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

The director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council signaled Thursday that the White House was open to keeping some of Obamacare’s taxes, which mostly affect the wealthy.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle, former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn acknowledged that there are “multiple issues we’re trying to solve,” referring to Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal Obamacare and make deep cuts to Medicaid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delayed a vote on the bill Tuesday.

“We can’t solve every issue in the health care bill,” Cohn continued. “We’re going to tackle taxes. Yes, we’d love to cut some of the taxes that are in the Obamacare bill. And that would be a great thing to do. If we can’t cut them in the Obamacare bill, we’re still actively involved in tax and tax legislation.”

It was unclear if Cohn was talking about the possibility that the Obamacare repeal itself could fail, or whether he meant to imply that the repeal effort could succeed if Republicans kept Obamacare’s taxes.

Ruhle had asked about moderate Republicans who “want you to cut out that you’re going to have tax breaks in there, you’re going to have tax breaks for the rich.” Some moderate Republicans have said that they are uncomfortable with the large tax break wealthy Americans would receive if Obamacare was repealed.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), for example, told Bloomberg Wednesday: “I do not see a justification for doing away with the 3.8 percent tax on investment income, because that is not something that increases the cost of health care … So I distinguish between those tax increases that were part of Obamacare that increase premiums and the cost of health care versus those that do not.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday that, through 2026, Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill would increase deficits by $541 billion, “mostly by reducing tax revenues.”

Cohn emphasized separately in the interview that, whether or not Obamacare was repealed, “We were going to get to tax reform, if this passes, or it doesn’t pass. We are on a tax reform agenda when we come back in September, when the August recess is over. We will be 100 percent engaged in tax reform.”

But he may have inadvertently tipped the White House’s hand — that the Trump administration may be willing to keep Obamacare’s taxes if it meant earning moderate Republicans’ support.

Before moving on to the White House’s plans for changing the tax code, Ruhle asked about how poorly Republicans’ Obamacare repeal plan was polling with Americans.

“Is that what America wants?” she asked.

“America will be happy with what we give them,” Cohn said.

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Trump surrogate and recently appointed administration official Anthony Scaramucci spoke out Thursday about a retracted CNN story that detailed his encounter with the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

“Was it fake news? I did meet with a person. I was at the World Economic Forum. I was in a restaurant. The person came over to me and shook my hand. I think a reporter snapped a picture,” Scaramucci, the newly appointed senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Export-Import Bank, told “Fox & Friends.”

“I think the first part of the the fake news was: senior Trump official, or potential senior Trump official, meeting with somebody from the Russian Sovereign Wealth Fund,” Scaramucci continued. “But that was not a quote, unquote, meeting, planned meeting, strategic meeting, anything like that. It was really an interaction with him in a restaurant.”

Three CNN employees involved with the story resigned after the retraction, and the network reportedly changed its procedures for stories related to Russia. Even President Trump noticed.

Scaramucci called the story “scandals incorporated, where you’re practicing the politics of personal destruction as opposed to serving the American people.”

“I’m the target, but the flip side is, I also know in my heart and in my soul that I haven’t done anything wrong,” he said. “So what ends up happening is if you’ve got good character and you have a strong backbone you can hold yourself up against these people and that’s exactly what I did.”

“Is that why it was important for you to get a lawyer, threaten them, say ‘I might sue’?” co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked.

“I think all of that stuff, Ainsley, was exaggerated,” Scaramucci said. “I had a couple of conversations with senior staff at CNN. I made it very clear to them that the story was not accurate and that it was a defamatory story.”

“It needed to be retracted, otherwise I think I needed to get more aggressive,” he added later, noting that he may have been able to make a defamation case against CNN.  “But I didn’t go to sue them or anything like that. I think that got a little bit overblown to be honest.”

Steve Doocy noted the proposed merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. “The last thing they would need is a great big lawsuit right now,” he said.

