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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I’m really glad we did this. I thought it would be helpful for me to understand the story better. Crack reporting by a number of news organizations have already identified most of the unnamed people in the Papadopoulos plea agreement document. But that’s not quite the sentence as reading the document and the individual sentences with the names of the people in place of anonymized titles like “high ranking campaign official” or “campaign supervisor.” So Allegra Kirkland pulled the reporting together and edited the document to replace those titles with the names of the people who published reports have now securely identified. Check it out.

In March of 2016 Donald Trump was getting a growing number of questions about who was advising him on foreign policy. He did not seem to have any foreign policy advisors. So when he met with The Washington Post editorial board on March 21st he announced a team of five foreign policy advisors. Walid Phares, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Joe Schmitz, and ret. Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg.

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One of the more comical sub-threads of the Papadopoulos story is his comically inept efforts to hide his digital tracks even after he’d lied to the FBI in two successive interviews, one without his lawyer and then another with counsel present. It’s enough to make you think he’s not familiar with the surveillance state. But more prosaically, he didn’t seem to realize there’s a thing called warrants. Allegra Kirkland has the story.

Ta-Nehisi Coates did a systematic take-down of John Kelly after he presented a revisionist history of the Civil War on Laura Ingraham’s new show on Fox last night. You can see that here. Kelly’s key points were that the cause (and for us the lesson) of the Civil War was an unwillingness to compromise and that Robert E. Lee was an “honorable” man.

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This is just what I was thinking (from the Post) …

Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller’s team damaging information about other colleagues. They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort, and continued to be involved in Trump’s political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in.

Rick Gates is 45, 23 years younger than Manafort. He was also with Trump much longer than Manafort. Any guesses about whether he saw anything bad when he was in the Trump orbit?

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There were two big reveals today.

The first was the Papadopolous guilty plea. The Manafort/Gates indictments were highly significant. But they were broadly expected and do not connect directly to the Russian interference campaign. Papadopolous was the big thing we did not know yesterday which we do know today.

The second big reveal is the fact that the White House and Trump’s lawyers were completely blindsided by the Papadopolous news. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had to fall back on having agreed to appear on CNN on short notice to explain why he seemed to have no argument or spin to provide about Papadopolous’s admissions.

Sarah Sanders’ briefing was similar. She repeated talking points that were clearly devised in expectation of indictments for financial crimes by people like Paul Manafort. She appeared to be on autopilot based on instructions from early in the morning and had no ability to devise an argument in response to Papadopolous’s admissions.

These revelations have major legal significance. But there’s a separate impact on the White House, the trajectory of its political operations and how key staffers and supporters are thinking about their own legal vulnerability. The White House clearly did not know this was coming. They were expecting (as I and many others were) financial crimes by campaign officials but not charges or pleas tied directly to Russian interference.

The White House was already aggressively, furiously pushing the Uranium One diversion. They were angry, panicked but they had a plan. This upsets their understanding of what’s happening. I would expect a lot of new internal turbulence in the Trump world growing from this. I’d expect more mutual suspicion and an uncertainty about how to move forward.

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