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Voting booths inside the Early Vote Center, Oct. 5, 2016, in Minneapolis, Minn. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty)

Why Trump's claims about dead voters don't make sense

10/21/16 08:40AM

Most of the time, when Donald Trump says something outlandish and is pressed for evidence, he relies on some combination of his memory, right-wing conspiracy websites, or actual proof he misunderstood. With this in mind, something the Republican nominee said at this week's presidential debate is worth a closer look.
"If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote -- millions, this isn't coming from me, this is coming from Pew Report and other places -- millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote."
At an event in Ohio yesterday, Trump repeated the claim, but added an element of criminality.
"1.8 million people are dead. But they're registered to vote. Some of whom vote even though they're dead, which is really a hard thing to do. But it's easy if fraud is involved, right? So you have 1.8 million people who are dead who are registered to vote. And some of them vote."
And this got me thinking about what, exactly, the Pew Center found in the study Trump is so eager to tout. Did Pew actually issue a report that bolsters some of the GOP candidate's claims?
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks to the media on June 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

After taking some shots from Rubio, Obama returns the favor

10/21/16 08:00AM

During his ill-fated presidential campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) based much of his message, especially as the primaries got underway, on the idea that President Obama is trying to destroy the United States on purpose. In effect, the far-right Floridian believed the way to connect with GOP voters was to accuse the sitting president of treason.

Yesterday, Obama traveled to Miami, where the president was able to fire back at Rubio, reminding voters that the senator is supporting Donald Trump's campaign, despite Rubio's previous insistence that Trump is a "con artist" and "dangerous." The Tampa Bay Times reported:
"I'm even more confused by Republican politicians who still support Donald Trump," Obama said. "Marco Rubio is one of those people. How does that work? How can you call him a con artist and dangerous and object to all the controversial things he says and then say, 'But I'm still gonna vote for him?' C'mon, man!"

"C'mon, man," he repeated.

"You know what that is? It is the height of cynicism. That's the sign of somebody who will say anything, do anything, pretend to be anybody, just to get elected. And you know what? If you're willing to be anybody just to be somebody, then you don't have the leadership that Florida needs in the U.S. Senate.... That's why you've got to vote for Patrick Murphy. That's why you've got to vote for Hillary Clinton."
Obama went on to note that Rubio doesn't like to show up for work regularly; the senator abandoned the immigration reform bill that he helped write, just to satisfy his party's anti-immigration base; and continues to inexplicably deny climate change.

"If you see the ocean coming up through the streets how can you deny what is right in front of you?" Obama asked. "I thought he was from Miami."

It's almost as if the president does not think highly of Marco Rubio.

Of course, Obama wasn't just admonishing the far-right senator for the sake of doing so; Rubio is in the middle of a re-election fight in Florida and the senator is doing his part to help the incumbent's opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), prevail.

But as of this week, it appears Obama and party officials aren't exactly on the same page: just as the president was making his case against Rubio in the Sunshine State, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was deciding to effectively give up on the Florida race and direct its resources elsewhere.
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Thursday's Mini-Report, 10.20.16

10/20/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Iraq: "A U.S. service member died Thursday from wounds sustained in the explosion of an improvised explosive device in northern Iraq, the U.S.-led military coalition said."

* Iraq: "Kurdish forces opened a new front in the Iraqi campaign to recapture Mosul on Thursday morning as thousands of peshmerga fighters began to attack from the north."

* Flint: "The inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday that the agency should have issued an emergency order to protect residents of Flint, Mich., from lead-tainted water seven months before it actually did."

* If true, it's quite a haul: "Investigators pursuing what they believe to be the largest case of mishandling classified documents in United States history have found that the huge trove of stolen documents in the possession of a National Security Agency contractor included top-secret N.S.A. hacking tools that two months ago were offered for sale on the internet."

* A worthwhile, overdue gesture: "Decades after homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain, the government announced on Thursday that it would posthumously pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men who were convicted, in essence, of having or seeking gay sex. Since 2012, men with such convictions who are still alive have been able to apply to have their names cleared."

Not bad, though the total doesn't include cable and online viewers: "Preliminary data for the third and final presidential debate of 2016 on Wednesday night show that viewership numbers increased from the second debate, but were still well below the record-setting Sept. 26 showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. According to Nielsen early returns, Wednesday's debate from Las Vegas generated a 39.7 overnight rating. That equates to 34.6 million viewers among the big four networks."
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to speak at a campaign rally, Oct. 13, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump says he'll accept election results, 'if I win'

10/20/16 02:55PM

Donald Trump is no doubt aware of the controversy he created last night when he refused to say whether or not he would accept the outcome of the election. On the campaign trail in Ohio today, the Republican nominee responded to concerns in the most Trump-like way possible.
The GOP nominee doubled down on controversial and unprecedented claims that he may not accept the results on November 8, first made at the third and final presidential debate Wednesday.

