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

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told associates that President Donald Trump had asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James Comey regarding the federal investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, the Washington Post reported Tuesday night.

The Post, citing unnamed officials, reported that Trump’s request of Coats came after a White House briefing with officials from multiple government agencies on March 22. After the briefing ended, Trump asked CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Coats, then in his first week on the job, to stay behind.

Coats, along with with National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday.

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The day after President Donald Trump allegedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Comey told Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he did not want to be alone with the President again, the New York Times reported late Tuesday.

Citing unnamed current and former law enforcement officials, the Times reported that Comey believed Sessions should protect the FBI from White House pressure. Sessions reportedly told Comey that he could not guarantee Trump wouldn’t continue to attempt to speak to him one-on-one.

Trump’s alleged request of Comey came in a private Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14, the day after he fired Flynn after it was revealed that Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others in the administration about the nature of his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Comey reportedly documented the interaction in a contemporaneous memo.

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Eric Trump’s charitable foundation seems to have paid the Trump Organization hundreds of thousands of charitable dollars, Forbes reported in a lengthy investigation published Tuesday, despite Trump’s claims that the Trump Organization did not charge the foundation for use of its golf courses.

Eric Trump has undoubtedly been generous in raising millions for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through charitable golf tournaments. But in reviewing IRS filings, Forbes found hundreds of thousands of dollars that the Trump Organization seems to have received from charitable organizations — including the Eric Trump Foundation.

Forbes also found a pattern of more than $500,000 in Eric Trump Foundation donors’ contributions being re-donated to other charities, many connected to the Trump family. At least four groups in turn paid the Trump Organization for the use of its golf courses for their own tournaments.

In an interview with Forbes for the story, Eric Trump said on two separate occasions that the Trump Organization, which he currently manages with his brother while his father serves as President, didn’t charge his charity for the use of its amenities.

However, Forbes found a spike in expenses for the charity tournament consistent with a former foundation board member and a Trump Organization employee who said the foundation began paying the Trump Organization to use its courses.

Forbes also reported that, just as costs spiked, the Donald J. Trump Foundation — the President’s own shadowy charity, to which he hasn’t personally donated since 2008 — donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation. One person Forbes interviewed who worked for the the Trump National Westchester at the time said the money was meant to offset the increased costs, and, therefore, meant to end up in the Trump Organization’s coffers.

From 2007, shortly after Eric Trump graduated from Georgetown, to 2010, Forbes reported, total expenses for the lavish annual golf tournament averaged $50,000. But in 2011, according to Eric Trump Foundation IRS filings analyzed by the publication, costs jumped.

In 2011, the charity tournament’s bill was $142,000, a more-than-three-fold-increase. Costs rose in later years: $230,000 in 2013; $242,000 in 2014; and $322,000 in 2015; despite none of the three later years bringing in more money, Forbes reported, than the 2012 tournament, which raised $2 million with just $59,000 in costs.

Eric Trump told the publication that expenses for tournaments were largely comped by the Trump Organization, or donated. The foundation declined to provide an itemized list of expenses to Forbes.

A spokesperson for Eric Trump said in a statement to TPM Wednesday:

During the past decade, the Eric Trump Foundation has raised over $16.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research hospital while maintaining an expense ratio of just 12.3 percent. The Eric Trump Foundation was also responsible for building a $20 million dollar ICU which treats the sickest children anywhere in the world suffering from the most catastrophic terminal illnesses. Contrary to recent reports, at no time did the Trump Organization profit in any way from the foundation or any of its activities. While people can disagree on political issues, to infer malicious intent on a charity that has changed so many lives, is not only shameful but is truly disgusting. At the end of the day the only people who lose are the children of St. Jude and other incredibly worthy causes.

In interviews, people with ties to the Eric Trump Foundation and the Trump Organization linked the spike to payments made to the Trump Organization, despite Eric Trump’s claims to the contrary. Around the same time, Forbes reported, the foundation’s board was dramatically reconstituted to include 14 new members, “the majority of whom owed all or much of their livelihoods to the Trump Organization.”

Read Forbes full report here.

This post has been updated.

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Donald Trump Jr. said a lot without saying very much Monday, telling Londoners to “do something a lot more proactive” after a terrorist attack Saturday left seven innocent people dead in the city.

In an interview with ABC’s Tom Llamas to promote the Trump Organization’s upcoming Americana-themed hotel chain — “it has nothing to do with politics,” Trump said, even though “more companies could probably do better by being a little bit more patriotic” — the topic turned to the London attack.

