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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The “we” in the title is admittedly doing a lot of work, as they say. “We” applies to some of us more than others. Indeed, I should say I found much of Amb. Volker’s testimony far short of credible. But if we take his claims at face value he found himself, to use his words, trying to “thread the needle.” He could see that the requests from Rudy Giuliani (and the President) were at least problematic, specifically the focus on the company Burisma and what he now says he should have understood was targeting the Bidens. But if he could interpret these demands in such a way that they seemed facially legitimate (just a general restatement of the need to root out corruption in Ukraine) then he could provide what they were asking for in good conscience and advance the policy aims he genuinely seems to have believed in.

Burisma did have a reputation of corruption and even though he thought the claims about the 2016 election were baseless, what harm would there really be in looking into them? In other words, by adopting a kind of willful blindness to what was actually happening he could try to address Giuliani and Co’s demands with a clean conscience.

This is a microcosm of what the whole country is facing, and especially those involved in running the federal government and its national security functions.

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One of the interesting themes of these hearings is the question of who controls US foreign policy: the President or the sum of the “interagency” or bureaucratic policy making process. In a narrow sense it is absolutely right that if all the President’s advisors (in the sense of the sum of everyone at State, DOD, the NSC, Intelligence Community, etc) decide on one policy and the President disagrees, the President’s choice governs. This is elementary. And if you listen to the various testimonies no one who has spoken as a witness has said otherwise. But there’s a part of this that bears closer examination. Because it gets at the underbelly of so-called theories of “unitary executive” power.

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Alexander Vindman’s occasionally halting delivery, slightly nerdy appearance underscores an impression of an essentially guileless individual. He’s an almost unrealistically novelistic player in this drama.

Vindman’s appearance is a not terribly subtle reminder that the US often needs a continuing flow of immigrants committed to American values to counter balance native born Americans who are eager to betray them.

Folks on the right are focusing on statements from departed NSC Director Tim Morrison’s deposition in which he says he “had concerns about Lt. Col. Vindman’s judgment.” We don’t know a lot about Alexander Vindman. So perhaps there are issues with his judgement. On the basis of the available evidence though I’d take Vindman’s judgment over Morrison’s, in large part because he immediately reported the substance of Trump’s July 25th call with Zelensky to the White House Counsel’s office. Morrison simply recommended access to it be restricted, not that that there was anything wrong with what happened. But there’s an aspect of Vindman’s testimony I’ve been wanting to highlight since I read it soon after its release.

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I wanted to flag this brief account by Fareed Zakaria which comes after Matt Shuham’s report from last week about just how close Ukrainian President Zelensky came to delivering the “investigations” Trump demanded. As you’ve likely heard, the announcement was to come on Zakaria’s CNN show, Fareed Zakaria GPS. It got canceled only when the news of the whistleblower complaint was finally going public. It had seemed that the interview was likely scheduled for September 13th and canceled as late as the morning of that day. But according to Zakaria it was only canceled on the 18th or the 19th of September.

This isn’t just a matter of a few days difference.

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As details emerge out of the Ukraine impeachment drama, we still have no clear explanation for why members of the Giuliani criminal syndicate were so intent on getting Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch removed from her post in Kyiv. In her testimony, even Yovanovitch seemed genuinely mystified about just why they wanted her out. It is still possible there was something specific about Yovanovitch that made her an obstacle to the criminal enterprises or corrupt business deals of Parnas, Giuliani, Lutsenko or others. But that seems unlikely. We lack specific proof. But here I think is the explanation. It is my guess based on piecing together various bits of information generated so far in the impeachment inquiry.

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Yesterday after the Yovanovitch testimony the House Intelligence Committee went into another closed door session to hear from Foreign Service Office David Holmes. This was the surprise witness referred to earlier in the week by Bill Taylor, the one who had allegedly overheard the conversation between President Trump and Gordon Sondland, the day after the July 25th Trump/Zelensky phone call. But Holmes’ opening statement, which got out to the press yesterday evening, turned out to include quite a bit more. It is a very big deal.

Let me hit the key points.

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You have probably heard that a short time ago Roger Stone was convicted on all counts against him, including false statements, witness tampering and obstruction. On its face this is not surprising. Stone clearly and repeatedly lied to investigators and to Congress. His witness tampering and obstruction were fairly well documented in his own hand. I wanted to take a moment to put this into context — not so much the context of the Russia probe, in which he played a key role, but his own career and storyline trajectory in the recent decades of American history.

Roger Stone has been plotting and running schemes, in addition to helping run some campaigns, for going on half a century. This isn’t so much an accusation as a restatement of Stone’s personal brand. It’s hard to think of anyone of any note in politics — and it’s important to remember that he continued to play at the highest levels until the late 1990s — who more openly or eagerly embraced a reputation for bad acting.

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At the risk of re-covering old ground, the gist of what we just heard was this: The President and his personal lawyer, in a purported effort to fight ‘corruption’, teamed up with the most corrupt figures in Ukraine to lead a campaign of vilification against the US Ambassador. All evidence suggests that their deal with this figures – Lutsenko, Shokin, et al. – was that they would get protection from the US (to stay in office, avoid prosecution, etc) in exchange for sweetheart business deals and agreement to intervene on the President’s side in the 2020 presidential election.

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