Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We’ll never know how close we came to President Trump assaulting innocent Puerto Rican storm victims with flying cans of chicken.

“Trump passed out yellow bags of rice and then started tossing rolls of towels into the crowd as if he were shooting free throws. The crowd laughed and cheered him on. When he contemplated doing the same with the cans of chicken, the crowd gently told him no.”

CNN has just reported that Robert Mueller’s investigative team met this summer with Christopher Steele, the former MI-6 officer who compiled the infamous “dossier.” That itself is not terribly surprising. What’s more striking is the report that the FBI and US intelligence community took the Steele dossier much more seriously than has been publicly reported. “The intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the FBI took Steele’s research seriously enough that they kept it out of a publicly-released January report on Russian meddling in the election in order to not divulge which parts of the dossier they had corroborated and how.”

Recently I spoke to a lawyer familiar with the outlines of Mueller’s probe. This person told me that the dossier was the road map that Mueller was using in his investigation. My sense was that this was more than just ‘they’re taking it seriously’ or following leads. More like it was their theory of the case, as it were.

I would be looking ahead to see the extent to which the FBI and Intelligence Community has been deliberately misleading about what it is has learned about the dossier and what it’s been able to confirm about it. After all, even if there is not explicit collusion, everything that in the dossier is inherently damaging to the President and the legitimacy of his election. I don’t mean that they would be protecting him but rather, perhaps, protecting their investigation from him.

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President Trump’s decision to make a finding that the Iran nuclear deal is not in the national interest is profoundly unwise. Even those who opposed it at the outset mostly seem to get that pulling out of it now would be profoundly ill-advised, not least because the President already has one nuclear proliferation crisis on his hands. But what is especially notable here is that he has again essentially punted the question to Congress, much as he did with DACA. He’s been decisive on optics while putting the real decision in the hands of Congress. For some Presidents this might be a principled decision in favor of a non-imperial theory of the presidency. But here it’s some mix of an unwillingness to own his actions and a decision to grab the optics at the expense of or indifferent to the true substance.

A reader shared a thought with me about the gun control article below which sharpened and for me clarified one of the arguments I was trying to make, one which I put under the too general rubric of ‘culture’.

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Hearing that Mueller has now taken over the probe into the Trump/Russia ‘dossier’ doesn’t terribly surprise me. Not long ago a lawyer familiar with the probe told me that the dossier is Mueller’s map for the Trump/Russia case, the framework he’s pursuing.

As it should be.

But that last part’s just my opinion.

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Two days ago The Washington Post published an OpEd by a former 538 journalist named Leah Libresco. She explains that she was a staunch advocate of gun control until she did a deep study of proposed reforms and data and determined that there was little to no statistical backing for her beliefs. As she puts it in her essay’s central sentence, “As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference.” Libresco addresses specific reforms and various technical issues and tosses out a number of strawmen or disingenuously rhetorical points: “I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them.” But what her article really shows is both the poverty of so-called “data journalism” as well as certain realities about gun restriction that too few of us are willing to truly contemplate or grapple with.

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WaPo: “And as Tillerson has traveled the globe, Trump believes his top diplomat often seems more concerned with what the world thinks of the United States than with tending to the president’s personal image.” 

We’ve first started looking into this when we saw claims that the NFL only really started pushing players standing for the anthem because the DOD was paying them to. That turns out not to be true. Or at least we see no evidence for it. The dates don’t line up. But between 2011 and 2015, the Pentagon did pay the NFL millions of dollars for flag displays, military family reuinitings and various military and patriotic displays. The changes in the anthem ceremony came in 2009, two years before the contract started. So it seems clear that it could not be tied – at least based on the evidence we have – to the DOD contract. But the other stuff is real. When I first heard about this I was a little surprised because I wouldn’t think it would be necessary for the DOD to pay. I would think NFL crowds would eat these displays up and be a kind of brand association – to use a painful marketing phrase – the NFL would want for its own reasons. But it was big business. Here’s our report from Allegra Kirkland.

On Tuesday, over the course of the day, President Trump called both the Las Vegas massacre and the Hurricane Maria aftermath in Puerto Rico a ‘miracle’. Some of this is simply President Trump’s ingrained weirdness, an uncanny awkwardness rooted in narcissism and a profound failure of empathy. But there’s something more than that. Trump, in his own unique and torrid awfulness, seems more like an intensification of something that predates him. We respond to unimaginable tragedies by deeper and deeper evocations of our own unique bonds of community and sacrifice which should shine through as a point of pride.

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