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Image: YEAR IN FOCUS - NEWS (1 of a set of 85) Republican National Convention: Day Two

Trump's conflict-of-interest troubles come roaring back

03/24/17 10:40AM

It's admittedly challenging keeping up with all of Donald Trump's scandals and assorted controversies, but we're occasionally reminded that he maintains ownership of business ventures he refused to divest from. The enterprise, we've been assured, is in the hands of the president's adult sons, Eric and Don Trump Jr.

As recently as two weeks ago, Don Trump Jr. insisted that there's no cause for concern, and that the current arrangement is working out well. "I basically have zero contact with [the president] at this point," the younger Trump said at a Republican fundraiser.

In a new interview with Forbes, however, it appears his brother has a different perspective. In fact, Eric Trump had all kinds of interesting things to say about his family's controversial business arrangement.
"There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise," he says, echoing previous statements from his father. "I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That's kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it's something that we honor."

But less than two minutes later, he concedes that he will continue to update his father on the business while he is in the presidency. "Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that's about it." How often will those reports be, every quarter? "Depending, yeah, depending." Could be more, could be less? "Yeah, probably quarterly." One thing is clear: "My father and I are very close," Eric Trump says. "I talk to him a lot. We're pretty inseparable."
This is quite a distance from the "I basically have zero contact" posture his brother took two weeks ago.
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U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., speaks at the Freedom Summit, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/AP)

White House has some bad advice for women seeking maternity care

03/24/17 10:00AM

In a last-ditch effort to make far-right lawmakers happy, the White House and Republican leaders have agreed to change their health care bill, scrapping the Essential Health Benefits provision of existing federal law. Team Trump, as of this morning, has an amazing new defense for the shift.

As we discussed this morning, under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers are required to include a series of health care benefits in every plan. These protections guarantee, for example, that American women will have maternity care if they need it.

Under the Republican plan, that guarantee will disappear entirely. How does Team Trump defend such a change? Mick Mulvaney, Trump's extremist budget director, made his pitch to CBS News this morning.
Co-host Alex Wagner asked Mulvaney about people who do not live in a state that requires maternity coverage.

"Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in," Mulvaney replied.

Wagner asked if Mulvaney meant that people should move.
"No, they can try to change their own state legislatures and their state laws," he responded. "Why do we look to the federal government to try and fix our local problems?"
Oh, I see. As far as the White House is concerned, American women shouldn't have the guarantee of maternity care; American women in blue states should have the guarantee of maternity care.
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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort appears at a press conference at the Republican Convention on July 19, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

White House finding new ways to throw Manafort under the bus

03/24/17 09:23AM

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer probably wasn't trying to be funny this week with his answers about Paul Manafort, but he nevertheless generated laughter. Asked about Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, caught up in the Russia scandal, Spicer described Manafort as someone "who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time."

Manafort, of course, effectively ran the campaign when Trump secured and accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

Yesterday, Spicer went just a little further, dismissing the former Trump campaign chairman as someone who was on the team "for five months."
"[Y]ou pull out a gentleman who was employed by someone for five months and talk about a client that he had 10 years ago? No, I can't unequivocally say that nobody ever in his past, who may or not have come in contact with him, sat next to him in a plane, who grew up with him in grade school..."
At this rate, by next week, I half-expect Spicer to describe Manafort as "some guy Trump once said hello to."
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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

Team Trump preemptively distances itself from flailing health bill

03/24/17 08:47AM

In about six hours, House Republicans will vote on a wildly unpopular health care bill. They won't have a CBO score; they won't know how much the bill costs; they won't know how many Americans will lose their health benefits if the bill becomes law; and they won't know how many Senate Republicans will even consider it.

That said, House GOP lawmakers will know that Donald Trump's White House expects them to vote for it -- because the president is fully on board with the legislation.

Or is he? There's a fair amount of evidence this morning that Team Trump isn't just expecting defeat when the House bill reaches the floor later today; it's also preemptively distancing itself from this fiasco. The New York Times reported this morning, for example:
Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan's plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans. [...]

To Mr. Trump and his team, the health care repeal is a troublesome stepchild. His son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who is vacationing with his family in Aspen this week, has said for days that the bill was a mistake to support.
Soon after, we learned that White House strategist Stephen Bannon is reportedly displeased with the current Republican bill because it doesn't "drive down costs."

