Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
This Is What I Come Back To

Don’t Participate in a Sham Process

President Trump has now, unsurprisingly, chosen to nominate the far right Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. The only sensible approach is for Senate Democrats neither to meet with Barrett nor participate in the confirmation process. Even to do so in a critical posture is to add legitimacy to a process that is illegitimate.

As bad as she may be as a judge or for the future of equal justice in the United States she can never be as bad as the corruption of the process itself. It is that corruption – the court-packing scheme Republicans pushed into overdrive starting in early 2016 – that justifies, indeed requires Democrats to add seats to the Court in 2021. Distracting from that reality with a gauzy-lensed look at Barrett’s personal story and judicial merits is madness. Pure madness.

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The Law Is Coming Prime Badge

Since we live in a period of misdirection and high volume propaganda it is important to restate the things we may sort of know but which are pushed to the edges of our awareness. High, high on that list is this: virtually every argument President Trump has used to stymie lawsuits, congressional probes and criminal investigations is tied to his being the **current** President of the United States. As Josh Kovensky reports here, he’s sticking to these maximal claims of immunity even after being rejected on this front by his packed Supreme Court.

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And There It Is

According to ABC News, Bill Barr personally briefed President Trump on its investigation into those ballots in PA before sending out that dodgy press release that our team has been reporting on. Here’s our latest update on the story from Kate Riga. It does not get more transparent than this: using the DOJ as an adjunct not only of the President’s reelection campaign but his attacks on the integrity of the election itself.

Bill Barr’s Moment of Darkness in the Sun
Bill Barr

With yesterday’s DOJ stunt over ballots in Philadelphia and the latest revelations about the so-called “Durham investigation”, we can see again the sheer degree to which Bill Barr has prostituted the Department of Justice into an arm of the Trump campaign. The DOJ has never been and should never be entirely disconnected from the results of elections. There are basic policy decisions and law enforcement strategies that are properly made by the appointees of an elected President. The involvement of high level political appointees is in many case essential to accountability. But Barr is unique in his sustained and more or less open use of the DOJ as a tool to protect the President’s friends, persecute enemies and make the entire organization a tool of the President’s campaign. Yesterday’s stunt just confirms what we’ve suspected, that Barr will use these final weeks of the campaign to seed bogus “fraud” or voting irregularities stories to support the President’s attacks against the election itself. These will then be immediately picked up by the President and his surrogates as though they were dropped into a slipstream for just that purpose, because of course they were. In a democratic government there is really no greater level of corruption than this. The executive branch – and especially the Justice Department – needs an audit.

Sensory Overload and Annals of Lying

In the midst of the orchestrated mayhem of the moment it is important to step back from the chaos and take stock of what has happened in recent weeks. Yesterday the President again refused to commit to leaving office peacefully if he loses the election. It was credibly reported that the President’s advisors are laying the groundwork and lobbying state legislators to press friendly state legislatures to reject the vote counts in their states and declare President Trump the winner. President Trump meanwhile says a ninth Justice must be on the Court to decide the outcome of the election. In his threats to reject the results of the election at yesterday’s press conference President Trump said he might concede the results of the election if they “get rid of the ballots”, by which he seemed to me end voting by mail.

The notional justification for all these wild claims and threats, almost entirely unprecedented in American history, is the false claim of voter fraud and the more general specter of election chaos – delays, missing ballots, interminable legal disputes, insoluble legal questions that leave the decision in the hands of the Supreme Court or grants some spurious rationale for overruling a botched election.

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Bringing the State Up to Code Prime Badge

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, beyond our ordinary tasks of government, I think an audit of the executive branch is critical after President Trump leaves office. But in these perilous final weeks before the 2020 election we can see another pressing need spotlighted by a lawless President but not created by him: the scaffolding of the US government, the state, the Republic itself, simply isn’t up to code. Like an old house that long predates all the codes and regulations that are mandatory in new structures it’s held up well enough and it simply makes no sense to force a renovation. But in a storm all those problems come to the surface. And in the aftermath of damage you wouldn’t rebuild it in the old way.

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General Principles Prime Badge

As you’ve seen me argue, Democrats must add either two or four seats to the Supreme Court if Republicans proceed with another corrupt Court appointment and Democrats win the presidency and the Senate. There may be other remedies I haven’t thought of. There may be better ones. But I’m certain we are at the point where a real, practical and credible remedy is essential. With that in mind I wanted to make a point about general principles.

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Over the weekend I had a specific granular COVID-safety related question that I wanted an answer to to guide our family’s safety protocols. It was a weird response to observe in myself that I routinely disregarded information from the CDC and the FDA as I searched for information on Google. Today we have another good example of why they’ve lost credibility.

Expand the Court

After a bit more time to reflect, some more thoughts.

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