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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

Roy Moore, the Republican candidate to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat in the U.S. Senate, incorrectly said Wednesday that football players who take a knee during the national anthem are breaking the law.

“It’s against the law, you know that?” Moore told Time in an interview. “It was a act of Congress that every man stand and put their hand over their heart. That’s the law.”

Moore was referring, Time reported, to a section of the U.S. code that says those listening to the national anthem when the flag is displayed “should” stand at attention with their hands on their hearts.

“Should” falls far short of making standing during the anthem a legal requirement. Relatedly, the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students could not be punished for failing to stand for the pledge of allegiance in public schools.

According to Time, Moore also said that standing for the anthem was a matter of “the rule of law,” and that “[i]f they didn’t have it in there, it would just be tradition. But this is law.”

“If we disobey this, what else are we going to disobey?” he asked.

Moore was suspended twice from the Alabama Supreme Court for disobeying the order of a federal judge: First, for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments he had installed in the courthouse, and then, years later, for instructing probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those couples had a right to marry nation-wide.

Starting with Colin Kaepernick in 2016, several NFL players have and continue to kneel during the national anthem as part of a protest against racism and police brutality.

President Trump called the players “sons of bitches” at a rally in Alabama in September, and has since repeated several times that the protests disrespect members of the military.

Moore told Time separately: “I back the President in upholding respect for the patriotism for our country, on two grounds,” adding that: “One, it’s respect for the law. If we don’t respect the law, what kind of country are we going to have? Two, it’s respect for those who have fallen and given the ultimate sacrifice. I’m surprised that no one brought this up.”

Moore has deep ties to Confederate sympathizers and has stated that he would favor outlawing homosexuality and prohibiting Muslims from serving in Congress.

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Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) on Wednesday detailed what she said were President Donald Trump’s “sarcastic” and almost “joking” comments to the grieving widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.

Three other Green Berets were also killed in the attack.

Wilson told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Wednesday morning that she was in the car with Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson (pictured above), on the way to the airport to meet Johnson’s remains, when Trump called. Johnson spoke on speakerphone with the President, Wilson said. 

“I didn’t hear the whole phone callbut I did hear him say: ‘I’m sure he knew what he was signing up for, but it still hurts,’” the congresswoman recounted.

Wilson called the remark “sarcasm” and “insensitive.” On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier Tuesday, she said, “He was almost, like, joking.”

“You know, just matter-of-factly,” Wilson said of Trump’s comment. “That this is what happens, anyone who is signing up for military duty is signing up to die. And that’s the way we interpreted it. And it was horrible. It was insensitive. It was absolutely crazy, unnecessary. I was livid.”

Wilson said there were multiple people in the car who heard the conversation: “Her aunt, her uncle, my press person, the driver, the master sergeant. It was people.”

“We’re not trying to, leading up to the funeral of this young man, get into some sort of match with the President of the United States,” she said.

Indeed, Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told the Washington Post Wednesday: “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”

Jones-Johnson said that “yes,” Wilson’s description of the conversation was accurate, the Post reported.

Rep. Wilson told CNN that Johnson’s widow said Trump did not know her fallen husband’s name.

“She was crying the whole time and when she hung up the phone she looked at me and said: ‘He didn’t even remember his name,'” Wilson said, recalling Myeshia Johnson’s words.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning — responding to Wilson’s original comments recounting the conversation to reporters Tuesday afternoon — that the congresswoman “totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!”

It was the first time he had mentioned any of the Green Berets who died in Niger on his Twitter account.

Trump acknowledged earlier this week that he had not yet contacted the families for the four fallen soldiers, nearly two weeks after the fact. He said “I want a little time to pass.”

On Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had spoken to the four families, “to offer condolences on behalf of the country.” “Their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” she said.

During an impromptu press conference Monday, when he was asked why he had not yet mentioned the four Green Berets who were killed nearly two weeks earlier, Trump deflected and baselessly accused former presidents of not calling families of fallen soldiers. Officials in past presidential administrations quickly refuted the claim.

Trump, meanwhile, had not yet called the four families of the fallen Green Berets. And the Associated Press reported that Trump had not called the families of at least three fallen service members, despite his claim to have called “every family of someone who’s died.”

