Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: The Drip Drip Of Proof Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

CNN exclusively obtained audio of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s messy conversation with Ukrainian officials, attempting to pressure the government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden.

It didn’t reveal much beyond confirming what we already knew and have known since the first impeachment — there was a quid pro quo.

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Trump and Netanyahu and the Politics of Burn It All Down Prime Badge

From an American perspective the most interesting thing right now about the political crisis in Israel is how closely it maps to the one in the United States: a right wing political leader who simply refuses to accept losing office. Since we discussed this last Netanyahu and his supporters have continued the campaign of incitement against the right wing members of the incoming government. After the head of the country’s domestic security service issued an all but unprecedented warning about incitement and the risk of civil violence or assassinations, Netanyahu responded with even more incitement. In reply he made a perfunctory statement about incitement and then told his supporters to “let’em have it.” So, not really getting the message.

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There Aren’t Republican Votes for the Voting Rights Act Either

Joe Manchin has made the point that passing the upgrade to the Voting Rights Act – the so-called John Lewis Voting Rights Act – is a better path to securing voting rights than the For the People Act. Voting Rights types generally don’t agree. You need both, they say. But the whole question is sort of moot because, as TPM alum Sahil Kapur notes, there aren’t any Republican votes for the Voting Rights Act either. Or rather, there is one GOP supporter, Lisa Murkowski.

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Don’t Worry About It? Prime Badge

On the infrastructure front, TPM Reader MC thinks Manchin’s talk is mostly just talk, made to put himself at the center of the conversation and maximize his leverage when final negotiations get underway on an actual bill. I will add that this is broadly consistent with what I’ve heard from people close to the decision-making processes. And it’s always seemed to me like the most likely scenario. Still, hope is not a plan.

Your recent post is great, but to my mind misses something about Manchin’s possible decision process.

It’s been known for a long time that drafting the infrastructure legislation would take awhile. Back in early April, Pelosi said publicly that she hoped the text would be ready by July 4, with a vote in August. The timeline hasn’t been extended by Manchin’s hemming and hawing.

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Where Things Stand: Willing Hostages With No Agenda Prime Badge
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Former President Trump spoke at a GOP convention gathering in North Carolina over the weekend, where he not only gave his endorsement in the state’s crowded Republican primary for an open Senate seat, but also vowed to continue weighing in on races that will be crucial to the party’s midterm success.

The key ingredient to earning that coveted Trump endorsement, of course, remains fealty to the former president and his ongoing list of grievances.

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Making Sense of the Big DC Summer #2

Sometimes a writer will take a bundle of ideas that have been floating around in a lot of other peoples’ heads and commit them to paper with clarity and concision. If you are one of the other people in whose mind the ideas have been floating, seeing this happen can be both illuminating and annoying. But if someone else wrote them down before you did it likely wasn’t just a matter of speed. It was because you hadn’t done the work of taking the inchoate impressions and feelings that occupy all of our minds and whittling them down to concrete assertions and arguments that others can readily understand. We don’t really know what we think until we are able to commit it to the written word.

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Making Sense of the Big DC Summer #1 Prime Badge

I got a decent amount of pushback on this rather pessimistic post I published Friday evening about the fate of the President’s legislative agenda – particularly for saying the White House was ‘adrift’. This is particularly about the President’s two big infrastructure bills. But it’s also about the President’s broader and quite ambitious legislative agenda – S1/H1 and a raft of other bills which would require some tweaking or squeezing of the filibuster because they can’t be passed through the 50 vote reconciliation process and they won’t get 60 votes.

First, it’s good to hear from you. If you’re involved in the process either at the White House or on the Hill or in the broader para-political process, please get in touch. Hit me at the main TPM email or my personal email and if you need a secure messaging option I can make that happen too.

On to the details.

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How the Death of a 99 Year Old Arch-Segregationist Helps Explain The Trumpite GOP Prime Badge

John Patterson, former segregationist Governor of Alabama, died on Friday at the age of 99. In an interview with The Washington Post for what would later be his obituary, he said “Having a record of supporting segregation is a terrible burden to bear.” In 2008 he announced he’d be voting for Barack Obama for President, 50 years after his election as Governor.

