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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was blunt Thursday morning in his assessment of Trump lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s interview on “Fox and Friends” earlier in the day: “That’s a confession!”

Giuliani, after a clumsy and surprisingly news-making interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday, tried to clean up the mess with another appearance on the network Thursday morning. It didn’t help:

“Imagine if that came out on Oct. 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” Giuliani said of Michael Cohen’s $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who was paid to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump.

Toobin pointed out that Giuliani had just made the case the money was, contrary to the Trump camp’s claims, a campaign expenditure. Therefore, Toobin reasoned, Giuliani had admitted to Trump and Cohen’s violation of campaign finance law.

I hadn’t heard that clip before,” Toobin said of Giuliani’s “Fox and Friends” comment. “I mean, that’s a confession!”

“That’s a confession that this is a campaign finance violation because they wanted to shut her up in October of 2016.”

“That’s why the payment was made then,” he continued. “Which, it was obvious to all of us, but now you have the President’s lawyer confessing that this was a payment for the benefit of the campaign.”

Depending on the level of intent behind the skirting of campaign finance law, Toobin noted, the Federal Election Commission could handle such violations civilly or criminally.

Watch below via CNN:

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) warned Wednesday that Democratic control of the Senate or House of Representatives would lead to “subpoenas.”

If we do lose control of either of the two bodies, then you’ll have absolute gridlock,” Ryan said at the Milken Institute Global Conference, according to multiple reports.

“You’ll have gridlock, you’ll have subpoenas, you’ll have just the system shutting down,” he added. “I don’t think we’re going to lose control, but I think that’s what would happen.”

Ryan announced last month that he would not seek reelection.

He acknowledged Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, that “there’s a great amount of enthusiasm on the other side of the aisle.”

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Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Elections Ltd., announced in a press release Wednesday that it was ceasing operations.

The press release read in part:

Earlier today, SCL Elections Ltd., as well as certain of its and Cambridge Analytica LLC’s U.K. affiliates (collectively, the “Company” or “Cambridge Analytica”) filed applications to commence insolvency proceedings in the U.K.  The Company is immediately ceasing all operations and the boards have applied to appoint insolvency practitioners Crowe Clark Whitehill LLP to act as the independent administrator for Cambridge Analytica.

Additionally, parallel bankruptcy proceedings will soon be commenced on behalf of Cambridge Analytica LLC and certain of the Company’s U.S. affiliates in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Cambridge Analytica made national news during the 2016 campaign, when it played a role first in Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) Republican presidential primary campaign, and then in the Trump campaign’s digital operations.

Trump mega-donor Robert Mercer was an investor in Cambridge Analytica when it formally began its work for Trump’s campaign in the summer of 2016. Steve Bannon, who lead Trump’s campaign organization, was previously Cambridge Analytica’s vice president.

Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has now pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, amended disclosure forms in August last year to reflect a consulting relationship with SCL.

Mercer’s daughters Rebekah and Jennifer, along with Cambridge Analytica’s suspended CEO Alexander Nix, were named directors earlier this year at a new company called Emerdata, according to documents reported by Business Insider. So was Johnson Chun Shun Ko, which the report identified as the deputy chairman of a private security firm chaired by Blackwater founder and Trump ally Erik Prince.

The filings show Nix resigned as an Emerdata director in late March. Mother Jones noted Wednesday that two other senior employees at Cambridge Analytica, Chief Data Officer Alexander Taylor and recently-named CEO Julian Wheatland, are also directors at Emerdata.

Emerdata, according to the documents, shares an address with SCL.

The spotlight on Cambridge Analytica only grew with the prominence of Mueller’s probe.

In October of last year, the Daily Beast reported that the company’s CEO had reached out to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during the presidential campaign, offering to help him publish the thousands of emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The Wall Street Journal reported the same month that Cambridge Analytica had offered to help Assange organize the stolen Democratic emails Wikileaks was publishing at the time.

The Journal reported in December that Mueller had requested documents from the Cambridge Analytica, though an unnamed person familiar with a matter told the outlet the request came before the October reports.

Then, in March of this year, a whistleblower from the company, Christopher Wylie, opened up to media outlets about Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook user data.

Facebook banned the firm, claiming that it had violated a 2015 agreement that it would destroy data initially attained through an academic researcher’s social psychological research app. Hundreds of thousands of people had interacted with the data-gathering app. Tens of millions of Facebook users’ data was revealed to have been compromised.

The British government subsequently announced a probe of both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have mostly escaped heavy scrutiny in the states. Zuckerberg completed two rounds of light questioning from members of Congress in April.

Also in March, just days after Wylie came forward, Nix was suspended after an undercover investigation by BBC’s Channel 4 revealed what he offered an actor posing as a potential political client: Cambridge Analytica, Nix told the actor, employed former intelligence officials and attractive women to entrap its clients’ political opponents and stir up damaging scandals.

This post has been updated.

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Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price contradicted himself again on Wednesday, reversing his comment the previous day that eliminating the penalties associated with Obamacare’s individual mandate “will harm the pool in the [insurance] exchange market.”

