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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Today we held our first TPM Inside Briefing with Ben Wikler, DC Director of Moveon.org. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion and asked questions. We’re holding our second briefing this Friday with Marc Elias, the preeminent election lawyer in the Democratic party. If you’re interested in getting the very latest information on how critical voting rights questions and cases are playing out in the final weeks of the campaign and what impact the election is likely to have on the franchise going forward, join me after the jump for more details and how to join the call.

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The fate of exiled Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi has been bubbling through the news for the last week while most of our focus was on Brett Kavanaugh and the impending midterm election. But tonight it took a decidedly more ominous turn, one that involves not only the possibility of a brutal extra-legal killing but scandal reaching into the Trump administration itself.

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The most repeated explanations of Nikki Haley’s departure today are that she wanted to make money in the private sector or she wanted a ‘breather’. I just wanted to reiterate that this makes absolutely no sense. People do sometimes leave high profile positions for those reasons. But not without warning and not four weeks before an election. President Trump claims she gave him a heads up six months ago. But he’s a notorious liar. Various reports claim that neither John Bolton nor Secretary of State Pompeo knew anything about it. Apparently nobody did.

I’m not saying there’s some big scandal lurking here. But these explanations do not hold up. There’s certainly some as yet unknown driver of this decision.

Here’s something I’ve been watching for a bit. You can see here that “New Fox” has just hired Hope Hicks as its chief communications officer. Sort of a lateral transfer in the state propaganda world. But here’s something worth noting about “New Fox”.

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We’re now watching the President’s impromptu appearance with outgoing Ambassador Nikki Haley. The closest they’ve come to an answer is Haley saying she believes in rotating top officials with some regularity. She decided that four weeks before the election made sense. Meanwhile, CNN reports that both John Bolton and Mike Pompeo were taken by surprise by Haley’s announcement. Haley was effusive, going so far as to laud Jared Kushner as a “hidden genius.”

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As we settle into a post-Kavanaugh confirmation world, I wanted to flag a few posts you may have missed over the weekend, posts where I took some initial stabs on what the whole drama meant, what we can draw from it. First, this: Kavanaugh saved himself with his blistering response to Blasey Ford. Without that primal scream, I suspect he would have been defeated. He embodied Trump and won a seat on the Court because of it. Then Rule breaking. Rule breaking, largely under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, secured two Supreme Court seats for Republicans. The rule breaking worked. Expect a lot more of it. Finally, this won’t end. If the Democrats control the House of Representatives next year, they will undertake the kind of investigation Republicans refused to do. As I explained here, there’s a lot to look at.

Earlier I noted that Senate Republicans’ preferred line on the Blasey Ford allegations (that she was attacked, just not by Brett Kavanaugh and maybe not even as a teenager) makes no sense as anything other than a political tactic. It’s transparently cynical. But the national political press has largely accepted it at face value, at least as a good faith position.

Before we move on from this episode, though, let’s remember a critical point: We heard this theory first from none other than Ed Whelan, Kavanaugh’s friend and confirmation hearing strategist who tried to pin the attack on Kavanaugh’s classmate Chris Garrett in a now notorious Twitter thread.

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Of all the things that have happened over the last two weeks, it’s not the biggest problem. But it has been gnawing at me. I believe it actually is a big deal, albeit in a somewhat oblique way. Let’s start with Senator Susan Collins today on CNN. Collins told Dana Bash: “I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant. I do believe that she was assaulted. I don’t know by whom. I’m not certain when.” I focus on Collins only because it is a simple, clear statement. But the great majority of Senate Republicans have made some version of the same argument.

So let’s just say it. This is a preposterous.

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A number of things have happened over the course of the last year that make me fairly confident that Russian intervention in the 2016 election provided the winning margin for Donald Trump. This doesn’t mean there weren’t numerous other factors or that it was the largest factor. It is mainly because the margin was so tight that it almost goes without saying that without it the outcome likely would have been a Clinton victory. I note this premise as a preface to this point. There is now a 5 Justice hard right majority on the Supreme Court, the oldest member of which, Clarence Thomas, is 70 years old and in apparently robust health. We should now be looking at a very different 6 to 3 progressive majority in which Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are absent and Merrick Garland and another Justice are present.

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I just randomly happened upon this. It’s a 1969 episode of The Dick Cavett Show with Groucho Marx. There’s a brief intro from Cavett, recorded relatively recently. In the intro Cavett explains two things about the interview. The first was that it was planned as a 30 minute segment. But Groucho was so on that they just decided to keep rolling and went a full hour. The second thing was that Cavett thought this was maybe groucho’s last interview when he really still had his edge. Cavett says he was “there, young and funny.” Everything’s relative: Marx would have been 78 or 79 at the time. His health declined fairly dramatically over the remaining eight years of his life. But he’s not only lucid. He has the impeccable comedic timing and imagination. Watch the full video after the jump …

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