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

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told a journalist on Friday that “there’s not a person in this town” who wouldn’t accept a meeting like the one members of the Trump campaign took with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

David Corn, Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief, reported Monday morning that he’d run into Rohrabacher on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Corn said he asked the California Republican what he thought of the recent news that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, is reportedly willing to tell prosecutors that President Donald Trump knew of, and approved, members of his campaign meeting with Russians promising dirt on Clinton.

“Zero,” Rohrabacher said. “It’s a big zero.”

Corn pressed: If Cohen’s reported claims are correct, did Trump knowingly collude with a Russian operation?

“There’s not a person in this town who would not take a meeting to get material like that,” Rohrabacher said. In Corn’s words, the congressman “suggested he would.”

Pressed further, Rohrabacher said the Trump campaign hadn’t known they were meeting with what Corn called a “mobster.” “But did they know that?” Rohrabacher said, referring to the Russians’ connections to Vladimir Putin.

Corn noted that they would have known that: It was stated right an email from British publicist Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump, Jr. that the information potentially available to the Trump campaign was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Rohrabacher was similarly dismissive, Corn says, of the revelation that in 2017 he’d attended a dinner with Mariia Butina, who is now accused of conspiring to carry out an influence operation by infiltrating the NRA and conservative political circles.

“She was at the other end of table of 30 people and now they say I ‘dined’ with her,’” Rohrabacher said.

And what of the news that Butina had set up a meeting in 2015 between Rohrabacher and her alleged handler, Russian central banker Alexander Torshin? 

Rohrabacher, Corn said, acknowledged that Butina was at his meeting with Torshin, but that he’d never met her.

“This is fake news,” he said of the case against Butina. “The charges are B.S. She was just a gofer.”

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President Donald Trump capped a day of rambling tweets — about the New York Times, “consequences” for people who cross the border illegally and his bizarre and false claim that he has the “highest Poll Numbers in the history of the Republican Party” — with a string of provable falsehoods and unspecified accusations about special counsel Robert Mueller.

A number of Trump’s claims are false: Mueller is a registered Republican, for one thing, and it’s not true that the 17 lawyers who the Justice Department has said are part of his office are all Democrats. Besides, as the Washington Post reported last year, “Federal regulations prohibit the Justice Department from considering the political affiliation or political contributions of career appointees, including those appointed to the Special Counsel’s Office.”

Also, as has been thoroughly reported, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ own actions set off an FBI counterintelligence investigation months before the bureau sought a warrant to surveil Carter Page, the application for which partially cited the Steele dossier.

For all his color commentary on Twitter, the President has only called the Mueller probe an “illegal Scam!” on the website once before, last week. He hasn’t provided any evidence that backs up that characterization.

The White House didn’t respond to TPM’s inquiry about what, precisely, Trump meant when he referred to Mueller’s “conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship.”

However, the New York Times reported in January that Trump had previously argued that Mueller was ineligible to oversee the Russian interference probe because for three reasons:

First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.

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President Donald Trump last week bragged about popularizing the term “fake news” and mentioned how other countries had begun to ban content judged to be fake, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times was reporting on its own publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who, along with Times editorial page editor James Bennet, met with Trump on July 20.

While the conversation was initially agreed to be off the record, the Times said Trump had put broken that agreement by tweeting about the meeting on Sunday. Subsequently, Sulzberger released a statement in which he recalled warning Trump that using terms like “enemy of the people” to describe journalists would inspire violence against them.

Based on a phone call with Sulzberger, the Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported an additional topic from last week’s meeting:

At another point, Mr. Trump expressed pride in popularizing the phrase “fake news,” and said other countries had begun banning it. Mr. Sulzberger responded that those countries were dictatorships and that they were not banning “fake news” but rather independent scrutiny of their actions.

In April, Malaysia made it a criminal act to share information deemed to be fake news — “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas” per Poynter — becoming the first country to do so, according to the Times.

Since then, other countries have pursued laws to restrict news considered to be fake.

Later on Sunday, Trump appeared to respond to Sulzberger’s statement with more tweets.

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Sunday that he didn’t think President Donald Trump’s threatened shutdown of the government over his immigration and border wall priorities “would be helpful” for Republicans facing elections in November. 

In an interview with Johnson Sunday, CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan asked about President Donald Trump’s tweet earlier in the day threatening a government shutdown if Congress didn’t approve more funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, among other demands.

You’re the chair of homeland security committee, should we expect a September shutdown?” Brennan asked.

“Let’s hope not,” Johnson said. “I think hopefully most of the appropriation bills will actually be passed, a little better prioritization of spending. I certainly don’t like playing shutdown politics.”

