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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Michael Flynn’s work on an unfinished film about the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (pictured above), the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Flynn had been the subject of a federal probe regarding unregistered lobbying work prior to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, a probe which Mueller incorporated into his broader investigation once assuming his current position.

Specifically at question, in addition to Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the 2016 election, is Flynn’s company’s $530,000 contract with a Turkish businessman with ties to the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flynn and business partner Bijan Kian worked for the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, on anti-Gulen material including a documentary while Flynn also worked for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Flynn published an op-ed on Election Day echoing the Turkish president’s position on Gulen. Following the election, Kian joined Flynn on Trump’s national security transition team.

The Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with Mueller’s investigation, that the FBI is “preparing to interview consultants” hired by Flynn to work on the Gulen documentary.

The report noted that, in May, one freelance journalist hired by Flynn to film interviews for the documentary claimed to have been told by Flynn to keep his company’s involvement secret.

“He said: ‘We don’t want anyone to know the Flynn Intel Group has anything to do with this,” the journalist, Dave Enders, said.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the Journal reported that the FBI has contacted Enders and another journalist hired for the project, Rudi Bakhtiar, “to ask them about their roles in the venture.”

Bakhtiar told the Journal in May that Flynn misled her about the project.

“He never said ‘We’re going to make a documentary that’s going to crush Gulen,'” she told the Journal. “I never would have done it.”

The Friday report added: “Others who have already spoken to the FBI have said that investigators have been asking detailed questions about Kian, former vice chair of the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group.”

Edorgan’s demand that Gulen be extradited to Turkey — the cleric stands accused of inciting an attempted coup, an accusation he denies — has so far been rejected by the United States.

The New York Times first reported Thursday that Flynn’s lawyers had ceased communicating with President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Mueller’s expansive investigation, hinting at the possibility that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller.

Read More →

When Richard Cordray, now the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced his resignation Friday, he also named a temporary acting successor.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today announced that Leandra English has been officially named deputy director of the agency,” read a press release.

Under Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law which authorized CFPB, the agency’s deputy director will “serve as acting Director in the absence or unavailability of the Director.” English had previously served as Cordray’s chief of staff.

In a letter to agency staff announcing English’s status as acting director, quoted by the Washington Post Friday night, Cordray wrote that he had “come to recognize that appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise.”

President Donald Trump had a different idea.

“Today, the President announced that he is designating Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB),” a paragraph-long press release read. “The President looks forward to seeing Director Mulvaney take a common sense approach to leading the CFPB’s dedicated staff, an approach that will empower consumers to make their own financial decisions and facilitate investment in our communities.”

Mulvaney, memorably, said in 2014 that the CFPB was a “sick, sad joke” and that “some of us would like to get rid of it.” It’s safe to assume that, even as acting director, the current White House budget chief has a different vision for the CFPB than the former chief of staff to the Obama administration’s pick to lead the agency.

A White House source with knowledge of the administration’s position told TPM Saturday that “the President is using his long-established authority under the [Federal Vacancies Reform Act] to designate Director Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB. The President believes this appointment will ensure an orderly transition and proper management of the CFPB until a permanent director is confirmed.”

The Associated Press cited unnamed administration officials who called Mulvaney’s appointment “routine.” One unnamed official, in AP’s words, “described Cordray’s move on Friday as designed to provoke a legal battle.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), perhaps the strongest champion of the agency in the Senate and a driving force behind its creation, disputed the White House’s legal logic on Friday.

The Dodd-Frank Act is clear: if there is a CFPB Director vacancy, the Deputy Director becomes Acting Director,” she wrote. “President Trump can’t override that. He can nominate the next CFPB Director – but until that nominee is confirmed by the Senate, Leandra English is the Acting Director under the Dodd-Frank Act.”

Press representatives for the agency did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. The White House source did not say whether the White House has been in touch with the agency.

Read More →

Time magazine responded on Friday to President Donald Trump’s claim that he had turned down the publication’s offer to be “Person of the Year” — “PROBABLY.” 

Trump tweeted Friday that the magazine had called to inform him he would “PROBABLY” be named “Man (Person) of the Year” — the title changed to “Person of the Year” in 1999 — but that he had turned down the offer because, he said, it would require an interview and a photo shoot, and because “probably is no good.”

The magazine, while not denying it had been in touch with Trump, said it “does not comment on our choice until publication.” 

And the former managing editor of Time, Richard Stengel, tweeted that “PROBABLY means you’re NOT Person of the Year.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out that Trump’s aversion to interviews with news outlets as President may not have disqualified him from the top spot. Just two years ago, Stelter noted, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won the cover spot without sitting for a portrait nor an interview.

Trump was among the finalists for the top spot that year, according to Time. His fellow runners-up: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the Black Lives Matter movement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Uber founder Travis Kalanick and Olympic athlete and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, who that year had come out as a trans woman.

