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The White House plugged ‘unity’ ahead of the State of the Union. That’s not what Trump delivered



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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — For all of the talk from White House aides about how President Trump’s State of the Union address would center on unity and finding common ground, the thrust of his speech Tuesday night was anything but.

Sure, there were niceties at the beginning. “I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans,” Trump remarked. “The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda.”

But at its core, Trump’s speech was a full-throttled demand for his immigration policies and border wall – which precipitated the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. And while he avoided mentioning the past shutdown, he also offered no path forward to avoid the next looming one.

“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” he said. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”

“Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is actually very cruel… Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.”

“In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall. But the proper wall was never built. I will get it built.”

And those weren’t the only points of the speech that aimed more to confront than unite:

  • Here’s what he had to say about abortion: “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful, babies who will never get the chance to share their love and their dreams with the world. And then, we had the case of the Governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.” (Um, that’s a statement that needs a fact check. More on that below.)
  • And he took an obvious dig at Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with this riff on socialism:“Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence — and not government coercion, domination and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
  • And he dismissed the mushrooming investigations into his associates and the 2016 presidential election as mere partisan distractions: “The only thing that can stop [America’s economic growth] are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way!”

Overall, we’re not sure Trump’s collection of statements last night added up to a cohesive message at all. It felt mostly like a cleaned-up version of his Twitter feed.

Trump’s biggest whopper of the night: Crime fell in El Paso due to its border fence

In a night full of fact-checking (more on that below), President Trump committed arguably his biggest whopper of the night when he said this:

“The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime – one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities. Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.”

In fact, violent crime in El Paso — one of America’s safest cities — declined BEFORE the border fence was built there in 2008-2009. And it rose AFTER its construction. Here’s the El Paso Times:

“Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded.

Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported.

The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008.

From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent.”

Per NBC’s Anthony Terrell, El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles released this statement: “While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been ‘…considered one of our Nation’s most dangerous cities.’ And, El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built. President Trump continues to give a false narrative about a great city that truly represents what this great Nation is all about.”

Fact-checking the rest of Trump’s speech

NBC’s Jane Timm and one of us fact-checked the entirety of the State of the Union, so you didn’t have to. Some of the highlights:


“Trump took office amid a booming economy, and he’s been taking credit for it since day one. But there’s no evidence he created this boom. Some economists argue he boosted growth with tax cuts — turbocharging an already booming economy — while others argue the government shutdown, tariffs, and trade war have slowed growth.”


“When unemployment ticked down to 3.7 percent in September 2018, that indeed marked the lowest jobless rate since December 1969, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the jobless rate has since ticked back up to 4.0 In January, which is above the 3.8 percent achieved in the Clinton administration in April 2000.”


“Asked on a radio program what happens when a woman who is going into labor desires a third-trimester abortion, Northam noted that this kind of procedure only occurs in cases of severe deformities or a nonviable pregnancy. He said that in this scenario, ‘the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.’”


“While Trump is correct that North Korea has not launched a missile in 15 months, there’s ample evidence that North Korea is seeking to retain and hide their nuclear capabilities — contradicting the president’s past claims that he’s made great progress in getting Pyongyang to give up their nuclear weapons.”


“This is correct, but it’s also true that those women are overwhelmingly Democrats. In fact, the share of Republican women in the House has gone DOWN since the last Congress. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, of the 127 female voting members of the House and Senate in the chamber last night, 106 were Democrats and just 21 were Republicans.”

Stacey Abrams takes aim at the shutdown in the Democratic response

While the president didn’t mention federal workers or the government shutdown at all, Stacey Abrams took direct aim at the shutdown mess, calling it “a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people — but our values.”

And/but, she also had this message to the president “Even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems, I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and respect the extraordinary diversity that defines America.”

The Elizabeth Warren/Native American story keeps coming back

The Washington Post: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she was sorry that she identified herself as a Native American for almost two decades, reflecting her ongoing struggle to quiet a controversy that continues to haunt her as she prepares to formally announce a presidential bid… [A]s Warren undergoes increased scrutiny as a presidential candidate, additional documents could surface to keep the issue alive. Using an open records request during a general inquiry, for example, The Post obtained Warren’s registration card for the State Bar of Texas, providing a previously undisclosed example of Warren identifying as an ‘American Indian.’”

