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

Brittany Kaiser, then a director at the data firm Cambridge Analytica, is said to have met with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to discuss the results of the 2016 election, the Guardian reported Wednesday.

Kaiser also reportedly claimed to have funneled cryptocurrency to Wikileaks.

The paper reported that the information had been passed along to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the United Kingdom. Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was testifying before the latter committee at the time this post was published Wednesday. “I wasn’t aware of that,” he told the committee of Kaiser’s reported meeting. “She certainly wasn’t there representing Cambridge Analytica and SCL.”

Lucy Dargahi, a spokesperson for the British committee, pointed TPM to Kaiser and Nix’s previous testimony before the panel, but neither confirmed nor denied the Guardian’s reporting that the committee had been given information about a post-election meeting or cryptocurrency payments. Spokespeople for Senate Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Guardian cited Ecuadorian Embassy visitor logs that it and the Ecuadorian publication Focus Ecuador had obtained showing Kaiser’s visit on Feb. 17 of last year. “Information passed on” to the British and American committees, the paper reported, “states that the meeting was ‘a retrospective to discuss the US election.’”

Citing “reports passed to investigators,” the Guardian also reported that Kaiser said she’d funneled cryptocurrency “gifts and payments” from third parties to Wikileaks, which she reportedly called her “favourite charity.”

Cambridge Analytica’s CEO reached out to Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign offering to help sort through emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but both Nix and Assange have said that Assange didn’t take him up on the offer.

The Guardian noted Wednesday that in testimony before the British committee in April, Kaiser said she’d wondered why Nix would have attempted to reach Wikileaks through an email address associated with a speaking agency representing the group, given her existing relationship with a friend and lawyer of Assange’s, the late John Jones.

“That’s what I was wondering when I found that out from the press – he could have asked me to put him in touch with the legal team,” she said. “But he didn’t.”

“I knew she had a relationship with John Jones,” Nix told the committee Wednesday.

Again citing “information passed to the US and UK committees,” the Guardian reported that a former legal assistant to Jones, Robert Murtfeld, subsequently worked for Cambridge Analytica and arranged Kaiser’s February 2017 meeting with Assange.

Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Elections, ceased operations last month following intense scrutiny over its use of Facebook user data. But a new firm, Emerdata, shares an address with the former company, as well as several senior employees.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Wednesday warned President Donald Trump against pardoning himself, saying that it was obvious that Trump shouldn’t attempt to do so.

“Do you believe that the President has power to pardon himself?” a reporter asked Ryan at his weekly press conference.

“I don’t know the technical answer to that question, but I think, obviously, the answer is he shouldn’t, and no one is above the law,” Ryan responded.

The President declared in a tweet Monday that he has the “absolute right to PARDON myself.” But it’s a complicated legal point to make, to say the least, and Trump pardoning himself may only amplify calls for his impeachment.

Trump’s tweet came a day after his lawyer Rudy Giuliani argued that Trump “probably” had the legal ability to pardon himself, but that he had no intention of doing so.

And Giuliani’s claim came after the New York Times published a 20-page letter from Trump’s legal team, sent in January to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, arguing that the President could, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”

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Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci argued Tuesday that President Donald Trump doesn’t lie, he just has a “different style of communication.”

In a rambling exchange with the former Trump administration official, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked about President Donald Trump’s false claim — lie — that he had disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from attending a Super Bowl victory celebration at the White House Tuesday because they had disrespected the national anthem.

In reality, no Eagles players knelt during the anthem last season. Rather, a large number of players on the team were planning on skipping the event.

“I care about whether he tells the truth to the American people on the matters that are important,” Cuomo told Scaramucci, saying his coverage of Trump wasn’t psychologically examining the President, but rather holding him accountable.

“You’re like everybody else now in the media,” Scaramucci said, mimicking members of the media: “‘Oh, the President’s a liar. The President’s a liar.’”

“When you lie, why shouldn’t you be called a liar?” Cuomo asked.

“Because there’s different styles of communication,” Scaramucci said.

“Lying,” Cuomo objected, “is not a style of communication.”

