Editor’s Blog

Goodbye, Darrell Issa

With Rep. Darrell Issa, a prolific investigator of the Obama administration, on his way out the door, we take a look back at a few of his greatest hits (Prime access).

Must Read Story, Critical Issue

This is a must-read story on a critical topic we plan on following for the duration. The big line separating rule-of-law democracies from broken democracies and post-democratic strong man government is law enforcement becoming a weapon in the hands of the government rather than a more or less disinterested government function the government oversees. President Trump has repeatedly demanded the former kind of system. Now we have evidence he’s starting to get it. Here’s our story.

Have you heard about things that aren’t public yet? Do you have a story? We want to know. Contact us.

Trump Rages; Grassley Responds

Interesting exchange here. President Trump just went on Twitter and demanded Republicans “take control” of the Hill Russia investigations. For the moment, Chuck Grassley isn’t playing ball. If past is prologue, I wouldn’t assume Grassley’s resistance lasts long. Read More

Bob Dylan and The Cross

You don’t know it. But Bob Dylan’s “Christian period” albums are his most underrated and among his best. In case you missed it, here’s my look at and review of the new retrospective release (Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981) from this period.

Our Calendar for Jan. 10, 2018

Good morning. Here’s our daily calendar letting you know what TPM is up to. Congress is in session today and legislators will be holding a number of meetings with the press on the Hill. Here’s what else our editors have their eyes on.

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The Only News Out of The Simpson Testimony is Republican Disgrace

Over the course of the day I’ve been listening to news reports which say that the Fusion GPS testimony from co-owner Glenn Simpson belies the received narrative about the Steele dossier, or at least that argued by Republicans and Trump supporters. As Jake Tapper put it when speaking with CNN’s Jim Acosta today, Simpson’s account “contradicts president Trump and his supporters who argue that the dossier was a purely political document paid for by Democrats trying to hurt Trump.” Really though this is a testament to the power of disinformation when it is empowered by one of the country’s two political parties. Let’s put this more simply: this is a testament to what can happen when the GOP unites behind a campaign of willful disinformation at the country’s expense. Read More

Key Takeaways

Some key takeaways from today’s Fusion GPS testimony release.

Are there others you saw? Let us know at our comments email address linked under the logo.

Breitbart Cans Bannon

Sometimes when a mob boss kills someone who betrayed him he’ll leave the body out in the town square for hours or days, a mix of final humiliation and example to others. Also, Breitbart just fired Steve Bannon.

Thoughts on the Greatness of Ulysses S. Grant
Photograph of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) shown wearing a military uniform and posing for a portrait. He served in the U.S. Civil War at various levels of military command. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general in 1864 and given command of all Union armies. He was eighteenth president of the United States, elected in 1868 and reelected in 1872.

With a new biography of Ulysses S. Grant out by the man who helped put Alexander Hamilton back in the center of 21st American popular culture, I’m late to the game to sing Grant’s praises. I have not read Chernow’s book. But I have been rereading Grant’s memoirs. I began writing this post at the end of last year when the valorization of Confederate military leaders was more at the center of our public debate. But these are issues of long standing, going on two centuries. They remain as present and consequential as they’ve ever been and Grant is at the center of that.

Until relatively recently Grant, at least as President, had a poor historical reputation. His strengths as a military leader were also overshadowed in the popular imagination by Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee and others. But in both cases, much of Grant’s dim reputation was directly tied to the way national unity was built in the late 19th century on the abandonment of the country’s newly freed African-American citizens and what we might call the Union theory of the war itself. I have always found it notable that the official records of what we call the Civil War, published by the US government are entitled The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Read More

Editor’s Brief

This data point didn’t make it into Tierney Sneed’s new story on the Ohio voting rights case before the Supreme Court Wednesday. But it’s pretty telling (Prime access).

Our Calendar for Jan. 9, 2018

Good morning. As Josh has mentioned, one of our goals for this year is to give more guidance into how TPM works, what we’re working on on a given day, what events we’re focused on and why. In that vein, we’ll be publishing calendars on busy days — and eventually every day — showing which events our reporters and editors have their eyes on, where we have reporters deployed, what stories we’re working on and what we’re expecting over the course of the day. Here’s the first. Read More

Voter Suppression Story of the Day

After voter suppression forces failed out with their ‘fraud’ commission, the Supreme Court may give them a better shot at advancing their goals. Check out our story.

Not As Dead As He Looks

A few thoughts on the Trump/Bannon (Prime access) war and why Bannon may not be as done as we think.

All Part of the Same Story

Interesting thoughts here from Zack Roth (Prime access) on the anti-democratic authoritarianism of today’s GOP right and how the issues involved in the Trump/Russia probe and various strategies of voter suppression both stem from the same ideological source.

White House: Bannon Attacked Ivanka and Jr’s “Sacrificing” On Behalf of Nation

Rush pool report on comments from Trump press aide Hogan Gidley aboard Air Force One on whether there’s any redemption possible for Bannon. Most notable is reference to Ivanka’s and Don Jr’s ‘sacrifice’ in serving their nation. To criticize “two of the president’s children are serving this nation, sacrificing in their service, it is repugnant, it is grotesque.” More quotes after the jump … Read More

Just In

No retrial for Cliven Bundy et al. in the 2014 ranch standoff case:

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The Biggest Question on the Trump/Russia Story

A week ago I said we were at the end of the beginning of the Trump/Russia story. The big question of whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has been answered for anyone who has their eyes open. They did. The question is how far it went and what was involved. But there’s another question, related but distinct, which is in my mind perhaps the biggest question or mystery about the whole story. Read More

Only the Best

White House aide Stephen Miller reportedly had to be escorted off the CNN set after refusing to leave following his contentious interview with Jake Tapper.