The then-candidate raged at his being overlooked, bringing it up at a campaign rally — “I’m never going to get it because I’m not establishment,” he saidand venting in a tweet.

The next year, Trump won his coveted prize, shortly after his shocking election.

The President’s obsession with Time is well-known. He said of his 2016 award: “It means a lot, especially me growing up reading Time magazine. And it’s a very important magazine.”

And, as Stengel mentioned, the Washington Post reported in June of this year that a fake Time cover featuring Trump had hung in at least four of his golf clubs.

Read More →

The Justice Department said Friday that the Trump Organization’s deal to walk away from its Trump SoHo contract “undermines” a lawsuit’s claim that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

The suit claims in part that Trump’s continued ownership of his business as President illegally disadvantages his competitors in New York City and Washington, D.C.

“On November 22, 2017, the owner of the Hotel announced an agreement to buy out the remainder of its management and license agreement with the Trump Organization, with the transition expected to take place by year-end,” Justice Department lawyers wrote to Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York.

They added: “This development undermines the hospitality Plaintiffs’ reliance on alleged competition with the Trump SoHo to demonstrate standing and is further reason that this Court should dismiss the Second Amended Complaint.”

The complaint against Trump was first filed in January by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, and amended in April and again in May to include several hotels and restaurants and a Washington, D.C. event planner. It alleges that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause by maintaining his ownership of the Trump Organization while serving as President.

As with many of the Trump Organization’s ventures, Trump does not own the hotel. Rather, the Trump Organization has a management and licensing deal with the property’s owners.

Recently, the development was the subject of a joint investigation from ProPublica, WNYC and the New York Times detailing what had been a potential criminal case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for misleading prospective buyers of units in the building, which operated as a “condo-hotel,” as zoning laws prevented residents from using the building as a full-time apartment.

That case drew additional scrutiny due to one of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys’, Marc Kasowitz, fundraising for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who dropped fraud case against the Trumps.

Read the Justice Department’s filing below:

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Friday condemned what he called the “[h]orrible and cowardly terrorist attack” in the Sinai Peninsula earlier in the day. He later said the attack was justification for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the attack, a combination of explosions and gunfire, had resulted in at least 200 deaths.

Hours later on Friday, Trump said the attack proved the necessity for “the WALL” and “the BAN!”

This post has been updated.

Read More →

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) on Friday continued her call for Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to resign from Congress following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

“Conyers says it didn’t happen,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Rice Friday morning. “You say he should resign. Why?”

“Because enough is enough,” Rice replied. “At this point what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America: Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?”

“And the list is endless,” she continued. “Compare what happened to Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin — all appropriate consequences. And yet once we start getting into the realm of politicians, well, let’s get the ethics commission into it, and let’s investigate this, you know, and take forever to come up with a conclusion.”

BuzzFeed News reported earlier this week on several former staffers of Conyers’ who said he inappropriately touched them and asked for sexual favors. Conyers has denied wrongdoing, but admitted to reaching a settlement with a former staffer — “in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation,” he said — who claimed she was fired for refusing his advances. The House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate the allegations.

Rice first called on Conyers to resign on Wednesday.

Cuomo asked Rice to address the criticism that Conyers had the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Rice, a federal prosecutor and Nassau County District Attorney before she was elected to Congress, said Conyers was dealing with the “court of public opinion.”

“We are not talking about a court of law here,” she said. “I have spent my entire career, before coming to Washington, as a prosecutor. This is not beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t have any legal standard here. We are talking about the court of public opinion. We are talking about holding men accountable for their actions.”

Many victims of sexual harassment, she said, will never have “their day in court.”

“Right now, what we are talking about is, is there going to be any level of accountability?” she said. “And saying that we’re going to have these allegations against politicians go before an ethics committee, that can sometimes take a couple of years — no offense to my colleagues who are on the ethics committee, but that’s not real. That’s not real. And that’s not accountability.”

Congressional ethics committees, Rice said, ask “colleagues to judge their colleagues.”

Rice mentioned that “I’ve been there” and said she had had “an incident” in her first workplace, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, almost 30 years ago. Cuomo asked her about it.

“It was brutal,” she said. “And ultimately you don’t make things like that public because, as a woman in the workplace, if you say this is happening to me, you become a professional pariah. You don’t have any choice but to accept it. The workplace is not going to address the issue.”

“There’s no benefit to these women coming forward and saying this happened to me,” she added. “And we see woman after woman making these allegations saying there was a professional cost to me for coming forward.”

“And yet there isn’t for any of these men who are being accused. That has to change.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Friday continued his grudge with the NFL over some players’ protests against racism and police brutality.

Retweeting his social media director, who had posted an article from Breitbart News about New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon kneeling during the national anthem, Trump lamented that the protests went “without penalty.”