“Repealing the individual mandate was exactly the right thing to do,” Price said in a statement to Politico Wednesday. “Forcing Americans to buy something they don’t want undermines individual liberty as well as free markets.”

“The only fair and effective way to bring down health care costs is to allow markets to create more choices for consumers and small businesses,” his statement continued.

It was a turn back to conservative orthodoxy, given that congressional Republicans eliminated the penalty for not having health coverage (or else receiving a waiver) as part of their tax bill last year. The change will take effect in 2019. 

On Tuesday, Price briefly strayed from that orthodoxy when he said in a speech to the World Health Care Congress that the mandate repeal “will harm the pool in the exchange market, because you’ll likely have individuals that are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks within that market.”

TPM obtained audio of Price’s comments. You can listen to them here.

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West Virginia Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship said Tuesday that it wasn’t racist to call Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s father (and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s father-in-law) a “Chinaperson.” 

I mean, I’m an Americanperson,” Blankenship said. “I don’t see this insinuation by the press that there’s something racist about saying a Chinaperson. Some people are Koreanpersons, some of them are Africanpersons.” 

During a debate hosted by Fox News, moderator Bret Baier asked Blankenship about a radio interview he gave in which he called the shipping tycoon James Si-Cheng Chao, an American citizen, “a wealthy Chinaperson.”

Chao, Blankenship said, has “a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China, and we just need for it to be known.”

Elaine Chao, Baier said Tuesday, “is a key decider in infrastructure projects which might be a big deal in West Virginia. How do you get along and get things done by slinging insults like that?”

Blankenship said that while he was “not going to D.C. to get along,” the idea “that calling somebody a Chinaperson — I mean, I’m an Americanperson.”

“I don’t see this insinuation by the press that there’s something racist about saying a Chinaperson,” he continued. “Some people are Koreanpersons some of them are Africanpersons. It’s not any slander there. But both families are very powerful in both countries. I’ve previously been on the board of four or five major corporations. You do not send family members out to negotiate purchases and deals with other family members. It’s called a conflict of interest.”

Blankenship, a former coal baron who served prison time for conspiring to violate mine safety standards after 29 workers died in one of his mines, has made a strategy of attacking McConnell.

A Democratic super PAC has invested heavily in attacking one of Blankenship’s more polished opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV), the Republican sitting Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) least wants to face in a general election. 

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In early 2017, according to a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Tuesday from three House Democrats, Pruitt directed his future chief of staff to explore the creation of an EPA office in Pruitt’s hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, even though an EPA office with authority over Oklahoma already existed in Dallas, Texas.

The letter — from Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Don Beyer (D-VA) of the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology — claims that Pruitt’s current chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, communicated with EPA officials while still technically staff director for the then-chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Words, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).

Jackson claimed to EPA officials that he was writing on Pruitt’s behalf, the Democrats’ letter said.

“In the e-mail,” the letter states, “Mr. Jackson directed EPA staff to identify proposed new office space in Tulsa that included a conference room, secure parking, would be able to accommodate 24/7 security, and included a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) for secure communication.”

EPA staff in turn, according to the letter, contacted the General Services Administration relaying the requests “as coming directly from Administrator Pruitt.”

The lawmakers sent an identical letter, which similarly requested relevant communications and plans regarding the proposed Tulsa office, to the General Services Administration.

The proposed office recalls several scandals Pruitt has faced during his tenure as EPA administrator.

The EPA inspector general announced in August of last year, for example, that his office would probe Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded trips home to Oklahoma. Pruitt’s agency illegally allocated funds, in the Government Accountability Office’s opinion, for a $43,000 phone booth in Pruitt’s D.C. office that the EPA first claimed, and then denied, was a SCIF. Pruitt also enjoys an unprecedentedly large 24/7 security detail.

And Jackson, Pruitt’s chief of staff, has repeatedly taken the fall for damaging stories.

Jackson, for example, took responsibility for the five-figure raises doled out to several top Pruitt advisers within their first months on the job. On Capitol Hill last week, though, Pruitt acknowledged he knew about at least one of those raises — just not the size of it, nor the process by which it was attained. He said that Jackson had been delegated authority to award raises.

The same blame-shifting occurred when lawmakers pressed Pruitt on his $43,000 office phone booth. The whole process, Pruitt explained, had occurred without his knowledge or approval.

“I was not involved in the approval of the $43,000,” Pruitt said. “And if I’d known about it … I would have refused it.”

“Establishing a new EPA office in Tulsa may be personally convenient for you, but it seems ethically questionable, professionally unnecessary, and financially unjustified,” the lawmakers wrote Tuesday.

Read the three Democratic lawmakers’ letter below:

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Republican attorneys general from seven states sued the federal government on Tuesday over the continued existence of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which two judges have ordered must continue to process renewal applications and, after a third judge’s ruling last week, may soon have to accept new applications as well.

The program, instituted during the Obama administration, protects qualified young undocumented people from deportation.

The attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (pictured above), were all among the group of nine attorneys general who threatened to sue the Trump administration over DACA last year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program’s termination.

However, while the attorneys general from Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia sued on Tuesday, two states represented in the previous group did not: Idaho and Kansas. Tennessee’s attorney general, though initially part of the group of attorneys general threatening to sue in 2017, ultimately withdrew that threat days before Sessions announced DACA’s termination. Tennessee is not represented in Tuesday’s lawsuit, either.

The plaintiff states requested the following:

A. An order enjoining Defendants from issuing or renewing any DACA permits in the future;

B. A declaratory judgment that DACA violates the Take Care Clause;

C. A declaratory judgment that DACA is procedurally unlawful under the APA;

D. A declaratory judgment that DACA is substantively unlawful under the APA; and

E. Any and all other relief to which Plaintiff States may be entitled.

Read a copy of the suit, via law professor Josh Blackman, here.

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CNN legal analyst Paul Callan implied Monday night that adult film actress Stormy Daniels would have a hard time convincing a jury that President Donald Trump had caused substantial damages as a result of his alleged defamation of her, given her career.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump for defamation on Monday over his comment about a sketch artist’s version of a man Daniels said threatened her to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. The sketch, Trump said, was of a “nonexistent man.”

Callan wondered aloud to CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, whether Daniels would be able to prove that Trump’s alleged defamation incurred special damages.

“Are you arguing that just because somebody is in adult film, that they cannot be defamed?” Cooper asked the analyst.

“Anderson, I’ve tried a lot of cases through the years, and as a matter of principle, you’re probably right, somebody who’s made 500 pornographic films can be defamed in theory,” Callan responded. “But you put 12 ordinary people on a jury and say to them, ‘award her money because somebody called her a liar,’ I think you’d have a hard time getting a substantial damage award.”

He said a jury might give Daniels a “symbolic award”— $1 in damages, for example — but added that “actual damages justifying all of the effort that’s gone into this lawsuit, I don’t see it, which means the lawsuit is a publicity lawsuit and a publicity stunt.”

“If I had a dollar,” Avenatti replied, “for every time a guy that was unprepared to talk about something actually told me it was a publicity stunt or we weren’t going to prevail, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now, I’d be on my own private island.” 

In a statement to TPM Wednesday, Callan said he stood by Monday’s comments, which he said were “deliberately mischaracterized” by Avenatti but which “reflect my pragmatic evaluation of how an ordinary jurors would likely respond to the case.”

“Unfortunately we will never know the answer to this question as the federal court will undoubtedly dismiss the case on motion of the defense,” Callan added. “The law says an expression of opinion cannot be defamatory and the Stormy case clearly involves an expression of opinion. It’s quite similar to Avenatti referring to the people who work for Trump as ‘morons.’ That’s the law whether you like the President or despise him. I like to stick to the law in my commentary.”

Watch below via CNN:

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that, despite a report that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has called President Donald Trump an “idiot” on multiple occasions, Trump was satisfied with Kelly’s performance.

At a press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked Sanders what Trump’s “level of confidence” was in Kelly, and whether Kelly might be under consideration to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“No he is not being considered as the VA secretary,” Sanders responded. “Both the President and the chief of staff are very happy with his position that he currently holds.”

She referred back to Kelly’s statement Monday about “the comments — the allegations about comments that he’d made.”

“He and I both know this story is total B.S.,” Kelly said Monday in response to the NBC News’ report.

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Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, now safely out of power, said Tuesday that Republicans’ repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate will “harm” the individual insurance marketplace.

“That may help, but it still is nibbling at the side,” Price told this year’s World Heath Care Congress in Washington, D.C., according to audio of Price’s speech shared with TPM by event organizers. The Washington Times first reported Price’s remarks. 

“And there are many, and I’m one of them, who believes that that actually will harm the pool in the exchange market, because you’ll likely have individuals that are younger and healthier not participating in that market, and consequently, that drives up the cost for other folks within that market,” he added.

Price is making a mundane point to most health care policy experts: If, beginning in 2019, individuals on the non-group market are allowed to avoid choosing between paying for insurance or paying a penalty, many healthy people will simply drop their insurance. As a result, prices for individuals remaining in Obamacare’s individual insurance marketplaces will go up. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2016, and again in 2017, that repealing the individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured people in the United States.

Yet when held a powerful position in the federal government, as secretary of Health and Human Services, Price was noncommittal on the future of the individual mandate and its policy value.

“What about the individual mandate?” ABC’s “This Week” host Martha Raddatz asked Price in July 2017. “Is the President considering directing his agencies not to enforce it? Have you ruled that out?”

“The individual mandate is one of those things that actually is driving up the cost for the American people in terms of coverage,” Price responded. “So what we’re trying to do is make it so Obamacare is no longer harming the patients of this land.”

“All things are on the table to try to help patients,” he added.

Listen to a recording of Price’s speech, provided to TPM by the World Heath Care Congress, below. His comments on the individual mandate begin around eight minutes in.

This post has been updated.

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