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

White House communications aide Kelly Sadler still has not publicly apologized for joking about Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) health, three days after she reportedly said McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter because “he’s dying anyway.”

McCain was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer last year and is currently at home in Arizona.

CNN reported Sunday that in a previously-reported phone call with McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain, Sadler promised to apologize publicly for the comment. She still has not done so. CNN cited an unnamed “source familiar with the conversation” who described Sadler’s promise.

In fact, no one from the Trump administration has apologized for the remark, nor suggested Sadler should or will lose her job. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the comment was “awful” but a “joke.” He, reportedly like White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was more upset that the comment had been leaked to reporters.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that, though he owed a great deal to McCain professionally, “I’ve just given you my view,” and “I’ve said what I’m going to say on the subject.”

Meghan McCain said on “The View” Friday that she didn’t understand “what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”

The White House has not denied the Hill’s initial report about Sadler’s comment, which was subsequently reported by other outlets. TPM emailed Sadler and Sanders about the story on Thursday. The White House released the following statement: “We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time.”

Sadler did not return a request for comment about CNN’s Sunday report.

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After the Commerce Department last month ordered American companies to stop selling products to the Chinese telecom giant ZTE, President Donald Trump on Sunday appeared to commit to reversing that ban.

In a 2017 settlement, ZTE pleaded guilty to evading U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea and agreed to pay a $1.2 billion combined penalty, breaking the record for such sanction penalties. 

Then, last month, the Commerce Department issued a denial order against the company, asserting that it had not properly held relevant employees accountable for the sanctions violations and that it had misled U.S. officials, therefore violating the settlement terms. As a result, American manufacturers of crucial components like microchips were barred from selling to ZTE. 

“The provision of false statements to the U.S. Government, despite repeated protestations from the company that it has engaged in a sustained effort to turn the page on past misdeeds, is indicative of a company incapable of being, or unwilling to be, a reliable and trustworthy recipient of U.S.-origin goods, software, and technology,” the Commerce Department’s seven-year denial order read in part.

In response, ZTE said in a statement that “[t]he Denial Order will not only severely impact the survival and development of ZTE, but will also cause damages to all partners of ZTE including a large number of U.S. companies.”

And ZTE told investors days ago that “major operating activities of the company have ceased” as a result of the denial order, though several outlets pointed out that the full impact of the denial order was not fully known. 

The Wall Street Journal noted Saturday that Chinese officials had raised the issue with a U.S. trade delegation last week.

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National Security Adviser John Bolton wouldn’t say Sunday whether the United States would sanction European companies that continued doing business in Iran following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

The United States’ withdrawal has left this an open question: How aggressively will the Trump administration seek to apply sanctions to Europeans and others who have committed to that deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?

In his speech announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the deal and re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, Trump said “any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”

“Is the United States going to sanction European companies that do business with Iran?” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Bolton Sunday, referring to Trump’s quote.

Bolton didn’t answer directly, instead saying that Europeans still abiding by the deal may eventually “see that it’s not in their interest to stay in the deal.”

“I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us,” he added later.

“I’ve been speaking to European diplomats and that’s not the impression I get,” Tapper replied.

“That’s not the impression now,” Bolton said.

“They say they’re going to stay in the deal,” Tapper said again.

“And they may try to do so,” Bolton said, asserting that many Europeans were “really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the re-imposition of strict sanctions.”

“I think that will sink in, and we’ll see what happens then,” he said.

Tapper tried again: “Is the U.S. going to impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran?”

“It’s possible, it depends on the conduct of other governments,” Bolton said.

But the national security adviser seemed unconcerned at the prospect of losing key allies in future negotiations with Iran.

“The United States imposing economic sanctions is a far cry from the United States and China and Russia and Europe imposing economic sanctions,” Tapper said earlier in the interview. “The U.S. is essentially, at least as of now, going it alone. How will that force Iran back to the table?”

“We are not going it alone,” Bolton replied. “We have the support of Israel, we have the support of the Arab oil-producing monarchies and many others.”

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White House special assistant Kelly Sadler said Thursday that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director didn’t matter because he was “dying,” the Hill reported.

The outlet cited an unnamed source in the room when the remarks were made. Two-dozen communications staffers were reportedly present.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” Sadler reportedly said, referring to McCain. 

“We respect Senator McCain’s service to our nation and he and his family are in our prayers during this difficult time,” the White House told the Hill in a statement, without denying the report.

CNN’s Jim Acosta said on Twitter Thursday that he’d confirmed the Hill’s reporting with an unnamed White House official.

McCain revealed last year that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He said in a statement Thursday that Haspel’s refusal to denounce torture as immoral was “disqualifying.”

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Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, “told colleagues she was close to resigning” from that post after being yelled at by President Donald Trump, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The Times, citing “several” unnamed current and former officials “familiar with the incident,” said Trump yelled at Nielsen and others during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday about undocumented immigrants coming to the United States from Mexico.

Nielsen, the Times reported, “told associates after the meeting that she should not continue in the job if the president did not view her as effective.”

