The Washington Post reported yesterday that amongst the tens of thousands of documents Paul Manafort has turned over to congressional investigators and the Special Counsel’s offers were emails between Manafort and his Ukrainian deputy Konstantin Kilimnik. In one of those emails he tells Kilimnik to pass on word to a top Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska that he could provide briefings on the state of the presidential campaign.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” wrote Manafort.
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I’ve mentioned  before that Facebook seems to have a hard time grasping that it is a commercial entity rather than a government or a civic space. In his statement today, Mark Zuckerberg compared placing some controls or vetting on the ads it runs to prior restraint. “We don’t check what people say before they say it and I don’t think society should want us to. Freedom means you don’t have to ask for permission first.”

Earlier this week, we came up with an idea. Go back to the Steele Dossier and read it again fresh basically on all we’ve learned over the last 5 months. How does it read now? Here’s what we came up with. Give it a read.

I’ve long been intrigued by just how Paul Manafort managed to get involved in Donald Trump’s campaign. I’ve written about this before. One of the key facts of the relationship is that Manafort agreed to work for free – something that always struck me as quite out of character. The key public information comes from an April New York Times article by Glenn Thrush, which I’d like to return to now.

Thrush got access to a package of emails and documents that detailed how Manafort came into the Trump orbit through one of Trump’s most trusted outside advisors, Thomas Barrack, a real estate and private equity investor.
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One thing we’ve learned from the on-going Manafort investigation is that President Trump remained in at least semi-regular phone contact with Manafort for some time after he became President. There’s nothing necessarily wrong or illegal about that. But it’s certainly not politically wise. It’s also hard for me to believe any lawyer would have thought it was a good idea, given the scope of the various Russia investigations.

But here’s a point I wanted to return to.
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This exchange on Russia from President Trump’s February 17th press conference doesn’t hold up terribly well, not particularly the portion on Paul Manafort and Trump’s business dealings in Russia or lack thereof.

Q President Trump, since you brought up Russia, I’m looking for some clarification here. During the campaign, did anyone from your team communicate with members of the Russian government or Russian intelligence? And if so, what was the nature of those conversations?
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We’re all familiar with the process by which states and localities often bid with tax preferences and other goodies to get businesses to locate in their jurisdictions . In itself, this isn’t all bad, at least within bounds. But it does create a race to the bottom framework in which governments often feel compelled to indulge in the most ridiculous forms of corporate welfare in order to attract businesses and thus employers. On a more general level, it leads states to compete in hollowing themselves out more generally to compete for companies who want no taxes and no regulations at all. This is all a familiar problem and these issues have all been raised in Wisconsin’s push to attract a factory from Foxconn, the Taiwan-based company which makes numerous computer and technology devices for companies like Apple and many others.

But in addition to agreeing to pay Foxconn up to $2.85 billion the bill currently being considered would actually change the state’s legal system specifically for suits tied to Foxconn. Here’s a passage from a new article from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The legislation would exempt the Foxconn project from a state environmental impact statement and from some state rules to protect wetlands and waterways. That has raised the possibility that environmental groups may sue over the law and project in the near future.

To head off delays from that potential litigation, GOP lawmakers and Walker added special requirements on the courts system for handling any Foxconn lawsuits.

First, the legislation would expedite appeals of Foxconn-related lawsuits, creating a path that would likely get any case more quickly to the state Supreme Court, where conservatives have a solid majority.

Second, the measure requires higher courts to take appeals of a trial court order in a Foxconn case even if the order is not final. In general, appellate courts have to take appeals of the final judgments and orders made by trial courts but get to decide whether to take appeals of preliminary orders.

Finally, the trial court rulings in that litigation would be automatically stayed until the higher court decided what to do.

When determining how courts will rule, the Legislative Council typically keeps its predictions cautious and that was the case with this latest memo. The analysis noted that it was possible that courts would uphold the Foxconn court provisions.

This provision has generated some resistance on the right and the left. And some believe it may be unconstitutional. I’m not sure how common this is or not. But it goes well beyond mere tax abatements or even the outright cash gifts that Wisconsin appears to be signing on for.

We have a new NBC poll out this morning which shows a small but non-trivial rise in Trump’s public approval – from 40% in August to 43% today. The poll has a 3.3% margin of error. So you might say, that’s noise, not any real change. Possibly. But it’s broadly in line with other polls like Gallup. All the polls showing the same modest improvement suggests it is not statistical noise but something real, albeit small and perhaps ephemeral.
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Back on September 15th I wrote a lengthy comment on The New York Times story on Michelle Jones. She’s the former prisoner who spent twenty years in prison for murdering her son and is beginning a PhD program at NYU. The Times story was about her rejection from the history PhD program at Harvard. In the original Times story and in my post responding to it, John Stauffer, a Professor at Harvard, played a leading role.

Stauffer has submitted the following letter to clarify his position. I’m publishing it in full.

