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Monday's Mini-Report, 8.22.16

08/22/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Louisiana: "Twenty-two districts across a vast swath of southern Louisiana were forced to close last week by a historic flood, delaying or interrupting the start of the school year for tens of thousands of children." Some will remain closed indefinitely.
 
* Legal setback: "A federal judge on Sunday blocked the Obama administration from enforcing new guidelines that were intended to expand restroom access for transgender students across the country."
 
* Virginia: "During a noon ceremony at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial on Capitol Square, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he has restored the rights of more than 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis. The governor also detailed his rights-restoration process for other felons who have completed their terms."
 
* Turkey: "The wedding on Saturday night was winding down, and some guests had already left. But the music was still playing and people were still dancing in the narrow streets of Gaziantep, a city not far from the Syrian border. Just then a child -- no more than 14 years old, Turkey's president said later -- meandered into the gathering and detonated a vest of explosives."
 
* The virtues of discretion: "A week after allowing Russian planes to fly bombing runs into Syria from a base inside its borders, Iran reversed course on Monday and withdrew permission for the flights, complaining that the Kremlin had been too public about the arrangement."
 
* Arizona: "A federal judge on Friday referred Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his aides to the U.S. Attorney's Office, requesting that they be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court."
 
* Supreme Court: "For those envisioning a line of moving vans at the Supreme Court and a new president immediately reordering life at the marble palace, this small splash of cold water: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, has already hired the four clerks who will assist her through June 2018."
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Briar Woods High School, Aug. 2, 2016, in Ashburn, Va. (Photo by Molly Riley/AFP/Getty)

Mixed messages muddy the waters on Trump, deportations

08/22/16 01:00PM

Perhaps no issue has defined Donald Trump's presidential candidacy as much as his hardline stance on immigration. The Republican nominee, embracing the kind of nativism modern national candidates have generally avoided, has seemingly gone out of his way to alienate immigrants and their allies with talk of mass deportations, bans, and walls.
 
With that in mind, it's something of a surprise to suddenly hear some mixed signals from Team Trump on the matter. The Washington Post reported this morning:
Donald Trump's campaign wavered Sunday on whether he would continue to call for the mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States, the latest in a series of sometimes-clumsy attempts to win over moderate GOP voters without alienating millions who have flocked to his hardline views.
 
After insisting for more than a year that all illegal immigrants "have to go," Trump met with a newly created panel of Hispanic advisers on Saturday and asked for other ideas -- making clear that his position is not finalized, according to two attendees.
To be sure, there's been no explicit shift from the candidate, and there are no exact quotes from Trump's weekend gathering with Hispanic advisers.
 
Last November, however, Trump said on MSNBC that he would use "a deportation force" to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants. Yesterday, when CNN's Dana Bash asked Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway about whether or not "a deportation force" is part of the candidate's plan, Conway replied, "To be determined."
 
Around the same time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a Trump confidant and prominent anti-immigration voice on Capitol Hill, appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" and was asked about Trump' deportation plans. "He's wrestling with how to do that," the Alabama Republican said.
 
On "Fox & Friends" this morning, Trump himself insisted, "No, I'm not flip flopping. We want to come up with a really fair, but firm answer. It has to be very firm. But we want something fair."
 
I don't know what that means. I'm reasonably confident Donald Trump doesn't know, either.

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.22.16

08/22/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Donald Trump's first television ad of the general election focuses on immigrants and refugees, but according to a Politico report, as recently as the middle of last week, Trump aides determined their first spot would be devoted to "an economic message." It's unclear exactly who changed the plan the next day.
 
* David Nierenberg, the former chairman of Mitt Romney's national finance committee, is the latest Republican to throw his support to Hillary Clinton.
 
* There's some question in Indiana as to whether or not former Sen. Evan Bayh (D), hoping to reclaim his old Senate seat, still has an active voter registration in the state.
 
* Evan McMullin, running a conservative independent presidential candidacy, has reportedly qualified for the ballot in Iowa and Louisiana. He's also slated to appear on the ballot in Colorado and Utah.
 
* On a related note, Green Party nominee Jill Stein tried to get on the presidential ballot in Georgia, but she appears to have come up short.
 
* After complaining about a local story published in Naples, Florida congressional candidate Dan Bongino (R) "went on a screaming, profanity-laced tirade Sunday during a telephone call" with Politico yesterday.
Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump greets supporters after a campaign rally on Aug. 1, 2016 in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (Photo by John Moore/Getty)

Trump has a new message for African-American voters

08/22/16 11:00AM

At a campaign event in California in June, Donald Trump looked out at a supportive audience and, for some reason, felt the need to single out one person. "Look at my African American over here," the Republican presidential hopeful said, raising eyebrows.
 
