Editor’s Blog

Oh Boy

Looks like Mike Flynn may be doubling down on a presidential pardon. He has hired a  new lawyer not from the small circle of high-powered white-collar criminal defense attorneys in DC, but with pro-Trump/anti-Mueller bona fides.

Will Impeachment Boost Trumps’ Approval Numbers?

President Trump is still angry about the prospect of impeachment. But he’s apparently intrigued with the idea that the battle might actually help boost his approval numbers as it did President Clinton more than 20 years ago. As you know, I think impeaching the President now is unwise, but not because I think or fear that it will boost him politically. We can’t know the future. But the notion that getting impeached will somehow help Trump is mainly based on poor memories or in some cases no memories of just what happened back in 1998. More than poor memories, it’s tied to many people’s inability to grapple with how badly they got the Starr investigation wrong.

Let’s review some history.

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Trump Pledges No Spying on North Korea
President Donald Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) President Donald Trump has dinner with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Here’s a fascinating and disturbing part of Trump’s impromptu presser early this afternoon. It got less play than the Biden trash talk or the Mexico “secret agreement.” You had to know the backstory, which I didn’t, to even understand what was being said. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam was a CIA source. This Kim was assassinated by poison in 2017 in Malaysia, by all accounts by the North Korean government. He had lived in exile for a number of years. Trump got asked about this and he responded by pledging to Kim Jong Un that he would not allow the CIA to spy in this way “under my auspices.”

In essence he was pledging not to spy on North Korea and arguably apologizing for whatever relationship the CIA had with Kim Jon Nam.

Video after the jump …

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New Poll Shows Dems Crushing Trump — And Not Just Biden
on August 14, 2018 in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Earlier this morning I published some reader emails and my own commentary about the electability issue. As I noted here, to me the other candidates besides Biden need to show over the remainder of 2019 that they’re strong candidates against Donald Trump. In an email I hadn’t published yet, TPM Reader MO wrote, “I’m happy to grab some popcorn and watch for the next six months for any of these candidates to prove themselves as Trump-beaters. So far only Biden is making the case.” That’s where I am. But a new Quinnipiac Poll just came out which may start to change the equation. Biden is still the strongest contender against Trump. But the others are beating him pretty handily too.

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The Secret Agreement

President Trump is being pressed to back up claims he has a secret agreement for Mexico to buy billions of additional American agricultural goods, a claim Mexico denies. Here he holds up a blank piece of paper to prove the secret agreement exists.

Trump later explained that the secret deal “goes into effect when I want it to.”

Leave Joe Biden ALONE!!!!!!!
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 16: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) give a thumbs up before receiving  the the 2017 Liberty Medal from former Vice President Joe Biden (left) at the National Constitution Center on October 16, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

TPM Reader CR is baffled at what people’s problem is about Joe Biden’s comments on Republicans. I will say I both get why people are going bonkers and also don’t think it is a big deal – unless it’s actually Biden’s political take on the current situation.

What’s weird is that past comments suggest it’s not. Back under Obama he was saying over and over: this isn’t the old GOP we could negotiate with. The reality is it’s a solid general election message and my assumption/hope is that that’s why Biden’s saying it and that he wants (for good reasons) to shift now to a general election posture. My concern is that he might believe it.

Here’s CR’s take …

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Storm on the Right

Steve Waldman looks at how “religious freedom” got turned on its head.

Mueller Who?

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee spent the afternoon beating up on John Dean of Watergate fame. Tierney Sneed was there.

DeSantis Led A Crackdown On Dems’ Last Lever Of Power In Florida

As President Obama once said, elections have consequences.

Florida brought the latest reminder of that on Friday, when Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that makes it much harder to change the state constitution via citizen-led ballot measures.

As Matt Shuham reports, this move puts a major dent in what is essentially the last lever of power Democrats have in the Sunshine State, which is currently overseen by a Republican governor, legislature, secretary of state and attorney general. Every member of the state Supreme Court has also been appointed by Republicans. Read More

The American Right Gets Tired of Democracy

Like many others I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of liberal democracy over the last three years. I have many thoughts, as they say. But for now I want to share a few articles with you about the future of the American right and particularly a wing of the American right which seems increasingly soured on pluralism and democracy itself.

Big topic, of course. So let me try to hit on one angle into it and get us started with a few links.

