Mshuham2

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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Progressive advocacy group Common Cause filed a complaint Tuesday after the State Department posted promotional materials about President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club on government websites.

ShareAmerica, part of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, posted “Mar-a-Lago: The winter White House” on April 4. The article contained a brief history of Trump’s property, including his hosting of diplomatic meetings there. It was later posted on the U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom’s website and the U.S. Embassy in Albania’s Facebook page, though all posts have since been removed.

“State Department use of resources to promote a private business owned by President Trump constitutes a misuse and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Common Cause wrote in their complaint. It added later that the post and its promotion by the embassies “clearly warrant investigation.”

The Office of Government Ethics did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. Common Cause’s letter was addressed to that office, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the inspector general of the State Department and the department’s designated agency ethics official, Katherine D. McManus.

The watchdog group American Oversight filed a similar complaint with the State Department inspector general Tuesday, noting that, if the idea to promote Mar-al-Lago originated with White House or State Department political leadership, “this would raise more serious questions about whether ethical rules and possibly prohibitions backed by criminal penalties were violated.”

“This Administration’s refusal to set clear boundaries between the business of the American people and the businesses of Donald Trump has metastasized into the federal agencies,” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said in a statement accompanying her group’s complaint.

After the “winter White House” post was removed from Share America Monday, ShareAmerica left a note left in its place:

The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday that he would give President Donald Trump’s administration a “B” grade for its first 100 days in office.

“A ‘B’?” CNN’s Jake Tapper responded, surprised, during an interview Tuesday.

“The reason I’d give him a B, first and foremost, is because of Neil Gorsuch,” Christie explained, adding of Trump that “some of things he’s done by executive action have been very good on the regulatory side, and I can see, even in New Jersey, that businesses are responding really well.”

But, Christie hedged, “with some of the implementation, and some of the ways that his staff has served him has not been extraordinarily good, and I think they’ve got to get their act together in that regard and serve the President better.”

Given his position as a confidant of the president, Christie’s critiques hold some weight. In late January, the New Jersey governor criticized the implementation of the President’s first travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, which also suspended the United States’ refugee program. “The roll-out of this executive order was terrible,” he said.

On Tuesday, Christie added Republicans’ bungled health care effort to the list.

“I don’t think the way the whole health care situation was handled either on the hill or at the White House was exemplary,” he said. “We didn’t get the result that we needed to get. Now, I know they’re going back at it again. I wish them the best of luck at it, to try to get something that will be able to pass the House and Senate and get to the president’s desk.”

“But, you know, I’ve been a governor seven and a half years,” he continued. “You rely upon your staff to be able to tee the ball up and make sure that when you swing, you hit the ball and you hit the ball far.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump staked many of his promises on a hundred-day pledge. Now, however, he is sending mixed messages on the benchmark, alternatively calling it a “ridiculous standard” and launching a web page on WhiteHouse.gov listing his accomplishments during that time.

Christie said of the benchmark that, “no matter whether you think it’s real or artificial, it is a historical marker.”

“People start to judge you,” he said, referring to the hundred-day mark.

Watch below via CNN:

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Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said Tuesday that the State Department’s publishing of promotional information on President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club “should not have happened.”

On Monday, the State Department removed a post from from its ShareAmerica platform on the club, called “Mar-a-Lago: The winter White House.” It contained a brief history of the property and was placed alongside other promotions of, for example, Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibit, or the singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.

The article was reposted on the U.S. Embassy in London and on the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania’s Facebook page. Those posts have also been deleted.

“It shouldn’t have happened, and it ought to come down,” Blackburn told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Tuesday morning.

“There should be a statement to provide some clarity as to how that happened,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that should not happen, and if it did get posted, take it down immediately.”

Blackburn added that there needed to be some clarification that the post was “a mistake, and it’s down.”

Spokespeople for the Bureau of International Information Programs, of which ShareAmerica is a part, and the U.S. Embassy in London did not return TPM’s requests for comment Monday.

ShareAmerica posted a brief statement on the the article’s original page:

The intention of the article was to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders. We regret any misperception and have removed the post.

Democrats on Capitol Hill complained about the post Monday, calling it “kleptocratic” among other things. Norman Eisen, of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, claimed that it violated a law against using public office for private gains.

Of those and other criticisms, Blackburn said simply: “I think what you have to look at is the compliance that the government ethics office requires.”

Watch below via CNN:

Republican @MarshaBlackburn on Mara Lago promo on govt website: “Shouldn’t have happened and it ought to come down” https://t.co/vRMRYDkYva

— New Day (@NewDay) April 25, 2017


H/t The Hill

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All 100 members of the U.S. Senate are scheduled to attend a briefing on the situation in North Korea this week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed Monday.

“The White House campus will play host to a briefing for all 100 U.S. senators on the subject,” Spicer said at the top of his daily briefing, referring to North Korea.

The briefers, he said, would be Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

“This is a Senate briefing convened by the Majority Leader, not a White House briefing. We are just serving as the location,” Spicer added.

A spokesperson for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for information on who called for the briefing, and why.

Reuters reported earlier Monday that the briefing would take place at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday, and also that congressional aides were working with the White House to schedule a similar briefing for members of the House of Representatives.

And the Washington Post reported, according to an unnamed senior administration official, that the Senate briefing would take place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. That is an unusual location for such briefings, which are typically held at secure locations on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, speaking on NBC’s “Today,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said “the United States is not looking for a fight with North Korea,” but would not rule out a military response to further North Korean missile or nuclear testing.

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that a border wall with Mexico was necessary despite declines in illegal border crossings in recent months.

A his daily press briefing Monday, Spicer was asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta why Trump’s promised wall is necessary if, as the White House has repeatedly touted, illegal border crossings are down in the months since the President took office.

