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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

White House chief of staff John Kelly told the White House press corps Thursday that one of President Donald Trump’s frustrations “is you.”

“Me personally?” the reporter questioning him asked.

“All of you,” Kelly said.

“Not all of you, but many of you.”

“I’m a reasonable guy,” he continued. “But when I read in the morning, I read — I won’t tell you what I read, but when I watch TV in the morning, it’s astounding to me how much is misreported.”

The chief of staff said he recognized that many members of the media were “operating off of contacts, leaks, whatever you call them.”

But he offered the assembled reporters a piece of advice: “Maybe develop some better sources.”

“Some person that works way down inside an office or — Well, just develop some better sources,” he said.

Kelly also noted that “Congress has been frustrating” to the President.

“Of course, our government is designed to be slow, and it is,” he said.

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White House chief of staff John Kelly took over the White House press briefing Thursday to assure the American people of a few things: He’s not quitting, and he’s not getting fired. He thinks.

“I would just offer to you that although I read it all of the time pretty consistently, I’m not quitting today,” he told reporters, after press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduced him by saying she was “calling in the Marines.

“I don’t believe, and I just talked to the President, I don’t think I’m being fired today,” Kelly continued. “And I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.”

Kelly took over as White House chief of staff at the end of July, replacing former Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus. He’s attempted to institute a measure of control and professionalism on the Trump administration, though stories of infighting are common.

One reporter asked Kelly about any frustrations he had with the job so far. The chief of staff had called it the most difficult he’d ever done.

“This is really, really hard work, running the United States of America,” Kelly said.

He corrected himself.

“I don’t run it, but I’m working for someone who is dedicated to serving the country in the way that he’s talked about for a number of years.”

Earlier, Kelly complained that one of three off-the-record interviews he had given to journalists “was of course was violated,” though it wasn’t immediately clear what he was referring to.

“But thank you for all of those that didn’t violate the trust from those off the record periods,” he added.

Later, Kelly said his “only frustration, with all due respect to everyone in the room, is when I come to work in the morning and read about things I allegedly said, or things that Mr. Trump allegedly said, or people who are going to be fired or whatever.”

“And it’s just not true,” he continued. “That’s my frustration, and I mean no disrespect to you all.”

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Thursday that he was a “constitutional conservative” when it came to the freedom of the press, but he avoided criticizing President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on the press.

Trump said Wednesday that it was “disgusting” that the press could write anything, and separately pondered challenging the broadcasting licenses of news networks with whose coverage he disagreed.

Asked about the comments at a press briefing Thursday, Ryan joked to the reporter who brought up Trump’s comments: “Are you from NBC?”

NBC News reported that Trump had expressed a desire to increase America’s nuclear arsenal by nearly 10-fold in a meeting with senior national security officials over the summer. Trump on Wednesday fiercely denied the report and suggested NBC News and other outlets invented anonymous sources, though he has been known to give reporters off-the-record tips frequently.

“Do you agree with the President’s interpretation of the First Amendment?” the reporter asked Ryan.

“I’m a constitutional conservative,” he responded. “I’m for the First Amendment. I don’t always agree and like what you guys write, but you have a right to do it. And I’m a constitutional conservative, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”

“Does it concern you that the President seems to disagree?” the reporter asked.

“This is how I see it,” Ryan said, before moving on.

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An unnamed senior White House official floated a surprising idea to Politico on Thursday: President Donald Trump’s lawyers “are open” to having Trump sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller.

According to Politico, the source suggested such an offer would be part “of a wider posture of cooperation with the special counsel’s Russia probe.”

Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has expanded into a vast criminal probe of multiple aspects of Trump’s career in politics in business. Trump said in June that he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

According to Politico’s source, if Mueller’s team doesn’t request a meeting with Trump by Thanksgiving, Trump’s lawyers could apply pressure to the special counsel by volunteering Trump’s time for an interview.

The President has said he will not fire Mueller, though he has reportedly considered that option privately.

Politico’s source wasn’t concerned about what could devolve into a contentious exchange between Trump and Mueller, whose investigation has severely disrupted Trump’s administration and divided his attention.

“Whatever happens with regard to whether or not, or how, the special counsel might want to interview the President, there’s no reason to expect that would be combative,” the source said.

Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, wrote to Politico in an email: “Totally false!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And Politico said he “disputed” their source’s “characterization of the Trump legal team’s position on an interview with Mueller.”

One former Watergate prosecutor, Richard Ben-Veniste, told Politico that Trump faced severe risks in an interview with Mueller, given his habit of lying.

