some Republicans are eager to eliminate the one thing that could slow the party's agenda down. CNN reported yesterday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) believes it's time for his party to get rid of the filibuster so GOP lawmakers can do whatever they please.
[R]adio host Charlie Sykes inquired if Walker wanted to get rid of the filibuster, which would allow Republicans to pass bills with a simply majority in the Senate.

"Yeah, I've said it last year," Walker said. "To me, I think that would really upset the electorate of the people who not only elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence but the people who elected [Ron Johnson in Wisconsin] and elected other members of the House and the Senate. You cannot use, they cannot use inside-the-ballpark Washington procedural reason to justify why things don't happen. They've got to get things done and as I said frequently here in this state and continue to, the best time to do them is early."
Seriously?
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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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