Editor’s Blog

The Biggest Question on the Trump/Russia Story

A week ago I said we were at the end of the beginning of the Trump/Russia story. The big question of whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has been answered for anyone who has their eyes open. They did. The question is how far it went and what was involved. But there’s another question, related but distinct, which is in my mind perhaps the biggest question or mystery about the whole story. Read More

Only the Best

White House aide Stephen Miller reportedly had to be escorted off the CNN set after refusing to leave following his contentious interview with Jake Tapper.

That One’s Settled

One of the recurrent questions in political discussions is whether there may be some points of principle that unite forces on the right and left who otherwise agree on very little. The focus is usually on core issues of civil liberties and the rule of law.  The left may support a broad public commitment to providing health care for the public; the right may say it should all be determined by the market. But perhaps on these core issues there’s more agreement. Perhaps recognizing that is the due we should give to others we disagree with.

Recent events makes clear how baseless this assumption really is. Read More

Is President Trump Mentally Ill? It Doesn’t Matter
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he arrives for a New Year's Eve gala at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

We are now back on to the feverish debate about whether or not Donald Trump is mentally ill or suffering from the onset of dementia. The most important thing to know about this debate is that it simply doesn’t matter. Diagnoses are something for trained professionals and even they are challenged to make them without a proper in-person examination. But again, it doesn’t matter. Read More

Good Lord

Roy Moore accuser’s house burns down. Arson task force is investigating.

The Timeline Looks Worse and Worse for McGahn, Sessions AND Rosenstein

The Times published a big story yesterday that shed key new light on President Trump’s effort to control the Russia investigation and fire James Comey. I read it last night and immediately thought of how new details fit into what we already knew of the timeline surrounding Comey’s dismissal. I’m still putting my thoughts together on how this affects the larger Russia story. But I wanted to share with you the timeline I put together in addition to some additional thoughts (Prime access) on what it means, especially with respect to McGahn’s, Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s complicity in President Trump’s effort to protect himself from the probe. I use these to frame my thinking and visualize the chronological relationship between events.

The Bogus Voter Fraud Panel is Dead — But Don’t Exhale Yet

I tried to tease out in an Editor’s Brief (Prime access) just where the shuttering of the bogus Kobach voter fraud commission leaves us in terms of the fight over access to the ballot. TL;DR version: Don’t exhale yet.

And since this is my first post here, a bit about me: I’m a former TPM reporter, and I’m back as a senior editor. I’ve also been a reporter at MSNBC, and I wrote a book about the conservative assault on voting rights and democracy, published by Crown in 2016. Looking forward to offering my analysis on voting and democracy issues, among others, for Prime readers.

Did Trump Ever Have a Chance?
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives to speak during a campaign rally, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. From left, Eric Trump, Vanessa Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Karen Pence, Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Tiffany Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Six months ago I joked that the President’s defenders would eventually come around to arguing that we should pity the President rather than hold him in contempt because he’d been raised in a culture of criminality and had no experience following the law.

The weird thing is that I’m now coming around to that defense. Now, needless to say, it’s no defense. But allow me to explain. Because I do think it is illuminating, inasmuch as something as dark as President Trump’s predatory, criminal instincts can be brought to the light. Three times in recent days we’ve seen references to the President’s belief that Attorneys General for Presidents Kennedy and Obama protected them from the law and that Trump had great respect for this. He has displayed a running rage and contempt for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, once his most important political ally, because he failed in this most basic of duties: protecting the President from the law. Read More

“They Thought This Was Going to Be A Positive Book”

“The communications team urged all of the senior advisors to cooperate. They thought this was going to be a positive book for the President.”

We’ve Seen The Lawyer Threatening Bannon and Wolff Before

A quick look at Charles Harder (Prime access), the lawyer at the center of the Trump-Bannon-Wolff spat, who has had a role behind the headlines quite a bit in recent years.

1984 Meets The Wizard of Oz

This was quite bizarre even for this White House …

Editor’s Brief

A couple of additional thoughts (Prime access) on Tierney Sneed’s latest.