This is starting to feel like one of those stories that just won’t go away (and, of course, with Trump’s enthusiasm for seizing on this narrative, he’s sure to amplify it every time there’s a new element.)

Here’s a look back at how Warren’s explanations have shifted over time.

  • May 2012: “These are my family stories. This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw. This is our lives. And I’m very proud of it.”
  • September 2012: “Let me be clear. I never asked for, never got any benefit because of my heritage. The people who hired me have all said they didn’t even know about it … As a kid, I never asked my mom for documentation when she talked about our Native American Heritage. What kid would? But I knew my father’s family didn’t like that she was part Cherokee and part Delaware. So my parents had to elope.”
  • February 2018: “I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and only by tribes. I never used my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”
  • October 2018: Warren releases DNA test finding that concludes there is “”strong evidence” that Warren’s “DNA sample of primarily European descent also contains Native American ancestry from an ancestor in the sample’s pedigree 6-10 generations ago.”
  • January 2019: “I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes — and only tribes — determine tribal citizenship, and I respect that difference.”
  • February 1, 2019: Per the Cherokee Nation, Warren reaches out to the tribe to apologize. “We are encouraged by this dialogue and understanding that being a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen is rooted in centuries of culture and laws not through DNA tests,” leaders of the Cherokee Nation said.
  • February 5, 2019: Warren expands that apology: “I can’t go back,” Warren said in an interview with The Washington Post. “But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.”

Yes, having this story break on the night of the State of the Union blunted its immediate impact, but this still isn’t going away anytime soon. The question is whether she can convince voters to not care about it. While it may not be disqualifying for her individually, in a crowded presidential field, troubling issues can become more problematic since there are so many choices for Democratic primary voters.

Warren has to hope this doesn’t turn off enough activists that it slows her ability to maintain a frontrunner profile. But make no mistake, she still owes voters a longer and more complete explanation for how we got here.

Klobuchar says she’ll make 2020 announcement on Sunday in Minnesota

Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow after last night’s State of the Union address, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she would be making her announcement on a possible White House bid – at an event in Minnesota.

“Okay, so Sunday, come to Boom Island, Minneapolis,” she said. “It’s going to be a little cold, 20 degrees. Wear warm clothes. Maybe have, you know, a little heat warmers with you, but then you’ll find out my decision.”

That doesn’t sound like someone who’s declining a 2020 run.

Beto O’Rourke to decide on 2020 by the end of the month

Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in New York yesterday, per NBC’s Beth Fouhy, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said that he was definitely thinking about running for president in 2020, and that he would decide by the end of the month.

“O’Rourke said his main consideration was whether his wife and their three children, ages 12, 10 and 8, were “all good” with the decision,” Fouhy adds.

Poll: It’s close in MS-GOV

A new Mason-Dixon poll shows a close hypothetical general-election contest in this year’s gubernatorial race in Mississippi, with Democrat Jim Hood getting support from 44 percent of registered voters and Republican Tate Reeves getting 42 percent. Fourteen percent are undecided.

The poll was conducted January 30-February 1 of 625 registered voters, and it has a margin of error of plus-minus 4.0 percentage points.

The MS-GOV primary is August 6, and the general election is November 5.

On the 2020 trail, per NBC’s Kyle Stewart

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hits South Carolina, speaking to the South Carolina Hospital Association annual meeting in Columbia.

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Are political handicappers giving Bernie Sanders a break?



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Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — If you consider Bernie Sanders to be the front-runner — or one of the front-runners — in the Democratic race for president, then isn’t he underperforming in the early states he easily won or essentially tied back in 2016?

A Monmouth poll of Iowa released on Thursday found Sanders in second place with support from 16 percent of likely caucus-goers. That’s behind Joe Biden (27 percent), but ahead of Pete Buttigieg (9 percent), Elizabeth Warren (7 percent), Kamala Harris (7 percent) and Beto O’Rourke (6 percent).

Reminder: In 2016, Sanders got 49.6 percent in Iowa — almost tying Hillary Clinton’s 49.9 percent.

