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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Late this afternoon, Jeff Bezos published a letter on Medium that is, frankly, one of the most stunning things I’ve ever read. It is also extremely important, far beyond the celebrity gossip of a billionaire caught in an affair or compromising photographs.

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My read is a bit different than what others seem to make of Rep. Jerry Nadler’s letter this afternoon in response to Acting AG Matt Whitaker. It’s definitely an attempt to calm the waters and get him to show up tomorrow. After all, what they really want is for him to answer questions. But I have a slightly different read of the nuance.

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President Trump’s latest freakout seems to be that Congress is, as he puts it, “even stealing people who work at the White House!” for their expanding investigations. A CNN story that moved earlier this afternoon clarified that Adam Schiff’s committee has hired former staffers from the National Security Council to assist the re-do of the Trump/Russia probe which now includes a deep look into the President’s personal financial empire. It wasn’t clear at first whether this meant people who had served at the NSC under Trump or at any time. But Bloomberg later reported that at least one hire is Abigail Grace who, according to her current bio at the Center for New American Security started at the NSC at the end of the Obama administration (sometime in 2016) and was there into 2018. She appears to be an Indo-Asia security person.

This whole thing requires a bit of explanation, as it seems to go directly both to Trump’s heightened state of threat and also the nuts and bolts of what the NSC actually is.

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Really key thing going on here with the Whitaker testimony. We’ve seen a number of cases under the Trump administration – and to be fair it didn’t start with them – where officials come up to the Hill and use a sort of down-low executive privilege claim. Rep. Jerry Nadler clearly wanted to put a stop to that.

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We’ve known the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives would trigger a game-changing situation for President Trump in the form of oversight and investigations. We’ve also heard many argue that the biggest threats to Trump might not come from the Russia probe but from a host of more mundane or at least less outlandish topics, many of which tie back to his private business, the Trump Organization. Now, a month in, we’re starting to see how true that is and how unprepared for it the President seems to be.

Yesterday we saw Rep. Adam Schiff announce a re-do of the Russia probe that has a far broader purview, reaching deep into the President’s own personal and business finances. Rep. Nadler, at Judiciary, has an investigation into the Justice Department that touches on elements of the Russia probe. Rep. Engel, Chair of the Foreign Affairs committee, has yet another investigation into emoluments clause violations and whether the President’s private business interests are affecting his foreign policy decisions. And this is all at least formally separate from efforts to get hold of the President’s tax returns, which is under the purview of Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal.

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There are so many threads of this ugly and increasingly bizarre (three scandals at once) set of scandals in the upper ranks of the Virginia state government. But one is the proximity of these two events to the end of Jim Crow in the South. Before delving into this, let me stipulate that by saying there were lots of racist attitudes in the 1980s I’m not saying there aren’t a lot today. I am trying to make a different point. These events happened in the early 1980s. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 was 15 years or so earlier. Brown v Board was almost thirty years earlier. But actual desegregation, even de jure, let alone de facto desegregation was accepted by the courts as a years long process. Basically the de jure end of Jim Crow had only happened maybe 15 years or so earlier. To place ourselves in time, it’s like looking back at the 2004 presidential election day. In other words, just a short time ago.

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One of the most important lessons, I would suggest one of the most ingrained lessons of the passage and subsequent defense of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is that Democrats gained nothing for their efforts to accommodate Republican insistence on market-oriented solutions to expanding health care coverage. The ACA was, famously, based on the plan then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) passed in Massachusetts in the early aughts. The concept originated as a Heritage Foundation proposal meant to provide a ‘market-oriented’ alternative to Democratic universal coverage plans. Even worse than Republicans’ maximum resistance, many of the shortcomings of Obamacare were based on the plan’s concessions to the private insurance model of coverage.

For all these reasons, the experience has triggered a critical shift among Democrats. Single payer plans have always had substantial support among Democrats. For decades it was actually official party policy. But there was a middle group who supported single payer in principle but found either the politics intractable or the process of transition too complicated and disruptive given how entrenched the private system is and how interwoven it is with employment. Probably the majority of elected Democrats have been in this middle group for the last couple decades.

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Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says US is sticking with Trump’s policies, not “going back to socialism.”

All things considered, for Trump, this struck me as a fairly anodyne speech. It was fairly long for a State of the Union address. Trump hit his key bloodthirsty points, portraying undocumented immigrants as a tide of murderers threatening the country. He bragged on his supposed accomplishments – some real, most pretended. But overall, it tended to emphasize national unity, regardless of how empty that charge may be coming from what is certainly the most intentionally divisive President in modern American history. He even had some genuinely touching moments, such as the stories at the end of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, with US soldiers who were the liberators and inmates who were there that day.

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9:56 PM: “You weren’t supposed to do that.”

9:42 PM: Always important to note in these moments that immigrants – legal and undocumented – commit crimes at significantly lower rates than native-born Americans. If safety was the issue it would be better to toss a bunch of citizens and replace them with undocumented immigrants.

9:37 PM: How long til the story about the Mexicans busing caravaners up to parts of the border without a wall falls apart?

9:19 PM: Some fun.

9:15 PM: All incredibly anodyne so far.

9:08 PM: I didn’t see a single Democrat shake the President’s hand as he walked down the aisle. It’s a little hard to see. So I can’t say definitely. But it didn’t look like it … Jennifer Bendery of Huffpo tells me via Twitter that Jim McGovern, Bobby Rush, Jim Langevin did.

9:03 PM: Alright let’s get this over with.

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