Taking Stock of Another Manic Trump Morning

We thought all hell was breaking loose yesterday. We were wrong. That’s happening today. The idea that a sitting President is threatening to sue a former top staffer over an NDA and (putative) defamation is so comically ridiculous as to defy rationality and mark a new summit of nonsense even in the nonsense pile of the Trump presidency. Taking the matter on the merits, it is hard to imagine the number of first amendment-based fences Trump and his lawyer (the same lawyer who Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel used to destroy Gawker. Really.) have to jump to sustain this. In any case, close to a certainty, there will be no lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Matt Drudge is shooting off a series of tweets that appear to be either a prediction or a suggestion or perhaps even a report that the owners of Breitbart News will fire Steve Bannon. On this a minor digression … Since Breitbart the website has become a strange amalgam of right-wing chop shop with a Stalinist sensibility purveying fake news with an antic edge, there’s been a backdrop of criticism on the right that the Bannon-era Breitbart represents a betrayal of the late Andrew Breitbart who died in 2012. Read More

Some Random Speculations about Trump, Bannon, and Wolff
President Donald Trump talks with Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Toby Cosgrove during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Washington. From left are, Cosgrove, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

I am trying to write a book, but I keep getting diverted by events in my hometown. The latest is the furor over Michael Wolff’s portrayal of Donald Trump and Trump’s break with his former aide Steve Bannon. I have three marginal reflections about this that have to do with Trump’s physical and mental state and with the way he governs.

Read More

President Dissolves ‘Election Integrity’ Commission

Just released by the White House. Read More

Following the Money in 2019

It got lost in today’s Bannon hysteria but we just saw a preview of the Democrats 2019 Trump investigations agenda. I explain (Prime access).

The End of the Beginning
President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

One of the things we will be focusing on on the Russia front in 2018 is not simply breaking a lot of news but on narrating the bigger picture. It can be a difficult story to make sense of because it has so many tentacles. There are so many disparate and far-flung parts to keep track of and make sense of. One of the top themes of Glenn Simpson’s and Peter Fritsch’s must-read oped published yesterday in The New York Times is that the focus on conspiracy during the 2016 campaign cycle has almost totally eclipsed examination of Donald Trump’s longstanding involvement with the Russian criminal underworld and money laundering which laid the basis of what happened in 2016. (That has always seemed to be Trump’s greatest fear.) We’ll come back to that.

So where are we now in this story? A series of revelations in the final weeks of 2017 placed us at what we should think not as the beginning or the end but the end of the beginning. We are still only at the front end of this investigation. We still know only the outlines of what happened and how. But we are past any serious question about whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. There was. It’s no longer a matter of probability, even high probability. We know it from either undisputed facts or sworn statements from Trump associates now cooperating with the Mueller investigation. Read More

A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderderp

Michele Bachmann was in many ways the John the Baptist of Trumpism, foretelling his coming and laying the ground of the Crazy to come. With Bachmann back in the news mulling a run for Al Franken’s senate seat, we put together a look at her wildest, most pre-Trumpian Trumpian moments (Prime access) that led to today. I’m amazed how much of this insane stuff I’d forgotten about.

Dangerous New Turn
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan speaks during a news conference in Washington, Thursday, May 11, 2017, to announce the results of a national operation targeting gang members and associates. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

This is a dangerous development but likely inevitable as Trumpism seeps into the government. The acting director of ICE is calling for the arrest of public officials in ‘sanctuary’ cities and states. Homan isn’t a Trump appointee. He’s career immigration service.

I’m Not Seeing It

Steve Bannon is talking about going into Utah to battle Mitt Romney, if Romney chooses to run to succeed Orrin Hatch. Clearly, Utah is a very, very conservative state. But it’s shown itself to be considerably more resistant to Trumpism than other highly conservative states. Even McMullin didn’t win there. But he made a strong showing. The Mormon Church has too, again, relative to other generally conservative religious denominations. Obviously, Bannon would need a candidate. And a lot would depend on that. But I’m skeptical that Bannon’s style of louche and grimy race conservatism plays well in Utah, especially against someone like Romney.