Trump also told Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Tuesday that the media should ask his chief of staff, John Kelly, whether or not former President Barack Obama called him when his son died in combat in 2010.

White House visitor records show, the AP reported, that Kelly attended an event for Gold Star families, at which the Obamas were in attendance, six months after his son’s death.

Wilson had some choice words for Trump in her interview on CNN, which

“This might wind up to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi,” she said of Johnson’s death and the recovery of his body in Niger, events which are still shrouded in mystery.

“This gentleman has a brain disorder and he needs to be checked out,” she added separately, after referencing Trump’s tweet about Johnson.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) on Tuesday called the political machinations of former White House aide Steve Bannon “completely inappropriate.”

Bannon returned to the right-wing website Breitbart News after he left his post as the White House’s chief political strategist in August. He told Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week that he would seek to challenge every incumbent Republican senator’s reelection campaign — except Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) — and the leadership position of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He said McConnell was part of an “establishment, globalist clique on Capitol Hill.”

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked Collins what she made of Bannon’s “attempts to try to create an atmosphere that would chase [McConnell] out of his leadership position?”

“I think what Steve Bannon is trying to do is completely inappropriate,” Collins responded. “And also inconceivable to me.”

“He’s not looking at how people vote on issues that matter to President Trump,” she said. “He’s looking at whether or not they support Mitch McConnell as majority leader. Mitch McConnell is key to President Trump’s ability to get tax reform through, for example. So I don’t understand Mr. Bannon’s approach. Obviously, he has the right to say or do whatever he wants.”

Collins added: “I certainly don’t think that it is at all constructive.”

Bannon’s ambitions have agitated the already sour relationship between Trump and McConnell. In an impromptu press conference Tuesday, Trump said of Bannon’s plans to replace Republican senators: “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that because frankly, they’re great people.”

On Sunday, Collins — who announced Friday that she would stay in the Senate through at least 2020, forgoing a 2018 Maine gubernatorial bid — called Bannon’s rhetoric “exactly what the American people are tired of” and “not helpful.”

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President Donald Trump dropped 92 spots on Forbes’ “Richest Americans” list, the publication said Tuesday.

According to Forbes, which called Trump “the most notable loser” on the list, the President’s net worth fell $600 million since last year, down to $3.1 billion. He dropped from No. 156 on the list to No. 248.

Forbes’ Dan Alexander and Matt Drange reported: “A tough New York real estate market, a costly lawsuit and an expensive presidential campaign all contributed to the declining fortune of the 45th President.”

The publication said it based its estimation of Trump’s wealth on “months” of digging through financial and property records, and on “dozens” of interviews.

During the 2016 campaign (and well before it) Trump frequently advertised his net worth as a qualification for the presidency.

But he’s also admitted that his own estimation of his net worth fluctuates based on how he feels on a given day.

My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with the markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings,” he said in a 2007 deposition, part of a lawsuit he filed against a reporter who wrote that Trump wasn’t a billionaire.

Trump added, when asked how he estimated his net worth: “I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies.”

He said later in the deposition, referring to anticipated profits from his golf courses: “I’ve done mental projections.”

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he had called “virtually” every family of service members who have died during his presidency.

The White House did not answer TPM’s questions about whether “virtually everybody” included the families of the four Green Berets who were killed in Niger on Oct. 4. On Monday, Trump acknowledged in an impromptu press conference that he had not yet contacted the families, 12 days and counting after the ambush that left their loved ones dead.

“I’ve written them personal letters. They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight,” he said, adding later: “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”

Trump also baselessly accused former President Barack Obama and other former presidents of not calling the loved ones of fallen service members, an accusation that multiple former Obama administration officials swiftly denied.

On Tuesday, the President kept up the misinformation campaign.

“Now, as far as other representatives, I don’t know,” he told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, on Kilmeade’s radio show. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?”

John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, lost his 29-year-old son Robert Kelly in Afghanistan in 2010.

