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

Carter Page maintained his argument Thursday that he had been placed under investigation by the FBI for his criticisms of the American government during the Obama administration, calling it “the most horrendous civil rights violation in recent U.S. election history.”

The former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign — though both Page and members of the campaign have attempted to distance themselves from each other — made the charge in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Thursday.

Cuomo asked Page why, unlike even the conspiracy-prone President of the United States, he did not accept the conclusions of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“Chris, the main reason is the fact that I have been the victim of one of the most horrendous civil rights violations in recent U.S. election history,” Page said.

He referenced former President Barack Obama’s recent remarks at the University of Chicago, in which Obama urged students to get involved in public life.

“The disclaimer, which should have been in that speech that he gave was, make sure that you don’t say anything which could be construed as questioning the powers currently in authority, because then you’ll have a domestic political intelligence operation focused on you,” Page said.

Page was seemingly referring to the reported FISA warrant used to surveil him, after the FBI argued that it had probable cause to believe he was acting as a Russian agent. (Page called it “politically motivated government surveillance.”)

The New York Times reported on April 20 that Page’s July 2016 trip to Russia prompted the FBI’s to launch an investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Scrutiny of that trip, Page told Cuomo, is “a big distraction from the real crimes and the real influence on the election, which was the civil rights violations and a lot of the exact approaches with the propaganda which went into this.”

In February, Page wrote to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, asserting that members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and their allies were engaged in a smear campaign against him.

Watch below via CNN:

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Thursday could not guarantee that middle class families would not pay more under the White House’s detail-free tax proposal.

Mnuchin evaded the question multiple times in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“This is about middle-income tax cuts,” Mnuchin said, asked how the proposal he announced Wednesday with National Economic Director Gary Cohn would affect a family of four earning $60,000 a year.

“And although we’re not releasing the specific numbers, this is about creating economic effects and tax cuts for the middle class.”

“But don’t the details matter?” Stephanopoulos asked. “Why can’t you say how this is going to affect a middle class family?”

“The issue is that we are working with the House and the Senate, and our objective is to turn this into a bill that will pass, and the President will sign,” Mnuchin said.

“Can you guarantee that no one in the middle class is going to pay more?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“That’s our objective, absolutely,” Mnuchin said.

“Is it a guarantee?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“I can’t make any guarantees until this thing is done and on the President’s desk, but I can tell you that’s our number one objective in this,” Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin similarly evaded Stephanopoulos’ questions about upper income taxes. The host asked repeatedly about the alternative minimum tax, without which Trump would have saved tens of millions of dollars in 2005, the most recent year for which some of his tax returns were made public. Trump has proposed repealing the alternative minimum tax.

“Let me just say this isn’t about President Trump’s tax returns; this is about the American public’s tax returns,” Mnuchin said.

The interview recalled the roll-out of the plan Wednesday — just in time for Trump’s 100th day in office, on April 29 — in which Mnuchin and Cohn handed out a one page outline of the tax plan to reporters, but offered virtually no information otherwise.

Pressed repeatedly about Trump’s tax returns, Mnuchin refused to pursue the topic. Eventually, though, he assured Stephanopoulos that the White House was meeting with some important stakeholders in the effort to reform individual and corporate taxes.

“We’ve met with hundreds and hundreds of business executives who have had input into this,” he said.

Watch the exchange below via ABC:

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President Donald Trump floated the idea of breaking up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday, misidentifying it yet again as the court responsible for the nationwide injunction issued Tuesday against his executive order regarding so-called sanctuary cities.

“There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit,” Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “It’s outrageous.”

On Tuesday, Judge Williams Orrick III of the Northern District of California issued a preliminary nationwide injunction against part of an executive order that threatened to withhold federal funding from localities that refused to comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests.

On Wednesday, Trump misidentified Orrick as a judge on the 9th Circuit, when in fact the sanctuary cities case would only move to the 9th Circuit if the government chose to appeal Orrick’s decision.