A new St. Anselm/New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll also had Sanders at 16 percent in the Granite State. That’s behind Biden (23 percent), but ahead of Buttigieg (11 percent), Elizabeth Warren (9 percent), Harris (7 percent) and O’Rourke (6 percent).

Yet back in 2016, Sanders won a whopping 60 percent in New Hampshire in his race against Clinton.

Yes, the 2020 field is much larger than the one four years ago. Yes, it is still very early, with nearly 300 days to go until Iowa. And, yes, the Dem field is absolutely wide open.

But how do you know that the collective political press corps is still treating Sanders more as an insurgent rather than as a legitimate front-runner, despite his name ID and money?

Answer: There’s more attention on Buttigieg in third place at nearly 10 percent in both states, or on Biden leading before he’s announced a presidential bid, than on Sanders’ pedestrian numbers in states he already won or essentially tied.

Sanders still gets treated more as an insurgent than a front-runner, even when he is a front-runner.

How the fundraising game in 2020 has changed

Ahead of Monday’s filing deadline for the first fundraising quarter, there’s been a remarkable fundraising development in the Democratic Party over the last 12 years.

The Dems’ bundler model (whereby candidates race to get maxed-out checks from donors) has been replaced by the ActBlue model (where they hunt for small-dollar donors over the internet).

This transformation — at least for the first quarter — has resulted in less overall money.

In the first quarter of 2007, the Top 6 Dem candidates (Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Biden, Richardson, Dodd) raised a combined $85 million, led by Obama and Clinton at about $25 million each.

Yet in the first quarter of 2019, the Top 7 Dem candidates so far (Sanders, Harris, O’Rourke, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, Booker) have raised a combined $63 million.

But the transformation also has resulted in MANY MORE small donors, who can donate again. And again. And again.

In 2007, Obama had 104,000 donors (so $240 per donor!) and Clinton had just 60,000 (so $400!).

Yet in this first quarter, Sanders had 525,000 donors ($35 average), O’Rourke 163,000 ($58), Buttigieg 159,000 ($44), Harris 138,000 ($87) and Warren 135,000 ($44).

So we get the concerns by Democrats that the overall money appears to be down so far – especially when looking ahead to face President Trump in 2020.

But the other way to look at it is that the Dem candidates have armies of small-dollar donors, and they can get those big bundled checks at a later date.

The state of the Q1 race

And ahead of Monday’s deadline, here are the overall fundraising numbers for the 2020 Dem field in the first quarter (January 1 to March 31):

Total raised

  • Bernie Sanders: $18.2 million in 41 days
  • Kamala Harris: $12 million in 70 days
  • Beto O’Rourke: $9.4 million in 18 days
  • Pete Buttigieg: $7 million in 68 days
  • Elizabeth Warren: $6 million in 90 days
  • Amy Klobuchar: $5.2 million in 50 days
  • Cory Booker: $5 million-plus in 59 days
  • Total: $62.8 million

Total raised (average per day)

  • O’Rourke: $552K
  • Sanders: $444K
  • Harris: $171K
  • Klobuchar: $104K
  • Buttigieg: $103K
  • Booker: $85K+
  • Warren: $67K

2020 Vision: Another kickoff weekend

This weekend, we’ll see three different Democratic candidates hold kickoff rallies in their hometowns.

On Saturday, Cory Booker has his in Newark, N.J. And on Sunday, Pete Buttigieg has his in South Bend, Ind., and Eric Swalwell goes in California.

The question we have for Buttigieg: He gives good quotes and interviews. Can he give a good rally, too?

On the campaign trail

Friday: Amy Klobuchar, Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper are all in Iowa… Elizabeth Warren stumps in New Hampshire… Beto O’Rourke and Eric Swalwell are in South Carolina… And Bernie Sanders begins his Midwest swing in Wisconsin.

Saturday: Cory Booker has his hometown kickoff in Newark… Hickenlooper remains in Iowa… Warren stays in New Hampshire… Ditto O’Rourke in South Carolina… And Bernie Sanders hits Indiana and Michigan.

Sunday: Pete Buttigieg has his hometown kickoff in South Bend, Ind… As does Swalwell in Dublin, Calif…. O’Rourke remains in South Carolina… Inslee and John Delany campaign in New Hampshire… And Julian Castro hits Iowa.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: State of play

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we did a deep dive into those new Dem polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 59 percent.