It's hard to say with confidence why, exactly, the GOP candidate made this comment, though it may have had something to do with a degree of surprise. Most Trump supporters are white, and he was likely pleased to see a person of color in the crowd.
 
Trump, however, has high hopes for the future. At a rally on Friday afternoon, Trump not only predicted a 2016 victory, he also aimed high for the 2020 race: "At the end of four years, I guarantee you that I will get over 95 percent of the African-American vote. I promise you."
 
Just to put that number in context, exit polls show President Obama won roughly 93% of African Americans' support four years ago. Trump, who's generally received between 0% to 2% of the black vote in recent polling, "guarantees" and "promises" that he'll be even more popular with this constituency when he runs for a second term.
 
But as the Washington Post reported, that's not all Trump said about African-American voters at his Michigan rally.
"Look at how much African American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?" he asked. "You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?"
If the Republican nominee believes this is going to boost his vote totals, he's likely to be disappointed.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., speaks with Roll Call at his desk in the Hart Senate Office Building on Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP)

GOP senator blasts Obama as 'drug dealer in chief'

08/22/16 10:00AM

Plenty of Republicans have complained bitterly about the recent U.S. payment to Iran, but few went quite as far as Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). The Republican senator, in the middle of a tough re-election fight, has long been a fierce critic of international nuclear diplomacy with Iran, but Kirk appeared to push the rhetorical envelope last week while speaking to the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill.
The administration used the term "leverage" to say why it held back delivery of the money it said was owed to Iran because of an arms deal in the 1970s until hostages were released.
 
Kirk, talking to the editorial board of The State Journal-Register on Tuesday, was critical of the cash payment.
 
"We can't have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief," Kirk said, "giving clean packs of money to a ... state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East.... We're going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them."
It didn't take long for some to note the racial overtones of a senator referring to President Obama as a "drug dealer in chief."
 
I'm also not altogether clear on the point Kirk was trying to make. Drug dealers give "clean packs of money"? To whom? What exactly is the similarity between Iranian diplomacy and dealing drugs?
Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP)

Trump campaign manager: 'He doesn't hurl personal insults'

08/22/16 09:00AM

Before Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, joined the New York Republican's team, she helped run a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz's presidential campaign. On ABC's "This Week" yesterday, George Stephanopoulos reminded her that she wasn't always complimentary towards her current boss.
 
In fact, the host aired a clip from the primaries in which Conway complained about Trump being "vulgar," asking, "Do I want somebody who hurls personal insults or who goes and talks about philosophical differences?"
 
It led to an interesting exchange on yesterday's show. From the ABC transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what changed for you? And do you stand by those comments?
 
CONWAY: I do. And the reason is I don't like when people hurl personal insults. That will never change. That's not my style. I'm a mother of four small children. And it would be a terrible example for me to feel otherwise --
 
STEPHANOPOULOS: You think Mr. Trump's going to change on that?
 
CONWAY: Well, but he doesn't hurl personal insults.
There was no indication that she was kidding. As far as Trump's campaign manager is concerned, the Republican nominee really doesn't "hurl personal insults."
 
The problem, of course, is that no one could possibly believe this. Indeed, even Conway herself didn't believe it when she worked for a rival candidate. The list of groups and individuals Trump has insulted isn't short -- the New York Daily News published one overnight, but there are plenty of others -- and it grows quite regularly.
 
I can appreciate the fact that Trump's new leadership team is taking steps to change public perceptions about the controversial candidate, but "don't believe your lying eyes and ears" probably isn't going to work as a campaign tactic.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while speaking at a rally at David L. Lawrence Convention in Pittsburgh, July 30, 2016.

Trump, allies push conspiracy theory about Clinton's health

08/22/16 08:00AM

Earlier this year, after a man rushed the stage where Donald Trump was speaking, the Republican presidential candidate claimed his would-be assailant had ISIS ties, pointing to online evidence that turned out to be a hoax.
 
Pressed by NBC News' Chuck Todd for some kind of evidence, Trump replied, "What do I know about it? All I know is what's on the Internet."
 
As BuzzFeed noted, others on Team Trump have adopted a similar posture towards conspiracy theories and intellectual scrutiny.
When Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream asked Giuliani about Trump's lagging poll numbers, Giuliani responded that Clinton has "an entire media empire," -- including the New York Times, ABC, and CBS, among others -- working on her behalf.
 
"She has an entire media empire that ... fails to point out several signs of illness by her. All you got to do is go online."
Giuliani's comments were the latest salvo in an aggressive push from the Trump campaign to push bizarre and unsubstantiated claims, contradicted by real evidence, about Hillary Clinton's health. One campaign spokesperson last week went so far as to start making specific diagnoses about the Democratic candidate from afar.
 
