April 16, 2024, 3:37 pm

Commentators have been going for moments debating the merits of the New York/”hush money” prosecution of Donald Trump. Is it “serious”? Is it serious enough? How does it match up against the three other criminal prosecutions still looming over him? Does it lower the average level of seriousness when the independent seriousness of each is added together and divided by four? In the most general sense the entire conversation is an example of what we might call the Truly Reality Distortion Vortex. One of Trump’s great powers is that he is like a heavy magnet of distorted thinking. When he comes into proximity people start thinking stupid things, asking stupid questions. What opinion should we, who are not prosecutors, have toward a chronic lawbreaker who is charged with breaking the laws he broke? Will it make him stronger? Were the laws broken enough?

On the simplest level the first question has always seemed easy to me. People don’t just go to jail for crimes like this. One of Trump’s accomplices literally already went to jail for this. Indeed, he did so on charges brought by the Trump Justice Department. That speaks for itself.

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-Josh Marshall
April 16, 2024, 1:41 pm

We talked about Rick Scott last night and Kari Lake before that. But there are clearly Republicans around the country realizing they’d just gotten off on the wrong foot with abortion. It turns out they can totally be good friends. 15 weeks? 24 weeks? Why not 80 weeks? Some of them are thinking real big. Anyway, I’m curious to hear about the stories that aren’t making national headlines. I know there are more. Can you send me yours from your neck of the woods? Same email address as always: talk (at) talkingpointsmemo dot com, as seen on Jeopardy ™.

-Josh Marshall
April 15, 2024, 11:52 pm

Just a few days after Kari Lake of Arizona went from supporting an absolute ban on abortion to holding a series of teach-ins on the work of Andrea Dworkin (I kid, but only barely) we have Rick Scott announcing his own epic flipflop as Republicans across the country run away from their records as hardcore abortion restrictionists.

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-Josh Marshall
April 15, 2024, 3:48 pm

As you can see here and here, I did a few posts over the weekend trying to make sense of just what was happening in the skies over Israel. As I noted, I initially thought the fusillade was essentially performative. The Iranians fired off a mix of drones and missiles they knew would be shot down, so they can make a big show of striking back while being confident that the damage would be limited enough to avoid the risk of further escalation. But as more information came in, that seemed less credible.

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-Josh Marshall
April 15, 2024, 10:13 am

As I mentioned in today’s Morning Memo, TPM’s Josh Kovensky arrived at the courthouse in Manhattan at 6 a.m. ET to stand in the press line. Two and a half hours later, he was denied access because the press room had filled up.

Good news! Through patience and persistence, Kovensky kept waiting even though there wasn’t really a press line any more and somehow it worked. He is now inside the courthouse and will be able to report on jury selection for us.

-David Kurtz
April 14, 2024, 12:14 pm

Things can change in a moment. But the clearest sign out of Israel this morning is Benny Gantz (et al.) statement that Israel will respond to Iran at a time of its own choosing. That’s a pretty clear signal there is not going to be immediate retaliation and that’s what the White House wanted and demanded. As I noted yesterday, Israel itself has very big reasons not to involve itself in an open-ended conflict right now, as much as all its muscle memory and defense doctrines demand a swift and overwhelming retaliation. But I want to note what we’ve seen here from the perspective of U.S. policy.

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-Josh Marshall
April 14, 2024, 12:29 am

I assume we’ll know a lot more about what happened here by tomorrow. But I wanted to comment on one aspect of what happened tonight in the skies over Israel. One theory seems to be that Iran fired off a bunch of drones and missiles which it knew Israel would be able to intercept in the great majority of cases. In other words, they get to strike an apparent heavy blow (good for restoring honor/credibility) but with the knowledge the blow wouldn’t really land. So they can avoid regional war/escalation.

Earlier in the evening I was thinking something like this. But the more I hear the less that seems credible to me. Current reports suggest Iran fired some three hundred aerial devices, both missiles and drones, at Israel. A substantial number of those were surface-to-surface missiles. The U.S. appears to have shot down upwards of a hundred of those with anti-missile destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean and fighter jets intercepting from the air. Some of the more technical reporting I’ve seen explains how the U.S. destroyers could specifically augment Israel’s ballistic missile defenses. So not just adding more defenses to what Israel has and not just better ones, but interlocking the two, as it were, to create something much stronger.

