We’ve come down to the final day of 2019 and the last day of the second decade of the 21st century. At TPM this was a challenging year – a lot of change, negotiating our first collective bargaining agreement, some substantial management reorganization of how the operation runs and a lot of grinding work (batting out single after single) to secure the financial basis of the organization.
But it was also a good year, really a very good year. Because we managed to accomplish the key things we needed to accomplish, which is really all that matters. Indeed, key accomplishments were ones that not only worked for us this year but laid the groundwork for vitality for years to come.
Lev Parnas is a crook and (one imagines) a liar. But there’s little doubt he did things, witnessed things and knows about things that are highly relevant both to the upcoming impeachment trial and the actions and criminal activity of Rudy Giuliani and President Trump. It is also highly, highly likely that his electronic devices contain evidence that can confirm a significant amount of that and put it beyond Parnas’ say-so, which is of limited value. So Parnas’s efforts to share these records with the House is one of many reasons why President Trump, Mitch McConnell and basically all Republicans want a Senate whitewash trial absolutely as soon as possible.
It’s the lucky 13th anniversary of the Golden Duke Awards. And the winners are in!
We return with an especially august panel of judges for 2019: Erin Ryan, Talia Lavin, Susie Bright, Jeet Heer, Jim Newell. And in a new innovation, 2,477 TPM members have cast their ballots for a new Members’ Choice award. Big surprise for 2019: Members voted overwhelmingly (59.7%) for President Trump and his shakedown of Ukraine for Best Scandal General Interest. But, surprisingly, the Golden Duke actually went to Duncan Hunter, the now disgraced, soon to be resigned and inevitably to be incarcerated crooked bro-rep from Greater San Diego. So that and many other surprises which you can read here in the results announcement.
The latest news about the attack on a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York is that the alleged assailant, Grafton Thomas has, according to his family and lawyer, no known history of ties to hate groups and a long history of schizophrenia. If we take those claims at face value that puts the incident in a somewhat different light and suggests the possibility that the attack was the product of delusion or psychosis more than ideology or bias. But even if we assume all this, it’s probably wrong not to see the connection to the mass shooting in Jersey City early this month and the string of anti-Jewish attacks over the last week.
After the poisonous response I got to my book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origin of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, I vowed to stay out of discussions about Jews and Israel, but I keep breaking my resolution. Most recently it is over the coincidence of the anti-Semitic attacks in New Jersey and New York and New York Times’ columnist Bret Stephen’s column on Jews and anti-Semitism, in which he manages simultaneously to reinforce one of the historic tropes of anti-Semitism — that Jews are a superior race — and blame critics of Israel’s rightwing government for the outbreak of anti-Semitism.
One of the interesting side effects of a major scandal is all you learn about the details about how the government actually works, or is supposed to work. This is the case even if you’re broadly knowledgeable about the functioning of the federal bureaucracy. So for instance, one of the career officials in the pipeline for the Ukraine aide was a guy named Mark Sandy.
While there is life there is hope. As for statistics, I will spare us any thoughts on the meaning of a Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis, which Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) announced this afternoon. For decades Lewis has been one of history’s immortals who is yet still walking among us. Elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis has now served almost 34 years as a member of the Georgia congressional delegation. But at 46, when he came to Congress, he had already accomplished enough for several lifetimes. Indeed, one could say the same by the time he turned 26.
I flew home yesterday after a week away. The first news I saw was this stabbing attack on a Hanukah party at a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York. Police have arrested 37 year old Thomas Grafton, an African American man from Greenwood Lake, about twenty miles northwest of Monsey. Monsey hosts a large enclave of ultra-orthodox, or Hasidic, people — so people who are very visibly Jewish. According to this 2012 Times article, Monsey has the highest concentration of ultra-orthodox anywhere in the world outside of Brooklyn and Israel. Other than being an apparent hate crime, it’s not clear whether the attack was tied to a particular ideology, as seems to have been the case in the multiple fatality attack earlier this month in Jersey City, or a more individual hatred of Jews. But if Grafton was in Greenwood Lake and wanted to attack Jews Monsey would be the logical and closest place to go.
A recently-released Justice Department inspector general review of the 2016 Trump-Russia probe did not convince a judge that Michael Flynn’s wild-eye allegations of prosecutorial misconduct were legitimate enough to push off his sentencing.
Satirizing president Trump isn’t easy, and it’s no secret that American comedians have struggled to do it. We have an article in Cafe today by five writers — four of whom grew up in countries that had recent brushes with authoritarianism — about what the U.S. can learn from comedy abroad. Other countries have dealt with leaders like Trump, and the circumstances that lead to his rise, before, and satirists there have had to find ways to make lemons into lemonade. This Cafe piece looks at how they did it.
It’s not the only or main reason for doing it. But it is instructive how even a short and uncertain pause in the House transmitting its articles of impeachment to the Senate and thus even slightly delaying a Senate “trial” has unhinged the President perhaps even more than being impeached itself.
Good morning and happy Friday December 20. The New York Times is reporting that John Durham, the Bill Barr-appointed prosecutor carrying out President Trump’s pet Russia investigation origins probe, is now targeting former CIA Director John Brennan. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.
Pretty intense debate. Klobuchar made a pretty good run at nudging herself into the top tier. But the big thing is that Biden had his best debate to date and basically none of the rough fights included him. Was he amazing? No. But he’s in the lead. So that’s a big win for him. The rest all had good moments. But in terms of the trajectory of the race those are the things that I think matter.