CNBC's John Harwood also spoke to a senior White House aide this morning who said the president is already preparing to "walk away" from health care and take on the "next battle," which the aide said will be tax cuts. The same White House staffer said a decisive health care defeat today would work out well for Team Trump.

Given all of this, MSNBC's Chris Hayes asked this morning, "Um, is the White House now whipping against the bill?"

Chris was probably kidding, but it's hardly an outlandish question under the circumstances.
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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and Vice-President elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Republicans find a way to make a bad health care plan even worse

03/24/17 08:00AM

The original Republican health care plan, unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a few weeks ago, landed with a thud. Independent estimates found the GOP proposal would strip 23 million Americans of their health coverage, and when Ryan told his members they could either take it or leave it, many House Republicans went with the latter.

So, Ryan tried again, this week unveiling an overhauled version of his plan, which failed to address any of the problems with the first version, and which the Congressional Budget Office found would take coverage from 24 million Americans. The Speaker again told members they had to accept his bill, and GOP lawmakers again said they wouldn't.

And now, with their backs against the wall, Republican leaders are making even more changes, managing to make a bad bill even worse in the hopes of avoiding a humiliating failure.
Eleventh hour changes to the bill were made Thursday night -- one more attempt to appease Republicans on both sides of the spectrum who weren't yet on board.

Those changes include a temporary extension of a 0.9 percent Medicare tax on people making more than $200,000.... The other change would move the Essential Health Benefits from being a federal requirement and allow states to determine which ones they want to include in health insurance plans such as maternity care, hospitalization, emergency care and mental health services.
I can appreciate the fact that "Essential Health Benefits" may sound like some wonky phrase that makes readers' eyes glaze over, but this is a critical element of the debate. Under the Affordable Care Act, private insurers are required to cover a series of health care treatments in every plan. The benefits include things like prescription drugs, maternity care, and various pediatric services, such as vision care for children.

To woo right-wing House members, Republicans have agreed to scrap the Essential Health Benefits from federal law. As Business Insider's Josh Barro explained yesterday, "If the EHB rules were repealed, insurers could literally sell plans that do not pay for you to go to the doctor, or that don't pay for prescription drugs, or that don't cover pregnancy-related care. EHB repeal would also allow insurers to sell plans that do not cover substance-abuse treatment, a key issue for members of Congress from states hit by the opioid epidemic."

That's the new GOP plan, as of this morning. It includes all of the provisions most Americans already hate -- drastic Medicaid cuts, tax breaks for the wealthy, et al -- and then adds additional right-wing cruelty, on purpose.
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Thursday's Mini-Report, 3.23.17

03/23/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest from London: "The knife-wielding terrorist who killed an American tourist and two others outside the U.K. Parliament was British-born and previously investigated for 'violent extremism.'"

* Russia: "A former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov was shot and killed in Kiev Thursday in what the Ukrainian president described as an 'act of state terrorism' by Russia, an accusation that has been quickly rejected by the Kremlin. President Petro Poroshenko said Voronenkov's killing 'clearly shows the handwriting of Russian special services shown repeatedly in various European capitals in the past.'"

* Israeli police "arrested a 19-year-old man Thursday in connection with the wave of bomb threats and hoaxes against Jewish community centers in America, authorities in Israel said. The unnamed man -- a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen -- is Jewish himself, officials said."

* I don't think an apology alone will be nearly enough: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes apologized to committee members after going to the White House Wednesday with information about President Donald Trump's wiretapping accusations before sharing it with the committee, a Democrat on the panel said Thursday."

* Chuck Schumer makes some news: "Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings ended Thursday on a confrontational note, with the Senate's top Democrat vowing a filibuster that could complicate Gorsuch's confirmation and lead to an overhaul in the way the U.S. Senate conducts its business."

* I remember when Republicans used to say it was a bad thing when Congress created uncertainty, and yet here we are: "Uncertainty surrounding the Republican plan to replace Obamacare is forcing some U.S. hospitals to delay expansion plans, cut costs, or take on added risk to borrow money for capital investment projects, dealing an economic blow to these facilities and the towns they call home."
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House Republicans cancel vote on controversial health care bill

03/23/17 04:31PM

There was a House Republican conference meeting scheduled for this morning, but it was postponed. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was scheduled to host a press conference this afternoon, but it too was scrapped.

