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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

You probably saw the news yesterday that just days before President Trump tweeted that he was intent on saving that sanctions-busting Chinese telecommunications company, China had agreed to loan $500 million to a major Trump-backed development in Indonesia. These kinds of situations are now basically commonplace in the Trump Era. But it is important to look at them from a macro- and a micro-perspective. The details are quite complex in the latter case. We are still digging into them. But I wanted to give you a first sense of what we’re finding, because they make Trump’s connection to the operation and potential profits look considerably tighter than what I’d been led to expect yesterday from early reports.

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From the outset, there was little reason to think that North Korea would agree to surrender its nuclear weapons and the infrastructure and labs required to build them. If we set aside the never-very-plausible idea that the Kims are madmen intent on prepping some secular apocalyptic nuclear confrontation with the U.S., a more prosaic, rational strategy becomes clear: build a credible nuclear deterrent, thus making military-backed regime change unthinkable. Then reach an accommodation with the U.S. from a position of strength and fundamental equality. Such an agreement might involve restrictions on nuclear weapons development, limits on numbers of warheads. But fundamentally it would mean accepting North Korea as a nuclear power.

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The Wall Street Journal has another story trying to suss out the brief lobbying career of presidential lawyer Michael Cohen. It’s classic Cohen, a mix of hustling and money-grubbing mixed with resentment and a certain angry pitifulness.

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The Schlapps are one of the great power couples of the Trump Era. She’s a top communications staffer at the White House — Mercedes Schlapp. He’s the head of CPAC and a major pro-Trump talking head on CNN — Matt Schlapp. Both are longtime lobbyists and DC power players. They made a stir for making a great show of walking out of the White House Correspondents Dinner early on their way to hit the after parties, allegedly as a splashy protest over “elites” at the dinner and comedian Michelle Wolf. The two apparently tweeted their outrage from a limo on the way to the NBC afterparty. “It’s why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite,” wrote Mercedes Schlapp.

Now the two have garnered attention as the most conspicuous defenders of Kelly Sadler, the White House staffer who reportedly joked about John McCain’s terminal illness.

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TPM Reader DV wrote in this morning with what I have to say is a completely obvious point that totally eluded me. There are twenty different ways Michael Cohen’s apparent shakedown of various Fortune 500 companies is sleazy. There are a handful of ways it might break the law. But there’s another pretty big problem I at least haven’t seen explicitly mentioned.

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The latest revelations about Michael Cohen all stem from that document posted earlier this week by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti. There were some small outgoing payments on the last of the seven pages that appear to have been tied to other ‘Michael Cohen’s’. Those were errors. But the payments that garnered all the attention – money from AT&T, Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries – were all rapidly confirmed. But there’s a problem. The money doesn’t add up. Or rather there was even more money than Avenatti’s document suggested. A lot more.

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CNBC just reported that AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson is calling hiring Michael Cohen a “big mistake. They are also reporting that their Senior Executive Vice President of External & Legislative Affairs, Bob Quinn, is ‘retiring’. That long title means head of their DC office, where lobbying and all government-facing activities are run out of. Here’s the critical backstory. Jim Cicconi, Quinn’s predecessor, had been in that position for about a decade and was a real player in the DC/Government Relations world. He only left about a year and a half ago. In other words, Quinn just showed up and now he’s out, apparently as fallout from the Michael Cohen debacle.

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