“I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,” Trump continued. “I write letters and I also call. Now sometimes, you know, if you had a tragic event, it’s very difficult to be able to do that, but I have called, I believe, everybody, but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody, where, during the last nine months, something has happened to a soldier, I’ve called virtually everybody.”

The New York Times noted Monday that, during the first year of Obama’s presidency, “there were 317 American military fatalities in Afghanistan and 149 in Iraq.” So far in Trump’s term, according to the Times, “there have been 11 fatalities in Afghanistan and 14 in Iraq,” and 17 sailors killed in accidents on two Navy warships: the John S. McCain and the Fitzgerald.

Trump told Kilmeade that he had “gone to Dover,” referring to the Air Force base where the “dignified transfer” of the remains of fallen service members is conducted.

“It’s an incredible scene and very, very sad, one of the saddest things you’ll ever see,” he said.

Returning to other presidents, Trump said: “But I really speak for myself. I’m not speaking for other people.”

“I don’t know what Bush did. I don’t know what Obama did,” he continued. “You could find out easily what President Obama did. All you have to do is ask the military people. But I believe his policy was somewhat different than my policy. I can tell you my policy is, I’ve called every one of them.”

An unnamed senior official told the Times Monday that Trump would have spoken sooner to the families of the four fallen Green Berets, “but the White House had to wait until the Pentagon’s paperwork was completed,” in the Times’ words. Unnamed Pentagon officials told the Times that the military’s Africa Command was putting together a “detailed timeline” of the attack, and of the role French helicopters played in providing cover and medical evacuation during and after it.

On Oct. 7, the Pentagon officially identified the fourth and final American casualty of the attack, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25.

Trump told Kilmeade Tuesday that “You can’t just call immediately but I will be calling, have called and will be calling the parents and the loved ones, wives, et cetera of the soldiers that recently were killed.”

This post has been updated.

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a vocal critic of President Donald Trump among Senate Republicans, said Monday that his concerns about the President have “built over time.”

“My thoughts were well thought out,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju, adding: “Look, I didn’t just blurt them out.”

In recent weeks, Corker has said Trump is setting the United States “on the path to World War III” and that Trump is treating the presidency like a reality show. He said Trump had performed a “public castration” of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and put Tillerson in a group of three senior officials — along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly — who “separate our country from chaos.”

“My comments, I stand by them — yes,” Corker told CNN.

The President previously accused the New York Times of setting up Corker “by recording his conversation” about Trump leading the United States into World War III. The Times later released a recording of the conversation in which Corker made sure he was on-the-record and being recorded.

“Look I’ve been expressing concerns for some time and it’s built over time,” Corker told CNN. “I’ve had private dinners, I’ve had private phone calls, I’ve tried to intervene on topics that I thought things were going in a different direction and are not going to be good for our country. This is not a new thing, it’s been building for some time. And it’s a pattern that I think we’ve fought and expressed for some period of time.”

He also flatly refused to support the President’s most recent legislative goal — massive tax cuts for corporations, as well as a fundamental re-drawing of the tax code, still only a rough sketch — if it increased the deficit.

“I mean, I’ve stated that clearly,” he said.

“I’m very concerned as everyone knows and have been for 10 years and nine months since I’ve been here about our deficits,” the senator continued. “And I want to make sure that it’s not something that increases deficits, and I also want it to be tax reform.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told TPM Monday that President Donald Trump was not criticizing his predecessor when he claimed that former President Barack Obama did not call grieving military families. Trump walked back the claim when a reporter asked him about it.

At a press conference Monday, Trump claimed that “President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls,” to the families of fallen service members.

A former Obama White House official strenuously objected to the claim in an email to TPM, as have several other former Obama White House staffers.

“The President wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact,” Sanders said in an email to TPM.

“When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects,” she continued. “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This President, like his predecessors, has done each of these. Individuals claiming former presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”

However, Trump himself walked back his stated “fact” by the end of the press conference.

Pressed on how he would know whether Obama had called grieving families or not, Trump said “I don’t know if he did. No, no. I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t.”

“That’s what I was told,” he said. “All I can do is ask my generals.”

Trump also admitted during the press conference that he had not yet been in touch with the families of four fallen Green Berets killed in Niger on Oct. 4.

