Editors’ Blog

An Important Reminder

Shortly after James Comey sent his notorious letter to then-Chairman Jason Chaffetz a week before the 2016 election, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was charged with investigating whether or how anti-Clinton bias and leaking out of the FBI’s New York City field office may have driven the decision to send that letter. More than three years on, Horowitz has still not found time to conduct that investigation. Through each of these other probes we’ve been told it will either be included in this investigation or the next investigation. Those who credited these claims have again and again been disappointed. On the other hand we’ve had numerous probes into the origins of the Russia probe itself.

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Good Point

From TPM Reader EH

We gave the Democrats power in 2018 in order to use it. I’m not in the mood to quibble at the moment. The nation will go home for the holidays with an impeached President. A President who was, remains, and will be a threat to national security and our democracy. The Democrats did their job and the nation owes an immense debt of gratitude to the whistleblower. I’m willing to leave all the rest for next year.

For all the chatter, remember: had Democrats not won control of the House last year, this entire story would have been covered up and not only would we never have known what happened it almost certainly would have succeeded, with potentially large impacts on the 2020 election.

We All Get Stupider

Presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani has found new friends in Ukraine and they’ve spun him up on a new scandal, which he hopes to present shortly to authorities in DC. His finding is that Adam Schiff owns about $250,000 in mutual funds from Franklin Templeton, the mutual fund company. And some of their funds have invested in Ukraine. In other words, Schiff is compromised. Josh Kovensky has the story.

Today’s Agenda: Senate Will Grill The Watchdog

Good morning and happy Wednesday, December 11. Attorney General Bill Barr has been highly critical of the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s findings laid out in his report on the launch of the Russia probe. President Trump and Republicans have taken a similar stance, meaning things will likely get heated during Horowitz’s hearing before Congress today. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following. Read More

Thinking Through Impeachment, Part 2

From TPM Reader BM

It is very much too absurd, but I do fear that Democrats are failing to appreciate the necessity of explaining very slowly and clearly what has happened every single time the cameras start rolling or a new MoC starts her five minutes:

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Thinking Through Impeachment, Part 1

TPM Reader WH with some impeachment thoughts …

Agree with your last two blog posts, especially the misguided anger from Democrats regarding the last two hearings in the Judiciary Committee. I, too, found myself having to tune out simply because half the time was allotted to Republicans making (at best) specious or contradictory claims. Admitting this is deeply disheartening, as it forces me to admit that the GOP efforts to disorient and disgust those following along at home are very effective.

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New Podcast Alert

On this week’s episode, we take a look at the House’s articles of impeachment against President Trump, the inspector general’s report on the Russia probe and Josh Kovensky’s exclusive report on a Ukrainian oligarch’s ties to the pressure campaign. Give it a listen here, or favored podcast platform.

Trump Trial Strategy: Maximum Shit Show

Interesting note here from CNN about alleged disagreement between Mitch McConnell and the White House over what a Senate impeachment trial should look like. The gist seems to be that McConnell wants an orderly presentation and then a vote for acquittal as soon as possible. Trump, meanwhile, wants to burn the place down, or to put it more specifically turn the whole thing into a circus on the reasoning that the crazier it is the best chance he has to turn it into a spectacle and one that hurts Democrats.

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Just How Far Back Does The Trump-Ukraine Pressure Campaign Go?

Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky stands to benefit quite a bit from the Trump administration.

I published a story on Monday showing why Kolomoisky might be personally interested in helping out with Giuliani’s search for dirt, and how the oligarch appears to have put himself in a position to do so.

But Kolomoisky’s involvement raises key indications that the pressure campaign began far earlier than has been reported.

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It’s All Too Absurd

I saw a few emails from TPM Readers yesterday evening arguing that yesterday’s hearing didn’t go well for the Democrats and hasn’t gone well generally since the action moved to the Judiciary committee. I don’t know whether I believe that or not. I suspect most TPM Readers are watching far too closely to get a sense of how this all seems to loosely committed or only partially attentive voters. But let me share with you my own reaction: I had difficulty watching yesterday’s proceedings because I simply find the whole exercise too absurd. I skipped most of it.

This entire exercise comes down to whether or not a President can solicit bribes from foreign heads of state, whether he or she can demand that foreign governments intervene in U.S. presidential elections to help them hold on to power. You either think that is okay or you don’t.

