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 Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) of the House Select Committee on Benghazi speaks to reporters at a press conference on the findings of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's personal emails at the U.S. Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

The 'political charade' on Benghazi comes into focus

04/23/15 10:41AM

The congressional committee that investigated the Pearl Harbor attack took about nine-and-a-half months to complete its work. The committee investigating the JFK assassination took about the same amount of time. After the Iran-Contra scandal, a select committee investigated for a little over 10 months.
 
But the Select Committee on Benghazi has lasted longer than all of them, investigating the deadly 2012 attack for over 11 months. And we learned yesterday, it's on track to just keep going.
The House Select Committee on Benghazi might not release its findings about the 2012 attacks until 2016 -- in the midst of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
 
"Factors beyond the committee's control, including witness availability, compliance with documents requests, the granting of security clearances and accreditations -- all of which are controlled by the Executive branch -- could continue to impact the timing of the inquiry's conclusion," committee spokesman Jamal Ware said in an email.
The committee -- the eighth congressional committee to investigate the attack -- now expects to wrap up next year, with a report due just a months before the 2016 presidential election.
 
What a remarkable coincidence. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, called yesterday's announcement "a political charade." Few seem able to argue otherwise with a straight face.
 
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the process would move more quickly if Hillary Clinton were willing to "actually cooperate." Given reality, the Speaker's charge is hard to take seriously.
Sam Brownback

More Kansas schools forced to close

04/23/15 09:56AM

Controversial Republican economist Arthur Laffer was recently asked about his handiwork in Kansas. It was Laffer who crafted Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) radical -- and radically unsuccessful -- economic experiment, which has failed to deliver on its promises and which has ruined Kansas' finances.
 
"Kansas," Laffer said two weeks ago, "is doing fine."
 
"Fine" is a subjective word, though when a state finds that some of its schools don't have enough money to keep the doors open, it's safe to say everything isn't "fine."
Six school districts in Kansas will close early this year, following budget cuts signed in March by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
 
Two school districts, Concordia Unified School District and Twin Valley Unified School District, announced earlier this month that they would end the year early because they lacked the funds to keep the schools open. This week, four more districts confirmed they would also shorten their calendars, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
One superintendent told the Topeka Capital-Journal he doesn't want to permanently change the school calendar, but at least for this year, budget concerns made it necessary to wrap up early.
 
If the news sounds familiar, we learned earlier this month about two school districts that couldn't afford to stay open for the full academic year. That number has evidently grown to six.
 
And as we joked a few weeks ago, nothing says "21st-century super power" like American schools closing early because a state can't afford to keep the lights on.
Hillary Clinton participates in a round table discussion with Whitney Brothers management and employees April 20, 2015 in Keene, N.H. (Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty)

The importance of Clinton's 50-state strategy

04/23/15 09:13AM

At a certain level, a 50-state strategy may seem like common sense for any national party or candidate. Those who choose to compete only in specific states are either taking some states for granted or conceding defeat in some areas before a campaign even begins.
 
But when Howard Dean, in his capacity as DNC chair, first threw his support behind a 50-state strategy in 2006, he faced fierce resistance, most notably from then-DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel. The pushback wasn't necessarily absurd -- parties have limited resources, so they have to take advantage of opportunities where they exist. When Democrats invest resources in uncompetitive areas, practically by definition, they're denying resources that could be put to use in competitive races
 
Dean, however, largely ignored Emanuel, and the former governor got the last laugh when the 50-state strategy proved effective -- Democrats rode a wave to the congressional majority in 2006 and fared even better in 2008, thanks in part to the Obama campaign's embrace of a very similar strategy.
 
Nearly a decade after Dean's ambitious gambit, the Huffington Post reports that Hillary Clinton is on board with a 50-state strategy of her own.
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is launching a major grassroots organizing effort Wednesday, sending staffers to every single state to start building an infrastructure of volunteers ready to pound the pavement.
 
What's being called the "Ramp Up Grassroots Organizing Program" will have paid staffers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories through the end of May. They'll be working with Clinton supporters to organize local meetings, volunteer trainings and other grassroots events, according to the campaign.
In a video unveiled by Team Clinton yesterday, Marlon Marshall, Clinton's director of state campaigns, tells viewers, "Organizing is the heart and soul of this campaign. As we speak, things are ramping up in all 50 states and the territories. Face-to-face conversations with your friends and neighbors are how we will win. So we're doubling down on old-school organizing."
 
It's no small development. Indeed, this tells us quite a bit about the Democratic frontrunner's intentions for the cycle.

Stubborn jobless claims inch a little higher

04/23/15 08:41AM

Initial unemployment claims were expected to improve a bit after last week's disappointing report, but that's not quite what happened.
The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits ticked up 1,000 to 295,000 in the week that ended April 18, signaling a low level of layoffs, according to government data released Thursday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected jobless claims to decline to 288,000 from 294,000 in the prior week.
 
The average of new claims over the past month, a less volatile figure than the weekly data, rose by 1,750 to 284,500, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it’s worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it’s best not to read too much significance into any one report.
 
