Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

[ed.note: As noted in my editor’s note on the post above, CNN subsequently corrected this story. The correction – dating the email to September 14th, rather than September 4th dramatically changed what the email meant. See the editor’s note above for more detail. But the upshot is that this seems to have been simply an email from a supporter flagging public Wikileaks documents rather than an approach from a secret source. I’m leaving the post below in place. But read it with this in mind.]

This morning CNN released yet another story in the Russia investigation, noting that on September 4th 2016 Donald Trump, Jr., Donald Trump himself and others in the Trump inner circle got an email with an encryption key and a link to download what CNN called “hacked Wikileaks documents.” It was unclear from the story whether this was a real offer of hacked documents or simply a prank. Seemingly, it was unclear to investigators too. There was also no clear evidence either way whether any of the recipients acted on it, in other words, whether they tried or succeeded in downloading the documents.

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From TPM Reader RM

The one thing I think your piece needs to address is the personal interests or motivations for pushing rapprochement with Russia. We should keep in mind that the GOP’s position on Russia underwent a radical shift from hawkish to fawning. Had any other person won the GOP nomination, the position on Russia would’ve been as skeptical as that of the Obama Administration and maybe even more hawkish (particularly if former Romney advisors had influence on a hypothetical non-Trump nominee).

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A good run-down of the GOP Senators who were (probably knowingly) hoodwinked into signing on to the GOP tax bill with false promises and other baloney.

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.

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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 (sub req.) 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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