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

Two top figures in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for president criticized President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to fire FBI Director James Comey.

In an abrupt announcement of Comey’s termination Tuesday, the White House said Trump was acting on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a memo Tuesday, Rosenstein accused Comey of bungling the investigation of Clinton’s private email server.

Brian Fallon, the press secretary for Clinton’s campaign, told CNN after news of Comey’s firing broke that “all these months later, it still stands out that Director Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation was a travesty.”

However, Fallon said, “the timing and nature of this firing that the Trump administration is announcing now belies any possible explanation that this has anything to do with the Clinton investigation.”

It is clearly an act by a president who is feeling the heat from the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation,” he said.

Fallon called for a special counsel to be appointed inside the Justice Department to investigate Trump, and for Congress to establish an independent select commission with subpoena power “to get to the bottom of this.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, wrote on Twitter that the firing terrified him:

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A group of Democratic senators on Tuesday urged federal regulators to investigate whether Donald Trump adviser Carl Icahn had engaged in insider trading and other violations.

A letter from the senators to regulators focused on Icahn’s petroleum refining company, CVR Energy, and its treatment of renewable fuel credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs. It raises the possibility that Icahn may have taken advantage of his connections to the White House in order to save his company hundreds of millions of dollars in credits.

In December 2016, Trump named Icahn a “special adviser to the president” on regulatory matters, but noted that Icahn was serving “in his individual capacity and will not be serving as a federal employee or a Special Government Employee and will not have any specific duties.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

The RIN market is designed to benefit companies that add biofuels like ethanol to their fuel products, and require companies like Icahn’s, which doesn’t, to pay for credits.

“Over the course of 2016, including the months immediately prior to and following President Trump’s election, CVR Energy delayed purchases of necessary renewable fuel credits and instead sold millions of them,” the senators wrote.

The letter cited an April 12 Reuters article, which describes CVR’s actions as “a bet that it could buy the credits it would need later at lower prices.”

Reuters described several events that drove down the cost of RINs, in turn potentially benefitting Icahn: the nomination of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator — about whom Icahn said Trump had consulted him — Icahn’s own naming as an adviser to Trump on regulation in December 2016 and news in February that Trump would consider a proposal by Icahn on biofuels regulation.

Reuters reported in February, citing unnamed people familiar with the plan, that the President “intends to revamp the national biofuel program to ease regulations on oil refiners.”

The senators noted that, after the February news broke, RIN prices dropped to a 17-month low, a 70 percent decline from November 2016.

In February, a similar group of senators, minus Carper and Klobuchar and plus Al Franken (D-MN), raised concerns about Icahn in a letter to the EPA and White House Counsel Don McGahn.

With a sprawling business empire and potentially unlimited portfolio in the Administration to address ‘strangling regulations,’ Mr. Icahn’s role presents an unacceptable risk of further real or potential conflicts of interest absent immediate and thorough steps to address them,” they wrote.

Tuesday’s letter acknowledges that Icahn’s conflicts of interest could extend to any potential investigation of Icahn. It is addressed to Pruitt, as well as the acting chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Jay Clayton, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Mr. Icahn was reported to be heavily involved in interviewing candidates to for [sic] SEC Chairman,” they wrote, “and SEC Chairman Clayton has acknowledged that he met with Mr. Icahn after he was nominated as SEC Chair.”

Read the letter below:

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President Donald Trump “values” the counsel of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the White House said Tuesday, despite an article that cited two unnamed sources quoting Trump saying the opposite.

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported Monday that Trump had said that McMaster, who took the place of the ousted Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in his position, was “the general undermining my policy.” Lake reported that McMaster’s star was beginning to dim in Trump World.

Did the President say that?” one reported asked Spicer, referring to the quote in Lake’s piece, which was sourced to “two White House officials.”

“I don’t believe he has,” Spicer said. “I mean, I think when you look at the President’s schedule this week, as I just noted to Sara a little while ago, there’s probably no one aside from family members that are spending more time with the President this week than Gen. McMaster.”

“He values his counsel,” he continued. “He continues to be extremely pleased with his pick and his performance as national security adviser. He has the utmost confidence in him.”