“Certainly that’s the case, Steven,” Scaramucci said. “What I will say is that they moved quickly once they realized that they got the information wrong and hopefully this will tighten up editorial standards not just at a place like CNN, but other places.”

He added later, referring to “the Russian story,” “I think it’s a bunch of nonsense. I would like it to stop. Certainly it was nonsense related to me. It’s probably nonsense related to others.”

Watch below via Fox News:

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President Donald Trump is on a mission to raise hell about CNN’s supposed bias against him. And in his latest salvo, the President posted on Instagram two new videos released by conservative activist James O’Keefe.

O’Keefe and his Project Veritas outlet are infamous for their selective and often misleading editing in expose-style “undercover” videos: interview subjects don’t know they’re being interviewed on tape, and their remarks are likely used out of context.

In O’Keefe’s recent “American Pravda” video series, an unidentified interlocutor speaks to CNN producer John Bonifield — who the Washington Post pointed out produces health and medical stories and would not know the details of CNN’s political coverage.

“It’s ratings,” Bonifield says at one point in a clip Trump posted on his Instagram page, explaining the network’s heavy coverage of the Russia investigations. “Our ratings are incredible right now.”

NBC News reported in October that the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to Project Veritas in May 2015, just before Trump launched his presidential campaign. He later promoted O’Keefe’s work on the campaign trail.

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has also shared the videos on his Twitter page, and deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders encouraged all Americans to watch the videos in an on-camera press briefing Tuesday, though she noted: “Whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know.”

She did not respond to TPM’s questions Wednesday about Trump’s endorsement of the videos.

Bonifield says separately in the video — asked if “the whole Russia shit is just like, bullshit” — that the story “could be bullshit. I mean, it’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any big, giant proof.”

“I just feel like they don’t really have it, but they want to keep digging,” he adds later. “So I think the President is probably right to say, like, look, you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof.”

In another O’Keefe video posted by Trump, Bonifield is heard saying: “Even if Russia was trying to swing an election, we try to swing their elections — our CIA are doing shit all the time.” It’s a surprising charge for the President to endorse via a personal social media page.

Trump posted next to each video: “#CNN is #FakeNews. The video via #ProjectVeritas that EVERYONE is talking about!”

CNN responded to O’Keefe’s videos in a statement: “CNN stands by our medical producer John Bonifield.  Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it.”

O’Keefe and two accomplices pleaded guilty in 2010 to entering a federal building under false pretenses of disguising himself as a telephone worker in order to enter then-Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office. One Project Veritas operative, Allison Maass, has repeatedly been caught attempting to infiltrate Democratic offices and liberal organizations in attempts to capture disparaging material.

H/t The Hill

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer argued against Obamacare Wednesday by pointing out that some 28 million people lacked insurance coverage under the law. He made no mention of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s estimates that tens of millions more Americans would lose coverage as a result of Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and make deep cuts to Medicaid, however.

“28.2 million Americans are still waiting under Obamacare and remain uninsured!” an infographic Spicer tweeted out stated. He appeared to be citing data from the Department of Health and Human Services that was published in February and based on polling from January-September 2016.

However, the CBO estimated Monday that Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill would result in 49 million uninsured people under age 65 by 2026, “compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”

So by Spicer’s own metric, Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill — which President Donald Trump has heartily endorsed — would unacceptably leave tens of millions more Americans without coverage.

Similarly, the CBO estimated in May that House Republicans’ Obamacare repeal would result in 51 million uninsured people under age 65 by 2026, versus 28 million under the status quo.

Under both bills, most of the estimated coverage losses are the result of deep proposed cuts to Medicaid, which Trump himself pledged during the presidential campaign that he would not tolerate.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he would delay until after the July 4 recess a vote on Senate Republicans’ repeal bill, which was written in secret for weeks and released on Thursday in anticipation of a potential vote this week.

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CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta answered commentary from Fox News’ Sean Hannity by saying the host “needs a hug.”