“There’s different styles of communication,” Scaramucci repeated. “Sixty-three and a half million people voted for him because they get the gist of what he’s talking about.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday accused the football team of pulling a “political stunt” after, according to her, many players and Eagles staff waited until the last minute to tell the White House they wouldn’t be attending the event. But plenty of Eagles players said months ago that they wouldn’t be attending, and it was Trump himself who cancelled the event at the last minute, not the Eagles.

Elsewhere in the interview, Scaramucci called athletes a “cultural totem for our society” who were “tied into our military” and have a responsibility to respect the national anthem.

After Cuomo played footage of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James saying that neither his team nor the Golden State Warriors would attend a White House reception with Trump, Scaramucci said Trump had once had “great relationships with the rap community” and “great relationships with NFL athletes and African American athletes.”

Watch below:

H/t Mediaite.

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More than 118,000 voters’ names were omitted from rosters at polling locations around Los Angeles County, the county clerk acknowledged Tuesday.

“A total of 1,530 precincts of the County’s 4,357 voting locations were affected in some way, with a total of 118,522 voters’ names omitted,” Dean C. Logan said in a statement, adding: “We apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused. Voters should be assured their vote will be counted.”

Eligible primary voters could still vote on provisional ballots, Logan said.

Politico noted Tuesday that two battleground House districts, CA-25 and CA-39, include parts of Los Angeles County. Reps. Steve Knight (R-CA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) currently represent those districts, respectively.

Royce announced in January that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Republican Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros finished first and second in the so-called “jungle primary” to replace him, avoiding Democrats’ fear that two Republicans would end up facing off in a general election.

Knight easily placed first in his primary race Tuesday. The second place slot, according to the Los Angeles Times, is too close to call, though Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman projected that Democrat Katie Hill would defeat Democrat Bryan Caforio to face Knight in the general election.

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The Alabama sheriff who pocketed $750,000 in inmate food funds and bought himself a $740,000 beach house was voted out of office Tuesday.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin conceded to his Republican primary challenger Jonathon Horton, the Rainbow City police chief, in a phone call Tuesday night, Horton told AL.com. The outlet said early returns showed Horton with an “overwhelming lead.”

Horton currently faces no declared Democratic or independent challengers in the general election and is expected to be elected to the position, AL.com said.

The outlet pushed Entrekin’s story into the national spotlight: In a series of reports, it highlighted how sheriffs in Alabama had benefitted from a decades-old law that allows them to keep excess funds meant to feed inmates in their jails.

Entrekin denied using the funds to buy a beach house. AL.com reported on checks printed with the words “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account” that Entrekin had used to pay a teenager to mow his lawn.

All the while, according to AL.com, inmates in Entekin’s custody ate meat labeled “Not Fit For Human Consumption” and ate expired and contaminated food donated to the jail by local non-profits and corporations. 

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Kelly Sadler, the White House communications aide who mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as “dying” during a closed-door meeting last month, has left the White House.

CNN reported the news citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter.

CNN didn’t specify when Sadler’s administration role ended. As a communications aide, Sadler regularly sent reporters emails filled with administration talking points and articles about border security and undocumented immigration. TPM last received an email from Sadler — it contained the text of a Daily Caller article — on Monday.

Sadler reportedly said during a May meeting of White House communications staffers that McCain’s opposition to CIA Director Gina Haspel’s nomination didn’t matter “because he’s dying anyway.” McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, has said that Sadler later promised her a public apology for making light of her father’s brain cancer. That public apology never came.

The Trump administration appeared angrier at the leak than Sadler’s comment.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney called the comment “awful” but a “joke” and said he was “really disappointed that someone would undermine the President by leaking that out of a private meeting.”

“If you aren’t able in internal meetings to speak your mind, or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you, that creates a very difficult work environment,” principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said at a press briefing two days later.

American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, whose wife Mercedes is the White House’s director of strategic communications, called Sadler “a little bit of a victim here.”

President Donald Trump reportedly demanded that whoever leaked Sadler’s joke be fired.

