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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

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Watch below:

The Office of Compliance, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for its role in overseeing secret sexual harassment disputes in the legislative branch, refused to release simple data on settlements resulting from those disputes to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

In a letter to Kaine shared on Tuesday with TPM, the office’s director, Susan Tsui Grundmann, wrote that she had already provided the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with a “statistical breakdown of settlement amounts involving Senate employing offices from 1997-2017.”

“That information represents the full extent of what we can provide with regard to settlements under the [Congressional Accountability Act] involving the Senate,” she wrote. (Read the full letter below.) 

Kaine had asked in a Dec. 6 letter for the number of claims filed against senators or their personal or committee staffs, any resolutions thereof, and the amount of any settlements reached.

“If Congress truly wants to fix a broken system, we need to understand the scope of the problem,” Kaine told TPM in a statement following the rejection. “I’m disappointed the OOC didn’t release any information to help us do that. I’m going to keep pushing for public release of this data and working on reforms that help prevent harassment and assault.”

He didn’t go as far in that request as the House Administration Committee, which had asked that the Office of Compliance name names regarding claims against members of the House or their staffs. (That request was rejected.)

That committee, however, did release what data the office has provided it so far — namely, amounts of individual claims from fiscal year 2013 to the present, with no other identifying information attached.

Based on that disclosure, the Washington Post reported on Dec. 1 that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) had used $150,000 in taxpayer dollars in late 2016 to settle a claim with a former staffer on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Bradley Podliska, who’d alleged his supervisors had retaliated against him for taking leave to fulfill his service as an Air Force reservist.

The Post also confirmed that Rep. Blake Farenthold had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit with a former aide in 2014. Farenthold announced on Dec. 14 that he would not seek re-election.

On Tuesday, the House Administration Committee published newly-released data from 2008 to 2012.

Politico reported that the Senate Rules Committee has not released its “statistical breakdown of settlement amounts” that the office had provided.

In addition, the office has also released a year-by-year breakdown of the total amount in settlements paid. In 2016, across 16 settlements that the office noted “could resolve multiple claims across fiscal years,” taxpayers covered $573,929 in resolved disputes.

BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner noted in November, in a report on the office’s sometimes inexplicable secrecy, that it “already publishes more information than it is required to by law in its annual report, and a spokesperson would not explain why they argue that same law prevents them from providing additional transparency that the OOC currently lacks.”

Read Office of Compliance Director Susan Tsui Grundmann’s letter to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) below: 

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Monday used a multi-casualty train crash to plug his promise to invest in the nation’s infrastructure.

Multiple people were killed after an Amtrak train crashed during its first trip on a new route outside Tacoma, Washington, a spokesperson for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Monday.

The President further addressed the incident during a speech later in the day.

Trump campaigned on the promise of a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure projects nationwide.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean his administration supports spending that much in tax dollars. Rather, Trump administration officials have promoted a plan of funding so-called public-private partnerships — in other words, publicly financing a fraction of that total sum in exchange for private companies further investing in, and profiting from, infrastructure projects.

Unnamed White House officials told CNBC earlier this month that details of a plan could emerge in January ahead of Trump’s first State of the Union address.

This post has been updated.

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday didn’t exactly deny a new Washington Post report that said agency employees had been banned from using certain words in budget documents, including “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” But she did repeat the agency’s previous statement that the story was a “complete mischaracterization.”

“I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC,” Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald began in a series of tweets Sunday, without directly addressing the Post’s reporting that a senior leader in the CDC’s Office of Financial Services had told analysts in a meeting “that ‘certain words’ in the CDC’s budget drafts were being sent back to the agency for correction.”

“Three words that had been flagged in these drafts were ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement’ and ‘diversity.’ [Alison] Kelly told the group the ban on the other words had been conveyed verbally,” the Post reported Friday.

Stat News reported Sunday that Fitzgerald’s Twitter statement had been previously sent in an all-hands email to CDC staff.

The outlet cited an unnamed Health and Human Services (the CDC’s parent agency) official who said the story had not been reported accurately.

“The meeting did take place, there was guidance provided — suggestions if you will,” the unnamed official told Stat News. “There are different ways to say things without necessarily compromising or changing the true essence of what’s being said.”

They added: “This was all about providing guidance to those who would be writing those budget proposals. And it was very much ‘you may wish to do this or say this’. But there was nothing in the way of ‘forbidden words.’”

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Former Trump campaign staffer Michael Caputo said Monday that Republicans’ attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller — which have risen in some cases to calling for a “cleansing” of opponents of the President from the FBI — was just part of the political game.

