Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

TPM Reader AB is not happy …

“Some Democrats are once again looking to special counsel Robert Mueller for salvation, this time to combat administration efforts to spin his report.”

Now I have no doubt that the Dems are grossly misplaying their hand.


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One of the particular characteristics of the Trump presidency is the way Trump consistently creates drama – some by design, some not – that makes it hard to see the broader outline of events. Nowhere is this more clear than in considering the 2020 election. We’re inundated by reports about the President’s turbo-powered campaign, his vast fundraising, new kinds of micro-targeting, negotiations with foreign governments to attack domestic political opponents. In fact, though the President remains very unpopular. Despite the fact that incumbent President’s usually get elected, most signs suggest pretty clearly he won’t.

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Bill Barr sat for an interview with Fox this morning. He made crystal clear he’s putting the DOJ 100% behind President Trump’s claims of a “coup” and spying. It’s all out in the open. Watch this clip where he suggests the evidence of an attempted ‘coup’ is growing.

Late Update: More video out now in which Barr suggests Comey, Clapper and Brennan were plotting against Trump during the election. Video after the jump.

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The out-going top prosecutor in Ukraine – who Rudy Giuliani had been courting/pressuring to open investigations into Joe Biden has announced he’s not playing ball. He says there’s no probe, no reason to open a probe, etc. Yuriy Lutsenko said he didn’t want “Ukraine to again be the subject of US presidential elections.” This is clearly part of the reason Rudy canceled his trip and accused official in Kiev of being anti-Trump. Lutsenko also said that Giuliani had asked him whether the US Ambassador was “not loyal to Trump.” She was fired on May 6th.

United States Ambassdor to Israel David Friedman: “Israel has one secret weapon that not too many countries have. Israel is on the side of God, and we don’t underestimate that.”

Be sure to give this voting rights piece a glance. Tierney gives an overview of just how many fronts Republicans are operating on to limit voting as much as possible for 2020. I’m pretty versed on this. But it’s remarkable to see listed out just how many fronts they’re working on, just how central a part of GOP legal and legislative work this has become.

We’ll have more on this shortly. But I want to point out the common argument the President’s personal lawyers (yesterday) and the White House Counsel’s office (in today’s letter) are now making. They argue that the Congress has no legitimate oversight role with respect to the executive branch at all, a stunning argument that would clip the wings of Congress permanently. They are arguing first that the only legitimate document requests or subpoenas are those tied specifically and narrowly to shaping upcoming legislation. That’s an aspect of oversight but only a smallish part of it. Secondly, anything that is tied to wrongdoing or malfeasance or possibly crimes is “law enforcement”, which is the exclusive purview of the executive branch. In other words, from both sides of the equation, they argue that Congress has no oversight role at all.

Now the argument is out in the open.

Looking at the escalating (US-created) crisis with Iran, one thing I realize is that a lot of people do not quite know who John Bolton is. They assume – rightly – that anyone in the Trump orbit must be either a moral weakling, a crazy person or someone with one foot out the door. All true. But John Bolton is a unique and uniquely dangerous character.

To give some perspective, back during George W. Bush’s second term, Bush nominated Bolton to serve as UN Ambassador. That was in 2006 and with a GOP majority in the Senate. Bolton was seen as so manifestly ill-suited to the position that he couldn’t get confirmed. He had to settle for a pity recess appointment.

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I am some mix of hoping and thinking that the administration’s extremely aggressive signals towards Iran are some kind of bluff. But I’m not confident that is the case. Trump came in, scrapped the Iran deal and put new sanctions in place to force the Iranians to the bargaining table on US terms – obviously terms they hoped would be far more favorable than the ones that produced the scrapped deal. That never made sense even on its own terms. Now they’re frustrated and at least threatening a military confrontation. There are at least some signs that administration officials believe that a heavy volley of cruise missiles or a sustained aerial bombardment – as opposed to an actual invasion – will put the Iranians in a mood to negotiate, an idea belied by decades or even a century of military history.

This is really all madness. But I want to focus on something specific and equally worrying, the current top appointees of the President.

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