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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

A Breitbart News editor came to Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s defense on Thursday after the Washington Post reported that Moore pursued relationships with several teenage girls decades ago.

If you read the article, there are several cases mentioned, and of those cases only one would have been legally problematic,” Breitbart editor-at-large Joel Pollak told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. “All of the others are of legal relationships with women who were of age at a time when Roy Moore was single.”

One woman who told the Post that Moore “guided her hand to touch him over his underwear,” said she was 14 when she first encountered the then-assistant district attorney, who was 32 at the time.

The other three women to whom the Post spoke were between 16 and 18 years old during their encounters with Moore, though one woman first met him when she was 14. The age of consent in Alabama is 16.

“If this story is true — and I think that any story about sexual misconduct, especially with someone who is underage, is very serious — why would the Washington Post wrap it with all kinds of perfectly legitimate relationships as well as all kinds of other political clutter?” Pollak asked Velshi.

He added later: “You said yourself at the start of the segment that he’s being accused of relationships with teenagers. Now, to me, that’s not accurate.”

“The 16-year-old and the 18-year-old have no business in that story, because those are women of legal age of consent,” he said.

Moore has faced calls from several Republican senators to withdraw his candidacy for Senate if the story is true. Moore put out a defiant statement after the Washington Post published its story.

Pollak said of the claim that Moore engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old: “If that turns out to be true, then he’s really got some serious problems and I think that we need to drill down and find out what that is.”

Breitbart reported first on the allegations against Moore, citing a request for comment that included the allegations that the Post sent to the senate candidate. The far-right news outlet’s piece on the allegations was largely defensive, characterizing the Post’s reporting as a political smear.

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Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told the White House she would resign once her successor is nominated, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The reported resignation would come after White House chief of staff John Kelly and others in the Trump administration pressured Duke to end a protected status designation for tens of thousands of otherwise undocumented Hondurans living in the United States, challenging her own decision, according to the Post.

The Post, citing unnamed current and former administration officials, reported that Duke planned to resign rather than serve as deputy DHS secretary. A DHS spokesperson told TPM Thursday that “Acting Secretary Duke is committed to continuing her work at DHS.”

The report detailed Duke chafing against pressure from the White House to end TPS — Temporary Protected Status, a protection from deportation — for 57,000 Hondurans who came to the United States after Hurricane Mitch hit their home country in 1998.

Honduran and Nicaraguan TPS holders’ status had to be decided by Monday. Since the foreign nationals received the protection, each successive homeland security secretary has renewed their status every 18 months. Hundreds of thousands of people from various countries are protected from deportation by TPS.

Duke announced Monday that she would not renew TPS for the 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the United States who currently hold the status, allowing for a 12-month grace period, but that she would allow for a six-month delay to determine the status of Honduran TPS recipients, despite reported pressure from White House chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser Tom Bossert. The Post reported:

As DHS officials prepared to make that announcement, Kelly made an urgent call from Japan, where he was traveling with President Trump. He was “irritated,” administration officials said, and didn’t want his handpicked nominee for DHS Secretary, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, to face potentially uncomfortable questions about TPS during her confirmation hearing.

“He was persistent, telling her he didn’t want to kick the can down the road, and that it could hurt [Nielsen’s] nomination,” said one administration official.

Duke held her ground, the official said. “She was angry. To get a call like that from Asia, after she’d already made the decision, was a slap in the face.”

One unnamed former administration official with knowledge of the call said “they put massive pressure on her,” the Post reported.

“As with many issues, there were a variety of views inside the administration on TPS,” acting DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton told TPM. “It is perfectly normal for members of the White House team to weigh in on major decisions. The Acting Secretary took input from the White House and other sources on the path forward for TPS and made her decision based on the law.”

“As former Secretary Kelly had made a major TPS decision in May, Acting Secretary Duke called him to discuss his TPS decision making process,” he continued. “During that call, now Chief of Staff Kelly reminded her that the TPS decision was hers alone to make as the Acting Secretary. Regarding TPS, the Acting Secretary believes that the current law is clear and DHS will enforce it. Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution and provide those living in a perpetually temporary status with a certain future.”

“Acting Secretary Duke is committed to continuing her work at DHS,” Houlton’s statement concluded. “Just yesterday she hosted the Secretary’s Annual Award Ceremony to recognize many of the remarkable men and women at DHS who protect our country and whom she respects so greatly.”

The White House did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

This post has been updated.

