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Bernie Sanders speaks as Hillary Clinton looks on as they discuss issues during the MSNBC Democratic debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., Feb. 4, 2016. (Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters)

Sanders accuses DNC, Clinton campaign of illegal scheme

04/19/16 08:00AM

When news reports popped up yesterday about the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton facing accusations about an illegal fundraising scheme, I largely assumed the charges were being levied from the right. As Rachel noted on the show last night, those assumptions were incorrect.
 
In an unexpected twist, the accusations were actually coming from Bernie Sanders, who now believes a joint Democratic fundraising committee violates campaign finance laws. The Washington Post reported:
In a letter to the Democratic National Committee, a lawyer for Sanders said the joint committee, which can accept far larger donations than Clinton's campaign, appeared to be improperly subsidizing her campaign by paying Clinton staffers with funds from the committee and cited other alleged violations as well. [...]
 
The Sanders letter cited a February report by The Washington Post that detailed the Clinton campaign's expansive use of a joint fundraising committee it set up last year with the DNC and 32 state party committees.
To put it mildly, it's not at all common for a Democratic presidential candidate to accuse his own ostensible party, late in the primary process, of being involved in an illegal scheme, but 2016 really isn't a normal year.
 
Regardless, do the accusations have merit? Have the DNC and the Clinton campaign hatched an improper operation that violates campaign-finance laws? It's a real stretch.
GOP delegate war produces separate factions

Sparks fly as GOP delegate war produces separate factions

04/18/16 09:41PM

Suzanne Carlson, political reporter with the Virgin Island Daily News, talks with Rachel Maddow about the particularly vituperative fight within the Virgin Islands Republican Party and the two separate slates of unbound delegates that are claiming to represent the party for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. watch

Charges fly ahead of NY Democratic showdown

Accusations fly ahead of Democratic showdown in New York

04/18/16 09:22PM

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News correspondent, talks with Rachel Maddow about accusations by the Bernie Sanders campaign that Hillary Clinton is breaking fundraising rules with big money DNC events, raising already high tensions between the two camps ahead of Tuesday's New York primary. watch

Monday's Mini-Report, 4.18.16

04/18/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Iraq: "The United States will send 217 more troops, including additional special operations forces, to Iraq as part of a growing train-and-advise effort to help the struggling government fight ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Monday morning in Baghdad."
 
* Ecuador: "The death toll from Ecuador's earthquake rose to 350 on Monday as the State Department confirmed at least one U.S. citizen was killed."
 
* Brazil: "Brazilian legislators voted on Sunday night to approve impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the nation's first female president, whose tenure has been buffeted by a dizzying corruption scandal, a shrinking economy and spreading disillusionment."
 
* Flint, Michigan: "Bottoms up for Gov. Rick Snyder. The governor announced Monday for the next 30 days, he'll drink filtered tap water drawn from a home in the city."
 
* The Supreme Court has posted the transcript from oral arguments in this morning's big immigration case.
 
* A story worth watching: "The Pentagon misled Congress by using inaccurate or vague information about sexual assault cases in an effort to blunt support for a Senate bill that would make a major change in how the military handles allegations of sexual misconduct, an Associated Press investigation found."
 
* Indefensible: "A college student who came to the United States as an Iraqi refugee was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight in California earlier this month after another passenger became alarmed when she heard him speaking Arabic."
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks during an event on Feb. 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Rumsfeld seems confused about the purpose of the IRS

04/18/16 04:58PM

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld apparently takes a degree of pleasure in sending an annual letter to the Internal Revenue Service. Today, he offered his latest installment in the series.
"Once again, I have mailed in our federal income tax and gift tax filings for 2015, and have requested an extension due to the delays in materials required to complete our tax return.
 
"Despite having performed this civic duty for over half a century, at the concluding of filing this year's taxes, I remain mystified as to whether or not our tax returns and tax payment estimates are accurate. The possession of a college degree, retention of an experienced tax accounting firm, and earnest application have failed to provide confidence that my returns and payments are properly completed."
Rumsfeld goes on to insist the millions of Americans find the annual tax-filing process complicated, and in his mind, "A fundamental and annual civic duty should not be so laborious and costly for the average American."
 
He concludes by dreaming of the day in which the government "radically simplifies the tax code," possibly with a "flat tax."
 
