Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate 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

AT&T paid Trump fixer Michael Cohen $600,000 for advice on its multibillion-dollar proposed merger with Time Warner, the Washington Post reported Thursday citing internal documents.

Trump opposed the merger on the campaign trail, and the Department of Justice is currently in the middle of a lawsuit to stop it, the Post noted.

AT&T acknowledged paying Cohen this week after Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, alleged that the company had made the payments to the same shell company Cohen used to pay hush money to Daniels.

Combined with payments from other entities, Cohen made millions of dollars in the months following the presidential election from companies seeking his political and policy advice — seemingly an attempt to buy access or influence with the new President’s inner circle.

The Post specified that the documents made clear, though, that Cohen was not to spend any time contacting federal officials.

Cohen, according to the documents the Post reviewed, was hired to “focus on specific long-term planning initiatives as well as the immediate issue of corporate tax reform and the acquisition of Time Warner” as well as to “creatively address political and communications issues.”

The Post said AT&T did not contest the authenticity of the documents, which were reportedly signed by two public affairs executives at the company.

Read More →

The Federal Election Commission decided unanimously on Thursday to allow a Democratic congressional candidate from New York to spend campaign funds on childcare.

The decision came after testimony Thursday from Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to face off against sitting Rep. Pete King (R-NY) in November. According to FEC Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub, Grechen Shirley’s request received letters of support from 26 members of Congress and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.

“It’ll change the way that people run for office,” Grechen Shirley said on a video posted to her campaign Facebook page at the start of a thoroughly-documented trip to the FEC in Washington, D.C. to advocate for her position.

Grechen Shirley, who has two small children, wrote in her request for an advisory opinion last month that before deciding to run for Congress, she worked from home and cared for her and her husband’s children full time.

“Since my campaign started, I have had to hire a part-time care giver for my children, so I can fulfill the responsibilities that go along with being a candidate for office,” she said.

She pointed to two prior advisory opinions that applied to male candidates for office who were allowed to use campaign funds for childcare expenses.

“I’m proud to be the first woman in the country to spend federal campaign money on childcare. I hope this decision inspires thousands of women across the country to run for office,” Grechen Shirley told Newsday in an interview after the FEC had made their decision.

Read More →

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, appearing as a guest on Fox Business Thursday, said that torture “worked” on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — and that “that’s why they call him Songbird John.”

After playing video of former Vice President Dick Cheney standing by the use of torture during the Bush administration, Fox Business host Charles Payne asked McInerney about McCain, who said he would vote against Gina Haspel’s confirmation as CIA director because of her refusal to denounce torture as immoral. 

“Well she can’t use it anymore because we have determined in Congress that it’s not legal,” McInerney said, referring to Haspel. 

“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John,” he continued. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

In a statement later on Thursday, Payne said he regretted not challenging McInerney’s remark in the moment. 

McCain spent almost six years in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War. His experiences in captivity made him a rare Republican voice to advocate strongly against torture.

The baseless claim that McCain gave valuable information to his captors echoes political attacks against the senator in the past. Politifact in 2008 rated a flyer claiming as much “Pants on Fire!” and said it was “strongly contradicted by many other accounts” the publication had reviewed.

McInerney last year advocated for the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea. Though millions of people could die as a result, he acknowledged, “they’ll be mostly North Koreans.”

Watch McInerney’s comments below via Media Matters:

This post has been updated.

Read More →

The internet fervor over Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s last campaign ad hadn’t even had a chance to die down before his release of a new one Wednesday.

Kemp, a perpetually scowling Republican candidate for governor, most recently made news for pointing a shotgun at a teenager to make a point about … something.

Kemp appears to relish the free media coverage. “It’s driving the liberal media crazy,” he told Fox News earlier this month, adding: “People, they love that.”

“I’ve got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself,” Kemp says in his latest ad, slamming the door on a downright compensatory Ford F350. “Yep, I just said that.”

The Hill on Thursday noted a poll late last month showing Kemp trailing in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

But Kemp has made a serious and well-financed effort to appeal to Georgia’s Trump voters, aping Trump’s rhetoric (“Georgia First”) and saying that “Trump is right” about deporting undocumented immigrants.

In his first campaign ad, Kemp promised to create a state-wide database of undocumented people to “track and immediately deport all criminal aliens so our kids don’t become the next victims.”

In February of last year, Georgia settled a lawsuit with the NAACP and other advocacy over Kemp’s alleged disenfranchisement of minority voters. The groups had argued that minority voter registration applicants were far likelier to be rejected than white applicants over to small discrepancies on registration forms. 

