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Obama ready to hand off a healthy U.S. economy to his successor

11/30/16 11:21AM

The recent historical pattern doesn't exactly inspire confidence. In 1992, after a lengthy period of Republican governance, a Democratic president took office in the midst of a weak economy. That Democrat helped turn things around and left office eight years later, handing off a healthy economy to his GOP successor.

That Republican squandered what he'd been given, leading the nation into an economic crisis, which he handed off to his Democratic successor -- who also oversaw a sustained economic recovery, handing off another health economy to another Republican.
The U.S. economy grew faster than initially thought in the third quarter, notching its best performance in two years, buoyed by strong consumer spending and a surge in soybean exports.

Gross domestic product increased at a 3.2 percent annual rate instead of the previously reported 2.9 percent pace, the Commerce Department said in its second GDP estimate on Tuesday. Growth was the strongest since the third quarter of 2014 and followed the second quarter's anemic 1.4 percent pace.
Politico's Ben White took note yesterday of the conditions Donald Trump is inheriting from President Obama: healthy economic growth, record high stock prices, record high home prices, low unemployment, and rising wages. This is in line with fresh data pointing to improved consumer confidence and consumer spending.

Not too shabby.

In fact, I've heard from plenty of Democrats in recent weeks who've told me in casual conversation that the economy may have been too good to help the party win in the 2016 elections -- because Obama's economic successes may have created electoral complacency. Recent Republican presidents' economic failures are no longer fresh in voters' minds, and with such widespread progress in recent years, many Americans felt comfortable taking a gamble on an unqualified and incompetent presidential candidate.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives for a ribbon cutting ceremony during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel- Old Post Office, Oct. 26, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)

Trump still doesn't understand his conflict-of-interest problem

11/30/16 10:53AM

Donald Trump seems to realize he has a conflict-of-interest problem. What the president-elect doesn't yet understand is how to resolve it.
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he is drawing up documents that will take him "completely out" of his business operations "in order to fully focus on running the country."

In early-morning tweets, the real-estate mogul was scant on details about how he plans to remove himself from his self-branded businesses and Trump Organization empire, but said he would hold a news conference with his children on Dec. 15 to talk about his departure.
By way of Twitter, Trump declared, "I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!"

Note, Trump believes it's "visually important" to avoid conflicts of interest. What a curious choice of words.

Regardless, these tweets have apparently caused a stir, though I'm not sure why. We already knew Trump intended to separate himself from directly running his business -- pardon me, I meant his "great business" -- because he'd already committed to this during the campaign.

What's more, the fact that the president-elect will be holding a press conference -- pardon me, a "major news conference" -- with his adult children suggests Trump's operation will be turned over to his kids, which is also in line with everything we already knew.

What we have here, in other words, is Trump trying to respond to a series of conflict-of-interest controversies with ... nothing. Aaron Blake joked, "The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he'll actually be doing a press conference."
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U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

'This is really a bigger job than I thought'

11/30/16 10:20AM

In early January, CBS News' John Dickerson asked Donald Trump an excellent question. "When you think of the presidency -- the day-to-day, not the show part -- what is it going to be like?" the "Face the Nation" host asked the then-candidate. "What do you think about that, the operation?"

The Republican replied, "I don't think about it."

Eleven months later, Trump was the president-elect, meeting with President Obama in Oval Office, where Trump "seemed surprised by the scope" of the responsibilities that would soon be on his shoulders. He shouldn't have been surprised -- candidates for the nation's highest office usually give these duties considerable thought before launching their campaigns -- but Trump sought the presidency before learning about what the job entails.

Newt Gingrich, a close Trump ally, talked to USA Today this week about his impressions of the president-elect at this phase in the process.
When he met with Trump last week, Gingrich says, "He commented, 'This is really a bigger job than I thought.' Which is good. He should think that." As president, Gingrich went on, "you have war and peace, you have enormous powers ... and it all comes down to the Oval Office and it all comes down to you."
The problem, of course, is that Trump doesn't quite know what to do while he comes to terms with the fact that the presidency is "a bigger job" than he realized. The incoming president has no relevant experience, and he's surrounded himself with a team whose members also have no relevant experience. Trump should've thought all of this through before he even kicked off his candidacy, but instead, he's learning it all on the fly, driven by misplaced confidence shaped by nothing but his unhealthy ego.