In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. At this point, we’ve been below 300,000 in 26 of the last 32 weeks.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, listens at the National Press Club in Washington on Feb. 8, 2011. (Photo by Cliff Owen/AP)

Steve King unveils radical court scheme

04/23/15 08:00AM

Under the American system of government, elected legislators are responsible for writing laws. If those statutes are legally controversial, they're challenged in the courts and evaluated by judges. It's Civics 101.
 
But once in a while, some far-right lawmakers decide they're not entirely comfortable with separation of powers and the idea of judicial review. Yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), usually known for his fierce opposition to immigration, issued a press release announcing a new proposal related to marriage equality.
Congressman Steve King released the following statement after introducing his bill "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act of 2015." This bill strips federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases related to marriage.  The effect of the bill would prevent federal courts from hearing marriage cases, leaving the issue to the States where it properly belongs. [...]
 
"My bill strips Article III courts of jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction, 'to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.'"
The "Restrain the Judges on Marriage Act" has already picked up seven House co-sponsors -- all of them Republican -- including some familiar names like Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).
 
And that's a shame because, even by 2015 standards, this idea is just bonkers.

Lynch drama near the end and other headlines

04/23/15 07:36AM

Loretta Lynch drama nears its final act. (New York Times)

House Benghazi investigators to announce plans for Clinton grilling. (Bloomberg Politics)

It took the Secret Service more than a year to replace a broken alarm at the Texas home of fmr. Pres. George H.W. Bush. (Washington Post)

France seeks possible accomplice to planned church attack. (AP)

A fight at the Supreme Court over raisins and the New Deal. (Washington Post)

Michael Brown's family plans a wrongful death lawsuit. (USA Today)

Chilean volcano erupts for the first time in more than 4 decades. (Weather.com)

read more

What makes a baby crocodile smile?

What makes a baby crocodile smile?

04/22/15 10:34PM

Rachel Maddow tells the story of how the babies of Cuban crocodiles gifted to a Russia cosmonaut by Fidel Castro are returning to their native environment by way of Sweden in the hope of revitalizing their species. watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 4.22.15

04/22/15 05:40PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
 
* Yemen: "Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition conducted airstrikes Wednesday in the southwestern Yemeni city of Taiz, hours after Saudi officials had announced they were ending a nearly monthlong military operation against the Houthi rebel group in order to focus on a 'political process.'"
 
* Earth Day: "Speaking at an Earth Day event in Florida's scenic Everglades National Park Wednesday, President Obama sought to imbue his environmental message with urgency. 'We do not have time to deny the effects of climate change,' Obama said."
 
* The final vote was 99 to 0: "The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a stalled bill to fight human trafficking, freeing it to consider the nomination of Loretta E. Lynch to be the next attorney general."
 
* Gun violence isn't usually funny, but there are exceptions: "France said Wednesday it had foiled a jihadist plot to attack a church after an Algerian who accidentally shot himself was found with a stash of weapons and documents mentioning Islamist militant groups."
 
* Oklahoma: "Abandoning years of official skepticism, Oklahoma's government on Tuesday embraced a scientific consensus that earthquakes rocking the state are largely caused by the underground disposal of billions of barrels of wastewater from oil and gas wells."
 
* West Virginia: "Federal prosecutors plan to review evidence from a state investigation of the fatal shooting of a Virginia man by police in Martinsburg, West Virginia."
 
* California: "A bill that would require more California children to be vaccinated before they enter school was approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee, a week after it stalled when members of the panel voiced concerns that it would deprive many young people of an education."
 
* NSA reforms: "House negotiators are close to a deal that would effectively end the National Security Agency's controversial bulk data collection program, and congressional aides believe the bill is likely to win the endorsement of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), who opposed the legislation last year."
Razor wire-topped fence at the abandoned "Camp X-Ray" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 9, 2014. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty)

Obama admin eyes big changes at Guantanamo Bay

04/22/15 04:19PM

Late last year, a reporter asked President Obama whether the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay will be closed by the end of 2015. He didn't answer directly, but he committed to doing "everything I can to close it."
 
To that end, there was quite a bit of activity around that time to transfer approved detainees from the prison, reducing Guantanamo's overall population to 122. The Washington Post reports today that the race is on to lower it further before Congress ignores the military's advice and makes further transfers impossible.
Facing a potential showdown with Congress, the Pentagon is racing to move dozens of detainees out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in coming months before lawmakers can block future transfers and derail President Obama's plan to shutter the U.S. military prison.
 
As a first step, officials plan to send up to 10 prisoners overseas, possibly in June. In all, the Pentagon hopes that 57 inmates who are approved for transfer will be resettled by the end of 2015.
An unnamed defense official told the Post, "I am aware of the clock ticking." [See the update below.]

The deadline, such as it is, does not refer to a specific expiration point, so much as it relates to Congress' plans. It's already clear Republican lawmakers intend to prohibit all future transfers, and though such a bill would draw an inevitable veto, things get trickier if Congress adds the policy to the next Pentagon spending bill.
 
If the administration can move 57 prisoners before this happens, the detainee population will shrink to just 65 individuals. The White House hopes that the arithmetic would then become undeniable, even to GOP lawmakers -- spending millions of dollars on a detention facility that the military wants to close, and which undermines the United States' global credibility, all to lock up 65 people who could easily be moved to secure domestic facilities is ridiculous.
 
The same article, however, included a tidbit I haven't seen reported anywhere else.

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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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