Editors’ Blog

Trumper Privilege
If the rules shouldn't apply to you suddenly everything starts to seem unfair.
on August 21, 2018 in Charleston, West Virginia.

My colleague Nicole Lafond already discussed this in the post immediately below this one. But it’s so bizarre I simply have to discuss it as well. As Nicole noted, Kevin McCarthy and Trump toady Jim Banks want what I guess we could call backsies on the whole Jan 6th committee thing.

Republicans had plenty of opportunities to get a commission or committee in which they not only had complete control over who served on the Republican side but veto power over any significant action the body took. They refused that and after stonewalling for months ended up with one that gave the final say on membership to Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi accepted some McCarthy nominations but put her foot down in the case of two reps who are such consistent supporters of the Big Lie and the insurrection that it was absurd to place them on the committee investigating either. Now Banks is sending letters to executive departments claiming that he is in fact that rightful ranking member (i.e., top Republican) on the committee.

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Where Things Stand: GOPer Tries To Cosplay As Jan 6 Committee Member Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Let’s go back in time for a minute. Back when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was putting together a panel of House members to participate in the Jan. 6 select committee to probe the insurrection, she rejected two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) panelist picks (the Jims) — Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN).

The decision was rooted in her correct understanding that both of the Jims would use the committee’s probe of the Capitol attack as a platform for spewing the Big Lie and other Trumpy nonsense and conspiracy theories, thus likely derailing the serious work of the committee. Both Jims not only voted to overturn the election results on Jan. 6, but they also both signed onto a request out of Texas asking the Supreme Court to invalidate election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In retaliation for Pelosi’s move against the Jims, McCarthy pulled all of his Republican picks from the panel, leaving only Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) as GOP members (who joined out of their own volition). Both have been highly critical of Trump for some time and have, at least thus far, taken their assignments very seriously, signing off on all of the committee’s subpoenas and publicly supporting each layer of the committee’s investigation. Cheney is the committee’s vice-chair.

But one of the Jims, Jim Banks, is apparently now trying to play dress up — pretending to be a member of the panel probing the insurrection.

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Suddenly, Progress

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the sudden forward lurch of the reconciliation negotiations that has Democrats feeling optimistic about reaching a deal potentially by the end of the week.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Here’s the Story with Kyrsten Sinema
before the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Tempe, Arizona.

We are back in this guessing game on what is up with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Mostly it doesn’t matter. She has the vote and Democrats need that vote. And that’s really 90% of the story and quite likely 100%. I’ll just revisit what I’ve learned trying to get to the bottom of this mystery myself.

One thing I hear again and again is that Sinema is doing some version of a mafia bust-out, paying off lobbyists in every way she can think of and the pay off is a cushy perch on K Street as a lobbyist herself. This version of the story presents a wonderful morality tale about Washington. But I’m pretty certain it’s not true. It would all be much easier to understand. But again I’m pretty certain this is not true.

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What’s In/Out?

Kate Riga with the latest state of play on reconciliation.

Where Things Stand: RonJohn Takes DC US Attorney’s Office Hostage Over Jan 6 Prosecutions Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

It’s a tale as old as time for Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

The Republican senator is reportedly using his leverage as a senator to, at least temporarily, block the confirmation of Matt Graves, whom President Biden named as his pick to lead the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C. Since January of this year that office has overseen more than 600 prosecutions related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. So far, more than 100 insurrectionists have pleaded guilty to charges related to the attack.

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The Deal Starts to Come Together

Everything I’ve seen over the 24 hours since I wrote the post below tells me that yesterday was the best day Democrats have had in months. As I said yesterday, the headlines are about things that are being dropped. But the real story is the concreteness and specificity of these reports and the authority of the people sending the message. Those all tell us that the real negotiation is now underway. Kate Riga and I discussed this in the new episode of the podcast which should be out this afternoon.

A few points.