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Today’s Agenda: Articles Of Impeachment
UNITED STATES - JULY 24: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calf., and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conduct a news conference on the testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Good morning and happy Tuesday, December 10. This morning, House Democrats will announce articles of impeachment against President Trump, the fourth president in the history of the national to face removal from office. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.  Read More

Kings, Presidents and Foreign Subversion

After the Stuart Restoration, Charles II sought to loosen his dependence on Parliament by among other things receiving subsidies (large cash payments) from Louis XIV, King of France. The ability to supply tax revenue for impoverished Kings is basically the root of all parliamentary power in what is now the United Kingdom. At the time the King being in the pay of a foreign King wasn’t without controversy. But it didn’t seem absurd on its face, as it would to us today, because in many ways the theory was that the King owned the country.

There were limits on his power – the key one being that he could only properly fund his government with taxes from parliament. And that gave Parliament critical leverage. But the King owned his power. His sovereignty and the bundle of powers he used to enforce it were his. Any sense of what was in the public interest or his personal interest was an irrelevancy or not even entirely comprehensible because again, he was King. He didn’t just have the powers. He owned them. In a sense he owned the whole country.

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An Absolute Must-Read

I cannot recommend this morning’s exclusive from Josh Kovensky strongly enough. It’s a complicated enough story that it is hard to capture briefly. But in sum, there’s a whole half of the Trump/Giuliani collusion campaign in Ukraine that barely anyone has scratched the surface of and Josh has the story. The key theme of Giuliani’s trips has been looking for crooks in Ukraine trying to keep out of jail either in Ukraine or the U.S. and offering them protection if they’ll intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. We’ve heard a lot about Dmitry Firtash, the oligarch who’s funded and organized much of the effort, and the corrupt former prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. But equally involved has been Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the country’s other top five oligarchs and widely seen — at least until recently — as Zelensky’s patron. The same pattern, facing charges in the U.S., hiring another high-powered Trump-aligned attorney, trying to make nice with Trump by using American intermediaries to make accusations against the Bidens. An amazing story. Read it here.

Today’s Agenda: When The Impeachment Inquiry And Russia Probe Collide

Happy Monday, December 9. We’ve got a busy day ahead of us. The House Judiciary Committee will begin its second public impeachment hearing at 9:00 a.m. ET and the 400-plus page Justice Department inspector general’s report on the origins of the Russia probe is set to be made public around the same time. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.
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Gramps, Tell Me About the First Duncan Hunter

TPM Reader LB takes us down memory lane. And he’s right. We’re talking now about Rep. Duncan Hunter and his imminent resignation from Congress in the wake of his guilty plea to federal campaign finance charges. But Rep. Hunter inherited the seat from his dad Duncan Hunter, Sr. Pops Hunter never got indicted but he was notoriously crooked and came close to getting pulled down in the wake of the Duke Cunningham scandal back in 2005/2006. (There was a crew of this Southern California GOP Reps who all had problems on the criming front.) Let’s hear from LB

John Light mentioned in this morning’s email that the Golden Duke awards are coming soon. It reminded me of the blatantly corrupt Randy “Duke” Cunningham, from whom the Dukes got their name, The blatancy of the corruption included the shopping price list of how much it would cost to bribe him. Bigger the favor, the higher the cost.

That led me to remember that Duke’s best friend in the House was another name that has been prominent in the news the last several months, Duncan Hunter, although right name, wrong person. Of course the elder Duncan Hunter, best friend of Duke Cunningham, is the father of Duncan Hunter, Jr., who just plead guilty to stealing campaign funds for his personal use (Turns out the pet rabbit liked flying in first class. Who knew?). I used to be in that district, but was saved with the redrawing of the maps in 2010, putting me in a safe Democratic district, with Susan Davis as our rep. (She announced her retirement a few months ago. But, it’s a safe Democratic District, so I don’t think it goes to red.)

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Go Big or Go Small?

I was watching the cable shows yesterday afternoon and the constant refrain was infighting among House Democrats over whether to ‘go big’ on impeachment or keep articles narrowly focused on Ukraine. I know this is a basic question being debated. I don’t know how acrimonious it really is. But I did spend some time last week familiarizing myself with the thinking of those on the Hill who want a more expanded approach. And at least as presented it made a fair amount of sense to me, both substantively and politically.

