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

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday that President Donald Trump had no plans to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or remove Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from overseeing Mueller’s investigation, at least to her knowledge.

“I’m not aware of any plans to make those movements,” Sanders told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

“We’re continuing to be cooperative, but we do have some real concerns with some of the activities and some of the scope that the investigation has gone,” she added.

And, despite the multiple guilty pleas Mueller has secured, Sanders asserted that his office and the several congressional committees investigating Russian election interference have “come up with nothing.”

“I think it really is getting time to move on,” Sanders said.

She later declined to discuss the specifics of Trump’s call with Michael Cohen on Friday.

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Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said Sunday that he expected criminal charges to be revealed against President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, within 90 days.

“I strongly believe that within the next 90 days we’re going to see an unsealing of an indictment against Mr. Cohen for a host of very serious offenses, and I believe, Jake, that is going to be a significant domino that’s going to fall in connection with this,” Avenatti said told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday.

“I think he can be indicted for bank fraud, wire fraud, campaign finance violations,” Avenatti added. “I think there is a whole host of potential criminal conduct that could be charged. According to his attorneys, the FBI seized thousands if not millions of pages of documents in connection with the raids going back some 30 years. This guy is radioactive right now, and this is not going to end well.”

Avenatti and his client, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels professionally, had previously sued Trump over Clifford’s right to tell the story of her alleged affair with the President. In 2016, Clifford signed an NDA covering the alleged affair that she now argues is invalid because Trump didn’t sign it. Clifford also sued Cohen for defamation after, she said, Cohen implied she was lying about the affair.

Cohen’s home, office and hotel room were raided Monday as part of what prosecutors later revealed was a months-long investigation of his business practices, among other matters.

Avenatti said Clifford is set to attend the Monday hearing at which Cohen will present a client list to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, part of his attempt to argue that documents seized in the raids are protected under attorney-client privilege.

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In several tweets Sunday morning, President Donald Trump mentioned the recent military strikes he ordered in Syria — and obsessed over former FBI Director James Comey.

Some of these points are misleading, if well-worn by the President. For example, Trump has said before that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe “got $700,000 from H[illary Clinton]” for his wife Dr. Jill McCabe’s campaign for the Virginia state senate. In reality, that money came from the Virginia Democratic Party and a political action committee associated with then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

And James Comey said in a soon-to-air interview that his assumption that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency affected his behavior before the election, but in a manner that helped Trump. Comey decided to release a letter, days before the presidential election, that the FBI was re-opening its probe of Clinton’s email server. That helped Trump and hurt Clinton, not the other way around.

“I don’t remember consciously thinking about that, but it must have been because I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump, and so I’m sure that it was a factor,” Comey told George Stephanopoulos in an interview set to air Sunday ahead of the release of his new book. 

After the former FBI director told the Senate Intelligence Committee under oath last year that Trump asked for his loyalty, Trump responded by saying he would be willing to refute that claim under oath. Since then, despite his tweet Sunday, he’s appeared less likely to fulfill that promise.

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The President’s personal lawyer announced his intention to potentially plead the Fifth Amendment in a defamation suit involving the President’s alleged affair with a porn star, the porn star’s lawyer said Thursday.

“We’ve learned moments ago, within the last two hours, that Michael Cohen will be filing a motion tomorrow in our case, an emergency motion to stay — or temporarily stop — our case,” Michael Avenatti, adult film star Stephanie Clifford’s attorney, told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace.

“The grounds for that motion are going to be that it is his intention to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination if our case goes forward, in light of potential criminal jeopardy that he finds himself in,” Avenatti continued. “So this is a stunning development.”

Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, sued Trump for the right to tell her story despite a non-disclosure agreement she signed in 2016 covering the alleged affair. She’s argued that the agreement is invalid without Trump’s signature. She also recently sued Trump and Cohen for defamation over their implications, she asserted, that she was lying about the affair. The suit includes several other assertions.

Cohen’s home, hotel room and office were raided Monday. Several outlets reported that investigators were looking for, among other things, details regarding the hush money payment he made to Clifford.

Avenatti told Wallace that he and Clifford would oppose the stay, noting that Cohen “knows where a lot of bodies are buried.”

“We’re cooperating extensively with attorneys from the Southern District of New York office of the U.S. Attorney,” he added later, referring to the U.S. attorney’s office that oversaw the Cohen raids. Avenatti did not elaborate on the extent of that cooperation.

Watch below via MSNBC’s “Deadline White House:”

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On Wednesday, conservative radio host Erick Erickson published something utterly captivating: a transcribed conversation, while strolling through a Washington, D.C. Safeway, with an unnamed Republican congressman.

The congressman, to say the least, was feeling frustrated with the President.

“I say a lot of shit on TV defending him, even over this. But honestly, I wish the motherf*cker would just go away. We’re going to lose the House, lose the Senate, and lose a bunch of states because of him. All his supporters will blame us for what we have or have not done, but he hasn’t led. He wakes up in the morning, sh*ts all over Twitter, sh*ts all over us, sh*ts all over his staff, then hits golf balls. F*ck him. Of course, I can’t say that in public or I’d get run out of town.”