Brennan asked “how damaging” a shutdown would be for Republican candidates ahead of the November elections.

“I don’t think it’d be helpful,” Johnson said. “So let’s try and avoid it.”

Watch below:

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New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said Sunday that he’d told President Donald Trump in a meeting that Trump’s rhetoric about journalists being “the enemy of the people” was “dangerous and harmful to our country.”

The statement came after Trump tweeted about the meeting Sunday morning.

According to the Times, the conversation between Trump, Sulzberger and Times editorial page editor James Bennet took place more than a week ago, on July 20. The meeting was originally off-the-record, until Trump’s tweet on Sunday. 

After a gunman shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland in late June, the newsroom wrote in an editorial: “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people.”

Read the Times’ and Sulzberger’s statement in full:

Statement of A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times, in Response to President Trump’s Tweet About Their Meeting

Earlier this month, A.G. received a request from the White House to meet with President Trump. This was not unusual; there has been a long tradition of New York Times publishers holding such meetings with presidents and other public figures who have concerns about coverage.

On July 20th, A.G. went to the White House, accompanied by James Bennet, who oversees the editorial page of The Times. Mr. Trump’s aides requested that the meeting be off the record, which has also been the practice for such meetings in the past.

But with Mr. Trump’s tweet this morning, he has put the meeting on the record, so A.G. has decided to respond to the president’s characterization of their conversation, based on detailed notes A.G. and James took.

Statement of A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times:

My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.

I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world. I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.

Correction: The photo initially accompanying this post showed Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the Times’ former publisher. His son, A.G. Sulzberger, is the current publisher. TPM regrets the error.

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As hundreds of families continue to remain apart due to the Trump administration’s family separation policy, the President was unapologetic Sunday, saying “there are consequences” for people who cross the border illegally, “whether they have children or not.”

The government has failed to reunite hundreds of asylum-seeking and migrant families who were separated at the border as a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, with Justice Department lawyers arguing in court that many are ineligible to ever be reunited with their children on U.S. soil.

Seeking asylum, even while crossing the border illegally between ports of entry, is not illegal. And border officers, advocates say, have often refused asylum-seekers at ports of entry. 

Hundreds of parents have been deported without their children, many seemingly without fully understanding what was happening.

“The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process and that’s where we go next,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said this week.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee separately appointed an independent monitor to force the Trump administration to comply with safety standards for children held in detention.

Trump added Sunday that he would be willing to shut down the government if Democrats in Congress didn’t offer “votes for Border Security,” which he defined as more funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border (for which the White House has long stopped asserting the Mexican government will pay), the elimination of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, and other items.

 

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday pledged up to $12 billion in farm aide, in a “one-time” action, for farmers affected by President Donald Trump’s trade war.

“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. An accompanying press release said the USDA would take “several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.” (Read the full release here.) The Washington Post first reported the $12 billion plan Tuesday. 

Perdue added: “Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs. USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations.”

Except it was the trade war Trump — not other world leaders — started that led to the retaliatory tariffs.

“Tariffs are the greatest!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

“We’re opening up markets. You watch what’s going to happen. Just be a little patient,” he said at a rally Tuesday around the time news of the USDA package broke.

On a conference call with reporters earlier Tuesday, Trump administration officials said the $12 billion was “one time” action.

As Jonathan Allen noted in an NBC News analysis, “Read another way, that means $12 billion for farmers in an election year — and nothing once they’ve voted.”

Agricultural industry publication IEG Policy noted Tuesday that “Officials on the call with reporters were not asked if the push to get the plan out now would make sure that benefits under the effort would start going out to farmers and ranchers ahead of the November elections, but this certainly looks like that was the effort.”

The USDA is utilizing the Commodity Credit Corporation, created in 1933, to do three things: Make direct payments to “producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs”; “purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs”; and “assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.” 

But farm state politicians stress the money is little more than a Band-Aid and that, once overseas markets for American good are lost to producers in other countries, some may be lost for good.

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When alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina and her alleged handler, Alexander Torshin, traveled to Washington, D.C. in April 2015 and reportedly attended meetings with Treasury and Federal Reserve officials arranged by the Center for the National Interest (CNI), Butina and Torshin also spoke at an off-the-record discussion attended by a career State Department official, CNI’s executive director Paul J. Saunders told TPM Tuesday.

Reuters was first to report on the 2015 meetings set up by CNI, a think tank that supports engagement with Russia. Top officials from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department met separately with Butina and Torshin, and the two Russians also spoke at an event on the “Russian financial situation and its impact on Russian politics,” Reuters reported. Saunders told TPM in a phone call that a “career State Department official” was present at the off-the-record discussion, a detail that was previously unreported.