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House Impeachment Articles/Report May Contain Some Surprises

Here’s a heads up on something. There are a number of questions about what kind of articles of impeachment will be voted against President Trump and what wrongdoing they will cover. But it’s generally assumed that we know the relevant facts those articles will be based on. Don’t be so sure.

The actual articles, the report that goes with it and the evidence presented at a Senate trial will likely contain at least one pretty substantial surprise – and not a good one for President Trump.

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Today’s Agenda: WH Questions Those Giuliani Call Logs

In what’s seen as an attempt to poke holes in House Democrats’ impeachment case, White House officials are disputing the details of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s contacts with White House aides during key moments in the Ukraine pressure scheme. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.
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It’s Time

The end of the year is just around the corner, and it’s time to look back and contemplate what was. Get ready for the annual TPM Golden Dukes: the awards celebrating the year’s political disasters of all stripes.

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The Right Decision is to Move Ahead Now

I’ve seldom considered a public question in which the two possible answers both seem quite so compelling and convincing as this one. Late last month I said I had grave misgivings about ending the Impeachment inquiry, as the House appears intent on doing, without having deposed any of the key players in the scandal. The list is long: Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton in addition to as many as a dozen others. Stopping here seems crazy on several fronts: There are numerous key questions that remain unanswered. There are dimensions of wrongdoing that remain all but unexplored – side rackets pursued by Rudy Giuliani, his hustler pals Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas and others. These unknowns appear to contain at least substantial venal corruption, likely subversion of US foreign policy and even possible subversion by foreign nation states.

For all of these reasons, ones that are both substantive and narrowly political, it seems crazy to leave these questions unanswered. And yet I think they should. People talk about whether the Democrats should go small or go big. I think it’s more whether they should go fast or go slow. (After all, it’s easy enough to add on an obstruction article based on the Mueller Report. The work is already done.) I think they’re right to go fast, even as I agree that the arguments to the contrary are powerful and compelling.

Here are my four reasons.

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Today’s Agenda: Trump Tries New Tactic To Spin ‘Favor’ Request From Zelensky Call

Happy Thursday, December 5. President Donald Trump took a stab at explaining away his damning request for a favor from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on the July 25 call. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching. Read More


Did Sheldon make a big purchase? From TPM Reader AM

I’d written you previously about Pompeo’s likely senate run. Just reading that piece in McClatchy now about the warchest he’s amassing and the outreach he’s doing to megadonors and this caught my eye:

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What The Shift To Judiciary Meant For The Tenor Of The Impeachment Probe

Some aspects of Wednesday’s impeachment hearing — the first in front of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel with jurisdiction for advancing the ultimate articles of impeachment — felt like déjà vu all over again.

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Perfect Timing! Giuliani Lands In Kyiv Ahead Of Delicate Peace Talks With Russia

Rudy Giuliani picked a precarious moment to arrive in the Ukrainian capital: days before crucial talks are to begin with Russia over a potential deal to end the war in the country’s east.

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How Giuliani’s Ukraine Media Blitz Forecast What Was Going On Behind The Scenes

The biggest bombshell in House Democrats’ impeachment report on President Trump’s Ukraine gambit was the phone records they obtained detailing calls that Rudy Giuliani and other players made at key moments.

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The Next Phase Of The Impeachment Probe

The podcast is back after a (brief) Thanksgiving hiatus. We take a look at where the impeachment probe is headed next, and Matt Shuham reports on the latest in the case of indicted Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Today’s Agenda: Judiciary Committee Takes Over Impeachment

Happy Wednesday, December 4. The House Judiciary Committee will take over the impeachment inquiry today, kicking off the process with constitutional law experts. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
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Stop Saying This!

I just heard — to my great chagrin and distress — one of my favorite CNN hosts say “clearly President Trump doesn’t think he did anything wrong.” Not only is this not “clear,” it is almost certainly false. We shouldn’t say this because it’s not true. He certainly knows he did something wrong. He simply doesn’t care.

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Today’s Agenda: Republicans To Switch Tactics For Next Phase Of Inquiry

Happy Tuesday, December 3. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee plan to try out new tactics in the next phase of the impeachment inquiry, disposing of Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) conspiracy-theory fixation. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.

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