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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

President Donald Trump has told confidants that he believes Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is innocent of the charges of sexual misconduct made against him by multiple women, the Daily Beast reported Wednesday.

Citing unnamed sources close to the President — including an administration official and a friend of Trump’s — the Daily Beast reported that Trump believes a purported inscription from Moore in a yearbook belonging to Beverly Young Nelson is a forgery, echoing the candidate’s talking point.

Nelson has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 and he was an assistant district attorney. Leigh Corfman told the Washington Post Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Others accuse Moore of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers. Moore has denied all wrongdoing.

“This is not something he’s struggling with,” one unnamed senior White House official told the publication, referring to Trump’s belief of Moore’s denials.

In November, White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said of the President: “If he did not believe that the women’s accusations were credible he would be down campaigning for Roy Moore. He has not done that.”

In the subsequent weeks, Trump did in fact endorse Moore by name and advocate for his election. On Friday, four days before the Dec. 12 special election to fill Attorney Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat, Trump will hold a campaign event in Pensacola, Florida, less than an hour from Alabama. AL.com reported that his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, sent robocalls inviting Alabama voters to the event.

On Tuesday, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders how the President “reached the conclusion that all of Moore’s accusers — including those who have put forward evidence — are lying.”

“Didn’t say they were lying,” Sanders responded. “The President’s position hasn’t changed; still finds those concerning.”

Asked for comment by TPM Wednesday, Sanders did not respond to say whether she stood by the remark.

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It’s come to this.

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s campaign has blocked his Democratic opponent Doug Jones on Twitter, Jones claimed on Tuesday.

Prior to the symbolic gesture — which bars Jones’ account from viewing or interacting with Moore’s — the Democrat had posted quotes from a speech earlier in the day, in which he said of Moore, “men who hurt little girls should go to jail — not to the U.S. Senate.”

A spokesperson for Moore’s campaign told TPM in an email: “We can’t believe that Doug Jones is still whining about being blocked on Twitter. Wait until we block him from the United States Senate.”

Moore has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct, including pursuing sexual relationships with teenagers when he was an assistant district attorney. Leigh Corfman accused Moore of initiating sexual contact with her when she was 14, and Beverly Young Nelson accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16.

Moore has denied all wrongdoing and refused to grant interviews to mainstream news outlets. On Tuesday a campaign spokesperson, Janet Porter, refused to say in an interview with CNN whether she believed the women accusing Moore of wrongdoing.

The pair will compete in a special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat on Dec. 12.

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that she hadn’t spoken to President Donald Trump about the possibility of pardoning his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI.

“Yesterday, the President said that he felt very badly for Gen. Flynn,” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega said. “Would he consider pardoning him?”

“I’m not aware that that has come up, or any process or decision on that front,” Sanders said.

“You haven’t talked to him about it?” Vega asked.

“No, I haven’t asked the President whether or not he would do that” Sanders said, adding: “I think before we start discussing pardons for individuals we should see what happens in specific cases, too.”

“So is it fair to say it’s on the table?” Vega asked.

“No,” Sanders replied. “I just said I haven’t had the conversation with him because I don’t feel that it’s necessary until we get further down the the road and determine whether or not that’s even something needed.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 3:00 p.m. ET Tuesday. Watch live below:

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday that the nomination of former White House Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland would be “frozen for a while” in light of revelations that she knew about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

“If she did testify inappropriately, obviously that’s a big, big problem,” Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) told CNN’s Manu Raju.

He added: “It’s a problem. And her nomination is frozen for a while, until that gets worked out. And she has to know that herself, and we’ll deal with it at the appropriate time.”

McFarland joined Trump’s national security team in November 2016 and served as the President’s deputy national security adviser before resigning and being nominated as the United States’ ambassador to Singapore over the summer.

During the confirmation process for that post, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked McFarland if she had ever spoken to Flynn about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. McFarland said: “I am not aware of any of the issues or events described above.”

But McFarland was identified Saturday by the Associated Press as the “senior official of the presidential transition team” who Flynn called following the Obama administration’s new sanctions against Russia. Flynn and the senior official, according to the documents, “discussed that members of the Presidential Transition Team at Mar-a-Lago did not want Russia to escalate the situation.”

After that call, according to the charging document, Flynn called Kislyak, and then reported back to the senior official, identified as McFarland by the AP.

And on Monday, the New York Times reported on an email exchange “obtained from someone who had access to transition team communications” that showed McFarland had knowledge of Flynn’s outreach.

The Times reported: “As part of the outreach, Ms. McFarland wrote, Mr. Flynn would be speaking with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Kislyak, hours after Mr. Obama’s sanctions were announced.”

McFarland joins a growing list of Trump officials facing mounting evidence that they knew of Flynn’s communications with Russia’s ambassador while claiming ignorance of them.

h/t The Hill

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A truck from U.S. Customs and Border Protection drove by fasting pro-immigration activists outside Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-FL) offices Monday, according to local reports from the Miami Herald and the Miami New Times.

