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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

As I noted yesterday, we still don’t know the fullness of what is happening to Julian Assange in the US legal system. He’s charged with what is essentially a hacking conspiracy. That’s much more legitimate than trying to charge him with publishing classified information. But it also seems like more charges are potentially in store. Those could potentially trample over these bright lines between things that are fairly straightforward crimes (hacking) and others that are much more like journalism (whether or not we consider Assange himself to be a journalist). So to me the jury is really still what is happening and whether it’s legitimate.

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TPM Reader CT showed me this map which shows where coal energy production is more or less expensive than renewables.

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This paragraph from the Times, similar to a report from CNN and likely relying on the same sources, shows a big problem with the biggest US media operations and their continued validations of Bill Barr’s intentional deceptions.

Mr. Barr, who began his career at the C.I.A., did not intend to imply that spying was inherently wrong, according to a person who has discussed the matter with him but was not authorized to share their conversation. Mr. Barr sees no technical difference between that term and surveillance. He indicated that at issue was not the act of surveilling but whether officials followed proper procedures when they decided to gather intelligence on Trump’s associates in 2016.

Barr is not simply using his job to defend the President. He’s repeatedly playing word games like this. He issues a supererogatory exoneration of President Trump and then claims he had never meant to do that. He’d like to release the whole Mueller Report. But the rules just make it really hard for him to do that. He very clearly used the word “spying” and then said he needed to make sure it hadn’t happened. That was to give the President his talking point. Then he or his staff tell the Times that he didn’t mean to imply anything by that. He just meant “spying” as a synonym for surveillance, which of course judges authorize law enforcement to conduct routinely. This is obviously not true. Yet the Times passes it on as though it were a good faith explanation of what Barr was thinking.

Here we have Robert Costa of the Post saying that Republicans are themselves wondering what Barr is up to. The explanation they’re being given? Well, it turns out he’s actually not a career prosecutor. So he’s just not really in tune with DOJ practices and policies and traditions.

They simply can’t grasp their way toward the obvious explanation. He’s a bad actor, using his office for the purpose of defending the President as opposed to enforcing the law. He’s a crook. But he’s a smart one. And at least as far as we know so far he’s using his legitimate powers in creative ways to take corrupt actions.

A few more points about Assange.

First, Assange’s lawyer in the U.S., Barry Pollack, now says “the factual allegations against Mr. Assange boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source.” That’s clearly false.

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Let me start by saying what is likely already clear to you. I see Julian Assange as a loathsome, destructive, megalomaniacal figure. These tendencies, apparent from the start, have undoubtedly been accentuated by years in self-imposed captivity which started and for many years was an effort to escape a legitimate sexual assault investigation. But I think we should be highly skeptical of his arrest and extradition to the US.

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I think this is a very plausible read. Barr uses his smarts to help Trump attack the rule of law with a fig leaf of deniability and pared back enough to avoid triggering a new crisis. From TPM Reader JO

I think we can see where this “investigation” is going with Barr. I imagine that Trump wants Barr to prosecute individual FBI team members for illegal spying. Barr is probably offering Trump an alternative: instead of creating a political crisis by focusing on the personalities who started the investigation (Comey, etc.), instead focus on discrediting the legal basis on which the FISA warrants were issued, as well as the “improper” FBI/DOJ policies and procedures that gave rise to opening the investigation in the first place. After all, Barr’s power is at its apex in setting (or rescinding) DOJ policy, and he can dress up a change in the DOJ’s discretionary exercise of authority as a formal, legal repudiation of Obama’s DOJ/FBI regime. He’s not a judge, but as we saw from the Mueller report letter, he knows how to act like one.

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I want to show you a couple clips from Bill Barr’s testimony today. You’ve heard the headlines but the full language is pretty key.

When Barr said he believed there was “spying” against the Trump campaign he explicitly compared that to spying on civil rights and anti-war activists during the 1960s. In other words, while saying he simply needs to ‘look into it’, he is quite consciously validating Trump’s claims of ‘Deep State’ spying going back two years. This is conscious, intentional and the grossest form of bad faith, pretending concerns about illegal surveillance of domestic dissidents while actually seeking punitive expeditions against people the President has targeted as enemies.

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Bill Barr basically openly embraced the President’s discredited claim that the Obama administration “spied” on his campaign. He later seemed to partly backtracked and then tried to suggest that by “spying” he might just mean court approved surveillance as part of a counter-intelligence investigation. But that’s really just caviling. He’s embracing the President’s conspiracy theories and pushing ahead with what can only be called a retributive new investigation of the origins of the Russia probe.

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The President appeared a few moments ago before leaving the White House. The gist: he “won” the Mueller investigation. He doesn’t care about the report. And the investigators are guilty of “treason.” Video after the jump.

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