In an interview on CNN, “New Day”s Chris Cuomo asked Caputo if he wasn’t “a little concerned that this heavy-handed offensive against the FBI and Mueller could come back to bite you guys.”

“Are you worried about playing politics in a situation that could be problematic?” he asked, noting “we are apparently nowhere in figuring out” how to prevent future election interference by foreign powers.

“I don’t see any difference between today and what happened during the Ken Starr investigation during the Clinton administration,” Caputo said. “This is pretty normal politics as usual. We all are up in arms on a daily basis now in life, television, [the] 24/7 news cycle, but this is the way it goes in special investigations.”

“I thought you guys were going to be better,” Cuomo interrupted.

“We’re in the game. It’s baseball. We’ve got to play baseball, we can’t go in there and start playing chess,” Caputo replied.

He added: “The biggest problem the FBI — not the FBI, but the special counsel — has is the public perception of what’s going on inside there right now.”

He was referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s removal of Peter Strzok, a former member of the special counsel’s team, who was revealed to have sent text messages critical of Trump (and of other, Democratic politicians) to an FBI lawyer, Lisa Page.

Caputo called the texts “declarations of membership in the resistance.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host and informal adviser to Trump, said in a representative monologue on Dec. 9: “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and our Department of Justice.”

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday offered a meek defense of the FBI, which has faced harsh criticism from President Donald Trump in recent days.

“I got to tell you, sometimes, things that might appear to be bad in the press have more innocent explanations,” Sessions said cryptically during a press conference Friday. “And so fairness and justice should also be provided to our personnel.”

He was more explicit when a reporter asked if he shared Trump’s view that the FBI’s reputation and status is “in tatters.”

“I don’t share the view that the FBI is not functioning at a high level all over the country,” Sessions said.

“In my view, the FBI has huge national security requirements. It is also fulfilling a fabulously important role of working to fight against violent crime.”

Sessions noted that Trump had spoken to the FBI National Academy’s graduating class — the first time a president had done so in 47 years, he said — and assured them that “we are going to be a law enforcement administration that helps law enforcement be successful.”

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Rupert Murdoch, the co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said Thursday that the multiple sexual harassment scandals that rocked Fox News were “all nonsense,” aside from that of the network’s late chairman Roger Ailes.

“How harmful has the whole raft of allegations about sexual harassment at Fox News been for the business?” Sky News’ Ian King asked Murdoch, during a discussion of his multibillion dollar deal with Disney. Murdoch is in the middle of a years-long effort to purchase Sky, the British satellite broadcasting company in which he already has a partial stake.

“Oh, that’s all nonsense,” Murdoch said. “There was a problem with our chief executive, sort of over the years, but isolated instances. As soon as we investigated it, he was out of the place within hours.”

“Well, three or four days,” Murdoch hedged.

That vastly downplays the scope of the allegations against Ailes, which included more than two dozen women and went back decades. Ailes hired private investigators to trail his accusers and the journalists covering them and pursued those who spoke out, as journalist Gabriel Sherman so thoroughly documented. The company paid tens of millions of dollars to keep Ailes’ and others’ accusers quiet.

Murdoch continued: “And there’s been nothing else since then. But that was largely political, because we’re conservative. Of course, all the liberals are going down the drain: NBC is in deep trouble, CBS, their stars. You know, I think it’s a very interesting subject we could go into at length, but there are really bad cases that people should be moved aside, and there are other things which probably amount to a bit of flirting.”

The media mogul’s references to his competitors are likely nods to NBC and CBS severing their relationships with star anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, respectively, each accused with habitual sexual harassment of their coworkers, including sexual assault in Lauer’s case.

But Murdoch’s claim that there was “nothing else” aside from the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes is false.

Prominent Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling left the network amid such allegations, and co-president Bill Shine left amid revelations he helped cover them up.

Charles Payne was briefly suspended during an investigation of claims made by Scottie Nell Hughes, who accused Payne of raping her and Fox News of punishing her for the accusation. And tape recently resurfaced of Bette Milder accusing Geraldo Rivera and a producer of sexually assaulting her decades ago. Rivera issued a non-apology. Payne maintains his innocence.

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President Donald Trump on Friday continued the White House’s stonewalling on when exactly he knew former national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“When did you find out Michael Flynn lied to the FBI? When did you find out?” an inquiring reporter asked, as Trump answered questions before boarding Marine One on his way to deliver a speech at the FBI National Academy graduation.