8:50 PM: Good answer from Klobuchar on voting rights. Good rhetorically and good on substance.
8:44 PM: That was a good answer from Biden on the working with Republicans front. Not saying whether I agree or disagree. But that was a good job of integrating what often seems like an out of touch mindset with the realities of the moment.
8:24 PM: Great answer from Warren. Democrats have spent decades getting cowed by reporters spouting dubious economics conventional wisdom. That was the right response. As you know, I think Medicare for All is a huge political liability for Democrats. But on taxes this is the right response politically and substantively.
8:18 PM: Biden continues to hit singles. Neither inspiring nor terribly pretty but connecting with the ball.
8:16 PM: Sanders thinks the NAFTA reboot is a modest improvement and he’s going to vote against it?
8:14 PM: Andrew Yang seems to be looking to pick up the Tulsi Gabbard vote.
8:05 PM: I simply don’t accept the premise of the debate’s first question, that Democrats have failed in some way because only about 50% of the public, or a few point less, thinks Trump should be removed from office.
Not that anyone is asking but if I were one of the Democratic leaders I would be saying something like this.
“Sen McConnell has made it clear he wants a phony trial, a trial with no evidence and no witnesses and maybe no jurors. But there are a handful of Senators who say they’re moderates and who’ve said they want a fair trail. They want to do their job as jurors. Sens Gardner, McSally, Collins, Tillis, Romney and a few others. So we’re going to take a deep breath and see if they can use the holidays to make their voices heard with Sen McConnell and maybe the White House. Because there should be a fair process like they said they wanted.”
Lindsey Graham seems to be getting some degree of cold feet over having Rudy Giuliani up to the Hill to share his latest findings out of Ukraine, tells Giuliani, “I hope you know what you’re talking about.”
LOL After inviting Rudes to come up to the hill to share his Ukraine findings, Lindsey tells Rudes: "I hope you know what you're talking about." pic.twitter.com/ZiPIb9dQZj
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 19, 2019
The Times published a new story on the mystery duo of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. It is chock full of interesting detail about how they wormed into the Trump inner circle and other details. But I wanted to focus on two nuggets. First, Giuliani and Fruman have entered into a joint defense agreement. That’s their right. But that is a very notable fact.
A simple note: We’re seeing a lot of muscle flexing and threats about who will run the House in January 2021. But nothing speaks more clearly then the steady and seemingly endless stream of Republican retirements. Some of these, of course, are simply ordinary life decisions with limited connection to politics. Some find themselves in suburban seats that were once reliably Republican but which now look likely to require a real fight for reelection every year. That’s not fun, especially while serving in the minority. But the biggest, overarching message with retirements from men like Mark Meadows is that House Republicans do not expect to be back in the majority any time soon.
As is often the case in other contexts, voting with their feet tells the clearest story.
I have a slightly different or perhaps complementary take on this. But I think TPM Reader JO is right on this as well. Senate Republicans want to take control of this as quickly as possible and make the whole thing go away. It’s like getting the ball back in the final seconds of a football game while you’re ahead and running out the clock by curling up with the ball. Pelosi has the initiative and the choices until she sends it to the Senate. There’s little reason to rush to give that up, especially since holding the ball a bit longer allows her to play up Republicans’ more or less open determination not to hold a real trial. It’s not like anyone thought Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham were disinterested players here. But I do think they got a bit over their skis playing to Trump’s vanity in stating quite as clearly as they did that they plan to work on Trump’s behalf to force a sham process.
Good morning and happy Thursday, December 19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will speak from the Senate floor Thursday morning, where he plans to criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for hinting that she might keep impeachment articles close to her chest for a while. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following. Read More
A New York judge on Wednesday dismissed a criminal case against Paul Manafort, halting a prosecution that was widely seen as a form of insurance against a possible presidential pardon for the former Trump campaign manager.
While the Manhattan district attorney plans on appealing the decision, the ruling means Manafort could go free immediately should he be pardoned.
On the latest episode of the podcast, we preview the House impeachment vote and take a look at the curious case of Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) maybe (or maybe not?) switching to the Republican Party. We also take stock of the absolutely massive amount of news that happened in 2019. Listen to it here, or your preferred podcast app.
With the day now upon us, I wanted to lay out some points on impeachment which seem to me essential and definitional.
The signature reality of the Trump Era is confusion. False stories crowd out real ones – false stories driven less by ignorance than as a mode of attack. We hear endlessly about ‘two realities’, in which partisans on either side of the political divide see the same things and come away with radically different understandings of them. This is mainly false. We see and understand the same things but simply react differently. The great threat we face as a country isn’t poor logical reasoning but the growth of authoritarianism and leader-worship.
Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.
With the President likely to be impeached tomorrow, we are likely to be entering into a period of some polling volatility. Remember that in the short-term polls fluctuate not only with changes in public opinion but what is called differential response. The excited or agitated side responds to pollsters more and the demoralized or disenchanted side does less. But for the moment, or over the course of the last week, the President’s support numbers have popped up. The numbers aren’t dramatic. But for instance they’re now up to 43.9% in the 538 trend chart. Still pretty poor for an incumbent president but ever so slightly past the edge of the band he’s been in for years. I wouldn’t put too much stock in a few days of numbers. But it is worth keeping an eye on.
I wanted to flag this article in the Post which, amidst so much other news, does not appear to have garnered a lot of attention. In brief, it details a new report into how what appears to be a Russian disinformation effort amplified and tried to advance various conspiracy theories first seen in the reporting of John Solomon in The Hill.