Fifty-nine percent.

That’s the share of Americans who say they don’t have confidence in the wisdom of the American public when it comes to making political decisions, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

It’s not exactly breaking news. Americans’ faith in our collective political wisdom has mostly been dropping since at least the mid-1990s.

But here’s the thing that caught our eye.

Before Trump’s election, Republicans and Democrats were pretty much aligned in their increasingly pessimistic views about the electorate.

But after Trump won, the share of Republicans who said they had faith in the public’s political smarts jumped from 35 percent to 54 percent.

And now, post-2018 midterms, that’s coming back down to Earth — now back to 43 percent.

ICYMI: This week’s overlooked stories

Purge at DHS! Barr on Capitol Hill! Bernie Sanders reintroduces his Medicare for All bill (and is a millionaire)! Those are the stories that dominated this week.

But don’t miss these overlooked stories via NBC’s Kyle Stewart, which would have received much more attention in other eras:

  1. Trump’s sister retires, negating judicial ethics complaints
  2. Trump admin wants to make asylum harder by putting border agents in charge
  3. Inside the Russian effort to target Sanders supporters — and help elect Trump

And here are today’s news clips you shouldn’t miss…

It looks like Herman Cain doesn’t have enough support for confirmation to a Fed seat.

Trump says he considered his daughter Ivanka to head the World Bank “because she’s very good with numbers.”

Former Obama counsel Gregory Craig has been indicted.

A new indictment alleges that Michael Avenatti embezzled millions from a paraplegic client’s settlement.

Pete Buttigieg and Mike Pence? It’s “complicated,” the AP writes.

Trump agenda: Steve Bannon vs. the Pope

Steve Bannon is taking his game to the Vatican.

Fed chair Jerome Powell is trying to keep his distance from the president.

Dem agenda: Chuck Schumer and the filibuster

Chuck Schumer isn’t promising to keep the filibuster in place if Democrats win a Senate majority.

Critics are gearing up to challenge a new Ohio ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill in court.

The health insurance industry is trying to convince Democrats to back away from Medicare-for-All.

2020: Joe Manchin backs Susan Collins

Stacey Abrams says that not beating Trump — but instead “winning America” — is the key to 2020 success.

Kamala Harris says she owns a gun “for personal safety.”

The Wall Street Journal has a big look at how reparations are now on the table for 2020.

POLITICO looks at how Elizabeth Warren used to be a Republican.

Here’s a look at those new polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, via Ben Kamisar.

Joe Manchin has endorsed Susan Collins for reelection.

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Trump pushes the bounds of his power



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Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — In a newly emboldened President Donald Trump, liberals sense the rise of a tyrant pushing all the boundaries of power at once and daring Congress, the courts and political critics to stand in his way at their own peril.

For the Trump faithful, he has finally been freed to be a truly forceful leader.

In short, the right and the left are seeing the president they always thought was there.

In recent weeks, Trump has thumbed his nose at Congress to try to build a border wall, purged the Department of Homeland Security to get a harder-line position on immigration, withdrawn legal objections to gutting Obamacare benefits, moved to dismantle a major federal agency and successfully pressured the Department of Justice to investigate perceived political enemies he said Wednesday are guilty of “treason” for having pursued a probe of his campaign’s ties to Russia.

It’s as if someone hit the play button on a domineering presidency that had been paused by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, a five-week government shutdown and the various distractions created by the president himself.

There’s nothing wrong with Trump using the powers granted to him by the Constitution or Congress’ cession of authority to the executive, Rachel Bovard, policy director at the Conservative Policy Institute, said.

“We’re seeing the logical conclusion of Congress giving the executive branch a lot of power,” she said in a phone conversation with NBC News during a break from training to get her concealed-carry permit in the District of Columbia. “Congress has plenty of authority to take their authority back and they haven’t. … They stomp their feet and scream about a tyrant.”

Conservatives thought President Barack Obama abused his powers, including when he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected certain immigrants who were brought to the country as children from deportation. And they believed, as many liberals do now, that the president’s party in Congress was far too willing to let the executive run roughshod over the legislative branch.