To TalkingPointsMemo.Com:

In his article, “From Prison to Ph.D.,” published last week in the New York Times, Eli Hager argued that Harvard University did not give Michelle Jones a fair review, owing to her criminal record.


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Over recent weeks we’ve learned much more about how Russian operatives used Facebook to support Donald Trump, attack Hillary Clinton and spread conspiracy theories pumped up the heat of the 2016 campaign. One big question has been: how effectively did they target those messages, given Facebook’s vast ability to target messages? And if they did target their messages to areas of particular Democratic weakness in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, how were they able to do that? Where did they get the data to drive the effort?
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The Times is reporting that Robert Mueller is requesting documents relating to President Trump’s firing of Mike Flynn, firing of James Comey and that bizarre meeting with the Russian Ambassador and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which Trump told Lavrov that firing Comey had taken the “pressure” off him. Since it’s been widely understood that Mueller is probing whether Trump obstructed justice in firing Comey, this isn’t altogether surprising. But it certainly seems to confirm this assumption since these are key events you’d want to know more about to make that case.
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We now know that from 2014 through 2016 the FBI had obtained a FISA warrant to surveil Paul Manafort because of his work for the Russia-aligned leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, and then for his party once he went into exile. They started again at some point in the second half of 2016. The second run was tied to the election. This is in addition to the FISA warrant monitoring Carter Page and the eavesdropping on the Russian Ambassador (fairly standard) which picked up conversations the Ambassador had with Michael Flynn.
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President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk to board Air Force One for a trip to Florida to meet with first responders and people impacted by Hurricane Irma, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Are Trump’s numbers finally ticking up?

If we go by Gallup, yes, he does seem to have ticked up a bit. I call it the Trump Storm Surge. Starting with Hurricane Harvey and continuing into Irma, Trump’s presence as caregiver in chief, stumbling as he’s been, does seem to have slightly buoyed his public support. 
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United States President Donald Trump speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

When the weak or the marginalized are defiant or even threatening, there is a self-regulating dynamic which limits the danger or renders it minimal. We can see this on both the domestic and international fronts. Chants of “black power” may be superficially comparable to chants of “white power”. But most of us intuitively understand they are very different. The defiance and demand of the marginalized or disempowered is inherently defensive in nature whereas the defiance and demand of the powerful is inherently aggressive and menacing.
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Following up on my post below, let me add one more point. Below I noted that having two members of Trump’s campaign the subjects of active counter-intelligence investigations must have set off alarm bells in the US intelligence world. But of course it wasn’t just that. Law enforcement and US intelligence had known for years that Trump was heavily reliant on money from countries of the former Soviet Union, with much of that money coming from dubious sources. I discussed just how much they knew here.
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President Trump has signaled he would like to hold a military parade on Pennsylvania Avenue out front of the White House next July 4th to show off American military might. The parade would include tanks, jet fighters and other heavy armaments for public display through the streets of the national capital. “So we’re actually thinking about 4th of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength,” said the President. Read more here.

It is hard to know precisely what to make of tonight’s revelation that Paul Manafort was the subject of a FISA warrant before and after the 2016 election. Just when the FISA warrant was granted is not clear from the report. But the precise date would tell us a lot.
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CNN is reporting that last year, during the campaign, Paul Manafort was the target of a FISA warrant. The FISA warrant was active before and after the November election. President Trump and Manafort apparently continued to be in contact in the early part of 2017, when the warrant was still active.

From CNN …

The conversations between Manafort and Trump continued after the President took office, long after the FBI investigation into Manafort was publicly known, the sources told CNN. They went on until lawyers for the President and Manafort insisted that they stop, according to the sources.

Obamacare repeal has been turned back now two times? Three times? It’s hard for me to know or keep track of how we score what counted as a ‘time’. We’ve been through this again and again. But this new round is as real as it gets. The CBO announced today that it will not be able to produce a full score of the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill for “at least several weeks.” But the Senate only has until the end of September to pass a bill with only 50 votes (complicated but those are the rules). So it appears they’re likely to plow ahead without knowing the cost or how many people will lose coverage under the new bill if they think they have the votes. This is real. It could happen very quickly.

It’s great that the Mueller probe appears to be almost leak free. At least in theory it’s great. It’s not great if you want to understand the progress of the investigation or what is likely to come of it – something we have an understandable, even pressing interest in. We’re reduced to making inferences based on the slivers of information which emerge from the probe. Here Tierney Sneed explains why the fact that Mueller got a search warrant to get information from Facebook actually tells us some key information about the progress of the probe because of what Mueller’s lawyers had to prove to a judge to get that warrant. Read this piece. It’s important context to understand where things are.
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Scott Weaver leads the climate science team at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The team conducts, assesses, and communicates climate science research to support the scientific foundation for cross-programmatic activities and policy development. Scott will be joining us in The Hive to discuss the scientific aspects of the climate change debate and the importance of federal budgets for science research. Post your questions and come join the chat on Friday! If you’d like to participate but don’t have TPM Prime, sign up here.

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