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

Cameron Joseph contributed reporting

Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) underwent surgery Monday to remove a tumor from his pancreas, Reid’s family said in a statement Monday.

Reid served as Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015, and then as minority leader for the last two years of his Senate career. He announced in March 2015 that he would not seek re-election the following year. 

“Harry Reid is a fighter,” former Reid staffer Zac Petkanas told TPM. “Cancer won’t know what punched it in the face.”

“Like everything in his life, Reid is underestimated only to come out on top and stronger,” former staffer Kristen Orthman added. “I expect this to be no different.”

Former Reid staffer Adam Jentleson posted the statement online.

This post has been updated.

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White House spokesman Raj Shah on Monday refused to condemn or further explain White House staffer Kelly Sadler’s closed-door remark last week that mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as “dying.”

But in any work environment, Shah said at one point during a press briefing Monday, “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.”

The reported comment — McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel didn’t matter, Sadler told other communications staffers during a meeting, because “he’s dying anyway” — has caused an uproar. McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, said Sunday that Sadler promised her in a phone call that she would apologize publicly. That hasn’t happened.

“I understand the focus on this issue but it’s going to be dealt with, and has been dealt with, internally,” Shah said separately Monday. “I was told Kelly Sadler called the McCain family late last week and did apologize, and beyond that I don’t have further comment.”

A reporter pressed on why the White House seems more concerned that the comment was leaked than the comment itself.

“Well, I think we’re concerned about all sorts of matters, but this is an internal matter, it’s being addressed internally,” Shah said. 

“Can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?” another reporter asked.

“Obviously, if I explain all that, then it won’t remain internal,” Shah replied.

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The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Michael Cohen advertised himself as “the President’s lawyer” to potential corporate clients, seemingly in an attempt to sell influence — or at least, the appearance of influence — with the White House.

“I have the best relationship with the President on the outside, and you need to hire me,” Cohen told one unnamed client, an unnamed person familiar with the approach told the Journal.

And after a declined overture to Uber, according to an unnamed person “close to the company,” Cohen revised his pitch: He was “the President’s lawyer,” he reminded them. The Journal’s source said Uber was “bemused.”

The report sheds some more light on Cohen’s attempts at winning over corporate dollars with his proximity to power following the election.

Various companies, from drugmaker Novartis to AT&T to Korea Aerospace Industries, have admitted to hiring Cohen for large sums. And many have said it was a mistake, after news of their arrangements with the President’s fixer became public.

An unnamed source at Novartis told Stat News last week that Cohen, who has no experience in health care policy, promised the company “access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”

And, as in the Journal’s report, an unnamed source familiar with Cohen’s pitch to companies told CNN last week that he told potential clients to “fire them all,” referring to a company’s current advisers.

“I’m the guy you should hire. I’m closest to the President. I’m his personal lawyer,” the source, an unnamed GOP strategist, told CNN.

The payments were first made public by adult film star Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti. Daniels is suing Cohen separately over a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to her in October 2016. The corporate payments to Cohen, according to an unsourced document released by Avenatti, were made to the same account Cohen used to pay Daniels.

Investigators raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April as part of a months-long criminal probe which encompasses, in part, the payment to Daniels.

Several companies that had business relationships with Cohen, including the American affiliate of a Russian investment firm, have been questioned by Mueller’s team, according to various reports or their own admissions.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, fresh from a trip to North Korea and a meeting with ruler Kim Jong-un, claimed Sunday that Kim shares the United States’ objectives.

“When I said earlier this week that I think Chairman Kim shares the objectives of the American people, I am convinced of that,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “Now the task is for President Trump and he to meet to validate the process by which this would go forward, to set out those markers so that we can negotiate this outcome.”

Pompeo said the United States would offer “security assurances” to Kim and sanctions relief in exchange for the denuclearization of North Korea.

The secretary of state’s remarks echoed those he made on Friday, shortly after returning from North Korea with three freed American prisoners, and having met with Kim.

“We have a shared vision for what we hope when this process is completed the Korean Peninsula looks like,” Pompeo said on Friday. “We have a good understanding, and I think there is complete agreement about what the ultimate objectives are.”

He repeated the sentiment to CBS’ “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan Sunday.

“I have told [Kim] that what President Trump wants is to see the North Korean regime get rid of its nuclear weapons program, completely and in totality, and in exchange for that, we are prepared to ensure that the North Korean people get the opportunity that they so richly deserve,” Pompeo said.

“It’s pretty straightforward, and, I said earlier this week, I think in that sense Chairman Kim shares that same objective. I think he understands that President Trump has put an enormous pressure campaign in place with the aim of achieving a good outcome for North Korea and its people. That’s our objective. That’s the American goal that President Trump set forward.”

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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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