Canvassing Top Supporters

Michele Bachmann is asking God whether she should run for Al Franken’s senate seat.

Skies Are Actually Significantly Friendlier

President Trump’s ridiculous tweet this morning – taking credit for a record low number of civil aviation fatalities this year – made me think about the remarkable record over the last two decades. Read More

And We’re Back

As a small organization we go to a skeleton staff over the two end of year-long weekends. But here we are. It’s the second day of the year. And we are back. I am going to share some thoughts later today on the state of the Russia investigation, which seems to me to be at the end of the beginning. More on that later this morning. What I want to share with you is that this will be a special and transformative year in the life of this organization.

I already mentioned yesterday that I am optimistic about 2018 on the public front. I want to share with you what we plan to do on the TPM front. Read More

In Search of the Black Confederate Unicorn

Two South Carolina legislators who sponsored a bill to erect a monument to African-American Confederate Veterans were confronted over the weekend with new evidence that the men they wish to honor never existed. Read More

Thoughts on 2018
President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with members of the Coast Guard who he invited to play golf at Trump International Golf Club, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The last couple years have had a way of making saps and chumps out of optimists. They’ve gotten shot down enough they don’t even want to poke your head above the parapet. Optimism is an ethic and an attitude, not a belief. But surveying the ground in recent days I’ve seen hints of better things afoot for 2018. Read More

Time Out of Mind

Reading your responses (for which I thank you) to my post on Bob Dylan’s ‘Christian period’ music, I thought I’d go back through our archives and try to pull together everything I’ve written about Dylan over the years. I was mainly surprised at just how little I had in fact written. My knowledge of how much thought I’ve given to the matter and my memory of putting together words to convey those thoughts simply doesn’t match up with the evidence. I have some sneaking fear that some stuff may be hidden in our imperfectly indexed archives. But selective memory is the more logical culprit. Read More

2017 Golden Dukes Winners Announced!

TPM is pleased to announce the winners of the 11th Annual Golden Duke Awards recognizing the year’s best purveyors of public corruption, outlandish behavior, The Crazy, and general nonsense in this fine nation’s political arena. The awards are named in honor of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the poster boy of the wacky modern scandal (for now, at least).

Our celebrity judges—Susie Bright, Katherine Krueger, Simon Maloy, KT Nelson and Erin Ryan—waded through the muck of all 34 finalists in seven categories, and selected the winners.

Check out the lucky nominees and reader/staff suggestions that selected them here. And now, drum roll please, the winners:

Read More

Even Trump Knows SALT is a Problem
President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with children as they track Santa's movements with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)  Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

It seems revealing to me that key Republicans are already suggesting that the new GOP tax law was too generous to corporations and the wealthy. This is not to valorize these voices. They knew this a week ago when they voted for the bill. But those who are least principled are often the most sensitive feel for public opinion. That is how to see these day-two faux-second thoughts. Read More

Saving the California GOP House Delegation

Here’s a fascinating look at how California Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to survive 2018. As I’ve mentioned, on top of the general unpopularity of President Trump, California is one of the states hardest hit by the end of most deductions for SALT taxes. Altogether it could crush what remains of the still sizable Republican House delegation from California (39-D, 14-R). How to survive? Led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, they plan to hitch their fates to a proposition to repeal a new gas tax dedicated to roads and infrastructure spending.

The aim seems less to change minds as simply to make certain Republicans turnout. They need every angle they can get. Not surprisingly, the new tax is not terribly popular, certainly not among Republicans. But it actually has a fair degree of support among business groups who are major GOP donors but yet realize that a decrepit infrastructure is bad for business.

Read His Words More Closely

I heard the Times Carl Hulse a few moments ago on CNN tell Dana Bash that he thought President Trump saying Bob Mueller would “be fair” contradicted and in some ways complicated the chorus of attacks on Mueller we see from Republicans on Capitol Hill. ‘You say Mueller is biased and on a witch hunt. But the President himself says Mueller is fair’, and so forth. I think this misreads what the President said. Read More