Editor’s Blog

Tomorrow Could Be a Bumpy Day

This evening on Sean Hannity’s program Rudy Giuliani demanded that Robert Mueller suspend his investigation and then said that Sessions and Rosenstein had one day to “redeem” themselves by ending Mueller’s probe and jailing FBI agent Peter Strzok. This is the President’s lead lawyer. Read More

Trump Admin: Bible Supports Family Separation Policy
on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.

Remarkable discussion today from Jeff Sessions and Sarah Sanders explaining why the Bible supports aggressive enforcement of the administration’s family separation policy. Read More

Brutal Reading

I’ve just been doing an initial read-through of the portion of the report about the decision to send the October 2016 “Comey Letter” to Congress. It’s like watching a 4x Slo-Mo video of a horrible car accident. It gets worse and worse. You know what’s coming. It’s endless and yet you know how it ends.

There’s a lot of fancy explanations and discussions. But by the end, it all comes down to just ignoring longstanding DOJ guidelines and precedent that you make every effort to avoid election-influencing actions on the heels of an election. You’re not supposed to do that. They came out with various arguments about how this case was an exception and they should do it. And they did it. Or rather, James Comey did it. It ends up really being that simple. It was a huge mistake. And the IG says as much. Read More

Sessions Needs to Recuse Himself on Trump Foundation Probe

Another point perhaps lost in the welter of news coming out today is this. The New York State Attorney General’s suit against the Trump Foundation, President Trump, and his children contains substantial evidence that Trump and his family violated numerous federal laws. These are laws which are often dealt with as civil offenses, fines, etc. But here they seem sufficiently egregious and systematic that I think there would be solid arguments for criminal prosecution. (I’d be curious what people with relevant legal experience make of that question.) Read More

Major Point

Most of the commentary I hear is whether 95% of the IG Report fails to vindicate Trump or 97%. Good Lord. Everything we know so far has a clear message. James Comey made major mistakes and those mistakes dramatically damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Democrats have been saying this for two years. They said it in July. They screamed it in October. They are totally vindicated. It may not have been political bias per se (I don’t believe it was) but James Comey probably did more than any other single individual to make Donald Trump President. Irony! Sad! Hillary’s vindicated. Democratic partisans are vindicated. She was wronged, cheated, mistreated. She has a very legitimate beef. That is overwhelmingly the verdict of all the information we’ve heard so far from the IG Report.

Open Letter to Nielsen and Sessions

Before we get caught up in today’s cacophony of news, I wanted to direct your attention to this open letter to DHS Secretary Nielsen and Attorney General Sessions organized by Physicians for Human Rights. It’s signed by a crazy long number of physicians and other experts. But I’m publishing this link to it because it collects together a wealth of clinical evidence for the permanent mental health, cognitive and other damage caused by traumatic events like separation of children from parents. Most of us realize this is morally wrong. It’s wrong in policy terms. We can imagine because we’re human, the emotional pain involved. But there’s a lot of evidence that these actions do serious and permanent damage to the children who are separated from their parents. Having experienced a very different kind of traumatic event as a child this resonates with me because I know how these events can impact and ramify through the decades of adult life. Here’s the letter.

Trolling Achievement Unlocked

North Korea releases footage of President Trump saluting North Korean General.

Harmonic Convergence

Buried in a footnote of page 19 of the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and Trump family is this interesting note. One of the organizations that received the Foundation’s largesse was The Mission Continues, the vets charity founded by disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. The Mission Continues came up in the Greitens scandals because Greitens got the group’s donor list which he then used for political fundraising. May would have been the period when Trump had numerically sealed up the nomination but was facing deep resistance from GOP stakeholders. Spreading money around had a strong logic.

The Best People

Just to be clear, the New York attorney general has sued the President and three of his children, each in their individual capacities, for alleged wrongdoing in the operation of what was supposed to be a charity, the Trump Foundation. The foundation itself is also a defendant in the lawsuit, but the alleged (and to be honest pretty obvious) self-dealing and mismanagement of the foundation by the Trumps, including Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, now has them potentially on the hook personally. It’s no less remarkable just because we already knew about some of the wrongdoing via great reporting by the Post.

The IG Report and the James Comey Myth

There will probably be many findings in the IG report slated to be released this afternoon. One already seems clear. It should be no surprise. James Comey broke dramatically with DOJ guidelines and precedent to take actions which damaged Hillary Clinton. He did so not out of political bias per se (I never thought that). He did so because he wanted to inoculate himself from aggressive Republican harassment over pro-Hillary bias. They worked the refs and they got terrible calls in their favor, which helped them win the election. As I’ve written a few times, this happened because James Comey himself is the greatest devotee of the James Comey Myth. (I discuss it more fully in that link.) Read More

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 13: Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's attorney, takes a phone call near the Loews Regency hotel on Park Ave on April 13, 2018 in New York City. Following FBI raids on his home, office and hotel room, the Department of Justice announced that they are placing him under criminal investigation. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
What’s The Story Here?

A simple, short quotation from a piece today in Vanity Fair about Michael Cohen.

“The breakup was also spurred by a disagreement over payment, and how much the Trump Organization was expected to foot on Cohen’s behalf, according to two sources with knowledge of the dispute.”

Then there’s this from the Times: “The dispute between Mr. Cohen and his lawyers involves the payment of his legal bills, part of which are being financed by the Trump family.”

It speaks for itself. The Trump Organization is Donald Trump. Full stop. Why is the President paying any of Michael Cohen’s legal bills? How much is he paying and has he paid? We knew that the Trump campaign paid money last year. But that was supposedly tied to answering questions before the Russia committees which is at least notionally tied to the campaign. But this is Trump personally. Why is President Trump paying Michael Cohen’s legal bills?