Let me add the important caveat and that I’m of course no expert on missile warfare. But it just doesn’t add up to me that Iran fired off that much hardware and was confident that few if any of them would find their targets in Israel. The U.S. also seems to have played a very big role in the result, perhaps as many as a third of the shootdowns with other Arab states likely shooting down a small number themselves. If it was just a performative light show I don’t think you’d need the U.S. to be that heavily involved.

What all of that would amount to is that Iran really struck hard at Israel but seems to have failed almost completely. I’m not sure this totally adds up to me. But at least for now it seems more credible to me than the other theory.

-Josh Marshall
April 13, 2024, 9:49 pm

9:27 PM: We have a complicated and, if it weren’t so dangerous, fascinating mix of developments. I will try to hit some key points.

Iran appears to have fired or launched at least two hundred drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles against Israel. The overwhelming majority of them appear to have been shot down. The impacts where they happened appear to have caused minor damage, mostly around military bases. One boy in the South was gravely injured by shrapnel falling from the sky. But that seems to be the extent of injuries in the entire country. This was a massive attack from Iranian soil directly on Israel. To the best of my knowledge Iran has never attacked Israel directly from Iranian territory. This blows through a forest of red lines. At the same time the damage appears to be extremely limited.

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-Josh Marshall
April 13, 2024, 5:13 pm

I’m going to use this thread to try to give you as best I can tell the most current information on what’s unfolding between Israel and Iran.

5:59 PM: Iranian state news services are now claiming they’ve launched a wave of ballistic missiles. I say claim because we’re deep in the fog of war here. And the use of ballistic missiles will take this situation into very different territory. They also arrive at their targets very quickly.

5:34 PM: Not surprising but still notable: the UK military also appears to be involved in the shootdown effort. It is highly interesting to me that there are credible reports of the Jordanian and Saudi militaries already targeting parts of the Iranian attack. The Houthi militia in Yemen has apparently also entered the fray. Less clear what if anything is happening with other “axis of resistance” proxies in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq.

5:27 PM: We now have closed airspace in Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. This isn’t surprising. It would be insane to have anything but military aircraft in the air right now. Multiple militaries and air defenses will be shooting anything in the air out of the sky. But still a measure of the moment.

5:18 PM: From my limited understanding of these things, Israel, the U.S. and others should be able to intercept most of these attacks, perhaps even the great majority of these drones and missiles. The much bigger question is what Israel will feel compelled to do in response.

5:13 PM: Drones take nine or ten hours to get from Iran to Israel. Cruise missiles three to four hours.

5:04 PM: In the last hour Iran launched a large armada of “suicide” drones against Israel, apparently in two or three waves. Israel, Jordan and probably other countries have totally closed their air space. Basically, anything in the air is going to be shot out of the sky. There are further reports that Iran has launched a volley of missiles, presumably cruise missiles. But that later detail seems less clear. There have been a number of on-the-record reports that the U.S. and Israel are currently tracking drones en route to Israel. The confirmation that cruise missiles have already been launched is less clear. It’s quite possible the drones — which can be shot down in most cases — are meant to saturate air defenses and allow other more lethal munitions to get through. That’s about all we know at the moment. Iran and Israel are not close to each other. These things take hours to get from one place to another. It is clear that the U.S. and almost certainly regional allies are actively involved in trying to shoot all of these things down.

-Josh Marshall
April 12, 2024, 5:05 pm

It is bracing, remarkable and simply amazing to watch the sheer panic among Republicans, and especially Donald Trump, in reaction to the Arizona Supreme Court decision which put the state back under the near-absolute 1864 abortion ban. We talked a few days ago about Kari Lake’s desperate attempts to get out of the way of the backlash. Today Donald Trump went on Truth Social and demanded that Gov. Katie Hobbs and the Republican state legislature “remedy what has happened.” But if you look at what he says he doesn’t seem willing to call for anything more than adding rape and incest to the list of possible exceptions under the 1864 law? “We must ideally have three Exceptions for Rape, Incest, and the Life of the Mother.”