Warning of a "major announcement," Trump led off his first public appearance since the debate with the "promise and pledge" to his supporters: "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election -- if I win." The brief pause and defiant words that came after it immediately incited cheers from the crowd.
Here's a clip of the comments, which Trump's followers seemed to enjoy.

The GOP nominee clearly doesn't understand the nature of the controversy, adding at today's event that it's "unprecedented" to have to concede results before they're known. But no one has suggested anything of the kind. Indeed, in the first presidential debate, Trump was asked if he would accept the outcome of the election, regardless of the outcome. He said, "The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her."

If he'd stuck to the exact same answer last night, there wouldn't have been an uproar. But Trump instead rolled out a new position: "I will look at it at the time.... I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"

This isn't about conceding unknown results or ruling out legal scrutiny in the event of a 2000-like scenario. It's a simple question of honoring the electoral process and respecting the outcome after voters have had their say. Trump is the first modern major-party nominee to create some doubt: he may not consider the process legitimate and he may not accept the results.

Unless, of course, he wins.
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Republican Speaker of the House from Wisconsin Paul Ryan prepares to speak to the media about upcoming votes in the House, including Zika funding, Sept. 8, 2016, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

In the fight for party's future, GOP voters turn on Paul Ryan

10/20/16 12:46PM

By any fair metric, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the most ideologically extreme House Speaker in modern American history. And yet, Donald Trump has taken deliberate steps in recent weeks to chastise the GOP leader and blame Ryan for the Republican presidential ticket's difficulties -- despite the Speaker's endorsement, which hasn't been withdrawn.

Considered at a distance, it's a bizarre set of circumstances. When John Boehner, under pressure from the far-right, was effectively forced to step down as Speaker, Ryan was hailed as the one Republican -- the only Republican -- who could credibly lead the party. When the Wisconsin congressman balked, GOP insiders begged him to take the gavel. Ryan grudgingly agreed.

It may seem hard to believe, but that was literally one year ago this week.

Now, however, Trump has made Ryan out to be an enemy to the conservative cause; prominent far-right activists are accusing him of being involved in conspiracies against the GOP; and leading voices in Republican media have labeled Ryan a "saboteur" who needs to be replaced on Capitol Hill.

And as it turns out, this is having the intended effect. The latest YouGov/Economist poll found that 64% of Trump voters have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Speaker of the House, while only 28% have a favorable opinion. In a result that's hard to believe, the same survey found Ryan slightly more popular among Hillary Clinton's supporters than Trump's.

New results from a Bloomberg Politics poll point in a similar direction.
The poll's findings showed the extent to which Trump, with his hardline positions on immigration and trade, has triumphed among the party's supporters over Ryan, with his vision of a pluralist conservative party that focuses on cutting taxes and spending.

When asked which leader better represents their view what the Republican Party should stand for, 51 percent of likely voters who are or lean Republican picked Trump, while 33 percent picked Ryan and 15 percent said they weren't sure.
The same poll found Trump's favorability slipping among Republicans to 76% -- a poor number at this point in a national campaign -- but Ryan's support is actually "fading faster ... dropping 11 points to 50 percent since September among likely voters who are or lean Republican."
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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 10.20.16

10/20/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* To no one's surprise, the preliminary polling following last night's debate showed viewers thought Hillary Clinton won and Donald Trump lost.

* This morning, Trump said via Twitter that Clinton had been "inappropriately given the debate questions." I have no idea what he's talking about.

* The latest national Quinnipiac poll found Clinton leading Trump by seven points, 47% to 40%, in a four-way match-up. In a head-to-head contest, Clinton's advantage in this poll was six points.

* It seems like an outlier, but the latest WMUR Granite State Poll shows Clinton cruising past Trump in New Hampshire, 48% to 33%.

* The latest Military Times/Institute for Veterans and Military Families poll was released yesterday, and found something interesting: among enlisted personnel, Donald Trump is the clear favorite, with Hillary Clinton running third behind Gary Johnson. But among officers, Clinton is in the lead, and Trump trails Johnson.

* In Wisconsin, the latest Monmouth University poll found Clinton up by seven over Trump, 47% to 40%. The same poll also showed former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) with a comfortable lead over incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R), 52% to 44%.

* As hard as this may be to believe, a statewide poll in Utah conducted by Emerson College found independent Evan McMullin leading the multi-candidate presidential field with 31%. Note, no third-party candidate has won any state in any presidential election since 1968 (George Wallace won five states in the Deep South in 1968, giving him 46 electoral votes that year).

