New breaking news episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast. Kate Riga and I talk to TPM’s Josh Kovensky about what we’ve learned on the Ukraine/Whistleblower front over the last 48 hours and how it connects up with Josh’s reporting going back months. If you’re interested in understanding this story I strongly recommend it. Listen here.
The lede in this new Journal article pretty much tells the story.
President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ’s son, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe, according to people familiar with the matter.
As part of the Covering Climate Now coalition’s week devoted to climate coverage, we published a few great Cafe pieces that really get at the politics of climate action.
All four that we published are worth a look, but we had two particularly insightful posts from political science researchers.
Over the last 24 hours, in emails and tweets, I’ve heard people say some version of ‘Hey, it’s a twofer. Maybe this new scandal will take out Trump and Joe Biden!’
Let me say that there are lots of reasons for Democrats not to support Joe Biden – ideology, mass incarceration, age, it not being his time, politics, just qualities as a campaigner. But even though these comments are semi-flippant this is a temptation Democrats should resist. This really is no different from claims that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster or Barack Obama was born in Kenya, though obviously there’s a racist component to the latter canard. In terms of being in touch with reality or not, it’s no different. Democrats are prone to being manipulated in this way. They really need to resist the urge, just as Clinton’s opponents should have resisted rightwing and Russian efforts to sow divisions among them in 2016.
President Trump has just gotten his first crack at responding to last night’s news. Asked whether he discussed Joe Biden in his conversation with the President of Ukraine, he replies: “It doesn’t matter what I discussed” and says “someone out to look into Joe Biden.”
Okay, it comes into focus. Josh Kovensky was prescient. This whistleblower thing is about Ukraine.
9:53 PM: I’m working my way through the video of Rudy Giuliani tonight on CNN. It’s a wild interview. He sounds like someone in deep panic. He is all but admitting that President Trump blackmailed the President of Ukraine, threatening to withhold military aid unless Ukraine went after Joe Biden.
Here are some representative video excerpts from the interview …
Even with new details on the whistleblower complaint that the DNI is withholding from Congress — namely, that it concerns “multiple acts” involving President Trump and a supposed commitment he made to a foreign leader — there is so much we don’t know.
But, a close look at the timeline of events narrows down the possibilities.
With 98% of the vote counted, Benny Gantz and Blue and White have slightly expanded their lead over Likud. The count is now B&W 33, Likud 31, Joint List 13. More telling is a move that really seems to be Netanyahu giving up the game. I’ll note that people I follow who are closer and better informed about Israeli politics don’t seem to see it that way. But I’ll share my take nonetheless.
Netanyahu today has been saying he wants to form a broad national unity government and he’s invited Gantz to come talk about it with him. Gantz has replied, rather obviously, that he thinks that’s a great idea. But he’d be Prime Minister, not Netanyahu.
I mentioned in the note below that a number of big things happened around the time this complaint was filed. We don’t know they’re connected. But as we’re piecing this together I wanted to line these events up in chronological order for future reference. I stress again: We don’t know they’re connected.
We now have the President’s first response to last night Post revelation.
At the risk of stating the obvious, this is perhaps more revealing than the President intended. The President has repeatedly sought to communicate with foreign leaders out of earshot of other US officials. In certain cases he’s removed them from private meetings where he is speaking with a foreign leader. He confiscated the notes of a translator who translated during one of his meetings with Vladimir Putin.
The new details about the secret Intelligence Community whistleblower makes it the big story today and perhaps for many days going forward. I shared my initial thoughts last night. The gist as reported last night in the Post is that the complain is about the President himself, turns on a “promise” he made to an unnamed foreign leader sometime in late July or early August. Critically, the IC Inspector General judged it serious and of urgent concern. Again, more details in my summary. We’ll have more on this over the course of the day.
For days we’ve been hearing about the standoff between Chairman Adam Schiff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over a whistleblower complaint. Josh Kovensky walked us through some of the details this afternoon. Now The Washington Post has escalated the story dramatically by reporting that the complaint is about President Trump himself and centers on a “promise” he made to foreign leader. The complaint was filed on August 12th. So this is all quite recent.
My big problem with the various plans for free college and university educations is that it starts from the wrong place. Public colleges and universities are run by states, not by the federal government, with a minute number of exceptions. The real problem is that states aren’t committing enough resources to their state colleges and universities. We have had a two generation long process of disinvestment where the deficit is made up by making students pay for a rising portion of their education in loans. Subsidizing these institutions from the federal level just equates to none of the funding or price discipline that is needed at the state level. States need to raise and spend way, way more on higher education for residents in their states.
This is why we want your emails about those things you know that haven’t yet pierced the news cycle. This morning, an anonymous TPM Reader who is a former law firm colleague flagged the fact that Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, is tight with none other than Hugh Hewitt, famed rightwing yakker. In fact, they’re business and law partners. O’Brien brought Hugh with him when he left the LA office of Arent Fox to set up his own law firm in 2016. And O’Brien Larson, the new firm, has gotten deep into the lobbying business under Trump. Josh Kovensky ran down the story.
Slightly different picture with 95% of ballots counted. BW and Likud each get another seat – 33 for Blue and White, 32 for Likud. Joint List drops from 13 to 12. Yisrael Beiteinu loses one seat and Shas (the ultra-orthodox party of Jews from the Arab World) gains one. This is ever so slightly better for the rightist bloc. But the fundamentals remain the same. Avigdor Lieberman, even with one less seat, remains the kingmaker. The Joint List, with one less seat, still seems primed to lead the opposition.
If you want to think in blocs: Rightist bloc 56, Anti-Bibi bloc 56, Yisrael Beiteinu 8.
Important to remember these numbers could still change, but only slightly at this point.
A month ago, Matt Shuham brought you the story of Donna Arduin, the budgetary grim reaper who’s gone from state to state over the last quarter century, slashing social safety nets in numerous states after they elect Republican governors. She’s also a business partner of Art Laffer and Stephen Moore. Now she’s out as state budget director in Alaska as momentum builds in a recall campaign against the governor.
Important to note that the new National Security Advisor is the same guy President Trump sent to Sweden to arrange the release of rapper A$AP Rocky on the theory that he was “hostage” as opposed to someone who had just been arrested for a crime.
More seriously, it is probably best to see this appointment as the analog to Stephanie Grisham as Communications Director and Press Secretary. After a lot of chaos and firings, Trump works his way to a non-entity who will simply allow him to do the job himself.
A few more observations on the Israeli election. Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu wrecked Netanyahu’s shot at forming a government last time. He bet it all on that and he won big. His seat total went up substantially. If you assume he will again not join a Netanyahu coalition, then Netanyahu really doesn’t appear to have the seats to form a government. If the exit polls are roughly accurate the rightist bloc has 56 seats.
The first exit polls from today’s Israel elections came out almost two hours ago. They show Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party coming two seats behind Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. They also show the right-wing bloc in a difficult position to form a government. But there is an ocean of tears of Bibi-haters who put their faith in Israeli exit polls. We have seen repeated examples of narrow Likud defeats which overnight turned into narrow victories. This is definitely looking like a tough situation for Netanyahu. But I’ve been Charlie Brown and seen this football teed up far too many times to put much stock in these numbers. If you’re obsessed, keep watching the results. If you just want to know how it all turns out, see where things stand tomorrow morning.