Patterson is one of the last in a pretty long list of segregationist luminaries who later came to regret and recant their support for Jim Crow. We’re right to have limits on our patience for too much of these latter-day apologies. But Patterson’s story is instructive for understanding the current drive of radicalization within the Republican party.

All of these guys were segregationists to start with and all of them were racists, certainly by the standards of today and in pretty much every case by the standards of their own. But pretty few of them were the most racist and few got into politics with strong positions either way on segregation or the racial politics of their day.

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Israel on the Brink Prime Badge

I’ve mentioned a few times that Israel appears to be on course for a Jan 6th type moment. The possibility of that seems much more serious than when I first suggested it. The chance that Netanyahu and his supporters will be able to break free a few defectors from the new coalition government and prevent it from being sworn in seems perhaps to be diminishing. But the chance of violence of some sort or at least the expectation of it seems to be growing rapidly. The head of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, just issued what seems to be an all but unprecedented warning that the climate of incitement threatens not only violence but a breakdown of the democratic order itself. The message seems clear aimed at Netanyahu without mentioning him by name.

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We Must Sail, Not Drift
The White House is Adrift and on a Path to Defeat
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13, 2021: President Joe Biden makes a brief statement to the press during a meeting with a group of republican senators, including Sen. Shelley Capito (R-WV), right, to discuss the administration’s infrastructure plan, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 13, 2021. CREDIT: T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Politico has a “West Wing Playbook” newsletter that focuses tightly on the Biden White House. Their note this evening was “Biden: Speak softly and carry a big carrot”. The update looks at the topic I discussed below: what’s going on? what is the White House’s plan to move off the legislative drift that has become the order of the day. There are some ins and outs in their account. Biden’s comfort zone is persuasion rather than threats. That matches with what we know of him.

But my real takeaway from their write-up, albeit not what they say, is that really no one has any idea what’s going on. That’s not a failure of reporting. These folks and others like them have the sources and skills to ferret out the gist of what is in play. But you can’t find something that isn’t there. Chuck Schumer told his Senate colleagues last week that he’s going to start bringing all the big legislation to the floor this month. If Republicans are going to filibuster these bills they’re going to have to actually do it, not just get their way with the passive threat. This is the shift in gears that many Democrats have been waiting for. But I don’t think the White House has a plan for how to change the current dynamic.

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Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: Two Tracks

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is now live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss Democrats’ efforts to ratchet up the pressure on a few specific filibuster-loving Senate colleagues. Meanwhile, former President Trump has traded in his blog for the rally stage (and hopes of a late-summer coup?)

Watch below and email us your questions for next week’s episode.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Bad to Worse In the Senate

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told MSNBC’s Garrett Haake last night about what’s going on in the Senate. Basically he’s digging in. Not only no movement on the filibuster – but he seems to be saying no infrastructure bill via reconciliation either. Just to drop this out of Senate jargon, that means nothing on infrastructure that Republicans don’t approve. For clarity, Republicans seem locked into an infrastructure bill of around $200 billion – just over 1/10 the size Biden originally proposed. And they want to fund that by clawing back COVID relief money.

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Must Read

Definitely take a moment to read Matt Shuham’s new piece on Proud Boys and other violent paramilitary groups now contending to control county Republican parties across the country. This example is about the situation around Portland, Oregon. But it’s part of a much larger story across the country, and particularly in the western United States. I wrote a couple weeks ago about a similar situation in Nevada. Definitely read and if you can share Matt’s piece.

How Netanyahu Could Still Remain in Power Prime Badge

Benjamin Netanyahu’s dozen years as Israel’s Prime Minister are most likely coming to an end. The new government should be sworn in sometime next week. But it’s still not a done deal because Netanyahu and many of his supporters view his removal from office – even by a unity government led by one of his former proteges – as existential. I’ve mentioned several times the January 6th analogy. But every political system has different mechanisms and every country has a unique political culture. So how could Netanyahu manage to remain in power either by norm-busting but still technically legitimate means or by extra-legal and extra-constitutional means?

Let’s start with the central fact: For the moment the new government is only a proposed government. To come formally into power it must be approved by a vote of 61 members of the Knesset, the country’s parliament. The coalition has to keep everyone on board for several days so they cast those 61 votes.

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Organizing the New Jan 6th

Wild details here about the situation in Mar-a-Lago. Ex-President Trump apparently spends his days channel surfing looking for any new news about the Arizona “audit”. He will appear at a rally next week in which he’ll be introduced as the “real president”.