“What else is there?” he asked, sounding exasperated.

“You know the answer,” he said. “How many times has that question been asked?”

But journalists don’t know the answer; the White House has repeatedly refused to answer the question.

Flynn was fired, the White House said at the time, for lying to the vice president about his discussions of sanctions with Kislyak before the current administration took office. But after he pleaded guilty this month as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe to lying to the FBI about those conversations, Trump said in a tweet that he’d known that Flynn lied to the FBI — a new claim which further opened the President up to accusations of obstructing justice. Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, later claimed to have written the tweet:

Reporters have repeatedly asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about when Trump first knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. She’s directed those questions to Trump’s personal lawyers, who haven’t offered any answers, except when Dowd told Axios: “the tweet did not admit obstruction,” and that the President “cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice.”

Trump also told reporters Friday that “it’s a shame what’s happened to the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI.”

“There is absolutely no collusion, that has been proven,” he said, criticizing the cost of the investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “I didn’t make a phone call to Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.”

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Satirist and radio host Randy Credico was released from an interview with the House Intelligence Committee after his lawyer told the committee he planned on pleading the Fifth Amendment, Mother Jones reported Wednesday.

“Since your client will be pleading the 5th Amendment, the Committee does not require his presence for the scheduled interview,” the committee’s senior counterterrorism counsel, Kashyap Patel, wrote to Credico’s lawyer, Mother Jones reported. The lawyer, Martin Stolar, shared the email with Mother Jones.

Credico, who created a multi-part series this year on Wikileaks and Julian Assange for his radio show on WBAI, came to the committee’s attention when Roger Stone claimed that Credico had been his intermediary with Assange. Stone emphasized that Credico hadn’t transferred anything secret or privileged to him.

On Nov. 27 the committee subpoenaed Credico to testify on Dec. 15 (he tweeted an image of the subpoena on Nov. 28), reportedly after he told them he would not be interviewed voluntarily.

Stolar told Mother Jones that he didn’t want Credico “walking into an opening question,” given how “radioactive” Julian Assange is, and that Credico wanted to protect conversations with Assange that the Wikileaks founder “didn’t talk about on the air.”

“If they want to go charge Randy with something, then let them do it, not with his own words,” Stolar told Mother Jones. “I’m not saying he’s a criminal suspect in anything. But that is what the Fifth Amendment is for, to protect against self-incrimination.”

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On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and just two months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, the White House refused to acknowledge that regulating access to guns would have prevented the massacres.

“What has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre?” CBS News’ Margaret Brennan asked Sanders, after referring to the two mass shootings.

Sanders said the administration’s goal of severely limiting immigration — even though the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shooters were both born in the United States — would help “protect our citizens every single day.”

“One of the areas that the President has been outspoken about, not necessarily to those two instances but more broadly speaking in terms of national security and protecting individuals, certainly through border security, stronger vetting processes, and looking at whether or not there are other regulations that we can put in place that would offer protection,” she said.

“These were domestic shooters,” Brennan corrected her.

“Right, and I said I’m speaking more broadly in terms of national security as a whole,” Sanders said.

Sanders added, referring to the shootings: “Whether or not there is a regulation that could be put in place or not that could have prevented those things, frankly, I’m not aware of what that would be.”

Brennan pressed: Has the President highlighted any priorities to prevent further tragedies like these shooting massacres?

“I don’t think there is any one thing that you could do that could have prevented either one of those instances, horrible, horrible tragedies,” Sanders said.  

“But your prescription was given very quickly just the other day for this failed terrorist attack,” Brennan pushed back, referring to a poorly made pipe bomb detonated in a subway station in New York City on Monday. Hours later, the White House called for immigration restrictions, citing the bombing, and the following day the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Francis Cissna, laid out the same plan in a White House briefing.

“I mean, this is the worst shooting on U.S. soil on President Trump’s watch,” Brennan said.

“I understand that, and that’s why I think you have to take these matters obviously very seriously,” Sanders replied. “But if you could name a single thing that would have prevented both of these I would love to hear it because I don’t know what that would look like.”

“In terms of New York we know for a fact this individual came through chain migration system, this is something the president has been outspokenly against and something he wants to stop,” Sanders said. “So that’s a fact that we do know.”

Brennan tried one last time: “An assault weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concern? The President specifically mentioned that as a possibility?”

Sanders dodged yet again.

“I know that they are looking at some of the mental health issues, it’s something the President has raised before. But in terms of a specific policy that we are moving forward with that would have prevented that, I’m not aware what that would be.”

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