To date, Clinton's critics have offered literally nothing to substantiate the claims.
 
Traditionally, political campaigns have relied on innuendo and whisper campaigns to raise questions about rivals' health. But as is often the case with the Trump campaign, Republicans this year have no use for subtlety: there's no subtext, only text. There's no need to rely on allies to quietly push an ugly smear in the shadows when the presidential nominee and top members of his team are happy to repeat nonsense on national television.
 
But what's especially striking about Team Trump's baseless offensive is that Republicans feel like they have no choice but to go down this unfortunate road.

Friday's Mini-Report, 8.19.16

08/19/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* President Obama will travel to Louisiana on Tuesday to meet with officials and assess flooding damage.
 
* CDC: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [issued] a new travel advisory for pregnant women, telling them to consider avoiding Miami-Dade County altogether due to evidence of widespread transmission of Zika, which can cause birth defects."
 
* Syria: "A Pentagon spokesperson confirms that the Syrian Air Force dropped bombs Thursday in an area where U.S. Special Operations forces were operating on the ground."
 
* Russia is "bolstering its military presence on its western border, sending tens of thousands of soldiers to newly built installations within easy striking distance of Ukraine."
 
* Automatic voter registration faces a second Christie veto: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made it easier for people to register to vote, claiming the measure would increase voter fraud."
 
* Sadly predictable: "Texas experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011, the same year the state slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women's health programs, according to a study in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology." [Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood, but her work is unrelated to affiliates in Texas.]
 
* Good advice: "Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake says Donald Trump needs to issue specific apologies to Sen. John McCain, the judge in the Trump University lawsuit, and to Mexican immigrants."
Paul Manafort of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's staff listens during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, Aug. 17, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In latest shake-up, Trump's campaign chairman resigns

08/19/16 12:40PM

As recently as a few months ago, Donald Trump's presidential campaign appeared to be at odds with itself, with a civil war of sorts between campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
 
In June, the Republican presidential hopeful parted ways with Lewandowski. As of this morning, Manafort is out, too.
Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort resigned from the campaign Friday morning. The move comes days after a campaign shake-up that brought two new members to the top of the organization, including new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon.
 
In a statement Trump said: "This morning Paul Manafort offered, and I accepted, his resignation from the campaign. I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process. Paul is a true professional and I wish him the greatest success."
Whether Manafort stepped down voluntarily (maybe he didn't want to be associated with a likely defeat) or was pushed out (he was at the center of many ongoing controversies and wasn't leading the operation to success) is, at least for now, unclear.
 
Either way, Manafort's resignation comes just two days after the Associated Press reported that the Republican lobbyist "helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party's efforts to influence U.S. policy."
 
Making matters worse, Politico reported late yesterday, "In an effort to collect previously undisclosed millions of dollars he's owed by an oligarch-backed Ukrainian political party, Donald Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been relying on a trusted protégé whose links to Russia and its Ukrainian allies have prompted concerns among Manafort associates, according to people who worked with both men."

Friday's Campaign Round-Up, 8.19.16

08/19/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* Donald Trump's presidential campaign unveiled its first television ad of the general election this morning, a spot encouraging Americans to be afraid of immigrants, refugees, and terrorism. It's part of a $4 million ad buy that will focus on Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.
 
* Trump will also travel to flood-ravaged Louisiana today. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) wasn't consulted on the visit.
 
* The Wall Street Journal reports that Bill and Chelsea Clinton "plan to stop raising money for the Clinton Foundation and turn over operations to independent parties if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is elected president."
 
* While most recent national polling shows Clinton leading Trump nationally by seven to eight points, the new Pew Research Center poll shows the Democrat up by only four, 41% to 37%. An unusually high 14% of voters in this survey sided with third-party candidates.
 
* In Nevada, the latest Suffolk poll shows Clinton leading Trump by two, 44% to 42%.
 
* The same poll shows Nevada's U.S. Senate race all tied up, with Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Joe Heck (R) each garnering 37% support.
 
* In Georgia, a poll commissioned by the Fox affiliate in Atlanta shows the Peach State as a 2016 battleground, with Clinton and Trump tied at 43% each.
 
* On a related note, the Trump campaign reportedly began inquiring about ad rates in Georgia this week. Republican presidential candidates have won Georgia in each of the last five elections.
 
* In Iowa, Quinnipiac shows Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) with a fairly comfortable lead over Patty Judge (D), 51% to 42%.
 
* In Colorado, Quinnipiac also found Sen. Michael Bennet (D), once thought to be the cycle's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, leading Darryl Glenn (R), 54% to 38%.

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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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