“Given his proclivity toward confabulation, I have no doubt his lawyers would counsel strongly against him testifying,” Ben-Veniste said.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday continued stewing over the media coverage of his presidency, saying that “Fake News” was “going all out in order to demean and denigrate!”

The attack came after a day of threats to revoke the licenses of television stations whose coverage he deems unfair.

In the Oval Office Wednesday, seated next to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said “it’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write.”

“People should look into it,” he added.

While Trump’s attacks on the First Amendment are troubling, coming from the highest office in the land, but one telecommunications expert told TPM Wednesday that, “as a legal matter, it’s an empty threat.”

The President’s most recent spate of anger at the press seemingly began in response to an NBC News story, which cited three unnamed sources in the room, that the he had suggested increasing America’s nuclear arsenal nearly tenfold in a meeting with senior national security officials over the summer.

Trump said he “never discussed” such an increase to the arsenal, and accused NBC News and other outlets of inventing unnamed sources — though he himself is known to frequently give reporters information off-the-record.

The journalists who reported the story stood by it in the face of Trump’s attacks.

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The FBI deactivated a tips website that had previously been used to accept information on possible crimes committed during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 11-13, the bureau confirmed to TPM Wednesday.

The website, fbi.org/charlottesvile, had served as a portal for individuals with information on potential criminal activity at the rally to report it to law enforcement. Other tips lines following mass shootings stayed up for at least 10 months, according to the journalist who first reported on the deleted page.

In a statement to TPM, Nora Scheland, an FBI spokesperson, suggested such tips pages are deactivated “[o]nce the bulk of the media is collected.” (Read Scheland’s statement below.) When TPM asked if the bureau risked missing crucial information as a result of removing the tips page, Scheland said “we are still seeking tips.” She did not specify on what date the tips page was deactivated.

Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a white supremacist allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at the Charlottesville rally. The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and malicious wounding, among other charges.

Three individuals have so far been arrested for the brutal beating of Deandre Harris, 20, in a parking garage next to the Charlottesville police station. And KKK leader Richard Preston was arrested for firing a gun at a crowd of counter-protesters at the event.

The Memory Hole first reported the tips page’s disappearance. According to internet archives of the working tips page, the publication noted, it went offline sometime between Sept. 19 and Oct. 1.

Russ Kick, the Memory Hole’s proprietor, noted that similar tips pages dedicated to information on the 2016 mass shootings in Dallas and Orlando stayed online for at least 10 and 11 months each.

Journalist and activist Shaun King has led a crowd-sourced effort to identify Harris’ assailants, and he claimed Wednesday following the third arrest related to the beating that two more yet-unidentified men were still at large.

King told the Intercept in September that a few days after he identified the first two known suspects in Harris’ beating, “two different agents from the FBI reached out to me and asked me if I would give them everything I had and I did.”

King said in the interview that during his conversations with the FBI, “it was clear like they explicitly told me that everything they knew about the incident that they got from my timeline.”

In an email to TPM Thursday, King said his comment to the Intercept, where he now works as a columnist, was “still very true” that the FBI has “done nothing. Nothing at all. Every person arrested has been found by us – completely.”

Read the FBI’s statement regarding the deactivation of the Charlottesville tips page:

“The digital media tips webpage established relative to the violent activity in Charlottesville, VA on the weekend of August 11-13, 2017 has been deactivated. The FBI activates the digital media tips line in the aftermath of large-scale incidents where there may be a significant amount of digital media submitted through the tips line. Once the bulk of the media is collected, the FBI always continues to ask anyone with information, tips, or digital media tips to submit the information and tips to us.

At all times the FBI encourages anyone with information related to suspicious activity, missing persons, fugitives, or other ongoing investigative activity, to submit tips to tips.fbi.gov, by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, or by reaching out to an FBI field office.”

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to lead the Department of Homeland Security, beginning the process to fill a vacancy left by current White House chief of staff John Kelly.

In a statement, the White House said Nielsen “has extensive professional experience in the areas of homeland security policy and strategy, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and emergency management.”

“She is the first nominee for this position to have previously worked within the Department of Homeland Security, having served there in two administrations,” the statement noted.

Politico first reported Nielsen’s impending nomination Wednesday.

Nielsen, a longtime DHS official who shepherded Kelly though the Senate confirmation process when he was picked to lead the agency, moved to the White House with Kelly when he took the job as Trump’s chief of staff in July. She now serves as deputy White House chief of staff.

NBC News noted that Nielsen was a “key player” in Trump’s travel ban and restrictions on immigration.

