Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

I remain skeptical. But CBS is reporting that the White House believes there’s a good chance they won’t be able to stem Senate GOP defections on allowing witnesses in the President’s impeachment trial.

I kept hearing how Elizabeth Warren was refusing to go negative in kind with Bernie Sanders. But I think she just dropped a neutron bomb directly on Bernie’s head.

And to be clear, “going negative” isn’t a bad thing if you are discussing relevant facts.

There is a robust scientific consensus that all human populations outside of Africa descend from migrations of homo sapiens out of Africa that took place between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago. Before that, in Europe for instance, neanderthals were the dominant human or hominid population outside of Africa. But last year scientists performed a series of skeletal morphology and dating tests which appear to change the story dramatically.

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I saw an article headline today arguing we should abolish the presidential pardon. Too much power in the hands of one person. For what it’s worth, I think the pardon power serves an important purpose (though it is an archaic one) and that we should see more pardons, really a lot more. But the point of the article, which is based on President Trump’s wanton and partial abuse of this power, focused my attention on a different point.

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From TPM Reader JL

Recent post on whether trump really needed to bend to pressure from senators was fascinating. At first I struggled with your description of maxing out wish lists. But then I thought about trump as Mafia don (always a useful frame) and it clicked. The whole concept of a Mafia organization is that being on the inside is great; the power and money and ego gratification are exciting. The don wants everyone to be happy and feel stroked. Except of course you have sold your soul and the day eventually comes when the piper must be paid…. still not sure I fully buy everything in the post but you may be onto something.

As I told JL, I’ve struggled to get my head around it myself. And I’m not sure I’ve fully done so. But I think I’m at least on to something. Trump’s approach to coalitional politics is very different from anything we’ve seen in modern presidential history.

With Iran’s admission that it accidentally shot down a civilian airliner the night of its retaliatory strikes against the US military bases in Iraq it is worth remembering that Russia has still not made a similar admission about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down over Ukraine in 2014. The facts are not identical. In that case Russia provided Buk surface-to-air missiles to “separatists” operating in eastern Ukraine who seem to have thought they were shooting down a Ukrainian military jet.

Here we get into the inherent and intentional murkiness about which of these “separatists” aided by Russia were people who could legitimately be called “separatists” versus Russian military or Russian veterans operating with plausible deniability in Russia’s shadow invasion of eastern Ukraine. Whatever the precise details, the upshot is the same: As part of an intentional policy of using vaguely deniable proxies, Russia gave highly lethal weaponry (you need serious military hardware to shoot an airliner at cruising altitude out of the sky) to people operating with little command and control or oversight. The result was unthinkable tragedy. Not only has Russia never admitted responsibility it has continued to support and propagate various conspiracy theories and “false narratives” about what happened.

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According to Bloomberg News, “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump.”

The fact of this or the fact of what they appear to be investigating is hardly surprising. Indeed, we can’t be surprised by something we already know.

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One reader very reasonably asks: Is it really credible that Trump had to authorize this attack or risk being removed from office at his impeachment trial? That hardly seems credible. Indeed, to the extent that there’s a spectrum of Trump loyalty among Republican senators, the most loyal tend to line up with those most eager for aggressive military action against Iran. But I think this somewhat mistakes the nature of Trump’s presidency and how he has approached politics – pretty consistently – for years.

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A telling passage buried deep down in a Wall Street Journal article about why President Trump authorized the Soleimani killing …

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

Over time I suspect we’ll learn a lot more about this.

It now seems very clear that that Ukrainian airliner that crashed after takeoff from Tehran was accidentally shot down by the Iranian military, almost certainly on some kind of hair trigger alert awaiting possible US retaliation after the volley of missiles which were retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

This was pretty clear on the basis of logic and probability. Even as aerophobe, I know that airliner crashes are extremely, extremely rare. In those rare instances, they seldom fall out of the sky on fire as this one did. The fact that this happened basically at the exact moment when the Iranians would have been awaiting US retaliation from the air in response to their missile attack makes the probabilities pretty clear.

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