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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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Two Republican senators on Wednesday stumbled over questions about the far-right Republican nominee to fill the vacant Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has advertised his opposition to homosexuality and suspicion of Sharia Law as part of his Senate campaign. He was suspended twice from the Alabama Supreme Court — once in 2003 for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments he installed from the Alabama Judicial Building, and again in 2016 over his instruction to probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage.

On Wednesday morning, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) about Moore, playing a clip of the Alabama candidate saying in December that he didn’t believe former President Barack Obama was born in the United States, and another in which he said the teachings of Islam were “completely opposite what our First Amendment stands for.”

Johnson and Camerota agreed the clips were difficult to hear, but the senator said the public’s perception of Moore had been unfairly colored by the media.

“No two people agree 100 percent of the time, not by a long shot,” Johnson said. “Again, we’ve got a pretty broad spectrum of political opinion and ideology serving in our Republican conference, certainly serving in Congress.”

He added: “I have found, coming here to Washington, D.C., there’s an awful lot of stereotypes of individuals. How the press portrays them is not necessarily the individual that they are. I’ve never met Judge Moore. I’m looking forward to meeting him and hoping we can work together to really address these serious challenges facing America.”

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) faced similar questions on MSNBC later Wednesday morning.

NBC’s Hallie Jackson asked about Moore’s assertions “that homosexual conduct should be illegal, that 9/11 was God punishing U.S. perverseness,” and Moore’s belief that Obama was not born in the United States.

“If Roy Moore ends up winning in December, will you welcome him to the Senate?” she asked.

“I haven’t had a chance to look through all of those things,” Hoeven said, though Moore’s rhetoric and beliefs have been well-known for years. “The key is going to be what he does when he comes here, and is he going to join with us to get the things done that are going to help our country and the American people. That’s going to be the important thing.

“Let’s give him a chance to come down and help us advance the agenda that will be good for our country,” Hoeven added.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) congratulated Roy Moore on Tuesday after the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice won Alabama’s Senate Republican primary, despite Moore’s criticism of McConnell on the campaign trail.

The majority leader said in a statement that Moore “ran a spirited campaign centered around a dissatisfaction with the progress made in Washington.”

“I share that frustration and believe that enacting the agenda the American people voted for last November requires us all to worth together,” McConnell added.

A super PAC affiliated with McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund, spent millions attacking Moore, according to multiple reports.

During a rally earlier in September, Moore asked the crowd: “Will McConnell’s forces be able to control the senators coming up, with their money, their millions of dollars of money, in the Senate Leadership Fund?”

Moore — who wrote in 2006 of the first Muslim congressman that “Ellison cannot swear an oath on the Quran and an allegiance to our Constitution at the same time” — had the support of former White House officials Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, among others.

After Moore’s victory Tuesday, Trump deleted a series of tweets supportive of Strange.

“Senate Republicans will be as committed to keeping Alabama’s Senate seat in Republican hands with Roy Moore as we were with Luther Strange,” McConnell’s statement concluded. “I urge all of our friends who were active in the primary to redouble their efforts in the general election.”

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Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to attack protesters who interrupted a speech Erdogan gave Thursday in New York City.

According to footage and reporting by Voice of America and other outlets, multiple individuals protesting Erdogan during an event organized by the Turkish-American National Steering Committee were dragged out of the event by security guards. Videos showed the protesters being kicked and punched in the head by audience members as they were escorted out of the venue.


A Turkish journalists’ Periscope feed showed a protester standing up and yelling at Erdogan before being escorted out by security. Voice of America reported that three protesters total were attacked by Erdogan supporters.

BuzzFeed reported that Erdogan asked the crowd, following the disruptions: “Don’t let three to five impertinent people, three to five hall terrorists ruin our lovely gathering.”

Soon afterwards, Erdogan met with President Donald Trump, who lavished praise on Turkey’s leader, despite global condemnation of Erdogan’s heavy-handed crackdown on dissent in his country in the wake of a failed coup in July 2016.

Asked about a May incident in which Turkish security guards beat peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., Trump said Thursday: “We’ll be discussing many issues.”

 “We have a great friendship,” Trump said of Erdogan.

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President Donald Trump lavished praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the United Nations Thursday. A day earlier, the White House denied Erdogan’s claim that Trump had apologized for the May incident in Washington when several of the Turkish leader’s guards beat peaceful protesters.

It’s a great honor and privilege, because he’s become a friend of mine, to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey,” Trump said during a photo-op with Erdogan. “He’s running a very difficult part of the world. He’s involved very, very strongly, and frankly he’s getting very high marks. And he’s also been working with the United States. We have a great friendship.”

Trump added: “As countries, I think we’re right now as close as we have ever been. And a lot of that has to do with the personal relationship. So, president, thank you very much, it’s a great honor to have you to the United States.”

