Editors’ Blog

Which Side Are You On?

Unfortunately I think TPM Reader JB is right about this …

One other difference between Sen. Manchin and Sen. Tester you might have mentioned in your podcast this week is that Manchin is self-consciously wealthy.

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The Jan 6 Investigation Puts the Legal Profession on Trial Too

I’ve noted several times over recent weeks that former President Trump lacks most of the unique protections he had as President. That means the Jan 6th committee should be able to press a real investigation whereas the House committees in the previous Congress and the two impeachment processes could not. Much of this is because ex-Presidents have no executive privilege. But it’s just as much that they don’t control the Justice Department and that possession is 9/10ths of the law. The current President, in some cases directly and in others indirectly, has custody of the records of the government of the United States. But it’s a small wrinkle to this story that I want to expand on today, both because it’s interesting to know in its own right but because it’s a window into how this latest investigation really puts not only the judiciary but the elite legal profession itself on trial.

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Time To Act

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the plodding reconciliation negotiations, coming showdown on the Jan. 6 committee, and quasi-revival of the stalled-out voting rights push.

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

Where Things Stand: Sinema Is Fundraising For Dems In Europe Right Now Because What Could Be More Pressing Prime Badge
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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is spending her Senate recess in Europe, fundraising for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, her office confirmed to the New York Times this week.

It’s curious that Sinema has taken it upon herself to be a shining visage for the Democratic Party overseas when her mere existence as a senator is holding up the entire party agenda. But that, we are coming to learn, is par for the course for the Arizona senator.

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Youngkin Ducks Jan 6 Salute Controversy

Here’s Virginia GOP Gov candidate Glenn Youngkin when asked this afternoon about the flag from the Jan 6th insurrection which supporters pledged allegiance to at Youngkin campaign rally last night.

Youngkin: “So to be clear I don’t think … if that … I wasn’t involved so I don’t know. but if that is the case then we shouldn’t pledge allegiance to that flag. and oh by the way I’ve been so clear there is no place for violence … none, none in America today.”

Here’s the video …

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No More Delay

There are reports this morning that Democrats are planning to punt some of the President’s BBB agenda into a 2022 reconciliation package. On its face that sounds awful. Big stuff gets harder to do, not easier, the closer you get to an election – especially one you think won’t go well. But this is actually a good thing. Or at least a necessary thing. It’s critical to get this legislative long march wrapped up, voted on and signed absolutely as soon as possible. I noted yesterday that I just don’t see a recognition of that urgency from the players on the Hill and the White House. Each day that goes by passage of any of the agenda gets less likely and the electoral consequences of this drawn out season of political impotence grows.

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Where Things Stand: Airlines Buck Abbott’s Confusing Anti-Mandate Mandate Prime Badge
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Two Texas-based airlines plan to follow federal regulations about vaccination mandates, defying the state’s Republican governor’s recent mandate barring such mandates in the Lone Star State.

How many times can we say mandate?

Gov. Greg Abbott’s whole positioning on COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Texas would be amusing if it weren’t so dark. Abbott passed an executive order on Monday, banning “any entity” from adopting vaccine requirements in the state, even if private businesses want to implement them and/or follow federal requirements on vaccinations for employees. His order is hyper-focused on the badness of government mandates, while being a mandate in and of itself.

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Podcast Delay

The next episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast with me and Kate Riga will delayed one day. Look for it in your downloads tomorrow afternoon.

Is Garland Up To the Job?

I get the sense that the Jan 6th committee is moving rapidly toward holding non-compliant Trumpers in contempt and asking the Justice Department to prosecute refusers like Steve Bannon for criminal contempt. That appears to be TPM Alum Greg Sargent’s sense too. Of course, talk is cheap. And there’s a chorus of understandably frustrated Democrats saying “we’ll believe it when they see it.” But my assumption is that the committee members know their statements over the last week have raised the stakes for themselves dramatically. If they don’t, they are prepping a huge backlash from a lot of people who are tired of seeing Trumpers make the law an object of contempt.

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Shatner in Space
In his comments to Jeff Bezos right after a brief excursion to the edge of space, Shatner turns the culture of Star Trek on its head.

As you may have seen, Jeff Bezos invited William Shatner to take a trip on one of his Blue Origin suborbital space flights this morning. It went all according to plan. Shatner spoke about the experience on live television with Bezos by his side.

As a lifelong Star Trek fan I won’t scuff this up with any cynicism or critical voice. It’s 100% awesome. Shatner is 90 and by appearances in fairly robust health for his age. It is still striking, though, and inspiring that someone his age, when the body can become so fragile, can do what he did this morning. For all the refinements and comforts, traveling about 60 miles straight up in 3 or 4 minutes still unleashes vast physical stresses on the body. And yet he popped out of the capsule seemingly none the worse for wear, not even a bit wobbly from the zigzag from 3G to zero gravity and back.

The big quote making the rounds this morning is this: “I hope I never recover from this” – one of Shatner’s first lines after emerging from the capsule. But it’s something very different that caught my attention.

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Everything You Might Have Missed On The Reconciliation Negotiations

Congress is in recess and the firehose of public positioning we’ve experienced over the last several weeks will slow to a trickle during these next few days. But important work is still being done on the reconciliation package … or, so we hope.

