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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."

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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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