Editor’s Blog

These Demands Have One Audience: Donald Trump

I’ve wanted to, but haven’t had the time, to pull together a sampling of the rapid ramping up of demands on the right, particularly on Fox News, for President Trump to fire Robert Mueller. Yesterday, when FBI Director Christopher Wray was testifying, I was surprised to see just how aggressively several GOP Reps backed President Trump’s claims about the FBI’s reputation being in tatters.

Here CNN has put together a good quick sampling of where they’re going.

What’s Up With Trump Jr’s Lawyer’s Statement?

[ed.note: I’m leaving this post intact. But the core factual premise was based on CNN reporting that turned out to be wrong. Specifically, the email was not September 4th but September 14th. A mere ten days. But it makes a huge difference since it meant this came after a major Wikileaks email dump. Thus, Futerfas’s statement, rather than being inexplicable did in fact make sense. And these weren’t secret documents but public ones. As I said, I’ll leave this as originally written. Because there’s no rewriting it. It now seems far more likely that the email was simply a supporter flagging attention to a Wikileaks dump that was in fact public.]

We’re currently looking into various aspects of this encryption key email to Donald Trump Jr. which I discussed below. Here’s one part we’re looking into that I wanted to flag. Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan Futerfas released a statement in which he said this: “We understand that the media reported 12 hours prior to this email that the DNC emails had been hacked or leaked. We do not know who Mike Erickson is. We have no idea who he is. We never responded to the email.” Read More

This Sounds Very Big To Me

[ed.note: As noted in my editor’s note on the post above, CNN subsequently corrected this story. The correction – dating the email to September 14th, rather than September 4th dramatically changed what the email meant. See the editor’s note above for more detail. But the upshot is that this seems to have been simply an email from a supporter flagging public Wikileaks documents rather than an approach from a secret source. I’m leaving the post below in place. But read it with this in mind.]

This morning CNN released yet another story in the Russia investigation, noting that on September 4th 2016 Donald Trump, Jr., Donald Trump himself and others in the Trump inner circle got an email with an encryption key and a link to download what CNN called “hacked Wikileaks documents.” It was unclear from the story whether this was a real offer of hacked documents or simply a prank. Seemingly, it was unclear to investigators too. There was also no clear evidence either way whether any of the recipients acted on it, in other words, whether they tried or succeeded in downloading the documents. Read More

Make Trump Great in Russia Again MTGRA

Yet more. After CNN reported this afternoon about follow-on conversations after the June Trump Tower meeting, The Washington Post has another development. In a contact brokered by over-the-top publicist Rob Goldstone, an executive with VK (Russia’s top social platform, akin to Facebook) repeatedly pitched Trump aide Dan Scavino on setting up a page on VK. Read More

We Need to Keep a Close Eye on Erik Prince

From TPM Reader RM

The one thing I think your piece needs to address is the personal interests or motivations for pushing rapprochement with Russia. We should keep in mind that the GOP’s position on Russia underwent a radical shift from hawkish to fawning. Had any other person won the GOP nomination, the position on Russia would’ve been as skeptical as that of the Obama Administration and maybe even more hawkish (particularly if former Romney advisors had influence on a hypothetical non-Trump nominee).

Read More

Rolled and Sold

A good run-down of the GOP Senators who were (probably knowingly) hoodwinked into signing on to the GOP tax bill with false promises and other baloney.

Back to Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Cohen is schedule to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In recent months, Donald Trump Jr has made a run for the prize of Trump insider with most dogged effort to collude with Russia, even partly sidelining the efforts of Trump lawyer and enforcer Michael Cohen.

But perhaps Cohen has yet to cede the title. Read More

A New Low

It’s quite astonishing. In the FBI Director’s testimony this morning, GOP Congressman are openly backing the President’s claim that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters.” In response Director Wray is avoiding the charge but simply not pushing back against it.

Announcing The 2017 Golden Dukes!

One of the wildest, weirdest dumpster fires of a year ever to hit Washington, D.C. is coming to an end, and we’re bidding it farewell with TPM’s 11th annual Golden Duke Awards.

