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Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted his congratulations to Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL), calling Jones’ victory “hard fought.”

Trump had endorsed Republican Roy Moore in the general election, after endorsing interim Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the Republican primary. Both men endorsed by the President lost in deep-red Alabama.

Trump campaigned hard against Jones, tweeting frequent attacks against him and in support of his opponent, despite revelations that Moore allegedly initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old as an assistant district attorney, among other allegations.

Trump recorded a robocall for Moore and invited Alabamians to a nearby rally in Pensacola, Florida, among a slew of other appeals, all to no avail.

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The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee urged Alabama’s newly elected Democratic senator, Doug Jones, to “do the right thing” and vote with Republicans.

“Tonight’s results are clear — the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate,” Cory Gardner said in a statement. 

“I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.”

Gardner was one of the strongest Republican voices in the Senate calling for the Republican candidate in the race, Roy Moore, to drop out following several reports that he made inappropriate sexual advances on teenagers as an assistant district attorney, including alleged sexual assault. 

Gardner cut off NRSC funding to Moore’s campaign and said he would support the Senate expelling Moore if he were elected.

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As polls closed in Alabama Tuesday night in the special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat, NBC News, CNN and Fox News all described the race as “too early to call.”

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Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday barred Washington Post reporters from his election night event, the paper confirmed to TPM. 

“We were denied credentials and when our reporters asked to enter they were told no,” Post spokesperson Kristine Coratti told TPM in an email.

The Associated Press reported that a spokesperson for Moore, Hannah Ford, “confirmed the newspaper is not being granted press credentials.”

“The campaign told the newspaper it had reviewed its request and was denying them,” AP reported.

The Post was the first to report on accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore: On Nov. 9, the Post reported that Moore had allegedly initiated sexual contact with then-14-year-old Leigh Corfman when he was an assistant district attorney, among other allegations. Multiple accusers came forward against Moore following that report.

This post has been updated.

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was “controlled by special interests,” “a wholly-owned subsidiary of people that donate to her campaign,” “a puppet of Chuck Schumer” and “somebody that is controlled by people that help donate money to her cause.”

“That’s simply all I’m stating,” she said, after defending President Donald Trump’s claim in a tweet that Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign donations.

The tweet, Sanders said, was not only not sexist, but rather was Trump’s attempt to highlight his administration’s commitment to “draining the swamp” and reforming the campaign finance system.

“What kind of campaign finance reform does the President want?” NPR’s Mara Liasson asked.

Sanders seemed to hesitate. The issue doesn’t come up a lot.

“Look, the President has been talking about the need for us to put a stronger ban on lobbyists participating in the government process,” Sanders said. “We have taken a stronger ethics pledge under this administration than previous administrations. I think those are some of the first steps and something that we’re going to continue working on over the next seven years.”

But on both points — lobbyist participation in government and the administration’s ethics pledge — the administration’s record is poor.

From the arms industry to pharmaceutical companies, Trump has picked up lobbyists and other representatives of private interests to lead and run the federal government, and his administration regularly takes guidance from current lobbyists, donors and industry executives.

In one particularly vivid recent example, In These Times’ Kate Arnoff published photos of Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray — Trump donor, coal baron — handing a document to Energy Secretary Rick Perry outlining what closely resembled a proposal the Department of Energy would later put forward: essentially, a plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power plants.

And on the administration’s ethics pledge, supposedly “stronger” than previous administrations’? Walter Shaub, who ran the Office of Government Ethics before he resigned in July and was responsible in that role for overseeing such pledges, objected to the claim on Twitter.

The “unsigned, undated, retroactive waivers” he mentions are just that: waivers for a weak ethics pledge issued after the violations in question, rendering the pledges themselves somewhat meaningless.

In June, Shaub said of the faulty waivers:“There’s no such thing as a retroactive waiver” and “[i]ssuing a waiver after the fact won’t fix the problem.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed Monday that multiple “eyewitnesses” had denied allegations of sexual misconduct made against President Donald Trump. But it’s not so simple.

“The President has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses,” Sanders said Monday. “And several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the President’s claim in this process.” She added: “In terms of the specific eyewitness accounts, there have been multiple reports and I’d be happy to provide them to you after the briefing has completed.”

But late Monday night — despite the numerous women who have accused Trump of everything from walking into girls’ dressing rooms to sexual assault — the White House provided one outlet with just three names of purported eyewitnesses. Two of the White House’s “eyewitnesses” weren’t even in the same pageant as Samantha Holvey, the woman whose claims the White House asserted they’d denied.