Earlier, the press secretary said Trump had an “excellent” relationship with McMaster.

However, the Trump administration has a poor track record when it comes to publicly forecasting the careers of White House officials. Lake noted in his article Monday that top White House aide Kellyanne Conway said that Flynn had Trump’s full confidence only hours before he was forced to resign.

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that President Donald Trump “welcomes” an investigation of possible ties between his businesses and Russia.

During his daily press briefing, Spicer was asked whether the President would cooperate with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said Tuesday: “I want to know more about Trump’s business dealings.” Graham noted that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said under oath Monday that he wasn’t personally concerned about Trump’s businesses dealings, but that “I don’t know what the FBI is looking at so I don’t want to run afoul with them.”

“The President, obviously, was aware of Sen. Graham’s suggestion after he made it today and he’s fine with that,” Spicer said Tuesday. “He has no business in Russia. He has no connections to Russia. So he welcomes that.”

“In fact, he has already charged a leading law firm in Washington, D.C. to send a certified letter to Sen. Graham to that point, that he has no connections to Russia,” Spicer added. “So that should be a really easy look.”

On Monday, the President’s son, Eric Trump, denied the three-year-old recollection of golf writer James Dodson, who said last week that Eric Trump had told him: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

In 2008, Donald Trump Jr., the other Trump child now charged with running the President’s businesses, told a real estate conference: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

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Conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) filed paperwork to run for governor of Idaho Tuesday, releasing a short statement that appeared to preface a formal announcement of his 2018 candidacy.

“Idaho needs a proven conservative leader who will stand against the special interests and politicians that have picked the winners and losers in our state Capitol for too long,” he said in a statement published by the Spokesman-Review. “Idaho needs a strong leader who will make government fair for everyone. Idaho needs a governor who will provide a new vision, a new approach and new leadership.”

Labrador was at the blunt end of an angry town hall on Friday after he said that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

He was responding to a constituent who asked him about the proposed $880 billion cut to Medicaid in Republicans health bill, the most recent version of which Labrador supported in the House of Representatives.

Labrador later said in a statement that “I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that.”

That’s true. However, individuals without insurance often end up in the emergency room after not receiving care in more favorable settings.

Politifact responded to Labrador’s claim with an extensive list of academic studies on the inverse relationship between securing health insurance and mortality.

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White House advisers on Monday postponed another meeting about the United States’ participation in the Paris climate change agreement. The meeting was scheduled for Tuesday.

White House spokesperson Kelly Love confirmed delay, first reported by Politico, in an email to TPM. She did not say who was involved in discussions about the Paris agreement.

The White House has appeared hesitant to address the climate deal, which Trump railed against during the 2016 campaign, but on which his advisers appear to be divided.

On April 18, the White House postponed a similar meeting about the agreement due to “scheduling conflicts.”

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Washington Post at the time that Trump’s advisers “wanted to have that conversation,” but the Post noted a divide in the Trump White House between those who want to maintain a “seat at the table” in global climate change discussions, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during his confirmation hearing, and those who are opposed to participation in the agreement, like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

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The reporter whose question prompted a Republican congressman to walk out of an interview said he was just trying to hold the congressman accountable for his unusual town hall procedure.

Josh Scheinblum, KCRG-TV9’s chief investigative reporter, spoke to TPM over the phone Tuesday about an extremely brief interview that has since gone somewhat viral, with Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA).

Blum walked out of the interview after Scheinblum asked if would accept donations from individuals outside of his district, given that he was checking IDs to ensure that only his constituents attended his town hall Monday night.

“I’m done,” Blum said, standing up to leave. “This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous. He’s going to sit here and just badger me.”

That’s not something that happens at public meetings,” Scheinblum told TPM, referring to Blum’s insistence on checking identification at the door to ensure only residents of his district were allowed inside. The practice has grown in popularity this year, as Republican members of Congress have faced harsh town hall crowds and organized activist groups like Indivisible.

“So I thought, ‘Listen, if this is something new that you’ve decided to do, the floor is yours, could you please explain why this decision was made?’” Scheinblum continued. “And I think the follow-up about taking money from outside the district, I think is a fair question. If you would listen to someone, I guess, who donated in your same party from outside the district, why are they being barred from listening, too?”