Trump’s language recalled that of Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, who said in October, referring to protesting players: “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” He later said “I was not referring to our players,” with the remark, calling it “a figure of speech.”

Also on Friday, the President wrote that he would speak with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East,” shortly before promoting one of his South Florida golf clubs, the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter.

The White House on Wednesday told a pool reporter to correct her report that White House staff expected a “low-key day.”

“While the White House communications staff expects the press pool to have a ‘low-key day,’ the President will NOT have a low-key day and has a full schedule of meetings and phone calls,” the pooler wrote, correcting herself.

An hour later, the President arrived at another of his South Florida courses, the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

Read More →

Former congressman and current Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz said Tuesday that he feared some people “will want to take advantage” of the recent wave of reporting on workplace sexual harassment “and throw an allegation.”

On Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime,” host Melissa Francis asked Chaffetz if the stories about harassment felt “like a witch hunt.”

“I mean, a lot of men out there are worried that, even if they didn’t do anything, that women are going to come after them,” she said. “Is that a fear that you hear from other men? Do you feel that yourself?”

“Well, I do think it is mostly a gender issue,” Chaffetz replied. “I mean, it does happen against men as well. But, I’ve got to tell you, if you are not acting appropriately in the right setting, you should pay a consequence.”

He continued: “I fear, though, that there will be some people that will want to take advantage and throw an allegation. And then how do you get your reputation back? And so we’ve got to be very, very careful and make sure that it’s well-documented, and you’re going to have people say, ‘Hey, it’s not true.’”

Chaffetz announced in May that he would retire from Congress by the end of the following month, a full year and a half before his fifth term would have finished.

“I just turned 50,” he said by way of explanation at the time. “I’m sleeping on a cot in my office.”

Watch below via Fox News:

H/t Crooks and Liars

Read More →

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, initially said Wednesday afternoon that he supported a “deliberate and thorough” investigation into “very disturbing” allegations of sexual harassment made against Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) by multiple women.

Later that day, he was quoted in the New York Times striking a decidedly different tone.

“You can’t jump to conclusions with these types of things,” Clyburn said. “For all I know, all of this could be made up.”

Clyburn’s communications director, Patrick Devlin, did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment (an email to him came back with a Thanksgiving “out of office” notice). But Clyburn’s comment is striking given the array of allegations faced by Conyers, the longest serving congressman currently in the House of Representatives.

BuzzFeed News reported Monday on one former staffer of Conyers’ who alleged she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and on other claims that Conyers inappropriately touched and asked sexual favors of his staffers. The former staffer said she reached a $27,000 with Conyers.

The next day, the same outlet reported on another former staffer, unrelated to the previous article, who alleged in court documents earlier this year that Conyers made a habit of touching her inappropriately.

Conyers has denied all wrongdoing, but acknowledged reaching a settlement with a former staffer, though he said he did so without admitting guilt and primarily “in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.”

BuzzFeed reported its first story on the Democratic congressman based on affidavits provided by the right-wing conspiracist Mike Cernovich, though the outlet said it confirmed the documents’ authenticity and further reported out the story. 

The House Ethics Committee announced it was launching an investigation into Conyers Tuesday.  

Read More →

The White House insisted on Wednesday that President Donald Trump had a “full schedule” of phone calls and meetings for the day, barely an hour before Trump arrived at a nearby golf course he owns, the Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Washington Post pool reporter Jenna Johnson sent out her first dispatch from West Palm Beach at 7:57 a.m. ET on Wednesday: The President had already been briefed on a Navy plane crash, she wrote, and White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters had told reporters that Trump “plans to make a number of calls his week, especially related to tax reform.”

“Otherwise, she expects a ‘low-key day,’” Johnson wrote, quoting Walters. “She is checking to see if the White House would like to add any context or additional information to the President’s tweets this morning.”

Ten minutes later, Johnson issued a correction: “While the White House communications staff expects the press pool to have a ‘low-key day,’ the President will NOT have a low-key day and has a full schedule of meetings and phone calls.”

Trump appeared to contradict his communications staff an hour later.

“At 9:26 AM the motorcade arrived at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach,” another pooler, the USA Today Network’s Ali Schmitz, wrote. “The pool will be holding at a public library across the street.”

Schmitz added: “The pool has not seen POTUS this morning.”

It’s not clear what the President is up to, nor whether he’s actually playing golf at the course he owns. As the Post’s Philip Bump noted: “He’s probably played golf 60 times, once every 5.1 days. We say ‘probably’ because Trump doesn’t like to admit when he’s playing golf, again because he wants to give the impression that he’s always working.”

The President’s official public schedule for Wednesday, emailed to reporters Tuesday night, was bare.

7:15AM          Out-of-Town Travel Pool Call Time

No public events scheduled

Read More →