And the House was supposed to vote today on the Republicans' wildly unpopular health care plan, but it met a familiar fate.
House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a planned vote on the GOP health care bill Thursday afternoon as they struggled to find sufficient support to pass it. [...]

The move came after House conservatives said there was no deal struck on the bill following a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday.
Right around the time House GOP leaders canceled today's vote, Trump told a group, "Today, the House is voting to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare."

Apparently, the merits of the Affordable Care Act aren't the only things the president is unaware of.

In case this isn't already obvious, these are deeply embarrassing developments for Republican leaders. As recently as yesterday afternoon, GOP officials were declaring, with great bravado, "We're voting tomorrow, no matter what." House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told NBC News' Kasie Hunt that members would not only cast their votes on the American Health Care Act by 7 p.m. (ET), but also that the votes would be there to pass it.

And yet, here we are.
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Image: House Speaker Paul Ryan Holds Weekly Briefing

Americans reject Republican health plan in striking numbers

03/23/17 02:01PM

A week ago, there was ample evidence that showed Americans just weren't buying what Republicans were selling on health care. National survey data from Fox News, Public Policy Polling, and the Kaiser Family Foundation showed most of the country souring on the GOP's American Health Care Act, which some call "Trumpcare."

Of course, polls can change, and in the case of the Republican legislation, public attitudes have, in fact, shifted -- but not in a direction GOP leaders will like.
American voters disapprove 56 - 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided, of the Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. [...]

"Replacing Obamacare will come with a price for elected representatives who vote to scrap it, say many Americans, who clearly feel their health is in peril under the Republican alternative," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The same poll found 43% of respondents "strongly" oppose the Republican plan. How many "strongly" support it? A whopping 6%. That's not a typo.

A forgiving observer may look for ways to excuse results like these. One might note, for example, that the Affordable Care Act has long been controversial, too. Perhaps one might also argue that Americans would have more favorable impressions of the GOP plan if they had more time to familiarize themselves with the details.

But the excuses don't work in this case. The Republican legislation is far less popular than the ACA was -- and also less popular than the Clinton plan from the 1990s. What's more, if GOP leaders had any confidence that the public would like their plan once Americans got to know it they wouldn't be rushing to force it through Congress so quickly.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but it's political suicide to rally behind a life-or-death piece of legislation, which would leave tens of millions of people without health coverage, knowing it enjoys the support of just 17% of the public.
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U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (R) arrives at a House Republican Conference meeting June 22, 2016 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty)

Where things stand with the Republican health care bill

03/23/17 12:47PM

It's hard not to feel some trepidation about writing a piece on where things stand with the Republican health care bill, because the existing dynamic is subject to dramatic changes at a moment's notice. But fortune favors the bold, so let's dig in.

Is the American Health Care Act going to pass today?

That's largely dependent on which version of the American Health Care Act we're talking about. The original bill is dead. The revised bill, written in secret in the middle of the night earlier this week, doesn't have the votes.

So we're just waiting for the bill's inevitable failure?

Not so fast. Overnight, there was talk of a new effort that would move the bill sharply to the right in order to make members of the House Freedom Caucus happy.

What kind of changes are House GOP leaders prepared to offer?

As of noon (ET), there is no new bill, but multiple reports suggest the Republican leadership is prepared to start scrapping essential health benefits -- provisions in the Affordable Care Act that require insurers to cover things like prescription drugs and maternity care -- in order to woo right-wing members.

You're making it sound as if some House Republicans believe the existing bill isn't cruel enough.


If the new, more far-right version becomes the official bill, will it pick up enough Freedom Caucus votes to pass?

There is no headcount on this -- the bill doesn't yet exist, and may never exist -- so no one knows for sure. For some Freedom Caucus members, scrapping essential health benefits is nice, but it's not enough. Complicating matters, the House GOP's center-right members are already running away from the bill, and their opposition will stiffen if the legislation becomes even more regressive.
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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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