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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We’ve been focused for several days on the President’s “shithole countries” remark, as we should be. But that only seems like one part of the story of that meeting, in some ways, not the most consequential or significant, inasmuch as it’s really not a surprise that President Trump thinks or speaks this way. A big story in The Washington Post and other information that has come out over the course of the day puts the whole meeting in a different light.

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Two major White House figures are now scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill this week or soon after: Steve Bannon and Hope Hicks. Bannon is set to testify today; Hicks later this week or possibly early next week. Given his centrality to the campaign and the fact that he’s now cut off and seems to have nothing to lose, Bannon may seem like the more consequential testimony. But that’s probably wrong.

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One of the most striking things about the last several days after the President’s “shithole” outburst is that two of the Senators in the room have now willingly and repeatedly lied on the President’s behalf to serve his narrow interests. Of course, politicians lie. Even the good ones will shade the truth and fail to speak up to clarify public confusion. But this is an extreme and almost unique case.

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A few more miscellaneous thoughts on Martin Luther King Jr. on this day of remembrance.

One: King was a troublemaker. In many ways, he became more of a troublemaker as he progressed through his life. In key ways, in the final years and especially the final year of his life, he was being abandoned by key supporters and sidelined because he was focusing not solely on race (on which the country was then beginning to build at least a notional elite consensus) but on poverty and democratic socialism and the Vietnam War, issues that divided many of his supporters. It is always important to remember that King died in Memphis because he was there to support a strike not an integration march, though racial discrimination and labor rights were and are impossible to separate.

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The fact that the FBI sent Martin Luther King a letter demanding he kill himself or risk the release of recordings of his extra-marital assignations has been known for decades. But the complete and uncensored version of the letter only came to light three years ago. You can see it here. Yale historian Beverly Gage happened on the original version of the letter during research at the National Archives.

There is a lot contained in this letter. To put it mildly.

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We still have no clear explanation, certainly no good explanation, other than that it was a false alarm. But just after 8 AM this morning in Hawaii residents received an emergency alert on television and mobile devices warning of an incoming missile attack on the state. It was explicitly alerted as “not a drill.” Again, it was a false alarm. 

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You’ve likely seen this story which The Wall Street Journal just broke which claims that in October 2016 Trump attorney Michael Cohen arranged a $130,000 payment to an adult film star named Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) to remain quiet about an alleged sexual encounter between her and Donald Trump in 2006.

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This is what Martin Luther King, Jr’s nephew said about President Trump after appearing with him at a White House even honoring Dr. King.

“I don’t think he’s a racist in the traditional sense.”

Let me take a moment to speak up for the word “shithole” which is seeing its reputation damaged by association with Donald Trump. We went to this dive bar. It was a total shithole. That town? Total shithole, never want to go there again. It’s a dump. Closer to President Trump’s ugly usage, Trump wouldn’t be the only American to call a poor or underdeveloped country a shithole. That’s not okay. But my point here is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the word – nothing more than any other not for polite conversation swear word. And even this ugly usage doesn’t capture the essence of Trump’s meaning.  The context and import of President Trump’s remarks are not simply that the countries are “shitholes.” It’s much more than that. It’s that we don’t want people from those countries because the awfulness of the countries attaches to the people themselves. Speaking of whole classes of people, specifically people of color, as basically garbage – is not only disgusting but entirely of a piece with the campaign President Trump ran in 2016 and the policies he is implementing as President today.

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Here’s one thing that occurs to me. When I first heard about the “shithole” meeting at the White House I thought it was a bipartisan meeting. Technically it was. But my understanding now is that there was only one Democrat there: Dick Durbin (D-IL). He went there with Lindsey Graham. But there were a handful of other Republican senators already there. Would we have ever heard about this if a Democrat hadn’t been in the room?

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