Let's skip over the fact that a flat tax is a horrible idea. Let's also overlook the fact that Rumsfeld is under the mistaken impression that it's charming for people to write angry missives to the IRS about what the government ought to be doing.
 
Let's instead focus on the core problem here: Rumsfeld, who spent much of his lengthy career in government, seems confused about what the IRS does.
An Affordable Healthcare Act supporter (R) talks with a student (L) about the law on the campus of Santa Monica City College in Santa Monica, California, October 10, 2013.

'Obamacare' delivers a big boost to those who need it most

04/18/16 04:13PM

When it comes to evaluating the Affordable Care Act's successes, one of the key metrics is pretty straightforward: "Obamacare" is lowering the uninsured rate to the lowest levels on record, bringing coverage to people who didn't have it. But it turns out there's an even more detailed way to consider this measurement.
 
The New York Times, relying largely on Census data, published a fascinating report on which American constituencies have seen the sharpest improvements thanks to the reform law, and the results point to an important angle for the larger political debate.
The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds -- including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens -- had the sharpest rise in coverage rates.
 
Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population. Low-wage workers, who did not have enough clout in the labor market to demand insurance, saw sharp increases. Coverage rates jumped for cooks, dishwashers, waiters, as well as for hairdressers and cashiers. Minorities, who disproportionately worked in low-wage jobs, had large gains.
In other words, struggling, low-wage workers, who tend to have the least amount of political capital, have seen the biggest gains. While there's been progress among every demographic since the ACA was implemented, the Times analysis found that the reform law has narrowed "the gap between the haves and the have-nots," even while income inequality has gotten worse overall.
 
One of the interesting things to keep in mind is that the left and right don't necessarily have to disagree on these basic factual details, and can instead argue about whether or not the developments are worth bragging about.
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton talk before the CNN Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by David Becker/AP)

Which states best represent Democratic politics?

04/18/16 02:37PM

Bernie Sanders has faced some criticism in recent weeks over his campaign's willingness to downplay the results from Southern primaries. The region, Sanders said last week, "kind of distorts reality."
 
The Vermont senator was asked about this in last week's debate, and Sanders focused on the region's ideology. "Look, let me acknowledge what is absolutely true: Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South," he said. "No question about it. We got murdered there. That is the most conservative part of this great country."
 
There are two central questions here. First, did Sanders lose in the South because voters in the region are more conservative? And second, if Southern states aren't representative of Democratic politics in general, which are?
 
On the first question, Sanders' case has run into some trouble. While conservatives obviously tend to fare well in Southern elections, there's little evidence that Democrats in the South are significantly more conservative than in other red states like Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Idaho -- states where Bernie Sanders won with relative ease.
 
But what about the second question? Sanders' broader point almost certainly had very little to do with race -- African-American voters tend to represent a larger percentage of the Democratic primary vote in the South than other regions -- and more to do with the idea that the region doesn't effectively represent Democratic politics at large. But which states do a better job? FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver took a closer look:
The most representative state ... is New Jersey. We expect its primary electorate to be about 57 percent white, 26 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian or other, quite close to the national Democratic electorate. New Jersey won't vote until June 7, although Clinton was well ahead when the last poll was released there in February.
 
After New Jersey comes Illinois, which Clinton won narrowly -- and then Florida, where Clinton won going away. Then there's New York, which votes Tuesday, and where Clinton is 15 percentage points ahead in our polling average. Virginia, another Southern state, ranks as the next most representative; Clinton won it easily. Then there's Nevada, another Clinton state, before we go back to the South to North Carolina, also won by Clinton. The next group of four states (Maryland, Tennessee, Arkansas and Michigan) are roughly tied and include some further representation for the South, along with, finally, one state (Michigan) that Sanders won.
So, for Sanders, this is a bit of a mixed bag.
A "Help Wanted" sign is posted in the window of an automotive service shop on March 8, 2013 in El Cerrito, California.

Republican economic plan gets the wrong kind of endorsement

04/18/16 12:40PM

Early on in Jeb Bush's ill-fated presidential campaign, the former Florida governor came up with an idea that would serve as the centerpiece of his entire candidacy: 4% GDP growth in his first term. The problem -- well, one of the many problems -- was that this wasn't so much an idea as an outlandish goal that no modern president has achieved, even during economic booms.
 
Team Jeb admitted at the time that the 4% figure wasn't based on any kind of meaningful policy analysis. Bush just liked the sound of it, so his aides built much of his campaign around the made-up figure.
 