Trump told the Washington Examiner that opponents of his policies had gone “judge shopping” in the circuit. Many Republicans who want to break it up say that it is too liberal. The Examiner noted that 18 of the circuit’s 25 active judges were appointed by Democratic presidents.

“Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit,” he said. “And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that’s like, semi-automatic.”

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Two top Trump administration officials announced a number of gigantic proposed tax cuts Wednesday, but did not go into detail about the White House’s plans for working with Congress to bring the ambitious proposal to fruition.

One of the officials, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, also said that President Donald Trump had “no intention” of releasing his tax returns, even though they would show how the President would be affected by the cuts. “I think the America population has plenty of information,” he said.

Mnuchin joined fellow Goldman Sachs alumnus Gary Cohn, now director of the National Economic Council, to announce the President’s ambitious but vague tax plan in a joint press conference, just under the administration’s 100-day wire. Mnuchin pledged at one point that economic growth and cutting deductions and loopholes would pay for what he described earlier in the day as “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country.”

A single page handed out to reporters laid out the basics, with a significant political slant.

Yet, on any one of these points, Mnuchin and Cohn had few answers to reporters’ questions.

Mnuchin said that “we will make sure that there are rules in place” so that wealthy individuals did not exploit lower corporate tax rates to shield personal wealth, but he did not specify what they would be.

What rate would be charged on profit being repatriated into the United States from overseas? one reporter asked.

“We’re working with the House and Senate on that, Mnuchin said.

“You’re going into very micro details,” Cohn added, though the details in question would affect hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue. “A very important one, we agree. Very important,” he admitted, after reporters protested the comment. 

Asked about the income definitions of the simplified brackets for individuals, Cohn said “we have outlines.”

“We have a broad brush view of where they’re going to be,” he continued. “We’re running an enormous amount of data on the proposals right now. 

“If you don’t replace some of the revenue with a border adjustment tax,” one reporter wondered, “how will you make up for the deficit caused by the reduction in the corporate tax rate? 

“Ok, well, again, today we’re putting out the core principles, which include rates, because we think that’s a very important part of the plan,” Mnuchin said. “We will be working very closely, as I said, with the House and the Senate to turn this into a bill that can be passed and the President can sign and there’s lots and lots of details that are going into how that will pay for itself.”

The broad basics, though, were clear: Slash the corporate rate to 15 percent. Repeal the estate and alternative minimum taxes. Double the standard deduction. 

How would the plan affect a median income family of four? one reporter asked toward the briefing’s end, lobbing a softball. “What does it mean for them?”

“It’s going to mean a tax cut,” Cohn said.

“How much?” the reporter asked.

“It’s going to mean a tax cut,” Cohn said again. “Look, look, you’re asking the same question we got asked over here. We will let you know the details at the appropriate moment. We’re in very robust discussions with the Senate, with the House leadership. They are progressing very quickly.” 

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The Environmental Protection Agency pledged to correct what it called an “error,” after a Democratic senator asked for an investigation into whether EPA chief Scott Pruitt violated federal law by appearing in his official capacity on an Oklahoma GOP fundraiser invitation.

Though government officials are allowed to speak at political fundraisers, they cannot do so in their official capacity. The invitation to a fundraiser for the Oklahoma GOP advertised: “You do not want to miss Pruitt at this year’s OKGOP Gala, as he discusses his plans to slash regulations, bring back jobs to Oklahoma, and decrease the size of the EPA!

“We take the rules by which federal officials must participate in public events very seriously,” EPA spokesperson JP Freire said in a statement to TPM Wednesday. “We worked with our ethics office to ensure attendance at this event would comply with rules, and this flier unfortunately doesn’t reflect those requirements. We are working to fix this error and ensure full compliance with the rules.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) filed a complaint Tuesday over that language with the Office of Special Counsel, writing that Pruitt may have violated the Hatch Act.