In 2016, Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, promised to use executive authority to address a series of hot-button issues, including her proposal to end the so-called gun-show loophole, which cheered liberals who were frustrated by Congress’ ability to thwart parts of Obama’s agenda.

That’s not to say every action is equal in moral value or proportion. But the move of party taking precedence over institutional prerogative is part of a long-term trend that activists on the right and the left have seen as a means of enacting their favored policies.

That trend has combined with Trump’s penchant for dramatic demonstrations of power to leave little question that he’s testing the limits of what a president can do unilaterally.

Several states have sued him over his decision to take money appropriated for military construction projects — and from other accounts — and use it to build a wall that Congress denied funding for before voting to block his plan. Trump vetoed the latter bill and will force the courts to decide whether he’s within his constitutional rights.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Trump has used powers from three different baskets that should be viewed in separate terms.

“There’s legitimate use of legitimate power. There’s abuse of legitimate power. And then, there’s creating illegitimate powers than no one ever intended to give you,” he said, pointing to Trump’s decision to use funds appropriated for other purposes to build a border wall as illegitimate, and his decision to withdraw the government’s objection to a lawsuit against Obamacare as a legitimate, but misguided, use of power.

“What I think progressives think about is ‘what is a legitimate use of legitimate power?'” he said. “Things like environmental protection and civil rights protection and busting up anti-competitive monopolies are powers that go unused. Those were legitimate powers that have gone unused by the Bush and the Trump administrations and that progressives would want to utilize if we take back the White House.”

But there’s a different kind of fight over what Trump depicts as an effort to use the power of the government to correct for what he sees as an abuse of federal authority against him.

Rather than a question of policy, it’s a matter of politics and law that leaves no room for the possibility that it was legitimate both to investigate the Trump operation’s ties to Russia and questions about the obstruction of justice, and for Mueller to find no evidence of a conspiracy with Russia.

From the South Lawn of the White House, the seat of executive power, Trump told reporters Wednesday that former government officials involved in starting and pursuing the investigation into his campaign were guilty of “treason” — a crime punishable by death — at nearly the same time Attorney General William Barr was telling Congress he believes the Obama administration spied on Trump’s campaign.

Barr provided no evidence. No one has been charged with a crime. No jury has rendered a verdict. But the president and the nation’s top law enforcement officer, speaking separately and yet in conjunction with each other, began to lay out a public case that American citizens are guilty.

“It was an illegal investigation,” Trump said. “Everything about it was crooked. … There were dirty cops. These were bad people. … And this was a — an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president. And we beat them.”

A few moments later, Trump dropped the “T” word.

“What they did was treason,” he said. “What they did was against our Constitution and everything we stand for.”

Under federal law, a person has to wage war against the United States or provide aid or comfort to the nation’s enemies to be found guilty of treason.

“While there is a debate about how effective he is or whether its bold versus tyrannical, his rhetoric should be a cause for concern,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said in an email. “His ongoing accusations about top law enforcement officials and his claims that they are guilty of things like treason goes beyond what any liberal or conservative should accept.”

Zelizer noted that Trump’s allegations are made without producing evidence and that he uses the standing of his office to put them into the public discussion.

“This is dangerous stuff and a fundamental misuse of the office,” Zelizer said. “Not only can they harm individuals, but they undercut trust for major institutions. It should be treated as seriously as other forms of abusive executive power. It is difficult for Congress to know what to do about it, since it is rhetorical, so much of the weight for pushing back falls on his own party taking tough steps when he says things like this. Until now, they have only supported him.”

It remains to be seen what comes of the Barr investigation into the investigators.

Trump has often declared that the Obama-era officials should not have used the power of the government to look into him; it was, he has said, an abuse of their authority for political gain.

For that reason alone, his fans and his critics may come to similar conclusions about whether he is now using the Justice Department to pursue the truth, or abusing his powers to punish perceived political enemies.

Whichever interpretation they embrace, there’s clearly a commonality in the way the left and the right view Trump, Zelizer said: “Both sides agree this is a very imperial president — at least, he tries to be.”

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EU Election POLL: Who will you vote for in the EU elections 2019? VOTE HERE



THE DEADLINE for Brexit has been extended yet again, putting the UK in danger of having to take part in the European Elections. But who will you vote for in the EU elections 2019? Have your say in’s poll below.

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