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-Josh Marshall
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ComeyWire

Trump Jr. Says Dad Asked Comey About Flynn Probe, Though He Denies Doing So

Donald Trump Jr., executive vice president of The Trump Organization, discusses the expansion of Trump hotels, Monday, June 5, 2017, in New York.  The Trump Organization is launching a new mid-market hotel chain called "American Ideas." The president's son said the new chain will start with three hotels in Mississippi. The president's son says inspiration for the chain came from traveling through America during his father's presidential campaign. The company also says the first of dozens of hotels in another new Trump chain called Scion is under construction in Mississippi, too. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Donald Trump Jr. on Saturday said that his father did speak to fired FBI Director James Comey about his preferred outcome for the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, though President Donald Trump flatly denied doing so.

“When I hear the Flynn comments, you and I know both know my father for a long time. When he tells you to do something, guess what? There’s no ambiguity in it,” Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro. “There’s no ‘Hey, I’m hoping. You and I are friends. Hey, I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”

On Friday, however, the President flatly denied making those remarks to Comey or pressuring him to drop the investigation into Flynn, implicitly or otherwise.

“You said you hoped the Flynn investigation he could let go,” ABC News’ Jon Karl asked Trump during a press conference.

“I didn’t say that,” Trump interrupted.

“So he lied about that?” Karl asked, referring to Comey.

“Well, I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “And I mean I will you tell you I didn’t say that.”

But, he added, “There would be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today, but I did not say that.”

Trump Jr. on Saturday claimed that “everything that went on in the Comey testimony was basically ridiculous.”

“For this guy as a politician to then go back and write a memo, ‘oh, I felt,’ he felt so threatened, he felt that — but he didn’t do anything!” Trump Jr. said.

Comey’s blockbuster testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, however, prompted Trump to offer to do the same.

Trump Turns Ire At Leakers Against Comey, Suggests There Is More To Come

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis, speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested that there are more revelations to come from fired FBI Director James Comey, and questioned their legality.

“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. “Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!'”

Trump made similar remarks on Friday in another early morning tweet where he labeled Comey a “leaker,” referring to Comey’s decision to share the contents of memos about his conversations with Trump to the press via a friend.

Comey revealed that decision during his testimony on Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he painted Trump as a liar and testified that Trump tried to obtain a loyalty pledge from the former FBI head and pushed him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump on Friday said he was “100 percent” willing to match Comey and testify under oath to contradict Comey’s testimony.

Jeff Sessions Pushes Back On Parts Of Comey’s Testimony

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, right, accompanied by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, left, talks to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House, Monday, March 27, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A spokesman for Attorney General Jeff Sessions late Thursday pushed back on several aspects of James Comey’s Senate testimony after the former FBI director raised new questions about Sessions’ actions before and after he recused himself from the federal investigation of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.

Comey’s testimony touched on Sessions at several points. He hinted that the FBI was aware of information that led the bureau to believe Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe weeks before he actually did so, and reportedly told senators in a subsequent closed session that Sessions may have met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. on a third occasion that the attorney general had not disclosed.

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Trump Claims ‘Vindication’ After Comey Rakes Him Over Coals

President Donald Trump announces the approval of a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing the way for the $8 billion project, Friday, March 24, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The morning after former FBI Director James Comey delivered blockbuster testimony in the Senate in which he painted President Donald Trump as a liar and said that the President pressured him to quash a probe into Michael Flynn, Trump published a tweet declaring “vindication.”

Trump published his tweet shortly after 6 a.m. on Friday morning, during the time frame when he typically shares his thoughts on Twitter.

He referenced “false statements and lies,” appearing to accuse Comey of lying under oath.

