When I start railing about Israel’s government — he’s “Netanyahoo” as far as I am concerned — some of my co-religionists chide me for singling out Israel and exempting Putin’s Russia or Xi Jinping’s China from my complaints. My usual reply is that as a Jew I feel morally complicit in what Israel’s government does; I don’t feel that way about what Putin or Xi does.
You probably saw the news yesterday that just days before President Trump tweeted that he was intent on saving that sanctions-busting Chinese telecommunications company, China had agreed to loan $500 million to a major Trump-backed development in Indonesia. These kinds of situations are now basically commonplace in the Trump Era. But it is important to look at them from a macro- and a micro-perspective. The details are quite complex in the latter case. We are still digging into them. But I wanted to give you a first sense of what we’re finding, because they make Trump’s connection to the operation and potential profits look considerably tighter than what I’d been led to expect yesterday from early reports. Read More
From the outset, there was little reason to think that North Korea would agree to surrender its nuclear weapons and the infrastructure and labs required to build them. If we set aside the never-very-plausible idea that the Kims are madmen intent on prepping some secular apocalyptic nuclear confrontation with the U.S., a more prosaic, rational strategy becomes clear: build a credible nuclear deterrent, thus making military-backed regime change unthinkable. Then reach an accommodation with the U.S. from a position of strength and fundamental equality. Such an agreement might involve restrictions on nuclear weapons development, limits on numbers of warheads. But fundamentally it would mean accepting North Korea as a nuclear power. Read More
The Schlapps are one of the great power couples of the Trump Era. She’s a top communications staffer at the White House — Mercedes Schlapp. He’s the head of CPAC and a major pro-Trump talking head on CNN — Matt Schlapp. Both are longtime lobbyists and DC power players. They made a stir for making a great show of walking out of the White House Correspondents Dinner early on their way to hit the after parties, allegedly as a splashy protest over “elites” at the dinner and comedian Michelle Wolf. The two apparently tweeted their outrage from a limo on the way to the NBC afterparty. “It’s why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite,” wrote Mercedes Schlapp.
Now the two have garnered attention as the most conspicuous defenders of Kelly Sadler, the White House staffer who reportedly joked about John McCain’s terminal illness. Read More
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TPM Reader DV wrote in this morning with what I have to say is a completely obvious point that totally eluded me. There are twenty different ways Michael Cohen’s apparent shakedown of various Fortune 500 companies is sleazy. There are a handful of ways it might break the law. But there’s another pretty big problem I at least haven’t seen explicitly mentioned. Read More
A lawyer has come forward who claims he spoke indirectly to Donald Trump (via an intermediary) and directly to Michael Cohen in 2013 about abuse allegations against former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
CNBC just reported that AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson is calling hiring Michael Cohen a “big mistake. They are also reporting that their Senior Executive Vice President of External & Legislative Affairs, Bob Quinn, is ‘retiring’. That long title means head of their DC office, where lobbying and all government-facing activities are run out of. Here’s the critical backstory. Jim Cicconi, Quinn’s predecessor, had been in that position for about a decade and was a real player in the DC/Government Relations world. He only left about a year and a half ago. In other words, Quinn just showed up and now he’s out, apparently as fallout from the Michael Cohen debacle. Read More
This morning I was coming into work after attending my son’s school play and got an email from our editorial staff in DC and NY telling me they’d unanimously agreed to form a union and asking if I would voluntarily recognize their decision. The email was signed “Sincerely, TPM union.” I confess it was novel experience hearing from someone else identifying themselves as ‘TPM’. But I replied that I was happy to do so. I had our lawyer reach out to the WGA, East to formalize that agreement. And that was that.
This afternoon the new TPM Union put out a statement announcing the formation of their union and our agreement to recognize the union. They also asked me for a statement from TPM which they could include in their press release, which I was of course happy to do.
I publish their press release here in its entirety below. Read More
One of the silent joys – perhaps not so silent – of the Cohen chapter of the Trump/Russia scandal is observing the discomfiture of big corporations getting dragged into the endlessly sleazy, moronically corrupt world of Michael Cohen. Sources at AT&T insisted they didn’t pay Cohen for access to the President but rather for “actual work done.” No doubt. But the best explanation for hiring Michael Cohen has to go to Korea Aerospace Industries, a firm trying to land a major contract with the Pentagon. They say they hired Cohen “to inform reorganization of our internal accounting system.”
If you’re interested in who Michael Cohen is, how he came to work for Donald Trump, where his money comes from and what network is behind him, you need to listen to this new episode of my podcast. I know that sounds like a high-pressure sale. But trust me: I consider myself a premier Cohen-ologist. But Seth Hettena knew and knows way more than I did not just about Cohen but Trump’s whole universe of Russian/Ukrainian organized crime associates and partners. And he’s got a new book that came out just yesterday. Listen to this episode right here or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.
In some ways the more fascinating aspect of the fallout from yesterday’s Michael Cohen revelations is seeing Fortune 500 companies struggle to explain how and why they found themselves connected, albeit simply through a shell company, with the President’s payoffs to Stormy Daniels and his fixer’s pay-offs from a Russian oligarch. I think the evolving Novartis story is going to be a good example of the difference between the press release business press and the national political press in full scandal mode. Novartis’s explanation simply makes zero sense – it’s telling that they thought it would survive first contact with any scrutiny. I suspect we’ll find out that that’s the case because it’s a hastily contrived cover story. Even now, the story seems to be evolving toward a more plausible and problematic destination.
Here’s Novartis’s official explanation. Read More