A week after that report, from ProPublica, Axios detailed a meeting between Trump, Sadler and several other staffers. Trump reportedly told Sadler he wouldn’t fire her for her remarks and then asked for the names of White House leakers.

Mercedes Schlapp, despite saying “I stand with Kelly Sadler” a day after the “dying” story broke, was reportedly first on Sadler’s list, followed by several others.

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday accused the Philadelphia Eagles of pulling a “political stunt” by opting in large numbers not to attend a celebration of their Super Bowl victory at the White House, even though it was President Donald Trump who rescinded the team’s invitation.

“There were 80 members of the Eagles organization that RSVP’d and committed to attend this event as recently as Friday,” she told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday. She didn’t specify how many in that group were players, rather than coaches, management and support staff.

Gone was one of Trump’s stated reasons for rescinding the Eagles’ invite: That “[t]hey disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”

Perhaps that’s because it wasn’t true: No Eagles players knelt during the national anthem this past season.

“The Eagles are the ones that tried to change their commitment at the 11th hour and the President frankly thinks that the fans deserve better than that and, therefore, we changed the ceremony to be a focus on celebrating our great country,” Sanders added.

She said later: “If this wasn’t a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn’t have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute. And if it wasn’t a political stunt, then they wouldn’t have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew that the President was going to be overseas. And if this wasn’t a political stunt, then they wouldn’t have waited until Monday, well after a thousand of their fans had traveled and taken time out of their schedules, to offer only a tiny handful of representatives to attend the event.”

It’s not clear when certain Eagles players (as well as coaches, management and support staff) decided not to attend the White House event. Multiple players said publicly months ago that they wouldn’t attend. And at least two players disputed that players waited until the last minute to bail on the visit.

“No one refused to go simply because Trump ‘insists’ folks stand for the anthem,” said former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith on Monday, seemingly referring to the NFL’s May 23 announcement that NFL franchises would be fined if players kneeled during the anthem. 

“Most players (and there were many players, many players…) that wanted to opt out had decided long b4 the anthem rule came down,” Eagle Chris Long said Tuesday.

“Are you saying the President bears zero responsibility in this cancellation?” one reporter asked Sanders later on Tuesday. “This is a President who called NFL players ‘SOBs,’ who implied that some players that don’t stand for the national anthem do not belong in this country.”

In short, no: “They made that change at the last minute, not the President. He’s the one that has been completely consistent in his viewpoint when it comes to this,” Sanders said.

Except that’s not true: Trump cancelled the gathering.

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Iowa Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley aren’t too happy with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — Ernst called him “swampy,” Grassley said he’d betrayed the President — but not for the reasons you’d think.

The senators have raised no serious objections to Pruitt’s systematic dismantling of countless environmental regulations, his excessive use of taxpayer dollars nor one EPA staffer’s hunt for apartments and a used mattress for her boss.

Rather, they’re furious about corn: The White House and several agencies have long been engaged in negotiations over the mandated use of ethanol in certain fuels. The Renewable Fuel Standard requires refineries to use a certain amount of biofuels — much of it corn-based ethanol — in their products, and so-called RINs, or renewable identification numbers, are used to track compliance with that program. RINs can also be traded like commodities.

Trump adviser Carl Icahn faced scrutiny last year over whether he used his position as a Trump confidant and “unofficial” White House adviser to manipulate the RIN market.

According to Bloomberg and industry information source S&P Global Platts, the Trump administration has offered a concession to corn producers by supporting the year-round sale of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol. But there have also been reported proposals to water down the Renewable Fuel Standard so that refineries are allowed more exemptions from its biofuel requirements.

Administration officials have also reportedly supported allowing tying RINs to fuel exports — a move both Iowa senators have harshly criticized as destructive to farmers.

Platts reported: “Ernst said allowing US ethanol exports to earn RINs will flood the market with RINs, raise exports and invite pushback by other countries that receive a surge of US supply.”

And Grassley told the Des Moines Register: “That could open up a whole bunch of retaliation from trading partners.”

