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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I've mentioned a few times that a big source on Felix Sater, his criminal background and his cooperation with the federal government is the memoir written by his longtime accomplice and coworker Salvatore Lauria. This is a book called The Scorpion and the Frog: High Times and High Crimes which was written by Lauria and a journalist named David S. Barry. I just talked to Barry about the book and Lauria and Sater. It was pretty fascinating.

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There are a few points worth making on the President's claim about former President Obama wiretapping him.

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I've written a number of pieces over the last five days about elements of the Trump/Russia story - specifically, looking into the backgrounds of people who've been close to Trump over the last ten to fifteen years and just how they may fit into the picture. I want to pull them together in one place here. Because they fit together into a whole.

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According to The New York Times, FBI Director James Comey is pressing the Department of Justice to explicitly reject President Trump's claims that former President Obama ordered his phones tapped. Comey reportedly made the request on Saturday but the DOJ has so far not released any such statement.

The claims appear rooted in reports on 'Breitbart News' and rightwing talk radio. Comey has a number of possible motives for pressing for such a public rejection, among which is setting the factual record straight.

Friday afternoon, TPM Senior Editor Catherine Thompson keyed in on this statement from White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders: “The big point here is the president himself knows what his involvement was and that’s zero. And I think that he’s the primary person that should be held responsibility and he had no interaction and I think that’s what the story should be focused on.”

This does seem like a significantly new position and one to take note of.

There's a lot going on in these two brief sentences. They can be summarized as follows: 1) The President is clean. 2) If others are dirty, that's not the President's problem. 3) If others are dirty, it doesn't matter because the President is clean.

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There is a startling new development in the ongoing Trump/Russia story.

Last week I wrote about Michael Cohen and his extensive network of personal and business relationships in the Ukrainian-American emigre community. One of those was a man named Alex Oronov, who runs a major agribusiness concern in Ukraine. Oronov was a partner in the ethanol business Cohen and Cohen's brother Bryan set up in Ukraine about a decade ago. Oronov is Bryan Cohen's father-in-law. Today we learned that Oronov apparently organized that 'peace plan' meeting that brought together Ukrainian MP Artemenko, Cohen and Felix Sater. About four hours ago Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian who came to New York with that 'peace plan', went on Facebook to announce that Alex Oronov has died.

(I was first alerted to Artemenko's post by Natasha Betrand of Business Insider who has been all over this story.)

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In the previous post I explained that Trump national security advisor, J.D. Gordon, who monitored platform deliberations for President Trump at the 2016 convention now admits he did push to soften language on arming Ukraine. He says he did so at the direction of President Trump.

We know this from a Thursday report from CNN's Jim Acosta in which he said the following ...

I asked Gordon why that, why did you advocate for the language. He said this is the language that Donald Trump himself wanted and advocated for back in March at a meeting at the unfinished trump hotel here in Washington, D.C. J.D. Gordon says then candidate Trump said he didn't want to, quote, go to World War 3 over Ukraine. And so J.D. Gordon says at the Republican convention in Cleveland he advocated for language in that Republican party platform that reflected then candidate Trump's comments.

This got me highly interested: what was this meeting in March 2016?

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This is important if you care about the Trump Russia story. One of the first bits of news that attracted attention to this possible link was a Trump campaign effort to soften the GOP platform's plank on Russia and Ukraine at the GOP convention. The Trump foreign policy advisor who was monitoring the platform committee for the campaign earlier denied any such effort. Yesterday he conceded that he did press delegates to soften the language. And he now claims he did so because of what now-President Trump told him at a meeting at the Trump DC hotel last March. Allegra Kirkland has the details.

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