Josh Marshall

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

Trump’s Dominance Cage Match with The Courts and Why He has To Lose

As you know, there’s been chatter about whether President Biden should pardon Donald Trump. Of course, before that there was a lot of discussion about whether Trump should be indicted at all. (Jack Goldsmith is still discussing it.) In both cases, the reasoning, such as it is, has been about bringing the country together, avoiding national divisions or sparking a pattern of tit-for-tat presidential prosecutions. It’s also possible the same underlying question could come up again.

There are some who think there’s a non-trivial chance that at some point perhaps early next year Trump will seek a plea deal. I really can’t imagine that happening. But some people whose common sense and judgment I put a lot of stock in do. Their reasoning isn’t bad. If you put all these cases together Trump is highly likely to be spending the rest of his his life in prison. Staying out of jail requires winning the 2024 election. He might get lucky in one venue. He might get a hung jury. He might beat some of the charges. But even batting .500 likely gets a de facto life term. And Trump, for all his bluster, is deeply risk averse. That’s where the plea deal idea comes in. Again, I think this is unlikely. But if it does we will come back to the same question, how much punishment is required? Either for justice, equality under the law or deterrence. Can he bow out of the race, admit to some offenses and get off with a comparatively light global sentence? What would justify that?

My reason for writing this post today is that I think this way of looking at the question gets the calculus wrong. The news David covers today, of Trump spending the weekend attacking DC district Judge Tanya Chutkan, explains why. This entire range of cases Trump faces, indeed Trump’s whole decade-long smash and grab run through American public life, is about one thing: who is bigger? The American republic, the state, or Donald Trump?

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The Other “Perfect” Call

Just a short note about a relatively minor topic. But with new Trump indictments almost certainly coming next week in Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia, I wanted to return to a simple point. Remember the call in which then-President Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and demanded he find him 11,780 more votes and threatened him with prosecution if he didn’t. That call alone should be more than enough to send Trump to prison for years. In its own way it’s worse than almost everything else noted in the federal indictments. It is so stunning that I’m writing this post just to step us back and refocus our attention on just how stunning it is.

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Readers on the Dobbs Backlash

From TPM Reader DS

I was in college from 2002-2006 so the Iraq War for better or worse will always be one main prism through which I think about American politics. And one of the things that always amazed me most about the whole thing was that the neocons and armchair strategists had spent more than a decade obsessed with toppling Saddam Hussein, yet had absolutely no idea what to do the day afterwards.

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Robbie Robertson 1943-2023

Robbie Robertson of The Band has left us. This one really hits like a gut punch. Robertson also has extensive collaborations with Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese. Robertson was The Band’s principal songwriter though others in the band usually took the lead vocals. The announcement says only that he died after a long illness, surrounded by family.

More Details on Guy Who Threatened to Assassinate Biden

Following up on the post below, I read through the criminal complaint against Craig Robertson, the man killed this morning during an FBI raid tied to threats he allegedly made to kill President Biden, New York City DA Alvin Bragg, New York AG Letitia James, AG Merrick Garland as well as Vice President Harris and California Governor Newsom.

As you’d expect, the complaint details numerous social media posts showing Robertson threatening to kill the men and women above and showing that he possessed a sniper rifle and a substantial arsenal of assault rifles. Two FBI agents recently visited his residence and asked to speak with him about his posts. He essentially told them to get lost and then, in follow-on posts, started threatening to kill them if they returned

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Activating the MAGA Militia

A short time again ABC moved a story reporting that a man, Craig Robertson, wanted for threats against the lives of President Biden and others was shot and killed this morning during an FBI raid. Presidents draw threats and sometimes raids go wrong, either because the suspect wanted to go out in a blaze of glory or because of bad or culpable decisions by the team conducting the raid. All told not a terribly surprising story.

The arrest was apparently triggered by specific threats Robertson had made to kill Biden during a visit today to Utah. But ABC seemed to bury a key element of the story. The threats appear to have been tied at least in part to the charges brought against former President Donald Trump.

A paragraph toward the end of the piece reads …

The complaint includes numerous social media posts believed to have been made by Robertson threatening to kill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as several officials involved in prosecuting former President Donald Trump.

Curious to know more.