Worse, it started a bidding war of sorts. Chris Christie, basing his projections on nothing but wishful thinking, said his plan would also create 4% growth. Scott Walker vowed to deliver 4.5% growth.
 
As it turns out, they're not the only candidates who can pull meaningless numbers out of thin air. Ted Cruz told CNBC on Friday morning that his agenda will lead to "a minimum of 5% GDP growth."
 
That, however, wasn't the funny part. Rather, Salon's Simon Maloy highlighted the angle that stood out for me.
...Cruz has an influential ally in his corner: Art Laffer, the high priest of trickle-down economics, who helped craft Cruz's plan. "Cruz's tax plan is better than Reagan's," Laffer told CNN. "I think you'll get growth rates higher than Reagan's." A good rule of thumb is that whenever you see Art Laffer extolling the amazing economic impact of a tax-cut package, assume the opposite will happen.
Yes, when Art Laffer endorses an economic plan, the appropriate response is, "Uh oh."

Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.18.16

04/18/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
 
* With one day remaining before the New York primary, the latest Emerson College poll shows Donald Trump leading John Kasich in the Republican race, 55% to 21%. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll pointed in a very similar direction. Both surveys found Ted Cruz running third.
 
* Among New York Democrats, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in the Emerson poll, 55% to 40%. The survey, released this morning, was conducted entirely after last week's debate.
 
* In developments that fit nicely into a larger pattern, Ted Cruz fared very well at Wyoming's Republican convention over the weekend, winning 14 at-large delegates, while snaring "23 of the 26 pledged delegates there in all."
 
* Bernie Sanders briefly met Pope Francis on Saturday morning during the senator's trip to the Vatican. Cognizant of the circumstances, the Catholic leader said afterwards, "I shook his hand and nothing more. If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, I recommend that he find a psychiatrist!"
 
* Donald Trump said on Saturday that the RNC is in for a "rough July" if he's denied the Republican presidential nomination. The candidate added yesterday that he hopes the party's convention "doesn't involve violence."
 
* Friday night, the Sanders campaign released his 2014 tax return. There doesn't appear to be anything particularly controversial in the materials.
 
* John Kasich's presidential campaign has picked up support in recent days from Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R), though the latter tried to draw a distinction between "supporting" Kasich and "endorsing" him.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with President Barack Obama in a cabinet meeting at the White House on June, 22, 2010.

Bob Gates' criticism of Obama sounds a bit like praise

04/18/16 11:20AM

Looking back, it was still one of President Obama's most striking personnel moves. Not long after the 2008 election, then-President-Elect Obama decided he wanted Robert Gates, George W. Bush's Defense Secretary, to remain on the job. For all of the dramatic differences between the two presidents, Obama saw Gates as a competent, steady hand at the Pentagon, so there was no need to replace him -- even if that meant having a Republican serving in a top cabinet post in a Democratic administration.
 
Over the course of two-and-a-half years, Obama and Gates didn't always see eye to eye, though there was never any evidence of real animosity, and if their differences were serious, their partnership never would have lasted as long as it did. Years later, Gates continues to reflect on his service, and he made some notable comments to the Washington Post's David Ignatius the other day.
Borrowing the famous quip about Richard Wagner's music, Gates said Obama's foreign policy "is not as bad as it sounds. It's the way it comes out that diminishes its effectiveness."
 
"The way things get done communicates reluctance to assert American power," Gates explained in an interview Wednesday. "They often end up in the right place, but a day late and a dollar short. The decisions are made seriatim. It presents an image that he's being dragged kicking and screaming to each new stage, and it dilutes the implementation of what he's done."
Some of Gates' concerns are institutional -- he thinks the National Security Council's staff is too large and too prone to micromanagement -- but the key point of contention is his belief that President Obama has seemed reluctant to use military force.
 
I suspect many of the White House's critics on the left would find this odd, given that Obama's military offenses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria -- and this list doesn't include drone strikes in a variety of additional theaters. But note, Gates didn't say Obama hasn't used force, only that he believes Obama should have demonstrated a "clearer desire to show we can act with force" when necessary.
 
In other words, Gates is making an argument about impressions and perceptions. This president, the argument goes, hasn't seemed eager to use force.
 
The former Pentagon chief may have intended this as mild criticism, but some may end up seeing this as unintentional praise.

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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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