Big Announcement: Series on Voting Rights and Democracy

I wanted to let you know that beginning next month we’re going to kick off the biggest editorial series we’ve ever undertaken at TPM. It will run for five months, from July through the first weeks after the November midterm election. The topic will be voting rights and democracy, an issue that has been a central focus of what we do at TPM for going on 20 years. It’s particularly timely in the coming months for obvious reasons.

We’re coming up on one of the most critical midterm elections in years, perhaps in our lifetimes. (It sounds like hyperbole. People say stuff like that a lot. But I truly believe it.) So it’s voting season. But it’s more than that. Voting rights and democracy itself are under siege. But not only under siege. They’re under siege but also in some places resurgent. There are growing pushes for voter purges, voter ID, various restrictions or rollbacks of early voting and efforts to make voting easier and simpler for more people. But you also have a number of states moving toward automatic voter registration. There are efforts afoot not only to resist the worst of the assault on the franchise but to expand it, to get off the defensive and go on the offensive. Activists are also beginning to turn the tide on the kind of extreme gerrymandering that became the norm after 2010. Read More

The Worst People

Make sure to read this. It is an example, among many other things, of the kind of people, really the worst people, who make up this administration. Mari Stull is a former food and beverage lobbyist turned wine blogger who goes by the name “Vino Vixen.” Somehow she drew an appointment as a “senior advisor” to the State Department and has apparently focused her time on compiling lists of which employees at the Department or seconded to various international organizations are in fact loyal the President. Here’s more.

That’s The Sound Of The Other Shoe Dropping

ABC reporting that Michael Cohen is preparing to cooperate with the feds …

Trump Says He Got Korea Idea from Putin

The list of these seems all but limitless.

From The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2018. The reference to “around the same time” is summer 2017, just after President Trump met with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg at the G-20 Summit.

Around the same time, Mr. Trump had an idea about how to counter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, which he got after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin : If the U.S. stopped joint military exercises with the South Koreans, it could help moderate Kim Jong Un’s behavior. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis used an approach that aides say can work: “He says, ‘Your instincts are absolutely correct,’ and then gets him [the president] to do the exact opposite of what his instincts say,” said one person close to the White House. Mr. Trump dropped the idea, although he has ordered aides to give the exercises a low profile, eliminating press releases and briefings about them.

Verdict on the Verdict

Very mixed opinions on today’s AT&T verdict. While the specifics are complex, this is another move toward allowing more monopolies in the US economy, especially in the information economy. Monopolies are already a big problem, especially in the digital and tech platforms.

But fundamentally I think this is a good decision because there is no question in my mind that this happened because President Trump wants to punish unfriendly press coverage. CNN has plenty of problems. It’s hard to call it ‘independent’. It’s part of a huge mega-corporation and it’s about to be folded into an even huger mega-corporation. But fundamentally this is about a lawless President using his presidential powers to exact an economic cost to criticizing him. That fact should trump the specifics of AT&T’s market power. In any foreseeable future, major media is controlled by big corporations. If the President can get away with exacting a big economic price for not following the Fox News line, we’ve lost a big part of the fight.

Very Curious

I’m very curious about this. I’m interested in hearing from anyone who knows more.

The BBC correspondent in Beijing and the BBC Bureau Chief for North America say that China (specifically, the government spokesman in a daily briefing) announced that the US had agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea before President Trump announced it in his press conference. In other words, they knew in advance.

Based on only the latter’s account I wasn’t certain whether the timing was right – timezone differences and whatever other possible confusions. But Stephen McDonell’s account from Beijing seems pretty open and shut. It’s still possible there’s some misunderstanding here. But it seems unlikely. What’s going on here? Read More

What Did Trump Promise?

There’s a lot in this exchange with George Stephanopoulos (emphasis added)…

GS: What other kinds of security guarantees did you offer, did you put on the table?
Trump: Well, we’ve given him, I don’t wanna talk about it specifically, but we’ve given him, he’s going to be happy. His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor. They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people — that they’re so hard working, so industrious. I think if you look at South Korea, someday, maybe in the not too distant future, it will be something that.

Read More

This Is So Effing Weird

President Trump showed Kim Jong-un a fake movie trailer about their mutual greatness. The trailer begins: “Seven billion people inhabit planet Earth. Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact. And only the very few will make decisions or take actions that renew their homeland and change the course of history.” President Trump went on to tell Kim about the opportunities for luxury real estate developments: “They have great beaches You see that whenever they are exploding the cannons in the ocean. “I said, ‘boy, look at that view. That would make a great condo. I explained it.’” Watch the faux-trailer here, along with denial from the guy who allegedly made it that he made it.

A Nothingburger in Our Time

We have a dramatic relaxation of tensions between the United States and North Korea. That is an unambiguously good thing. The summit yesterday was basically a photo op. I expected little and there was even less than I’d expected. The diplomatic communique was basically diplo-speak for “be excellent to each other” — a non-binding agreement to work towards “denuclearization” — while accepting that both sides define the term in dramatically different ways.

North Korea has made immense sacrifices to achieve a viable nuclear deterrent. Yesterday’s summit was more than anything else a testament to the power of that achievement.

Read More

BREAKING: Kudlow Suffers Heart Attack

Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s economic advisor, has reportedly suffered a heart attack and is at Walter Reed Medical Center. It’s been reported broadly. But all reports seem to work off the President’s tweet from roughly 10 minutes ago. There doesn’t seem to be any additional reporting on his condition or other details.

Interesting

Interesting information here. Reservations for ad runs show where the parties at least think the battle for control of Congress will be fought.