Federal officials today briefed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Russian hacking of two county voting networks during the 2016 election. But according to DeSantis, they made him sign an NDA that barred him from revealing the details. “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a [non-]disclosure agreement,” said DeSantis.
Let me mention one of the subthreads of this latest phony flare-up about Rashida Tlaib. I think this series of attacks from President Trump and top elected officials was so bogus on its face that it seems to be fading to a degree. But there’s another part of this drama that’s worth discussing, a point with a broader application that goes well beyond debates about anti-Semitism.
We now have the fourth investigation charged with ‘investigating the investigators’ who began the Russia probe. Attorney General Bill Barr has tasked the US Attorney in Connecticut, John H. Durham, with conducting yet another probe. Most press reports will say this is the third. There’s the on-going Inspector General investigation and the investigation by Utah US Attorney John H. Huber. But in fact this is the second Inspector General’s investigation into this question. Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrenched the first from its initial brief to probe leaks and potential bias against Hillary Clinton into one focused on bias against President Trump.
I’ve read the transcript of Rashida Tlaib’s words in the bogus “controversy” a number of times. I saw the actual video of what she said for the first time earlier this afternoon. This controversy is so baseless, so riddled with bad faith and malice. It’s simply gross. I don’t agree with Tlaib on everything. I don’t agree with her advocacy of a one-state solution, which is what she was actually arguing for in the interview in question. But she wasn’t saying anything malicious or even terribly remarkable in those words, let alone anything anti-Semitic. She was talking about the reality of Palestinian dispossession in the creation of the state of Israel but how this loss, one closely tied to her ancestors and national community, wasn’t for nothing. Palestine became a haven for Jews fleeing the Holocaust and as refugees in the aftermath of the Holocaust. She doesn’t say Palestinian Arabs were welcoming them, as some are claiming. She certainly doesn’t diminish the horror of the Holocaust in any way. She basically says that some good came from the dispossession because the Jews were also an oppressed and endangered people and she takes some comfort from that even though it was at the expense of the Palestinians.
Let’s start with the obligatory disclaimers and caveats and blah blah. It’s very early. The first caucuses and primaries are almost 10 months away. But Joe Biden is getting more than a bounce from his campaign launch announcement three weeks ago. The bump in his poll numbers haven’t subsided. His support continues to climb. A poll out over the weekend from South Carolina puts his support at 46% with Bernie Sanders far behind at 15% and three others, Harris (10%), Buttigieg (8%) and Warren (8%), just behind him.
Doris Day died early this morning at age 97. Many people forget that before she became an avatar of 1950s Hollywood wholesomeness she was an acclaimed Jazz big band singer from a very different part of the entertainment world. Here she is at Aquarium, a New York jazz club in 1946, touring with Les Brown. Photographs by famed Jazz journalist and photographer William Gottlieb.
Rudy Giuliani has now canceled his trip to Ukraine in which he planned to pressure the new government to launch investigations into Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. But this is irrelevant. It’s not 1810. Giuliani doesn’t need a personal visit to plot his schemes. We have phones, video conferencing, private jet transnational intermediaries. What’s more, this is a plot that goes back months. Indeed, Giuliani has peppered his cancelation with new threats, suggesting that the new government in Ukraine may be enemies of America. “I’m not going to go because I think I’m walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, in some cases, enemies of the United States.”
It’s yet more of the same, leveraging the country’s foreign and national security power (which is of course immense and unparalleled in the world) to target political enemies at home, high crimes by any definition.
Last night at our DC event I picked up on a question someone had been asked on the panel: Basically, how bad can it get? To me it’s already gotten that bad and in a way and place that is at once front and center and yet oddly invisible. Virtually everyone closely involved in the origins of the Russia probe has either been fired, had their career ended or in key cases face real threats of imprisonment: Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Baker, Ohr … I could list off at least half a dozen other names. Some of these folks will be fine. And in most cases the criminal jeopardy is probably somewhat notional. But it’s not about the individual people. It’s the warning it sends to everyone else through the federal bureaucracy – law enforcement, intelligence and everywhere else – that the real law is power. This is how autocrats discipline and destroy civil institutions and the rule of law. One of these people, former FBI general counsel Jim Baker spoke out for the first time this afternoon at an event at Brookings. Tierney Sneed was there.
