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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week, himself oversaw a criminal investigation into Sessions’ testimony to Congress in early 2017, ABC News first reported Wednesday.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, ABC News reported that McCabe authorized the investigation after then-FBI Director James Comey received a letter from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and then-Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) in March of last year regarding Sessions’ contacts with Russians. McCabe served as acting FBI Director in between Trump’s firing of Comey in May and the confirmation of current Director Christopher Wray in August.

In January, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said he had not had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

The Washington Post revealed in March that the claim was not true: Sessions had met twice with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States during the campaign.

One unnamed source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the probe when he fired McCabe last week for McCabe’s lack of “candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions” during an inspector general’s investigation. (McCabe denies wrongdoing and has said his firing was due to his potential as a witness in special counsel Robet Mueller’s probe.)

Sessions’ lawyer did not confirm that he lacked awareness of the probe into his actions, the outlet said. The lawyer did say the FBI probe of Sessions’ testimony was closed.

“The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” Sessions’ attorney, Chuck Cooper, told ABC News.

The outlet said it “was told” that top Republicans and Democrats in Congress were informed of the investigation of Sessions by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe “last year,” after the March revelations and Sessions’ subsequent recusal from matters relating to Russian election interference.

ABC News noted that Mueller interviewed Sessions two months ago as part of his probe, and that it is unknown whether Mueller may be pursuing other leads related to Sessions.

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In the wake of a report that he ignored his national security team’s advice not to congratulate Russian president Vladimir Putin on Putin’s recent re-election, President Donald Trump defended the exchange Wednesday.

Trump is right in one regard: According to the archives from former President Barack Obama’s White House, Obama called Putin in 2012 “to congratulate him on his recent victory in the Russian Presidential election.”

However, Russia at the time was not accused of poisoning a Russian ex-spy and his daughter on British soil, nor was the country believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to have interfered in an American election.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with Trump’s call with Putin earlier in the day, that Trump had ignored a plea from national security advisers written in capital letters in briefing materials: “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” The Post also reported that Trump was prompted in the briefing materials to condemn the poisoning, more advice he did not follow. 

Asked Tuesday whether the White House believed Putin’s election was “free and fair” — election observers say they recorded fraud and vote-riggingpress secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “in terms of the election there, we’re focused on our elections” and “what we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them how they operate.”

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Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller should be fired.

The far-right Texas congressman joined President Donald Trump’s lawyer John Dowd, who said over the weekend that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should end Mueller’s investigation.

“I think Mueller should be fired,” Gohmert said, according to video captured by CNN. “He should be. He should never have been appointed, and he should never have accepted. He should be fired.”

The “only reason” not to fire Mueller “in actuality,” Gohmert said, is that “some establishment Republicans” have said such an action could result in the President’s impeachment.

“Even one senator saying that may be an impeachable offense,” he said. “No, it’s not.”

In fact, two Republican senators have said Mueller’s firing could be an impeachable offense: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Gohmert continued: “But because we have so many people that have not bothered to do their homework on who Robert Mueller is and the damage he’s done, especially to the FBI as director, the thousands of years of experience he ran off that might — could have helped guide some of these wayward FBI agents away from the path they took.”

Mueller retired as FBI director in 2013 after 12 years leading the bureau.

“He’s done enough damage, he needs to go,” Gohmert added Wednesday.

Watch below:

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said in an interview published Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s support among the Republican base is “tribal in nature” and “people don’t ask about issues anymore.”

“The President is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,” Corker told the Washington Examiner, as flagged by Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire.

“People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues,” he added. “They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.”

Corker, who has criticized Trump but voted in sync with the vast majority of the President’s positions, announced in September 2017 that he would not seek re-election in 2018. He briefly reconsidered in February but ultimately stood by his decision to retire.  

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Former CIA Director John Brennan on Tuesday said he believed President Donald Trump was “afraid” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and speculated that Putin could “have something” of a personal nature on Trump.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” co-anchor Willie Geist asked Brennan, a frequent critic of Trump, why the President appeared hesitant to confront Russia over certain issues.

“Do you believe he is somehow in debt to the president of Russia?” Geist asked.

“I think he is afraid of the president of Russia,” Brennan responded.

“Why?” Geist asked.

“Well, I think one can speculate as to why,” Brennan said. “That the Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”

The former CIA director added that “clearly” it was important to improve relations with Russia, “but the fact that he has had this fawning attitude toward Mr. Putin, has not said anything negative about him, I think continues to say to me that he does have something to fear and something very serious to fear.”

“Do you believe Russia has something on him?” Geist asked.

“I believe that the Russians would not–” Brennan hesitated.

“They would opt for things to do if they believe that it was in their interest and the Russians, I think, have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things that they could expose and reveal.”

“Something personal, perhaps?” Geist asked.

“Perhaps,” Brennan agreed.

The exchange comes amid the President’s increasingly energetic attacks not against Putin, but against special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump continued complaining about Mueller’s probe of Russian election meddling and related matters on his Twitter account Wednesday.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Tuesday threatened to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump should Trump fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Our only constitutional remedy is after the fact,” Flake wrote, “through impeachment.”

Flake joins fellow Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday that it would “probably” be an impeachable offense if Trump ordered Mueller’s firing “without cause.”

The Arizona senator announced in October that he would not seek re-election in 2018. 

Technically, Trump can’t fire Mueller: the man currently overseeing Mueller’s Russia probe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, would do it for him. Then again, the President has repeatedly shown he isn’t one for rules. 

Over the weekend, Trump attacked Mueller for the first time by name from his Twitter account.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Mueller “is said to have sent” an initial list of questions to Trump’s legal team, part of negotiations over a potential interview between the two.