“Absolutely,” it was necessary, Spicer said.

“Just because you have a couple good months in a year, I think you want to make sure that you take prudent, long-term steps,” he added. “So the President is going to fulfill — and frankly, it’s a promise he made to the American people.”

“I think, if you’re coming in from our southern border, he has taken a lot of steps so far that has deterred border crossings,” Spicer continued. “But this is a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency. Eight years from now the next president will have that wall in place to make sure that it doesn’t continue.”

Responding to Acosta again, Spicer said “that’s right,” Mexico would ultimately pay for the wall, despite the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s outright refusal to even consider the possibility. Spicer acknowledged earlier Monday that American taxpayers would initially pay for the wall.

“He talked about this,” Spicer said of that pledge, referring to Trump. “That in order to get the ball rolling on border security and the wall, that he was going to have to use the current appropriations process, but he would make sure that that promise would be kept, as far as the payment of it.”

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Former President Barack Obama wrapped up his first public appearance since leaving the White House having achieved a feat rare in public life in 2017: He didn’t mention President Donald Trump once.

During the President’s discussion with students and young adults at the University of Chicago, he outlined his top priority post-presidency, to “help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.”

And though the bulk of his time on stage was ceded to the young people seated on either side of him, who spoke about their own public service and asked Obama questions, the former President did take time during one response to urge his audience to reach across familiar political boundaries, recalling his campaigning for president in Iowa.

“It’s retail politics,” he said. “You’re going door-to-door, you’re just talking to people. And we didn’t have a huge amount of money, particularly, initially, for TV ads, so it was just meeting people. And that does change people’s assumptions, when they get a chance to know somebody directly. So part of what we’re going to have to figure out is how do we create greater opportunities — now, that’s true between red parts of the state and blue parts of the state. It’s true even within the city of Chicago.”

It recalled Obama’s broad farewell address to the nation on Jan. 10, in which he urged the country to build a national “solidarity” and argued that, “for all our outward differences we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in the democracy: Citizen.”

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In his first public remarks since leaving office, former President Barack Obama said Monday that his primary goal post-presidency is inspiring and cultivating the next generation of leadership.

“So uh, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” Obama joked to a crowd at the University of Chicago. He sat on stage with a panel of students and young adults.

Obama opened by saying that his highest priority as a former President would be to work with the next generation of political and activist leadership.

“I’m spending a lot of time thinking about, ‘What is the most important thing I can do for my next job?'” Obama asked to laughter. “And what I’m convinced of, is that, although there are all kinds of issues that I care about, and all kinds of issues that I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.”

Watch below via NBC:

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United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday that “the United States is not looking for a fight with North Korea,” but she did not say definitively that the U.S. would not retaliate if North Korea continued to test missiles and nuclear weapons.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today,” Haley argued that the international community had successfully applied pressure to the country’s ruler, Kim Jong Un, and that his threats against America and its allies were meant to reassure his own citizens.

“He’s just trying to get the confidence of his own people,” she said, after denying that American threats of military action against Kim could cross what host Savannah Guthrie called “a point of no return, with words.”

“When he does these things, he’s not necessarily doing them to all of us as much as he’s trying to prove to his own people he can handle this,” Haley continued. “He’s very much feeling the pressure. I think you’re starting to see him get very paranoid. And I think you’re seeing pressure come from all parts of the international community.

On Sunday, the country’s state-run newspaper threatened to sink the American aircraft carrier currently drilling with Japanese destroyers in the western Pacific Ocean.

On Saturday, the same outlet quoted a foreign ministry spokesperson who threatened Australia with a nuclear attack after Australian Prime Minister Julie Bishop said North Korea would be the subject of further Australian sanctions.

North Korea’s last nuclear weapons test was on September 9, 2016. And American and South Korean officials have said its last missile test, on April 16, was unsuccessful.

Guthrie asked Haley if a preemptive strike against North Korea was “really being considered,” to which the ambassador replied, “We are not going to do anything unless he gives us reason to do something.”

“What’s that reason?” Guthrie asked.

“If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to do that,” she said. “But right now, we’re saying don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions, and I think he’s understanding that and China’s helping us really put that pressure on him.”

“Let me just make sure I understand what you just said,” host Matt Lauer interjected. “If he tests another intercontinental ballistic missile, if he were to test another nuclear device, when you say, ‘Obviously we’re going to do that,’ do you mean military retaliation?”

“I think then the President steps in and decides what’s going to happen,” Haley said.

Watch below via NBC:

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The Anti-Defamation League reported Monday that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States had increased 34 percent in 2016 and were on track for an even greater increase in 2017.

The ADL recorded a total of 1,266 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, compared to 942 in 2015. During the first quarter of 2017, it recorded 541 incidents, a 127 percent increase over the same period in 2016. The organization noted that 369 incidents in 2016 occurred in November and December alone.

The audit includes incidents of vandalism, harassment and assault, both criminal and non-criminal, and is tallied from reports by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, the ADL said in a press release Monday.

Among the instances of harassment in 2017 were 161 bomb threats against Jewish institutions. An Israeli teen was arrested in late March as the primary suspect in the bulk of those threats. On Friday, the Justice Department announced that Michael Ron David Kadar, 18, a joint U.S.-Israeli citizen, had been charged with “making threatening calls to Jewish Community Centers in Florida, conveying false information to police dispatch regarding harm to private residents in Georgia, and cyberstalking.”

The DOJ noted in its press release that “the investigation into violent threats to Jewish Community Centers, schools and other institutions across this nation continues, including an ongoing investigation into potential hate crime charges.”

The ADL included three incidents of Jewish cemetery desecration among its count of vandalism incidents in 2017. After one of those incidents, in which hundreds of headstones were reportedly damaged at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia in late February, White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemned the vandalism in his daily briefing.

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