Editor’s Blog

‘We Have a Healthy Spacecraft’
It will be humanity’s most distant exploration of another world, coming 3 ½ years after New Horizons’ swing past Pluto.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has communicated with flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland after a flyby of a distant orb named ‘Ultima Thule’ far beyond Pluto.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Happy New Year.

Lest We Forget

Josh’s First and Probably Only Tech Recommendation!

I went back and forth a few times about writing this post. But here goes. We were thinking earlier this month of doing a TPM Gift Guide, recommendations for holiday gifts. We ended up not doing that and I did my standard book recommendations list. But I had knocking around my head one gift or thing that I really did want to recommend. Now, just to reassure you, I’m not planning on getting into the tech review or tech recommendation business. But again, this was one thing I got this year that seemed dramatically better than any version of the same thing I’d used before. So I thought I’d share my experience. Read More

Low Energy

After meeting with Trump, Graham now says US is in a “pause situation” on Syria and that the President is reevaluating his decision.

K’Ching!

Remarkable update here from The Palm Beach Post. It’s an update to an earlier story about how Mar-a-Lago members were abuzz about whether they’d get their moneys worth if the President didn’t show up, as promised, for the New Year’s Eve party they paid good money to attend …

President Donald Trump has canceled plans to spend the New Year’s holiday at Mar-a-Lago. A source who had planned to attend the Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party said Friday Palm Beach was abuzz with members and guests talking about their own plans to bail on the Trump family’s annual gala.

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A Year of Contrasts

2018 was the year the on-going storm of phony GOP claims of voter fraud collided head on with the biggest voting fraud scandal in decades, courtesy of a GOP House campaign in North Carolina (sub req).

Another Player in the Story

“He owed us a lot of money. And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

That’s the most intriguing and enticing quote from an article published today by Time. The quote is from a guy named Victor Boyarkin, who Time tracked down at a conference in Greece, apparently after quite a bit of sleuthing. Boyarkin works for Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch and he’s talking about Paul Manafort. Read More

TPM’s Membership Grew Quite A Bit In 2018

But we need your help to reach our goal of 30,000 subscribers by Jan. 1.

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Amos Oz

You may have seen the obituaries today for the famed Israeli writer and activist Amos Oz. Read those for insights into his fiction, non-fiction writing, activism. There’s another part of this story that resonates with me. Amos Oz wasn’t born Amos Oz. The name change itself isn’t that strange for Israelis of his generation. Many were hebraizing their names. Ehud Barak was born Ehud Brog for instance. There are countless other examples. But for Oz this came with a deeper rebellion and transformation. Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939 as Amos Klausner. Read More

2018 Golden Dukes Winners Announced!

TPM is pleased to announce the winners of the 12th Annual Golden Dukes Awards, which honor the public figures who managed the most corruption, made the craziest comments, and carried out the most craven deeds, all in the spirit of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the father of the modern political scandal.

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Tip of the Iceberg

That story out of Alabama raises an important question. Once we have figured out just the scope of what Russia was doing in the 2016 election cycle (and going forward) we need to grapple with the fact that there are lots of entities offering and already providing these services to the highest bidder. The fact that Russia’s 2016 operation was mounted by a hostile foreign government coordinating with the beneficiary campaign is a huge, central issue. But it’s not the only issue. Read More

A Telling Reveal

A very interesting snippet from yesterday’s traveling press pool …

Response to question on how the U.S. withdrawal from Syria will impact Israel:

Trump: “I don’t see it that way. I spoke with Bibi. I told Bibi, you know we give Israel 4.5 billion dollars a year. And they are doing very well at defending themselves.”
“We’ll always be there for Israel.”
“I’m the one that moved the embassy to Jerusalem. I was the one who was willing to do that”
“So that’s the way it is we are going to take great care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. We give Israel 4.5 billion a year. And we give frankly a lot more than that if you look at the books. They’ve been doing a good job.”

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Feds: Have Mercy on Our Employees

Here’s a remarkable detail about the present government shutdown. The Department of Homeland Security prepared a “to whom it may concern” letter to employees to forward to their creditors. It essentially asks banks, credit card companies and any other creditors to take pity on their employees who can’t cover their debt obligations while they are not being paid. The letter concludes by thanking creditors “for your patience and compassion towards our employees during this time.” Read More

The Big Picture

This is a good article on Trump’s ties to Russia. It’s not about collusion per se or really anything that happened during the 2016 election. It’s about the backstory, things that happened as far back as the 1990s. If you’ve read up on this subject, a lot will be familiar. But Michael Hirsch has added some new reporting about the backstory and the what congressional investigators who get started next month are going to be interested in. More than anything he does a good job of weaving together all the disparate elements of the story.

A Suggestion

Casting about for a last-minute gift idea for a news-obsessed friend or family member? Perhaps a TPM gift subscription — providing access to daily, members-only articles, and supporting the work we do — would brighten their holiday season.

