I was in meetings most of this morning. I’m only now catching up on the reporting on Carter Page’s testimony before Congress. But I did read the first half of his testimony transcript last night. And I wanted to share a few initial impressions.
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President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on tax policy with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Over the last four days President Trump has made a series of statements demanding his Justice Department ‘investigate’ Hillary Clinton and other Democratic enemies. These demands aren’t entirely new. But by their specificity, repetition and speed they represent a new departure in demands for extra-legal action and rule. We should note that Trump is increasingly acting like a dictator or would be strong man. The only difference is that the machinery of government, seemingly up to at least some of his high level appointees, seems to be largely ignoring him. This is much better than the alternative. But it is still a bad, dangerous development.
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That notorious Russian lawyer who met with Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort in Trump Tower in June 2016 is talking again. Natalia Veselnitskaya gave a two and a half hour interview yesterday in Moscow in which she claimed that Don Jr. had told her that key sanctions against Russia might be lifted in what seems to have been a tacit exchange for help in the election.
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Professor Jay Rosen has been on the NYU Journalism faculty since 1986, and from 1999 to 2005 he served as chair of the department. He is also the author of PressThink, a weblog about journalism and its ordeals. As a press critic and reviewer, Jay has published in The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and others. He has a Ph.D. from NYU in media studies.

Jay will be in the Hive to discuss journalism and media in the Trump era. Post your questions and join us on Wednesday! If you’d like to participate but don’t have TPM Prime, sign up here.

If you’re following the Trump/Russia story, don’t miss this one. I’m pretty confident Investigations Desk reporter Tierney Sneed is on to something here. In our story out tonight she notes that the Papadopoulos timeline Mueller lays out stops abruptly on July 22nd, the day the first Wikileaks DNC email hit. That can’t be a coincidence. It’s too central a part of the story. Check out our story. She walks us through different possibilities of what it might mean.

This seems like a key paragraph in David Ignatius’s column on what appears to be unfolding in Saudi Arabia.

MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.


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Aboard Air Force on en route to Tokyo, President Trump held a brief Q&A with reporters (from pool report) …

The reason our stock market is so successful is because of me. I’ve always been great with money, I’ve always been great with jobs, that’s what I do. And I’ve done it well, I’ve done it really well, much better than people understand and they understand I’ve done well.

From the Japan Times

The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said.

Former Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo went on MSNBC this afternoon and said George Papadopoulos was “stupid” and “had no business” being at that March 2016 foreign policy advisor meeting where he apparently talked up his ability to set up meetings with Russians or even with Vladimir Putin. He went on to say that Papadopoulos was only there because Donald Trump was getting slammed for not having any foreign policy advisors and a group was thrown together with basically zero idea of who the people even were.
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I have always had a great deal of respect for Donna Brazile. And I have tried to keep to a long time principle of not revising my view of a person simply because they do something I disagree with. I was stunned when I first read Brazile’s piece in Politico. But now having read it over a few times, I have a hard time not concluding that she’s done a serious disservice to the historical record and to all Democrats. Why this is the case, I truly don’t know. And there may be more facts to emerge that I’m not yet aware of. But here’s why I think this.
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I wasn’t terribly surprised when we reported a few weeks ago that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is tied to the ‘League of the South’, the pro-Southern secession/slavery apologism group that wants to lead the South in a second rebellion against the federal government in order to found a ‘white Christian republic.’ But I confess I was a bit surprised that Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is currently the leading Republican candidate to succeed Sen. Bob Corker, does too. In 2004, Blackburn invited the Rev. David O. Jones, a neo-Confederate, secessionist and slavery apologist, to give the opening prayer in the House. And it happened! Here’s the story.

President Trump asked about his March meeting with Papadopoulos and his then foreign policy team: “I don’t remember much about that meeting, it was a very unimportant meeting. Don’t remember much about it.”

We are now hearing various versions of who knew what and who said what about the idea of George Papadopoulos arranging a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. All these points notwithstanding, let’s remember that the idea that a presidential candidate would hold a summit with a foreign head of state – especially Vladimir Putin – is completely crazy, even if you have a maximal take on the Trump/Russia scandal. In many ways, it’s crazy especially if you have a maximal take on the Trump/Russia scandal.
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We and many others reported the release of a bundle of Russian-intelligence backed ad campaigns that ran on Facebook last year. I wanted to zoom in one of them. It’s simply an extraordinary example of the complexity and not online but in the real world impact of what was happening last year.
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One interesting backstory to the Manafort-Gates indictment: the pre-indictment fight over whether they could invoke attorney-client privilege to block their lawyer from having to testify to the Mueller grand jury. The details of that skirmish–which Manafort and Gates lost–emerged when the case was unsealed this week. Tierney Sneed explains the significance.

 

I’m really glad we did this. I thought it would be helpful for me to understand the story better. Crack reporting by a number of news organizations have already identified most of the unnamed people in the Papadopoulos plea agreement document. But that’s not quite the sentence as reading the document and the individual sentences with the names of the people in place of anonymized titles like “high ranking campaign official” or “campaign supervisor.” So Allegra Kirkland pulled the reporting together and edited the document to replace those titles with the names of the people who published reports have now securely identified. Check it out.

In March of 2016 Donald Trump was getting a growing number of questions about who was advising him on foreign policy. He did not seem to have any foreign policy advisors. So when he met with The Washington Post editorial board on March 21st he announced a team of five foreign policy advisors. Walid Phares, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Joe Schmitz, and ret. Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg.
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One of the more comical sub-threads of the Papadopoulos story is his comically inept efforts to hide his digital tracks even after he’d lied to the FBI in two successive interviews, one without his lawyer and then another with counsel present. It’s enough to make you think he’s not familiar with the surveillance state. But more prosaically, he didn’t seem to realize there’s a thing called warrants. Allegra Kirkland has the story.