Trump also labeled Comey a “leaker,” referencing Comey’s decision to get a friend to share the contents of memos about his conversations with Trump to the press, a revelation the former FBI director shared on Thursday during with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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Is Trump Under Federal Scrutiny NOW? Comey Testimony Leaves Door Open

President Donald Trump meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

James Comey testified Thursday that he was “stunned” by requests President Donald Trump made to curtail federal investigations related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and thought the President’s remarks were of investigative interest— and it seems other senior FBI officials agree.

Though the ousted FBI director did not go as far as accusing Trump of attempting to obstruct justice, Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee offered the clearest indication yet that the President may already be under scrutiny for exactly that.

Part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s job is to “sort that out,” Comey said, dismissing questions from the assembled senators on whether he personally believed Trump obstructed justice. His testimony made the case for why he felt “sure” that Mueller would look into the multiple one-on-one conversations that Trump requested of his then-FBI director.

Comey says Trump asked him to quash the FBI’s investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn in one Feb. 14 exchange in the Oval Office. In a March 30 phone call, Comey says Trump requested that he lift the “cloud” that the Russia probe was casting over his administration.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the conversation I had with the President was an effort to obstruct,” Comey said of the Feb. 14 meeting. “I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.”

Importantly, Comey noted that Trump asked other senior officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, to clear the room before initiating the conversation about the Flynn probe. He noted those officials hesitated before complying.

“Why did he kick everybody out of the Oval Office?” Comey said. “That, to me as an investigator, is a very significant fact.”

Senior FBI officials briefed on that conversation said it was “of investigative interest” to determine the intent of Trump’s statements about Flynn, Comey testified.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe made similar remarks in separate testimony before the committee on Wednesday, telling Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) that it was “accurate” to assume that Comey’s private conversations with Trump either already are or are “likely to become part of a criminal investigation.”

These loaded comments apparently did not trouble Trump’s legal team or his defenders on Capitol Hill, who insisted that Comey’s testimony actually vindicated the President. They noted that, as Trump previously said, Comey confirmed that he informed Trump on three separate occasions that the President was not the subject of a counterintelligence investigation.

Republican lawmakers, the White House and Trump’s own family members also argued that the President was merely looking out for the interest of Flynn, a longtime adviser, and never explicitly ordered Comey to end any investigation. Those defenders neglected to mention that Comey testified that a senior FBI official cautioned him against telling Trump he was not a part of the federal investigation, because that person believed that “inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope.”

Whether Trump requested or ordered that Comey drop the investigation into Flynn is an irrelevant semantic distinction. As Comey testified, Trump asked him to swear “loyalty” and repeatedly brought up the status of his job in their conversations, leaving the former FBI director with the impression that his continued tenure at the bureau was “contingent upon how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty.”

He did not comply with Trump’s requests and was fired only four months into Trump’s term. By the President’s own admission, Comey was dismissed because of the “Russia thing.”

“I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted,” Comey testified. “That is a very big deal.”

Schiff: ‘Hard To Overstate The Significance’ Of Comey Testimony

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks after a closed meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that it was “hard to overstate the significance” of fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), whose committee is leading its own investigation into Russian election meddling, wrote in a statement responding to Comey’s testimony that it “constitutes evidence of an intention to interfere or potentially obstruct at least a portion of the Russia investigation, if not more.”

Read Schiff’s full statement below:

“Today, former FBI Director James Comey testified that the President of the United States demanded his loyalty, and directed him to drop a criminal investigation into his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Director Comey further testified that he believes President Trump ultimately fired him in order to alter the course of the FBI’s Russia investigation. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this testimony.

“These discussions and others took place in one-on-one telephone conversions and meetings initiated by the President, or after the President cleared the room of other people. Director Comey wrote memoranda about his conversations with President Trump because he was worried that the President and his Administration would misrepresent them.

“In my view, this testimony constitutes evidence of an intention to interfere or potentially obstruct at least a portion of the Russia investigation, if not more. It will be important for Congress to obtain evidence to corroborate this testimony — the memoranda, certainly, as well as any tapes, if they exist. We should also interview those around Director Comey at the time of these contacts, to get their contemporaneous impressions of his conversations with the President and to supplement his testimony. Finally, we cannot accept the refusal of Directors Rogers and Coats to answer questions about whether they were asked to intervene with Comey on the Flynn case or any related matter. Similarly, we will need to ask Director Pompeo the same questions. These additional steps are vital to determining the ultimate significance of the President’s actions.”