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It’s a Good Sign

There’s a bunch of news out of today’s Democratic caucus meetings about specific programs being dropped from the reconciliation bill altogether or cut by this or that fairly dramatic amount. Unsurprisingly this is generating a lot of anger and gnashing of teeth. Tuition free community college is out, for instance, according to reports of what President Biden told House and Senate progressives. I have a different take on it. This is actually some of the most promising news I’ve heard in some time: Because these details are clearly coming from a real negotiation.

I’m not saying these programs don’t matter. Far from it. It’s more that I’ve already discounted or accepted the fact that a lot of these things are going to be cut dramatically. The bigger danger I see is that the whole thing falls apart and nothing happens at all. So actual negotiations happen is a big deal.

Where Things Stand: Cohen Gets Coffee With Kanye Who Is Wearing A Creepy Mask For Some Reason Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Let me just preface this by saying, I don’t have a lot of answers. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying: I reached out to Michael Cohen this afternoon for some clarification on WTF is going on and got crickets, so I will update you if I hear back.


Michael Cohen and rapper and (one-time?) MAGA fan Kanye West (who recently legally changed his name to his rapper pseudonym “Ye”) were spotted getting coffee together today in New York City’s Upper East Side, according to Page Six. The rapper was wearing some bizarre prosthetic mask, apparently similar to ones he’s worn before. It’s a white mask. It’s really spooky looking. I don’t know enough about West’s aesthetic or marketing campaigns to give you a clear answer on why or how this originated, but check out the picture below.

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More on BIF Envy and Dem Culs-De-Sac #3

TPM Reader JB strikes back!

I noted a couple of your correspondents at TPM objected to the idea that Democrats in the House and Senate drive themselves into a legislative cul-de-sac with respect to the infrastructure bill, either because they doubt the reality of the cul-de-sac or because they didn’t think Democrats had a choice.

They did have a choice, and it centered around process.  Use of the reconciliation procedure for the bulk of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda was a given, with all Republicans in the House and Senate united in opposition to action on anything except building more roads and a few other elements of physical infrastructure and most Republicans opposed even to these.  This did not mean that Democrats had to use an entirely closed process, with hardly any public hearings or committee votes on legislative language or amendments.

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Not Complicated

The story here is not complicated, at least in broad strokes. Mid-summer Delta, economic knock-on effects of Delta and finally Afghanistan started sapping Biden’s popularity. Manchin saw that ebbing power and started pumping the brakes on the President’s agenda. This was of a piece with DC insider culture, which Manchin is the ultimate creature of, turning hard on the President. The big reporters changing their view of him and the lobbies sensing weakness.

All political power is unitary and it’s played out over the last two or three months in a very damaging way.

Grumbles about BIF, Bills, Biden and the Unfolding Debacle of Irresolution

I confess that I have completely given up on making sense of what is going on on Capitol Hill right now. Is there going to be a reconciliation bill? Is the BIF going to pass? I have no idea on either. I also have no clue about the continuing appearance of a lack of urgency. A few days ago Rep. Jayapal said there’s nothing set in stone about the October 31st deadline. And just yesterday Joe Manchin said it didn’t seem at all realistic that anything would be done by then. That is, to put it mildly, deeply unfortunate because the public is drifting away from the President and his party in significant part because they cannot seem to act on the agenda they say is so important. They are also sowing a creeping disillusionment and demoralization among their own partisans. This is fundamentally the fault of Democratic voters who missed the chance to elect two to four more senators last November. But the problem is Joe Biden’s to solve.

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More on BIF Envy and Dem Culs-De-Sac #2

More of the conversation from TPM Reader MM

I agree with PT that the Dems didn’t “drive themselves into a cul-de-sac”, because they had no real choice.

But I disagree with much of the rest of his analysis. First, and most obviously, it is manifestly untrue that Manchin and Sinema haven’t learned the lessons of the past 30 years: they learned those lessons quite well. Their goals are simply at variance with, or at best skew to, many or most of goals of the rest of the Democratic caucus. Should they be Democrats? Nothing could matter less. It says ‘D’ after their names, and without them we wouldn’t even have these issues to worry about and argue over.