The Times’ sources said Trump believes Nielsen and others are “resisting his direction that parents should be separated from their children when families cross illegally into the United States.” Nielsen defended that very policy during Senate testimony Tuesday.

It’s not the first time a DHS head has reportedly threatened resignation in recent months. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke did the same in November, according to the Washington Post, over White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly pressuring her to end temporary protected status for undocumented Hondurans living in the United States.

Duke announced her retirement in February. On May 4, Nielsen announced her decision to terminate TPS for Hondurans, effective in 18 months. 

The Times’ Astead Herndon noted that plenty of Trump administration officials have mastered what he called “the art of the fake resignation.”

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AT&T paid Trump fixer Michael Cohen $600,000 for advice on its multibillion-dollar proposed merger with Time Warner, the Washington Post reported Thursday citing internal documents.

Trump opposed the merger on the campaign trail, and the Department of Justice is currently in the middle of a lawsuit to stop it, the Post noted.

AT&T acknowledged paying Cohen this week after Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, alleged that the company had made the payments to the same shell company Cohen used to pay hush money to Daniels.

Combined with payments from other entities, Cohen made millions of dollars in the months following the presidential election from companies seeking his political and policy advice — seemingly an attempt to buy access or influence with the new President’s inner circle.

The Post specified that the documents made clear, though, that Cohen was not to spend any time contacting federal officials.

Cohen, according to the documents the Post reviewed, was hired to “focus on specific long-term planning initiatives as well as the immediate issue of corporate tax reform and the acquisition of Time Warner” as well as to “creatively address political and communications issues.”

The Post said AT&T did not contest the authenticity of the documents, which were reportedly signed by two public affairs executives at the company.

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The Federal Election Commission decided unanimously on Thursday to allow a Democratic congressional candidate from New York to spend campaign funds on childcare.

The decision came after testimony Thursday from Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to face off against sitting Rep. Pete King (R-NY) in November. According to FEC Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub, Grechen Shirley’s request received letters of support from 26 members of Congress and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others.

“It’ll change the way that people run for office,” Grechen Shirley said on a video posted to her campaign Facebook page at the start of a thoroughly-documented trip to the FEC in Washington, D.C. to advocate for her position.

Grechen Shirley, who has two small children, wrote in her request for an advisory opinion last month that before deciding to run for Congress, she worked from home and cared for her and her husband’s children full time.

“Since my campaign started, I have had to hire a part-time care giver for my children, so I can fulfill the responsibilities that go along with being a candidate for office,” she said.

She pointed to two prior advisory opinions that applied to male candidates for office who were allowed to use campaign funds for childcare expenses.

“I’m proud to be the first woman in the country to spend federal campaign money on childcare. I hope this decision inspires thousands of women across the country to run for office,” Grechen Shirley told Newsday in an interview after the FEC had made their decision.

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Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, appearing as a guest on Fox Business Thursday, said that torture “worked” on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — and that “that’s why they call him Songbird John.”

After playing video of former Vice President Dick Cheney standing by the use of torture during the Bush administration, Fox Business host Charles Payne asked McInerney about McCain, who said he would vote against Gina Haspel’s confirmation as CIA director because of her refusal to denounce torture as immoral. 

“Well she can’t use it anymore because we have determined in Congress that it’s not legal,” McInerney said, referring to Haspel. 

“The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John,” he continued. “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to.”

In a statement later on Thursday, Payne said he regretted not challenging McInerney’s remark in the moment. 

McCain spent almost six years in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War. His experiences in captivity made him a rare Republican voice to advocate strongly against torture.

The baseless claim that McCain gave valuable information to his captors echoes political attacks against the senator in the past. Politifact in 2008 rated a flyer claiming as much “Pants on Fire!” and said it was “strongly contradicted by many other accounts” the publication had reviewed.

McInerney last year advocated for the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea. Though millions of people could die as a result, he acknowledged, “they’ll be mostly North Koreans.”

Watch McInerney’s comments below via Media Matters:

This post has been updated.

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The internet fervor over Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s last campaign ad hadn’t even had a chance to die down before his release of a new one Wednesday.

Kemp, a perpetually scowling Republican candidate for governor, most recently made news for pointing a shotgun at a teenager to make a point about … something.

Kemp appears to relish the free media coverage. “It’s driving the liberal media crazy,” he told Fox News earlier this month, adding: “People, they love that.”

“I’ve got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself,” Kemp says in his latest ad, slamming the door on a downright compensatory Ford F350. “Yep, I just said that.”

The Hill on Thursday noted a poll late last month showing Kemp trailing in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

But Kemp has made a serious and well-financed effort to appeal to Georgia’s Trump voters, aping Trump’s rhetoric (“Georgia First”) and saying that “Trump is right” about deporting undocumented immigrants.

In his first campaign ad, Kemp promised to create a state-wide database of undocumented people to “track and immediately deport all criminal aliens so our kids don’t become the next victims.”

In February of last year, Georgia settled a lawsuit with the NAACP and other advocacy over Kemp’s alleged disenfranchisement of minority voters. The groups had argued that minority voter registration applicants were far likelier to be rejected than white applicants over to small discrepancies on registration forms. 

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his meeting with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un would take place on June 12 in Singapore.

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