A reporter shouted a question about “violence against peaceful protesters,” seemingly a reference to several of Erdogan’s guards and others who viciously beat peaceful protesters during Erdogan’s U.S. visit earlier in the year. Fifteen Turkish security officials and four others were subsequently indicted in connection to the beatings outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in DC. None of the Turkish guards have been arrested.

Trump dodged the question.

“We’ll be discussing many issues,” he said. “Many issues.” The reporters were shuffled out of the room.

Erdogan claimed in an interview with PBS’ Judy Woodruff Tuesday that Trump had apologized to him about the incident and “told me that he was going to follow up on this issue when we come to the United States within the framework of an official visit.”

National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton told Yahoo News that the topic “was discussed” in Trump and Erdogan’s call, but that “there was no apology.”

Erdogan has come under international scrutiny for his harsh crackdown on dissent in Turkey following a failed coup attempt in July 2016. On Wednesday, Edorgan commented on the scores of journalists currently jailed in his country: “Most of them are terrorists,” he said. “Everyone else seems to think they’re journalists just because they say so.”

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said his staff is preparing subpoenas for two FBI officials whom he wants to answer questions about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The Justice Department has thus far prevented the two officials, Carl Ghattas and James Rybicki, from appearing before the committee despite Grassley and ranking member Sen. Diane Feinstein’s (D-CA) requests, CNN reported.

Grassley told CNN Wednesday: “We’ve got subpoenas at the Senate counsel office.”

“When we get done there, I’m gonna have to consult with Sen. Feinstein,” he added.

Taylor Foy, press secretary for the committee, told TPM in an email Thursday that “the subpoenas have not yet been sent and the Committee is continuing to work with the Justice Department to obtain voluntary cooperation.”

The Judiciary Committee in July reportedly subpoenaed the co-founder of the firm behind the still-largely-unsubstantiated dossier that detailed potential Russian leverage on Donald Trump, Fusion GPS. That subpoena was eventually withdrawn, and Simpson later testified privately before the committee.

Grassley has also floated the possibility of subpoenaing former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, whose lawyers Grassley says have been unresponsive to the committee’s requests. On Wednesday, though, Grassley mused that he didn’t “know whether it’s worth issuing subpoenas when somebody’s been indicted.”

The chairman was likely referring to reports that members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team warned Manafort that he would be indicted on possible tax and financial crimes following a pre-dawn raid on his Alexandria, Virginia home in July.

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager said Tuesday that he hoped any of Trump’s campaign staff who may be found to have improperly influenced the 2016 election “go to jail for the rest of their lives.”

Lewandowski made the comment at an event at George Washington University, the Washington Examiner reported.

“I think if anybody, and I’ve said this, if Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, or Rick Gates or Carter Page, or anybody else attempted to influence the outcome of the U.S. election through any means that’s inappropriate — through collusion, coordination, or cooperation — I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives,” Lewandowsi said, as quoted by the Examiner.

Lewandowski is a well-known rival of Manafort’s, who replaced him at the top of Trump’s campaign with the title of chairman. Eventually, Manafort was himself replaced by Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon and pollster Kellyanne Conway, who would both go on to accompany Trump to the White House.

Manafort has drawn the attention of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election. Details of a July raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia home have emerged recently in multiple reports. Mueller’s team reportedly warned Manafort that it planned to indict him for possible tax and financial crimes.

Lewandowski, who remains an ally of Trump’s, also defended the President against allegations that he knew of Russian efforts to aid his campaign, saying he was with Trump “18 hours a day, seven days a week for 18 months,” and “never ever ever did I hear him say, utter, insinuate anything to do with Russia.

Then again, Lewandowski also denied knowledge of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., several top campaign officials and Russian figures promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Kremlin effort to aid Trump’s campaign. Lewandowski was still campaign manager at the time of that meeting.

“The short answer is I knew nothing about the meeting. And the reason I knew nothing about the meeting was because there was nothing to the meeting,” he told “Fox & Friends” in July.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Wednesday he could give “10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” referring to the Senate’s final attempt to repeal Obamacare this year—but he’s still dead-set on supporting it.

Grassley said keeping Republicans’ campaign promise to get rid of former President Obama’s signature accomplishment was as important as the contents of the most recent health care bill, penned by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” Grassley told Iowa reporters on a call, according to the Des Moines Register. “But Republicans campaigns on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.”

“That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill,” he added.

The Graham-Cassidy legislation would repeal much of Obamacare and shift Medicaid funding to the states in the form of block grants. States would also be allowed to apply for waivers from certain Obamacare regulations that, in effect, would allow insurance companies to impose lifetime caps or engage in price discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’d come to a decision on whether to exit the Iran nuclear deal, but wouldn’t tell inquiring reporters what that decision was.