Activists on the scene — where some are in the middle of a week-long fast — said the action was an attempt by CBP agents to intimidate protesters advocating for a “clean” DREAM Act and protections for recipients of so-called Temporary Protected Status, thousands of whom now face deportation.

So far 1 hr into us being outside of Rubio’s office and they already are doing intimidation tactics, having ICE drive by our location slowly, and trying to kick us off the side walk,” wrote Paula Muñoz, who attended the protest, on Facebook.

A regional spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Nestor Yglesias, said the vehicle appearing in photos by Muñoz and other activists belonged to CBP, not ICE. Both agencies are part of the Department of Homeland Security. 

Keith Smith, a spokesperson for CBP in Florida, told TPM in a statement Wednesday: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel travel regularly as part of routine activities and normal business. There are six CBP offices with a fleet of approximately 100 vehicles in the area of Miami International Airport and Sen. Rubio’s office. CBP Officers frequently use the route along which the protest occurred to commute during the normal operational scope of their duties, as was the case on that day. CBP officers enforce the nation’s laws while preserving the civil rights and civil liberties of all people with whom CBP personnel interact.”

President Donald Trump ended DACA, the Obama-era program shielding qualified undocumented young people from immediate deportation, in September. Neither the White House nor Congress has made much progress in replacing the program, spelling trouble for hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who handed sensitive information over to the federal government.

Temporary Protected Status is a deportation protection granted to undocumented individuals from certain countries who face political or environmental turmoil if they are deported. Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke announced the termination of TPS protections for undocumented Haitians and Nicaraguans living in the United States in November.

Duke said of TPS-eligible Hondurans, whose status is in question: “[A]dditional time is necessary to obtain and assess supplemental information pertaining to country conditions in Honduras.”

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One of the women included in the Washington Post’s first report on Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s alleged relationships and sexual misconduct with teenagers presented more proof of their relationship Monday.

After Debbie Wesson Gibson saw a Nov. 27 video of Moore saying “I do not know any of these women,” the Post reported, she found a graduation card from Moore in a scrapbook in her attic.

“Happy graduation Debbie,” Moore appears to have written. “I wanted to give you this card myself. I know that you’ll be a success in anything you do. Roy.”

The scrapbook presented more proof elsewhere, including Gibson’s record at the time of receiving “$10, card” from “Roy S. Moore,” and her reflection on a date with Moore under a section titled “the best times.”

“Wednesday night, 3-4-81. Roy S. Moore and I went out for the first time,” Gibson had written. “We went out to eat at Catfish Cabin in Albertville. I had a great time.”

In a Nov. 10 interview with Sean Hannity — before he began claiming to not know any of the women alleging he pursued them when they were teenagers — Moore said he remembered Gibson.

“I knew her as a friend,” he said. “If we did go out on dates, then we did, but I do not remember that.”

Gibson had told the Post, for the paper’s Nov. 9 report, that she had dated Moore as a 17-year-old high school student in 1981, when he was a 34-year-old assistant district attorney. The Post reported then: “Gibson says that they dated for two to three months, and that he took her to his house, read her poetry and played his guitar. She says he kissed her once in his bedroom and once by the pool at a local country club.”

Gibson told the paper that “looking back,” their age difference made the relationship “inappropriate.”

In the same report, Leigh Corfman alleged that Moore had initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14. Days later, Beverly Young Nelson alleged Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16.

The handwriting in Gibson’s scrapbook appeared to be the same as that of a yearbook inscription, also allegedly from Moore, presented by Nelson and her attorney, Gloria Allred, in a press conference.

The Moore campaign has alleged the yearbook inscription is forged. The Post reported that representatives of Moore’s campaign had not responded to requests for comment on its story Monday.

The special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat, which is currently held by interim Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), will take place on Dec. 12.

Gibson told the Post that seeing Moore deny knowing her had made, in the Post’s words, “the decision to share the documents easier.”

“At 34 minutes and 56 seconds into the video, he says, unequivocally, I did not know any of them,” she said. “In that moment, it changed my perspective. I knew he was a liar.”

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A local Iowa radio station fired two employees Monday after their racist remarks about high school basketball players during a game were broadcast on an online video feed used by local schools.

While reading the roster of players from Eagle Grove High School last Tuesday, KIOW radio announcer Orin Harris (pictured above) told board operator Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, according to KIMT: “They have a lot of…”

“Español people,” Kusserow-Smidt said.

“Español people in Eagle Grove,” Harris agreed.

“Gee, I wonder why that is,” Kusserow-Smidt said. “But the latest there is that they’re just going to gradually come into town. Yeah right.”

“Gradually work their way in,” Harris said sarcastically.

Later, Harris read another name on Eagle Grove’s roster and commented, “Sounds like he’s not a foreigner. Could be, though… All foreigners.”

“Exactly, all foreigners,” Kusserow-Smidt responded.

“They oughta, as Trump would say, go back where they came from,” Harris said.

“Well, some would say that, yeah,” Kusserow-Smidt relied. “Some days I feel like that, too.”

Harris agreed.

