Editor’s Blog

What Can We Make of Rod Rosenstein?
Mueller's Heat Shield or Just Another Trump Hack?

There seems now to be a widespread belief, if not quite a consensus, among critics of President Trump that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who submitted his letter of resignation yesterday, turned out to be just another hack. He’s provided plenty of grist for that appraisal over the last month. But that doesn’t quite capture the full picture. We must always be open to new evidence, constantly be in a process of revising or at least revisiting our settled opinions. But we must resist the temptation to toss out old evidence or settled opinion when new evidence cuts against our assumptions or is contradicted. The evidence that doesn’t fit is always the most important. Read More

Must Read

So is this NRA investigation for real? Does the NY investigation present a real threat to the future of the NRA? Josh Kovensky took a deep dive into the jeopardy the NRA faces and it turns out they’re in a lot of trouble. Here’s Josh’s report.

The Threat To The NRA Prime Badge
Have We Normalized Anti-Semitism? Prime Badge
Implications of the NRA Implosion

You probably saw the fireworks last week and over the weekend in which the two top leaders of the National Rifle Association publicly accused each other of corruption and tried to kick each other out of the organization. Wayne LaPierre, who has essentially owned the NRA for a couple decades, appears to have won that battle. Oliver North, who announced he will not run for another term, lost. But I want to talk about some dimensions and implications of this implosion that may be less clear.

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Bolton: Yes, We Agreed to Pay North Korea But We Didn’t

This may be the first instance where President Trump’s experience dealing with contractors in real estate development projects came in handy in international relations.

Bill Barr Doubles Down on the Coverup

Attorney General Bill Barr has dramatically escalated his Mueller Report coverup and effort to effectively end independent oversight of his Department by Congress. According to this report, he is refusing to show up to testify this week before the House Judiciary Committee unless he is accorded a veto right over the questioning format. Read More

Further Details

Details now firming up on the synagogue shooting. It appears that there were four shooting victims, one of whom died.

More Details on Synagogue Shooting

Summarizing the threads of information we’ve received so far about the Poway (near San Diego, CA) synagogue shooting.

A man police believe is the shooter is in custody. No details on his identity. Town Mayor says the synagogue was clearly targeted.

A local medical center confirms receiving four shooting victims from the incident. There’s no clarity on the extent of the injuries. There are unconfirmed reports of a single fatality. The town mayor referred to “unconfirmed reports” of a fatality in TV appearances shortly after the shooting.

[At roughly 4:59 PM, the mayor appeared on CNN and appeared to confirm a single fatality.]

The rabbi was apparently shot in the hand and continued trying to calm the congregants and the shooter – what that meant about the shooter wasn’t entirely clear. There are reports that the congregants somehow “engaged” with the shooter. Unclear whether this was trying to talk down the shooter or physically engage him.

BREAKING: Synagogue Shooting

Early reports of a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California. Reports suggest that there are shooting victims (extent of injuries not clear) and that someone has been detained for questioning. But beyond that details are sketchy.

3:48 PM: Union-Tribune says “As many as four people have reportedly been shot”, so you can see, reports from the local press remain imprecise, sketchy. Police were reported first called to the scene at 11:30 AM local time. Numerous reports refer to a man being “detained” in connection with the shooting. But we can’t assume that that person is the shooter or that the incident is over.

4:16 PM: Local TV report suggests that police on the scene seem confident that the man taken into custody was the shooter, according to this report taken into custody a few blocks from the synagogue. Notably, this report refers to the Rabbi, who was reportedly shot in the hand, trying to calm both congregants and the shooter. So possibly, he was able to disrupt the shooting or the shooter panicked in some way. Obviously, all these reports should be treated as highly tentative.

4:22 PM: Mayor of Poway says he has “unconfirmed reports of one fatality,” also refers to members of the congregation “engaging” with the shooter and in some way limiting the injuries. Unclear whether this is verbal engagement or some attempt to physically disrupt the shooting.

Who Beats Trump?

The good thing about presidential primaries and electability is that we aren’t just limited to guessing. Everyone’s running (almost literally). We’ve got the better part of a year to see how the different contenders campaign and hold up under the pressure of a campaign. For the moment, Joe Biden clearly polls better than any other current candidate against Donald Trump.

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North To Leave As President of NRA
on May 4, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.

