President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Just what did President Trump say to Vladimir Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 President election? It is a fascinating question as an evidentiary matter, quite apart from the substantive question, since the four witnesses to the conversation are each either congenital liars or have situational incentives to deceive us regarding what happened. So how do we make sense of it? I have a post I’ll be sharing with you soon about critical textual analysis of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, the Q’uran and the canonical writings which form the basis of the orthodox history of early Islam. I confess it may seem like a stretch. But this reminds me a bit of that subject since here we have multiple accounts, each of which merit high degrees of skepticism. We must look at each of them not so much to ascertain the truth of what actually happened – that’s likely impossible – but sketch out the range of plausible possibilities.

With that, let’s do this.
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I gave a talk yesterday in DC and in the Q&A I got a question about the outcome of the 2016 election which I ended up answering with what I’ve come to see as my general theory of what happened on November 8th. It’s not a complex or terribly surprising theory. It’s fairly simple. But since it is now implicit in a lot of the things I write I thought I would lay it out here for general purposes.
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President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda at Royal Castle, Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Warsaw. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Sorry for the relative dearth of posts in recent days. I’ve been traveling and semi-off the grid with the holiday and other miscellaneous projects and tasks. I spent most of the day traveling and in meetings. But between them I have been looking into the feverish dialog and jousting in the President’s war against CNN. 
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I want to share a thought about the on-going CNN/Reddit controversy, the question – reasonably – whether CNN should have maintained the privacy of the racist, violence-inciting Reddit user who had his anti-CNN gif picked up by President Trump. I don’t take seriously the idea that CNN ‘blackmailed’ this guy, a middle-aged man who as yet remains unidentified. But in any case I’d like suggest that newsworthiness rather than privacy is the proper prism through which to look at the question.
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We reached one milestone. But we have another big one to go. As we head into the summer and the new TPM Investigations Desk revs up, please consider becoming of TPM Prime. Just click right here. You will get a better version of TPM and just as important you will become a part of making it possible for us to make TPM better and more vital than it has ever been before. Take a moment and join us. It’s important.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on the mounting atmosphere of crisis between the US and North Korea. This is really an extreme fast-forward and stupider version of what we saw in the 2001-03 era under George W. Bush.

Simply put, President Trump came into office asserting that he’d stop North Korea’s missile program in its tracks through some mix of will and threat.


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Last night on Twitter, along with urging various nations in Northeast Asia to go to war with North Korea, President Trump retweeted a gushing tweet from someone named Jacob Wohl, a name I hadn’t heard before. A quick look at his twitter profile shows Wohl presents himself as a financial management wunderkind and epic Trump supporter. He’s already a mini-star in conservative media and no doubt about to grow in such stardom with a retweet from the President. (It’s worth wondering, how did Trump find Wohl.) He also appears to be a veritable mini-Trump, racking up a reputation for defrauded investors, various boffo shenanigans and a batch of regulators on his trail.
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Cue the Mission Impossible music …

We have news out of the UK that coming off the G20 summit in Germany, President Trump may try to sneak into the UK for an unannounced quick meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, hoping that the lack of any advanced notice will foil the plans of any Britains who might want to make fun of him.
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We are coming up on the half way point in our annual Prime membership drive. And as I have been telling you with mounting urgency over the last week, we were pushing hard to meet our goal for the month of June, which was to reach a total of 22,000 total members. 
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This is big.

As you may have heard, this evening The Wall Street Journal published a major follow-up to its story from Thursday which described the work of a GOP money man and oppo research guy, the late Peter W. Smith, who was trying to get hacked emails from Russia and held himself out to be in contact with disgraced Trump advisor Michael Flynn. On its face, the big new break in this follow-up story is a new document from Smith. The document is from what is described as a package of recruiting materials Smith was using to enlist cybersecurity talent in his operation. The document listed key officials in the Trump campaign. These were apparently people Smith claimed he was in touch with or working with, though precisely how or why they were mentioned is not entirely clear.
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Kevin M. Kruse is a Professor of History at Princeton University. He specializes in the political, social, and urban/suburban history of twentieth-century America, with a particular interest in conflicts over race, rights and religion and the making of modern conservatism. His most recent book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, investigates the making and meaning of American religious nationalism in the mid-twentieth century.

Kevin will be in The Hive on Friday, July 7th at 2 PM EST to discuss modern conservatism and the ways in which religion and politics intersect in the U.S. Submit your questions at any time or join us on Friday! If you’d like to participate but don’t have TPM Prime, sign up here.

Some of you remember the 2006/07 US Attorneys firing scandal. What most people don’t clearly remember is that the US Attorneys scandal was really a voter suppression scandal. The US Attorney firings were just a secondary operation meant to root out US Attorneys who wouldn’t play ball with political appointees at the Department of Justice and the White House on the broader voter suppression operation.