If you’re still worried about the collusion described in the Mueller Report forgot about that because it probably means you’re not focused enough on how President Trump’s top advisors are already, more or less openly, trying to muscle Ukraine into targeting Trump’s political enemies in the US to throw the 2020 election in Trump’s favor.
I really cannot overstate how important this is.
This to me is one of those classic TPM stories. In fact, the man at the center of the story, James Russell Bolton Jr., is an embodiment of the Trump Era. Bolton runs a militia. But on the side he was posing as a Mexican drug cartel allegedly kidnapping his wife in order to extort money from the dorks who had joined his militia.
We’re so thick into constitutional crises today. But you’ve got to read this piece by Josh Kovensky. It’s about how the NRA tried to save itself financially or at least open up a critical new revenue stream by hawking what is not unfairly called “murder insurance.” Basically, if you’re a good guy with a gun and you kill someone, who’s going to cover you expenses? It turns out that even on its own morally dubious terms it wasn’t very good insurance and not necessarily legal. But beyond that, the contractors who created the plans were branching out from old fashioned defending your home style ‘self-defense’ to more like free range out and about waiting for bad guys to show themselves sort of ‘self-defense’. Proactive self-defense. Call it George Zimmerman insurance. Anyway, it’s simultaneously hilarious and really horrifying and on top of all that the NRA seems to have lost some serious cash on it. Read the whole story here.
In another impromptu White House appearance just now, President Trump went off on special counsel Robert Mueller all over again. In an especially bonkers moment, the President lamented the friendship between Mueller and fired FBI Director James Comey, citing a “picture file.”
“They were supposedly best friends,” Trump said. “You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of him and Comey.”
What is he talking about? A picture file?
Last week I flagged this stunning and egregious story about Rudy Giuliani, the President’s private lawyer, going abroad to use to use the President’s power to enlist other governments to attack President Trump’s enemies. Giuliani has been globe-trotting like this for two years. In most cases, we don’t really know what he’s doing. In most cases he’s likely just collecting money. But in this case he’s using threat or inducement of the President’s power to target the President’s political enemies and then looping the corrupt Attorney General into the process.
This latest Trump/Giuliani gambit managed to get laundered into The New York Times via outlets like the propaganda chop shop at The Hill under John Solomon.
But here are some key new details.
Let’s talk about this eye-popping story from Reuters which claims that back in 2015 Michael Cohen helped early Trump endorser and now-consummate supporter Jerry Falwell, Jr. make some embarrassing photos disappear. This is at least the third story Aram Roston has written on this saga (this one at Reuters, the earlier two when he was at Buzzfeed). Each has reported a series eye-popping or bizarre facts. But each also reads with the clear sense that Roston either knows more than he can write or believes there’s much more to the story than he can prove.
The Times is out with an extensive story based on newly obtained tax documents for President Trump … but they’re for 1985-1994, not more recent years. Still, it’s a key period in the making of the myth of Donald Trump, and far from being the dealmaking whiz of lore, he was declaring staggering losses, more than $1 billion over that stretch:
Below I mentioned this article penned by one of Vladimir Putin’s advisors claiming that the incoming Ukrainian President might cleanse eastern Ukraine of ethnic Russians and repopulate it with Jews. TPM Reporter Josh Kovensky speaks Russian (before coming to TPM he worked at the English language Kyiv Post in Ukraine) and he’s written this piece which goes deeper into what the article says and translates key parts of it. Must read.
Christopher Wray just confirmed, delicately, that in addition to the second Inspector General investigation, Bill Barr is personally looking into how the Russia probe began.
Wray: In addition to ongoing IG investigation "AG is seeking to understand better the circumstances at the department and the FBI relating to how this investigation started. And we're working to help him get that understanding. I think that's part of his job and part of my mine." pic.twitter.com/mrQhHCDuOc
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 7, 2019