Vox's Libby Nelson recently explained, "Running for president is hard. You're on the road all the time, your every utterance is scrutinized, you have to prepare for debates and manage donors and keep up a tough schedule. But being president is much, much harder. Trump used to joke on the campaign trail about how hard he was working at running for president. One theme that emerges from reports ... is that he doesn't realize how much harder it can get."
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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with a supporter during a campaign rally at the USS Wisconsin battleship in Norfolk, Va., Oct. 31, 2015. (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

In picking cabinet, Trump values wealth, inexperience

11/30/16 09:30AM

The week after the election, Donald Trump's transition team started falling apart, with internal divisions forcing some members to resign, while others were "purged" from the operation altogether. It looked like it might be a while before the president-elect's cabinet would come together.

Two weeks later, however, the cabinet announcements are starting to come together a little more quickly, and as of this morning, roughly half of the Republican administration's top posts are no longer blank:

Vice President: Gov. Mike Pence

Chief of Staff: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Chief Strategist: Steve Bannon

Attorney General: Sen. Jeff Sessions

Housing and Urban Development Secretary: Ben Carson (probably)

Ambassador to the United Nations: Gov. Nikki Haley

Education Secretary: Betsy DeVos

Health and Human Services Secretary: Rep. Tom Price

Transportation Secretary: Elaine Chao

Treasury Secretary: Steven Mnuchin

Commerce Secretary: Wilbur Ross

With this list in mind, we can start to draw some conclusions about the kinds of qualities Donald Trump considers important.
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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump steps away after greeting Indiana Governor Mike Pence during the introduction of Pence as his vice presidential running mate in New York City, July 16, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Don't miss the fine print in Trump's Carrier news

11/30/16 08:40AM

Over the summer, during a campaign rally in Indiana, then-candidate Donald Trump made a specific vow: "We're not going to lose Carrier air conditioning from Indianapolis." And with this in mind, the news out of the Hoosier State yesterday seemed very encouraging, at least at first blush.
The incoming Trump administration and United Technologies have reached an agreement that will keep close to 1,000 jobs at Carrier Corp., which is owned by United Technologies, in Indiana.

Carrier had planned to move production from a key factory in that state to Mexico, taking with it the roughly 1,400 jobs of those who work at the Indiana plant.

But shortly after CNBC revealed that Donald Trump was expected to travel to Indiana on Thursday to reveal that a deal had been reached, Carrier itself confirmed the agreement.
Details of the agreement are scarce, and the Indianapolis Star reported overnight that many workers will very likely "still be laid off."

But for the workers whose jobs appear to have been saved, it's still unambiguously good news. The president-elect will head to Indiana tomorrow to celebrate the deal, take credit for the negotiations that began earlier this year (long before he even won the Republican nomination), and point to the progress as proof of Trump's ability to boost American manufacturing.

There is, however, an important catch.
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President-elect Donald Trump, walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

Trump picks a Treasury Secretary whom Trump voters should oppose

11/30/16 08:00AM

Democrats have all kinds of reasons to oppose Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump's choice for Treasury Secretary, but in an interesting twist, Trump supporters shouldn't be pleased, either.
Mnuchin spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, ultimately rising to partner before leaving to start his own hedge fund and launching a production company that bankrolled Hollywood hits like Avatar and American Sniper. Then a relatively unknown banker, Mnuchin became Trump's finance chairman in May and helped the real-estate mogul raise millions for his campaign.

As Treasury secretary, Mnuchin would oversee the nation's financial regulations, monetary and tax policy. Trump has pledged on the campaign trail to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and cut the corporate tax rate, but Mnuchin kept a low profile during the campaign and his own policy views are unclear. During confirmation hearings, however, he could face questions over his role in running a bank that reportedly foreclosed on tens of thousands of homeowners in California following the housing crisis.
During the presidential campaign, Trump made great strides by claiming to be a populist who's eager to fight back against the financial elites who ignore the interests of working-class Americans. The Republican was especially dismissive of hedge-fund managers, whom he characterized as "paper pushers" who are "getting away with murder."

