Ex-Gianforte spokesman who blamed reporter for assault has new job

Shane Scanlon, who served as spokesman to Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont. during a 2017 special election in which the then-candidate assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, has a new role in Montana politics.

He’s now communications director for Matt Rosendale, the state auditor running for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. in November. Scanlon confirmed his position in a call with NBC News.

Scanlon attracted attention for his personal role in the Gianforte story, in which he put out an initial statement blaming Jacobs for the attack, saying he “shoved a recorder in Greg’s face” and “grabbed Greg’s wrist” after the candidate tried to grab his phone recorder, pulling them both to the ground. “It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene,” Scanlon said at the time.

But a Fox News crew who witnessed the scene soon contradicted Scanlon, with one reporter writing that Gianforte “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him” after Jacobs approached him with a question about health care. Audio of the incident revealed Gianforte screaming in rage at Jacobs and telling him to “get the hell out of here.”  

Gianforte later apologized to Jacobs and took “full responsibility” for the attack as part of an agreement to settle any civil damages. “Notwithstanding anyone’s statements to the contrary, you did not initiate any physical contact with me, and I had no right to assault you,” he said in a letter, an apparent reference to Scanlon’s quote on behalf of his campaign.

Gianforte went on to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault in connection with incident and was sentenced to community service and anger management counseling.  Scanlon, however, has never publicly revised his account.

Jacobs, who had previously called Scanlon’s statement “defamatory,” declined to comment on his hire with Rosendale’s campaign. He told NBC News he has had no contact with Scanlon since the assault. 

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Hoyer says White House stonewalling makes House Democrats 'more inclined' to support impeachment

WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on Wednesday said that President Trump's repeated refusals to cooperate with congressional investigations makes Democratic House members "more inclined" to support impeachment. 

During an interview on MSNBC's "MTP Daily," Hoyer said there's still support within the House Democratic caucus for the leadership's more cautious path that prioritizes investigations over declaring official impeachment proceedings. But he acknowledged the growing pressure within his caucus amid the clash between House Democrats and the White House. 

"Let me tell you what is not a bluff: We're going to continue to do our duty. We are going to continue to have oversight hearings, we are going to continue to ask for documentation and the testimony of witnesses we believe are relevant," Hoyer said. 

"Every time the president refuses to cooperate, contrary, in my view, to the Constitution of the United States, the members become more frustrated and more inclined" to support impeachment, he added. 

Watch the full interview below. 

GOP special election win brings new congressman to town

WASHINGTON — Republican Fred Keller cruised to victory in Tuesday's special election for Pennsylvania's Twelfth Congressional district, crowning him the newest member of the 116th Congress.

Keller had been heavily favored in the deep-red seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Tom Marino's sudden resignation this past January. Keller defeated Democrat Marc Friedenberg by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent. 

Here's a bit of background about the newest congressman:

  • Keller is a state representative who has served since his election in 2010.
  • Before he joined the legislature, he worked as the plant operations manager at a Conestoga Wood Specialties plant.
  • Keller will become one of two members of Congress who did not attend college.
  • Keller was endorsed by President Trump, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the House Freedom Caucus' PAC after party officials nominated him for the seat.
Leigh Ann Caldwell

Booker is latest to call for repeal of Hyde Amendment

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is unveiling his plans to protect and expand reproductive rights on Wednesday, making him the latest Democratic presidential candidate vowing to protect abortion access as conservatives in states across the country are working to roll it back. 

Booker said he would back federal legislation to codify Roe v. Wade, create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, appoint judges who support abortion access and repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits government health care funding for abortions. He’d also implement executive actions on “day one” ensure reproductive choice. 

Like most of the Democratic field, Booker has been focusing on the abortion debate on the campaign trail in recent days since Alabama voter to outlaw all abortion in the state and other states passing other stringent restrictions.

“A coordinated attack requires a coordinated response. That’s why on day one of my presidency, I will immediately and decisively take executive action to respond to these relentless efforts to erode Americans’ rights to control their own bodies,” Booker said in a statement unveiling the plan. 

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have also released reproductive rights plans. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has as well, which he outlined during a CNN town hall Tuesday night. Along with Booker, Gillibrand and O’Rourke would also get rid of the Hyde Amendment, push legislation to protect abortion rights and use the executive office to undo abortion and contraception access restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump. 

