Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TPM.

Durbin Troubles Prime Badge

The other issue with Durbin, and the far more important one, is the debt limit. He said the right things this morning in the same interview: no negotiation on the debt limit, period. But that’s now. Durbin is the deputy leader in the Senate. All the gravitational pull to seek press and elite D.C. approbation will be put to the test in coming months over the debt ceiling. Durbin’s a very weak reed to rely on.

Durbin An Embarrassment Prime Badge
Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Like more than a few Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) embarrassed himself this morning on the Biden documents case. He said President Biden is “diminished” by the situation. On Trump and Biden: “At its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” he said. In each case, after whacking Biden around a bit, he went on to lamely distinguish between the two situations. Those distinctions, needless to say, will never be the headlines, never garner attention, never be what shapes news coverage. Manchin of course was worse, saying Biden “should have a lot of regrets” and questioning whether we know whether Biden’s or Trump’s actions are more egregious.

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Klain to Depart as Chief of Staff Prime Badge

Ron Klain, White House Chief of Staff, will reportedly announce he’s departing the position shortly. I have no inside knowledge of what’s behind this. I suspect it’s mostly the reality that there’s a short half life to the position itself. Indeed, rattling around my head for 20 years is a Klain anecdote in which he told his staff, when departing as Al Gore’s Chief of Staff in 1999, that the position is ”like a milk carton, and milk cartons have an expiration date.” I doubt it is about any substantive disagreements about anything

The only thing I can think to add about the transition is that this period is a major transition regardless. The next two years will be very, very different from the last two. There aren’t going to be any big legislative initiatives — no trying to get House progressives somehow on board with whatever new demand comes from Manchin and Sinema. That’s done. It will be about two things: First, seeing whether the House Freedom Caucus breaks the Republic or whether they are in turn broken by President Biden. Second, laying the groundwork for the 2024 election in which everything will be on the line. The outcome of the first largely determines the possibilities for the second.

Given this shift it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a few more personnel changes. It’s just a very different brief.

NYT Whitewatering Very Strongly Prime Badge
The New York Times newspaper are displayed for sale at a news stand in Hong Kong, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The New York Times said Tuesday it will transfer some of its staff out of Hong Kong because of the uncertainties about practicing journalism in the Chinese territory under its newly imposed national security law. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

For those of you who remember the embarrassment of the Times coverage of the “Whitewater” scandal, it must seem like déjà vu all over again. It does to me. The paper’s editors are trying, and I mean really trying, to make the Biden classified documents issue a thing. And I mean a grave thing. The stage was ably set by the subject line of the email I received blasting out their latest deep dive on the story: “Inside Biden’s 68 days of silence.” It’s this like a Gabriel García Márquez homage? I mean good lord. Are we really doing this again? Of course we are. It’s how they roll.

I took the liberty of a short set of annotations.

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Out of Patience Prime Badge

Is the federal judiciary running out of patience with Donald Trump? Or, at least, one federal judge? Yesterday, as David noted this morning, federal judge Donald Middlebrooks hit Trump and his lawyers with almost $1 million in sanctions for their meritless and absurd lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and others. Trump has been notorious for decades for constantly threatening and sometimes filing predatory, frivolous and abusive lawsuits. But he’s mostly gotten away with it. That seemed to come to end with Judge Middlebrooks’ hefty sanctions.

Then this morning, Trump withdrew his case against New York Attorney General Tish James. What do the two cases have in common? They’re both before Judge Middlebrooks, a federal judge in Florida.

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Did The Justices Get Asked If They Did It? Prime Badge

About that Supreme Court report … It does not state it explicitly. But the plain language of the report strongly suggests that the investigation did not investigate or question the justices themselves. It repeatedly refers to investigations of and questioning of Court “personnel” (temporary and permanent) and Court “employees.” We can’t say those terms have a definitive legal meaning in this context. But the justices certainly aren’t employees of the Court. They are the Court. “Personnel” also seems to refer to the same class of people: everyone who works at and for the Court, not the justices. I suspect most Court observers would agree that this is at least the most obvious interpretation of those word choices, if not the only possible one.

It’s not terribly surprising that the investigation didn’t investigate the justices themselves. But it’s worth noting that that is at least the most obvious reading of the wording of the report. We’ll follow up to see if we can learn more.

We Need a Better Understanding of ‘Fake News’ Prime Badge

Recently I was reading an article on the January 8 insurrection in Brazil. The writer noted Jan. 8 along with Jan. 6 in the U.S. as examples of what can result from the maelstrom of global authoritarianism, “fake news” and pervasive misinformation. Brazil has also witnessed its own version of the “Big Lie” claiming fraud was behind the ouster of Jair Bolsonaro, and there are various scare stories about the new President Lula da Silva freezing bank accounts or forcing middle class homeowners and renters to house poor people in their homes. You can imagine the kind of stuff I’m talking about and how it can create hysteria in segments of the population in both countries.

But it’s a reminder of something I’ve thought a lot about and written some about over the last few years. We simply don’t have a good theory or understanding of what we’re talking about when we talk about “fake news” and “misinformation.” In most cases we know it when we see it: Jan. 6 was an Antifa operation, millions of “illegals” voting in 2020 gave the election to Joe Biden, young people around the world dropping dead because of COVID vaccines, mass shootings conducted by crisis actors to justify gun confiscation.

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BREAKING: Santos a Citizen! Maybe? Prime Badge
George Santos

As Nicole notes below, The Forward has a new article out based on the immigration files of George Santos’s mother, Fatima A.C.H. Devolder, who died in 2016. A researcher apparently got the file under a FOIA request and shared the documents with the reporter. The key point of the article, unsurprisingly, is that Santos is a huge ass liar. In this case, a big fat liar about 9/11.

His story about his mother dying as the result attack on the Twin Towers broke down somewhat when it turned out she died in 2016. He then claimed that she had been in the Towers on 9/11 and at Ground Zero on subsequent days. She developed cancer because of her exposure to the toxic fumes circulating in the air at the time. That is a very real issue. Numerous first responders and others who spent time at Ground Zero in the days and weeks after 9/11 later developed cancers and other illnesses. Since it’s hard to prove a negative, it’s been difficult for people to definitively state that Devolder was not working at the Towers on 9/11.

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Trump’s Disappearing and He Knows It Prime Badge

I say all the following not for a moment discounting the threat Donald Trump continues to be to the American republic. But since the announcement of his reelection bid, immediately after a discrediting electoral defeat more than two months ago, he’s seemed less a swaggering warlord planning his return than a diminishing voice less and less relevant to the political happenings of the day. His claims and attacks become more vitriolic as his volume gets turned lower and lower.

Just this week he launched a broadside against white evangelicals, the most loyal and militant portion of his political base. They were “disloyal,” he said, and he blamed some of the 2022 reverses on them: “I thought they could’ve fought much harder during the election, the ’22 election.” This after an earlier interview where he blamed no-exceptions abortion bans for the 2022 defeats. This is angry desperation, not any ability to read the room.

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‘Strike Fear in the Hearts and Minds’ Prime Badge

Bernalillo County (New Mexico) District Attorney Sam Bregman, on the arrest of Solomon Pena in connection with the shootings at the homes and offices of Democratic officials: “We believe we have the evidence to prosecute this individual who really was as the chief said last night, the mastermind of trying to strike fear in the hearts and minds of elected officials because he didn’t like the outcome of an election. And that is just unacceptable. And we’ll do everything we can to bring them to justice and make sure that they are brought to justice.” Bregman appeared with Kristen Welker on Meet the Press Now.

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