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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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This afternoon we learned that Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the EU and GOP megadonor, will appear for a closed door deposition before House committees on Tuesday, October 8th. According to CBS News it will be the “same format” as Ukraine Envoy Kurt Volker’s testimony yesterday. (I take this to mean that he will appear without a government lawyer.) This seems to me to be a development of great importance.

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There was of course a lot of craziness, lies and invective in President Trump’s appearance on the White House lawn a few moments ago. But remember what I’ve been saying. The centerpiece of what Trump, Giuliani and Barr are after is trying to push the conspiracy theory that he and Russia were set up. That the real collusion was with Ukraine and other allied countries plotting to frame him during the 2016 election. And here he is, during this press availability, going on a rant about the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy plotting against him during the 2016 election.

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New episode of the podcast. Taintor, Riga, Kovensky and I try to make sense of the fast unfolding Trump-Ukraine story.

It’s hard to keep track of the gross abuse of power. But here’s the critical thing to keep an eye on through this. We know about election interference of targeting the Biden’s. What was even clearer in those texts is demand that Ukraine “get to the bottom of” collusion between the DNC and Ukraine in the 2016 election. That is code for the conspiracy theory that Russia was framed for the DNC hack and actually didn’t interfere in the 2016 election at all. The “real collusion” was between Ukraine and the Democrats. The big aim here – right in front of our faces, right in the texts and transcripts – is to clear Russia of the crime.

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The phrase “deep state” originally comes from Turkey, where a “deep state” run by the military and security services allowed democratic politics to operate within prescribed bounds — but no further. The real government wasn’t the president or prime minister of the day but this “deep state.” It was autonomous and dominant and self-perpetuating.

In the first weeks of the Trump administration this phrase was taken up by the President and his entourage and applied to the U.S. Over three years it has become the catch-all term for unnamed enemies of the President plotting against him from within the federal bureaucracy.

And so it was this phrase, migrated and domesticated in the U.S., that we took up to describe one of the key features of American government in the late 20th and early 21st century — what we’ve called the “Conservative Deep State.”

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Chairs Schiff, Engel and Cummings did a major document dump tonight based on texts exchanged between various Trump Department officials, Rudy Giuliani and a top advisor to President Zelensky. The upshot is documentation of months of efforts by the Trump officials to get Ukraine to publicly announce investigations of the Bidens and 2016 election collusion between Ukraine and the DNC in exchange for a White House meeting with President Trump and military aide to ward off Russian-backed separatists in the east.

What is important to note here is that the Ukraine-DNC collusion conspiracy theory, in addition to being crazy in itself, is in fact an exoneration of Russia. The idea is that Russia didn’t really interfere in the election. They were framed by Ukraine and the DNC. We’ve heard lots of talk about these ‘investigations’. But what seems more clear here is that the big “deliverable”, as Trump megadonor Gordon Sondland puts it in one text, is a public statement from Zelensky announcing these investigations. That in itself validates the key Trump/Giuliani conspiracy theories for domestic consumption in the United States and quite likely is the predicate for Bill Barr for announcing his own probes into the same.

It’s late. So I went through the document dump and tweeted out the key passages. I’ve assembled them together here.

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We have another rush of news tonight. President Trump allegedly raised Biden and Warren in a call with Chinese President Xi in June. Chinese government officials have reportedly been reaching out to Trump associates today to get clarification on whether the President is serious about wanting the Chinese to investigate Joe Biden. (Thumbs ups seem to have been the response.) Critically, though not terribly surprisingly, the Journal is now reporting that President Trump ordered the firing of Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch because Rudy Giuliani told him that she was an obstacle to plans to force the government of Ukraine to intervene in the 2020 election. But the biggest news, or at least the most surprising, is about Kurt Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine who resigned last week and testified today in a closed door session on Capitol Hill.

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There’s some new factual information in a piece that just ran on the Fox News website. I know, I know. But these are real new facts. What’s interesting is that it is not entirely clear to me whether whoever leaked the encrypted text messages thought they were exonerating.

In any case, here we go …

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Some points are so obvious they escape attention or so obvious as not to seem worth noting. Yet they are worth noting. Can anyone think of a country, out of the globe’s almost 200 sovereign states, where President Trump has called for a crackdown on corruption other than Ukraine?

I genuinely do not think there is a single example. There’s Baltimore and Puerto Rico but of course those are not countries.

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