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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

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was recently offered a job by the President, but Lewandowski turned it down in part due to his ego, four unnamed “knowledgeable sources” told the Daily Beast Thursday.

Trump called Lewandowski last month, the Daily Beast’s sources said, and offered him a position housed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a short walk away from the White House itself. Lewandowski “strongly” consider it, two unnamed people who spoke to him told the Daily Beast, but determined the position was “beneath him.”

“Those close to Lewandowski” told the publication he claimed to have been offered a senior post in the Office of Public Liaison.

Lewandowsi, Trump’s first campaign manager, briefly created his own lobbying firm after being passed over for a White House job, but eventually ditched the operation after allegations that he may have engaged unregistered lobbying through an affiliated group.

He’s since sought opportunities in various corners of the political world: as an analyst for One America News Network; principal “adviser” at Lewandowski Strategic Advisors; pitchman for pro-Trump dark money group America First Policies; upcoming visiting fellow at Harvard University (thousands of students have signed an open letter in protest); and, Politico reported in September, perhaps a lobbyist once more.

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Former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg said Thursday night that, even if President Donald Trump could be proven innocent of all collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, the President should not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Nunberg briefly served as an adviser to Trump’s campaign until Business Insider reported in July 2015 on racist social media posts he had made in the past. He’s an associate of Trump confidante Roger Stone.

“I think he needs to fire Cobb,” Nunberg told MSNBC’s Ari Melber, asked about what advice he would give to the President. Ty Cobb is the White House lawyer coordinating Trump’s response to Mueller’s probe.

Nunberg continued: “I think Cobb has told him — Cobb has said this publicly — that the Mueller investigation will exonerate Trump by the end of the year. It will not, Ari. It will not.”

Speaking to Gabriel Sherman for a piece in Vanity Fair Wednesday, Nunberg referenced the President’s polling numbers: “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.” Nunberg also pinned the White House’s response to the Russia investigation on Jared Kushner, whose finances Nunberg said he suspected Mueller was also investigating.

“Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg told Vanity Fair.

Nunberg told Melber that, even if cooperating with Mueller would prove Trump’s innocence — the strategy Ty Cobb advocates — doing so would hurt the President.

“You do not release executive privilege,” Nunberg said. “You just do not give up executive privilege.”

The former campaign aide noted separately that he had spoken to an ally of Trump’s, lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

“Alan Dershowitz has said it may not be a crime, even to have colluded with Russia.”

Watch below via MSNBC:

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The powerful Republican Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced Thursday that he would not seek another term in Congress, spelling an end to the conservative’s three decade career in the House of Representatives.

“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else,” Smith said in a statement shared with TPM (read the full statement below). He added: “With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold and hundreds of votes to cast.”

Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, joins a growing list of Republican incumbents opting not to seek re-election in 2018, in both chambers: more than a dozen representatives, in addition to Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Long a skeptic of the science demonstrating human-caused climate change, Smith in July acknowledged a “changing climate,” but only to suggest it might have “positive effects” for life on Earth.

“The use of fossil fuels and the byproducts of carbon enrichment play a large role in advancing the quality of human life by increasing food production to feed our growing population, stimulating the economy, and alleviating poverty,” he wrote.

In January, expressing frustration with the “national liberal media,” Smith said from the House floor: “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

Read Rep. Smith’s full statement announcing his retirement below:

Dear Friend,

I am grateful for the trust voters have placed in me, the friendship constituents have shown me, and the opportunities that serving in Congress have given me.

Representing the 21st District and its more than 700,000 residents is an honor almost beyond description. To enact legislation that will benefit millions of Americans and to help constituents in their dealings with the federal government has been an immense privilege.  

Having chaired the Ethics, Judiciary, and Science Committees, and also served as a member of the Homeland Security and Budget Committees, I’ve been able to shape policy involving ethics, immigration, crime, intellectual property, space, energy, the environment, the budget and high tech. 

And, through the years, it’s been gratifying to have been named one of the 100 most influential people in D.C., one of the most effective members of Congress, and Legislator of the Year.

It is humbling living in a small apartment in Washington four nights a week. And I seldom leave the office before late at night.  But traveling back to Texas almost every weekend recharges the batteries.

For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else. At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!!  And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics.

With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold, and hundreds of votes to cast.

Our nation faces many challenges but we will always prevail if we put the interests of American citizens and taxpayers first. A successful democracy requires an honest media, true patriots, and respect for the rule of law. All of us can do our part to help promote these ideals. 

Heartfelt thanks and much appreciation goes to family, friends, constituents, colleagues, and staff members for a productive three decades. I will always value their dedication and support.

Let’s stay in touch and let me know when I can be of help.

Lamar

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are scheduled to hold an on camera press briefing at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday. Watch live below:

Conservative billionaire and mega-fundraiser Robert Mercer is stepping down as co-CEO of the hedge fund giant Renaissance Technologies.

