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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 7.20.16

07/20/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:
* The crackdown continues: "Turkey issued a ban on professional travel for all academics and opened top-to-bottom investigations into military courts Wednesday as security chiefs planned the next steps in sweeping crackdowns after last week's failed coup attempt."
* It'd be a fairly small infraction, and hardly the biggest scandal involving the Trump campaign, but it looks like Team Trump "used corporate resources to write a political speech," which was probably illegal.
* Christie knows a little something about abuses of power: "The White House on Wednesday took a jab at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) for floating a proposal to fire government employees appointed by President Obama if Donald Trump wins the presidency in November."
* He was just 49 years old: "Hawaii Democratic Rep. Mark Takai died Wednesday after battling pancreatic cancer, his office confirmed. In May, he announced he would not seek re-election because his cancer had spread. He first received the diagnosis in October 2015."
* A welcome sentiment: "Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday questioned the wisdom of the Republican National Convention's focus on calling for prison for Hillary Clinton. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee 'now belongs in prison? C'mon. We can make the case that she shouldn't be elected without jumping the shark,' Flake tweeted."
A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

Just how far do Trump's ties to Putin go?

07/20/16 04:28PM

At the time, it was an exchange that went by without causing much of a stir. In early May, Donald Trump sat down with Fox News' Bret Baier, who asked the Republican candidate whether he's ever spoken directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "I have no comment on that," Trump replied. "No comment."
Baier pressed further, noting Trump's usual habit of answering any question. Again Trump said, "I don't want to comment," adding that he was concerned about possibly undermining Putin's "confidence."
We've seen quite a few Trump interviews since he launched his White House bid, but this is probably the only time he said "no comment" three times in 20 seconds.
Two months later, questions about just how cozy Trump is with the Russian autocrat are growing a little louder. Take, for example, this Washington Post column on the Republican Party's national platform, which Team Trump largely ignored -- except for the part about Russia.
The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington. [...]
Republican delegates at last week's national security committee platform meeting in Cleveland were surprised when the Trump campaign orchestrated a set of events to make sure that the GOP would not pledge to give Ukraine the weapons it has been asking for from the United States.
These details have not been independently confirmed by NBC News, though the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, reporting today from the Republican convention, said he'd spoken to a GOP congressman who believes the "most under-covered story of convention" is Team Trump's efforts to change the party platform "to be more pro-Putin."
In his much-discussed convention speech last night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) insisted Russia is "an adversary led by a dictator who dreams of reassembling the old Soviet empire," and I couldn't help but wonder: does Christie understand how much his pal Donald Trump likes that dictator?
Donald Trump stands with his wife Melania after she delivered a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Trump campaign rolls out brand new plagiarism explanation

07/20/16 01:45PM

Before we get into the Trump campaign's new explanation for Melania Trump's convention speech plagiarizing Michelle Obama, let's quickly review the remarkable series of defenses that preceded today's unexpected announcement.
After it was obvious that Melania Trump presented the First Lady's words as her own, the Trump campaign, its surrogates, and its allies experimented with a variety of explanations, starting with the notion that the incident was unimportant because it was only a couple of paragraphs. This gave way to arguments that this clear example of plagiarism wasn't plagiarism at all -- because it was really just an amazing coincidence.
And that's when things got really interesting. The controversy, we were told, was Hillary Clinton's fault. The controversy was also based on the assertion that Michelle Obama "invented the English language." For reasons I still don't understand, the RNC's Sean Spicer started talking about "My Little Pony." A Trump campaign spokesperson argued late yesterday that Melania Trump "wanted to communicate to Americans in phrases they have heard before," which is probably the funniest of all possible explanations.
Today, after remaining silent on the story for a day, Donald Trump himself weighed in via Twitter, calling the controversy "good news."
This afternoon, Team Trump changed directions once more, releasing a statement from Meredith Mciver, who described herself as "in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization," and "a longtime friend and admirer of the Trump family."
"In working with Melania Trump on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama's speech as examples.
"I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama's speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant."
Mciver said she offered her resignation, but the Trump family "rejected it."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump thanks veteran Al Baldasaro after he addressed the media during a speech on Veteran affairs in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, May 31, 2016. (Photo by Jason Szenes/EPA)

