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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There are countless things to write about this morning’s revelation. I was already at work on that revised timeline I mentioned earlier when this was flagged for me while I was in a cab coming back from a meeting. For now I will just make a single observation. Donald Trump Jr. began this engagement with Rob Goldstone on the basis of this message. “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

At a minimum Don Jr. and likely (though this is as yet unproven) all high level members of the Trump team knew about this more than a year ago. Ergo, all the total and aggressive denials about Russia’s role supporting Trump, law-breaking for Trump, etc. etc were all the most total and abject lies.

With last night’s report in the Times, I think we are officially past the point of the ‘was there collusion’ question. There was. The President’s son now has the barest argument that he tried to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton which he was told came from a Russian government campaign to help his father become president, only to find it was insufficient. 

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The New York Times has followed up with a third installment in its Don Jr series in as many days. I’m not sure there’s much to analyze. It’s pretty straightforward. When Don Jr was contacted about meeting with the Russian lawyer who had dirt on Hillary Clinton he was told that the dirt was part of a Russian government operation. He took the meeting on that basis.

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Yesterday I noted that the biggest thing in the Times‘ Don Jr article was the sourcing. The story came, apparently unprompted or voluntarily, from what the Times identified as 5 advisors to the White House. Top Trump advisors don’t casually drop incredibly damaging information about the President’s son for no reason. You do that to get ahead of something bigger.

But … remember, this is Trump World. And now I realize there’s a quite different potential explanation, but in the spirit of Trump’s Razor (perhaps Trump’s Razor by Proxy?) the stupidest one possible. 

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You’ve probably seen this story by John Solomon in The Hill. It claims that the memos James Comey had leaked to The New York Times in fact contained classified information. Predictably the report ricocheted from Fox News to President Trump’s Twitter feed. But there’s some very important context you need to understand this story.

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I want to share a few initial thoughts on this afternoon’s Times blockbuster. If you have not seen it yet, yesterday the Times reported that Donald Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, met last year with a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin, Natalia Veselnitskaya, about something called the Magnitsky Act. Magnitsky is a sort of mini-sanctions law passed in 2012 which Russia has wanted overturned ever since. (The details of Magnitsky are important but we’ll discuss them later.) That in itself was a major story. This afternoon they followed up with additional details that made it a genuine blockbuster: according to the Times, Trump took the meeting because he was promised that he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

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Our reading for this Sunday afternoon is this tweet.

This confirmed something I suspected when I was reading through the transcript of Mnuchin and McMaster answering questions about the meeting yesterday evening.

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When I wrote the post below, trying to make sense of what happened in the Trump-Putin meeting, I didn’t have the transcript of the gaggle with McMaster, Cohn and Mnuchin. What I was going on were press accounts that they declined to address Lavrov’s and Putin’s comments. So I knew in general they declined but I didn’t have the details. The White House just released the transcript and I am publishing (after the jump) the portion on the meeting.

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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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