Whitehouse said that upon reading the invitation’s description of Pruitt — “Make sure to purchase your Gala tickets so you don’t miss out on Administrator Pruitt’s future plans and how he will continue to Drain the Swamp!” for example — attendees could reasonably believe they were paying a private political party for access to a federal employee.

“The unmistakable impression one receives from the May 5 invitation is that by purchasing a ticket or agreeing to sponsor the OKGOP Gala, the attendee will have special access to a federal employee discussing official actions already taken, and to be taken in the future,” he wrote. “This is clearly impermissible political activity under the Hatch Act.”

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Two deep-pocketed conservative groups announced their support Wednesday for an amendment to the American Health Care Act, signaling a change that could sway conservative congressional votes.

Freedom Works and Club for Growth, who both opposed Republicans’ first effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, announced Wednesday that they would support the bill if it included an amendment penned by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) of the conservative Freedom Caucus and Rep. Tom MacArthur of the more moderate Tuesday Group.

The amendment was first leaked in a white paper dated April 13 published by Politico last week. According to that bare outline, the amendment would allow states to apply for waivers for Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits and community rating rules, with some exceptions, if they do so in the name of lowering costs, increasing coverage or advancing some other “benefit to the public interest.”

States that set up federal risk pools, or participate in a federal high risk pool, would be able to apply to waive the rule preventing insurers from raising rates based on health status under the amendment.

“The MacArthur-Meadows amendment addresses two costly parts of ObamaCare, community rating and the essential health benefits, providing states with much-needed flexibility to stabilize the market, enroll more people in health plans, and bring down the cost of premiums,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement Wednesday. “We thank Reps. MacArthur and Meadows for their work on this amendment, which represents a path forward on health care in House. If the MacArthur-Meadows amendment were adopted, we would immediately withdraw our key vote against the American Health Care Act.”

“A month ago we said ‘conservatives and moderates… should start by meeting together to see what common ground they have.’ Today, we believe the hard work of Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11) and Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ-03), facilitated by Vice President Mike Pence, has yielded a compromise that the Club for Growth can support,” Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in his own statement obtained by TPM.

Last week, a senior GOP aide tempered expectations about the amendment to TPM, noting that there wasn’t even a legislative text prepared yet. And unnamed members of the Tuesday Group stressed to Politico Wednesday that MacArthur was negotiating the amendment on his own, not on behalf of the group.

During a press briefing Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the amendment “helps us get to consensus.” Conservative Republicans were similarly enthusiastic about the amendment.

This post has been updated.

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Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) told high school students last week that a man who wears tutus to bars and gets into fights “kind of asks for it.”

The senator made the remark Thursday during a Q&A with students grades 6-12 at Greybull High School, in response to one student who asked what he was doing to “improve the life of the LGBT community in Wyoming.” The exchange was recorded and later published by the Greybull Standard. (Listen here at 32:40)

Enzi said that not everything can be achieved through the law, and “what we need to have is a little civility between people.” Then he launched into a bizarre anecdote.

“We always say that in Wyoming you can be just about anything you want to be, as long as you don’t push it in somebody’s face,” the senator said. “I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem.”

A spokesman for Enzi, Max D’Onofrio, did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on the exchange. In a statement to the Huffington Post, though, Enzi said he believed “all individuals should be treated with respect.”

“No person, including LGBT individuals, should feel unsafe in their community,” he added. “My message was intended specifically to be about promoting respect and tolerance toward each other. I hope if people look at the entirety of my speech, they will understand that. I regret a poor choice of words during part of my presentation. None of us is infallible and I apologize to anyone who has taken offense. No offense was intended. Quite the opposite in fact, and so I ask for your understanding as well.”

Later on Thursday, Enzi closed his remarks with sage advice for the students: “I guarantee it, from my own experience, if you embarrass somebody, they will remember it for life. Try not to do that. Now, it’s almost impossible not to do that. Try and apologize or whatever as soon as possible.”

“It’s all about how you treat each other,” he concluded.

