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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This morning we had news that the Mueller probe had subpoenaed the President’s banking records and perhaps those of his family members from Deutsche Bank, the only major back that has been willing to do business with the President since the early 1990s. Then the President’s television lawyer Jay Sekulow released a statement claiming that he had confirmed with Deutsche Bank and other sources that this was not true.

But TPM Reader CL points out that banks can be ordered not to notify a customer and presumably lawyers who represent them when grand jury subpoenas are issued for banking records.

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President Trump’s television lawyer Jay Sekulow releases a statement denying that Robert Mueller’s probe has subpoenaed bank records from Deutsche Bank.

“We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false. No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

I get that if you’re a social conservative (conservative views on marriage equality, immigration, perhaps abortion) you might feel like you’re in a distinct minority in parts of Silicon Valley. (The Silicon Valley ethos is super conservative on many economic policy issues.) But this CNN segment sounds like something close to parody.

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Yesterday there was an emerging theme among right-leaning commentators that the upshot of the Flynn plea deal, damning as it may seem, is that Robert Mueller has given up on finding an election tampering conspiracy and is focusing squarely on an obstruction of justice charge against the President. In most cases, this is presented as an indictment of the investigation itself. In other words, on the big question of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia, there was nothing there and Mueller is falling back on charges internal to the investigation itself, i.e., ways the President allegedly attempted to obstruct it. We’ll return to this line of argument because it’s an important one.

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Hours after President Donald Trump re-affirmed his support for embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the Republican National Committee has resumed its support and financial assistance to the Alabama Republican.

An RNC official confirmed the committee will resume its financial support to the Alabama Republican Party’s effort to elect Moore to the U.S. Senate, despite the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the internal deliberations. The reversal was first reported by Breitbart News.

The RNC announced three weeks ago that it was severed its fundraising ties to Moore following allegations that he’d molested two teenagers when he was in his 30s.
Trump on Monday formally endorsed Moore in a phone call and on Twitter.

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Here’s a quick backgrounder (sub req.) on why Devin Nunes, again in the news today, is himself implicated in Mike Flynn’s effort to surveil and obstruct the Russia probe from his first days running the National Security Council.

There are so many developments in the Russia story unfolding since Friday that it is hard to keep up with all the threads. But keep an eye on this. Today House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is threatening to hold the Department of Justice in contempt for failing to turn information over to his committee. This is tied to news that a top FBI agent was taken off the Russia probe for texting political criticisms of President Trump. But as I explained last night there is strong evidence that Nunes himself is implicated in Mike Flynn’s efforts to obstruct the Russia probe, efforts which began in the first days of the Trump Presidency and was continued by his deputies at the National Security Council after he was fired.

I note this briefly in my post last night taking stock of the Russia probe. Let me briefly recap and point you in the direction of where to find more information.

There is both circumstantial and direct evidence that immediately on taking over the National Security Council Flynn tasked his deputy, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, with reviewing what the Russia probe had found to date and surveilling it going forward. I discussed this at some length back in March. The key point: Cohen-Watnick was Senior Director of Intelligence Programs for Flynn at the NSC. That gave him substantial ability to sift through the most secret findings and data across the intelligence apparatus, including what had been discovered about Flynn’s activities during the transition.

After Flynn’s ouster, Cohen-Watnick continued this ‘review’ and eventually brought his findings to White House Counsel Donald McGahn. McGahn immediately saw the danger of what Cohen-Watnick was doing and told him to stop. He didn’t stop. He continued his snooping and went around McGahn to the more receptive Devin Nunes. This is the origin of the whole ‘unmasking’ controversy, which made such news in the spring. It is almost certainly the indirect origin of Trump’s tweeted claim that Barack Obama had wiretapped him in Trump Tower.

The salient point is that Nunes completely involved himself in this caper, even to the point of weird late night hijinks and visits to the White House. He went from his role as overseeing the intelligence community in his committee role to becoming part of an effort to obstruct an investigation.

Nunes is implicated in this. The fact that he’s still involved in the investigation in any way is a scandal in itself. Click the link to the March post above to learn more.

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On this weekend’s back and forth on who Mike Flynn lied to, who knew he’d lied and why it might matter, let’s step back for a moment. With regards to Flynn lying to the FBI we’re now looking at the narrow factual question of whether Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to the FBI; whether McGahn told Trump; and whether Trump knew this in the intervening days before he fired Flynn when he asked James Comey to drop the investigation. We are collectively running through this chain of connections because of our semi-reasonable but likely outmoded tendency to take the various claims we’ve heard from the White House at face value: especially the claim that Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Pence, etc.

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As we sift through the details of the Flynn court documents we inevitably see them through a distorted prism because we know 2017 as it happened rather than as the Trump team intended it to unfold. This is particularly important for the roughly three months between candidate Trump’s election victory on November 8th, 2016 and Mike Flynn’s ouster on February 13th, 2017.

We see Flynn’s covert communications with Ambassador Kislyak; we see the escalation of the FBI’s scrutiny of Flynn; we know other top Trump officials, like Jared Kushner, were meeting with Kislyak and others and also possibly trying to execute financial transactions with Russian government officials. It’s all sort of a jumble. But the logic of events only really comes into focus when we realize that there was a sort of race taking place between the Trump team’s effort to arrange a rapid rapprochement with Russia in the first weeks of January and February and a mix of the intelligence community, the national security apparatus and the press piecing together what had happened during the 2016 election. Imagine it as a starting pistol firing off on the morning of November 9th, with both teams racing to get more of their critical work done by the end of January.

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