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Andrew Wheeler, the nominee to become deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said Wednesday that he had seen a former client’s plan outlining what President Donald Trump “needed to do in his administration.” 

The client, Bob Murray, is a coal baron and perhaps the most influential voice on coal in President Donald Trump’s ear. He gave and fundraised generously for Trump’s campaign, and claims to have spoken to Trump since the election. He’s also sued HBO’s John Oliver, who called Murray “a geriatric Dr. Evil,” for defamation.

In an interview with PBS’ FrontLine, Murray said that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “is the star on the Trump team getting more done probably than any other appointee to date.” 

“I gave Mr. Trump what I called an action plan very early,” Murray continued. “It’s about three-and-a-half pages and — of what he needed to do in his administration.” 

“He’s wiped out page one,” Murray bragged.

According to FrontLine, at the top of Murray’s list was the Trump’s administration’s effort to erase the Clean Power Plan, the cornerstone environmental regulation of the Obama presidency, and a necessary component of meeting the United States’ goals as part of the Paris climate agreement. Both Murray and Pruitt — and many others — sued the Obama administration to stop the rule. Trump in June announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked Wheeler about Murray’s action plan on Wednesday during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“I saw it briefly at the beginning of the year,” Wheeler, who said he de-registered as a lobbyist for Murray in August, recalled. 

He said he recalled the plan being “somewhere around” three pages, but provided little detail on its contents.

“I looked at it and handed it back to him,” Wheeler said.

Following the hearing, Whitehouse demanded that Congress see the list of Murray’s priorities. 

“Coal baron Bob Murray, CEO of one of the largest polluters in the country, has given pages of marching orders to President Trump,” the senator said in a statement. “He’s boasted that the administration is already carrying those orders out. Now, unsurprisingly, we know Murray handed his wish list to his lobbyist, who’s before the Committee as President Trump’s nominee to serve as the second in command of the agency charged with regulating Murray’s business.”

Whitehouse added: “Administrator Pruitt and his fellow industry hacks are facilitating the wholesale capture of the EPA. If he is putting Bob Murray’s priorities ahead of Americans’ health and safety, Congress needs to know.” 

Murray has also advocated for a plan from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to force the subsidization of struggling coal-fired power plants, a move that would fatten the Trump supporter’s pockets, but which has faced a wave of opposition from an odd coalition of environmental groups and energy industry competitors, Politico reported Monday.

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Repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured people by 13 million by 2027, the Congressional Budget Office said in a new estimate Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the White House and some in Congress briefly floated that they would try to repeal the individual mandate as part of Republicans’ tax cut proposal. The idea landed with a thud. Republicans in both chambers have repeatedly attempted to pass legislation to erase former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, to little avail and increasing frustration from the Trump administration.

According to the CBO, repealing the individual mandate would save $338 billion between 2018 and 2027. Four million more people would be uninsured by 2019 as a result of the mandate’s repeal, the CBO said.

The CBO further estimated that a mandate repeal would increase premiums 10 percent “in most years” of the following decade, relative to the office’s baseline projections.

The non-partisan office, whose analyses of the effects of Republicans’ Obamacare repeal efforts have come under partisan attack in recent months, said the estimate was not based on specific legislative language, but rather on the prospect of simply removing penalties for individuals without insurance coverage who are not exempt from the mandate under the current law.

The analysis was completed alongside the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the CBO said.

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The Department of Justice told AT&T that it would need to sell off CNN or offer other concessions in order to have its acquisition of Time Warner approved, according to several reports Wednesday. The reports differed slightly on the details.

The Financial Times first reported the news, citing three unnamed people with direct knowledge of negotiations over the $84.5 billion deal. Its sources said the Justice Department called for the sale of CNN specifically, though it noted that dropping CNN was “just one of the demands” the government had made in order to approve the deal. One unnamed source said CNN’s sale was one of two demands.

President Donald Trump has feuded with CNN since his days as a candidate, calling the network “fake news.”

Politico followed up on the FT report, though its unnamed sources “familiar with the discussions” said only that the DOJ’s expectations of “structural remedies” were being interpreted as an ultimatum to sell off CNN.

The New York Times, citing unnamed people “briefed on the matter,” said that AT&T and Time Warner had been told to sell off Turner Broadcasting, of which CNN is one of several cable channels. Two unnamed sources told the paper that the deal could alternatively go forward if AT&T sold DirecTV, the satellite TV provider it bought in 2015.