Mercer will also resign from the fund’s board, the New York Times and several other outlets reported Thursday, citing a memo Mercer sent to investors and pension advisers. He will remain a member of the company’s technical and research staff.

In the memo — published by BuzzFeed and available below — Mercer also distanced himself from the conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopolis and said he would sell his stake in Breitbart News to his daughters.

Mercer is known for his bankrolling of the Trump-allied wing of the Republican Party, and specifically of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The Mercer family — Robert’s daughter, Rebekah, is a hugely influential political player — holds a major stake in the far-right website Breitbart News. But the Mercers have funded a number of other projects with which Bannon has ties: Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm hired by the Trump campaign during the 2016 election; the Government Accountability Institute, which first dug up the so-called Uranium One scandal; and others.

The Mercers reportedly had a substantial role in shaping Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, including urging Trump to bring on Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to lead the campaign. Conway, like Bannon, had long been a political adviser to the family. Mercer also bankrolled a super PAC, Make America Number 1, that generously supported Trump.

Trump attended a costume party at Mercer’s estate in December last year.

Mercer’s political activities reportedly generated tension within Renaissance Technologies: Bloomberg noted Thursday that co-CEO Peter Brown — who will be the firm’s sole CEO after Mercer steps down on Jan. 1, 2018 — was one of Hillary Clinton’s top financial backers in the 2016 race. One former Renaissance employee, David Magerman, has sued the firm for what he says was wrongful termination after he criticized Mercer’s political activities.

BuzzFeed reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources familiar with Renaissance, that there was “significant anger within the company” after an explosive report the outlet published revealing the connections between Milo Yiannopolis, a former Breitbart staffer and conservative provocateur, and white nationalists. BuzzFeed confirmed in July that the Mercers funded Yiannopolis’ speaking tour, and seemed to be a major funder of an upcoming projects, as well.

Mercer’s memo mentions his support of Yiannopolis, whom Mercer now says he disavows, and expands upon his political beliefs and well-heeled activism. Read it below:

Dear Colleagues,

During the past year, I have been the object of a great deal of scrutiny from the press. I have declined to comment on what has been written about me, imagining that with time the attention would dissipate. Because that has yet to happen, I have decided to correct some of the misinformation that has been published about me. It is not my intention to impose the views I describe below on anyone else.

My goal is simply to explain my thinking, the very essence of which is that all of us should think for ourselves.
I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions, assume responsibility for their own actions, and spend the fruits of their own labor as they see fit. I believe that a collection of individuals making their own decisions within the confines of a clear and concise set of laws that they have determined for themselves will advance society much more effectively than will a collection of experts who are confident in their knowledge of what is best for everyone else. This is why I support conservatives, who favor a smaller, less powerful government.

A society founded on the basis of the individual freedom that flourishes under a limited federal government has no place for discrimination. Of the many mischaracterizations made of me by the press, the most repugnant to me have been the intimations that I am a white supremacist or a member of some other noxious group.

Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, creed, or anything of that sort is abhorrent to me. But more than that, it is ignorant.

The press has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s. I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.

Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity. I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.

For personal reasons, I have also decided to sell my stake in Breitbart News to my daughters.

I would also like to inform you of a decision I have reached with respect to my role at Renaissance, an organization I adore with colleagues whom I deeply respect and admire. I am 71 years old, the same age that Jim Simons was when he retired. I do not plan to retire, but I do plan to relinquish my management responsibilities.

Peter Brown and I have been Co-CEOs for the past eight years. On January 1, 2018, I will step down from my position as Co-CEO and resign from the board of directors. I will continue with the firm as a member of its technical staff, focusing on the research work that I find most fulfilling. Peter will continue on as CEO, and I will provide him with my counsel whenever he feels that I can be helpful to him and to the company where I have spent so many wonderful years.

RLM

This post has been updated.

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Former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele’s company was paid $168,000 for its work creating a dossier on Donald Trump, Reuters reported Thursday.

Citing a statement from the research firm that paid Steele’s company, Fusion GPS, Reuters reported that the money paid to Steele was part of $1.02 million in fees Fusion GPS had received from Perkins Coie, a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Prior to Democrats hiring Fusion GPS for research, conservatives funded the firm’s work: Editors of the conservative news site Washington Free Beacon admitted Saturday that the outlet first contracted Fusion GPS to research Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. “We do not apologize for our methods,” they wrote. “The First Amendment guarantees our right to engage in news-gathering as we see fit.”

Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, however, have focused on Democrats’ work funding the research firm. On Sunday, Trump baselessly claimed the dossier cost $12 million.

The dossier, though still largely unverified, alleged that Russians had compromising information on Trump. Republicans have raged at the possibility that the dossier influenced, and perhaps initiated, congressional and federal investigations of Trump and his associates.