Dem Senator To Question Sessions Tuesday About Comey Allegations

A routine budget hearing in the Senate next week featuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions took on heightened importance following ousted FBI Director James Comey’s explosive Thursday testimony, which raised questions about what Sessions did both before and after he recused himself from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

At least one member of the Appropriations Committee, Vice Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), plans to use next week’s budget hearing as an opportunity to grill Sessions about Russia, Comey and President Donald Trump. “I have many important questions for him to answer,” he said in a statement.

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Here’s What We Learned From James Comey’s Blockbuster Testimony

Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn in during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

During his feverishly-anticipated testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, ousted FBI Director James Comey made a host of major revelations about his handling of President Donald Trump and the federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election in the months before he was abruptly fired in May.

Importantly, Comey disclosed new information about actions he took when he became concerned about the Trump administration’s attempts to establish a “patronage” relationship with him and persuade him to drop the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Here’s an overview of some of the most significant moments from the hearing, where Comey revealed exactly what steps he took and why he took them.

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Comey Repeatedly Emphasized The Gravity Of Russia’s Election Meddling

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Throughout his testimony Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey repeatedly stressed the serious implications of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He argued that the issue of Russian meddling it not about politics, but about the credibility of the American government.

Toward the beginning of the hearing, Comey said that he has no doubt that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and that Russian government officials were aware of the meddling.

He later stressed that Russian interference is very real, countering President Donald Trump’s constant dismissals of the Russia probe.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked Comey about the way Trump has discussed Russia’s election meddling, noting that the President has described Russian interference “as a hoax and as fake news.” In response, Comey stressed that there’s no doubt that the Russian government tried to interfere in the 2016 election and that the conclusion on Russia’s actions is “about as unfake as you can possibly get.”

“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of the government. There is no fuzz on that,” Comey said.

“It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community — and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence — it’s not a close call,” he continued. “That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get and is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. Because this is about America, not about any particular party.”

Asked if it was a “hostile act by the Russian government,” Comey replied, “Yes.”

Later in his testimony, Comey emphasized that Russia’s attempt to meddle in the election is a threat to the United States and should rise above politics. He delivered a passionate monologue about just how grave a threat Russia’s meddling is to America.

“The reason this is such a big deal is we have this big, messy, wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for, except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful,” Comey said. “But we’re talking about a foreign government that — using technical intrusion, lots of other methods — tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act.”

“That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally,” he continued. “They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. And so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about. And they will be back, because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill and they don’t like it.”

The former FBI director also noted that Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election was part of an ongoing effort targeted at the U.S.

“It’s a long-term practice of theirs. It stepped up a notch in a significant way in ’16. They’ll be back,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He stressed that the probe into Russian election meddling is also about prevention of future attacks, saying that Russia is not a threat to any one political party, but to the country as a whole.

Comey also addressed some of the details of the the FBI’s investigation into Russian hacking attempts. He said there was a “massive” effort to target government agencies and non-governmental groups, estimating that hundreds, possibly around 1,000, entities were targeted. He also said that the FBI never examined the hardware that was hacked at the Democratic National Committee’s, but that the FBI got the information they needed from a third party.

McCain On His Comey Questions: Maybe I Shouldn’t Stay Up Late For Baseball

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Thursday reflected ruefully on his questions to fired FBI Director James Comey during an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I get the sense from Twitter that my line of questioning today went over people’s heads,” McCain said in a statement. “Maybe going forward I shouldn’t stay up late watching the Diamondbacks night games.”

McCain said he wanted to find out whether Comey believed “that any of his interactions with the President rise to the level of obstruction of justice.”

“While I missed an opportunity in today’s hearing, I still believe this question is important, and I intend to submit it in writing to Mr. Comey for the record,” he said.