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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This is just what I was thinking (from the Post) …

Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller’s team damaging information about other colleagues. They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort, and continued to be involved in Trump’s political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in.

Rick Gates is 45, 23 years younger than Manafort. He was also with Trump much longer than Manafort. Any guesses about whether he saw anything bad when he was in the Trump orbit?

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There were two big reveals today.

The first was the Papadopolous guilty plea. The Manafort/Gates indictments were highly significant. But they were broadly expected and do not connect directly to the Russian interference campaign. Papadopolous was the big thing we did not know yesterday which we do know today.

The second big reveal is the fact that the White House and Trump’s lawyers were completely blindsided by the Papadopolous news. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had to fall back on having agreed to appear on CNN on short notice to explain why he seemed to have no argument or spin to provide about Papadopolous’s admissions.

Sarah Sanders’ briefing was similar. She repeated talking points that were clearly devised in expectation of indictments for financial crimes by people like Paul Manafort. She appeared to be on autopilot based on instructions from early in the morning and had no ability to devise an argument in response to Papadopolous’s admissions.

These revelations have major legal significance. But there’s a separate impact on the White House, the trajectory of its political operations and how key staffers and supporters are thinking about their own legal vulnerability. The White House clearly did not know this was coming. They were expecting (as I and many others were) financial crimes by campaign officials but not charges or pleas tied directly to Russian interference.

The White House was already aggressively, furiously pushing the Uranium One diversion. They were angry, panicked but they had a plan. This upsets their understanding of what’s happening. I would expect a lot of new internal turbulence in the Trump world growing from this. I’d expect more mutual suspicion and an uncertainty about how to move forward.

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From a TPM Reader …

As a former federal prosecutor, it seems to me that there are several angles to Mueller’s strategy with the timing of these announcements.

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We can’t know these things for sure. But it certainly seems like Mueller was sending a message and sending a shock to the Trump White House by releasing the Papadopoulos charges mid-morning. The Manafort/Gates charges are very serious as crimes and bring heavy punishments. They’re a big deal. But they do not connect directly to the campaign’s ties with Russia or even the campaign itself. The White House can accurately say that these are crimes that do not relate to them, as they have. (Set aside for the moment that they are serious crimes undertaken by the campaign chairman while the campaign was underway and that they provide Mueller with immense leverage to extract more information from Manafort.)

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George Papadopoulos, another of those first five campaign advisors announced in March 2016 (Carter Page was another), pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to making false statements to FBI. Unsealed this morning.

More soon.

Remember, days after being appointed, Papadopoulos went to work trying to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and “Russian Leadership – Including Putin.”

We’re reading through the Papadopoulos charges now. They are pretty bad and go directly to the Russia issue. More soon.

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It was an extremely bad idea for Paul Manafort to get involved in a presidential campaign on the way to the nomination when he was sitting atop so much dirty laundry.

Unless of course, he had no choice.

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