As you know, each year TPM celebrates the nation’s top promoters of all that is crazy, corrupt, and shameless in public life by awarding The Dukes, named in honor of Congressman-turned-convicted felon and inmate Randy “Duke” Cunningham. We’re hoping readers can point us to 2017’s worst (best) offenders. Sarcasm encouraged.
Nominations should be submitted no later than Tuesday, December 12. To get a sense of what we’re looking for, check out last year’s winners here.

This year’s categories are:

1. Best Scandal — General Interest

2. Best Scandal — Local Venue

3. Meritorious Achievement in The Crazy

4. Most Heartwarming On-The-Record Quote From A Trump Associate

5. Literary Achievement in 140 Characters (or Instagram) By A Public Official

6. Best Shameless Cartoon Villain Move By An Administration Official

7. Best Moment From A Press Conference

Email talk (at) talkingpointsmemo.com with your nominations, identifying the person you’re recommending and making your case in no more than 250 words for why he or she is worthy of a prestigious Golden Duke. Only real, specific individuals are eligible—no parties, issues, groups, amorphous concepts, etc.

We’ll announce the nominees on Thursday, December 14 and send the list off to our panel of judges. The lucky winners will be named on Saturday, December 30.

Be in touch!

MSNBC Reverses Course

Welcome news. MSNBC had fired Sam Seder from his contributor role on the network after racist provocateur Mike Cernovich dug up and tendentiously misinterpreted a 2009 tweet to gin up a faux outrage campaign. After a significant backlash, MSNBC has now reversed course and offered Seder his gig back.

Serve Your Constituency

With what now seems like Al Franken’s inevitable resignation tomorrow, I wanted to re-up this post from a week ago on who gets forced to resign and who doesn’t. It’s not the press’s fault that Donald Trump is still President and Al Franken is about to be an ex-senator. The same applies to Roy Moore. All of these incidents play out based on the constituency of the accused or the larger organization they represent. That applies whether it’s consumers or voters or comparable category. Most Trump supporters simply don’t care. Same with Roy Moore.

This Looks Big

Here are a few quick thoughts (Prime subscribers) about why I think this Flynn whistleblower story will end up being a bigger deal than one might think.

In 2016 Tom Barrack Too Said We Needed To Become Friends With Russia

I’ve spent the last few days putting together notes and trying to put together all the details of what was clearly the overriding and explicitly top foreign policy goal of the Trump campaign and transition: a rapprochement with Russia.

There’s one small thread of that story I want to note. We’ve previously discussed Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of the President and an extremely successful real estate investor. It is apparently through Barrack that Paul Manafort made his original approach to Donald Trump. The explanation of how that came about has never really added up. There’s clearly more to the story. We’ll come back to that. Read More

A Few Thoughts on Trump and Jerusalem

I’ve been watching coverage of the Jerusalem decision today on the cable networks, especially CNN. It’s telling, almost painful, watching real experts trying – really trying – to interpret this decision as part of an effort to push the peace process forward. Maybe Trump’s gotten some secret concession from Prime Minister Netanyahu in exchange for this? Maybe this is the game changer that can free up the current impasse? Read More

Could Deutsche Bank Even Tell Trump?

This morning we had news that the Mueller probe had subpoenaed the President’s banking records and perhaps those of his family members from Deutsche Bank, the only major back that has been willing to do business with the President since the early 1990s. Then the President’s television lawyer Jay Sekulow released a statement claiming that he had confirmed with Deutsche Bank and other sources that this was not true.

But TPM Reader CL points out that banks can be ordered not to notify a customer and presumably lawyers who represent them when grand jury subpoenas are issued for banking records. Read More

Trump’s Lawyers Deny Deutsche Bank News

President Trump’s television lawyer Jay Sekulow releases a statement denying that Robert Mueller’s probe has subpoenaed bank records from Deutsche Bank.

“We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false. No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”

C’mon

I get that if you’re a social conservative (conservative views on marriage equality, immigration, perhaps abortion) you might feel like you’re in a distinct minority in parts of Silicon Valley. (The Silicon Valley ethos is super conservative on many economic policy issues.) But this CNN segment sounds like something close to parody.