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Matt Gaetz’s buddy is not just cooperating with the feds, he’s making allegations that “take us to some places we did not anticipate,” a prosecutor told a judge yesterday.  

Where Things Stand: DOJ Takes Another Stab At Blocking Dangerous Texas Abortion Ban Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

The Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court today to temporarily block the enforcement of the unprecedentedly dangerous and restrictive abortion ban in Texas, filing an emergency appeal with the high court on Monday to protect the rights of women, and people who can become pregnant, in the red state.

It’s the second attempt by the DOJ to legally challenge the abortion law, which not only bans abortions post six-weeks in Texas, but also was crafted to be uniquely difficult to challenge in court. It enlists private citizens, instead of state officials, to deal with its enforcement. It’s a Wild West law that offers a $10,000 bounty to members of the public who successfully bring lawsuits against abortion providers and/or anyone who might “aid or abet” in the process of getting an abortion post-six weeks, including someone as far in the periphery of the act as a cab driver who might drive a woman to a clinic.

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More on BIF Envy and Dem Culs-De-Sac

From TPM Reader PT

I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Democrats “drove themselves into a cul-de-sac” on the reconciliation bill because that assumes, or implies, that the Democrats had other options. It also makes the Democrats, writ large, responsible for the fact that two (!) of their Senators haven’t managed to learn the lessons of the last 30 years.

Perhaps it’s worth replaying the tape to see how we got here.

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The Road to 2024

Kari Lake, the frontrunner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Arizona after an endorsement by former President Trump, has called for the imprisonment of the state’s Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, along with other election officials and various journalists over the 2020 election. Hobbs is also a leading Democratic candidate for governor. Arizona holds its next gubernatorial election in 2022 and the state will certainly be hotly contested in the 2024 presidential election.

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RIP Colin Powell

We’re unspooling the news of Colin Powell’s death from COVID-19 complications here.

Rising BIF Envy

From TPM Reader MT

I want to follow up from JB’s last line (Democrats in Congress have driven themselves into a cul-de-sac on the reconciliation bill) and just note how amazingly frustrated I am at the Democrats in Congress and those who said go for all or nothing.  I have kept my thoughts to myself with the assumption that the Democrats know what they are doing.  How stupid is that?

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Which Side Are You On?

Unfortunately I think TPM Reader JB is right about this …

One other difference between Sen. Manchin and Sen. Tester you might have mentioned in your podcast this week is that Manchin is self-consciously wealthy.

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The Jan 6 Investigation Puts the Legal Profession on Trial Too

I’ve noted several times over recent weeks that former President Trump lacks most of the unique protections he had as President. That means the Jan 6th committee should be able to press a real investigation whereas the House committees in the previous Congress and the two impeachment processes could not. Much of this is because ex-Presidents have no executive privilege. But it’s just as much that they don’t control the Justice Department and that possession is 9/10ths of the law. The current President, in some cases directly and in others indirectly, has custody of the records of the government of the United States. But it’s a small wrinkle to this story that I want to expand on today, both because it’s interesting to know in its own right but because it’s a window into how this latest investigation really puts not only the judiciary but the elite legal profession itself on trial.

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Time To Act

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the plodding reconciliation negotiations, coming showdown on the Jan. 6 committee, and quasi-revival of the stalled-out voting rights push.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Where Things Stand: Sinema Is Fundraising For Dems In Europe Right Now Because What Could Be More Pressing Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is spending her Senate recess in Europe, fundraising for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, her office confirmed to the New York Times this week.

It’s curious that Sinema has taken it upon herself to be a shining visage for the Democratic Party overseas when her mere existence as a senator is holding up the entire party agenda. But that, we are coming to learn, is par for the course for the Arizona senator.