Shaquille Brewster

Gillibrand releases 'Family Bill of Rights' plan

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., released a comprehensive “Family Bill of Rights” plan Wednesday that includes a package of proposals focused on easing the financial and medical barriers to parenthood.

The plan — a mix of existing legislative proposals and less-detailed declarations — contains well-established Democratic priorities like federal support for universal Pre-K programs, national paid family leave and an increase in child care tax credits. However, it goes further by targeting maternal and infant mortality in rural areas, requiring insurance companies to cover the costs of fertility treatments and offering refundable tax credits for adoptions.

"My new proposal, the Family Bill of Rights, will make all families stronger — regardless of who you are or what your zip code is — with a fundamental set of rights that levels the playing field starting at birth,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “I believe it will transform American families and their ability to achieve the American Dream."

Gillibrand has made family and women’s issues a core element of her campaign, telling CNN she intends to be “the candidate of the women’s vote." Last week, she traveled to Georgia to highlight her opposition to restrictive abortion laws sweeping the country. One of the proposals she touts the most on the trail is her national paid family leave bill, introduced in February.

The “Family Bill of Rights” includes five “fundamental rights ensured to all of America’s children and parents” that she commits to enacting within her first 100 days if elected president:

  1. Right to a safe and healthy pregnancy.
  2. Right to give birth or adopt a child, regardless of income, sexual orientation, religion or gender identity.
  3. Right to a safe and affordable nursery.
  4. Right to personally care for your loved ones with paid leave, including care for your child in its infancy.
  5. Right to affordable child care and universal pre-K, to ensure early education is available before kindergarten

Each principle proposes a policy solution ranging from a new program to refundable tax credits.

Her campaign says the entire plan “can be paid for with her financial transaction tax, which would raise over $777 billion in the next decade.”

Bill de Blasio's 2020 campaign makes initial hires

WASHINGTON -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is fleshing out the 2020 presidential campaign he launched last week with an initial group of advisers and staff shared with NBC News. 

Jon Paul Lupo, who has held senior posts in de Blasio’s City Hall, will serve as Senior Adviser and run day-to-day operations. 

Steve Jarding, a longtime Harvard Kennedy School lecturer and Democratic communications adviser who has worked overseas, will also hold the title Senior Adviser.

As will Jim Crounse, a Democratic direct mail consultant and de Blasio friend who has worked for Barack Obama among others.

New York Democratic fundraiser Mike Giaccio, who previously worked for New York gubernatorial candidates, will serve as Director of Finance.

And Olivia Lapeyrolerie, who worked as a spokesperson in the de Blasio administration, will serve as traveling press secretary. The firm Freedomland Media will head up video production.

Trump echoes familiar language in endorsing Pennsylvania House candidate

WASHINGTON—President Trump called on voters to turn out for Pennsylvania Republican Fred Keller in Tuesday's special election, calling the candidate “strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare.”

Keller is running to replace former Rep. Tom Marino, who resigned suddenly just weeks into the 2019 term, and is expected to carry the heavily-Republican district. 

If the language of Trump's endorsement sounds familiar, it’s because the President has used some form of that construction – strong on crime, second amendment, military, vets and healthcare – 64 times, going back to October 2017 to endorse over 40 candidates. This applies to a variety of candidates – from Congressional to gubernatorial.

He’s used the phrase “total endorsement” 26 times, “complete endorsement” 6 times and “strong endorsement” 3 times.

It’s notable that the President has not changed the issues or personalized the tweets for different candidates – only a few, like Ted Cruz who got an added “Beto is a Flake!”, had a unique spin in their endorsement tweet.

Some examples of Republican candidates who received a nod with that similar "Strong on Crime, Second Amendment, Military, Vets, and Healthcare" rhetoric include—North Carolina's Dan Bishop, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Pennsylvania's John Chrin, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Nevada's Danny Tarkanian, then-Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, Ohio's Troy Balderson, now-Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and dozens more. 

—Ben Kamisar contributed 

Kentucky Democrats head to vote in contentious gubernatorial primary

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrats are heading to the polls Tuesday to crown a victor in a hard-fought gubernatorial primary with serious implications for November.

