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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

For going on two years I’ve been explaining that Michael Cohen was less a lawyer for Trump than a conduit for money from Russian and Ukrainian emigres and from those regions of the world. Yes, he was a fixer too. But there are lots of fixers. The channel of money came from the Brighton Beach emigre world Cohen grew up in and through the family he married into and the contacts that brought. A key player is Cohen’s father-in-law Fima Shusterman, a man who federal law enforcement apparently believed Trump had been in business with long before Michael Cohen came into the picture. All of this is known as far as it goes and we’ve discussed it.

But I want to flag something coming up in Trump’s tweets.

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It made a big, big stir yesterday when the Manhattan US Attorney’s announced yesterday that the parent company of The National Enquirer, AMI, had entered a non-prosecution agreement with prosecutors. AMI agreed that the Daniels and McDougal payments were meant to protect Trump’s campaign. I’m less impressed than others that this dramatically raises the legal stakes for Trump: AMI and Cohen vs Trump rather than Cohen vs Trump. This will never be a conventional trial, whether it’s in a courtroom or in the court of public opinion. More interesting to me is what else AMI revealed.

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I’m glad this is finally getting some attention and sorry I hadn’t gotten on it earlier. The AP ran a piece yesterday about how Jared and Ivanka stand to profit from a wildly sleazy developer tax credit they pushed in the big tax cut bill last year. They’re called Qualified Opportunity Zones. And they create huge – and I mean huge – potential tax shelters for extremely wealthy people, especially those who play in the real estate game.

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Now we know that Michael Cohen has been sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. What became very clear, however, is that a lot of that sentence was based on Cohen not becoming a cooperating witness in the Southern District of New York. Very specifically, Cohen pleaded guilty and seemingly cooperated over a number of crimes they’d caught him doing. But to become a cooperating witness (in the technical meaning and with the sentencing benefits) he needed to come in and tell his whole history, every crime he ever committed, every crime he knew information about. He was not willing to do that. Why?

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We went all in yesterday on that wild Oval Office meeting with Trump, Pelosi, Schumer and a wax figure version of Vice President Pence installed in the background. Here are the top video moments in case you missed it yesterday. But TPM Reader MRK flagged something I’d missed in all the antic energy of the moment. I don’t get the sense many others caught it either. Trump always shares everything going through his head out loud and in real time. And just before letting the Pelosi/Schumer tag team bait him into saying he was eager to shut down the government and make it his personal shutdown he said out loud what his original plan has been before Pelosi got in his face and slapped him around.

I’ll let MRK explain.

My heart was racing as I watched this insane interaction in the Oval Office today. If the stakes weren’t so high, it might have been enjoyable, although as things stand, I just feel nervous about what’s going to happen once Trump feels completely cornered.

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TPMers Allegra Kirkland and Josh Kovensky are in the courtroom in downtown Manhattan as we await word of Michael Cohen’s fate – which seems likely to be multiple years in prison. Here’s a primer on what’s coming.

Mike Flynn made a deal with Robert Mueller so early and seems to have played cooperation so by the book that he long ago moved to the background of the public Russia probe drama. That has always been odd since he was clearly a central figure in the story and had a bunch of seemingly ancillary bad acts to boot. His lawyers’ sentencing memo came out last night and, if you look at the news write-ups, a number of publications portray it as Flynn, despite seemingly accepting responsibility and cooperating, going a bit anti-deep state in his defense, suggesting that Peter Stzrok and Andrew McCabe – key Trumper bete noirs – set him up.

When I read that I thought, WTF?

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We know that a key, maybe the key to Michael Cohen’s job for Donald Trump was making problems go away, most especially making women who had stories to tell – whether consensual sexual encounters or abuse – stay silent. Yesterday I suggested the possibility that this defensive capacity could very easily be weaponized against others. When you consider it, it’s frankly hard to imagine it wouldn’t be. Cohen had close relationships with lawyers for clients with damaging revelations. He had an equally close relationship with The National Enquirer, which is in the business of damaging revelations but seemed willing to subordinate that business to its transactional relationship with Donald Trump.

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In case you missed it yesterday, I want you to see this deep dive on Ted Malloch, a guy who’s been hovering around the Russia scandal for more than a year and looks like he was probably a key link in the chain of communication between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. If you’re a Prime member, here’s a companion piece on how his career has been sustained by the general non-enforcement of so many white collar crime laws.

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