One other eyewitness listed in an email to ThinkProgress denied, in an interview last year arranged by Trump campaign, a separate claim against Trump.

White House Director of Strategic Response Steven Cheung on Tuesday sent an identical email to TPM after a request to see the document.

Samantha Holvey asserted in October 2016 that Trump had walked backstage prior to the Miss USA pageant in 2006, and separately that he inspected each contestant, “up and down, head to toe,” at a promotional event. Her claims echoed Trump’s own admission in 2005, on Howard Stern’s show, that he would “go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed,” at his own pageants, “inspecting it.”

Neither of two “eyewitnesses” the White House provided to TPM Monday night competed in the 2006 Miss USA pageant. Katie Blair competed in Miss Teen USA 2006, and Melissa Young competed in Miss USA 2005.

Young said in September 2016 that Trump was generous to her and her son when she was struggling with an illness years after she had competed in his pageant.

And Blair, who won her 2006 competition, said in October 2016 that she “never experienced” Trump “coming backstage and things like that, dressings rooms,” and that she didn’t “know anyone that has.”

At the time, that comment stood in contrast to multiple competitors in the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant, including one woman who went on record, who told BuzzFeed that Trump walked into their dressing room. Former competitor Mariah Billado recalled Trump telling them, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”

The White House also pointed to Anthony Gilberthorpe, a well-known source for British tabloid stories who claimed last year to have been on the plane, and to have witnessed, what Jessica Leeds later described as Trump’s aggressive groping of her.

Gilberthorpe told the New York Post, in an interview arranged by the Trump campaign, that no groping took place, and rather that it was Leeds who was “trying too hard” and “wanted to marry” Trump.

Leeds claimed Trump tried to reach up her skirt. Gilberthorpe claimed she was wearing a pantsuit. Leeds says she told everyone she could in subsequent years about her experience with Trump on the plane. Gilberthorpe told the Post that he recognized Leeds when she held up a picture of her younger self in a video report published by the New York Times.

I have a good photographic memory,” he said. The Post added: “Gilberthorpe has no evidence to back up his claim — just his self-described excellent memory.”

But, aside from his claims of recollection, Gilberthorpe’s earned more than a grain of salt: He is a frequent source for British tabloid stories, and, ThinkProgress noted, many of them have turned out to be made up or otherwise without corroborative evidence.

This post has been updated.

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said Monday that he would support “the alternative” to Republican Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore if he lived in Alabama, presumably referring to Democrat Doug Jones.

“I certainly don’t want to see Roy Moore win. That means, obviously, that I would be supporting the alternative,” Baker said, according to WBUR.

Baker, who governs a state with a completely Democratic congressional delegation, said in November that Moore should step down from the race. Moore has been accused of initiating sexual contact with a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old when he was an assistant district attorney, in addition to a slew of other misconduct and assault allegations.

Moore is also known for his extreme comments and views, such as arguing in 2011 that nixing constitutional amendments after the Bill of Rights would “eliminate many problems” or asserting in 2006 that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress because of his Muslim faith.

WBUR noted that Baker claimed to have left the presidential choice blank on his 2016 ballot.

The governor has come under fire by some in Massachusetts for not severing his state party’s fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee, following the RNC’s renewed financial support of Moore’s campaign.

“If I thought raising money for the Mass. Republican party had anything to do with Roy Moore’s campaign, I would not do it, OK?” he said Monday, WBUR reported. “I said from the beginning that I didn’t think he was fit for office.”

Baker added that he’s “voted for Democrats before.”

“Non-partisan elections, local elections in places I’ve lived, I’ve voted for Democrats,” he said. “But I do believe that competitive politics is a good thing. And I believe we’ve had an opportunity to create a more competitive climate here in Massachusetts over the past couple of years.”

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President Donald Trump on Monday used a bombing in New York City to once again advocate for stricter limits on immigration into the United States.

Calling his executive action to restrict travel from six Muslim-majority nations — in addition to travel from North Korea and for some Venezuelan officials and their families — “just one step,” Trump argued for further congressional action.

“Congress must end chain migration,” he wrote, presumably referring to the preferential visa status given to some migrants with family members who are U.S. citizens. “Congress must also act on my Administration’s other proposals to enhance domestic security, including increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system.”

It’s not immediately clear how the latter proposals would have prevented the suspect in Monday’s bombing, Akayed Ullah, 27, originally from Bangladesh, from carrying out his alleged attack.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Ullah had been admitted to the United States in 2011 “after presenting a passport displaying an F43 family immigrant visa.”