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Former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile has accused the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign of exerting improper financial and decision-making control over the Democratic National Committee well before Clinton became the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

In a scathing piece in Politico Magazine Thursday, Brazile wrote that Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, signed an agreement with the DNC and the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising operation between the DNC and Clinton’s campaign, in August 2015 — nearly a year before the July 2016 Democratic National Convention — pledging financial support for the DNC in exchange for the Clinton campaign controlling large swaths of the DNC’s internal operations:

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

Later in the piece, Brazile recalled a phone call she had with Bernie Sanders following Clinton’s nomination: “[T]he cancer was that [Clinton] had exerted this control of the party long before she became its nominee,” she told Sanders. Sanders, she said, “took this stoically.”

Politico reported on Hillary Victory Fund in May 2016. The joint fundraising operation, Politico reported, citing FEC filings, had claimed to fundraise on behalf of state Democratic parties. In reality, according to Politico, those states benefitted little from the operation. The vast majority of the funds went to the national Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign.

Brazile said her own investigation of the DNC’s fundraising operation had confirmed Politico’s work:

I kept asking the party lawyers and the DNC staff to show me the agreements that the party had made for sharing the money they raised, but there was a lot of shuffling of feet and looking the other way.

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

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The Trump administration significantly cut down on the volume and effectiveness of communications about Obamacare’s open enrollment period, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Citing internal documents it had obtained, the Post described notable changes to emails sent by the Trump administration advertising Obamacare’s open enrollment period, during which time anyone can sign up for insurance coverage through the law’s individual marketplace. This year, that period runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

The Post reported that, this year, emails advertising the period went “only to people with current health plans through marketplaces created under the law,” leaving out the majority of the roughly 20 million consumers known to the government, who used to have coverage or had otherwise explored HealthCare.gov.

And the emails that were sent, according to the Post, were stripped of perhaps their most convincing element, determined by the Obama administration through extensive research: cost savings.

Whereas a 2016 open enrollment email advertised that “[n]ew, better or more affordable plans may be available to you,” and “[y]ou could save money by switching to a new plan,” an email sent last week and obtained by the Post lacked any mention of cost savings.

The changes to the open enrollment emails contribute to the Trump administration’s already rocky administration of the law.

At the end of August, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a 90 percent cut in the department’s budget to promote Obamacare and educate the public about it. And last month, Trump ended key payments to insurance companies, called cost-sharing reductions, meant to subsidize insurance coverage for lower income people.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said that President Donald Trump had not personally blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for the terrorist attack Tuesday in New York City.

On Wednesday morning, Trump attacked Schumer on Twitter, blaming the attack in part on a law Schumer supported. At lease one report at the time indicated the terrorist suspect came to the United States seven years ago under that law.

One reporter at a press briefing Wednesday asked Sanders about Trump saying that Schumer “was responsible, at least in part, for this attack.”

“Before you go any further, let me be really clear,” Sanders said. “The President has not blamed Sen. Schumer and doesn’t feel that the senator is responsible for the attack.”

“We believe very strongly that the individual who carried out the attack is responsible and no one else,” she continued. “However, we do think that there are policies that could be put in place that help protect American citizens.”

Earlier in the briefing, Sanders said Trump’s attack on Schumer “wasn’t about going the political route.”

“This is something that, frankly, the President has been talking about for a long time,” she said.

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A non-profit legal advocacy group with a long history of defending Guantanamo Bay detainees slammed President Donald Trump on Wednesday for the suggestion that the suspect behind a terrorist attack in New York City on Tuesday should be detained there.

“Guantanamo Bay is and always has been a prison exclusively for Muslims, which is undoubtedly the only reason Donald Trump made the idiotic suggestion to send Sayfullo Saipov there,” the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a press release.

The group, then led by the late Michael Ratner, was the first to successfully challenge former President George W. Bush’s use of Guantanamo Bay as a detention center for foreign nationals, and has continued to coordinate the representation of detainees there.

Sayfullo Saipov, who authorities have identified as the man who carried out the attack on Tuesday, is a legal permanent resident of the United States.

“He did this in the name of ISIS,” the deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department said at a press conference Wednesday, referring to Saipov. “And along with the other items recovered at the scene [were] some notes that further indicate that.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights added: “Fifteen years has proven no one will ever be successfully tried or ‘brought to justice’ at Guantanamo, and the President and his supporters within his own party are deluded if they believe otherwise.”

Trump on Wednesday said he “would certainly consider” sending the suspect behind Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York City, which left eight dead, to Guantanamo Bay. He also said that the “punishment” doled out by America’s justice system needed to be “far quicker and far greater.” Trump has previously advocated for the use of torture.

There are currently 41 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, according to a list maintained by the Miami Herald.

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