Public polling pegs Attorney General Andy Beshear the frontrunner over state Auditor Adam Edelen and state Rep. Rocky Adkins for the nomination. But Edelen and his allies have spent furiously in the hopes of defeating Beshear, the son of the state's last Democratic governor. 

Edelen's campaign has spent $2.1 million during the primary, dwarfing Beshear's $1.3 million and Adkins' $900,000, spending data from Advertising Analytics shows. And the pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has dropped another $1 million into the race. 

The ad wars have gotten chippy, with Beshear and Edelen at the center of the fight. 

The pro-Edelen Kentuckians for a Better Future has spent more than a half-million dollars on an ad attacking Beshear for donors that supported his attorney general bid, attempting to link him to the opioid epidemic through those donations, and needling Beshear over a former aide's conviction for bribery.

The group also aired a spot that highlighted Beshear's work defending the Boy Scouts from abuse claims, but that was pulled off the air after just two days after Edelen's spokesman told the Lexington Herald-Leader it should be taken down. 

Edelen has amplified some of those attacks in one of his closing argument spots, and focused its resources on a spot where the candidate introduces viewers to his folksy farmer father to contrast his family with Beshear's famous father. 

Beshear's ads have partly tried to look past the primary with attacks on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's record on health care. But he's taken to the airwaves to push back against the attacks, calling them "shameful and false" and criticizing the negative campaigning

Atkins has largely stayed out of the brawl, particularly on the airwaves, and has leaned on his legislative experience.

Both Beshear and Edelen received big endorsements in the race's final days — the former from the pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America and the latter from The Courier-Journal, one of the state's premiere papers. 

The general election will be one of the most interesting of the 2019 cycle.  

Despite the Republican lean in the state (President Trump won by almost 30 percentage points in 2016), two of the last four governors were Democrats who were reelected to serve a second term. 

Even though he's outperformed polls before, polling shows Bevin is one of the more unpopular governors in America. 

NBC and MSNBC announce 2020 presidential campaign 'embeds'

WASHINGTON—The new class of NBC and MSNBC embeds is here and they're about to crisscross the country to cover one of the largest fields in modern presidential history. 

The 10 embeds will be regular contributors across NBC and MSNBC—they will report on air, write stories and become familiar faces on the MTP Blog as well, providing readers with their observations and insights from the campaign trail. 

Be sure to follow the NBC News 2020 embeds list on Twitter to be sure to never miss an update. 


Harris narrowly outspent Trump last week on Facebook

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., narrowly outspent the presidential field in Facebook ads last week, new data from the platform's political ad tracker shows. 

The Californian's campaign spent $94,443 between May 12 and May 18, primarily on ads criticizing the anti-abortion rights legislation being passed in state legislatures around the country, as well as general ads promoting her candidacy and fundraising organization. 

Nipping at her campaign's heels was President Trump's reelection campaign, which spent $94,159 last week. Most of those ads were either a contest to receive a signed "Make America Great Again" hat from Trump or an "official 2019 Trump Executive membership Card."

Former Vice President Joe Biden finished a close third in weekly Facebook spending with $92,555. His ads included donation appeals from his wife, list-building and fundraising efforts aimed at drawing a contrast with Trump and promoting Biden's rally in Philadelphia last Saturday. 

Following those candidates were Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($84,257 spent last week), New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($83,055) and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet ($77,536).

Sanders: I’ll fight to ban private charter schools

ASHEVILLE, N.C. —  For-profit charter schools will become a thing of the past, and public funds for the expansion of public charters will be frozen until a national audit is completed, according to  a plan released by Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., plans to roll out his complete education plan on Saturday, the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. On Friday, the campaign revealed a plank: significant reining in of charter schools. 

A campaign release says Sanders will fight to ban for-profit charter schools outright, and support and NAACP plan to place a moratorium on publican funds for charter school expansion until a state-by-state audit can be conducted to determine the impact of charter school growth around the country. 

Progressives have taken aim at charter schools in recent years for what they see as their siphoning off of funding for traditional public schools, and for the relative lack of accountability and oversight some receive. 

“Few charter schools have lived up to their promise," The Sanders campaign release reads.  "Instead, billionaires like DeVos and the Waltons, together with private equity and hedge fund executives, have bankrolled their expansion and poured tens of millions into school board and other local elections with the hope of privatizing public schools. Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.”