Israel Gallops Toward Its Own Jan 6th Prime Badge

By rights, it’s over and in effect it probably is over. Last night Israel’s opposition finalized and formally agreed to create a coalition government that will remove Benjamin Netanyahu from power. The coalition stretches from the right to the left and includes an Arab Israeli Islamist party. The architect of the new government is opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose deftness, patience and self-abnegation in this effort is really hard to capture or overstate. He has the signed document, which will make the right-wing Naftali Bennett Prime Minister for the government’s first two years, and he’s brought that to the country’s President. In the Israeli system, that’s it, all but the formality of the parties who just agreed to the deal voting it into power in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

But Netanyahu isn’t letting go.

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Israel Has a New Government

Literally in the final hour, members of the so-called ‘change coalition’ have finalized an agreement to form a coalition government and presented it to the President. Caretaker Prime Minister Netanyahu has one more card to play but it’s hope and against hope and veering increasingly into Jan 6th territory. A Netanyahu ally, Yariv Levin, is the Speaker of the Knesset. And he and Netanyahu’s supporters have said he will simply refuse to hold the vote that confirms the new government. That is not really a thing. It’s pretty close to the Israeli system’s version of refusing to accept the electoral college ballots. It’s not clear how long he can he do that legally. Some have said he could conceivably delay for as long as a week. To what end? The coalition is so fragile that the hope is that a few more days might break it apart. Then Netanyahu gets to remain perpetual Prime Minister.

Really, though, this almost certainly means Netanyahu is through. Or at least through as the incumbent Prime Minister. The reality of the situation may lead to them jettisoning that plan.

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TPM Inside Briefing With Paul Krugman Prime Badge

Yesterday we held an Inside Briefing with Paul Krugman in which we discussed pretty much all the economic policy questions (and the political debates growing out of them) of the early Biden presidency. We talk about the Biden infrastructure plan, inflation, chronic under-investment, Larry Summers, whether deficits matter and more.

If you’re a member, you can watch our discussion after the jump. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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Where Things Stand: Trump Is Only Now Catching Up To The MyPillow Guy Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

By now you’ve likely seen new reporting from the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman: Former President Trump is telling people that he expects he will be “reinstated” to the presidency in August.

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Trump Shutters Own Blog

Remarkable. Ex-President Trump appears to have had a tantrum and shut down his blog. This appears to come after news reports that it was receiving only a tiny amount of traffic. It ran for about 30 days. Sad.

Jan 6th Continues

According to Maggie Haberman and Byron York, ex-President Trump is telling associates he expects to be reinstalled in the White House in a coup some time this summer. This is best seen as an open invitation and encouragement of more January 6th style political violence focused on the late summer of 2021.

Thunder in the Distance Prime Badge

With Texas Democrats refusing to attend a state legislative session in an effort to block the state’s election crackdown law it reminded TPM Reader MR of a similar instance 18 years ago. It was a story I covered closely at TPM, and MR dropped me a note this morning reminding me. It’s more than just a trip down memory lane. What happened in 2003 in Texas was a preview, prologue to almost everything that would happen over the subsequent two decades. It presaged the debt ceiling hostage taking; it presaged Merrick Garland; and it presaged Donald Trump.

As we know from looking forward to the 2022 midterm, once a decade there’s a federal Census, a reapportionment of congressional seats and redistricting in every state that has more than one representative. It happened in 2010, setting the ground work for Republicans storming back into the majority in the House. Democrats rightly fear something similar will happen next year.

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We Talk Biden, Infrastructure, Inflation and Larry Summers with Paul Krugman

We had an Inside Briefing this afternoon with Paul Krugman where we talked about Biden’s agenda, inflation, under-investment, deficits, infrastructure, the fed and a lot more. I was really looking forward to this discussion because … well, we’re on totally different policy and economic terrain than we were two years ago. And I’ve been trying to get my head around new debates about inflation, distinguishing between nonsense and scare talk on the one hand and concerns which may be overblown but are also reasonable. We also talked about Paul’s concern that Biden’s medium to long term spending policies may not be aggressive enough.

Anyway, fascinating conversation, I think. If you’re a member, we’ll be posting it tomorrow here in the Editor’s Blog.