Indeed.

Well, we’re going to try to introduce some accountability here. It’s impolite to speak about our commander in chief that way, and TPM believes this Republican’s constituents have a right to know what he really thinks.

Erickson and his anonymous interlocutor, as it happened, left a trail of breadcrumbs:

The congressman — not a congresswoman — comes from a “very Republican” “district Trump won,” “has been a regular supporter [of Trump] on Fox News and elsewhere” and remembers the congressional cafeteria during Nancy Pelosi’s speakership (either as a lawmaker, a congressional staffer or a guest).

He also shops at Safeway, has known Erickson for some time, can’t believe Forrest Gump won the Oscar over The Shawshank Redemption, may drink Folgers and uses expressions like “like a green fly circling shit.”

In an interview Wednesday night on CNN, Erickson narrowed it down some more: the congressman isn’t a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he had come back to D.C. for the Facebook hearing, and “he doesn’t want to lose re-election or have a primary challenge” — an indication that he does not currently face a primary challenger.

Will this congressman’s career end in a Safeway? If you’re interested in finding out, join our investigative effort here.

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Two senators and three congressmen on Thursday wrote to President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt with a lengthy list of questions and a lengthier list of the evidence that prompted them.

The impetus: New information from Kevin Chmielewski, former deputy chief of staff for operations at the EPA and a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump.

Chmielewski, the lawmakers said, had laid everything on the table in a meeting with their staffs.

The result is a catalogue of allegations against Pruitt and senior EPA leadership, some new and some old, that together paint a picture of a Cabinet official more interested in exerting his power than doing his job.

Pruitt, Chmielewski alleged, spent unnecessary thousands on office furniture, hotels, at least one new SUV and flights to arbitrary events “dictated by [Pruitt’s] desire to visit particular cities or countries rather than official business.”

Pruitt was also concerned about his frequent flier miles: Chmielewski, the letter says, stated that Pruitt directed his staff “to book flights on Delta, even when they are not the federal government’s contract carrier for the route, because you want to accrue more frequent flier miles.”

The letter, which quotes Chmielewski throughout, also focuses on the chief of security Pruitt hired to lead his sprawling and expensive detail. That man, Nino Perrotta, is portrayed as an all-purpose fixer unafraid of getting his hands dirty, for a price.

Yet another twist emerged later on Thursday: ProPublica reported that Chmielewski, whose ouster was previously examined by the New York Times, never filed his required financial disclosure form. Experts told the publication the omission was highly unusual, given how long Chmielewski worked in the Trump administration in various capacities.

Still, Chmielewski’s claims to lawmakers offer a valuable window into the EPA, and, in particular, the retribution faced by those who have objected to Pruitt’s behavior. Just as Chmielewski was sidelined after challenging Pruitt’s spending habits, he claims others were, as well, including the the Director of the EPA’s Office of Administrative and Executive Services and Pruitt’s own chief of staff.

Chmielewski confirmed a number of reports that lawmakers were already looking into, including that Pruitt had insisted upon expensive office gear and travel accommodations, frequently regardless of whether the additional expense was in the public’s interest.

Pruitt, Chmielewski said, used an EPA staffer as a personal real-estate representative, employed sirens with his motorcade to cut through D.C. traffic, exceeded the $5,000 office-decoration limit by tens of thousands of dollars, sought a $100,000 monthly private plane lease and stayed at hotels abroad that were more expensive than allowed by government standards and less secure than those recommended by U.S. Embassies.

The letter also contradicts Pruitt’s claim that he knew nothing of the five-figure raises that two senior aides of his received, via an obscure loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act, after the raises were initially rejected by the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

The raises, the letter quotes Chmielewski as saying, were “100% Pruitt himself.”

Finally, the letter covers Chmielewski’s knowledge of Pruitt’s sweetheart townhouse deal with a lobbying power couple.

Steven Hart, the well-known lobbyist representing several clients with business before the EPA, at one point called the EPA directly and complained that Pruitt hadn’t paid rent, and that Pruitt’s daughter had damaged the townhouse’s wood floor, according to the letter. Chmielewski said he overheard the call from Hart while in the chief of staff’s office.

Threats and Retribution

Chmielewski claims he was forced out of the EPA (he’s currently on administrative leave or fired, depending on whom you ask) for refusing to retroactively approve a first-class flight home from Morocco in December for Pruitt and Samantha Dravis, the recently departed senior counsel and associate administrator of the EPA’s office of policy.

Though another EPA employee eventually approved the flight, the letter said, Chmielewski claimed that “following his refusal, Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson called Mr. Chmielewski into his office and informed him that [Pruitt] wished to fire or reassign him.”

Chmielewski said he received the same message from the EPA’s White House liaison — that Pruitt wanted him to resign — in February, after Chmielewski returned from a trip to Japan with Vice President Mike Pence.

It was then, Chmielewski claimed, that Pruitt’s head of security threatened him. Upon returning from Japan, according to the letter, Chmielewski received a call. On the line were the White House liaison, Charles Munoz, and Perrotta, Pruitt’s security chief. (Perrotta calls himself “special agent in charge” of Pruitt’s detail. He also runs a private security business, Sequoia Security Group.)