Saunders, who attended that discussion, said that he did not recall what was covered at the event because “it was a long time ago [and] not a remarkable discussion.”

“It was a very transparent meeting,” Saunders added. “He was giving a presentation.”

Butina was indicted last week for conspiracy against the U.S. and failing to register as a foreign agent. Prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Butina attempted to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and establish backchannel communications with American politicians. Butina’s lawyer has maintained she is innocent, and she is currently being held without bond pending her trial after prosecutors argued she was an extreme flight risk.

Stanley Fischer, the Federal Reserve vice chairman at the time of the meetings, confirmed to Reuters that he met with Torshin. The Treasury department official, Nathan Sheets, declined to comment to Reuters. A spokesperson for the Russian central bank told Reuters that Torshin declined to comment.

Saunders told TPM that when CNI learned Torshin would be coming to Washington in 2015, “we invited him to speak.”

“As someone whom we had invited to speak, he asked for help in facilitating a few meetings,” Saunders continued. “We reached to a few offices in a way that we would do for anyone else who we invited to speak. It was an entirely routine thing on our part that we do for visitors from a lot of different countries when they come here to speak.”

The Russian Central Bank, he said, “actually was pretty highly regarded.”

“[Torshin] wasn’t under sanctions,” Saunders said. “We certainly weren’t aware of any derogatory information about Mr. Torshin. So we helped to facilitate meetings. No one from our staff was present, and since no one from our staff was present, no, I really don’t know what happened.”

Butina, he said “wasn’t somebody who we invited” to the event with Torshin at CNI.

“He brought someone to interpret for him,” he said. “That was Mariia Butina. She wasn’t somebody who we invited. She wasn’t somebody who we knew. He brought her with him. He was the principal, and she was, like, an aide or something.”

“We had no way of knowing, really, who she was,” Saunders added.

CNI, along with Jared Kushner, organized then-candidate Trump’s first major foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016, a year after the events with Torshin and Butina arranged by CNI. On the sidelines of the Mayflower speech, Trump, Kushner, and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) met with then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

This post has been updated.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speculated Tuesday that President Donald Trump was “just trolling people” with his threat to revoke the security clearances of former senior national security officials who’ve been critical of him publicly.

After Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) suggested Monday that Trump revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing that the White House was looking to revoke the clearances of Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

McCabe and Comey, as it happens, didn’t have security clearances to lose.

“Is it dangerous to go down that road?” MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked Ryan Tuesday, referring to the White House’s threat.

“I think he’s trolling people, honestly,” Ryan responded. “This is something that’s in the purview of the Executive Branch. I think some of these people have already lost their clearances. Some people keep their clearances.”

“That’s something the Executive Branch deals with, it’s not really in our purview,” Paul added.

Neither the White House nor spokespeople for Paul responded to TPM’s questions about the threat of clearance revocations.

“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia — or being influenced by Russia — against the President is extremely inappropriate,” Sanders said at the press briefing Monday, “and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”

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Former White House press secretary and communications director Sean Spicer’s book is riddled with elementary errors, according to a Tuesday review in the Wall Street Journal.

ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, who lived through Spicer’s legendarily dishonest press briefings, wrote for the Journal that Spicer’s memoir, “The Briefing,” “is much like his tenure as press secretary: short, littered with inaccuracies and offering up one consistent theme: Mr. Trump can do no wrong.”

Spicer recently couldn’t even get through a brief television interview without telling several falsehoods.

Karl lists some basic mistakes in the book:

He refers to the author of the infamous Trump dossier as “ Michael Steele, ” who is in truth the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, not the British ex-spy Christopher Steele. He recounts a reporter asking Mr. Obama a question at a White House press conference in 1999, a decade before Mr. Obama was elected. There are also some omissions: He writes about working for Rep. Mark Foley (R., Fla.), who he says “knew how to manage the news cycle. And on top of all that, he was good to staff and fun to be around.” He never gets around to mentioning that Mr. Foley later resigned in disgrace for sending sexually explicit messages to teenage boys working as congressional pages.

Elsewhere, Spicer asserts that “In the minds of many in the press, the First Amendment is solely about them and their rights;” and that President Donald Trump, when he skipped the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, was in “some in the media’s” opinion, “somehow assaulting the First Amendment.” 

“Rarely do reporters have their integrity questioned the way Jonathan questioned mine,” Spicer writes separately, reflecting on when Karl asked him if he would always attempt to tell the truth.

As Karl points out in his review: False, false and false.

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