Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There's always something new in the never-ending, hyperventilating Trump drama. Over the last day or so, however, we're seeing something a bit new: Trump caving or getting rolled on numerous fronts all at once. Just in the last 24 hours he appears to have been rolled so many times that one imagines his rough edges might start to be worn down until he becomes something more like a clumpy and perhaps oblong ball.

Here are just three examples.

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The New York Times reports that Gen. Mike Flynn had a back channel line of communication to the Russian Ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign. Did President Trump know this at the time? If so, did he discuss the conversations with Flynn? Authorize them? Use them as a conduit for passing his own messages? If he did not know about them at the time, when did he learn of them?

Overnight articles from the Washington Post and New York Times report that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did more than speak to Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak the day before then-President Obama imposed a series of punitive sanctions on Russia. We knew that. He also appears to have lied when he claimed that he didn't discuss those sanctions. Not only he but also Vice President Pence - apparently conveying Flynn's denial - denied this. Both papers have multiple sources who say this is not true. Flynn told Kislyak that anything that Obama could do could be undone by Trump in a matter of weeks. Hold tight, Flynn apparently insinuated. Help was on the way.

Published reports also suggest Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, which bars private citizens from carrying on unauthorized diplomacy with foreign powers. But I think this specific legal question is a distraction. The Logan Act is seldom enforced and possibly unenforceable - all the more so with an incoming top national security official who is not simply an ordinary private citizen. Indeed, I don't think it's the lying or even the late December calls themselves that are the biggest part of these new revelations.

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We are hearing again now that the repeated protests and aggressive questioning at Republican townhalls is Democrats taking a page from the Tea Party playbook of 2009 and 2010. People have short memories. The real reference is to 2005 when Democrats turned out at Republican townhalls to protest President Bush's plan to partially phaseout Social Security. Those protests (or in many cases simply turnout) helped kill the plan by scaring off congressional Republicans. They also presaged the Democratic blowout in the 2006 midterms. It was 2005 that Tea Partiers (and the GOP pressure groups organizing them) explicitly referenced in 2009.

We're not three weeks into the Trump presidency. It remains difficult to piece together the trends above the chaos and tergiversations of each successive day. But one trend should be in the process of becoming clear. Going into the Trump presidency the President and congressional Republicans promised an ambitious legislative agenda. And fast. At one point Paul Ryan suggested that Obamacare repeal and Medicare phaseout might start on inauguration day. In any case, few needed to be convinced. Republicans had unified control of the federal government and almost a decade of pent-up appetite for dramatic change - Obamacare repeal, corporate tax reform, a major income tax cut, repeal of Dodd-Frank, possibly privatization of major social insurance programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid and more. And yet less than a month in, progress on Capitol Hill has slowed dramatically. President Trump meanwhile seems almost entirely focused on a steady stream of executive orders. These two developments are not unrelated. It looks very much like President Trump has found his presidential comfort-zone: rule by decree.

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This morning President Trump went on Twitter to claim that Sen. Richard Blumenthal was essentially lying when he repeated Judge Gorsuch's critical comments about the President.

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Let me start by saying that I fully expect that if Democrats filibuster President Trump's nomination of Judge Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, Republicans will abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees and confirm him on a party line vote. I do not see this as a surprise or even necessarily a bad thing inasmuch as the filibuster was effectively abolished in 2005. Back then Democrats entered into an agreement with Republicans not to filibuster now-Chief Justice John Roberts in exchange for not abolishing the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments. In other words, the Supreme Court filibuster has only existed as a mirage for more than a decade. So absent some disqualifying revelation I fully expect Gorsuch to be confirmed.

But something happened today that will make his confirmation process considerably interesting than I'd anticipated.

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