Political MoJo

Donald Trump Conveniently Forgets He Promised to Pay His Violent Supporters' Legal Fees

| Tue Mar. 15, 2016 1:51 PM EDT

Donald Trump has backed off from his pledge to pay the legal fees of supporters who attack protesters at his rallies—a reversal that has come after a Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester in the face at a rally in North Carolina last week.

"I don't condone violence," Trump told Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday. "I didn't say I would pay for his fees."

"So you're not going to?" Stephanopoulos asked, pressing the Republican front-runner on how he could reconcile paying for such legal fees with his own claim of being a peaceful person.

"Nobody has asked for fees and I haven't even seen it so I never said I was going to pay for fees," Trump said.

These statements come amid intense condemnation over the escalating violence at several chaotic Trump rallies last week.

But the real estate magnate seems to have forgotten the times he has publicly vowed to cover the legal fees his supporters might incur when roughing up protesters.

"So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of him, would you?" he told a crowd in Iowa in February. "Seriously, okay, just knock the hell. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees; I promise, I promise."

As recently as this past Sunday, Trump appeared to stand by his previous statements, telling Meet the Press he had directed his staff to see about covering the legal expenses for the man who attacked a protester at the rally in North Carolina. That, however, no longer appears to be the case.

"I'm going to make a decision," he said on Tuesday. "But I certainly don't condone violence and maybe you're right and maybe that's why I wouldn't do it."

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Watch Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda Freestyle with President Obama

| Tue Mar. 15, 2016 8:15 AM EDT

During a visit to the White House on Monday, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of the enormously popular Broadway show "Hamilton," stopped by the Rose Garden to showcase his freestyle skills with an assist from President Obama.

The performance featured the president holding up cue cards with words such as "Constitution" and "Obamacare" for Manuel to weave into his performance—and the result was pure magic:

The performance concluded with both Miranda and Obama dropping the mic.

"You think that's going viral?" Obama joked. "That's going viral."

Gov. Nikki Haley Warns Trump Is Inciting "Dangerous" Hate

| Sun Mar. 13, 2016 10:30 AM EDT

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Saturday told Republicans in Florida that Donald Trump is promoting the kind of "hate" that can lead to violence, and reminded them of the shooting of black churchgoers in Charleston last year.

Haley was speaking at a county GOP dinner in The Villages, the world's largest retirement community, on behalf of Sen. Marco Rubio. Like Rubio, who tore into Trump (and his protesters) at an earlier event in Tampa, Haley wanted voters to think hard about the footage of Trump rallies they'd seen on TV.

"I just want to be honest about the leader we have now," she told the almost exclusively senior-citizen crowd. "After seeing what happened in Chicago, after seeing what happened in North Carolina, after seeing what happened in Ohio, we are are seeing a division that is not us. That is not who we are as Republicans. And we are seeing a division that is dangerous. We are seeing a division that's got hate to it. And I want to tell you what that division can mean."

She reminded the audience of Walter Scott, an African American man who was shot and killed by a police officer last April in North Charleston. "Everyone wanted to come in and riot, [but] the Scott family gave us the opportunity to right a wrong," Haley explained. "And we stood with the Walter Scott family a month to the day and signed the first body camera bill in the country. The Republicans of South Carolina did. And that was showing—we didn't protest; we solved the problem, and we got it right and we did it together."

Then Haley brought up the mass shooting a few months later at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, mentioning three of the victims—Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, and Cynthia Hurd—by name. There, too, Haley said, the families of the victims encouraged unity, not division.

"The reason why I'm telling you that story," she said, "is we have someone running for president who instead of bringing [people] back together like we did in South Carolina, he's telling his supporters to punch a guy in the face! He's telling them if they don't do the right thing to carry him out on a stretcher. He's telling them to say, do it again. He's not denouncing the KKK when this is exactly the same group that protested on my statehouse grounds. We can't have Donald Trump as president! We can't."

Haley's remarks to that point were one of the toughest condemnations of Trump from a fellow Republican this campaign. But as with Rubio, who couldn't bring himself to say he wouldn't support Trump as the nominee, Haley hedged just enough to undermine the whole thing. "It's not that I think there's anything wrong with Mr. Trump," she said, acknowledging the large number of Trump supporters in the room. "He's a supporter. He supported me in my race. It's just lack of judgment."

