Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This post covers some ground we’ve covered before. But the Manafort trial and the various documents its producing throw this fact into much sharper relief, as does President Trump’s little-concealed rage and panic over the trial.

In 2015 and 2016 Paul Manafort was a desperate man. The source of most of his income and wealth had been driven from power in 2014. It took a while for the cut-off of funds to really kick in. It also probably took a while before it became totally clear that Viktor Yanukovych wasn’t coming back. At the end of 2014, his daughters (and eventually his wife) found out about an affair he was carrying on. There were teary-phone calls, threats of suicide. The Manaforts went into couples therapy but Paul kept up the affair. He was caught again and by late 2015 he’d entered a clinic in Arizona for what his daughter described as a “massive emotional breakdown.” (The best narrative of this and much else in the Manafort story comes from Frank Foer’s March article in The Atlantic.)

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TPM Reader RM thinks TPM Reader JB is missing a key point. Here’s RM and then I’ll share a few thoughts at the end …

I think TPM Reader JB misses a key point of the Trump Tower meeting. Specific ‘collusion dirt’ was provided by the Russians in the Trump Tower meeting. The issue was that Junior didn’t like the ‘dirt’ that was offered and implied through his specific criticisms and subdued response that the Russians needed to bring better ‘dirt’, and that the Trump campaign left the door open to further explore matters should such ‘better dirt’ be provided. In addition, the Russians made a big deal of the Magnitsky Act and Bill Browder, indicating that they demanded something in exchange for the ‘dirt’ they were willing to provide to help the Trump campaign. That’s a quid pro quo: ‘we give you dirt, you consider our wish list’. Junior gave every indication of support for that concept in this meeting.

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Prosecutorial strategy in a financial crime case is not something I know anything about. What’s more, I haven’t been following the minutiae of the trial as closely as the other members of our team who are devoted to it for the duration (mainly Tierney Sneed, Caitlin MacNeal and David Kurtz, though most of the team is involved at least in a support role). But last week, as there was more and more evidence of high living, I did have a few moments where I wondered: ‘God, I really hope they don’t blow this.’ Subsequent testimony at the end of the week I think clarified the point of that earlier testimony and got on to the more factual part of the case. (To be clear, I think this was probably clear all along to more knowledgable trial watchers.) But it wasn’t until I say this note from TPM Reader JW that I really grasped the high risk nature of Manafort’s defense strategy …

Even at the earliest stages of trial, we are seeing how incredibly risky is for Manafort to blame Gates for criminal wrongdoing. The “blame Gates” strategy means that Manafort is effectively admitting that criminal conduct occurred at his firm and in his own name. Tax evasion? Money laundering? Yes, taxes were evaded and money was laundered, but it was all Gates! Manafort knew nothing! This is a train wreck of an argument.

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TPM Reader JB makes a very good point in this email. It’s still generally assumed that even if the Trump Tower meeting shows intense desire to collude, it was a bust. Nothing actually came of it. They tried to collude. But they couldn’t make it happen. Literally everything else that the Trump Team has told us about this meeting – including that it happened – has been a lie. It seems almost absurd to assume this one critical claim is true.

As it becomes more and more obvious that Donald Trump knew about the 2016 meeting between Don, Jr., Kusher, Manafort, and Veselnitskaya, we keep hearing again even in the mainstream media that the meeting was a bust, because Veselnitskaya produced no dirt on Clinton, which somehow figures into the exoneration story. Maybe the Trump team was trying to collude, but they didn’t actually collude.

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With a rising challenge from Beto O’Rourke, Ted Cruz is focusing on constituent service and the personal touch to win a second term as Texas Senator.

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Yesterday I got my first look at the new front page publishing system I mentioned in this post over the weekend. It’s an amazing feat of coding skill, both from a technical perspective as well from a journalistic and aesthetic one. That pride and excitement is mainly an internal matter for our team. Most of you are rightly concerned not with the inner workings of the machine but the final product. But what really excites me about bringing this online is that I believe it will greatly enhance our ability to bring you the news, to do what we do.

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As the Manafort trial continues and Rick Gates prepares to testify, I wanted to flag some key connections, transfers of money and more that we should keep in mind with respect Manafort, Rick Gates and their common patron, the private equity and real estate mogul Tom Barrack.

We’ve discussed Barrack before. He’s that rare Trump confidante who seems actually to have earned his money more or less legitimately and be a seriously successful businessman in a way that Trump never was. He was a major surrogate for Trump on the campaign trail. He’s still apparently a confidante.

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I struggle with how much we should delve into these rabbit holes. They are to a real extent simply conflagrations whipped up to serve the distraction interests of the White House. But this seems worth listening to and preserving. CNN’s Jim Acosta presses Sarah Sanders to agree that the press is not the “enemy of the people.” She responds with an anti-press tirade.

Video after the jump.

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Head of all US intelligence says he’s not sure what happened in Helsinki.

From a former federal public corruption prosecutor …

I call BS on this [New York Times] story about Trump fighting against the advice of his lawyers to go ahead with an interview with the Special Counsel. It is truly laughable and I question the NYT’s judgment here in biting on this story hook, line and sinker. This is like the guy who picks a fight with the toughest kid on the playground, but tells his friends to make sure to act like they’re holding him back. Every criminal defense lawyer with a client that is going to assert the 5th and not agree to an interview says, “my client desperately wants to tell the government everything he knows, but I’m not going to let him go in.” Rudy is pretending to be the guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square trying to stop Trump from testifying. This is all a show. Rudy just doesn’t want to say that the President of the United States is going to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination.