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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

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, wondered aloud Tuesday whether climate change might actually be good for humans in the long run — a proposition unsupported by the conclusions of climate science.

“We know that humans have most flourished during times of what? Warming trends,” Pruitt told KSNV’s Gerard Ramalho in an interview flagged by the Guardian. So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that necessarily is a bad thing.”

“Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018?” Pruitt went on. “That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

Pruitt is not the only member of the Trump administration to question whether climate change might actually be a good thing. On a particularly cold day last year, Trump tweeted, “Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming.”

Pruitt himself told Reuters in January, “The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100?”

Climate scientists agree, however, that the negative effects of climate change are potentially catastrophic in the long run, even if it also results in changes like a longer frost-free growing season. Those effects include a massive rise in the global sea level, which would affect tens of millions of Americans living on the coasts, and an increased number in extreme weather events, including stronger and more intense storms.

The impacts of climate change on human health are likely to be similarly dramatic, as a previous iteration of the EPA’s website acknowledged — not to mention the potential social and military conflicts that could occur as a result of climate-related displacement and other factors. 

Pruitt called on Tuesday, as he’s done in the past while ignoring climate science, for an “honest, open, transparent debate” about climate science “so the American people can be informed” and “make decisions on their own with respect to these issues.”

Although Pruitt has called for open debate, an open records request this month revealed that in April 2017 he personally oversaw a laundry list of changes to the EPA’s website aimed at removing information about climate change.

Watch the interview below, with remarks about climate change starting at 3:40:

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The White House’s public schedule for Wednesday stated that President Donald Trump was set to receive his daily intelligence briefing at 11 a.m. ET.

It appears more likely, though, that Trump was watching Fox News: The channel covered newly released text messages between two FBI employees — messages which have become ready fodder for right-wing conspiracists — mere minutes before Trump raved about them to his nearly 50 million Twitter followers.

More revelations today from the text message chain between FBI Agent Peter Strzok and his then-lover, FBI Attorney Lisa page,” Fox News’ John Roberts reported at 11:03 a.m. ET.

The network has obsessed over the texts, noting in a report early Wednesday that the FBI employees both worked at one point for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The texts come from the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), which noted in a statement upon their release Wednesday that an accompanying report “raises serious questions about how the FBI applied the rule of law in its investigation” of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Roberts picked a few to read, out of context, on air: “potus wants to know everything we’re doing,” (pp. 356), a comment on the emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer (pp. 390), the pair’s lamentations on Election Day — “OMG THIS IS F*CKING TERRIFYING,” “Omg, I am so depressed” — (pp. 437-438), and Page’s note that “we have OUR task ahead of us” (pp. 440).

It raises questions as to why these text messages disappeared for so long. Was it innocuous, was it something else?” Fox News’ Jon Scott said before moving on. 

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that it was a “big mistake” that the stock market went down in recent days, though it wasn’t immediately clear whose judgment he meant to impugn. The White House didn’t immediately respond to TPM’s request to clarify the tweet.

Trump appeared to be referring to the dramatic dip in markets that made international headlines on Monday, though that decline came in the context of record stock market highs over much of the past year.

The White House said after the sell-off began that the market’s fundamentals remain strong, and investors seem to agree.

Still, Trump has surfed the bull market for much of his presidency, and he’ll take the same credit for any downturns.

On Tuesday, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders what the President made of the market’s multi-day volatility, “and does he have any regrets about taking responsibility or credit for the stock market’s rise?”

“Look, the economy is incredibly strong right now,” Sanders responded. “The President’s focus continues to be on the long-term economic fundamentals, which, like I just said, are very strong in this country.

She added, rattling off economic bullet points: “There’s nothing that’s taken place over the last couple of days in our economy that’s fundamentally different than it was two weeks ago, and we’re very comfortable with where we are right now.”

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters Tuesday that he had done an initial review of the Democratic counter-memo to the so-called “Nunes memo” with President Donald Trump and other top officials.

He noted that the Democrats’ memo — which its authors say would counter Nunes’ unsubstantiated claim that the FBI and Justice Department showed anti-Trump bias in their application for a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — was “lengthier” and “not as clean” as Republicans’, possibly signaling that the White House would redact some of it as a condition of its release. 

“He’ll have a decision to make as to what, you know, what he wants to do with it,” Kelly told reporters, describing the choice Trump faces.

“Should he do the same thing he did on the first memo and essentially declassify it, or should he declassify it with some redactions?” 

The chief of staff told reporters that Deputy Attorney General had “helped the President understand the differences” between the two memos.

Kelly added that he set a Thursday deadline for the Department of Justice and FBI; the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and national security lawyers at the White House, led by White House counsel Don McGahn, to be ready to fully brief Trump.

“The teams are doing exactly the same thing on this one that we did on the first one,” he said, describing the briefing preparations. 

Kelly did note what he characterized as differences between the memos: Democrats’, he said, “is not as clean a memo as the first one,” and is “more lengthy.” 

He was asked whether the White House was leaning towards approving its release.

“No,” he replied. “I would say this is a different memo than the first one. It’s lengthier. Well, it’s different. And so not leaning towards it. It’ll be done in a responsible way. But, again, where the first one was very clean relative to sources and methods, my initial cut is this one is a lot less clean.” 

But, Kelly hedged, “at the end of it all, it’ll be guys like Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray from FBI, certainly the national security attorneys at the White House giving the President a recommendation.” 

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »

 

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The House on Tuesday passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through late March and provide increased funds for the military through the end of the fiscal year, though the measure faces a steeper climb in the Senate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged fellow Democrats to vote against the continuing resolution, criticizing Republicans for failing to increase funding for domestic priorities.

“We all know that our military might is part of our nation’s strength,” Pelosi said on the House floor earlier on Tuesday. “But the health, education, security and well-being of the American people is also a source of that strength. Instead of working constructively with Democrats to meet the needs of the American people, Republicans are trying to starve the domestic budget.”

The measure ultimately passed with a 245-182 vote.

The bill does not address a solution for DACA recipients, nor does it provide increased border security funds nor funds for a border wall, CBS News reported.

Senate leaders have expressed some confidence in reaching a much larger, long-term funding agreement before the government runs out of money at 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

“We’re on the way to getting an agreement and on the way to getting an agreement very soon,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday, as quoted by the Washington Post.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) added: “I am very hopeful that we can come to an agreement, an agreement very soon.”

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that “I’d love to see a shutdown” if his priorities on immigration aren’t met. But White House Sarah Huckabee Sanders hedged on that statement later in the day,

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Pentagon officials are following the President’s orders and planning for a parade in the style of the yearly Bastille Day military parade held in Paris, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Citing two unnamed officials briefed on the planning for the parade, the Post said Trump’s desire for a flashy show of strength came to a head in a Jan. 18 meeting with top generals at the Pentagon. In addition to the President, those in attendance included Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Post reported.

One unnamed military official said Trump’s “marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France.”

NBC News’ Hans Nichols reported following the Post’s report that the Pentagon is “aware” of the request and exploring potential dates:

Trump attended the annual Bastille Day parade in July of last year and hasn’t stopped raving about it since, including by expressing his desire for a similar July 4 parade back home.

The Post reported that Trump officials have discussed various dates for a parade — including Memorial Day and July 4 — but that, according to the unnamed military official, the Pentagon favors Veterans Day because it coincides with the 100th anniversary end of World War I and, in the Post’s words, “would be less associated with the president and politics.”

“This is being worked at the highest levels of the military,” the unnamed military official said.

An unnamed White House official familiar with the parade’s planning stressed to the Post that the event was in the “brainstorming” stages and added: “Right now there’s really no meat on the bones.”

Asked about the association of such parades with strongman rulers, that official said that the parade would be a “celebration of the men and women who give us freedom,” and added: “That’s the opposite of a totalitarian government.”

The official said, as paraphrased by the Post, that “a parade would have nothing to do with Trump’s feuds with [North Korean leader] Kim [Jong Un], but would be designed as a broad show of strength to send a warning to all of America’s adversaries.”

Trump told the Post before his inauguration that “we’re going to be showing our military,” including potentially in parades “marching down Pennsylvania Avenue” or “flying over New York City and Washington, D.C.”

HuffPost later reported, citing an unnamed source involved with inaugural planning, that a member of Trump’s transition team had floated the idea of having tanks and missile launchers as part of the parade — an idea the military reportedly shot down.

 This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that President Donald Trump isn’t advocating for a government shutdown — though Trump said “I’d love to see a shutdown” if his demands weren’t met earlier in the afternoon.

The government will shut down if Congress doesn’t pass additional funding by the end of the day on Thursday.

Sanders said in a press briefing, though, that “if the Democrat party is going to continue to threaten a shutdown because they won’t include responsible immigration reforms, including fixing MS-13 loopholes and other issues, then the President welcomes that fight.”

“It’s a fight we won last time, and it’s one we’re very confident that we would win again,” she continued. “But let me repeat: Our goal is to get a two-year budget deal and to also get a deal on immigration, which we have laid out.”

“Isn’t the President encouraging a shutdown?” one reporter asked, referring to the President’s remarks.

“The President’s encouraging people to do their jobs,” Sanders responded. “The President’s encouraging them to get a deal on the budget, as he’s laid out — a long-term budget deal that actually helps our military instead of doing these short-term deals. That’s what he’s advocated for all along, and the President is encouraging them to do their jobs and come to an agreement on immigration, particularly on the four places that he’s outlined that have to happen in any piece of legislation.”

Asked if Trump would rather see a shutdown than a short-term spending deal, Sanders said, “we are not advocating for the shutdown.”

“That’s the fault of the Democrats not being willing to do their jobs,” she continued. “The President wants a long-term deal and he wants a deal on immigration. And we hope that Democrats will come to the table and get those things done.”

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Tuesday took President Donald Trump to task for suggesting that Democrats in Congress were “un-American” and “treasonous” for not sufficiently clapping during his State of the Union address last week.

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said Tuesday that the remark was “tongue in cheek.” In press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ words, “He was clearly joking.”

Flake responded from the Senate Floor: “Treason is not a punchline, Mr. President.”

The senator announced in October that he would not seek re-election to his office, and since then he has been a reliably critical voice of the President’s habit of violating democratic norms (though Flake still votes with the President’s priorities the vast majority of the time).

Flake on Tuesday referenced the address he made upon announcing his retirement, saying, “I wish I could stand here today and say my words of last October have been proven wrong.”

He continued, “that I had been unfair to inveigh against the daily sundering of our country, that I had been mistaken about the personal attacks, that I had exaggerated the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been all been elected to serve.”

“I wish I could say that I had been wrong, but I cannot,” he said.

Flake said it was “unconscionable” to suggest — as Trump did — that Democrats don’t love the country as much as Republicans.

“None of us in Congress pledge loyalty or service to the President,” he said. “This is not a royal court. Our oath is to the Constitution and to the people.”

“As members of Congress, we must never accept undignified discourse as normal because of the requirements of tribal party politics,” he continued. “None of this behavior should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. We will get through this period, and when we do, we will look back at the destruction of our discourse and attacks on our democratic values as nothing but a tragedy.”

Flake concluded by urging colleagues to reject Trump’s “aberrant, destructive behavior.”

“And we must never shrink from opposing it,” he said, “for it is in the opposing this behavior that we defend our noms, our ideals and our values. It is in opposing this behavior that we stand for decency.”

Flake posted a clip of the speech to his Twitter account. Watch below:

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Politico reported Tuesday on the frustration expressed by many involved in combatting the opioid death crisis, including Republican lawmakers, over the lack of communication and coordination from Kellyanne Conway, the White House staffer President Donald Trump tasked with tackling the issue.

Specifically, Politico said, legislators who were “accustomed to working with the drug czar office” — the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which from the Reagan administration until now has traditionally coordinated federal drug control policy — “haven’t seen outreach from Conway or her cabinet.”

“I haven’t talked to Kellyanne at all and I’m from the worst state for this,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) told Politico, adding: “I’m uncertain of her role.”

(Someone with knowledge of Capito’s schedule told TPM she has spoken with Conway since being interviewed by Politico.)

The outlet said that Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) “echoed” Capito’s concerns, though it noted that Portman’s wife Jane Portman, Conway and first lady Melania Trump attended an opioid event this week.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) told Politico: “What we haven’t seen is the kind of coordination of critical programs that ONDCP has traditionally done.”

An unnamed former Trump administration staffer told Politico that, in contrast to the so-called “opioids cabinet” established by Conway, “[i]t’s fair to say the ONDCP has pretty much been systematically excluded from key decisions about opioids and the strategy moving forward.”

Conway said in part, in a statement the White House shared with TPM, that “the opioids cabinet was formed to serve as an interagency coordinating structure on drug demand and drug supply reduction efforts, in furtherance of an Administration-wide plan to focus on treatment and recovery; prevention and education, and; law enforcement and interdiction.”

Politico noted that Conway’s description of her cabinet covers work the ONDCP has traditionally done, and that two political appointees from ONDCP have attended Conway’s cabinet meetings in the acting director’s place — a sign that the office’s expertise isn’t being fully represented.

ONDCP’s acting director, Richard Baum, told TPM in a statement that his office “is the lead Federal entity in charge of crafting, publishing and overseeing the implementation of President Trump’s National Drug Control Strategy.”

“The Strategy goes through a rigorous interagency clearance process in which every affected agency has the chance to review and comment on the document,” he added. “The end result will be a comprehensive, detailed, and unified plan to address the full array of drug problems facing the country.”

“The opioids cabinet,” Baum noted, “is an interagency coordinating apparatus for public-facing opioids-related initiatives, not a policy making shop.”

ONDCP, meanwhile, has been in shambles for much of Trump’s tenure.

A series of stories by the Washington Post exposed and led to the resignation of a 24-year-old staffer, with no relevant qualifications, who at one point was partially fulfilling the duties of the ONDCP’s chief of staff. Politico noted that Baum hadn’t served in the office “for decades” when he was tapped for the position.

Tom Marino, the former congressman whom the Trump administration had tapped to formally take the “drug czar” role, withdrew from consideration in October last year after a bombshell Washington Post and “60 Minutes” investigation found he advocated for a policy that made it harder for the DEA to stop potentially dangerous shipments of opioids.

The office’s senior leadership is down to “a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago,” Politico reported.

Trump proposed massively defunding the office in his budget last year before backing off, Politico noted, a move that he’s set to attempt again this year.

This post has been updated.

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The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump was being “tongue in cheek” when he called Democrats “un-American” and “treasonous” Monday for not clapping enough during his State of the Union address last week.

That’s what Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesperson, told NBC News about the President’s remark Tuesday morning. The network paraphrased the rest of Gidley’s statement: “The president, Gidley said, was simply trying to make the point that there are positive things going on that all Americans should celebrate regardless of their party.”

Asked for further comment, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told TPM in an email: “Hogan is correct. He was clearly joking. He was making the point that even when good things are happening they are still sitting there angry.”

As the New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff noted, it was a familiar excuse.

During a speech in Ohio Monday, Trump criticized Democrats for not standing and clapping during the State of the Union, even when he addressed positive news.

“That means they would rather see Trump do badly, okay, than our country do well,” he said. “Okay? That’s what it means. It’s very selfish.”

“Un-American,” he said later. “Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.

This post has been updated.

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