Nor would she say Trump was necessarily wrong in blaming protesters for the violence in Chicago. "We don't need to blame—I'm not saying it's not the protesters' fault," she said. "It takes two people to fight. But leadership is being able to say we are a country that needs to unite. We have had a divider-in-chief for seven years. We don't need another. We need someone who's gonna say, show your passion, show your energy, show it in the right way. But don't do it with violence, don't do it with outrage, don't do it with hate."

Then Haley headed off to deliver another speech to another Lincoln dinner, part of a frantic scramble by the Rubio campaign to shore up his base of support ahead of Tuesday's primary. But his campaign's newfound courage in attacking the front-runner may be a little too late: An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll on Sunday showed Trump with a 21-point lead.

My Dad Was at the Trump Rally in Chicago. Here's What He Saw.

| Sat Mar. 12, 2016 12:41 AM EST

A Donald Trump rally in Chicago turned violent Friday evening just hours after a man was bloodied at an earlier rally in St. Louis. Several fights broke out at the rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion before a Trump staffer, citing safety concerns, announced the event had been postponed about 30 minutes after the scheduled 6 p.m. start time.

Trump had this to say about violence at the canceled rally in an interview with MSNBC'S Chris Matthews:

My dad, James Patterson, was at the rally. Here's what he told me about what he witnessed.

Thousands of people showed up to the rally. About a third of the attendees or more were anti-Trump demonstrators, he said, but that only became clear once he had passed through metal detectors and security pat downs and made it inside.

I think most people were very strategic in not having their signs out—people weren't protesting in the line. I didn't know who was a Trump supporter and who wasn't until I got in. And then, it almost seemed just by luck, a lot of the students were organized on the same side of the building that I was on. There were a lot of Latino students. There were a lot of Muslim students. There were a lot of black students there. There was some demonstrating going on prior to the time Trump was scheduled to come out. The Trump supporters started to shout "Trump!" And the counter protesters were creating their own counter protests. "Dump Trump!" "Stop Trump!" "F**k Trump!" And to some extent they drowned out the Trump supporters. But It was on both sides where people got out of hand and tried to get in people's faces. There were little skirmishes. I probably saw two or three skirmishes that were clearly altercations between Trump supporters and anti-Trump supporters.

He also says it was clear that a lot of the anti-Trump demonstrators were Bernie Sanders supporters.

It was a lot of UIC people there clearly. And a lot of them were Bernie supporters. Especially after it was announced that the rally was canceled, cheers just broke out and people were excited. And in addition to saying, "We stopped Trump!" people were saying "Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!" And they started pulling out their Bernie signs and some of them were wearing Bernie badges. So it was very clear to me that there were a lot of Bernie supporters in the crowd. To some extent it was almost like a mini Bernie rally at points. It was clearly a Bernie crowd.

My dad said that as far as he could tell, Sanders supporters and Trump supporters were the only clearly delineated groups at the rally. He had seen posts on Facebook about counter demonstrations but says he made the decision to protest as soon he heard Trump would be in town. "You can't have this man come to your city and let his hate go unanswered," he told me.

Hundreds if not thousands of other people apparently felt the same way.

Another Trump Rally Turns Violent in St. Louis

| Fri Mar. 11, 2016 6:01 PM EST

A Donald Trump rally in St. Louis on Friday became the latest campaign event to turn violent, joining multiple others this week in a growing pattern of routine violence at Trump gatherings.

At least one protester was bloodied at the St. Louis event, and some were taken away in plastic hand ties by police officers. St. Louis Today's Junius Randolph and MSNBC's Trymaine Lee were among the journalists on the scene at the rally, and they captured the day's chaos.