Kate Riga will have an evening briefing, giving you the latest at the end of each day — at least until senators return to DC. Check out the first installment here.

Where Things Stand: Are Workers Getting Fed Up With COVID-Era Aggression? Prime Badge
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TPM has been covering the way in which the pandemic and the public health measures necessary to tamp it down have resulted in periodic eruptions of anger, often egged on by opportunistic, MAGA-aligned politicians. It’s become a theme for us: the specter of violence in politics that’s simmered for the last few years, predating the pandemic but inflamed by it.

But of course, the current level of public outrage is not limited to the political sphere of life. Anecdotal reporting — and, increasingly, data — suggest there might be an economic corollary to this trend as well.

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The Trash Talk of the Righteous

Last week in a risible fit of pearl-clutching Senate Republicans expressed that they were aghast that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took a swipe at them just as they were extending the hand of bipartisan fellowship to bring the nation together. Washington’s worthies seemed to agree. It was that worst of offenses. It was uncalled for. Welcome to the DC black hole, where titanic gravity bends people’s minds, even the good people.

As Matt Cooper points out here, the real outrage – echoed by all the press worthies – is that Schumer told the truth: Senate Republicans again took the nation’s “full faith and credit” hostage in a reckless and dishonest effort to sow chaos at the expense of the safety of the Republic. For once they were outmaneuvered and had to beat a retreat. They blinked. Indeed, their caucus is so addicted to anti-constitutional hi-jinx and legislative junkie behavior that it required a herculean effort to execute the cave – Republicans struggling to break their own filibuster to head off reform of the filibuster. Good times, as they say. Schumer said McConnell blinked, that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves and that it’s a good thing Democrats held tough to force them to cave. This is all accurate.

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The Winter of Our Discontent

This is truly the season of Democrats’ discontent. Ezra Klein has this piece about David Shor, which is an interesting and illuminating read on its own terms but is also a window into these anxious, verging on frenzied intra-Democratic debates. You’ll find neologisms like “popularism” which is a sort of hipster, data-science rebranding of what a generation of Democrats have ridiculed as poll-tested, consultant-driven campaigning. Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong!

The idea is that Democrats, clustered in major cities and lead by a cadre of hyper-educated activists and campaign professionals, have political views that are much to the left of the average voter and much more to the left than they realize. Given the range of structural factors weighted against them – electoral college, gerrymandering, Big Lies, etc. – their only hope is to mercilessly review their policy wishlists, choose the ones that poll really well and shut up about the rest.

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A Haunting Must-Read

It’s hard to describe just what’s in this article. Have you read the book or seen the movie Holes? It’s like a real life version of that – a tucked away county in Tennessee where a judge who’s barely even a lawyer presides over a kingdom of juvenile imprisonment.

Treat Trump Like the Common Perp He Is
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)

We appear to be moving toward a critical moment for rule of law in the United States, where it will finally be vindicated or a mockery. Unsurprisingly, former President Trump instructed his aides to defy the Jan 6th committee’s subpoenas. The legal instructions were reported yesterday by Politico and the Post. They involve mostly hand-waving with turns at executive privilege, lawyer client privilege and various others. None of these aides are lawyers and they are not the President’s lawyers. Former Presidents have no executive privilege. Or to put it more precisely, executive privilege inheres in the office of the presidency, not individuals. The President is Joe Biden. Not Donald Trump. It’s up to him to make such an argument. Trump can ask.

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The Kids at the Insider Sheets

In recent months I’ve become paradoxically addicted to scanning the top insider sheets as they come out through the day – Politico, Punchbowl, Axios – because they’re like a direct injection of the DC establishment, insider zeitgeist. It’s not that you couldn’t find that before. I started TPM in many ways to critique that mindset and worldview. But it’s sort of like the way competition has made illicit drugs more concentrated and potent over the years. These sheets give it to you in a more concentrated form. They are each in competition with each other to refine and recut the giddiness, knowing expressions, punch phrases and conventional wisdom production into shorter and shorter bursts. In any case, not great for the country or journalism: but good for me inasmuch as I can observe it in one place so easily.

This morning I opened Punchbowl. And the story is: THE SPEECH. What’s the speech? Yesterday evening as Republicans were scrambling to overcome their own filibuster Chuck Schumer gave some short remarks in which he lambasted Republicans for their recklessness and fecklessness. They played chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States and thank God they lost. And now they were scrambling to put the genie of their own recklessness back in the bottle. So you suck, you lost and don’t suck next time.

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Where Things Stand: Facebook Whistleblower In Talks With Jan 6 Committee About Insurrection Prime Badge
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Frances Haugen

The Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen — who I wrote about earlier this week — is expected to meet with the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the insurrection, and might have already shared testimony with the committee.

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Charge’em
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. On Saturday, President Trump is making several phone calls with world leaders from Japan, Germany, Russia, France and Australia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

That’s what TPM Reader PJ says …

Maybe this is out there, but I think Trump should be charged for election fraud ASAP. Let’s start with the topline: by any reasonable standard you already have enough evidence to charge him, and probably convict him: one needs say little about the Senate report that was not already partially in plain sight with Trump’s own talk about the election, its corruption, etc. But the report’s release today underscores that you’ve got plenty of evidence against Trump and also evidence to indict many of his toadies that might rat on him.