Donald Trump Jr.’s father, President Donald Trump, accused the mayor of London of downplaying the risk of terrorism Sunday by quoting him out of context. Mayor Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, told Londoners not to be alarmed by the increased police presence following Saturday’s attack. The President implied he was saying that terrorism itself was no reason to be alarmed.

Khan said Sunday he “had more important things to do” than respond to Trump’s attack. On Monday he told the BBC: “We aren’t going to allow anybody, whether it’s Donald Trump or anybody else to divide our community.”

“It happened again, and we keep appeasing it, and we keep saying ‘Okay, it’s gonna be great. We’re gonna hold fast and we’re gonna keep calm and carry on,’” Donald Trump Jr. said in the interview excerpts ABC published Tuesday, though he never specified who exactly had made that argument.

“Maybe we have to keep calm and actually do something. And I think that’s what he’s trying to say, because he’s been proven right about it every time,” he said, referring to his father.

Donald Trump Jr. himself quoted Khan out of context in order to attack him in March, after another attack in London. Just hours after the attack, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a months-old quote of Khan’s, that terrorism was “part and parcel of living in a big city.”

“You have to be kidding me?!” Don Jr. tweeted, appearing to falsely situate the quote as Khan’s real-time reaction to the attack.

“This is a recurring theme, and then we’re attacked,” Donald Trump Jr. continued on Monday. “But maybe, rather than the mayor of London attacking, maybe he should do something about it. Maybe he should do something to fix the problem rather than just sit there and pretend there isn’t one. And I think that’s an important message.”

“So you think the mayor of London is at fault for what happened?” Llamas asked.

“No, that’s not what I said,” Donald Trump Jr. responded. “I think it’s time for the people there to probably act and do something a lot more proactive than what’s been going on. And I do think that’s something people have to do. We can’t just sit there and pretend this is not a problem.”

Donald Trump Jr. never explicitly said what he thought Londoners should do, nor what he thought would have prevented the attack.

Watch Llamas’ interview with Don Jr. below:

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President Donald Trump’s raging Twitter dispatches at his own Justice Department Monday were informed in part by his anger at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation into Trump associates’ potential collusion with Russia, according to the New York Times.

The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” Trump wrote on Twitter Monday, referring to executive orders he signed. “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!”

The Times, citing unnamed people close to Trump, reported later Monday that Trump has fumed at Sessions for months over his recusal from the Russia investigation. Trump, the sources said, believed Sessions’ recusal led eventually to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the investigation.

Trump only learned of Sessions’ recusal — which the attorney general announced on March 2 after it was revealed he had had undisclosed meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the United States — in the middle of another event, unnamed people close to the President told the paper.

Trump has expressed his frustration publicly, on his Twitter account, trying to pin the scandal on the Obama administration.

An unnamed senior White House source told ABC News at the time that Trump had gone “ballistic” over the recusal. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa wrote, citing unnamed “aides familiar,” that “Trump left WH in a fury on Friday, fuming about Sessions’s recusal and telling aides that Sessions shouldn’t have recused himself.” Costa added that Trump thought “Sessions/WH/DOJ should have done more to counter Sessions story, that it was ‘bull.’”

An unnamed source close to Trump told the Post’s Philip Rucker: “He’s in a very [expletive] bad mood today. He is a bear.”

Two days after Sessions’ recusal, and without any evidence to this day to support the accusation, Trump said that President Barack Obama had ordered Trump Tower wiretapped.

The Times reported Monday, citing four unnamed people familiar with the incident, that Trump had “unleashed his fury” at White House aides the day after the recusal. An unnamed senior administration official told the Times, in the paper’s words, that Trump “has not stopped burning about the decision, in occasional spurts, toward Mr. Sessions.”

Still, the Times’ sources said, Trump was wary of more firings, after the ouster of FBI Director James Comey caused such an outcry.

At his daily press briefing Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s “level of confidence in the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.”

“I have not had a discussion with him about that,” Spicer said, refusing to go further.

This post has been updated.

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CNN reported Monday that the one-time acting United States ambassador to China resigned from the State Department over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to unnamed sources familiar with the decision.

Earlier Monday, SupChina editor-at-large John Pomfret wrote on Twitter that unnamed sources had said the official who resigned, David Rank, did so because he “couldn’t back Trump on climate.”