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his meeting with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un would take place on June 12 in Singapore.

Read More →

Vice President Mike Pence distanced himself on Thursday from revelations of Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s millions of dollars in contracts with various entities, including the American affiliate of a Russian company and large corporations like AT&T and Novartis. Pence called Cohen’s situation a “private matter.”

“You now have the President’s lawyer getting millions of dollars from companies that he says he can get access, including one company that had a Russian connection,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Pence during an interview that aired Thursday. “Is that draining the swamp?”

“Well, what I can say is that that private matter is something I don’t have any knowledge about, and I think the White House issued a statement saying the same,” Pence replied.

Earlier in the interview, Pence said of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe: “It’s time to wrap it up.”

Read More →

Lawyers for Michael Cohen on Wednesday disputed several claims made by Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti in an unsourced document Tuesday, but admitted some of Avenatti’s information appeared to be accurate.

Avenatti alleged in the document Tuesday that the shell company Cohen had established to pay Daniels $130,000 in hush money, Essential Consultants, had received millions of dollars from a variety of entities. Several large companies, including AT&T and drugmaker Novartis, confirmed that they had had agreements with Cohen.

“While Mr. Avenatti has published numerous incorrect statements regarding Mr. Cohen, he appears to be in possession of some information from Mr. Cohen’s actual bank records,” Cohen’s lawyers said in the filing, naming AT&T and Novartis specifically. (Read the full filing below.)

“If Mr. Avenatti wishes to be admitted pro hac vice before this Court, he should be required to explain to this Court how he came to possess and release this information,” they added.

The filing also pointed to several of what it identified as mistakes in Avenatti’s filing, such as two instances where it claimed Avenatti incorrectly identified other Michael Cohens — namely, one Michael Cohen in Toronto and one in Israel — as their client.

“We are not going to list every incorrect statement” contained in Avenatti’s document, they say at one point.

The letter concluded by naming the Russian oligarch at the center of the much of the attention paid to Avenatti’s document, Viktor Vekselberg. Though the American affililate, Columbus Nova, of Vekselberg’s company Renova did confirm the payments Avenatti identified, both Columbus Nova and Renova have denied any involvement from Vekselberg.

“Avenatti has also deliberately distorted information from the records which appear to be in his possession for the purpose of creating a toxic mix of misinformation,” Cohen’s lawyers said in the filing.

“For example,” they added later, “Mr. Avenatti stated that ‘Mr. [Viktor] Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC (‘Columbus’) beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.’ Ex. A at 3. Mr. Avenatti’s statements are incorrect, as can be seen from the public response of Columbus Nova” denying Vekselberg’s involvement.

Avenatti, responding to the filing, said Cohen’s lawyers “fail to address, let alone contradict, 99% of the statements in what we released.”

Read the Cohen’s lawyers’ filing below:

Read More →

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday swatted away questions about President Donald Trump’s tweeted threat to revoke “negative” reporters’ press credentials.

“Is that a line that as press secretary you would be willing to cross?” a reporter asked Sanders Wednesday, referring to a tweet earlier in the day from Trump.

“I’m standing up in front of you right now taking your questions,” Sanders replied, claiming that journalists have told her that “this is one of the most accessible White Houses.”

Though Trump does sometimes answer reporters’ questions in impromptu scrums and during joint press conferences with foreign leaders, the President has not held a solo press conference since February 2017, setting a record for the last half century.

Sanders continued by saying that “at the same time, the press has a responsibility to put out accurate information.”

That appeared to be a reference to Trump’s equation, in his tweet, of “negative” and “fake” news.

Read More →

Blackwater founder Erik Prince has spoken to investigators on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

A spokesperson for Prince, Marc Cohen, did not confirm or deny the meeting to the publication.

“Erik gave a full and frank public account of events as they concern him to the intelligence committee and he has nothing else to add on this topic,” Cohen said. Prince testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November of last year.

The Daily Beast said it wasn’t clear what Mueller’s team discussed with Prince.

But several outlets have reported in the past on Mueller’s interest in a meeting days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration in the Seychelles between Prince; Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian sovereign investment fund; and, reportedly, George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates with deep ties in Trump’s circles.

The New York Times reported in March that Mueller’s team had questioned Nader, and Nader has since testified before a grand jury for Mueller’s probe, the Washington Post reported.

Read More →

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to give a press briefing at 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. Watch live below: