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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

What is most significant, telling in Sen. Alexander’s statement rejecting witnesses and evidence is really not the part on witnesses. I’m shocked that so many people were thinking there was actually a chance he was going to support holding a real trial. In his tweet storm he writes, straightforwardly enough, that “there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the U.S. Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense.” He’s willing to stipulate to all the claims. So really, what is the point of witnesses?

It’s as though he’s entering a pleas of nolo contendere on behalf of the President and stating that the offense simply doesn’t matter. He is willing to stipulate to all the House Manager’s factual claims. They just don’t matter. He later says that Trump’s action were “inappropriate” and no more. It is really as simple as this: he did it but it doesn’t matter.

I’ve said many times that it’s the Republican Senate rather than Donald Trump who is on trial in this exercise. That seems confirmed by everything we’ve seen so far. Nothing we’ve learned from Lev Parnas or John Bolton in recent days adds anything material to what we know about President Trump’s actions. Yes, we have an even higher level of proof or confirmation. But when a fact is already obvious and indisputable it’s pretty hard to prove it more.

What we have seen is more and more evidence or at least a clearer and clearer illustration of what Senate Republicans will accept from President Trump. No real trial. No witnesses. Open arguments that using state power to coerce foreign leaders to sabotage U.S. elections is fine and indeed proper.

To my mind, Democrats have done a good job on this.

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One day later Alan Dershowitz is having to walk back his novel theory that a U.S. President can solicit foreign interference in a U.S. election in his favor if he believes his reelection is in the national interest.

Much of the commentary about the witnesses question has assumed that there are a half dozen or so so-called Republican moderates up for reelection in November and that the outcome of the trial will be determined by whether members of that group break ranks and call for witnesses. But new reporting suggests that just the opposite is closer to the case.

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The argument given a few moments ago about quid pro quos from Alan Dershowitz was so disingenuous and willfully bamboozling that I think it’s important to briefly unpack it. Dershowitz argued that with many foreign policy decisions a President is both advancing the national interest and also looking to his personal political fortunes. That cannot be an impeachable offense, he argues.

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We’ve just had breaking news in an announcement from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel. He says that on Sept. 23, he spoke to John Bolton and Bolton “suggest[ed] to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.” This was just as the original Ukraine story was breaking and shortly after Bolton was either fired or resigned his position on Sept. 10. This obviously adds to the drama over Bolton’s potential testimony and upcoming book. But it’s not the most important part of this.

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Before we move on I wanted to say a few words about this spectacularly self-regarding man, Alan Dershowitz, and his argument about the constitutional, rather than factual, insufficiency of the impeachment charges brought against President Trump. It is no exaggeration to say that the overwhelming bordering on universal weight of scholarly and historical opinion is that Dershowitz is wrong. But mine isn’t an argument to authority. It’s an overwhelming consensus because it is almost certainly correct. To note just one example, literally during the months in which the Constitution was being written Britain was roiled by an extremely high profile campaign for an impeachment which was on the basis not of statutory crimes but corruption and misrule.

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A number of Republican senators and not a few commentators are now putting forward the argument that calling John Bolton to testify is a waste of time because the White House would bog the question down for months in the Courts. This is a bogus line of argument for two crystal clear reasons I want to briefly explain. It’s not a bad argument, it’s a fake one. It doesn’t exist.

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While the drama of the impeachment trial continues, we have a surge of new polling data. The Democratic primaries are generating a lot of new data. But I want to focus for the moment on the general election, impeachment and the President’s approval.

Two things are happening, which may seem to be inconsistent, but likely are not. The first is that impeachment and removal from office is getting more popular. Indeed, 538’s average of polls which focus specifically on impeachment and/or removal from office has now moved to just over 50% — 50.8% as of this morning.

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The New York Times is reporting that John Bolton recently began circulating the manuscript of this forthcoming book to associates in D.C. Critically, he also sent a copy to the White House for a pre-publication review. (In theory that is to review it for any classified information.) In it Bolton reportedly writes that in August 2019 President Trump told him he wanted to continue holding up military aid to Ukraine until Ukraine relented and helped with investigations into Joe Biden and other Democrats.

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