Trump’s nominee for the ambassadorship, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, was sworn in as ambassador on May 24. The Senate confirmed him for the position on May 22.

Rank was a career foreign service officer who in January 2016 became deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, CNN reported.

“Mr. Rank made a personal decision,” an unnamed senior State Department official told the network. “We appreciate his years of dedicated service to the State Department.”

CNN noted the official did not name Trump’s Paris accord withdrawal as the explicit motivation for Rank’s resignation, but the network cited “several” unnamed “sources familiar with the decision,” who indicated, in CNN’s words, that the “departure is directly tied to Trump’s controversial move to pull out of the accord.”

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Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders batted back questions about President Donald Trump’s attacks against the mayor of London on Monday.

“Why is the President picking a fight with the mayor of London right after his city was hit with a terrorist attack?” ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked at the daily press briefing Monday.

Sanders responded that the Trump wasn’t.

After London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, told the city not to be alarmed by the increased police presence after a terrorist attack on Saturday left seven dead and dozens more wounded, Trump quoted him out of context on Sunday to attack him, and again on Monday.

“I don’t see that the President is picking a fight with the mayor of London at all,” Sanders replied to Karl. “I think, again, the President’s point is something he said, frankly, back — It’s been almost two years now, a year and a half ago, when the President talked about how we have to be more committed to national security.”

She added: “One of the reasons we have the travel ban here through that executive order is a focus on national security. That was the point he was trying to make.”

“But the President is saying that the mayor said there is no reason to be alarmed by the terrorist attack,” Karl said, before explaining the context of Khan’s statement. “That is not what the mayor said.”

“The President directly misrepresented what the mayor of London said,” he added.

“I don’t think that’s actually true,” Sanders replied. “I think that the media wants to spin it that way, but I think the President — ”

Karl tried again: “You think the mayor was saying there’s no reason to be alarmed by an attack on a city? You think that’s what he was saying?”

“I think that the point is there is reason to be alarmed,” Sanders replied. “We have constant attacks going on not just there but across the globe, and we have to start putting national security and global security at an all-time high.”

Trump and Khan have always had an icy relationship, especially since Trump proposed banning all Muslims from traveling to the United States during the 2016 campaign.

Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, responded to questions about the proposed ban by saying it would prevent him from traveling to America. He later added that it discriminated against “everyone who comes from a background similar to mine, anywhere in the world.”

“Let me ask you a follow-up on what Jon was asking about with respect to the mayor of London,” CNN’s Jim Acosta asked later. “There are going to be folks who are going to ask the question, was the President attacking the mayor of London because he’s Muslim?”

“Not at all,” Sanders replied. “And I think to suggest something like that is utterly ridiculous.”

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A Republican congressman described a war between “all of Christendom” and “Islamic horror” in a Facebook post Sunday morning following a terrorist attack in London.

Next to a photo of the alleged perpetrators of the terrorist attack, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) wrote:

The free world… all of Christendom… is at war with Islamic horror. Not one penny of American treasure should be granted to any nation who harbors these heathen animals. Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identity them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.
-Captain Clay Higgins

Mother Jones reported that Higgins’ campaign spokesperson, Chris Comeaux, wrote in an email to the publication: “Rep. Higgins is referring to terrorists. He’s advocating for hunting down and killing all of the terrorists. This is an idea all of America & Britain should be united behind.”

In a statement emailed to TPM by his congressional spokesperson, Higgins said: “We are a world at war. The enemy is radicalized Islamic jihadists. The terrorists certainly take advantage of the politically correct madness that consumes the West. They revel, that many in the western world are frightened to speak freely. I’ve never been accused of being politically correct. I call things the way I see them.”

“The meaning of candid speech is frequently mischaracterized or misunderstood,” Higgins’ statement continued. “This is about prioritizing national security and protecting American lives. Every measure must be taken to eliminate radical Islamic terrorism and the threat it poses to the free world. My only concern is protecting the people that live in my district, my state, and my country. We must stand strong against radical Islamic terror. The fate of the free world will be determined by the courageous, not by the intimidated.”

Higgins’ office didn’t answer TPM’s questions about whether he was advocating for a specific policy, nor whether “kill them all” included suspected terrorists’ constitutional right to due process.

Higgins has long cultivated an image of himself as a tough-talking police officer and military veteran. Before being elected to Congress in 2016, he was know for his direct-to-camera warnings to would-be and accused criminals, as the spokesperson for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office in Opelousas, Louisiana.

This post has been updated.

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