“[I]t would surely undercut domestic production and consumption,” he added. “And you could see how that would be bad for the ethanol industry and agriculture generally.”

“I can’t give any final judgment (on the agreement) until I see it,” Grassley told the paper. “But what I’ve heard, it would fall far short of the promises made to Midwest farmers and the ethanol industry.”

“Big Oil has had Washington wired for some time, and EPA is part of this Washington swamp that’s delivering this blow to ethanol.”

A final deal is reportedly expected as soon as Tuesday.

“I am hopeful that the President will just recognize that Mr. Pruitt is breaking our President’s promises to farmers and at some point he will say, ‘It’s time for you to go,’” Ernst said Tuesday at the S&P Global Platts Energy Podium, in remarks flagged by Bloomberg. “But that’s up to the President to make that call. I will remain highly critical of Administrator Pruitt.”

“Not only do we disagree on the RFS, but there are a number of other transgressions that we have seen coming out of that office directly tied to Administrator Pruitt: the way he spends money, they way he misuses, basically, his office,” Ernst added, according to audio of the interview provided by her office. “He is about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C., and if the President wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own Cabinet.”

She was presumably referring to the veritable encyclopedia of scandals the EPA administrator has racked up. But the senator was nearly silent on those scandals as they happened.

She told Politico in April: “I don’t appreciate the way he seems to have abused taxpayer dollars.” And a few days later, Ernst was similarly mild to the New York Times: “He needs to watch his expenditures. It’s important that we protect our American taxpayers.”

Ernst spokesperson Liz Bowman noted to TPM that Ernst had awarded Pruitt’s EPA one of her monthly “Squeal Awards” for the five-figure privacy booth he had installed in his office, and awarded another “Squeal Award” to federal agency heads for their “sky high” travel expenses. She also wrote to the Government Accountability Office in October inquiring about travel rules for agency heads and, along with Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), wrote to the Office of Management and Budget in March about that office’s oversight of travel expenses.

Grassley said separately Tuesday that Pruitt had “betrayed the president.”

But the senator has been similarly quiet on Pruitt’s numerous, potentially career-ending scandals. Far from focusing on Pruitt’s ethical issues, Grassley has focused on the ethanol, at one point threatening Pruitt’s job over it.

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When President Donald Trump on Monday abruptly disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from the White House, he cited the ongoing dispute over players kneeling during the national anthem.

In reality, scores of Eagles players had decided to skip the visit even before the National Football League caved to Trump by announcing its new anthem policy. And, as several outlets and players themselves have pointed out, no Eagles players knelt during the national anthem this past season.

In sum, Trump, with help from some in the media, appears to have used some sleight of hand to obscure a potential embarrassment and shift the focus to the anthem, a powerful culture war issue for his base of supporters.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Trump said he was disinviting the Eagles because “[t]hey disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”

“The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better,” Trump’s statement continued. “These fans are still invited to the White House to be part of a different type of ceremony—one that will honor our great country, pay tribute to the heroes who fight to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem. I will be there at 3:00 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America.”

Fox News bolstered Trump’s line, using pictures of Eagles kneeling in prayer to falsely suggest that Eagles players had knelt in protest of police brutality. “The President announcing the Philadelphia Eagles will not be visiting the White House tomorrow to celebrate their Super Bowl victory due to the national anthem controversy,” anchor Shannon Bream said Monday night. The network later called the use of the pictures an error, and apologized.

Even CNN went along with Trump’s framing, declaring in a chyron Tuesday that Trump had cited the “anthem dispute” in disinviting the Eagles. No such dispute appears to have existed with the Eagles.

The White House’s comments have been confusing at times. An unnamed senior White House official told the New York Times, in the paper’s words, that initially “more than 80 members of the Eagles team requested security clearance to attend Tuesday’s event. But after the N.F.L.’s decision last month on kneeling at games, the number who said they planned to attend dwindled rapidly.”

But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that 81 players, coaches, management and support personnel from Eagles said as recently as last Thursday — a full week after the NFL’s decision —  that they’d attend Tuesday’s event.