A Revolution in Politics

Another election night, another resounding victory for abortion rights in a red state. It is yet another confirmation that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision has created a revolution in American politics, the scope of which is even today only dimly perceived in most national political debates. On its face Ohio’s Issue 1 was an amendment to the state constitution to require a 60% threshold for ballot referendums to change the state constitution. But it was understood from the start as a tool to short-circuit a November ballot initiative to codify abortion rights in the state constitution. On both sides of the question it was fought out on that basis. As I write, “No” (the de facto abortion rights side) is winning by 57% and that may go higher when all ballots are counted.

Abortion rights advocates still need to win the abortion constitutional amendment in November. But it seems highly likely they will succeed. Ohio thus joins Kansas and Kentucky in rejecting restrictions on abortion rights in their respective state constitutions. Last year voters in Michigan enshrined abortion rights in their state constitution and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer leveraged the issue to win unified control of the state in Democratic hands for the first time in decades.

In all but the very most conservative states the only path forward for abortion restrictionists is simply to keep the issue off the ballot.

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The Trump Indictment Tut-Tutters Are Running On Fumes

Jack Goldsmith has an op-ed in today’s Times in which he argues that the prosecutions of Donald Trump are likely to have terrible consequences for the country, regardless of the bad acts he may have committed. The gist of his argument is straightforward: Prosecution will only further delegitimize the Department of Justice for a large segment of the population, further criminalize the political process and open the Pandora’s Box of Presidents prosecuting their predecessors. I struggled with this piece a bit because I think Goldsmith is a good faith interlocutor. But while the sentiment is genuine the reasoning is sloppy and derives most of its strength from simply ignoring the most obvious counterarguments. 

This core weakness begins right in the first sentence. 

Like many who write this kind of op-ed, Goldsmith starts by saying that while it might be emotionally “satisfying” to see Trump held to account for his misdeeds, the damage greatly outweighs whatever benefit it brings. This is a dodge that turns out to be more consequential than one vaguely condescending throwaway line. In a highly polarized political culture of course there will be people celebrating. But the reason such indictments are important, really critical, is that a republican government cannot exist if electoral losers routinely use fraud, state power and violence to reject the outcome of free and fair elections. Accepting electoral defeat and orderly transfers of power is the glue that allows a republican government to function. 

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Your Guide To John Eastman’s High Falutin’ Word Salad to Overthrow the Constitution
Originally Titled 'Summa Contra Bullshitica Eastmana'

I’ve been returning to this John Eastman interview again and again. In a way it doesn’t deserve so much attention. This is a shallow-thinking, casually self-justifying, fundamentally dishonest man. But his central role in America’s profound political crisis — one that is ongoing — makes him and his arguments important. What interests me are the sophisms he uses to justify his own criminality, attacks on the democratic process and more by projecting his own bad acts on to his foes.

The structure is consistently the same. Assert enemies were about to do X in the cause of the Deep State, wokeness and anti-Americanism so Eastman had to do X to preserve America. In a way he takes to the nation-state level the argument of every guy who blows someone’s head off and justifies it by saying he was afraid they were about to hurt him. Beyond these “I had to do it first” claims there’s another theme: a lot of railing against coastal intellectuals from the Eastman crew’s headquarters in Southern California while using layer upon layer of high-falutin’ fancy talk that falls apart when you kick any tire.

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John Eastman Comes Clean: Hell Yes We Were Trying to Overthrow the Government

I want to return to this revelatory interview with co-conspirator John Eastman, the last portion of which was published Thursday by Tom Klingenstein, the Chairman of the Trumpite Claremont Institute and then highlighted by our Josh Kovensky. There’s a lot of atmospherics in this interview, a lot of bookshelf-lined tweedy gentility mixed with complaints about OSHA regulations and Drag Queen story hours. But the central bit comes just over half way through the interview when Eastman gets into the core justification and purpose for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and overthrow the constitutional order itself. He invokes the Declaration of Independence and says quite clearly that yes, we were trying to overthrow the government and argues that they were justified because of the sheer existential threat America was under because of the election of Joe Biden.

January 6th conspirators have spent more than two years claiming either that nothing really happened at all in the weeks leading up to January 6th or that it was just a peaceful protest that got a bit out of hand or that they were just making a good faith effort to follow the legal process. Eastman cuts through all of this and makes clear they were trying to overthrow (“abolish”) the government; they were justified in doing so; and the warrant for their actions is none other than the Declaration of Independence itself.

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