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.

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.
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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.

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!

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.

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.

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.
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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?
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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.
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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.”

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.

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.
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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.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”

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.
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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.

Mueller charges Mike Flynn with making false statements to FBI.

We’ll be bringing you more info as it comes out. On its face, this seems almost certainly like Flynn is being charged with a good deal less than he could be charged with – presumably because of a cooperation deal. I stress “seems”. What we know is that he’s been charged with lying to the FBI.

9:19 AM: Flynn to appear in court this morning at 10:30 AM, according to Jeff Toobin on CNN.

Here’s a quick backgrounder (sub req.) on how to interpret what we’re hearing in terms of the larger Russia investigation.

Given how this year has unfolded, we should not underestimate Republicans’ ability to snatch legislative defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, it looks like Republicans will get their prized ‘tax reform’. Yes, the bill is horrendous policy on numerous fronts. But don’t ignore the fact that Republicans appear to be building a perilous trap for themselves to fall into. Yes, they’re jamming it through before anyone can get a good look at what’s in it. Even they don’t know what’s in it. But remember, they and we will have all 2018 to find out.

Let’s walk through this.
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CNN is now reporting that the CIA/State shake-up story that roiled the news this morning was in fact an effort to send a message to and shame Rex Tillerson. That is hardly surprising given President Trump’s way of doing business for decades. But there’s more to it than that.

This new report at least suggests that the initial news reports this morning were false.
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