What we have now with President Trump’s ‘Election Integrity’ Commission is a much more thorough-going, ambitious and open effort to do the same thing. It’s like an AUMF targeting non-white voters and secondarily anyone who votes for Democrats with any regularity. The people getting top positions on the Commission are basically the worst of the worst from the 2006/07 days. It’s really that bad. And they’re already trying to pull together all the confidential voter data from every state in the union.

You’ve no doubt seen the Wall Street Journal article about the GOP operative and money man who assembled a team to get a hold of Russia-hacked Clinton emails and claimed he was working in concert with disgraced Trump advisor Mike Flynn. From my read, this is one of those articles which is as interesting for what it doesn’t say as what it does. It raises all sorts of questions, a number of which the Investigations Desk will be digging into today.

Here are some basic questions I had.
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We’ve already seen, repeatedly, that when Donald Trump wants to attack women the first go-to is that they’re either stupid or crazy and likely both. In this he is hardly unique. But in today’s attack on Mika Brzezinski what stood out was his insistence that he refused to meet with her at Mar-a-Lago because “she was bleeding badly from a face-lift.”
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We have just 82 53 32 membership sign ups to go to get to 22,000 total subscribers, our goal for the end of June. If you’re thinking about subscribing, take a moment now and join us. Half my life is putting things off. I get it. But step aside from your routine for just two minutes. Sign up, get a better version of TPM with fewer ads and more features and help us build the next TPM. Click right here. Thank you.

Not long ago I was talking with my colleague David Kurtz. We agreed that in many respects the big mainstream media players – the ‘MSM’ – had exceeded our expectations in grappling with the novelty and strong-manism of President Trump and his entourage. Reporters aggressively press for access, normal on-camera press conferences and against raise a clamor at all the petty and sometimes trivial ways the Trump White House tries to put reporters and news organizations in their place. We now see major media outlets – newspapers and TV networks – cataloguing the President’s lies. And calling them ‘lies’. This isn’t remotely like anything we’ve seen before. My point here isn’t to say things are peachy and everything’s perfect. I’m as big a press critic as ever. But much of what one might have feared about a corporate, mainstream media normalizing Trump’s abnormal, unAmerican behavior actually has not happened.
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NiemanLab is one of the major industry publications about trends in digital news media. They interviewed me a few days ago about the changes we’re making at TPM, especially our strategy of shifting toward a more subscriber based business model. Here’s the interview. There’s even a funny part of the interview where the reporter asks me about my growing propensity for doodling. Hope you find it interesting.

And lest I forget. We are now 102 membership sign-ups short of our June goal. The intro to the article says: “Josh Marshall, the founder of the liberal political news site Talking Points Memo (which turns 17 this year), isn’t shy about sharing numbers and publicly setting goals for the site.” In other words, I’m utterly exposed here with our June goal. So if you’re thinking about becoming a member I’m sending you telepathic encouragement to make it today or tomorrow. Click here.

One premise or hope of ACA supporters has been the belief that once new access to health care had been extended it would be politically difficult or even impossible to claw it back. This is the political logic which has guarded Medicare and Social Security for decades.
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Last year I told you we were shifting our business model to a greater reliance on subscription revenue and as a core part of that decision redoubling our commitment to investigative reporting, muckraking in the TPM tradition and original reporting of all sorts. You, our readers, have matched our hopes and ambitions. So today I sent this staff announcement to the TPM team, explaining two key staffing moves as we build toward those goals.

Team,

As we get the new TPM Investigations Desk off the ground, I have two big staff announcements.


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We are closing in on our membership sign up goal for June. Just 178 129 sign ups to go. Really close but we have just three days. Our goal is to have a total of 22,000 Prime subscribers by the end of June. It’s a critical part of building a new, stronger, better, more vital TPM today and in the future. If you’ve been thinking about subscribing, take a moment and make it today. It’s inexpensive, simple to sign up, you get a better version of TPM and it makes a huge difference. Just click here.

President Donald Trump, center, speaks as he meets with Republican senators on health care in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Seated with him, from left, are Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

We’ve discussed several times in recent days the legislative principle of safety in numbers. No one wants to face the full weight of public pressure alone or be left standing when the music stops. Just as much, no one wants to stick their neck out for an unpopular piece of legislation when it’s not going to pass anyway. Sure enough, when McConnell (at least temporarily) pulled the legislation yesterday, three more senators came forward to say they were also nos all along.
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President Donald Trump, center, speaks as he meets with Republican senators on health care in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Seated with him, from left, are Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Before discussing the events of today in the Senate, I want to note a subsidiary issue, a matter of press coverage. But this is not a secondary issue in terms of importance. Let me also preface this by saying I’m going to focus on another journalist: CNN’s Dana Bash. I don’t know Dana. But I’ve relied on her reporting on CNN for years. So this isn’t meant as an attack on her. To me it is simply an illustration of a broader failure of coverage.

With that, here goes.
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I’m about to write up some thoughts about the collapse (for now) of the Senate Trumpcare effort. But we still need to make this June goal for membership sign ups. Long day. Good day. But we still need to meet this goal. Thinking about? Make this the day you stop thinking and just join our team. Click here. Thank you.