Rep. Blum’s office did not respond to TPM’s questions.

“I really just wanted to get questions for our viewers, and sure, I think I was surprised that the interview ended so quickly,” Scheinblum said. “I wish I could have asked more questions.”

Another detail of the interview that ended too soon: Blum hadn’t told KCRG ahead of time that he planned on conducting the interview flanked by children.

When he came to do the interview, he’d brought all these kids, and I said, ‘This isn’t what we had talked about with your staff,’” Scheinblum recalled. He said, paraphrasing, that Blum had responded with something to the effect of, “Well, you know, all Republicans are evil, right?”

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Media mogul Rupert Murdoch said Monday that “nothing’s happening at Fox News,” despite the departure of two top executives and top host Bill O’Reilly.

The comment came during an ambush interview with the BBC’s Amol Rajan, who asked Murdoch if he was worried about the ongoing federal investigation of 21st Century Fox and the class action racial discrimination suit against Fox News.

The British regulatory agency Ofcom on Monday heard from Wendy Walsh, who has accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment, as part of its review of 21st Century Fox’s potential takeover over of Sky.

“Do you have any concerns about what Ofcom might say about what’s happening at Fox News?” Rajan asked Murdoch.

“Nothing’s happening at Fox News,” Murdoch replied, rolling up his passenger seat window.

He rolled down the window to continue: “It’s getting record ratings,” he said, “And so I’m not worried at all.”

“And you don’t think Ofcom are going to consider what’s happening at Fox News?” Rajan asked again.

“Nothing’s happening at Fox News,” Murdoch said. “Nothing, OK?”

“You lost three of your top people, that’s something, isn’t it?” Rajan asked. “These are sexual and racial harassment allegations.”

“Not the third person at all, nothing against him,” Murdoch said. “And the other two are quite separate, so goodbye.”

Top figures at Fox News — Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Bill Shine — all lost their jobs over the past year, reportedly either as a result of their involvement in alleged sexual harassment, or the covering up thereof, at the network.

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On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer blamed the Obama administration for not doing more to express their concerns about ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, eliciting bewildered responses from journalists and others on social media.

NBC News reported Monday that Obama had specifically warned then-President-elect Donald Trump about Flynn in a November meeting.

Spicer said during his daily press briefing Monday that “It’s true that President Obama made it known that he wasn’t exactly a fan of Gen. Flynn’s,” but that that “shouldn’t come as a surprise” given Flynn’s criticism of the Obama administration.

If the Obama administration was truly concerned, Spicer said, they should have suspended Flynn’s security clearance.

The Trump administration is under fire for not thoroughly screening Flynn themselves for his conflicts of interest.

NBC News’ Ken Dilanian reported Monday that Flynn was required to obtain a new security clearance from the CIA before beginning as national security adviser in the Trump administration. That clearance was never granted, NBC News reported, according to one unnamed official with knowledge of the matter.

Reactions were harsh.

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that he expected former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to tell the truth during her testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Since revelations Yates warned the Trump administration that ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was a blackmail risk in that position, because he had misled the Vice President about his discussions of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, President Donald Trump has attacked her as a partisan leaker.

“Do you have any reason to doubt that her testimony, which will be under oath, will be truthful before this senate subcommittee?” one reporter asked Spicer during his daily press briefing Monday.

“I would assume that when you raise your right hand and agree to tell the truth and nothing but the truth that you’ll do that. That’s the whole reason you pledge,” he said.

Spicer also said at the press briefing that Yates had not, to his knowledge, cleared her testimony with the White House general counsel’s office. That point was subject to a brief controversy in late March, after Yates’ scheduled testimony to the House Intelligence Committee was cancelled.

Also on Monday, NBC News reported that former President Barack Obama himself warned Trump against bringing Flynn into his administration, according to three unnamed Obama administration officials. One unnamed Trump administration official told the network it seemed like Obama was joking about Flynn.

Eighteen days passed between Yates’ warning to White House Counsel Don McGahn about Flynn and Flynn’s forced resignation, after media reports about Flynn’s discussions of sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Yates was fired as acting attorney general in the second week of the Trump administration, after she said she would refuse to defend his travel ban executive order.

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