Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

In recent months, Donald Trump Jr has made a run for the prize of Trump insider with most dogged effort to collude with Russia, even partly sidelining the efforts of Trump lawyer and enforcer Michael Cohen.

But perhaps Cohen has yet to cede the title.

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It’s quite astonishing. In the FBI Director’s testimony this morning, GOP Congressman are openly backing the President’s claim that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters.” In response Director Wray is avoiding the charge but simply not pushing back against it.

Welcome news. MSNBC had fired Sam Seder from his contributor role on the network after racist provocateur Mike Cernovich dug up and tendentiously misinterpreted a 2009 tweet to gin up a faux outrage campaign. After a significant backlash, MSNBC has now reversed course and offered Seder his gig back.

With what now seems like Al Franken’s inevitable resignation tomorrow, I wanted to re-up this post from a week ago on who gets forced to resign and who doesn’t. It’s not the press’s fault that Donald Trump is still President and Al Franken is about to be an ex-senator. The same applies to Roy Moore. All of these incidents play out based on the constituency of the accused or the larger organization they represent. That applies whether it’s consumers or voters or comparable category. Most Trump supporters simply don’t care. Same with Roy Moore.

Here are a few quick thoughts (Prime subscribers) about why I think this Flynn whistleblower story will end up being a bigger deal than one might think.

As yet we only have an unnamed whistleblower claiming that Mike Flynn was texting his former business partners on inauguration day with assurances that President Trump would tear up sanctions against Russia as soon as he got to the White House. But assuming this account, or some version of it, is accurate it is far more significant than it may at first seem.

This story may make it seem like it was simple money corruption behind Flynn’s actions rather than some kind of conspiracy or collusion with Russian operatives. I don’t think that’s right. We should expect that such an operation that the Russians were trying to execute would seek to enlist and compromise targets through financial deals just like this. This was an American company, at least with American principals, who were connected to and financed in large part by “Russian interests.”

Note also that Congressman Cummings, the author of the letter which publicized the existence of the whistleblower, said something very specific. He wrote that his staff had contacted the Mueller’s office about the whistleblower. He said Mueller’s office asked his staff “to hold on the public release of this information until they completed certain investigative steps. They have now informed us that they have done so.” At a minimum this suggests that Mueller’s investigators took the whistleblower’s story seriously. The timing also suggests they wanted Cummings office to wait until Flynn agreed to the plea deal.

We have no idea what will eventually emerge about Mike Flynn or the larger Russia story. But just from my limited research on the man, I very much doubt any Russian operative ever had a conversation with Flynn in which Flynn said: I’m working for Russia now. I’ll do this for Russia. It seems far more likely he was lured in, enticed with deals just like this. This isn’t an excuse for him. It’s simply that compromising someone, turning them, getting them to do things you want them to do is a complicated process. As John Brennan, CIA Director in President Obama’s second term put it, when discussing how people are recruited to betray their country in testimony before Congress: “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”

I’m not saying Mike Flynn committed treason. I’m saying that this new part of the story tends to confirm the presence of a conspiracy and collusion rather than providing some alternative explanation of Flynn’s close to singular focus on a rapprochement with Russia.

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I’ve spent the last few days putting together notes and trying to put together all the details of what was clearly the overriding and explicitly top foreign policy goal of the Trump campaign and transition: a rapprochement with Russia.

There’s one small thread of that story I want to note. We’ve previously discussed Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of the President and an extremely successful real estate investor. It is apparently through Barrack that Paul Manafort made his original approach to Donald Trump. The explanation of how that came about has never really added up. There’s clearly more to the story. We’ll come back to that.

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I’ve been watching coverage of the Jerusalem decision today on the cable networks, especially CNN. It’s telling, almost painful, watching real experts trying – really trying – to interpret this decision as part of an effort to push the peace process forward. Maybe Trump’s gotten some secret concession from Prime Minister Netanyahu in exchange for this? Maybe this is the game changer that can free up the current impasse?

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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.”