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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Buried in a footnote of page 19 of the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation and Trump family is this interesting note. One of the organizations that received the Foundation’s largesse was The Mission Continues, the vets charity founded by disgraced former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. The Mission Continues came up in the Greitens scandals because Greitens got the group’s donor list which he then used for political fundraising. May would have been the period when Trump had numerically sealed up the nomination but was facing deep resistance from GOP stakeholders. Spreading money around had a strong logic.

There will probably be many findings in the IG report slated to be released this afternoon. One already seems clear. It should be no surprise. James Comey broke dramatically with DOJ guidelines and precedent to take actions which damaged Hillary Clinton. He did so not out of political bias per se (I never thought that). He did so because he wanted to inoculate himself from aggressive Republican harassment over pro-Hillary bias. They worked the refs and they got terrible calls in their favor, which helped them win the election. As I’ve written a few times, this happened because James Comey himself is the greatest devotee of the James Comey Myth. (I discuss it more fully in that link.)

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As I noted, one part of what’s driving Michael Cohen from his lawyers is a dispute over money. That seems to be a dispute not so much with the lawyers but with the Trump Family — how much of Cohen’s legal bills they agreed to pay. We don’t know precisely which or how much of his legal bills they’re paying. It seems that the major part of it is on the team of lawyers and specialists who are going through all those seized documents and items to decide or make arguments about what is privileged. This has been described to me as an almost insanely costly endeavor. Lots of lawyers and IT specialists working 18 hour days for weeks. Lots and lots of money.

Is that all they’re paying for? Beyond just keeping Cohen loyal Trump obviously has a huge interest in being involved in that process. After all he’s the client who has the privilege. But we don’t know that’s all the Trump Family is footing the bill for.

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A simple, short quotation from a piece today in Vanity Fair about Michael Cohen.

“The breakup was also spurred by a disagreement over payment, and how much the Trump Organization was expected to foot on Cohen’s behalf, according to two sources with knowledge of the dispute.”

Then there’s this from the Times: “The dispute between Mr. Cohen and his lawyers involves the payment of his legal bills, part of which are being financed by the Trump family.”

It speaks for itself. The Trump Organization is Donald Trump. Full stop. Why is the President paying any of Michael Cohen’s legal bills? How much is he paying and has he paid? We knew that the Trump campaign paid money last year. But that was supposedly tied to answering questions before the Russia committees which is at least notionally tied to the campaign. But this is Trump personally. Why is President Trump paying Michael Cohen’s legal bills?

I wanted to let you know that beginning next month we’re going to kick off the biggest editorial series we’ve ever undertaken at TPM. It will run for five months, from July through the first weeks after the November midterm election. The topic will be voting rights and democracy, an issue that has been a central focus of what we do at TPM for going on 20 years. It’s particularly timely in the coming months for obvious reasons.

We’re coming up on one of the most critical midterm elections in years, perhaps in our lifetimes. (It sounds like hyperbole. People say stuff like that a lot. But I truly believe it.) So it’s voting season. But it’s more than that. Voting rights and democracy itself are under siege. But not only under siege. They’re under siege but also in some places resurgent. There are growing pushes for voter purges, voter ID, various restrictions or rollbacks of early voting and efforts to make voting easier and simpler for more people. But you also have a number of states moving toward automatic voter registration. There are efforts afoot not only to resist the worst of the assault on the franchise but to expand it, to get off the defensive and go on the offensive. Activists are also beginning to turn the tide on the kind of extreme gerrymandering that became the norm after 2010.

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Make sure to read this. It is an example, among many other things, of the kind of people, really the worst people, who make up this administration. Mari Stull is a former food and beverage lobbyist turned wine blogger who goes by the name “Vino Vixen.” Somehow she drew an appointment as a “senior advisor” to the State Department and has apparently focused her time on compiling lists of which employees at the Department or seconded to various international organizations are in fact loyal the President. Here’s more.

We have what seems to be the big news of the day: Michael Cohen’s lawyers are leaving the case. But there are conflicting accounts of just what that means. ABC News kicked the story off by breaking the news of the lawyers’ imminent departure and that Cohen is “likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan”, according to sources who spoke to ABC.

Other organizations followed but with less clarity on cooperation. The Journal confirmed that the lawyers are leaving but that Cohen “hasn’t yet decided whether he will cooperate with prosecutors in the case”, though his desire “to hire a lawyer with close ties to the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office” seems like a pretty good indication of where things are going. Meanwhile, the Times again confirms the lawyers’ departure but references sources who claim the issue is “primarily over payment of the legal bills of one of his lawyers, Stephen Ryan.”

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The list of these seems all but limitless.

From The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2018. The reference to “around the same time” is summer 2017, just after President Trump met with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg at the G-20 Summit.

Around the same time, Mr. Trump had an idea about how to counter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, which he got after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin : If the U.S. stopped joint military exercises with the South Koreans, it could help moderate Kim Jong Un’s behavior. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis used an approach that aides say can work: “He says, ‘Your instincts are absolutely correct,’ and then gets him [the president] to do the exact opposite of what his instincts say,” said one person close to the White House. Mr. Trump dropped the idea, although he has ordered aides to give the exercises a low profile, eliminating press releases and briefings about them.

Very mixed opinions on today’s AT&T verdict. While the specifics are complex, this is another move toward allowing more monopolies in the US economy, especially in the information economy. Monopolies are already a big problem, especially in the digital and tech platforms.

But fundamentally I think this is a good decision because there is no question in my mind that this happened because President Trump wants to punish unfriendly press coverage. CNN has plenty of problems. It’s hard to call it ‘independent’. It’s part of a huge mega-corporation and it’s about to be folded into an even huger mega-corporation. But fundamentally this is about a lawless President using his presidential powers to exact an economic cost to criticizing him. That fact should trump the specifics of AT&T’s market power. In any foreseeable future, major media is controlled by big corporations. If the President can get away with exacting a big economic price for not following the Fox News line, we’ve lost a big part of the fight.

I’m very curious about this. I’m interested in hearing from anyone who knows more.

The BBC correspondent in Beijing and the BBC Bureau Chief for North America say that China (specifically, the government spokesman in a daily briefing) announced that the US had agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea before President Trump announced it in his press conference. In other words, they knew in advance.

Based on only the latter’s account I wasn’t certain whether the timing was right – timezone differences and whatever other possible confusions. But Stephen McDonell’s account from Beijing seems pretty open and shut. It’s still possible there’s some misunderstanding here. But it seems unlikely. What’s going on here?

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