Acosta was responding to criticism from Hannity in which the Fox News personality called him “arrogant, combative, and frankly, whiny,” in addition to accusing Acosta of being motivated by an animus for Trump rather than the public interest.

Hannity called Acosta’s criticism of the Trump administration’s increasingly off-camera briefings “unhinged.”

h/t The Hill.

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President Donald Trump’s personal attorney asserted Wednesday that former President Barack Obama’s response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election should itself be the subject of a special counsel investigation.

The attorney, Jay Sekulow, was echoing arguments made by Trump himself since Friday last week, when a Washington Post report detailed the decision-making process behind the Obama administration’s response to the election meddling.

Now we have a special counsel investigating the so-called Russian probe and the Russian hijacking of the election, and the Russian hacking into the election, when we know the administration previously had all the information and did nothing about it,” Sekulow argued in an appearance on Fox News.

“So here is my question that I’d ask John Podesta and I’d ask anybody else: Why do we have a special counsel dealing with the Russia hacking when [the Obama administration] had that evidence and did nothing?” he continued. “Why don’t we have a special counsel reviewing why President Obama did nothing after he assured the American people — he gets intelligence briefings, but then assures the American people that Russia did not interfere with the election. He does that in October.” 

On Oct. 7, the Obama administration formally accused the Russian government of compromising the emails of “U.S. persons and institutions,” and asserted “that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

The accusation, in a joint press release from the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security, added: “The USIC and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assess that it would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion.”

According to the Post’s report Friday, Obama also told Russian President Vladimir Putin in October “that the United States had detected malicious activity, originating from servers in Russia, targeting U.S. election systems and warned that meddling would be regarded as unacceptable interference.”

The Obama administration eventually expelled 35 Russian diplomats and seized two diplomatic compounds from the country, in addition to imposing new limited sanctions.

Sekulow went on to say, referring to the investigations into potential collusion between Trump or his associates and Russia, that “this process, as it continues, is bordering on the absurd.”

“There is no evidence right now — nothing! — on Russia collusion with the Trump campaign,” he asserted.

President Obama, Sekulow said, “was fully aware of what was going on, briefed by intel officials, did nothing because he made a decision to, quote, not get involved in the election, which really meant, we knew, in his view, that Hillary Clinton was going to win.”

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Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin filed suit against the New York Times Company on Tuesday, alleging defamation following a June 14 Times editorial that the paper later said incorrectly tied political violence to incitement.

Specifically, Palin alleged that the Times knowingly linked one of her political advertisements — which showed rifle crosshairs hovering over certain Democratically controlled congressional districts — to the 2011 shooting at an event held by one representative under a crosshair, Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).

After a shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice on June 14, which left Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in critical condition, a Times editorial asserted that, in the case of the Giffords shooting, “the link to political incitement was clear.”

“Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs,” it added.

Later, corrected versions of the editorial noted that “no such link was established” between political incitement and the Giffords shooting, and included several other changes.

“The Times published and promoted its Editorial Board’s column despite knowing that the linchpin of its ‘sickening pattern’ of politically-incited shootings was the false assertion that Mrs. Palin incited Loughner to murder six people, among them a child and a federal judge, and seriously wound numerous others,” the lawsuit alleged. “In doing so, The Times violated the law and its own policies.”

In a statement quoted by the Times Tuesday, a spokesperson for the paper said: “We have not reviewed the claim yet but will defend against any claim vigorously.”

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A Toronto hotel owner has reached a deal with the Trump Organization to remove President Donald Trump’s name from the building.

The deal, several outlets including Bloomberg and the New York Times reported Tuesday, will strip Trump’s name from what is still, at least for now, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto.

Bloomberg reported that Marriott International Inc.’s St. Regis brand was expected to become the hotel’s new operator, taking Trump’s place.

JCF Capital, the building’s new owner, told the Times in a statement that the Trump organization had been “exceptional partners, and we hope to have the pleasure of working with the Trump Organization again in the future.” Trump Hotels’ chief executive, Eric Danziger, added to the Times: “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with JCF and have enjoyed our relationship with them as the new owners of this property.”