Also, for podcast listeners, this week’s episode will be dropping Thursday rather than Wednesday this week.

Some Thoughts on the COVID ‘Lab Leak’ Theory Prime Badge

Are you having trouble keeping up on the press discussion of a ‘lab leak’ theory of the origins of COVID? Here are a few pointers.

Broadly speaking, there’s seldom been an example of a more rapid shift in public opinion or rather elite conventional wisdom in the face of so little changing evidence. A bunch of right wing or right-adjacent columnists are running around high-fiving each other and patting themselves on the back about how “the media” got it wrong.

On balance, this isn’t true. What happened is that from the outset China-hawks who were largely out to defend Donald Trump made a series of baseless accusations about COVID either being a bioweapon or the accidental release of a Chinese biological warfare weapon. When that got shot down (there’s strong genomic evidence against this), they retreated to a more conventional lab accident as their pet theory. The best one can say is that most journalists became reflexively skeptical to all such claims since they were mainly coming from people who are professional liars with obvious axes to grind.

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Where Things Stand: A Big Lie Weekend Prime Badge
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A few prominent Republicans and Trump allies opted to celebrate one of America’s more patriotic federal holidays by hanging out with QAnon supporters and promoting the big lie.

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I took a peek at Joe Biden’s poll numbers yesterday evening. They’re holding up pretty well four months into his presidency. 538 has a composite approval rating this morning of 53.6%. By longterm historical standards that’s anemic for an incoming president. It’s decent by more recent standards. But what jumps out more than anything is the stability. Biden’s support has undulated only slightly in a narrow two or three point band. Indeed, Biden looks like the inverse of Donald Trump – with support in the low-mind 50s and disapproval hovering just over 40%. The same basic division is in place from last year to this, as though nothing had happened – except that that narrow majority – mid-low-50s – has their president in office.

Bibi’s Insurrection

If it were anyone else but Benjamin Netanyahu it would be 100% clear his Prime Ministership is over and a new government will be sworn in later this week. That still seems highly likely. But since it is Benjamin Netanyahu, who has 900 political lives and has managed to remain Prime Minister after multiple losses and stalemate elections, no one can be sure.

Even with all this it is remarkable to watch the wild and desperate moves from Netanyahu and his supporters to upend what seems increasingly close to inevitable. They have unleashed a fusillade of attacks and incitement against Naftali Bennett and his political ally Ayelet Shaked, both members of the religious zionist Yamina party. Not a few have compared the current climate of incitement against these two and Yair Lapid, the architect of the new government, to that in weeks preceding the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, has ordered increased security for Bennett and Shaked. Lapid already has a security detail as head of the opposition.

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They Still Don’t Get It

Here’s an article in Ha’aretz describing concerns about Israeli national security and foreign policy officials about the extent of damage to the country’s relationship with the Democratic party during Benjamin Netanyahu’s long reign. Not surprisingly they are less concerned about the high profile criticism of AOC or Rashida Tlaib than the uncharacteristically muted and equivocal support from stalwarts like Jerry Nadler and Robert Menendez.

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We’ll Know in the Next Three Days Whether Netanyahu is Done Prime Badge

Never say never and all that. But it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu’s dozen years as PM may be on the verge of ending. He was on the same precipice two weeks ago when his erstwhile ally and protege Naftali Bennett was negotiating to form a government with opposition leader Yair Lapid. Then the outbreak of inter-communal violence within Israel and another shooting war with Gaza led Bennett to foreswear that option and go back to negotiating with Netanyahu. Now Bennett is back to apparently finalizing that deal with Lapid.

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Where Things Stand: As Commission Vote Fails, Gaetz Flirts With Idea Of Political Violence Prime Badge
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UNITED STATES - JULY 1: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.,attends the House Armed Services Committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in Longworth Building on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) continued their tour of terribleness last night.

As arguably the most Trumpy and scandal-plagued lawmakers in the House, the two have been holding a series of weird MAGA rallies around the country in recent weeks for unclear reasons — perhaps to prove their fealty to the master, to burnish their brand, or just because the two have nothing better to do. One has no committee assignments because she threatened violence against her now-colleagues on social media in the past. The other is under federal investigation for the possible sex trafficking of a minor. As Trump maintains — only the best people.

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