When Trump took on Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primaries, he blasted the senator's ties to Goldman Sachs, and when Trump took on Hillary Clinton in the general election, he blasted the former Secretary of State for her ties to Goldman Sachs.

And yet, here we are, watching Trump select a Goldman Sachs veteran who started his own hedge fund to run the Department of the Treasury.

But it's Mnuchin's role running a "foreclosure machine" that's probably the most alarming aspect of his resume.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 11.29.16

11/29/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Tennessee: "Three people have died in a 500-acre wildfire around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, authorities said Tuesday, but firefighters are making significant progress thanks to rain that swept through overnight."

* Tragedy: "The fairy tale season of the professional Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense ended in tragedy when their plane crashed in Colombia, killing all but six of the 81 people aboard."

* Standing Rock: "As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as 'human shields' for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said."

* Real estate market: "U.S. home prices have climbed back above the record reached more than a decade ago, bringing to a close the worst period for the housing market since the Great Depression and stoking optimism for a more sustainable expansion."

* Curious praise: "Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said that he believes it will be easier to deal with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump than with other American leaders who "talk" about democracy, human rights and transparency."

* Syria: "A U.S. military investigation into a mistaken airstrike that likely killed dozens of 'Syrian-aligned' forces in September found no misconduct on the part of U.S.-led coalition pilots or commanders who approved the attack, the U.S. military said Tuesday."

* Diplomacy: "White House spokesman Josh Earnest says a high-ranking presidential adviser and the top diplomat to Cuba will represent the United States at Fidel Castro's funeral. Earnest is emphasizing that the two are not part of a formal delegation to the service, but the appearance of deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and Jeffrey DeLaurentis shows a commitment to an 'ongoing, future-oriented relationship with the Cuban people.'"

* South Korea's President Park Geun-hye "has said she has asked parliament to help her find a way to stand down. Ms. Park faced growing calls to resign amid an investigation into whether she allowed a long-time friend to influence political decisions for personal gain.
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U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hugs a U.S. flag as he takes the stage for a campaign town hall meeting in Derry, N.H., Aug. 19, 2015. (Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Trump desperately needs a First Amendment refresher course

11/29/16 12:50PM

At the Democratic National Convention, Khizr Khan delivered striking remarks that addressed Donald Trump directly. "Let me ask you," Khan said. "Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy."

Alas, Trump didn't take him up on the offer. As the Washington Post noted this morning:
President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened loss of citizenship or jail for those who burn the American flag, saying such protests -- which the Supreme Court has declared to be free speech -- should carry "consequences."

Trump offered his thoughts in an early-morning post on Twitter, saying, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag."
In case you were wondering -- as I was -- why in the world Trump took a sudden interest in this obscure issue, which faded from the discourse many years ago, Fox News apparently aired an early-morning segment on some student protesters burning a flag. It's likely the president-elect saw this and decided to share his thoughts on the matter.

There's probably no real point in delving into an extended discussion of the merits of this argument. The Supreme Court has already ruled that flag burning is protected political speech, and efforts to amend the Constitution have failed more than once, effectively ending the debate.

But Trump's latest missive nevertheless seemed noteworthy for reasons that may not be entirely obvious at first blush.
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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.29.16

11/29/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* An Electoral College member from Texas, who's supposed to support Donald Trump, has resigned from his position, unwilling to cast his vote for the Republican nominee. The remaining Texas electors will be responsible for choosing a replacement.

* In North Carolina's gubernatorial race, Roy Cooper's (D) lead over incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R) is nearing the 10,000 mark, but the Republican isn't conceding yet, and WRAL reports on the state of the process.

* In California, a contested state Senate race was resolved in the Democratic candidate's favor, which means Dems will have a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature, which will work alongside a Democratic governor.

* On the other hand, with the Kentucky House flipping to GOP control, Republicans now have the majority in every Southern state legislature for the first time in American history.

* Speaking of California, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) narrowly won his re-election bid. As of yesterday, this was one of the few unresolved races of the 2016 cycle.

* Republican megadonor Betsy DeVos is now positioned to be Trump's Education Secretary, but during the Republican National Convention, DeVos was not a fan of her party's presidential nominee.

* Shortly after David Wildstein was forced to resign from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son in law and trusted advisor, emailed Wildstein to say the Bridgegate scheme "was kind of badass."
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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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