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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We’re seeing the defense coming into view here. Manafort attorney unfolds story of “the secret life of Rick Gates.” Latest report here from MacNeal and Sneed.

This is a fascinating, disturbing story. Our alliance with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and our support for their proxy war in Yemen has led us back into what looks a lot like a de facto alliance with al Qaida. At a minimum it’s an agreement not to fight each other. It’s complex of course. But the key is that fighting the Houthis, Shia rebels backed by Iran, trumps fighting al Qaida. In addition to this, “coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaida militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters.” It’s a must-read. Read it here.

One of the abiding, albeit far from the most consequential, mysteries of the Trump/Russia story is how we ended up with the word “collusion” as the canonical term of art at the center of the story. I thought I’d remembered that one or more publications had investigated this minor mystery. But when I asked if anyone remembered such an article I was pointed to this actually quite recent (6.29.18) post from Lawfare. Victoria Clark, a senior at Georgetown who interns at the site, investigated the question and her explanation seems pretty definitive.

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Okay, earlier we noted that the shirt those two Trumpers in Ohio were wearing at the rally over the weekend showed up on Russian TV as an example of rising Republican support for Russia and Russia collusion. This was a rabbit hole my colleague Matt Shuham and I couldn’t not go down. So what’s the story? Did they both order it off the same Trumper website? Did the Russians send it to the dudes in Ohio? Or did the Russians see it on social media and whip up their own? Well, I think we’ve solved this mystery.

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This is probably nothing. But it got my attention. A few days ago two Trump supporters at the President’s rally in Ohio showed up in T-Shirts that read “I’d Rather Be a Russian Than a Democrat”. A reporter at the event asked them where they got it and one of the men said he’d printed them up himself. Then about a day later what appears to the be the same kind of shirt showed up in the hands of a Russian TV presenter.

This post covers some ground we’ve covered before. But the Manafort trial and the various documents its producing throw this fact into much sharper relief, as does President Trump’s little-concealed rage and panic over the trial.

In 2015 and 2016 Paul Manafort was a desperate man. The source of most of his income and wealth had been driven from power in 2014. It took a while for the cut-off of funds to really kick in. It also probably took a while before it became totally clear that Viktor Yanukovych wasn’t coming back. At the end of 2014, his daughters (and eventually his wife) found out about an affair he was carrying on. There were teary-phone calls, threats of suicide. The Manaforts went into couples therapy but Paul kept up the affair. He was caught again and by late 2015 he’d entered a clinic in Arizona for what his daughter described as a “massive emotional breakdown.” (The best narrative of this and much else in the Manafort story comes from Frank Foer’s March article in The Atlantic.)

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TPM Reader RM thinks TPM Reader JB is missing a key point. Here’s RM and then I’ll share a few thoughts at the end …

I think TPM Reader JB misses a key point of the Trump Tower meeting. Specific ‘collusion dirt’ was provided by the Russians in the Trump Tower meeting. The issue was that Junior didn’t like the ‘dirt’ that was offered and implied through his specific criticisms and subdued response that the Russians needed to bring better ‘dirt’, and that the Trump campaign left the door open to further explore matters should such ‘better dirt’ be provided. In addition, the Russians made a big deal of the Magnitsky Act and Bill Browder, indicating that they demanded something in exchange for the ‘dirt’ they were willing to provide to help the Trump campaign. That’s a quid pro quo: ‘we give you dirt, you consider our wish list’. Junior gave every indication of support for that concept in this meeting.

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Prosecutorial strategy in a financial crime case is not something I know anything about. What’s more, I haven’t been following the minutiae of the trial as closely as the other members of our team who are devoted to it for the duration (mainly Tierney Sneed, Caitlin MacNeal and David Kurtz, though most of the team is involved at least in a support role). But last week, as there was more and more evidence of high living, I did have a few moments where I wondered: ‘God, I really hope they don’t blow this.’ Subsequent testimony at the end of the week I think clarified the point of that earlier testimony and got on to the more factual part of the case. (To be clear, I think this was probably clear all along to more knowledgable trial watchers.) But it wasn’t until I say this note from TPM Reader JW that I really grasped the high risk nature of Manafort’s defense strategy …

Even at the earliest stages of trial, we are seeing how incredibly risky is for Manafort to blame Gates for criminal wrongdoing. The “blame Gates” strategy means that Manafort is effectively admitting that criminal conduct occurred at his firm and in his own name. Tax evasion? Money laundering? Yes, taxes were evaded and money was laundered, but it was all Gates! Manafort knew nothing! This is a train wreck of an argument.

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