* In Indiana, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), trying to reclaim his old seat, may seem like the kind of centrist Dem the Chamber of Commerce would love, but the business lobby is nevertheless attacking Bayh during his comeback bid.
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Iraqi special forces advance towards the city of Mosul, Iraq on Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Khalid Mohammed/AP)

Trump sees a conspiracy in the battle for Mosul

10/20/16 11:32AM

Mosul is not just Iraq's second-largest city. As Zack Beauchamp explained yesterday, it's also a key area seized by ISIS two years ago, which was immediately held out as powerful evidence of the terrorist group's potency in the region.

A lot has changed since the summer of 2014. As ISIS has been pushed backwards and its territories have shrunk, Mosul has now become "the last major Iraqi population center under ISIS control," which makes the newly launched Iraqi offensive in the city, backed by American airpower, that much more significant: an ISIS defeat in Mosul would be crushing for the network.

With this in mind, Fox's Chris Wallace asked a good question at the presidential debate last night: "If we are able to push ISIS out of Mosul and out of Iraq, would you be willing to put U.S. troops in there to prevent their return or something else?"

Hillary Clinton's answer touched on a few unrelated points, but she did answer the question: "I will not support putting American soldiers into Iraq as an occupying force. I don't think that is in our interest, and I don't think that would be smart to do. In fact, Chris, I think that would be a big red flag waving for ISIS to reconstitute itself."

Donald Trump's answer meandered in all sorts of odd directions, and he never got around to the point of the question, but he did raise a new conspiracy theory.
"But you know who the big winner in Mosul is going to be after we eventually get it? And the only reason they did it is because she's running for the office of president and they want to look tough. They want to look good. He violated the red line in the sand, and he made so many mistakes, made all the mistakes. That's why we have the great migration. But she wanted to look good for the election. So they're going in."
Clinton responded soon after, "I'm just amazed that he seems to think that the Iraqi government and our allies and everybody else launched the attack on Mosul to help me in this election, but that's how Donald thinks. You know, he always is looking for some conspiracy."

That's true. In Trump's mind, "they" -- a group he never identified -- launched a military offensive in Mosul, months in the making, led by the military of a foreign government, all because Hillary Clinton "wanted to look good for the election."
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Al Gore's 2000 campaign offers Trump backers no solace

10/20/16 10:53AM

The right is no doubt aware of the biggest controversy from last night's debate: Donald Trump's refusal to say he'll accept the outcome of the presidential election. Some conservatives and Republican surrogates nevertheless believe they have a (ahem) trump card: Al Gore.

Except that doesn't make sense. Slate's Jamelle Bouie summarized the problem:
Surrogates for Trump have tried to defend his comments, citing then–Vice President Al Gore's conduct following the 2000 election. But Gore didn't challenge the process; he let it move forward. As ordered by state law, Florida had to do a recount. That recount was then stopped by the Supreme Court. At that point, Gore conceded the election, gracefully and without public hesitation.
Trump was explicitly asked last night if he intends to accept the results of the 2016 presidential election, and unlike every other national candidate since the Civil War, Trump wouldn't commit. Without any real appreciation for the seriousness of the situation, the GOP nominee added, "I'll keep you in suspense. OK?"

On a conceptual level, I understand the point the right is trying to make. Trump's allies are clumsily making the case that since Gore didn't end his candidacy on Election Night 2000, it means he didn't accept the results, either, which is no different from what we heard last night.

But the comparison is deeply flawed. On Election Night 2000, the race was unresolved. Gore had won the popular vote, and the outcome in Florida was so ridiculously close, an automatic recount was triggered. Gore didn't reject the democratic process, he honored it by allowing it to play out.
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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by his family after the third and final debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Reuters)

At the debate, Trump gets caught in the wrong kind of lie

10/20/16 10:02AM

To no one's surprise, Donald Trump said all kinds of things that weren't true in the third and final presidential debate. He lied about opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning; he lied about his positions on nuclear proliferation; he lied about 100% of the Trump Foundation's money going to charities; he lied about Syrian refugees; and on and on.

But one falsehood in particular stood out for me. Consider this exchange between Trump and Hillary Clinton last night.
CLINTON: Well, every time Donald is pushed on something which is obviously uncomfortable, like what these women are saying, he immediately goes to denying responsibility. And it's not just about women. He never apologizes or says he's sorry for anything.

So we know what he has said and what he's done to women. But he also went after a disabled reporter, mocked and mimicked him on national television....

TRUMP: Wrong.
Here's the thing: we've all seen the tape.

After the vice presidential debate two weeks ago, New York's Jon Chait argued persuasively that Mike Pence lost, not because he lied, but because he lied about the wrong kind of stuff. Summarizing a helpful rule that should live on forevermore, Chait wrote, "You should not lie about things that can be easily disproven with short video clips."

Which brings us to last night and Trump's violation of the newly inaugurated Chait Rule.
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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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