On Wednesday, responding to a reported Justice Department claim that he had offered to sell CNN, AT&T’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, refuted the claim and said “throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so,” according to CNN’s Brian Stelter and Politico’s Michael Calderone.

“We are in active discussions with the D.O.J.,” AT&T CFO John Stephens told the New York Times earlier Tuesday. “I cannot comment on those discussions. But with those discussions, I can now say that the timing of the closing of the deal is now uncertain.”

In October 2016, AT&T and Time Warner said they had reached a merger deal, marking an especially massive consolidation in a media industry now used to them.

“We think AT&T has tremendous capabilities that we don’t have on our own,” Time Warner’s CEO said at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times. He cited AT&T’s mobile device-driven potential to deliver Time Warner content to its customers. “This is a unique combination.”

Still, the deal needs the Justice Department’s approval.

“It’s all about CNN,” one unnamed source with “direct knowledge” of the negotiations told the Financial Times.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, who as President has been known to violate traditional barriers between his administration and the Department of Justice, said he was against the merger.

He said his administration “will not approve” the deal “because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway denied on Sunday that the White House was intervening in the Justice Department’s work on the deal, Politico noted.

Stephenson has said in the past that selling off CNN “doesn’t seem relevant to approving a deal like this.” Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s Justice Department was weighing a lawsuit challenging the deal.

This post has been updated.

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Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) said Wednesday that Republicans up and down the ticket in his home state had failed to “nationalize” the election — but he insisted Republicans’ stunning losses across Virginia weren’t a referendum on President Donald Trump.

“I always deal in policy, not personality and all the drama,” Brat told CNN’s John Berman and Poppy Harlow. “I don’t think it’s ever a matter of personality.”

Instead, while avoiding mentioning Trump by name, he said Republicans ought to have focused their local races on national issues: Namely, Republicans’ (failed) efforts to repeal Obamacare and the proposed massive tax cut bill — currently making its way through the House Ways and Means Committee — that would slash corporate taxes and eliminate the estate tax, among many other things.

“I think we were running too much on state issues,” Brat said. Even at the state level, Virginia only grew at 0.6 percent GDP growth rate last year. That’s not good. And yet two-thirds of people came out to the polls saying ‘the economy is doing fine.’ So we failed to message on the economy.”

He added: “Obamacare premiums are going out with 40 percent increases across the state. The Democrats are running on health care, but they’re not running on Obamacare failure.”

“And so we failed to message at the proper level, on the national level.”

It was a striking message: highlighting slow economic growth and rising health care costs are normally reserved for opposition parties. But in the White House and Congress, and at the state level in Virginia’s legislature, Republicans exercise blanket majorities. The state’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat. Brat wanted local Republicans to run on national Republicans’ stalled agenda, but not on the President himself.

President Donald Trump, tweeting on Tuesday, hadn’t yet had a chance to hear Brat’s advice.

Brat acknowledged during the interview that the Senate had done a “face plant” by failing to repeal Obamacare, but expressed confusion when asked if the President negatively affected Republicans’ chances.

“If you look at the exit poll numbers, twice as many people in Virginia came out to vote in part because of opposition to this President than in support of this President,” Harlow pressed.

“So yes or no, say it like it is, referendum on this President or no?”

“It depends on what you mean on by — on the agenda, no,” Brat began to reply.

“On the man,” Harlow said.

“I don’t think it’s ever a matter of personality. Last night, the evidence was health care and the economy growth. Economy in Virginia is failing right now and government jobs are tied to that economy. And so it’s staggering that northern Virginia can go along with such low economic growth.”

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Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) placed her chief of staff on administrative leave Tuesday during an investigation of allegations of inappropriate touching and comments made against the top aide, Dwayne Duron Marshall.

“It has been brought to my attention that unidentified former staffers allege that they were the victims of inappropriate sexual conduct while employed with the office sometime in the past,” Lawrence said in a statement released Tuesday and provided to TPM. (Read the full statement below.)

She added that while “there have been occasions when employees have brought workplace concerns to my attention and those concerns were promptly addressed,” “none of the concerns brought to my attention involved allegations of sexual harassment — behavior that I will not tolerate.”

Politico reported Tuesday that three unnamed former staffers told the congresswoman that they were not comfortable around Marshall due to inappropriate comments he made about their appearance and physical contact. Politico noted that none of the former staffers used the term “sexual harassment” with the publication to refer to Marshall’s behavior. But it did report that their complaints about Marshall’s behavior had not affected his employment.

