Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I noted below that the Israeli private intelligence firm that Harvey Weinstein hired to dig up dirt and muzzle his accusers is now mounting some sort of operation against at least two Obama administration national security officials. The initial version of the story from The Guardian said they were hired by aides to President Trump. Another account from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker went deeper but was less certain about who was paying the bill. One source told Farrow it was “part of Black Cube’s work for a private-sector client pursuing commercial interests related to sanctions on Iran.”

Now Black Cube is out with its third successive response to the story, which of course should be taken with some skepticism.

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This may seem a bit in the weeds. But if you’re trying to make sense of Michael Cohen’s role in all the money transactions being probed by the Feds, as well as the role of Fima Shusterman, his father-in-law, who appears to be his key connection into the Ukrainian immigrant money world, this is an important point.

There have been various reports that Cohen and Shusterman have loaned $26 million to the Shtayner family, another taxi baron family of Ukrainian immigrants who live in New York City but own a cab business based in Chicago. The story is that Cohen lent the Shtayner’s $6 million since 2012 and Fima Shusterman has lent them $20 million over the last eight months. This is the story according to the AP and also the weekend piece in the Times.

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I want to follow up on a point I made over the weekend: the Trump Family’s decisive turn to paying cash as opposed to financing their projects with debt starting in 2006 isn’t just an odd and hard to explain in itself. The shift also dovetails almost perfectly with his shift to reliance on money from Russia and Ukraine. 2006 is also the year when Michael Cohen went to work for the President. It’s also the year the Trump Soho development project got underway.

There are still some important qualifiers to the story.

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We have a pretty stunning development about aides to Donald Trump apparently (though they deny it) hiring the same Israeli dirty ops/private intel firm that Harvey Weinstein used to cover up his history to mount an operation against public supporters of the Iran deal.

We start with this story in The Guardian. It’s very hedged and key details are not included. But the gist is that aides to Donald Trump hired an Israeli security firm to dig up dirt on two prominent supporters of the Iran nuclear deal. They are Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, both Obama administration national security hands who were involved in the negotiation. They both continue to be prominent supporters of it into the Trump era. Last night I said that it sounded like Black Cube, the firm that surveilled and ran black ops operations against Harvey Weinstein’s accusers on his behalf.

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There’s a lot of understandable buzz about two and a half articles published yesterday tied to President Trump’s finances and the Russia probe. The half we’ve already discussed, the news about presidential confidant Tom Barrack. The others are a detailed piece about Michael Cohen’s finances in the Times and a fascinating reconstruction of Trump’s post-2006 finances in the Post.

I’m gratified to note that the Cohen article in the Times mainly contains information you’ve found here in various articles at TPM over the last year. But there are important new details which are well worth your time to read. Let me start by noting a few broad brush takeaways from each article and how they may intersect.

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I mentioned a few days ago that just last March Rudy Giuliani went to Albania to speak before an Iranian exile group which is widely regarded as a cult and was for many years a US-government designated terrorist group. Giuliani is a long-time recipient of money (for speeches and lobbying) from the MEK and its various front groups. (There’s no word yet on what he was paid if anything for the March appearance.)

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The AP is reporting that the Special Counsel’s office has interviewed Trump confidant Tom Barrack. When exactly this happened isn’t clear. One source says it was “months ago.” There aren’t many details about what Barrack was asked. The AP has three different sources and at least two gave slightly different descriptions of the questions. One said the questions focused on Manafort and Gates; another said investigators asked about them as well as asking broader questions about the financing of the 2016 campaign. Both of these make sense. There are critical unanswered questions about Barrack’s role – ones that have still gotten only the most cursory public airing.

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We can sometimes go wrong by building an edifice out of a series of interlocking inferences. But sometimes the inferences are so strong we should do so, at least tentatively, nonetheless. Look at this story from yesterday from CNBC about Mueller’s tight focus on collusion and specifically links and conversations between Roger Stone and former Trump campaign official and Manafort deputy Rick Gates.

Here’s a key passage …

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