Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: Politics of Opaqueness

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast just landed. You can listen to it here.

This week, Josh and Kate discuss policing reform, analyze the dynamics around the infrastructure package and introduce a new segment.

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Where Things Stand: Anti-Trans Bills Are The GOP’s New Culture War. But Most Americans Aren’t On Board
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Without any real policy agenda, Republicans in Congress have largely seized on various fronts in the culture war to distract from Biden’s successes. And GOPers at the state level are doing the same, with a new heightened focus on an element of their socially conservative base’s traditional values: Going after the LGBT community.

Lately, that’s meant a fresh wave of anti-trans rights bills.

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Extremism in US Special Forces

I wanted to flag your attention to this NBC article about radicalization among current and retired US Special Forces personnel. NBC got access to private Facebook groups for these communities – again current and former. They had a lot of racist, far-right, QAnon type content. Not universal and not uncontested, but still a lot.

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Why Now on Manafort and Kilimnik?
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I want to recommend you read Josh Kovensky’s write up of yesterday’s Treasury Department statement about the 2016 Trump campaign’s direct tie to Russian intelligence. The Mueller report and the later Senate intelligence report were both unwilling or unable to determine whether Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik had passed the campaign information he received from Manafort to Russian intelligence. Treasury said he did. This is not a huge surprise since Kilimnik is widely reputed to be a Russian spy. And we should note that these are assertions listed in what amounts to a bill of particulars. They don’t explain what evidence underlies these claims. But this is the first time the US government has connected the pieces so clearly and categorically.

Why now?

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Where Things Stand: Fortunately, It’s Not Just The Insurrectionists
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While the Republican ringleaders of the Big Lie have seemingly fundraised in a big way following their efforts to overturn the results of the election, at least one Democrat is raking in substantial cash for doing, sort of, the opposite.

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The Uncanny Political Moment
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There’s a sizable batch of new polling out which shows that President Biden’s infrastructure plan is popular with a broad cross-section of the public. The popularity isn’t quite as overwhelming as it was for the American Rescue Plan. But by almost every standard in a polarized age the numbers are still overwhelming. A new poll sponsored by the Times shows 64% support. Democrats almost unanimously support it (97%). 72% of Independents support it. And even 29% of Republicans support it. The support is spread broadly across demographic groups and the individual components of the plan poll well too.

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A Key Detail from the Gaetz Timeline
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In recent days, most new details in the Matt Gaetz saga have been yet more nuggets of information from anonymous sources all of which add up to the same basic story: Gaetz appears to be in a lot of trouble, though whether sex with a minor will be part of an eventual indictment is not entirely clear. But there was one detail in a story published late Tuesday in Politico which adds a significant piece to the puzzle. One key question has been when Gaetz knew he was being investigated. The Politico story says federal executed a search warrant “this winter” in which they seized Gaetz’s iPhone. He changed his number in “late December.”

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Where Things Stand: GOP Acknowledges Asian Hate Crime Bill Might Not Be Right Time To Force First Filibuster
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Many Senate Republicans nonetheless argued the bill wasn’t necessary in the first place.

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More on the Pause
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It’s a tough call. But I’m inclined to agree with the decision to call a pause on the J&J Janssen vaccine. Yes, based on what we know the risk is much less than many other things we do as a matter of course. Certainly it’s far lower than the risks of getting COVID. But these matters are not purely ones of statistics. They’re more centered on building trust. In that domain people’s intuitive rather than mathematical perceptions of risk can be just as important.

If I were leery of the safety of the vaccines – as opposed to holding some deep ideological or Trump-loyalist aversion – seeing federal regulators ignore or soft pedal even a small number of potential fatalities in the greater interest of getting everyone vaccinated would sap my trust more than anything else. If the US were ditching the J&J vaccine based on what we know now I’d think differently. But I don’t think that’s likely.

Here TPM Reader JS

I agree that there is a stench of innumeracy about the risks of the vaccine here. The risk of being killed driving there is less, fine. I’ve also seen that the risk of dying of COVID is actually higher than dying from the vaccine. Suppose these are both true. Then it would seem foolish to “pause” vaccinations, right?

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Who’s Repping Matt Gaetz?

