03.1.2017 - 3:01 PM EDT

I wanted to take a moment to put together some of the different pieces of the emerging story of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's lawyer and right-hand-man for the last decade. For months we have seen reports that the communications and in some cases financial transactions of a small group of President Trump's associates are being scrutinized by federal law enforcement and intelligence for ties to and communications with Russian nationals and/or government officials during the 2016 campaign. Those reports usually focus on Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page. But Cohen comes up on this list, too. In mid-February, The New York Times reported that Cohen "is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an FBI counterintelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials."

While each of the first four men has consistently denied any wrongdoing, there is at least a logic to why they would come up in such a probe. Manafort and Page have long public histories of work in the former Soviet Union. Flynn is known for his support of a rapprochement with Russia, his communications with the Russian ambassador and more. Stone has his cagey statements about being in communication with Julian Assange during the election and he certainly seems to have been foreknowledge of the release of John Podesta's emails. Despite being mentioned rather extensively in the Trump "dossier"— claims that he vociferously denies and which remain unsubstantiated —Cohen has always seemed like the odd man out in that group, the last guy in the Trump world you'd expect to come up in the context of a counterintelligence investigation or or for having channels into the Russian government.

03.1.2017 - 2:21 PM EDT

Plenty of observers say that President Trump's first speech to Congress last night was a major reset, a game changer, maybe even the moment when he "became the President of the United States." I will stick to what I wrote last night, which is that it was essentially 'American carnage' with the volume turned down a couple notches. And a "Senior White House official" ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) tells Trump entourage whisperer Josh Green, that it was "nationalism with an indoor voice."

That is just right.

03.1.2017 - 1:21 PM EDT

Surprisingly, the GOP Obamacare repeal plan shifts tax credits from the poor and middle class to the wealthy.

02.28.2017 - 10:30 PM EDT

Let me offer a few thoughts on President Trump's first address to Congress.

I think purely as a speech, its crafting, the thematic cadence and delivery, it was pretty average to unremarkable. It wasn't a very good speech. Having said that, I think Trump may pick up a few points of support from the public because he seemed like a fairly normal person delivering it. This is admittedly an extremely low standard. But when you compare this Trump to the meltdown press conference Trump or the rageful, spewing Twitter Trump, he can't help but seem more balanced and less threatening by comparison. Low bar. SAD! But there it is.

02.28.2017 - 10:05 PM EDT

10:09 PM: I'll give Trump a little credit for not being goaded into going off message after being jeered and mocked to his face several times.

10:03 PM: This is the essence of Trumpism (Bannonism): that international institutions are our enemies.

02.28.2017 - 9:49 PM EDT

10:00 PM: I will only say this moment is a very jarring contrast between the agony of the wife of a fallen soldier and the fairly transparent and clearly political purpose of this passage of the speech, which is that questioning whether this raid was a 'success' means attacking this woman's husband. As a colleague just said, these guys' don't do subtle

9:53 PM: The concept of this VOICE office is repulsive. Special status for people injured or killed by undocumented immigrants. This is simple incitement. Undocumented immigrants do not commit murders at any higher rate than the rest of the population. In fact, immigrants commit murder at a slightly lower rate than Americans who have been here for a couple generations or a dozen generations. Undocumented immigrants are no more dangerous than other residents of the country, in fact a bit less. Again, it's simply an effort to exploit these deaths for political goals.

9:51 PM: The national murder rate is close to the lowest it's been since before I was born in 1969.

9:46 PM: Cutting to the chase, Trump's health care principles don't do anything to provide people with coverage. It makes it possible to create bare-bones insurance which doesn't provide substantial coverage, allows you to get tax credits which may not be refundable and also health savings accounts. This doesn't address any of the real issues tied to access to affordable health care. Millions of people will lose coverage.

02.28.2017 - 9:31 PM EDT

9:44 PM: For those watching at home, 'purchase across state lines' means preventing states from being able to regulate health insurers.

9:42 PM: Note the one thread through all the Obamacare repeal discussion: the number of people with no health insurance will skyrocket. That's the only real standard of success and failure.

9:39 PM: Trump's 'infrastructure' plan appears to contain little or no public spending but is actually based on tax breaks and so-called "public private partnerships", which are disastrous. Here's our deep look at the topic.

9:37 PM: This speech is riddled with false claims. I'm curious how much Trump gets away with this since I think people, unsurprisingly, expect most of his statements will be false.

9:35 PM: Remember, 'America First' is a phrase first used and historically identified with the anti-Semitic, pro-fascist 'America First' movement of the 1930s.

9:31 PM: After a few early notes to the contrary, the theme here still seems pretty dark.

02.28.2017 - 9:12 PM EDT

9:21 PM: There is now outbreak of 'criminal cartels' sweeping across the country. This is dystopic rage speak. This isn't a thing. It's not Colombia. It's not late 20th century crack epidemic.

9:18 PM: I guess we're about to see how Trump reacts to people laughing in his face about 'draining the swamp.'

9:17 PM: That jobs run-down was almost entirely false.

9:15 PM: Bit of a hard time following that one. Everyone agreed? But majority didn't ever vote for Trump. I know this is a bit of an old saw at this point. But what?

9:14 PM: "The rebellion."

9:11 PM: It is too bad that it comes as a bit of a surprise to see Trump condemn anti-Semitic and racist attacks as the introduction to his first speech to Congress. But he did it.

02.28.2017 - 9:01 PM EDT

Counting down to liveblogging this thing.

02.28.2017 - 2:59 PM EDT

Join Talking Points Memo's DC reporters Tierney Sneed and Alice Ollstein for a live chat talking about everything Congress. They'll answer questions about what it's like to cover Congress, any changes they see this year, challenges they've face in their reporting and more. Feel free to submit your questions here or join us on Friday at 1 p.m. EST! If you'd like to participate but don't have a Prime membership, sign up here.

02.27.2017 - 3:58 PM EDT

As I try to pull all this stuff together, I wanted to mention a few more fascinating details. Yesterday we noted that renegade Ukrainian MP Andrii Artemenko says he's known Cohen for years. They first met when Cohen was setting up that ethanol business with family in Ukraine. Artemenko also says he started talking to Cohen about his "peace plan" for Russia and Ukraine back during the presidential primaries - long before the meeting in early February with Cohen and Felix Sater, which the Times reported last week. We also noted that in addition to Artemenko and the ethanol business, Cohen seems to have a lot of business and personal ties to Ukraine. Almost everywhere you look actually.

Well, it turns out there's more.

02.27.2017 - 2:14 PM EDT

Recent desecrations of cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia and the low-fi terror campaign of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country reminds us why in the post-Emancipation era, European Jews and subsequently American Jews, have gravitated heavily toward progressive political orientations. This is not always the case. In various times and regions, Jews have belonged to conservative parties like the UK tories or French Gaullist parties, for instance. But they are virtually absent from rightist politics. The reason is clear enough. Anti-semitism is almost inevitably and almost always part of rightist political movements. It is a natural feature. This is not always explicitly so. It is not always that way at first, but eventually it is always there.

That is the case with Trumpism.

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