Mueller Probing Trump’s Money Ties to Russia

Yesterday there was an emerging theme among right-leaning commentators that the upshot of the Flynn plea deal, damning as it may seem, is that Robert Mueller has given up on finding an election tampering conspiracy and is focusing squarely on an obstruction of justice charge against the President. In most cases, this is presented as an indictment of the investigation itself. In other words, on the big question of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia, there was nothing there and Mueller is falling back on charges internal to the investigation itself, i.e., ways the President allegedly attempted to obstruct it. We’ll return to this line of argument because it’s an important one. Read More

The Damning Details

Allegra Kirkland and Sam Thielman walk us through the details and timeline of just how many Trump administration officials knew about Mike Flynn’s sanctions discussions with Ambassador Kislyak and repeatedly lied about it to the press.

Nunes’s Hands Are Dirty

Here’s a quick backgrounder (sub req.) on why Devin Nunes, again in the news today, is himself implicated in Mike Flynn’s effort to surveil and obstruct the Russia probe from his first days running the National Security Council.

Who Lied to Who When and Why It Barely Matters

On this weekend’s back and forth on who Mike Flynn lied to, who knew he’d lied and why it might matter, let’s step back for a moment. With regards to Flynn lying to the FBI we’re now looking at the narrow factual question of whether Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told White House Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had lied to the FBI; whether McGahn told Trump; and whether Trump knew this in the intervening days before he fired Flynn when he asked James Comey to drop the investigation. We are collectively running through this chain of connections because of our semi-reasonable but likely outmoded tendency to take the various claims we’ve heard from the White House at face value: especially the claim that Flynn was fired for lying to Vice President Pence, etc. Read More

Taking Stock, Pt. 1: The Race for Russia

As we sift through the details of the Flynn court documents we inevitably see them through a distorted prism because we know 2017 as it happened rather than as the Trump team intended it to unfold. This is particularly important for the roughly three months between candidate Trump’s election victory on November 8th, 2016 and Mike Flynn’s ouster on February 13th, 2017.

We see Flynn’s covert communications with Ambassador Kislyak; we see the escalation of the FBI’s scrutiny of Flynn; we know other top Trump officials, like Jared Kushner, were meeting with Kislyak and others and also possibly trying to execute financial transactions with Russian government officials. It’s all sort of a jumble. But the logic of events only really comes into focus when we realize that there was a sort of race taking place between the Trump team’s effort to arrange a rapid rapprochement with Russia in the first weeks of January and February and a mix of the intelligence community, the national security apparatus and the press piecing together what had happened during the 2016 election. Imagine it as a starting pistol firing off on the morning of November 9th, with both teams racing to get more of their critical work done by the end of January. Read More

We’ll See More of This

Note a few things we now know from the follow-on reporting on the Flynn plea agreement.

The senior transition official who Flynn called into to confer on his conversations and negotiations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak was KT McFarland. Flynn conferred with McFarland and McFarland conferred with a group of other senior officials which, as I noted last night on the basis of the contemporaneous pool reports, appears to have been Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus. Read More

How It Happened

Massive wealth transfer to top earners? Check.

Blow up the deficit? Check.

Hobble Obamacare? Check.

Senate GOP gets its job done.

Looking Back at the Pool Reports from The Key Days

Who was with President-Elect Trump on December 29th 2016 at Mar-a-Lago? The pool report from that day helps clarify that. Read More

Panic Spin

The top responses from the White House today have been, first, “everybody lies in Washington” and now claiming that the Obama White House in fact authorized Mike Flynn’s secret calls with Russian Ambassador Kislyak.

Key Issue in Flynn Plea Deal

The key question out of the Flynn plea agreement is the identity of the person referenced as a “senior official of the Presidential Transition Team” and another termed a “very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team”.

Here’s why this is important. Read More

Statement from President’s Lawyer

Statement from Trump lawyer Ty Cobb …

“Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.

“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”

Trump May Have Tipped Us Off
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

There’s no way to know for sure. We’ll never know definitively. But this morning, before the Flynn news broke, I was thinking that President Trump’s behavior has seemed more wild and erratic in recent days. Yes, the baseline standard is pretty high. But over the last week or so we’ve seen a number of reports of Trump saying wilder things in private to associates and advisors. He seemed to be gravitating back to the kinds of transgressive behaviors and assertions he makes when he’s under threat or pressure. Read More

“Everyone Lies”

I.F. Stone famously said “All governments lie.” This may be the first time I’ve heard this maxim invoked as a defense. The initial spin from the Trumpers about the Flynn plea deal is “everyone lies!”

Watch.