I’ve heard so much on the PR front from Matt Gaetz that I was curious whether he even has a lawyer, and if so who that person or persons might be. On the PR front Gaetz hired Trump surrogate Harlan Hill, a one time Democrat who went full Trump in 2016 and has been one of Trump’s most devoted supporters ever since. He runs a firm called Logan Circle Group and is now representing Gaetz along with Erin Elmore, a former Apprentice contestant and Trump surrogate. On the lawyer front, Gaetz is also pulling from the Trump inner circle as well.

Gaetz is being represented by Marc Mukasey and Isabelle Kirschner. Kirschner is a respected New York criminal defense attorney who doesn’t, as far as I can tell, have a strong political profile. The same can’t be said for Mukasey. He’s the son of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and an associate and former law partner of Rudy Giuliani. Mukasey has represented President Trump in the on-going investigation run by New York City DA Cy Vance and he also represented disgraced Navy Seal Edward Gallagher and other Trump loyalists. Trump later pardoned Gallagher.

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The Pause

  • The CDC and FDA recommended a pause on distributing Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday while the agencies review the six reported cases of people getting blood clots after receiving the vaccine. Several states ceased distribution immediately after the federal agencies announced their recommendation.
  • Later on Tuesday, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the Biden administration had obtained “more than enough” supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that the J&J pause would not disrupt vaccine rollout.
  • This week White House officials reportedly had a difficult call with governors who were frustrated by the chaos caused by the federal government’s recommendation. Zients tried to reassure those who may now distrust the government’s handling of the vaccine rollout process, saying that the announcement “should give the American people confidence” in the FDA and CDC’s “commitment to transparency and protection of public health.”
  • Meanwhile, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla announced that his company had ramped up production and could deliver 10 percent more doses by the end of May than originally agreed.
  • As of Friday evening, distribution of the J&J shot remains on hold: The CDC’s advisory panel that is reviewing the vaccine announced on Thursday that it was postponing a vote on lifting the recommendation, saying they still needed more information.


GaetzGate Details Get Messier  

  • Reports surfaced earlier this week revealing that people close to former President Trump rejected Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) requests to meet with the former president. Trump’s aides also reportedly discouraged him from sticking up for the congressman who is embroiled in scandal following reports that he is being investigated by the feds over allegations of sex trafficking involving a 17-year-old. Trump then issued a statement denying reports that he refused to meet with Gaetz.
  • The New York Times reported this week that Joel Greenberg, Gaetz’s associate who has been indicted multiple times, is assisting the feds in their investigation into the lawmaker. A slew of new details about Gaetz’s September 2018 trip to the Bahamas came out this week. That trip reportedly included at least five young women, and may have included the young woman who is the focus of the sex trafficking investigation.
  •  CNN spoke to some of the women who reportedly partied with Gaetz and described a drug and booze fueled scene in which at least one person said payments were provided for sex. Those payments could be part of the news that broke this week that revealed Greenberg made more than 150 Venmo payments to dozens of women and one 17-year-old.
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) addressed the issue — sort of — during his weekly press conference on Thursday, saying he’s spoken with Gaetz about the allegations and that Gaetz claimed he’s innocent. McCarthy also said that if Gaetz was indicted he would be removed from his committees.


Another Police Killing In Minneapolis

  • The police shooting of a Black motorist Sunday brought more grief and turmoil to the Minneapolis area in the midst of the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin for the alleged murder of George Floyd last year. Here’s our Monday piece on what we knew about the shooting as details emerged.
  • Police said the officer who shot the Black motorist Daunte Wright mistook her gun for a taser, noting she shouted “taser” repeatedly before firing the weapon.
  • Both the officer who shot Wright, Kim Potter, and the police chief who claimed the shooting was accidental, Tim Gannon, resigned Tuesday. Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday.
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When Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October 2020, the anti-abortion community celebrated the beginning of a new era. The Court would now be heavily skewed to the right, and its newest member had been open about her own beliefs. 

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As the global pandemic required election officials to drastically rethink how voting would work in 2020, philanthropic groups stepped up and contributed millions of dollars that paid for much of the changes needed to election infrastructure. Officials have since said that that money — particularly in light of how Congress struggled to provide enough federal election funding — helped them thwart a pandemic voting fiasco. The charity grants covered everything from election equipment to temp workers to personal protective gear, and some local election offices saw their 2020 budgets doubled by the private funding they received. 

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| Prime

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) handling of his quickly unfurling scandal, centered on a reported investigation into his possible sex trafficking of a minor, is reminiscent of another scandal-ridden politician: former President Trump.

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