Florida Primary Shows the Cold War Is Over in US Politics

| Fri Mar. 11, 2016 5:23 PM EST

There's a pattern to the way Hillary Clinton's campaign has discussed Bernie Sanders' leftist politics: long periods of silence punctured by the occasional drive-by when Sanders creeps too close in the polls. Clinton backer Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) first mused in June that Sanders was getting a pass on his socialism from the media, after her Senate colleague's stadium-filling megarallies offered the first hint that he posed a serious threat. Then there was peace again, until January. With the Clinton campaign slipping in Iowa and New Hampshire, McCaskill told the New York Times that Republicans "can't wait to run an ad with a hammer and sickle." Clinton surrogate David Brock warned ominously that Sanders' comments on the capitalist system in the 1980s would doom him in November.

At Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Miami, coming off a stunning loss to Sanders in Michigan, Clinton opened up the research drawer her surrogates had riffled through before. It started when Univision anchor María Elena Salinas asked Sanders to explain how his brand of democratic socialism differed from that practiced in places like Nicaragua and Cuba. Then she played a clip of a press conference Sanders held in 1985, in which he praised Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and suggested the United States had misjudged Fidel Castro. Did he regret it?

Sanders didn't quite answer, but Clinton ran with it. "I think in that same interview, he praised what he called the 'revolution of values' in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves," she said. "I just couldn't disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere."

It was one of Clinton's most direct attacks yet on Sanders' embrace of leftist politics (although, in Sanders' defense, Castro had himself replaced an American-backed regime that oppressed, imprisoned, and tortured people). By the next day, however, she'd dropped the issue. Clinton held her first post-debate rally in Ybor City, Tampa's historic Cuban neighborhood, which would have been an obvious setting to continue this line of criticism. The Cuban independence leader José Martí organized cigar workers there, and the Cuban government still owns a small park celebrating Martí down the street from the venue where Clinton spoke. But Clinton made no mention of Castro or Ortega or socialism or Cuba. She hardly mentioned her opponent at all.

There's a good reason why Clinton's reprisals of Cold War politics don't stick around for long: Voters don't really seem to care about Cold War politics. Castro is not a popular figure, but it's harder to turn him into a bogeyman in a Democratic primary when it was the popular Democratic president who normalized relations with the Castro government (and a president for whom Clinton served as secretary of state). The fights over the Sandinistas in Nicaragua that once tore the left apart are recent history only in the context of geologic time—the young voters Clinton says she's hoping to win over weren't even alive for it, and the median age at a Sanders event in Florida this week hovers around 20. When I asked one young attendee at Clinton's Ybor City event about Sanders and Ortega, she told me she didn't know anything about Ortega and would have to look him up.

The clearest sign of the demise of Cold War politics in Florida, though, came from the party that's historically been most enthusiastic about reprising it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) didn't bring up Castro either at his speech to the largely Cuban American audience in Miami on Wednesday, at a college across the street from a piece of the actual Berlin Wall. And although he and Rubio both trashed President Barack Obama's new diplomatic relationship with Cuba at the final Republican debate before the Florida primary, one candidate held firm in defense of ending the trade embargo: the odds-on favorite to win the state, Donald Trump. "After 50 years, it's enough time, folks," he said, before promising to "make a good deal" with the Cubans. Even the king of bluster thinks the bluster about Castro has run its course. Florida voters appear to agree.

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Rubio Suggests Ohio Voters Back Kasich to Stop Trump

| Fri Mar. 11, 2016 2:46 PM EST

Desperate to stop Donald Trump's march to the Republican presidential nomination, Marco Rubio's campaign suggested on Friday that the best way to defeat Trump, in one state, at least, is not to vote for Rubio.

"If you are a Republican primary voter in Ohio and you want to defeat Donald Trump, your best chance in Ohio is John Kasich," Rubio's communications director Alex Conant said on CNN.

Rubio echoed that sentiment. "John Kasich is the only one who can beat Donald Trump in Ohio," Rubio said. "If a voter in Ohio is motivated by stopping Donald Trump, I suspect that's the only choice they can make."

The comments come days before the high-stakes, winner-take-all primaries on Tuesday in Florida and Ohio, where both Rubio and Kasich are battling Trump on their home turf. Conant and Rubio's remarks embrace the strategy put forward by Mitt Romney earlier this month, when he urged Republicans to vote for the most viable anti-Trump candidate in each state to deprive Trump of enough delegates to win the nomination. By this logic, Rubio's supporters in Ohio would cast a strategic vote for Kasich, the state's governor, to keep Trump from winning Ohio and its 66 delegates.