According to a White House pool report, Trump responded to reporters’ shouted questions about the Iran deal by repeating “I have decided” three separate times.

When pressed, though, he said: “I’ll let you know what the decision is.”

It’s a familiar non-answer from Trump, who frequently tells reporters to “wait and see” and that answers will be arriving “over the next two or three weeks.

But the Iran deal, in which the United States and other nations lifted sanctions on that country in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, has a deadline. Trump’s State Department must certify by Oct. 15 that Iran has complied with the deal or not, as it must every 90 days.

Iran’s compliance was affirmed in July, despite grumbling from Trump.

Trump on Thursday said Iran had “violated so many different elements, but they’ve also violated the spirit of that deal.”

“You will see what we’ll be doing in October,” he said. “It will be very evident.”

And in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump told the world: “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

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Former White House staffer and self-styled counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka has joined a secretive pro-Trump super PAC whose leaders have pushed conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer and “Pizzagate.”

Gorka left the White House in late August, disputing the administration’s claim that he was fired. Axios first reported Tuesday on MAGA Coalition hiring Gorka, and the Daily Beast did a deep dive on the group’s leadership later in the day.

MAGA Coalition asserted in an late August FEC filing that it “exists to further the political influence of ‘America First’ policies; engineered to put the freedom, sovereignty and economic prosperity policies for the American voters into practice in our government.”

The group’s known staff is extremely small, but Gorka’s hiring as its “chief strategist” shines a bright light on its habit of promoting extreme conspiracy theories.

Adam Gingrich, the group’s president, has posed questions like “If Seth Rich was African-American, would the DC police get away with hiding body cam and other video footage?” and “Who murdered Seth Rich?” on his Twitter account, according to the Daily Beast. Gingrich he made his tweets private after the publication reached out to him.

Rich was a DNC staffer who died after what police say was a botched robbery. Conspiracy theorists assert he played a hand in passing Democratic operatives’ emails to WikiLeaks, and that his death was orchestrated as revenge. Rich’s family has pled with conspiracy theorists to stop propagating their baseless claims.

In a September filing, MAGA Coalition changed its listed headquarters to a house in Tequesta, Florida. The Daily Beast reported that house belongs to John Kreuger, who claimed to have resigned as the group’s COO and vice president in the same filing, and his wife Ann Vandersteel.

Vandersteel, like Gingrich, has pushed Seth Rich conspiracies, as well as the so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy. Pizzagate believers assert that Comet Ping Pong, a pizza joint in Washington, D.C., is actually a hub in a major child trafficking ring in which the Clintons play a role.

Gingrich has appeared with Vandersteel on YourVoice Radio, the internet broadcast of the famously toothy pro-Trump prognosticator Bill Mitchell, the Daily Beast pointed out.

Carrie Lockhart, who also claimed to have resigned from MAGA Coalition in the September filing despite being listed as its treasurer in the same document, also works for YourVoice and is similarly conspiratorial, the Daily Beast reported.

A spokesperson for MAGA Coalition, Tricia Cunningham, defended the theories to the publication.

“As far as Pizzagate, I’ve traveled from Pennsylvania to Washington D.C., and human trafficking is a huge deal,” she said. “So there’s a lot of questions that need to be raised.”

Axios reported that Gorka would appear with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin Thursday in a rally for Senate candidate Roy Moore. It will be a joint rally with the Steve Bannon-aligned group Great America Alliance.

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Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore reportedly listed the deceased conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly under his “endorsements” webpage until Monday, despite the fact that the Eagle Forum founder died more than a year ago.

Schlafly disappeared from Moore’s website after RollCall asked to see a press release announcing her endorsement, the outlet reported Tuesday. Schlafly’s name had been listed next to the text: “Late President, Eagle Forum; inference of Ed Martin.”

According to the report, after RollCall first asked for the press release, Moore’s campaign initially said there wasn’t one, and instead provided a link to a statement Martin, Eagle Forum’s current president, gave Breitbart News regarding his own endorsement.

Martin told Breitbart about a speech he and Schlafly had seen Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, give to the group.

“He gave an amazing speech and Phyllis and I sat and watched in wonder: here was a man who understood – in his very bones – the fights we are facing: limited government, the role of judges, and the power of God!” Martin said. “Phyllis admired Roy and his life and work. She believed in him.”

Moore announced his candidacy for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April. Schlafly died in September 2016. Katie Frost, communications director for Moore’s campaign, did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Schlafly was a driving force behind the movement to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. While she endorsed Donald Trump for the presidency before her death, she claimed that Eagle Forum’s board was trying to force her out of the group as a result (a member of the group’s board denied the story at the time.)

Much of the group’s leadership were strong supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential bid.

Martin, on whose inference the erstwhile Schlafly endorsement was based, was still listed as an endorser Tuesday on Moore’s website.

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