July 15, 2024, 9:07 pm

Jon Chait has a new article up at New York Magazine in his series of articles about Joe Biden and the need for him to end his candidacy to make way for a younger, more viable candidate. His main issue now is that the people in the Democratic Party who were pushing hardest to get Biden to step aside have, he says, simply given up and accepted losing the presidency. He then analogizes this move to the atmosphere after 9/11 in which Democrats rallied around George W. Bush as an act of national unity. He finds this perverse because there’s nothing about national unity that makes you suddenly accept the ascension of the primary driver of political violence and national chaos simply because that person became the target of violence.

I find myself disagreeing with most of these particular claims but agreeing with the overriding one: I recoil at the center of my being from Democrats’ tendency to just fold at the first, second and third sign of difficulty.

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-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 3:25 pm

If there was any question about what the rest of this campaign is going to be like, I think we got the answer with the selection of JD Vance. Vance is no dummy and he is probably the most revanchist nationalist choice Trump could have made. He’s definitely an anti-U.S. alliances person, isolationist in a very Trumpy way, but more coherently so. He was out aggressively over the weekend blaming Democrats for the attempted assassination of Donald Trump. I expect that to be the theme of this week’s convention, whatever the early claims about national unity. He’s one of those guys who initially found Trump disreputable and beyond the pale and then did a full makeover to embrace the man and his politics after Trump took over the GOP. Notably Vance comes out of the Peter Thiel world in Silicon Valley. So he likely brings a significant amount of money with him, which won’t hurt. It’s the kind of choice you make if you’re pretty confident you’re going to win because this takes you from 100% Trumpy to more like 130% Trumpy. It’s a fateful choice. We’ll see if that prediction is right.

-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 3:09 pm

Here’s something I’ve been confused about. In the first moments of a major news story like the attempted assassination of a former president, there is a chaos to the reporting. Initial reports turn out not to be true. They turn out to have been based on misunderstandings or false assumptions. A lot of that happened in the first minutes and hours after the shooting Saturday afternoon in Butler, Pennsylvania. But there are gaps in the public reporting about just how Donald Trump was injured that have confused me, specifically whether the injury to his ear was caused by a grazing wound from a bullet or whether one of the bullets shot by Thomas Crooks struck his teleprompter and then shards of that plexiglass material struck the former president. In the biggest sense it doesn’t matter: Crooks tried to shoot Trump and in the process Trump was injured. Whether it was the bullet itself or shards of plexiglass, the bullet struck is a matter of kinetics rather than guilt or innocence or the reality that Trump could have been killed. One spectator was killed, and two others injured. The bullet that almost killed Ronald Reagan, if I’m remembering correctly, was actually a ricochet rather than a direct impact. But it’s still something that’s worth having some clear answer to.

Here’s why I’m still looking for more information on this.

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-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 12:58 pm

From TPM Reader PB

As someone who has worked in gun violence prevention for a long time, I was very much struck by how much Trump’s would-be assassin fit the school shooter profile — young, male, alienated and gun-obsessed — much more than any identifiable political or ideological profile. 

I realize this won’t stop Republicans from claiming he was a crazed leftist on the basis of a $15 donation to a voter registration PAC, but outside the right-wing echo chamber, as Bill Clinton would say, “that dog won’t hunt.” 

I have no idea why this guy decided to target Trump, and we likely never will get a clear motive. It certainly had something to do with the fact that he was swimming in the toxic stew of gun culture. Over the past twenty to thirty years, gun clubs have transformed from gathering places for hunting enthusiasts to hotbeds of white supremacist and anti-government sentiment and activity. They are also powerful forces at the state government level, serving as an often successful organizing force against gun reform laws. 

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-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 12:55 pm

Yesterday Axios reported that a “senior House Democrat” said, “We’ve all resigned ourselves to a second Trump presidency.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went on Twitter to say that if this is someone’s attitude then the first thing they should do is resign from Congress. My sentiments exactly. The first thing to say about this is that we see many blind quotes in publications like this and they often trigger rounds of recriminations among Democrats when it’s unclear what if anything was actually said. I’m not saying they are fabricated. I’m sure they are real in the narrow sense. But you don’t know the context of these remarks or the identity of the speaker. So it’s a really bad idea to jump to some general diagnosis of the situation based on them. These asides are meant to spark drama and attention.

With that said, though, it’s also very clear that Democrats are caught in a wild moment of demoralization and pessimism and that it is to a real degree characterological. And a lot of that is among Democratic electeds in Washington, DC, the kind who talk a lot to the newsletters. We’ve seen a lot of it on-the-record during the Biden drama.

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-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 10:04 am

I don’t usually flag an Axios column for your perusal. But this one may be an exception, if only to absorb the full fluffery and myth-making that places like Axios are now doing. We hear that Trump will now be like Reagan who after his attempted assassination, they quote David Broder here, became “mythic” and “politically untouchable.” Trump is no Reagan. But then neither was Reagan. I don’t know what Broder was smoking when he wrote that but after a couple-month poll bump Reagan’s public support actually went back to where it had been and then got super low for the 1982 midterms in which Republicans got walloped. He rose again after the 1982 recession in time for his 1984 blowout. In any case, the Axios piece just keeps rollin’ from there. Trump will now be able to unite America, writes CEO Jim VandeHei. Prince Hal-like, we’re told, the real Trump is a very different man in private and will now shed his public Trumpy ways and become a new man. If there’s any question Trump’s a new man post-shooting, well, they quote Tucker Carlson telling us so.

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-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 8:57 am

TPM Reader KO sent me this lede from an AP piece from February of this year.

 Former President Donald Trump told thousands of members of the National Rifle Association that “no one will lay a finger on your firearms” if he returns to the White House, and bragged that during his time as president he “did nothing” to curb guns.

“During my four years nothing happened. And there was great pressure on me having to do with guns. We did nothing. We didn’t yield,” he said as he addressed the NRA’s Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Friday evening.

Harrisburg of all places.

-Josh Marshall
July 15, 2024, 8:56 am

From TPM Reader GS, the email that I referred to in the previous post up earlier this evening …

We still know very little about the shooter – but perhaps he has more in common with the way too common mass shooters rather than Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan. 

There is the young age and apparent social rejection/isolation, and also the obv suicidal nature of trying to kill a heavily guarded former President from an exposed and visible position. 

We do not know that at this point, but if that turns out to be the case, then that is a completely different social context. Then it is not yet another case of political violence but yet another case of the epidemic of mass shootings, usually by young men. 

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-Josh Marshall
July 14, 2024, 10:13 pm

Let me share some reactions to Saturday’s surreal and horrifying attempted assassination of Donald Trump. The first is that so much about Trump and the whole world he has brought into being is bombast and fakery. So much about Trump’s world is carried over from the world of professional wrestling, the bombast and taunts, histrionic and willfully over-the-top presentation, the play-acting. Friends become enemies and then friends again. There is high-tension falling out and then making back up. And at it’s core the whole thing is fake. It’s all one big reality show.

But this was not fake. This was as real and grave as it gets. A deranged kid — it really seems to me this guy may not have had any recognizable politics, though we might find that he did — came within an inch of assassinating Trump on live TV. Beyond the personal tragedy and the grave wound to our whole political system, it is difficult and terrifying to imagine what that act would have unleashed. And by the merest luck it didn’t happen.

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-Josh Marshall
July 14, 2024, 1:44 pm

There are a handful of new polls which have come out in the last 24 hours, all before the events of yesterday afternoon. They each show Biden either one or two points behind or the same margin ahead, with the average leaning toward the former. This is roughly back, though not quite, to where they were the day before the debate.

-Josh Marshall


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.