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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here’s a question I’d like your help with. Some questions are so sprawling and broad there’s no better way to get started than to canvass TPM Readers. So here goes. One of Trump supporters’ zanier pushbacks has been this argument: In 2008 when Barack Obama was way ahead of the curve using the Internet to run a political campaign, it was treated as an example of how smart he was. When Donald Trump did the same thing in 2016, it was treated as an example of him doing something wrong.

That’s silly on a few different levels, since in most cases the discussions are about things the Trump campaign did that were either illegal or unethical. But I wonder if there’s something to it in this particular way.

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Okay, brash headline. But in addition to our subscriber-only Weekly Primers on Voting Rights and Democracy, The Battle Over Obamacare and the Trump/Russia Probe, we decided that we needed one just to stay up to date on the constant flow of scandals emanating from the Trump Cabinet, top White House staffers and basically everyone else Trump gets to appoint whether it’s EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, the un-leadered VA, the latest White House staffer fired for attacking someone or even the President himself trying to raise prices on Amazon because he’s upset with The Washington Post. So last Thursday we rolled out our newest Weekly Primer Trump Swamp, your weekly distillation of every key development over the last week in Trump administration corruption that isn’t tied to Russia.

Here’s is an absolutely fascinating piece that I recommend you read. It is one of those stories which is eye-popping in itself but also has a new dangling thread at every turn that just demands tugging. Let me try to summarize as concisely as I can a wild and detailed verging on tangled story.

Bruce Carter was a diehard Bernie supporter and a self-started adjunct of the Sanders campaign with a “Black Men for Bernie” campaign bus making the rounds and the case for Sanders. But the intensity and bitterness of the Democratic primary race followed by the revelations of the DNC/Wikileaks emails drove his enthusiasm for Bernie into a burning enmity toward Hillary Clinton. Enter Dustin Stockton, a Breitbart reporter who struck up a running conversation and courtship which eventually led to Carter rebranding as a pro-Trump advocate in August 2016. He hit key concentrations of African-American voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida telling African-Americans either to vote for Trump or not vote at all. How would Carter get the money? Stockton (and Bannon in the background) had well-heeled Trump supporters writing big checks.

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I’m not sure what makes this day any different. But I thought I’d begin by linking back to two posts I wrote at the beginning of the Trump Era – one the day after he was elected and the other the day he was inaugurated. I don’t know if you need it. But I think I must need it. In almost everything we do in life we face the constant peril of becoming overwhelmed and blinded by the flurry of contingent events and losing track of the larger story, our true goals, values, what is happening and our place in it.

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I’ve told you many times Prime, our subscription program, is critical to the future of TPM. We’re coming up on an important milestone of 27,000 subscribers. We are now just 44 27 members short, down from 89 when I first posted this. I often meet people who tell me “I haven’t gotten around to signing up for Prime yet.” I get it. Good chance I’d be in that camp too if I were a reader. It’s a pain to get out your wallet, type in the numbers. But as we go into the weekend, make today the day. It’s super important to our future. You get lots of great features, dramatically fewer ads and a rapidly growing package of stories and analyses that are only available to subscribers. Make it today: click here. Thanks.

Earlier today I told you about the curious story of “The White House Gift Shop”. It has a nice built in clientele: US embassies abroad, cabinet departments, other government agencies as well as political committees and campaigns and members of the public all of whom purchase mementos and souvenirs from it. But back to our original question: Is this part of the US government or somehow tied to the US Secret Service or what is it?

Thanks to a number of emailers but particularly TPM Reader JB, I think I now have the answer. There was once an actual ‘White House Gift Shop’ in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building. But the current ‘The White House Gift Shop’ is a private for profit company which has no connection to the White House or the Secret Service or any other government entity, despite that fact that it seems to go to some lengths to give the impression that it does.

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We’ve now had reports from The New York Times that Michael Cohen had three meetings with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in the weeks just before and after President Trump’s inauguration. This occurred the US investment affiliate of Vekselberg’s holding company, which is run by his cousin, was in the process of hiring Cohen as a $1 million per year consultant. We know all of this, or you do if you’ve read these articles. What I wanted to do is what amounts to a very low-tech visualization which puts this events in what I think is a much starker light. I’ve taken these events and others Cohen was involved in and overlaid them on other events and news reports that were happening in these same days tied to the Russia scandal and the investigation into the 2016 election interference campaign.

When you see the progression arranged in this way it shows how even as revelation upon revelation was emerging and Trump and all of his associates were vociferously denying any ties to Russia let alone collusion Cohen was proceeding along doing things that look very much like the accusations they were so aggressively denying.

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Let me share with you some details of my investigation of a truly inconsequential and yet to me somehow fascinating mystery. Yesterday, in the midst of the shock over President Trump’s sudden decision to cancel the North Korea summit in Singapore, I saw an image on Twitter about The White House Gift Shop website selling those summit “challenge coins” with the profiles of President Trump and Kim Jong-un. I went to the White House website to see if this could possibly be true. Does the White House really hawk souvenirs on its website? Even under Trump? I soon realized that everyone was talking about a separate White House Gift Shop website, under its own domain name, which looked pretty rickety to me and left me not at all sure it had anything to do with the White House.

Then a short time later I saw a chyron on MSNBC announcing that the White House was in fact still selling the summit challenge coins even as the summit had been called off. I did a double-take because my initial take made me think that the “White House Gift Shop” wasn’t actually part of the White House or even the U.S. government. But with MSNBC saying this was the White House I decided I needed to figure out what was going on.

When I first looked at the site all the pages but the front page were broken. The products I saw weren’t exactly MAGA caps. But they seemed a bit more partisan and campaigny and cheesy than I’d expect from any U.S. government website. [Scratch that: The Gift Shop actually does sell a MAGA cap.] (In fairness their archived Obama gifts were at least a bit campaigny.)

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Yesterday I wondered out loud how it was that so little attention was being paid to the Times report that Michael Cohen had met repeatedly with that Russian oligarch whose US affiliate had hired Cohen as a “consultant”. It turns out, unsurprisingly, they were talking about how to improve ties between the US and Russia.

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