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A federal judge has halted part of an executive order threatening so-called “sanctuary cities” with the loss of federal funds if they do not comply with requests from immigration enforcement agents.

Judge William Orrick granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday against section 9(a) of Executive Order 13768, signed Jan. 25, which sought to ensure in part that “jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law.”

San Francisco and Santa Clara Country, joined in “friend of the court” briefs by localities across the country, objected to that language in related lawsuits against the federal government. Attorneys for both plaintiffs argued that the executive order violated the principles of federalism.

Orrick jointly took up the cases on April 14, promising a decision on the two governments’ requests for a nationwide injunction “as soon as I can,” according to KPIX.

In his decision Tuesday, noting that the order threatened “hundreds of millions” of federal dollars at the local level, Orrick wrote “The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”

A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on the injunction. However, in an April 3 campaign email headlined “Sued,” Trump wrote: “Sanctuary cities like Seattle and San Francisco have spent decades breaking our country’s immigration laws — and getting away with it. Not anymore!”

In a statement obtained by NBC, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the decision was “a win for the neediest people in our nation. Seniors in need of food, foster youth in need of shelter and children who need medical care.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera said that “the Trump administration backed down,” according to NBC.

“This is why we have courts — to halt the overreach of a president and an attorney general who either don’t understand the Constitution or chose to ignore it.”

Part of the nationwide panic over the executive order came from the lack of any clear definition of “sanctuary city.” The executive order authorized Attorney General Jeff Sessions to designate localities sanctuary cities, though a Justice Department attorney argued to Judge Orrick in mid-April, “There’s no enforcement action on the table.”

Sessions himself, two weeks earlier, had promised to “claw-back” Justice Department grants awarded to governments not in compliance with 8 U.S. Code § 1373, which sets guidelines for information sharing between localities and federal immigration enforcement officials.

Many localities, especially after Trump issued the executive order on Jan. 25, have said that they do not use the term to describe themselves, but nonetheless do not cooperate with ICE’s requests to hold arrestees suspected to be eligible for deportation past when they would have otherwise been released.

In February, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly told a group of law enforcement officers that he had “no clue” what the term meant.

Read the injunction order below:

This post has been updated.

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Talk radio host and conservative tastemaker Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday lamented what he described as President Donald Trump “caving” on his demands for funding for a border wall.

“I’m not happy to have to pass this on,” Limbaugh said, according to the show’s transcript. “I’m very, very troubled to have to pass this on. And I want to say at the outset that I hope my interpretation is wrong, and I hope this is not the case. But it looks like, from here, right here, right now, it looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 billion in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico.”

He added: “The Democrats seem to have successfully used this stupid, silly threat of a government shutdown to get their way.”

Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has repeatedly said that Democrats would refuse to fund the government before the deadline Friday if the funding bill includes money for a wall.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not explicitly say Tuesday that the President had dropped his demand for wall funding in the stopgap bill, but he repeatedly referred to the next fiscal year, beginning in October.

“The President’s priorities are clear for FY17,” he said during his daily briefing. “There’s a lot of things that we can do in the remaining months up until the end of September for planning and making sure that we get everything that we need — funding that we need for that aspect of things — and then as we go into FY18, we’ll continue to ask for more.”

Fox News reported Tuesday, according to two unnamed sources who attended a meeting of conservative journalists with the President Monday afternoon, that Trump told the group he would be willing to delay funding for the wall until September.

Trey Yingst of the conservative One America News Network tweeted Monday that Trump had said as much during the meeting, and an unnamed White House official confirmed the comment to Bloomberg.

Publicly, Trump has put on a brave face during the turmoil:

“I use the word ‘cave’ guardedly,” Limbaugh added later in the show. “Trump, I’m sure, does not ever think he caves on anything. But outward appearances are what they are. And the bottom line is that if he is willing to withdraw a demand of his for a measly billion dollars for the wall because the Democrats are threatening a shutdown then the Democrats will have just learned that this threat works on Trump, too, not just all the other Republicans.”

H/t Political Wire

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