Prime

Parnas Before Rudy

There’s an interesting catch here from Marcy Wheeler. I’m not sure I entirely agree with her on what it means. But I think she’s on to something. It has to do with Lev Parnas’ explanation of his efforts to get U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch fired. It’s a bit in the weeds but a pretty big deal.

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Where Things Stand: Even Trump’s Impeachment Team Is Reminiscent Of The Clinton Era
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.
on September 18, 2018 in Washington, DC.

The Republican majority in the Senate has maintained for weeks that it wants to conduct impeachment proceedings following the precedent set by the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. Now President Trump’s legal team appears to be following suit. Multiple outlets are reporting this morning that Trump’s team will include Ken Starr, the independent counsel who led the investigation into Clinton, and Robert Ray, who eventually took over the probe. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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‘Three Way Attorney Client Privilege’

There’s a lot of big new information in the various documents given to Congress by Lev Parnas. His interview with Rachel Maddow is a little fuzzier. There’s at least a lot there that seems spun to the hopes of his current audience, which is largely people opposed to Donald Trump. This is hardly surprising. Parnas appears to be a conman, basically. He’s trying to save himself. So we should be cautious about any claims not backed by corroborating evidence, of which there is quite a lot. But here’s one passage worth watching in the second part of his interview that aired tonight on Maddow’s show.

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What It Looks Like Inside The Senate

On Thursday, the full Senate got its first taste of what the next several weeks of their lives are going to look like.

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Where Things Stand: Parnas Lights A Match
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Lev Parnas walks into the Southern District of New York Courthouse on December 2, 2019 in New York City. A business associate of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Parnas has been accused of conspiring to make illegal contributions to political committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans, and wanting to use the donations to lobby U.S. politicians to support the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

In the last 24 hours, Lev Parnas, the indicted pal of Rudy Giuliani, made waves with the release of evidence he’s provided the House Intelligence Committee and explosive claims he made during two cable news hits on Wednesday evening. Among many, many other things, Parnas’ latest remarks place President Trump and his top officials directly in the center of the effort to get Ukraine to probe the Biden family. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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On To The Senate And Its New Press Restrictions

Wednesday felt like a calm before an impeachment storm on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol.

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What’s Parnas’s Angle Here?

Lev Parnas is apparently going to appear on Maddow tonight. So we’ll hear a bit more about him and how he’s presenting himself. Maybe he’ll break substantive new news. One fascinating question though is just what his angle is in all this.

You’re probably saying, “well to stay out of jail obviously!” And yes, 100%. He’s definitely trying to save himself. But just how isn’t completely clear, at least not to me. Let’s walk through this.

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WTF is the Deal With Robert Hyde?

I’m trying to get a handle on this question myself. But the big question from last night’s Parnas documents is just what the story is with Robert Hyde, landscaper, absolute biggest Donald Trump fan ever and longshot candidate for Congress who had already been disowned by much of the Connecticut GOP back in December. Was he really involved with surveilling and perhaps considering harming the US Ambassador to Ukraine or is he all talk or perhaps literally crazy? Here’s Josh Kovensky’s write up of what we know so far.

It seems like a stretch to think Hyde’s claims were totally made up. But a month or so after the text exchanges in question Hyde was taken into custody at Trump’s Doral resort in Florida and apparently involuntarily committed for roughly a week to a psychiatric facility after telling police he feared someone was trying to assassinate him.

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Where Things Stand: We’ll Know Impeachment Managers Shortly
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.

Happy Wednesday, January 15. At 10 a.m. ET House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will announce who she’s chosen as impeachment managers, just ahead of a House vote this afternoon to send the articles to the Senate. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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The Parnas Docs

Let me share some very preliminary thoughts on the documents and text messages released by the House Intelligence committee from Lev Parnas.

I stress preliminary. I’ve gone through them once. In Josh Kovensky‘s and Matt Shuham’s write up they caught a number of references, the import of which wasn’t clear to me until I understood the full context.

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It Was Always About Supporting Trump

One of the truisms of the last three years — most often spoken by Democrats — is that everyone has an interest in preventing future Russian interventions in U.S. elections because next time it could be Republicans who are the target rather than Democrats. Alas, this was false, is false and for the foreseeable future will continue to be false.

We should know this, and if you didn’t know it yesterday’s news that Russian intelligence operatives have been hacking into servers in Ukraine as part of President Trump’s impeachment defense should clarify the matter. Josh Kovensky has more details here. But the gist is that in early November, just as the impeachment effort began to build steam, GRU operatives began hacking into various subsidiaries of Burisma Holdings, apparently looking for emails or other documents that could embarrass the Bidens or otherwise assist President Trump’s impeachment defense.

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Not Again!
on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Did we learn anything from 2016?

From the reactions to a report that Russian government-affiliated hackers targeted a Ukrainian gas company at the center of conspiracy theories around Vice President Joe Biden, apparently not.

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Where Things Stand: Will The Progressive Pact Fray?
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing

Happy Tuesday, January 14. In the last two days, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took some shots at her longtime Senate ally Bernie Sanders (I-VT), accusing the Vermont senator of directing his volunteers to “trash” her and confirming he once told her a woman could not win the Democratic nomination. The Sanders campaign has vehemently denied the allegations. Is this a sign of a broader rift between the two comrades or just the ebb and flow of a Democratic primary? Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:

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Where Things Stand: That ‘Imminent’ Soleimani Threat Looks Increasingly Unlikely
This is your TPM member mid-morning briefing

Happy Monday, January 13. NBC News reported Monday morning that President Trump had been plotting the assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani for at least six months prior to the attack, a development that puts renewed scrutiny on the administration’s “imminent” threat rationale for the strike. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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Getting Used to the Abuse

I saw an article headline today arguing we should abolish the presidential pardon. Too much power in the hands of one person. For what it’s worth, I think the pardon power serves an important purpose (though it is an archaic one) and that we should see more pardons, really a lot more. But the point of the article, which is based on President Trump’s wanton and partial abuse of this power, focused my attention on a different point.

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Maxing Out Wish Lists

From TPM Reader JL

Recent post on whether trump really needed to bend to pressure from senators was fascinating. At first I struggled with your description of maxing out wish lists. But then I thought about trump as Mafia don (always a useful frame) and it clicked. The whole concept of a Mafia organization is that being on the inside is great; the power and money and ego gratification are exciting. The don wants everyone to be happy and feel stroked. Except of course you have sold your soul and the day eventually comes when the piper must be paid…. still not sure I fully buy everything in the post but you may be onto something.

As I told JL, I’ve struggled to get my head around it myself. And I’m not sure I’ve fully done so. But I think I’m at least on to something. Trump’s approach to coalitional politics is very different from anything we’ve seen in modern presidential history.

Shock and Awe

With Iran’s admission that it accidentally shot down a civilian airliner the night of its retaliatory strikes against the US military bases in Iraq it is worth remembering that Russia has still not made a similar admission about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The facts are not identical. In that case Russia provided Buk surface-to-air missiles to “separatists” operating in eastern Ukraine who seem to have thought they were shooting down a Ukrainian military jet.

Here we get into the inherent and intentional murkiness about which of these “separatists” aided by Russia were people who could legitimately be called “separatists” versus Russian military or Russian veterans operating with plausible deniability in Russia’s shadow invasion of eastern Ukraine. Whatever the precise details, the upshot is the same: As part of an intentional policy of using vaguely deniable proxies, Russia gave highly lethal weaponry (you need serious military hardware to shoot an airliner at cruising altitude out of the sky) to people operating with little command and control or oversight. The result was unthinkable tragedy. Not only has Russia never admitted responsibility it has continued to support and propagate various conspiracy theories and “false narratives” about what happened.

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All In Plain Sight, Folks
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - NOVEMBER,30 (RUSSIA OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (R) looks on Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during the family photo at the G20 Summit's Plenary Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November,30,2018. U.S.Preisident Donald Trump has cancelled his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina planned on Saturday. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

According to Bloomberg News, “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump.”

The fact of this or the fact of what they appear to be investigating is hardly surprising. Indeed, we can’t be surprised by something we already know.

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Of Course the Soleimani Assassination is About Impeachment
Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., left, and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., right, look on as President Donald Trump speaks during the unveiling of legislation that would place new limits on legal immigration, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

One reader very reasonably asks: Is it really credible that Trump had to authorize this attack or risk being removed from office at his impeachment trial? That hardly seems credible. Indeed, to the extent that there’s a spectrum of Trump loyalty among Republican senators, the most loyal tend to line up with those most eager for aggressive military action against Iran. But I think this somewhat mistakes the nature of Trump’s presidency and how he has approached politics – pretty consistently – for years.

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Where Things Stand: Schiff Makes Bolton The Senate’s Problem
This is your TPM member mid-morning briefing
on May 9, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Happy Friday, January 10. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Thursday evening that he doesn’t plan to subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton for testimony before an impending Senate impeachment trial. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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Unmitigated Horror
TEHRAN, Jan. 8, 2020 -- Rescuers work at the air crash site of a Boeing 737 Ukrainian passenger plane in Parand district, southern Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 8, 2020. All the passengers and crew members on board the Boeing 737 Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday morning are confirmed dead, official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. (Photo by Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua via Getty)

It now seems very clear that that Ukrainian airliner that crashed after takeoff from Tehran was accidentally shot down by the Iranian military, almost certainly on some kind of hair trigger alert awaiting possible US retaliation after the volley of missiles which were retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

This was pretty clear on the basis of logic and probability. Even as aerophobe, I know that airliner crashes are extremely, extremely rare. In those rare instances, they seldom fall out of the sky on fire as this one did. The fact that this happened basically at the exact moment when the Iranians would have been awaiting US retaliation from the air in response to their missile attack makes the probabilities pretty clear.

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