And the Washington Post reported Monday that Trump’s legal team had sent what the Post described as “written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation” to Mueller’s team in an attempt to limit the scope of a potential interview.

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A Fox News contributor announced in a lengthy and scathing email to colleagues that he had not renewed his contract with the network, which he called a “propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration,” BuzzFeed News reported Tuesday.

Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters wrote in the email, which BuzzFeed obtained and published, that he felt “Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers.”

“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association,” he added. “Now I am ashamed.”

BuzzFeed noted that Peters was a harsh critic of President Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy, and to Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular.

“He tried to romance Putin and he got date raped,” Peters said in 2014, referring to Obama in a segment BuzzFeed flagged.

In his email, Peters said of the scrutiny over Russian election meddling: “Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the ‘nothing-burger’ has been covered with Russian dressing all along.”

And later, he commended Fox Business network, certain Fox News hosts and Fox News’ hard news reporters, who he said “continue to do their best as talented professionals in a poisoned environment.”

The network told TPM in an email that Peters had used his opinion “as a weapon in order to gain attention.”

“Ralph Peters is entitled to his opinion despite the fact that he’s choosing to use it as a weapon in order to gain attention,” the network’s statement read. “We are extremely proud of our top-rated primetime hosts and all of our opinion programing.”

According to Peters’ contributor page on Fox News’ website, his last appearance on the network provided him a platform to cut squarely against the grain — by calling for a ban on assault weapons.

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday defended the President’s weekend attacks against special counsel Robert Mueller. 

Trump attacked Mueller by name for the first time over the weekend on his Twitter account, part of a string of tweets that lasted several days.

At a White House press briefing, one reporter asked about Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) comment over the weekend, addressed to Trump’s lawyer (though the reporter incorrectly said it was addressed to Trump): “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.” 

Look, the President has been very clear about the fact that there was no collusion between his campaign and any other entity,” Sanders responded. “However, to pretend like going through this absurd process for over a year would not bring frustration seems a little bit ridiculous.” 

She added that members of Congress wouldn’t like it “if they had been accused of taking their seat in Congress by doing something nefarious when they hadn’t, particularly if it had went on for more than a year into their time in office.” 

“My guess is they would be more than anxious to push back and certainly would defend themselves as the president has clearly done in this situation and has since day one,” Sanders said. 

Later, a reporter asked what was “behind” Trump’s tweets attacking Mueller.

“Clearly, we have not been shy about the fact that there is frustration of this process,” Sanders said. “We would like it to end quickly and soon and the President has contended since day one and will continue to do so, that there was absolutely no collusion between his campaign and any outside force or country and so I don’t understand why it’s hard for anyone to process.” 

“If you had been attacked mercilessly and continuously day in, day out, every single second while you’re trying to work hard to do good things for this country,” she continued, “and literally every day you wake up to an onslaught of people saying that you’re there because of reasons that are completely false, that’s frustrating and certainly I think fair for him to be frustrated.” 

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday personally addressed, for the first time, a series of bombings in recent weeks in Texas.

“It’s terrible,” Trump told reporters during a press availability with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. 

“The bombings in Austin are terrible,” he continued. “Local, state and federal are working hand in hand to get to the bottom of it. This is obviously a very, very sick individual or maybe individuals. These are sick people, and we will get to the bottom of it.” 

“We will be very strong,” Trump said. “We have all sorts of federal agencies over there right now. We are searching. What’s going on in Austin, a great place, a tremendous place, is absolutely disgraceful. So we have a lot of power over there, we’re looking. It’s not easy to find, but these are sick people and we have to find them as soon as possible. We have to find them, really, immediately.” 

“I will say, working with Texas, working with the local governments has been great, but we have produce, we have to find this very sick person or people.” 

The first bombing, which killed Anthony Stephan House, 39, occurred on March 2 in Austin.

Two more bombs went off in Austin on March 12, one of them killing Draylen Mason, 17. Another bomb exploded on Sunday in the city, and again on Tuesday in a FedEx facility near San Antonio.

The President, who frequently pounces on potential terrorist events, had been silent on the Texas bombings. Critics point out the majority of victims thus far — and all of them before March 18 — have been non-white.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Tuesday said that it would “probably” be an impeachable offense if President Donald Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller “without cause.”

“If the President fired Robert Mueller, do you think that would be an impeachable offense?” conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked the senator in an interview.

“Probably so, if he did it without cause, yeah,” Graham replied.

“Now Angus King said no, last hour,” Hewitt said. “Why do you think it would be?”

“Well, I think what the President will have done is stopped an investigation into whether or not his campaign colluded with the Russians, what effect the Russians had on the 2016 campaign,” Graham said. “I can’t see it being anything other than a corrupt purpose.”

Later in the interview, asked whether congressional Republicans would be willing to impeach Trump, Graham compared the situation to a hypothetical involving former President Barack Obama.

“Let’s say that Obama fired somebody,” Graham said. “I think we’d all have a different view on the Republican side. A high crime and misdemeanor in the Constitution is a fairly vague term. But what is at the essence of impeachment is a check and balance on a President, right, who’s gotten out of their lane, who changed the rule of law and basically turns it upside down.”

He said he could not “think of a more upsetting moment in the rule of law to have an investigator looking at a President’s campaign as to whether or not they colluded with a foreign government, what kind of crimes may have been committed.”

“I’ve seen no evidence of collusion, but to stop investigation without cause, I think, would be a Constitutional crisis,” Graham said.

Near the end of the interview, he recalled the way former President Bill Clinton’s legal team attacked then-independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

“I’m just saying there’s a line you can’t cross,” Graham said. “You can’t fire the guy without cause.”

Graham has supported legislation to protect special counsels, and said on Sunday that if Trump fired Mueller it would “be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation.”

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