I really want to focus your attention on what seems like the implosion of the National Rifle Association. To be clear, I don’t mean that pro-gun activism is going anywhere or even that the NRA is. But as you’ve seen in our reports in recent days, the leadership of the group is engaged in what seems like a professional life or death battle, with each side accusing the other of corruption, self-dealing and double-dipping into the organizations funds. And this all seems to be amidst and to a significant degree triggered by the organization’s financial woes, which have prompted all the bigwigs to try to out each other’s grifts. Read More

Two More On Biden Prime Badge
Biden Unbound, on Foreign Policy

I’ve been publishing a series of emails about Joe Biden and his candidacy. Here I want to share something different. It’s an window into his candidacy and potential presidency. Back in 2004 I was writing an article for The Atlantic about John Kerry’s foreign policy. I did a range of interviews for that piece and one of them was with then-Senator Biden, in his office one evening up on Capitol Hill. It was loose and unstructured. When you talk with Biden he’s thinking out loud, discussing ideas, not a lot of couching or sound-biting or hedging. It’s very immediate and unfiltered. The issues then were quite different. This was maybe 15 months after the invasion of Iraq. George W. Bush was late in his first term. But even if the issues are from 15 years ago, you still get a pretty immediate sense of the man, how he thinks and specifically how he approaches the world abroad. So with that, I went back into my notes and pulled out the transcript of the conversation, which you can read here …

Josh Marshall: There’s several points I wanted to touch on, and a number of these — if you can answer them descriptively, or prescriptively I’d be interested in both. One of the main points of the piece, a hypothetical Democratic administration 9 months from now, what the continuities and discontinuities would be with where Clinton left off in 2000. I mean obviously the chessboard has moved all around, and that’s a given, but on an issue like North Korea, an issue like Iran, the Atlantic relationship and so forth, and broad kind of questions about how you mix diplomatic muscle and military force. What would you identify as the main continuities and main discontinuities? Again, either descriptively or prescriptively.

Joe Biden: I wouldn’t even try. I wouldn’t. I don’t think you can connect those dots prescriptively or descriptively. I think it is a false — I think the paradigm is the wrong one. I mean I think it is literally impossible to suggest how the policies of the Clinton administration would be continued, augmented, changed, morphed, discarded in the year 2005. The world has fundamentally changed since he left office and the damage done to our relationships around the world, coupled with the emergence of what was a perceived threat — but even the Clinton administration never fully contemplated knowingly the potential consequence of a serious international terrorist organization coordinating a lethal attack against the United States. There isn’t anybody who wrote about it. Read More

Harsh But … Prime Badge
There Was Lots of Collusion and Conspiracy. Mueller Proved It.

I wanted to flag your attention to a really important opinion column that appeared yesterday in the Times. It’s by Jed Shugerman, a law professor at Fordham. Shugerman gets into a number of points about the collusion portion of the Mueller Report that I’ve been trying to make sense of myself. To put it more specifically, I’ve been trying to make sense of the disconnect between the Report itself and its media portrayal. Trump’s campaign didn’t just collude. They conspired and coordinated with Russia. And Mueller proves it.

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Trump Doubles Down on ‘Very Fine People’

In a short Q&A with reporters on the White House lawn, President Trump called Don McGahn, his former White House Counsel, a liar, called Robert Mueller a “Trump hater” and doubled down on his notorious “very fine people” comment about Charlottesville. Clips after the jump … Read More

Rosenstein Goes Full Festivus

Former, now on-going, employment-status-ambiguous Rod Rosenstein gave a churlish passive-aggressive “I’m awesome!” festivus kind of speech last night. Kate Riga gives us the highlights.

Josh’s Reading List No.10 Prime Badge
High Noon in Griftopolis

As Josh K. explains here, the news NRA self-dealing and double-dipping scandal is the biggest NRA scandal since the last huge NRA scandal a quarter century ago which involved the exact same players. Read.

Pretty Serious Development

Feds charge a Massachusetts state judge and court officer with obstruction for helping a undocumented man leave by the backdoor of a courthouse to evade ICE officers who were trolling the courthouse looking for people to arrest.

The Perfect Candidate Who’s Totally Ill-Suited to the Times
Keynote speaker former Vice President Joe Biden pauses during his speech during the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law 20th Anniversary Gala at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. The annual event serves as the school’s principal scholarship fundraiser. (AP Photo / Las Vegas Sun, Yasmina Chavez)

Joe Biden is the hardest to figure of all the Democratic candidates in the presidential field. He is at once an obvious choice and also unsuited to the moment in almost every way imaginable. Read More

Consensus Above All Prime Badge
Running Man Prime Badge
Don’t Believe the Hype, Unless Someone Substantiates the Hype

As President Trump has — unsurprisingly — dramatically ramped up his refusal to comply with any congressional scrutiny and oversight, the impeachment debate has moved in a new direction. Or at least one part of the existing argument has become much more salient. That is this: the claim that by moving into a formal impeachment process, perhaps as little as beginning a formal impeachment inquiry, the House will strengthen its ability to compel cooperation from the executive branch on all the documents and testimony it is now trying to get. In other words, whatever you think about the politics or wisdom of impeachment, Democrats need to start the process because that’s the only way they’ll have the standing to do effective investigation.

The problem is I see no evidence this is true. Read More

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