Consider it.

SCOTUS Will Be Briefed On That Secret, Mueller-Linked Legal Fight

Earlier this month, Tierney Sneed reported from Washington, D.C.’s federal courthouse that staff were “doing everything they could” to “make sure a secret case believed to be related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe stayed secret.”

We still don’t know much about that legal dispute, beyond that an unknown foreign company is fighting (and has been losing its attempts) to quash a subpoena which may come from Mueller.

But, Tierney Sneed reports this morning, the case has arrived at the Supreme Court. Read more here.

Some Holiday Book Recommendations

With Christmas and New Year’s upon us, I thought I would give some book recommendations. As always a few caveats and explanations about my criteria. I almost never read political books or any books about the contemporary world. I read history almost exclusively and usually at least a few centuries in the past. My criteria are deeply subjective. The books I recommend ones that held my attention to the end (most don’t), books I found engrossing and from which I learned new things. A number of the books below I’ve recommended before. Others are new. Read More

Last Year

North Carolina election officials asked feds to indict accused vote fraudster Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. more than a year ago. But nothing happened.

A Great Time to Join TPM Inside

One of our longtime readers just decided to treat herself to TPM Inside. “I signed up for TPM Inside today. I wavered back and forth but I enjoyed the free preview so much, so it’s a Christmas present from me to me.” Great idea! A subscription to Inside gives you access to our weekly briefings, TPM events, the Inside Quarterly Report, Prime, Prime Ad-Free and more (full details here). Joining Inside is also a great way to support TPM’s independent journalism in the coming year. In fact, if you sign up before the end of the year you become a Launch Member and get an extra month of membership through January 31st, 2020.

Click here to sign up. And Merry Christmas.

SCO Unaffected By Shutdown

A few readers asked whether the government shutdown might shut down the Special Counsel’s Office and whether this might even be one of the President Trump’s motivation. It turns out, no, it does not. The overwhelming majority of Justice Department officials remain on the job during a shutdown as “essential personnel”. That includes the Special Counsel’s Office, whose employees remain on the job.

Trump Now Sessionizing Whitaker

Unsurprisingly, according to CNN, President Trump twice chewed out his Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker for not doing more to control prosecutors in the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office. This happened first when Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress at the end of November and then again a week later when prosecutors implicated President Trump in a number of felonies.

“Pointing to articles he said supported his position, Trump pressed Whitaker on why more wasn’t being done to control prosecutors in New York who brought the charges in the first place, suggesting they were going rogue.” Read More

Comical

The Senate has in the last few minutes pressed pause on any further votes on government funding or the border wall until the White House and congressional leaders agree on some kind of global deal.

It’s telling that no one on the Republican side wants to take any more votes until they know what President Trump will sign.

To be clear, that’s not significant progress. A shutdown still looms. A deal is not in sight.

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Sola Pool Boya

You remember all the smoke about Jerry Falwell Jr for some inexplicable reason going into the divey, boozy youth hostel business with a young pool attendant in South Florida and the fact that Michael Cohen somehow also happened to have some kind of relationship with Falwell. At least one outlet has picked up this new article on the case by Aram Roston at Buzzfeed and claimed it says Michael Cohen brokered the deal. That’s definitely not what it says. Not close. But it certainly seems clear that Roston thinks that’s where this is going. And I bet he’s right.

Worksheet

Here’s a worksheet on how President Trump has dealt with and reacted to his various top advisors who have now pleaded guilty to various felonies.

Trump’s Hall of Mirrors

One of the most characteristic qualities of the Trump era is the deep-seated uncertainty. We talk a lot about the endemic chaos and unpredictability that President Trump seems to thrive on. But I mean something different. Most Presidents usually act in relatively predictable ways based on a more or less known set of basic beliefs and policy goals. The Trump White House operates very, very differently. Read More

He Leaves Little to the Imagination or Interpretation

President Trump makes everything so binary, everything so black and white, that there is an inevitable tendency to lionize anyone who goes into opposition to him. That is a tendency worth resisting, as much with out-going Secretary Mattis as with anyone else. I’m trying to resist over-interpreting his resignation letter. But it doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation. The critical passage in my mind comes here …

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“We Need Wall”

Here’s one of the weirder dimensions of late 2018 Trumpism. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me the word has apparently come down from the White House that the wall, as in the wall to be built along the southern border, must now be called “wall”. In other words, no definite article, no “the”. President Trump now does this. It was part of a DHS press release a week ago. And today in a congressional hearing, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Rep. Tom Marino: “From Congress I would ask for wall. We need wall.”

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READ BARR MEMO HERE

TPM’s Tierney Sneed obtained a copy of the lengthy Mueller-bashing memo that Attorney General nominee William Barr sent to the justice department earlier this year.

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