The Des Moines Register reported that a video stream recording of the exchange, which went viral on Facebook, “appears to capture a conversation during a radio commercial break.”

These comments never aired on KIOW Radio,” KIOW management wrote in a statement on the station’s website Monday. “They did, however, appear on a video feed that appeared on a school website.” Harris told KIMT, in interview Monday, that the exchange was “unintentionally broadcast.” 

The Des Moines Register also reported that the Forrest City School District had placed Kusserow-Smidt, who is also a 3rd grade teacher, on paid administrative leave.

That night when we learned of these comments, we were in contact with the Eagle Grove School District and gathered information about the incident,” KIOW’s statement read. “On Thursday morning, November 30, a letter of apology was sent to school officials, along with details of our actions in regards to the two employees involved.”

“As a result, both employees have been fired from their positions with the station.”

In an interview with KIMT Monday, Harris apologized and said of his comments: “I’m surprised they came out the way they did. It was just off-the-cuff talking about the names from Eagles Grove. And I wasn’t trying to make fun of them. I’ve talked about them for a couple of years. But it just mushroomed out of hand, with the way we were talking. And it just didn’t sound right, it wasn’t right, and I apologize.”

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The former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, on Monday disputed a claim by a lawyer for President Donald Trump that the President “cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer.”

“I have a lot of experience with John Dowd,” Bharara said in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, referring to Trump’s lawyer. “He represented some high profile people in cases before my office. And he said then, as he’s saying now, a lot of incorrect, mistaken and, on occasion, ludicrous things, so I don’t put a lot of stock in it.”

“The mere fact that the President is the President doesn’t immunize him from an accusation of obstruction,” Bharara added.

Trump fired Bharara in March after he refused to step down at the President’s request. Trump had originally promised Bharara that he would keep his job as U.S. attorney.

Dowd on Sunday claimed responsibility for drafting a tweet sent from Trump’s Twitter account in which Trump claimed to have fired former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”

The President hadn’t previously claimed to know that Flynn had lied to the FBI prior to his firing. Bharara explained the significance of the tweet.

“It matters because it’s a change from what the reasoning was that was given by the President in the first place,” he said. “A few days after [Flynn] became the national security adviser, the President said only that he’d fired Michael Flynn because he had lied to the vice president.”

“And now you have the interjection of a new reason, apparently, which was that he knew, the President knew, that there was a lie to the FBI, which then suggests, that if he did that and knew that before he asked Jim Comey, the FBI director, to back off the investigation— That shows a level of knowledge and intent that was previously unknown,” he said.

Obstruction of justice, Bharara added, is “clearly one of the things that’s being looked at by special counsel Mueller and his team.”

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Former Trump campaign officials Corey Lewandowksi and David Bossie on Monday told their version of Paul Manafort’s hiring and firing by the Trump campaign.

According to Lewandowksi and Bossie — who at one point served as Trump’s campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, respectively — Manafort’s start on the campaign was marked by turmoil, after press secretary Hope Hicks turned down all Sunday show interview requests one weekend at his suggestion. Lewandowski recorded what he said was Trump’s response in two phone calls:

“Did you say I shouldn’t be on TV on Sunday??” Manafort could barely hear him because of the helicopter motor. But Trump said, “I’ll go on TV anytime I goddamn fucking want and you won’t say another fucking word about me! Tone it down? I wanna turn it up! I don’t wanna tone anything down! I played along with your delegate charts, but I have had enough.”

[…]

“You’re a political pro? Let me tell you something. I’m a pro at life. I’ve been around a time or two. I know guys like you, with your hair and your skin…”

Manafort, who took Lewandowski’s title as campaign manager in June 2016 after serving as an adviser to Trump, ultimately left the campaign after reports of his financial relationship with the political party of the pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. He and his deputy, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty on Oct. 30 to several charges, including money laundering and unregistered lobbying, as part of Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Lewandowski and Bossie’s account came in a book excerpt in Politico: “Let Trump Be Trump,” “the ultimate behind-the-scenes account” of how Trump won his shocking 2016 victory, is out now.

From Manafort’s start on the campaign, his mutual grudge with Lewandowksi was well-known.

The second excerpt shared with Politico details Manafort’s departure from the campaign, which occurred after two stories of his deep ties to Ukrainian political clients: First, that a secret ledger from Yanukovych’s political party showed $12.7 million in payments to Manafort, and then, a separate report that Manafort and Gates had done unregistered lobbying work for the same party.

Lewandowski and Bossie recorded two telling reactions from Manafort to the news of the secret ledger payments.

“It’s all lies,” Manafort told Steve Bannon shortly before the New York Times published its reporting, according to the book. “My lawyers are fighting it.”

He also reportedly said: “It was a long time ago […] I had expenses.”

After the story of unregistered lobbying work broke, according to the excerpt, Trump said: “Tell Jared to fire him.” Manafort protested, according to Lewandowski and Bossie — “It will make me look guilty” — but, according to the new book, “Jared told him there wasn’t much that could be done. A press release was going out in 60 seconds.” 

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