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No. The News Biz Doesn’t Have Itself to Blame for the Platforms
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, May 17, 2017, Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address for the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif. USA.  The Paris administrative court on Wednesday July 12, 2017, in French has annulled a 1.11 billion-euro (US dlrs 1.27 billion) tax adjustment imposed on the Californian firm by France's tax authorities. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, FILE)

The Daily Beast has a story out today that Think Progress, the progressive news site which is part of the The Center for American Progress, faces a vast budget shortfall of something like $3 million. The story says TP experienced a 40% decline in ad revenues in just one year. This has spurred a new flurry of conversation about the financial woes of the news media and the particular claim that the news industry somehow used the platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as crutches or outsourced their traffic and distribution and monetization to the platforms and now have only themselves to blame.

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Expectations and Reality Prime Badge
The Southernization of the Right

My favorite story of the day. Maine Republicans are upset that the new official state ballad favors the USA over the Confederacy.

RBG Gives Us A Lot To Chew On
attends the Cinema Cafe with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Nina Totenberg during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at Filmmaker Lodge on January 21, 2018 in Park City, Utah.

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke today to the Second Circuit Judicial Conference and according to a copy of her prepared remarks dropped a number of tantalizing clues about some of the most important cases still pending before the Supreme Court this term.

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The Alternative Scenario: Trump Loses and It’s Not Even Close

The 2020 presidential election is an election with everything on the line for the United States. Four years of Trump is a national disaster. Eight years is a confirmation that it was no fluke. It embeds his degenerate style of government in the fabric of the Republic for the future. For those of us who believe in civic republicanism and a liberal future, no stone can be left unturned to ensure his defeat. It’s not just that the stakes are so high. He has big advantages in the electoral college. Incumbents usually get reelected. And let’s be frank: he already did once what many of us thought was all but impossible.

But we’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t recognize another possible scenario, one which a lot of the factual evidence suggests is not at all unlikely. That is that Trump is a historically unpopular president; he routinely polls over 50 percent of the voting population saying they will definitely vote against his reelection; and he is likely to be crushed in his bid for reelection in 18 months.

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Ginning Up the Base

Trump supporter arrested for threatening death against numerous members of congress.

TPM Reader MH Responds to AX Prime Badge
Business leader instructing focused Indian female assistant. Serious and upset woman leaning head on hand and listening to boss during coffee break. Teamwork or company hierarchy concept
About That Hyde Amendment Prime Badge

Fascinating, an on-going public opinion analysis project that goes back more than half a century says the public mood currently is the most liberal ever recorded.

Unions, Media Companies and TPM

I was on vacation last week when I got the news that the TPM Union had ratified the contract we’d agreed upon. Without a doubt, the union makes TPM a better company. Now that I’m back in the office, I wanted to talk a bit about why.

Some of TPM’s longtime readers may know me but most of you will not so let me introduce myself. I’m Joe Ragazzo, executive publisher at TPM. In my previous life I was a journalist but moved over to the “business” side because it upset me how the news industry was dying and I hoped in some small way I could help improve it.

We have three simple goals at TPM. We want to do great journalism. We want to be the best media company at which to work. We want to make enough money to do the first two things.

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‘Flabbergasted’ Prime Badge
Flynn Fires Lawyer

Oh my. Michael Flynn has fired his lawyer and retained new counsel ahead of sentencing. Story coming shortly.

What’s Up with Chairman Richard Neal and Trump’s Taxes?
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, joined by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the ranking member, and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., offers his manager's amendment as the GOP tax bill debate enters the final stage, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In recent days we’ve been talking about the pace and strategy of Democratic investigations of President Trump. Impeach or not to impeach has taken up a lot of the discussion. We’ve also discussed the need to dramatically up the pace and the aggressiveness of the push, quite apart from whether or not it’s labeled an impeachment inquiry. As I’ve been at pains to explain, when you have a recalcitrant, indeed a law-defying President, most of this quickly ends up in the courts. There the logic of legal strategy usually fits at best uneasily with the logic of politics. No one’s going to be satisfied with the pace. Keeping the substance and the optics and the strategy in alignment is a complicated task.

As a general matter I’ve assumed, I think accurately, that people’s aims are on the up and up whatever disagreements there may be about strategy. But just in the last few days I’ve started to wonder about Rep. Richard Neal (D), dean of the Massachusetts delegation and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That’s the tax writing committee which is normally of most concern to policy wonks and corporate lobbyists. But in our Trump corruption moment it’s a position with unique hold over the question of getting the President’s tax returns.

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