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Youngkin Ducks Jan 6 Salute Controversy

Here’s Virginia GOP Gov candidate Glenn Youngkin when asked this afternoon about the flag from the Jan 6th insurrection which supporters pledged allegiance to at Youngkin campaign rally last night.

Youngkin: “So to be clear I don’t think … if that … I wasn’t involved so I don’t know. but if that is the case then we shouldn’t pledge allegiance to that flag. and oh by the way I’ve been so clear there is no place for violence … none, none in America today.”

Here’s the video …

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No More Delay

There are reports this morning that Democrats are planning to punt some of the President’s BBB agenda into a 2022 reconciliation package. On its face that sounds awful. Big stuff gets harder to do, not easier, the closer you get to an election – especially one you think won’t go well. But this is actually a good thing. Or at least a necessary thing. It’s critical to get this legislative long march wrapped up, voted on and signed absolutely as soon as possible. I noted yesterday that I just don’t see a recognition of that urgency from the players on the Hill and the White House. Each day that goes by passage of any of the agenda gets less likely and the electoral consequences of this drawn out season of political impotence grows.

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Where Things Stand: Airlines Buck Abbott’s Confusing Anti-Mandate Mandate Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Two Texas-based airlines plan to follow federal regulations about vaccination mandates, defying the state’s Republican governor’s recent mandate barring such mandates in the Lone Star State.

How many times can we say mandate?

Gov. Greg Abbott’s whole positioning on COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Texas would be amusing if it weren’t so dark. Abbott passed an executive order on Monday, banning “any entity” from adopting vaccine requirements in the state, even if private businesses want to implement them and/or follow federal requirements on vaccinations for employees. His order is hyper-focused on the badness of government mandates, while being a mandate in and of itself.

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Podcast Delay

The next episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast with me and Kate Riga will delayed one day. Look for it in your downloads tomorrow afternoon.

Is Garland Up To the Job?

I get the sense that the Jan 6th committee is moving rapidly toward holding non-compliant Trumpers in contempt and asking the Justice Department to prosecute refusers like Steve Bannon for criminal contempt. That appears to be TPM Alum Greg Sargent’s sense too. Of course, talk is cheap. And there’s a chorus of understandably frustrated Democrats saying “we’ll believe it when they see it.” But my assumption is that the committee members know their statements over the last week have raised the stakes for themselves dramatically. If they don’t, they are prepping a huge backlash from a lot of people who are tired of seeing Trumpers make the law an object of contempt.

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Shatner in Space
In his comments to Jeff Bezos right after a brief excursion to the edge of space, Shatner turns the culture of Star Trek on its head.

As you may have seen, Jeff Bezos invited William Shatner to take a trip on one of his Blue Origin suborbital space flights this morning. It went all according to plan. Shatner spoke about the experience on live television with Bezos by his side.

As a lifelong Star Trek fan I won’t scuff this up with any cynicism or critical voice. It’s 100% awesome. Shatner is 90 and by appearances in fairly robust health for his age. It is still striking, though, and inspiring that someone his age, when the body can become so fragile, can do what he did this morning. For all the refinements and comforts, traveling about 60 miles straight up in 3 or 4 minutes still unleashes vast physical stresses on the body. And yet he popped out of the capsule seemingly none the worse for wear, not even a bit wobbly from the zigzag from 3G to zero gravity and back.

The big quote making the rounds this morning is this: “I hope I never recover from this” – one of Shatner’s first lines after emerging from the capsule. But it’s something very different that caught my attention.

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Everything You Might Have Missed On The Reconciliation Negotiations

Congress is in recess and the firehose of public positioning we’ve experienced over the last several weeks will slow to a trickle during these next few days. But important work is still being done on the reconciliation package … or, so we hope.

Kate Riga will have an evening briefing, giving you the latest at the end of each day — at least until senators return to DC. Check out the first installment here.

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