Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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We were just watching General McMaster’s press conference – which has taken the place of Sean Spicer’s briefing today. The key take away is that McMaster is essentially conceding the accuracy of last night’s reporting (first from the Post and later confirmed by other outlets) but saying that in the context it was okay. It was appropriate. Notably, when it comes to specifics, he is hiding behind classification to refuse to give further answers.

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A few moments ago Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on cameras and gave a response to the Lavrov blockbuster which captured in two or three sentences the essential cynicism of the current Republican position on the moral and strategic implosion of the Trump presidency.

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This one I can really only capture in images.

Note that Trump is not only confirming the essence of the Post story. He has already seized upon the constitutional and legal fact that as President if he shares information it means he decided to declassify it.

Note: If the text isn’t quite legible, click the title to go to the full page version of this post.

Despite nominal denials from the White House, it seems clear that The Washington Post blockbuster about President Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak is accurate and may even understate what transpired last week. Numerous other news organizations have now independently verified the Post’s report.

Why did this happen exactly?

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Here’s my take on General McMaster’s statement, delivered in person a few moments ago outside the White House.

First, here’s the text.

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The Washington Post has just dropped a major story on what went down in that Trump/Sergei Lavrov Oval Office meeting last week. According to the Post, in that meeting, Trump went “off script” and provided Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei highly classified intelligence on the inner workings of the Islamic State. This is a move – if it occurred as described – that would likely gotten any other government official fired and possibly indicted. 

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It was reported on Friday that James Comey has declined to testify before the Senate unless he can do so in open session (and presumably only in open session). The motivation seems pretty clear: Comey wants his version of events aired in public and not kept under wraps or (the bigger issue, I think) subjected to the interpretations of senators who discuss the testimony with the press.

But this is a good moment to discuss a broader issue about Comey, which I think this illustrates.

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President Trump’s personal tax lawyers have now provided a letter, released by the White House today, which in essence says President Trump has no financial ties with Russia. There have been reports in recent days that the President’s tax lawyers were preparing such a letter, in part for Sen. Lindsey Graham. The letter is dated March 8, more than two months ago. How that comports with its release today and what we’d been led to believe about its recent preparation, I have no idea. But I wanted to share a few thoughts on what the letter does or doesn’t mean.

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