That One’s Settled

One of the recurrent questions in political discussions is whether there may be some points of principle that unite forces on the right and left who otherwise agree on very little. The focus is usually on core issues of civil liberties and the rule of law.  The left may support a broad public commitment to providing health care for the public; the right may say it should all be determined by the market. But perhaps on these core issues there’s more agreement. Perhaps recognizing that is the due we should give to others we disagree with.

Recent events makes clear how baseless this assumption really is. Read More

Is President Trump Mentally Ill? It Doesn’t Matter
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he arrives for a New Year's Eve gala at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

We are now back on to the feverish debate about whether or not Donald Trump is mentally ill or suffering from the onset of dementia. The most important thing to know about this debate is that it simply doesn’t matter. Diagnoses are something for trained professionals and even they are challenged to make them without a proper in-person examination. But again, it doesn’t matter. Read More

Good Lord

Roy Moore accuser’s house burns down. Arson task force is investigating.

The Timeline Looks Worse and Worse for McGahn, Sessions AND Rosenstein

The Times published a big story yesterday that shed key new light on President Trump’s effort to control the Russia investigation and fire James Comey. I read it last night and immediately thought of how new details fit into what we already knew of the timeline surrounding Comey’s dismissal. I’m still putting my thoughts together on how this affects the larger Russia story. But I wanted to share with you the timeline I put together in addition to some additional thoughts (Prime access) on what it means, especially with respect to McGahn’s, Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s complicity in President Trump’s effort to protect himself from the probe. I use these to frame my thinking and visualize the chronological relationship between events.

The Bogus Voter Fraud Panel is Dead — But Don’t Exhale Yet

I tried to tease out in an Editor’s Brief (Prime access) just where the shuttering of the bogus Kobach voter fraud commission leaves us in terms of the fight over access to the ballot. TL;DR version: Don’t exhale yet.

And since this is my first post here, a bit about me: I’m a former TPM reporter, and I’m back as a senior editor. I’ve also been a reporter at MSNBC, and I wrote a book about the conservative assault on voting rights and democracy, published by Crown in 2016. Looking forward to offering my analysis on voting and democracy issues, among others, for Prime readers.

Did Trump Ever Have a Chance?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives to speak during a campaign rally, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. From left, Eric Trump, Vanessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Karen Pence, Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Tiffany Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Six months ago I joked that the President’s defenders would eventually come around to arguing that we should pity the President rather than hold him in contempt because he’d been raised in a culture of criminality and had no experience following the law.

The weird thing is that I’m now coming around to that defense. Now, needless to say, it’s no defense. But allow me to explain. Because I do think it is illuminating, inasmuch as something as dark as President Trump’s predatory, criminal instincts can be brought to the light. Three times in recent days we’ve seen references to the President’s belief that Attorneys General for Presidents Kennedy and Obama protected them from the law and that Trump had great respect for this. He has displayed a running rage and contempt for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once his most important political ally, because he failed in this most basic of duties: protecting the President from the law. Read More

“They Thought This Was Going to Be A Positive Book”

“The communications team urged all of the senior advisors to cooperate. They thought this was going to be a positive book for the President.”

We’ve Seen The Lawyer Threatening Bannon and Wolff Before

A quick look at Charles Harder (Prime access), the lawyer at the center of the Trump-Bannon-Wolff spat, who has had a role behind the headlines quite a bit in recent years.

1984 Meets The Wizard of Oz

This was quite bizarre even for this White House …

Editor’s Brief

A couple of additional thoughts (Prime access) on Tierney Sneed’s latest.

Taking Stock of Another Manic Trump Morning

We thought all hell was breaking loose yesterday. We were wrong. That’s happening today. The idea that a sitting President is threatening to sue a former top staffer over an NDA and (putative) defamation is so comically ridiculous as to defy rationality and mark a new summit of nonsense even in the nonsense pile of the Trump presidency. Taking the matter on the merits, it is hard to imagine the number of first amendment-based fences Trump and his lawyer (the same lawyer who Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel used to destroy Gawker. Really.) have to jump to sustain this. In any case, close to a certainty, there will be no lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge is shooting off a series of tweets that appear to be either a prediction or a suggestion or perhaps even a report that the owners of Breitbart News will fire Steve Bannon. On this a minor digression … Since Breitbart the website has become a strange amalgam of right-wing chop shop with a Stalinist sensibility purveying fake news with an antic edge, there’s been a backdrop of criticism on the right that the Bannon-era Breitbart represents a betrayal of the late Andrew Breitbart who died in 2012. Read More

Some Random Speculations about Trump, Bannon, and Wolff
President Donald Trump talks with Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Toby Cosgrove during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Washington. From left are, Cosgrove, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

I am trying to write a book, but I keep getting diverted by events in my hometown. The latest is the furor over Michael Wolff’s portrayal of Donald Trump and Trump’s break with his former aide Steve Bannon. I have three marginal reflections about this that have to do with Trump’s physical and mental state and with the way he governs.

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