And not only did no players kneel for the anthem this season, several players publicly announced their objections to Trump personally — well before the new anthem policy was announced.

“Most players (and there were many players, many players…) that wanted to opt out had decided long b4 the anthem rule came down,” Eagle Chris Long said on Twitter Tuesday, contradicting the Times’ source.

No one refused to go simply because Trump ‘insists’ folks stand for the anthem,” former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who has since moved to the Carolina Panthers, tweeted Monday in response to Trump’s statement. Smith said in January that he’d skip the White House if the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Malcolm Jenkins, a safety for the Eagles, said in February that he would not go. “I’m just not interested in the photo op,” Jenkins said.

Long said in January that, as he did the year previous as a player on the champion New England Patriots, he would skip a White House visit if the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

“No, I’m not going to the White House,” he told the “Pardon My Take” podcast. “Are you kidding me?”

As with other Eagles, Long cited Trump himself, not the anthem, as his reasoning behind skipping the event.

“(When) my son grows up — and I believe the legacy of our President is going to be what it is — I don’t want him to say, ‘Hey Dad, why’d you go when you knew the right thing was to not go?'” he said.

Eagles Brandon Graham and Dannell Ellerbe also said prior to the NFL’s new anthem rule that they wouldn’t attend the event. None cited Trump’s distaste for kneeling during the anthem as a reason for their decision.

“I don’t feel welcome in that house,” LeGarrette Blount told Rich Eisen in February 2017, explaining why he wouldn’t accompany the Patriots for their White House visit. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, though reportedly planning to attend the White House event, said during a meeting of players and owners in October: “Many of us [owners] have no interest in supporting President Trump,” according to the New York Times

“Yes, there are some,” he said. “There are some players who do, too.

An unnamed source told ESPN that five or fewer players planned on attending the event. ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote on Twitter: “A large group of Eagles players had decided not to attend White House, including most — if not all — of the black players, a source told ESPN.”

This story has been updated.

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The court-appointed “special master” tasked with sorting through Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s claims of attorney-client privilege regarding the materials seized from him during April 9 FBI raids approved most of Cohen’s initial privilege claims Monday.

Special master Barbara Jones rejected three of Cohen’s privilege claims and approved 162 of them in this initial batch of 292,409 items, split between 639 physical documents and other documents spread across on two iPhones and an iPad.

Additionally, Jones agreed that seven items could be categorized as “highly personal,” what she previously defined as containing things like “medical records or similar materials.”

Cohen’s home, office and hotel room were raided on April 9 as part of a months-long criminal probe. Judge Kimba Wood subsequently appointed Jones, a retired judge, as special master tasked with sorting through claims of attorney-client privilege made by Cohen — and President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization, both intervenors in the case — in the seized materials before handing them over to prosecutors.

Referencing Cohen and the intervenors’ privilege claims from “eight boxes of hard copy materials” seized from Cohen, Jones said Monday: “Out of 639 total items consisting of 12,543 pages, the Special Master agrees with the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors and finds that 14 items are Privileged and/or Partially Privileged. The Special Master also finds that 3 items are not privileged.”

And after reviewing privilege claims from “two phones and an iPad” seized from Cohen: “Out of 291,770 total items, the Special Master agrees with the Plaintiff and/or Intervenors and finds that 148 items are Privileged and/or Partially Privileged and that 7 items are Highly Personal.”

As detailed in a Tuesday filing, Jones will have more privilege claims to sort through in the future; this is just the first batch.

Wood noted in a separate filing on Thursday that Cohen and the intervenors should submit objections to Jones’ determinations within one week. “The objections should be detailed enough for the Court to understand the basis or bases for asserting privilege and, if applicable, whether the material comes within the crime-fraud exception,” she wrote.

Cohen’s lawyers said in court Wednesday — TPM was in attendance — that they had received 3.7 million items from the government to review for privilege claims, and had thus far processed 1.3 million of them.

At the same hearing Wednesday, counter to Cohen’s lawyers’ request for more time, Wood sided with prosecutors and set a June 15 deadline for final privilege claims.

Read Jones’ latest filing below:

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