“I’ve written them personal letters. They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight,” he said, adding later: “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”

Sanders did not respond to TPM’s questions about how frequently Trump delays contact with grieving military families for 12 days and counting.

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A former White House official on Monday called President Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama did not call the families of fallen soldiers “unequivocally wrong.”

Trump made the claim during an impromptu press conference in the White House Rose Garden. By the end of the news conference, Trump himself had walked back his own claim, saying “I don’t know” if Obama called grieving families.

Trump was asked about his own failure to publicly address the deaths of four Green Berets, who were killed in Niger on Oct. 4. The President admitted he had not contacted the fallen Green Berets’ families. “I’ve written them personal letters. They’ve been sent, or they’re going out tonight,” he said, adding later: “I’m going to be calling them. I want a little time to pass.”

He alleged that former President Obama and other presidents had not called grieving families, as Trump said he planned to do.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” he said.

In an email to TPM, a former Obama White House official strongly disputed Trump’s claim.

“President Trump’s claim is unequivocally wrong,” the official said. “President Obama engaged families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through calls, letters, visits to Section 60 at Arlington, visits to Walter Reed, visits to Dover, and regular meetings with Gold Star Families at the White House and across the country.”

One alumna of the Obama White House, Alyssa Mastromonaco, called the claim “a fucking lie.”

And Ben Rhodes,Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, called the statement “an outrageous and disrespectful lie.”

Trump himself failed to support his own assertion later in the press conference, when he was asked how he could claim to know whether Obama did or did not call grieving military families.

“I don’t know if he did. No, no, no. I was told that he didn’t often and a lot of presidents don’t. They write letters,” Trump said. “President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told. All I can do is ask my generals.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told TPM in an email that “The President wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact.”

“When American heroes make the ultimate sacrifice, Presidents pay their respects,” she continued. “Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet family members in person. This President, like his predecessors, has done each of these.  Individuals claiming former Presidents, such as their bosses, called each family of the fallen, are mistaken.”

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President Donald Trump on Monday refused to distance himself from the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, saying only that he would meet with Moore “sometime next week.”

A reporter asked Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) how they could support Moore’s candidacy, given his statements in the past in favor of outlawing gay marriage and preventing Muslims from serving in Congress.

Moore won the Alabama Republican Senate primary over Trump’s pick for the nomination, Luther Strange. Moore has deep ties to Confederate sympathizers and worked to keep pro-segregation language in the Alabama constitution.

“I’m going to be meeting with Roy sometime next week and we’re going to talk to him about a lot of different things, but I’ll be meeting with him,” Trump responded to the reporter. “He ran a very strong race.”

“The people of Alabama, who I like very much and they like me very much– But they like Roy, and we’ll be talking to him and I can report to you then, OK?” he concluded before moving on. McConnell did not answer the question.

Despite their backing of Strange, both Trump and McConnell endorsed Moore to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions when Moore won the state’s Republican primary.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-TX) endorsed Moore on Monday, joining just a handful of lawmakers to do so.

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President Donald Trump on Monday said he would try to convince his former chief strategist Steve Bannon not to challenge certain congressional Republicans with primary opponents.

Bannon, who returned to running the far-right website Breitbart News after he left the White House in August, has also actively campaign for extremely conservative candidates, including by going after establishment Republican lawmakers with challengers to their right.

“Do you support the plan by people who previously served in your administration such as Steve Bannon to primary Republican candidates in the 2018 election who do not support your agenda?” One America News Network’s Trey Yingst asked Trump during a press availability following a lunch between the President and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

“I have a very good relationship, as you know, with Steve Bannon,” Trump responded. “Steve has been a friend of mine for a long time. I like Steve a lot. Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing.”

He continued: “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that because frankly, they’re great people.”

Trump turned to the majority leader, standing to his left.

“What Mitch will tell you is maybe with the exception of a few, and that is a very small few, I have a fantastic relationship with the people in the Senate and with the people in Congress — or, House of Representatives,” he said, adding later:  “I like and respect most of them and I think they like and respect me.”

“Just so you understand, the Republican Party is very, very unified.”

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