Read the White House’s full press release on Nielsen’s nomination below:

President Donald J. Trump Nominates Kirstjen Nielsen as Secretary of Homeland Security

Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Kirstjen Nielsen for the position of Secretary of Homeland Security.  Ms. Nielsen is currently the White House principal deputy chief of staff.

Ms. Nielsen has extensive professional experience in the areas of homeland security policy and strategy, cybersecurity, critical infrastructure, and emergency management.  She is the first nominee for this position to have previously worked within the Department of Homeland Security, having served there in two administrations, first as senior legislative policy director for Transportation and Security Administration under President George W. Bush and then as Department of Homeland Security Chief of Staff under President Trump.  Before joining the Trump Administration, Ms. Nielsen founded a risk and security management consulting firm.  She previously served as Special Assistant to the President and senior director for prevention, preparedness, and response on the White House Homeland Security Council under President George W. Bush, in addition to serving as a corporate attorney and as a congressional staff member.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it was “frankly disgusting” that the media “is able to write whatever it wants to write,” following a report from NBC News that the President had proposed increasing America’s nuclear arsenal nearly tenfold in a July meeting.

NBC News cited three unnamed officials in the room in its report. But Trump later called the report “pure fiction” and wondered on Twitter, referring to the network: “at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?”

On Wednesday, during a press availability with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump said of NBC and the media in general: “They have their sources that don’t exist, in my opinion, they don’t exist. They make up the sources. There are no sources. Any other questions?”

I never discussed increasing it,” he said earlier of the nuclear arsenal. “I want it in perfect shape. That was just fake news by NBC, which gives a lot of fake news lately. No, I never discussed.”

“It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it,” he added.

Returning to the topic later, Trump said “[t]he press should speak more honestly.”

“I mean, I’ve seen tremendously dishonest press,” he continued. “It’s not even a question of distortion. Like the question that was just asked before, about the 10 times the capability. I know the capability that we have, believe me, and it is awesome. It is massive. So when they make up stories like that, that’s just made up.”

Trump noted that Defense Secretary James Mattis “put out a statement, or is putting out a statement, saying that that was fake news, that it was just mentioned that way”

Around the same time, Mattis released a new statement, according to ABC News’ Dan Linden: “Recent reports that the President called for an increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal are absolutely false. This kind of erroneous reporting is irresponsible.” 

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Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was privately guaranteed a yearly salary of $180,000 from a charity he started, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Moore became president of the group, Foundation for Moral Law, in 2007, after having used it as a platform “to advance himself on any possible front, whether it was political or oratorical,” one University of Alabama professor emeritus of political science told the Post.

TPM recently reported on one significant donor to Moore’s group during that time: The Confederate sympathizer Michael Anthony Peroutka, who, mostly via donations from his wife’s Elizabeth Stroub Peroutka Foundation, gave $249,000 from 2006 through 2014 to Foundation for Moral Law.

Foundation for Moral Law received tax exempt status only after another group, the Roy Moore Legal Defense Fund, was rejected for that classification in 2004. In 2003, Moore was removed from office for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments he had installed at the courthouse, defying a federal judge’s order. That act of defiance launched the career of a nationwide conservative celebrity.

Meanwhile, Moore collected more than $1 million from Foundation for Moral Law between 2007 and 2012, when he was again elected as Alabama’s chief justice, the Post reported based on internal and IRS documents.

The salary was taken in part from speaking fees and donations to “Project Jeremiah,” an outreach program to pastors and preachers, the Post reported. When those funds didn’t reach the $180,000 mark, the charity paid Moore out of its own coffers, according to the Post.

For those years when there wasn’t enough cash on hand to pay Moore his promised salary, the Post reported, Foundation for Moral Law gave Moore a promissory note backed by a second mortgage on its building: For $393,000 in 2011, at first. In December of that year, the sum was increased to $498,000, and then to $540,000 in 2012. The Post reported the sums from the group’s mortgage documents.

The man who oversaw the debt to Moore, Alabama Circuit Court Judge John Bentley — the former chairman of the group’s board and still a member of it — stumbled when he tried to explain the differences between Moore’s publicly reported income and the amounts he had truly received over the years.

“That’s my fault,” he told the Post. “I should have been a lot more active than I was.”

He added: “I can understand why that would raise some concerns.”

The IRS in February concluded an audit of the Foundation for Moral Law’s 2013 records and said that the group “did not identify its special fundraising activities” and that its filings “did not reflect those recorded on your books of account,” the Post reported.

Read the Post’s full report here.

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