“The suspect is a Lawful Permanent Resident from Bangladesh who benefited from extended family chain migration,” the spokesperson, Tyler Q. Houlton, wrote on Twitter.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines F43 visa holders as the children of F41 visa holders, who in turn are defined as the brothers or sisters of U.S. citizens.

Trump also advocated for “the strongest penalty allowed by law, including the death penalty in appropriate cases” for those convicted on terrorism charges.

Following the White House’s acknowledgement that the President had been briefed on the bombing Monday morning, he made no mention of it in four subsequent tweets.

Read Trump’s full statement below:

Today’s attempted mass murder attack in New York City—the second terror attack in New York in the last two months—once again highlights the urgent need for Congress to enact legislative reforms to protect the American people.

 First and foremost, as I have been saying since I first announced my candidacy for President, America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country.  Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.  My Executive action to restrict the entry of certain nationals from eight countries, which the Supreme Court recently allowed to take effect, is just one step forward in securing our immigration system.  Congress must end chain migration.  Congress must also act on my Administration’s other proposals to enhance domestic security, including increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system.  The terrible harm that this flawed system inflicts on America’s security and economy has long been clear.  I am determined to improve our immigration system to put our country and our people first. 

Second, those convicted of engaging in acts of terror deserve the strongest penalty allowed by law, including the death penalty in appropriate cases.  America should always stand firm against terrorism and extremism, ensuring that our great institutions can address all evil acts of terror.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was combative Monday while accusing members of the press of purposefully reporting false information in order to damage the Trump administration.

But when asked to provide an example of purposefully misleading reporting, she cited an erroneous report from ABC News’ Brian Ross. However, there’s no indication Ross’ reporting was purposefully misleading, and Ross was suspended without pay and barred from reporting on Trump in the future by ABC News as a result of the error.

“When journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them, sometimes, and a lot of times you don’t,” Sanders responded to CNN’s Jim Acosta, who had contended that journalists can make honest mistakes without earning the President’s “fake news” label.

“But there’s a difference– I’m sorry. I’m not finished,” she continued, over a shouted question. “There’s a big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly.”

Sanders continued, contending again that she wasn’t finished: “You cannot say that it’s an honest mistake when you’re purposefully putting out information that you know to be false or when you’re taking information that hasn’t been validated, that hasn’t been offered any credibility and that has been continually denied by a number of people including people with direct knowledge of an instance. This is something that — I’m speaking about the number of reports that have taken place over the last couple of weeks. I’m simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.”

Acosta objected: “Can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?”

“Sure, the ABC report by Brian Ross,” Sanders replied. “I think that was pretty misleading to the American people, and I think that it’s very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting. I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem.”

What had begun with a remark about Trump’s attacks against the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel — for the reporter’s choice of photo representing the crowd size at Trump’s recent political rally in Pensacola, Florida — had turned into a misleading diatribe by Sanders. She had been asked for proof of purposely misleading reporting, and produced an example, Ross’, that was not purposeful.

Ross was suspended after reporting, based on an unnamed source, that Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to reach out to Russia when he was a presidential candidate, rather than as president-elect. The mistake — which would have represented a significant report — made huge waves, and ABC News’ corrections admitting Ross’ error were slow to arrive.

Watch below via CSPAN:

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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday called the special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat “one of the most significant in Alabama’s history.”

Rice, a Birmingham native who served as national security adviser and secretary of state during former President George W. Bush’s tenure, did not name either major candidate in a statement encouraging Alabamians to vote on Dec. 12, which was printed by AL.com.

Still, given racially inflammatory statements by Republican Roy Moore in the past, and allegations that he molested teenagers as an assistant district attorney, Rice’s call to elect a “dignified, decent, and respectful” senator appeared to favor Democrat Doug Jones.

“These critical times require us to come together to reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance,” she wrote.

Read Rice’s statement below as printed by AL.com:

This week’s special election will be one of the most significant in Alabama’s history. As a native daughter, I remain – at heart – an Alabaman who loves our state and its devotion to faith, family, and country.

I encourage you to take a stand for our core principles and for what is right. These critical times require us to come together to reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance.

It is imperative for Americans to remain focused on our priorities and not give way to side shows and antics. I know that Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington. But we must also insist that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear.

Please exercise your right to vote – a privilege won by the sacrifices of our ancestors. Sustain the central ideals and values that make our country a beacon for freedom and justice for the sake of Alabama and for the good of the United States of America. 

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