Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I’ve just been doing an initial read-through of the portion of the report about the decision to send the October 2016 “Comey Letter” to Congress. It’s like watching a 4x Slo-Mo video of a horrible car accident. It gets worse and worse. You know what’s coming. It’s endless and yet you know how it ends.

There’s a lot of fancy explanations and discussions. But by the end, it all comes down to just ignoring longstanding DOJ guidelines and precedent that you make every effort to avoid election-influencing actions on the heels of an election. You’re not supposed to do that. They came out with various arguments about how this case was an exception and they should do it. And they did it. Or rather, James Comey did it. It ends up really being that simple. It was a huge mistake. And the IG says as much.

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Another point perhaps lost in the welter of news coming out today is this. The New York State Attorney General’s suit against the Trump Foundation, President Trump, and his children contains substantial evidence that Trump and his family violated numerous federal laws. These are laws which are often dealt with as civil offenses, fines, etc. But here they seem sufficiently egregious and systematic that I think there would be solid arguments for criminal prosecution. (I’d be curious what people with relevant legal experience make of that question.)

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Most of the commentary I hear is whether 95% of the IG Report fails to vindicate Trump or 97%. Good Lord. Everything we know so far has a clear message. James Comey made major mistakes and those mistakes dramatically damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Democrats have been saying this for two years. They said it in July. They screamed it in October. They are totally vindicated. It may not have been political bias per se (I don’t believe it was) but James Comey probably did more than any other single individual to make Donald Trump President. Irony! Sad! Hillary’s vindicated. Democratic partisans are vindicated. She was wronged, cheated, mistreated. She has a very legitimate beef. That is overwhelmingly the verdict of all the information we’ve heard so far from the IG Report.

Before we get caught up in today’s cacophony of news, I wanted to direct your attention to this open letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen and Attorney General Sessions organized by Physicians for Human Rights. It’s signed by a crazy long number of physicians and other experts. But I’m publishing this link to it because it collects together a wealth of clinical evidence for the permanent mental health, cognitive and other damage caused by traumatic events like separation of children from parents. Most of us realize this is morally wrong. It’s wrong in policy terms. We can imagine because we’re human, the emotional pain involved. But there’s a lot of evidence that these actions do serious and permanent damage to the children who are separated from their parents. Having experienced a very different kind of traumatic event as a child this resonates with me because I know how these events can impact and ramify through the decades of adult life. Here’s the letter.

Buried in a footnote of page 19 of the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and Trump family is this interesting note. One of the organizations that received the Foundation’s largesse was The Mission Continues, the vets charity founded by disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. The Mission Continues came up in the Greitens scandals because Greitens got the group’s donor list which he then used for political fundraising. May would have been the period when Trump had numerically sealed up the nomination but was facing deep resistance from GOP stakeholders. Spreading money around had a strong logic.

There will probably be many findings in the IG report slated to be released this afternoon. One already seems clear. It should be no surprise. James Comey broke dramatically with DOJ guidelines and precedent to take actions which damaged Hillary Clinton. He did so not out of political bias per se (I never thought that). He did so because he wanted to inoculate himself from aggressive Republican harassment over pro-Hillary bias. They worked the refs and they got terrible calls in their favor, which helped them win the election. As I’ve written a few times, this happened because James Comey himself is the greatest devotee of the James Comey Myth. (I discuss it more fully in that link.)

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As I noted, one part of what’s driving Michael Cohen from his lawyers is a dispute over money. That seems to be a dispute not so much with the lawyers but with the Trump Family — how much of Cohen’s legal bills they agreed to pay. We don’t know precisely which or how much of his legal bills they’re paying. It seems that the major part of it is on the team of lawyers and specialists who are going through all those seized documents and items to decide or make arguments about what is privileged. This has been described to me as an almost insanely costly endeavor. Lots of lawyers and IT specialists working 18 hour days for weeks. Lots and lots of money.

Is that all they’re paying for? Beyond just keeping Cohen loyal Trump obviously has a huge interest in being involved in that process. After all he’s the client who has the privilege. But we don’t know that’s all the Trump Family is footing the bill for.

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A simple, short quotation from a piece today in Vanity Fair about Michael Cohen.

“The breakup was also spurred by a disagreement over payment, and how much the Trump Organization was expected to foot on Cohen’s behalf, according to two sources with knowledge of the dispute.”

Then there’s this from the Times: “The dispute between Mr. Cohen and his lawyers involves the payment of his legal bills, part of which are being financed by the Trump family.”

It speaks for itself. The Trump Organization is Donald Trump. Full stop. Why is the President paying any of Michael Cohen’s legal bills? How much is he paying and has he paid? We knew that the Trump campaign paid money last year. But that was supposedly tied to answering questions before the Russia committees which is at least notionally tied to the campaign. But this is Trump personally. Why is President Trump paying Michael Cohen’s legal bills?