Polls show Kasich battling Trump for the lead in his home state, while Rubio is in single digits.

Conant argued that the favor should go both ways: Kasich supporters should vote for Rubio in Florida to stop Trump. "Marco Rubio is the one person who can beat Donald Trump here in Florida," he said on CNN. "If you like John Kasich or you like Ted Cruz and you're here in Florida, you need to vote for Marco Rubio because he's the only one who can deprive Donald Trump of those 99 [Florida] delegates."

But the Kasich campaign is reportedly not buying into this strategy.

Most polls show Rubio trailing Trump significantly in Florida.

Breitbart Reporter Files Criminal Complaint Against Trump's Campaign Manager

| Fri Mar. 11, 2016 1:27 PM EST

Michelle Fields, the reporter for Breitbart News who alleged that Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, grabbed her and forcefully yanked her toward the ground after a Trump speech on Tuesday night, filed a criminal complaint against Lewandowski on Friday morning.

The police report alleges battery on the part of Lewandowski and was filed in Jupiter, Florida, where the incident took place. Here is the police report:

 

Independent Journal Review first reported on the complaint.

This post has been updated to include confirmation from the Jupiter PD PIO.

After Violence, Trump Says Protesters at His Rallies Are "Bad Dudes"

| Fri Mar. 11, 2016 1:10 AM EST

During Thursday night's GOP debate, moderator Jake Tapper asked Donald Trump about the recent spate of violence at his rallies, including an episode on Wednesday where a white man was charged with assault after punching a black protester at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

"This is hardly the first incident of violence breaking out at your rallies," Tapper said. "Do you believe that you've done anything to create a tone where this kind of violence would be encouraged?"

Trump responded that he didn't condone this behavior. Tapper then proceeded to rattle off a series of Trump's own quotes from the campaign trail, including one instance in which he said about a protester: "I'd like to punch him in the face."

Trump responded by blaming the protesters: "We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things," Trump said. "They get in there and start hitting people. We had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people." Trump added that he relies on local police to remove protesters from his events, saying, "If they're gonna be taken out, I'll be honest, I mean, we have to run something."

Aung San Suu Kyi Can't Be Burma's President. Here's How She'll Run the Country Anyway.

| Thu Mar. 10, 2016 8:04 PM EST
Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma's National League for Democracy party, smiles after the first session of the country's popularly elected parliament in the capital Naypyidaw on February 1, 2016.

Update (3/15/2016): Burma's Parliament on Tuesday elected Htin Kyaw as the country's first civilian president after more than half a century of direct or indirect military rule. Members of parliament reportedly broke into applause when the result was announced. "Victory!" Htin Kyaw said. "This is sister Aung San Suu Kyi's victory."

Pro-democracy champion and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won't be Burma's next president, but she's one step closer to ruling her country anyway: On Thursday, her political party nominated one of her closest aides as a presidential candidate. If Parliament formally selects him next week—as it's expected to do—he'll likely serve as a proxy, with Suu Kyi pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

After decades of brutal military rule and five years of a military-backed but quasi-civilian government, Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory in Burma's general election in November. But Suu Kyi, the country's most popular politician, can't become president because Burma's constitution—written by military generals—makes her ineligible for the position. So instead, her party has nominated her aide Htin Kyaw for the job. "He is the closest to Aung San Suu Kyi and he is the one who would completely follow her advice," a member of her party told the Washington Post. The president will be chosen by Parliament from among three nominees and will assume office in April; after dominating the general election, Suu Kyi's party holds enough seats to ensure its nominee is selected.

The Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been pushing for years for democratic reform in Burma. After the general election, for example, President Obama personally called Suu Kyi to commend her work as a democracy champion. Still, Burma's military has retained power over key ministries and continues to attack ethnic-minority rebel groups. "Burma's not free yet," Sean Turnell, a Burma expert in Sydney, told NPR. "It's in a process of moving towards something better, but it's not in that place of being a functioning democracy yet."