Trump adviser endorses violence against Hillary Clinton

07/20/16 12:45PM

After Donald Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro (R), the co-chair of Trump's state veterans coalition, did his best to defend the candidate's proposal. "What he's saying is no different than the situation during World War II," Baldasaro said, "when we put the Japanese in camps."
The New Hampshire Republican intended this as a defense.
And while those comments certainly made a stir, the Republican activist's latest tirade is probably even more noteworthy. The Boston Globe reports today:
A New Hampshire state representative who advises Donald Trump on veterans' issues called Tuesday for Hillary Clinton to be "put in the firing line and shot for treason" for her handling of the Benghazi terror attack.
Appearing on WRKO radio from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, state Representative Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican, called the presumptive Democratic nominee "a piece of garbage."
Note, Baldasaro's comments, which are obviously indefensible, are built entirely around conspiracy theories surrounding Benghazi -- all of which congressional Republicans have already debunked.
Some might be thinking the New Hampshire Republican lost his cool on a radio show, but after having time to cool down and regain his composure, he'll realize he went too far. But in Baldasaro's case, that's not true: the Boston Globe followed up with him today, and the Trump adviser said he stood by his comments "without a doubt."
After complaining about Clinton's email server protocols, Baldasaro told the newspaper, "I stand by what I said." He added, "Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. I spoke my mind about how I feel."

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.20.16

07/20/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* Donald Trump Jr. delivered a speech to the Republican convention with phrasing lifted from a magazine article, but since the article's writer helped write the speech, plagiarism allegations quickly faded.
* In the meantime, questions continue as to who was responsible for Melania Trump's speech, which included plagiarized portions from a Michelle Obama speech.
* A Trump campaign spokesperson said late yesterday that Melania Trump "wanted to communicate to Americans in phrases they have heard before," which is probably the funniest of all possible explanations.
* For the first time in the organization's 38-year history, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is endorsing a presidential candidate: it's backing Hillary Clinton.
* In a bit of a surprise, Donald Trump reportedly flew home Monday night, leaving his own convention so he could sleep at home.
* Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, suggested yesterday that Paul Manafort, Trump's current campaign chairman, may need to resign as a result of the plagiarism controversy. The score between these two clearly hasn't been settled.
* Wright State University in Ohio was scheduled to host a presidential debate in September, but the school announced yesterday that it's withdrawing, citing escalating costs. A replacement venue has not yet been selected.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Penn., July 8, 2016. (Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

With decision looming, Clinton narrows VP short-list

07/20/16 11:00AM

Much of the political world's focus is on the Republican National Convention, but in the background, there's big news on the horizon: Hillary Clinton will reportedly announce her running mate at an event in Florida in just two days.
In the meantime, as observers look for hints, there are a handful of names generating the most scuttlebutt. The Washington Post reported late yesterday:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Sen. Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia have emerged as the leading candidates on a longer list of finalists Hillary Clinton is considering for her vice-presidential running mate, according to interviews with multiple Democrats with knowledge of her deliberations.
Although her list is not limited to those two, Clinton has spoken highly of both in recent days to friends and advisers as she closes in on an announcement that could come as soon as Friday.
The Post's article noted that Clinton has sought advice on the matter from, among others, President Obama.
This reporting follows a series of private meetings Clinton had last week with leading contenders, including Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.
And while many try to read the tea leaves, Clinton seemed to tilt her hand a bit on Monday during an interview with Charlie Rose, which included the presumptive Democratic nominee emphasizing "experience" as the key factor. "I am afflicted with the responsibility gene," she added.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, second from left, gestures as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich watch him during the a Republican presidential primary debate in Detroit. (Photo by Paul Sancya/AP)

What Team Trump was prepared to offer John Kasich

07/20/16 10:15AM

Over the weekend, Donald Trump repeatedly insisted that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was always his "first choice" for a running mate. No one seriously believes this, and no one should: Trump's reservations about the governor have been well documented, as have the near-desperate appeals to superior alternatives.
Take, for example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a popular Republican governor of one of the nation's largest and most important swing states. Kasich's presidential campaign didn't turn out well -- he only won one state (his own) -- but the Ohioan is a highly credible figure in GOP politics and in the media. By most measures, his role on the GOP ticket would have made a significant and positive difference.
And with this in mind, the New York Times' Robert Draper reports today on an amazing attempt at outreach from Team Trump to the Ohio governor.
One day this past May, Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was "really not prepared to be president of the United States," and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?
When Kasich's adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father's vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.
Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?
"Making America great again" was the casual reply.
This reminds me of a story that went largely overlooked a few months ago.


About The Rachel Maddow Show

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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