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Reconciliation Is Risen

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate recap the abrupt resurrection of the reconciliation package last week, and look ahead to the debt ceiling standoff.

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

Whoa Nelly

The deepest corruption surrounding the Big Lie was Trump’s weaponization of the Justice Department. Big new report from the Senate Judiciary Committee just out this morning on exactly that aspect of the conspiracy.

Abject Fold
Where Things Stand: Grassley Congratulates Korean-American Nominee On ‘Work Ethic’ Of ‘Your People’ Prime Badge
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If confirmed, Lucy Koh, one of President Biden’s judicial nominees, would become the first Korean American to serve as a U.S. appeals court judge.

During the start of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — an 88-year-old who just announced he’s running for another six-year term — made a remark that could only be interpreted as wildly inappropriate, at best, and pretty racist, at worst.

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Here’s Why McConnell Blinked

Why is Mitch McConnell blinking? Let’s be clear: this is a blink, not a cave. There’s a lot to play out. But here is the gist. Democrats refusal to budge on using reconciliation to beat Republicans’ repeated filibusters is moving quickly toward a situation where there will literally be only two options: filibuster carve-out or debt default. Those are both very bad options to McConnell. As I noted yesterday, this isn’t a matter of saying “Oh Democrats are tougher. They won’t cave.” It’s that the mechanics of reconciliation will mean there’s no more time. They’ll have no way to cave. That calendar reality creates a very bad situation for McConnell.

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This Is McConnell’s First Blink
Negotiating with the Cable Nets

TPM Reader TD is 100% on the mark here …

I think you’re on the right track about ATT and OAN, but I think you’re overthinking it. Might there be some ideology influencing the ATT decision to suggest the formation of OAN? Sure, but that’s secondary.

What is corporate ideology? Money. Profit.

Fox had little to no competition as a conservative network. With no competition, Fox could back cable systems into a corner, basically demanding they be carried as the only “conservative” viewpoint, and demanding the very best terms available to them.

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AT&T and the Demon Spawn of OAN
How the telecom and content giant spawned Trump's favorite propaganda network.

Reuters just published a fascinating special report about the role AT&T played in creating OAN, the far-right cable news network which has basically operated as a propaganda mill for Trumpite conspiracy theories. Just yesterday we learned that one of its lead “reporters,” Christina Bobb, worked for the Trump campaign while simultaneously working for OAN. That’s the kind of operation.

So is AT&T a far-right company trying to push Trumpism?

Well, we don’t know for sure. Reuters was able to piece together the story mostly from depositions in unrelated or tangentially related lawsuits. So we appear to have pretty solid confirmation of certain facts but we have to infer the different players’ motivations.

Here are the basics. I will try to fill in some of the blanks from my own understanding of the telecommunications world.

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Where Things Stand: DOJ Will Probe Violent Threats Against Teachers, School Board Members Prime Badge
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The Justice Department announced this week that it will soon start investigating violent threats against school teachers and school board members around the country — a concerning trend that escalated in recent months as students returned to the classroom amid a lingering pandemic and GOP-instigated culture wars violently boiled over during school board meetings across the U.S.

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Don’t Be Surprised About Facebook and Teen Girls. That’s What Facebook Is.
POLAND - 2020/07/15: In this photo illustration a Facebook logo is seen displayed on a smartphone with an European Union flag background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

You’ve probably seen the latest controversy about Facebook/Instagram leading vulnerable teenagers to anorexia, fat-shaming content that seems almost designed to send teenage girls and some boys into spirals of self-loathing and unsafe behaviors. What jumps out to me about this latest controversy is that most people still don’t grasp that things like this are close to inevitable because of what Facebook is. It’s foundational to the product. It is not surprising.

Let me explain. First, set aside all morality. Let’s say we have a 16 year old girl who’s been doing searches about average weights, whether boys care if a girl is overweight and maybe some diets. She’s also spent some time on a site called AmIFat.com. Now I set you this task. You’re on the other side of the Facebook screen and I want you to get her to click on as many things as possible and spend as much time clicking or reading as possible. Are you going to show her movie reviews? Funny cat videos? Homework tips? Of course, not. If you’re really trying to grab her attention you’re going to show her content about really thin girls, how their thinness has gotten them the attention of boys who turn out to really love them, and more diets. If you’re clever you probably wouldn’t start with content that’s going to make this 16 year old feel super bad about herself because that might just get her to log off. You’ll inspire or provoke enough negative feelings to get clicks and engagement without going too far.

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Are We Heading to a Debt Default Filibuster Carve-out?

I’m starting to think this latest bout of debt limit hostage taking will end with a filibuster carve out. On its face that seems highly improbable given the resistance through the year from Manchin and Sinema. And I think Manchin has said no way to this specifically. So it seems really improbable. But we’re down to very improbable outcomes and this is starting to seem like the least improbable one.

Let’s walk through the scenarios.

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