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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We’re back to this question of when Nancy Pelosi is going to send the articles of impeachment, now going on a month old, to the Senate. One relatively prominent member of the Democratic caucus, Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), actually went off message and then had to walk back his remarks this morning. So is it time? Is it time for Speaker Pelosi to go ahead and get on with it?

I can’t see any reason to rush this. Really none at all.

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TPM Reader BF disagrees with JB about who was pushing who on Trump’s decision to kill Qasem Solemaini …

No, no, no. JB is wrong here. This isn’t about Pompeo or some other lone actor talking Trump into something. And it isn’t about Trump surprising everyone by choosing a throw-away option.

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I’ve written a few times that opacity, extortion and confusion are the hallmarks of Trumpism. I’ve spent the last couple months trying to draw these ideas together for a larger project. Part of this story centers on the ways American politics and specifically America’s relations abroad have been subsumed under fuzzy or opaque ties with a series of foreign powers — specifically ones where power is personalized in either strongman or familial rule, where political power is bundled together with wealth.

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Multiple reports say that Iran (not just proxies or Iran-backed militias in Iraq) has launched a volley of missiles targeting a number of bases in Iraq which house US troops. There’s very little information available about what damage these attacks have caused or whether there are casualties or fatalities. The White House has signaled a possible Presidential address to the nation tonight. It’s hard to imagine anything and I mean anything positive coming from that, to put it mildly.

Let me share a few thoughts on this.

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Interesting response from TPM Reader JB, who has a background in government work …

I pretty much do believe sources within the Trump administration who claim to be surprised Trump took the extreme option of ordering the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, for two reasons. One is that he very likely had seen a variant of this option presented before, for example after the US drone shootdown incident last summer or the missile strike on Saudi oil facilities shortly after that. He didn’t bite on it then, which may have made some people complacent.

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Mitch McConnell says he has the votes to start a Senate impeachment trial with no guarantee of witnesses. He’s held his caucus together. This only confirms and strengthens the point I made yesterday: every emphasis should be on the half dozen Republican senators facing challenging reelection races in November. If they won’t shift, fine: lock in that fact now. Lock it in and drag it out. They said they would insist on a fair trial. They didn’t! What happened? Again and again.

There’s far too much rolling over and playing dead if you can’t force someone else’s actions. That’s a silly way of thinking about politics. If these six have decided to go with a rigged trial, great: lock that reality in in their states now.

As noted below, in the broadest sense we know why President Trump ordered the assassination of Soleimani: it was an attempt to dominate a weaker power by dramatically escalating a simmering conflict. This squares with how states act and it squares with President Trump’s personality. Yet everything we’ve seen since the attack illustrates the consequences of a hollowed out national security decision-making process and an erratic and impulsive head of state.

Unnamed Pentagon officials have now suggested that President Trump opted for a policy option (the assassination) few if any of his advisors thought he’d consider. For all my criticism of President Trump, I’m deeply skeptical of these claims. This sounds like an effort to evade responsibility for the policy options the President was given. If the idea was that it’s nuts, he shouldn’t have been offered it. Still, it doesn’t speak well about the level of planning or coordination that went into this. We also have the claim that Soleimani was killed to avert an imminent threat to U.S. lives, a claim which seems clearly not to be true.

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It’s crystal clear that there was no “imminent threat” that led the U.S. to target and kill Iran’s Qasem Soleimani. Even on logical terms that makes zero sense. If there was a plot underway to kill Americans, the way to disrupt that would be to remove the target or attack the operational chain about to carry out the attack. That’s obvious. I think we’re a long way from finding out just why this happened. But in a broad sense we know: punish Iran and assert dominance in the largely covert and shadowy conflict between the two countries.

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I’m inclined to think that John Bolton’s statement that he would comply with a subpoena from a Senate impeachment trial is largely meaningless. First of all, it only matters if he is in fact subpoenaed by the Senate — which is the whole question currently being debated. There’s little sign that this contingency will ever come to pass.

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President Trump’s order to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani has momentarily pushed all from the headlines. But before last Friday and going forward all talk was of the impending impeachment trial in the Senate. As observers tried to make sense of the stand-off over the kind of trial that would be held, most attention focused on Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — the canonical “moderates” who have repeatedly been a Trump Era focus. But this is completely wrong, a frankly imbecilic mistake. I don’t know how much of this is Democrats’ focus or the press generally. It’s probably a mix. But it’s completely wrong, though Collins is in a separate category for reasons I will explain.

There are roughly half a dozen vulnerable Senate Republicans: Cory Gardner (R-CO), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and David Perdue (R-GA).

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