Editors’ Blog

Morning Reading

TPM’s Josh Kovensky reports on the beginnings of a high dollar donor revolt at the NRA centered on allegations of corruption and cronyism against longtime NRA chief Wayne LaPierre.

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What Happened in New York?

Let’s discuss this. There’s too little evidence here to support any clear theory. But given the current leadership of the Department of Justice, a hermeneutic of suspicion is called for. But consider these dates.

On Friday CNN reported that the US Attorneys Office in Manhattan appears to preparing to close its main investigation into the Trump Organization without filing any charges. Not every probe finds wrongdoing or chargeable offenses. But look at these two paragraphs …

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Maybe It Is Extortion
Virginia Roberts holds a photo of herself at age 16, when she says Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein began abusing her sexually.(Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)

One of the theories circulating about Jeffrey Epstein makes a certain logical sense on its face and yet, in practice – as something that really could be case as opposed to merely possible – it just seems too far-fetched. It goes like this. Running a procurement ring can’t make you billions or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Even an extortion ring couldn’t really put together those numbers. But maybe it worked something like this. Epstein does have some kind of money management fund. Maybe it’s not very successful. Maybe it’s just invested in an index fund or treasury bonds. But what if Epstein has the goods on a bunch of high rollers and for Epstein to stay silent they invest in his fund?

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On The Case!

Oral arguments in DC Circuit Court of Appeals on House Oversight Committee’s subpoena of President Trump’s accounting firm for his financial records. Tierney Sneed is in the courtroom, and Josh Kovensky is live-blogging it via the streaming audio.

New Poll

New NBC/WSJ Poll: Biden 26%, Warren 19%, Harris 13%, Sanders 13%, Buttigieg 7%. No one else over 2%.

Low Energy

This is turning out to be a quintessentially Trumpian day. The social media bias summit the White House is hosting today is made up of attendees best known as online pro-Trump hype men, pushing images, memes and videos portraying Trump as a sort of alternative reality he-man constantly stomping, vanquishing and owning his foes. And while all this has been going on the White House has been telling everyone Trump has some secret way to end-run the Supreme Court and get his census citizenship question on the census after all. And now, a couple hours before the announcement, we learn that this epic SCOTUS smackdown is actually a lot of don’t-look-behind-the-curtain razzmatazz to fuzz up what is actually Trump announcing he’s giving up, doing pretty much what his Justice Department announced a week ago but Trump apparently needed a week of hand holding and yessing to accept.

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The Player

An overnight article from the Times is the first to press past questions about Jeffrey Epstein’s wealth to suggesting that – like Donald Trump – it may all simply be an illusion. No one disputes that he’s a very wealthy man by any normal standard. He appears to own almost a quarter of a billion in real estate alone. But the claims of being a billionaire or running a fund which manages tens of billions of dollars appears to be based on very little.

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A Few Thoughts on the Acosta Presser

I watched the Acosta presser live all the way through and here’s my take.

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That’s A Weird Answer

Here’s Alex Acosta’s answer on that Daily Beast claim that he told Trump transition officials that he was told to lay off Epstein and that he was some sort of intelligence asset. That struck me as a pretty wild claim. But bizarrely Acosta non-denial denialed it with a claim about departmental policies which I don’t think adds up.

“I Was Told Epstein ‘Belonged to Intelligence’ And to Leave It Alone.”
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 22: Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is interviewed during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort in Oxon Hill, Md., on February 22, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In my earlier post I mentioned the reporting of Vicky Ward who did a lengthy piece on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003 and is now revisiting the story in The Daily Beast. (Ward had a detailed version of the underaged girls part of the story but Vanity Fair cut that from the 2003 story.) I wanted to flag your attention to a passage in her latest piece at The Daily Beast which reports that Acosta told Trump transition officials that he’d been told to back off the Epstein case at the time and that that was why he gave Epstein such a generous deal.

Here’s the passage …

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The Other Epstein Issue

We know the outlines of charges that Jeffrey Epstein for years had procurers recruiting underaged girls for sex. We know the suspicions that various wealthy and powerful men in his vast social circle may have been part of this organized system of statutory rape. But there’s another part of this emerging story I want to focus your attention on – one which is distinct but may not at all be separate.

No one seems to have a clear idea of where Jeffrey Epstein’s money comes from.

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Why Cities Lose
on December 31, 2015 in Philadelphia City.

Here’s an issue you likely know intuitively but is worth knowing and considering in more depth. Partisan gerrymandering is a scourge on our democracy and Republicans played it to maximum advantage in 2010. But it’s only part of the reason that Democrats play at a deep structural disadvantage in the House of Representatives. An equally big culprit is Democrats’ concentration in major urban enclaves. Indeed, the two are deeply intertwined. What we think of as partisan gerrymandering in its recent Republican guise is largely a matter of taking the existing concentration of Democrats in urban areas and playing it to maximum advantage. Put another way, if Democrats controlled states and tried to partisan gerrymander to their maximum advantage rather than produce ‘fair’ districts through commissions it simply wouldn’t be possible to do it as successfully as Republicans did in 2010-12.

The key to a successful partisan gerrymander is creating a large number of districts where your party has a strong but not overwhelming advantage and creating a small number of safe seats for your opponents where they have an overwhelming advantage and thus ‘waste’ lots of votes. Geography and demography simply make that much more possible for Republicans than Democrats.

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Uh Oh

It seems like General Flynn may have gotten tired of cooperating with the Feds, for some reason.

Trump Shifts Gears on Epstein Being a ‘Terrific Guy’

In comments a earlier this hour, President Trump shifted his stance on Jeffrey Epstein, now claiming he “was not a fan” and “had a falling out with him” many years ago. Video after the jump.

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Responding To Your Emails About Biden and the Polls

I got a flood of responses to yesterday’s post on Joe Biden’s poll numbers. As always, I learn from all of them. I should say that I know these posts provoke people. But it’s not mischievous provocation. It’s with a purpose. To that end, most of the replies were some form of making two points. First, we’re 18 months from the election. Polls can and do change and they don’t mean that much now. (TPM Reader AG sent me the link and text to this CNN write-up of an April 2004 Gallup poll showing John Kerry beating George W. Bush.) Second, Joe Biden sucks! By which they mean, as they explain, Biden has any number of already apparent weaknesses and liabilities – he’s old; he’s got a history running failed presidential campaigns; he’s on the line for various policies of the past which Democrats now repudiate; he’s old school and establishment; he’s out of touch with the aspirations and beliefs of younger and more diverse Democrats, etc etc. The point being that both within the Democratic primaries and in a hypothetical general election these liabilities will inevitably weigh him down and sink him regardless of what polls today may say.

I actually agree with a lot of these criticisms and said as much a few months ago. More than that, I worry they will weigh him down over time.

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I wanted to give you a quick update on our Prime AF special offer. Again, this is our offer for current Prime subscribers to try out Prime Ad Free (AF) for two weeks at no charge and with no obligation. So far a bit fewer than 2,000 of you have expressed interest in trying it out. Thanks! We hope to launch the special trial later this month. If you’ve told us you’re interested we will notify you by email as soon as it’s ready.

If you’d like to be notified (again, zero obligation) just click the read more for instructions.

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