Politico said that in an interview, Lawrence acknowledged “management-style issues” in her office but did not specify further.

Marshall responded to Politico’s story by saying that “[i]n my 28 years of public service, I have never had any kind of complaint filed against me nor have I ever sexually harassed anyone!”

And Lawrence herself said “I want to be very clear, very firm, that I had no knowledge of any allegations of sexual harassment in my office, and when I say none, I mean none.”

The congresswoman later added that the had requested outside assistance to “investigate and assess the current environment of my office so that I can take appropriate corrective action as necessary.”

One accuser said that the congresswoman was “complicit because she knows.”

“She knows he makes comments,” the ex-staffer continued to Politico. “She knows he rubs the back and rubs the shoulders. … She’d say, ‘I know there are some problems, but he has his good points too,’ and ‘[the good] outweighs the other stuff.’”

At the end of her statement, Lawrence urged the ex-staffers to come to her with their complaints. “These individuals can be assured that they will not be retaliated against for sharing this information,” she said.

Read Lawrence’s statement below:

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Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives in 2018.

“People before politics has always been my philosophy and my motivation,” LoBiondo, 71, wrote in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “Regrettably, our nation is now consumed by increasing political polarization; there is no longer middle ground to honestly debate issues and put forward solutions.”

The 12-term Republican said the decision to retire was not based on any health problems or perceived chances at winning re-election. Rather, he noted that, “[a]s I am term-limited as Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee and in my position on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, now is appropriate time to leave.”

In his statement, LoBiondo said he and his colleagues who came to improve Washington, D.C. through “good governance” found themselves becoming “outliers”: “In legislating, we previously fought against allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Today a vocal and obstinate minority within both parties has hijacked good legislation in pursuit of no legislation.”

LoBiondo joins more than a dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives and two senators — Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to retire as opposed to facing re-election bids in 2018.

Following Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent’s announcement of his own retirement in September, LoBiondo told The Hill he didn’t plan to retire alongside his colleague.

“I still have high hopes,” LoBiondo said at the time.

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Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) got points for honesty Tuesday while advocating for Republicans’ tax bill to slash the corporate tax rate and eliminate the estate tax, among other things.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Collins said.

According to the Hill, Collins made the comment while speaking to reporters after a House GOP conference meeting.

The tax bill, which promises to be a boon for the ultra-rich and would personally benefit President Trump and his family — at least, based on what minimal tax information the White House has released — is currently being marked up by the House Ways and Means Committee, where Democrats have protested the secrecy with which the gargantuan bill was crafted by Republicans.

“Every special interest is out in force,” Collins added separately, according to the Hill. “I’d say the more they come out, it’s an indication we’re doing a darn good job.”

“We are getting lobbied by our families, our neighbors, our friends,” he said.

Collins, a millionaire and one of the wealthiest members of Congress, repeated the GOP claim in a radio interview Tuesday that a middle-income American family would get a roughly $1,200 tax break as a result of the party’s tax proposal.

Vox’s Matthew Iglesias reported Monday that claim is only true for the first year following the plan’s passage. The advertised tax break would decrease to next-to-nothing within six years, and the exemplar family would pay more under Republicans’ tax bill from year seven onward.

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Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) on Monday skipped a congressional moment of silence for the 26 victims of a gun massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

In a video Lieu posted to Facebook from just outside the House Chamber, he said, “I will not be silent” when it comes to legislation aimed at preventing future mass shooting deaths.

“I can’t do this again,” Lieu said. “I’ve been to too many moments of silences. In just my short career in Congress, three of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred. I will not be silent. What we need, is we need action, we need to pass gun safety legislation now.”

Lieu advocated for universal background checks for gun ownership — “supported by 80 percent of Americans,” he said — a ban on assault rifles and a ban on bump stocks.

Police found multiple bump stocks, which emulate the firing speed of automatic weapons when fitted on semi-automatic ones, in the hotel room of Stephen Craig Paddock. Using semi-automatic rifles outfitted with bump stocks, Paddock is alleged to have killed 58 people by shooting into the crowd at a country music concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, before taking his own life.

Texas law enforcement officials said Devin Patrick Kelley, the alleged gunman in the Sutherland Springs massacre, used a Ruger AR-556 during his attack, an assault-style rifle similar to the popular AR-15.

An Air Force error resulted in Kelly being allowed to purchase the weapon and body armor, even though a military court had previously convicted him of two counts of domestic assault that resulted in a yearlong prison sentence and a bad-conduct discharge.

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