Bloomberg cited one unnamed person with knowledge of the matter who claimed that the Trump Organization will receive at least $6 million for the name change.

In November, three New York City apartment buildings removed Trump’s name after hundreds of residents demanded the change.

Trump never held an ownership stake in the Toronto building. However, it reportedly could be on the radars of federal investigators looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Wall Street Journal noted on May 17 that Trump’s business partner, Alexander Shnaider, had received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Russian state-run bank Vnesheconombank in 2010 for a separate deal, which he then injected into the hotel project.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday expressed optimism hours after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he would delay a vote on Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Despite the President’s complaints about Democrats’ lack of participation in the repeal effort, Trump invited and met only with Republican senators at the White House Tuesday afternoon.

“I think the Senate bill is going to be great,” he said in response to shouted questions from reporters at the meeting, according to a pool report.

A pool video feed caught Trump telling the senators, “Obamacare is a total disaster” that “is melting down as we speak.”

“Rates are going up, and in fact it’s very interesting, Lisa, that you’re sitting next to me, because in Alaska it was 206 percent,” Trump told Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “A 206 percent increase in Alaska. I used to use Arizona as the standard, that was 116 percent. So it’s really meltdown, and we’re going to try to solve the problem.”

“So I invited all of you, and I think we have either 52 out of 52 or 50 out of 52 and, John, either one is pretty good, I think, as a percentage,” he continued. “So we’re going to talk and we’re going to see what we can do. We’re getting very close. But for the country, we have to have health care. And it can’t be Obamacare, which is melting down.”

Trump accused Democrats of “saying all sorts of things before they even knew what the bill was,” referring to Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, which was written in secret for weeks and released Thursday in anticipation of an expected vote this week.

“This will be great if we get it done, and if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like and that’s OK and I understand that very well,” Trump said. “But I think we have a chance to do something very, very important for the public. Very, very important for the people of our country that we love.”

“So I’ll ask the press to leave,” he concluded. “I greatly appreciate you folks being here. We love you very much, you’re very kind and very understanding. But we will now ask you to leave.”

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that President Donald Trump “wants to get this done, and get it done right,” referring to Senate Republicans’ bill to repeal Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Tuesday the bill would not face a vote this week.

Spicer was originally scheduled to deliver an on-camera press briefing at 2 p.m. ET with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. However, when deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took his place, reporters began searching for Spicer, eventually finding him walking from the Capitol building to his car.

“What brings you here, Sean?” one reporter asked the press secretary.

“It is an important subject,” he replied.

“And is this the President talking to the senators today, or is he there to listen to their concerns?” a reporter asked.

“It’s a two-way street,” Spicer said. “The President obviously wants to hear their ideas. And so we look forward to hearing what they have on their minds and figuring out what we can do to finally replace and repeal Obamacare.”

“What’s he open to negotiating on, with the bill?” a reporter asked.

“He’s not — it’s an opportunity for senators to talk to the President, and for him to hear their ideas as well,” Spicer replied, warning reporters to watch their step as he walked briskly to the curb.

“Would you say that the President is upset at the delay?” a reporter asked. “Is he upset that it’s taken so long?

“The President wants to get this done, and get it done right,” Spicer said. “He wants a bill with heart, as he said,” Spicer said.

“Doesn’t it undercut McConnell’s leadership if the President is negotiating on his own?” a reporter asked.

“The President is working with them together. It is a team effort,” Spicer said, reaching his waiting car.

Speaking in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, Sanders noted that Trump had spoken with several senators to discuss the Obamacare repeal bill, and that he had invited “all Republican senators” to the White House for a meeting Tuesday.

“The President is optimistic that Republicans will live up to the promise that they’ve been making to the American people for seven years by repealing and replacing Obamacare,” she said.

Watch below:

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