Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We now have a flurry of different accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. They range from highly detailed accusations to one which is fragmentary even in the recollection of the alleged victim. But there’s something else that has grabbed my attention repeatedly in the last forty-eight hours. It is inherently difficult to reconstruct things that happened decades ago. But in the course of reacting to these different accusations, Kavanaugh has repeatedly lied in the present. If these allegations are true – and I believe they are – then Kavanaugh is lying in denying them. But it’s not even those lies which really jump out to me. Kavanaugh has told a series of other lies that are really clear cut and demonstrable.

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As I mentioned last night, there are some real questions worth asking about the political views of Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor chosen by Judiciary Committee Republicans to do their questioning of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. But judged entirely on its own, this is a truly bizarre decision, quite apart from all the obvious optics about hiring an outside person to avoid having the Committee Republican men question an alleged victim of sexual assault.

Mitchell is a prosecutor who specializes in child sexual abuse cases. Those cases require all sorts of specific knowledge and experience. That experience is at best ill-suited to this assignment. Blasey Ford is a fifty-something college professor. And in any case, this isn’t a trial.

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Florida is one of four states that permanently disenfranchises citizens with felony convictions. That means 1.4 million Floridians can’t vote, a number which disproportionately affects the state’s African-American population (by design). But a measure on the ballot on election day could change that. TPM’s Allegra Kirkland went to Florida to report this fourth installment of our 2018 series on Voting Rights and Democracy. It’s a must read about a critical issue. Read it here.

Earlier this evening, the Majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that their “female assistant” hired to asked their questions at the Thursday hearing with Judge Kavanaugh and Professor Blasey Ford would be a Maricopa County, Arizona sex crimes prosecutor named Rachel Mitchell.

It turns out one of the only at-length interviews Mitchell has ever done is with a publication put out by the far right ‘fundamental baptist’ organization Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI), an organization closely tied to Bob Jones University and espousing a range of hyper-traditionalist views on gender, sexuality and sexual ethics.

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Interesting follow up here from the Post about Monday’s Rosenstein drama. As predicted, it now seems most likely that Rosenstein will not leave at all, or at least not until after the midterm election. So what happened?

I speculated Monday afternoon that Rosenstein might have been resigned to leaving. But he may have insisted that if Trump wanted him gone they had to fire him. He wasn’t going to resign. The Post’s suggests that it wasn’t about firing or resigning. The Post says that Rosenstein “told the White House he was willing to quit if President Trump wouldn’t disparage him.”

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A brief note on Rod Rosenstein. Given all the fireworks there’s an inevitable tendency to see him as some sort of member of the anti-Trump resistance. This is not right. Rosenstein is a career Republican lawyer. He was part of the Starr investigation. He was there during Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony, sitting among his supporters and clearly a big supporter of his nomination. This is just what you’d expect in a high level Justice Department appointment under a Republican administration. One sign of his professionalism or reputation for integrity is that while he got his US Attorney appointment under Bush, he was retained under President Obama. The Obama DOJ did this more than other administrations. But if he were clearly a hack or a clear partisan he wouldn’t have been retained in 2009. When we think of Rosenstein we should think of him as someone who would really really really like to be a team player in every way possible. To his credit, he appears to have limits.

A bit more speculation. White House officials were clearly telling reporters with certainty this morning that Rod Rosenstein was out. There was ambiguity about whether he would be fired or resign, and that certainty seems to have been driven in large part by sources at the DOJ who made clear that Rosenstein would have to be fired. But I go back to the point that White House officials, at least until near the end, were saying this was a done deal. Rosenstein was out, only the details were to be determined.

So what happened?

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My read here is that Kelly thought or wanted to think that Rosenstein said he was willing to resign. But he refused to resign and made clear that if they wanted him gone Trump would have to fire him. Trump didn’t have the nerve to pull that trigger. Perhaps Kelly made clear that this was something Trump needed to do himself. So here we are.

[ed.note: Just after I finished this piece, I saw the latest report that Trump has punted this decision to Thursday, after he’s back from Washington. That’s consistent with what I explained below.]

I just got this email from TPM Reader JO. Let me try to answer these questions as well as I can – an exercise that will largely turn on explaining all we don’t know.

I’d really benefit from one of your members-only brief summaries of the recent Rosenstein developments.

Was the NYT article regarding Rosenstein & the 25th amendment factual? fabricated? If the latter, by whom? Who was pushing the NYT to get it wrong (if it was wrong)?

What was up with Hannity pushing Trump NOT to fire Rosenstein?

What is the state of knowledge regarding Rosenstein today: pushed or jumped?

In general: who are the major players in this drama, what are their interests, and how does this explain what we are observing?

I’m finding this story unusually confusing.

Looking forward to your insights.

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This is needless to say a very grave development in the Trump presidency. We’ve discussed this possibility, this almost inevitable eventuality so many times the event largely speaks for itself. A critical question, as yet uncertain, is whether Rosenstein resigns or is fired. This is no question of mere nuance. It directly controls under what terms President Trump will be able to replace the Deputy Attorney General and the person who oversees the Special Counsel investigation.