Editors’ Blog

Annals of Beltwayism

As I was perusing the news of the day last night I was reminded of just how bad a lot of political reporting is. And not generally bad but bad in the sense of recycled D.C. conventional wisdom which is itself largely the product of reporters who take their cue from Republican messaging gurus. Our example this morning comes from Josh Kraushaar, late of National Journal, now with Axios.

The topic is “Biden’s broken bully pulpit,” or rather that’s the title. The topic is Biden’s feeble poll numbers. That in itself is true enough. Biden’s public approval has been mired in the low 40% since the summer of 2021. Polls also show that voters are concerned about Biden’s age. But the topic of this update is that even as things get better it doesn’t matter because being super bold prevents Biden from convincing anyone of anything.

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No Can Do, Judge Tells Meadows

Federal judge rejects former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows bid to move his Georgia Jan 6th case to federal court.

Musk Shut Down Ukrainian Attack After Chat with Russian Official

This is so important I’m going to start with a tl;dr: Elon Musk got caught with his hand in the national security cookie jar, sabotaging or blocking a major Ukrainian military operation after conversations with a Russian government official.

Now let’s unpack this.

Last month I wrote about the rise of the global oligarchs and I made particular mention of Elon Musk. Even if you set aside the various things you may not like about Musk he has amassed a degree of economic power that is novel and dangerous in itself even if he had the most benign of intentions and the most stable personality. More than half the operating satellites in the sky are owned and controlled by him. Overnight we finally got confirmation of something that has long been suspected or hinted at but which none of the players had an interest in confirming. Last September Musk either cut off or refused to activate his Starlink satellite service near the Crimean coast during a surprise Ukrainian drone attack on the Russian Navy at anchor at its Sevastopol naval port.

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Menace in the Backcountry

Could insurrection disqualification spur a new and much bloodier insurrection? From TPM Reader EK

In your recent commentary on this matter, including in the link above, I haven’t seen anything about the very real civil peril that would come with taking Trump off the ballot.

If Trump is actively removed from a ballot(s), whether that’s with the Supreme Court’s blessing or not, how are we not going to have armed rebellion? And I’m not just referring to swing states. I live in Oregon. We’re a blue state. But like many other blue states, the vast majority of our geography is deep red. Do you think that if Oregon’s all D leadership took Trump off the ballot that the Rs here would just load more Let’s Go Brandon! Flags on their trucks, roll some more coal, and call it a day?

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A Rejoinder; and Just What Is an Insurrection?

TPM Reader CB responds to JS by arguing that case law and precedent about insurrections in one context doesn’t necessarily settle the question of what counts for the purposes of the 14th amendment’s disqualification clause. As I told CB I partly agree but not entirely. I subscribe to an older of who in our system gets to interpret the constitution. Each branch has a right and a duty to interpret the meaning of the constitution. The courts may get the last word. But it’s not the only word.

My perspective as a reader/subscriber with over a decade of strategic impact public interest litigation experience:

I couldn’t disagree more with the reader who said “The question is clear to me: would the President have the authority under the *1807* Insurrection Act to federalize troops in this case?”

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Does The Constitution Matter?

Here’s a follow up from TPM Reader JS on law and precedent tied to what constitutes an insurrection. (See their earlier post.) I’m basically where they are on this. I want to be crystal clear with everyone that this will not work as a way to prevent Trump’s election. (See my earlier post.) I’m uncomfortable with where this leads us in policy terms. But that’s not a standard we apply to constitutional text. I’m super uncomfortable about the electoral college text too. But we all agree that doesn’t matter.

I would just add that, sure, it’s bad policy to deny a bunch of voters their choice and that’s generally how we read the law in light of provisions of the very same amendment. But it’s also bad policy to let a few judges’ sense of good policy override the clear, plain meaning of the Constitution. That’s not the rule of law. It’s about as clear as it gets here. He swore an oath when he took office and then he fomented an insurrection. Sure, no one has done a fact finding on that yet, but they will in the trials on this matter, won’t they? It doesn’t have to be res judicata from a criminal trial at all.

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Down Goes Navarro

Trump White House official Peter Navarro found guilty on two counts of contempt of Congress. Sentencing set for Jan. 2024.

A Few Thoughts on the 14th Amendment Thing

As you can see we’re looking closely at the efforts unfolding around the country to bar Donald Trump from appearing on the 2024 ballot because of his role fomenting and leading an insurrection against the United States government. It’s hardly a crazy idea since Trump did plot to overthrow the constitutional order, i.e., the government of the United States and there’s clear language about this in the US constitution. But I’d like to go on the record suggesting people not get too wrapped up in this morsel of anti-Trump activism as a or the thing that’s going to drive the outcome of this election. We are covering it not rooting for it. At the end of the day, this election is going to come down to whether Democrats can sustain an anti-Trump coalition in the electoral college just like they did in 2020. There’s simply no administrative or courtroom shortcut around that necessity. My own view of this whole issue is one of what I would call benign disinterest.

What do I mean by this? Let’s start with the practicalities. The most probable outcome here is that Trump will be removed from the ballot in blue states he had no shot at winning in the first place. (The Supreme Court probably torpedoes that too for reasons we’ll return to in a moment.) In that case, anti-Trump voters will get some emotional satisfaction and Trump supporters will gain a ripe and succulent new grievance. But it won’t change any reality about the outcome of the race.

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Listen To This: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Kate and Josh discuss the Disqualification Clause and the growing trend of Republican legislators refusing to follow orders when it comes to any dismantling of their single party control.

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

Not Even Close

I went into some detail in the latest episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast on my thoughts on efforts to bar Trump from appearing on the 2024 presidential ballot. My general view remains one of well-wishing disinterest. The 2024 election is going to be decided not by eligibility challenges but by results of the election as mediated by the electoral college. But I found this perspective from TPM Reader JS very interesting.

There really is no good legal argument against Trump being disqualified by the 14th Amendment. He’s not eligible under it. But as you argued there’s more to it. I also think the “law” is pretty clear on the platinum coin, but it was the economists who said it wouldn’t actually solve the problem. Here I just think the Supremes will bullshit their way through it, like you said.

By virtue of having been a JAG in a dual state/federal setup like the National Guard makes all of the insurrection stuff something you deal with more routinely. Think sending in the 101st to integrate Little Rock. That was—had to be—an “insurrection” or else it would have been the Arkansas National Guard because of posse comitatus.

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