Perotta “said that he was going to go to Mr. Chmielewski’s home and forcibly retrieve his EPA parking pass and that he ‘didn’t give a f—k who is on this call’,” the letter said. Chmielewski told the police, EPA officials, and the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

The questions from lawmakers contained in Thursday’s letter are just the latest in a series of inquiries about Perrotta and Pruitt’s security detail.

On Monday, two Democratic senators wrote to Pruitt about an internal EPA memo they had reviewed regarding a report that was sent by a member of Pruitt’s security detail to Perrotta. The report detailed several threats that the security detail claimed justified expensive security-related measures, including the need for Pruitt to travel in first class. The internal EPA memo about the report claimed, in short, that the justifications were bunk.

Hours after the senators released their letter to Pruitt, the EPA employee who authorized the memo it described was fired.

Chmielewski also claimed, today’s letter said, that an individual who works for Perrotta’s private security firm had received “at least one security-related contract,” and that “he believes that other contracts may also have been awarded to friends or associates of Mr. Perrotta’s.”

Will The Long List Of Credible Allegations Make An Impact?

It amounts to a stunning list of allegations. Chmielewski’s claims to Democratic legislators may increase pressure on their Republican counterparts with oversight authority to hold hearings on the myriad scandals Pruitt has faced in recent weeks.

Indeed, lawmakers have highlighted the revelations of their own investigations, including whistleblowers’ claims, for weeks. Powerful Republicans like House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) have asked tough questions, as well, as has the Office of Government Ethics

Yet Pruitt appears, at least publicly, to have the White House’s support, and relevant committee leaders have not called on him or his staff to answer, in person, for the various alleged breaches of the public’s trust.

Chmielewski recalled to the lawmakers that when he started as a Senior Executive Service official at the EPA, Pruitt’s chief of staff told him that “the nightmare is now yours.”

Chmielewski, according to the letter, “said those words turned out to be accurate.”

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Another member of President Donald Trump’s national security team is leaving the administration, according to multiple reports Thursday.

Axios first reported that Deputy National Security Adviser Ricky Waddell (above, third from left) will leave the Trump administration, citing two unnamed sources briefed on the decision. Several other outlets confirmed the news, all citing unnamed officials.

In the three days immediately after John Bolton took over for H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser on Monday, three high-ranking national security officials announced their departures: NSC spokesperson Michael Anton, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert and Nadia Schadlow, the deputy national security adviser for strategy.

Waddell was brought onto the National Security Council in May of last year, a little less than three months after McMaster took over for Michael Flynn as President Trump’s top national security adviser. Waddell took over for K.T. McFarland in the deputy adviser role.

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The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans’ campaign arm, said Wednesday there would be more retirement announcements ahead from among his ranks — but fewer than 10.

I am convinced that there won’t be a lot of other retirements coming,” the chairman, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. 

“Okay, but you don’t rule out that more may come,” Todd responded. “But you think you will keep it under ten?”

“Oh, I think for sure,” Stivers said. “You know, I thought there would be potentially two more.” 

“I knew about Dennis, he and I had been talking since January,” Stivers said, a reference to Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), who announced his retirement today, as did House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI ).

Watch below:

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Nearly two months after requesting information from the Environmental Protection Agency on Administrator Scott Pruitt’s repeated use of first class air travel, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said on Wednesday that he hasn’t gotten everything he asked for.

The chairman also asked new questions about the sweetheart townhouse deal Pruitt signed last year with a lobbying power couple, one of whom has several clients with business before the EPA. Gowdy is one of a number of committee chairmen to announce their retirements from Congress in recent months. 

Though the EPA has released some travel-related documents, Gowdy said in his new letter to Pruitt, “the EPA has failed to produce all the documents requested on February 20, 2018.”

Specifically, Gowdy asked for documents showing that Pruitt received authorizations for each of his business- or first-class flights. The EPA, he recalled, had justified Pruitt’s first class flights by saying there were “specific, ongoing threats associated with the Administrator’s air travel.” Two Democratic senators, quoting internal EPA documents, seriously undermined the credibility of that claim Tuesday.

CNN noted that in his Feb. 20 letter, Gowdy criticized an EPA spokesperson, Jahan Wilcox, who’d originally claimed that Pruitt had a “blanket waiver” to travel first class. Federal regulations Gowdy quoted explicitly say such blanket waivers are “prohibited” except in cases of disability or special need.

Gowdy also pointed to an April 4 memo from EPA Ethics Official Kevin Minoli, who’d previously approved Pruitt’s below-market-rate townhouse lease. In the memo, Minoli said he actually hadn’t had all of the necessary factual information when he first announced his approval of the lease after reports of it went public.

“These memoranda are insufficient to evaluate compliance with federal ethics rules,” Gowdy wrote, before listing several requests relating to the townhouse deal.

Read Gowdy’s new letter to Pruitt below:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to hold a press briefing at 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. Watch live below:

LiveWire