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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

In the chaos of the Trump Era, we are all forced to read tea leaves because nothing is transparent and nothing proceeds in an orderly way. We’re now a day after news broke that Rachel Brand is stepping down as Associate Attorney General, the third ranking appointee at the Justice Department. Given the possible effects on the Mueller investigation, there’s no end of speculation about why she’s leaving.

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We know about Friday night news dumps. This is looking more like an avalanche. We already noted the departure of DOJ #3 Rachel Brand. I noted why this seems like very worrisome news here.

Just a few moments ago news broke that President Trump has refused to okay the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal memo which was drafted in response to the Nunes Memo. This, needless to say, seems highly suspicious given the alacrity with which the President rushed to release the earlier document.

Here’s the letter sent to Capitol Hill announcing the decision …

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Rachel Brand, the number three person at the Justice Department, is stepping down from her position. This news broke only a short time ago and initial reports at least suggest it is voluntary. She’s taking a job in the private sector. But this strikes me as potentially a very big deal and not in a good way. Not in terms of the integrity of the Russia probe.

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It’s remarkable the degree to which television commentators are embracing interpretations of Republican fiscal profligacy which are either oblivious, unschooled or simply dishonest. One line has it that Republicans are shedding their former obsession with spending and deficits. Another had it that Republicans are realizing that their ‘base’ doesn’t really care as much about deficits as they thought. They really agree with Trump, who doesn’t care about deficits. All of this is nonsense – not based on a theory or interpretation but simple history and experience. In a word, facts. Deficits go up, often dramatically, under Republican governance and usually go down under Democrats. This isn’t an interpretation. It’s a simple fact. Nor is it an artifact of history or coincidence. It is because Republicans don’t care about deficits.

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The President appears to be blaming Hope Hicks for the Rob Porter firestorm …

I wanted to flag a couple of key things that came earlier this week, both turning on the role of British ex-spy Christopher Steele and his so-called dossier. The first is a new ‘letter’, actually, in this case, a criminal referral, from Senators Grassley and Graham. It’s been around for a month and its existence was reported some time ago. But we only just got a public (albeit heavily redacted) copy. The second item is an article in The Washington Post which explains new details about Steele’s activities in late 2016. Both of them overlap on key events which took place at the end of October 2016 and which I want to discuss with you. But first, let me provide you with some background and summary of this Grassley/Graham letter (we’ll call it GG).

The best way to see the Grassley/Graham letter (GG) is that it is the thinking man’s Nunes Memo – a much more sophisticated and professional version of what is, I think, still basically bunk. As with the Nunes Memo, the aim of the GG Letter is to impugn and undermine Steele and by extension the whole Russia probe. But it takes a different tack. The argument is that Steele lied to the FBI and that because he lied he is not credible. This fatally undermines the Carter Page FISA warrant. In other words, we’re talking about a similar set of facts with a slightly different argument and slightly different targets.

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One of the oddities of the Nunes Memo drama is that it has focused on Carter Page, someone who seems to have had a legitimately tenuous connection to the Trump campaign and has enough dirty laundry to make almost anyone run for cover. As just one example, he was on Laura Ingraham’s show last night as some sort of martyr/conquering hero. Whether this is irony or foolery or a high stakes gambit to conceal more information I’m really not sure. But there’s a good chance Trump and his associates will rue the day they bear-hugged him as their showpiece victim of Deep State treachery.

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