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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

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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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said Monday that President Donald Trump calling Democrats treasonous for not clapping enough during his State of the Union address was reminiscent of North Korea.

During a speech in Ohio Monday, Trump said Democrats “were like death and un-American,” when they did not stand and clap after he announced “really positive news” in the address.

“Somebody said treasonous. Yeah, I guess, why not?” Trump said. “Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday, Whitehouse responded by saying “maybe he’s been watching too much North Korean television, where everybody in the North Korean assembly stands up and they all clap together automatically whenever the dear leader says something.”

“That’s not the way America works,” the senator continued. “I think that the most un-American thing was what the President said, that there oughtn’t to be dispute or disagreement with him among senators and members of the House of Representatives.”

He added, referring to the probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election: “I think that it’s a sign that the noose is perhaps getting a little tight around the White House and they’re starting to get a little bit panicky, because using words like that is very irresponsible and I think a sign of nerves starting to crack over there.”

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Former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann said in January that she had asked God whether she should run for former Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) seat.

On Monday, she announced his answer: No.

Or rather, no answer.

“It became very clear to me that I wasn’t hearing any call from God to do this,” she told Jan Markell, President of Olive Tree Ministries, in an interview flagged by Minnesota Public Radio.

According to Bachmann, God instructed her to run for Congress in 2006 and for the Republican nomination for President in 2012 (she placed sixth in the Iowa caucuses and dropped out of the race soon after).

Bachmann has mostly stayed out of mainstream politics since then, instead working with Christian conservative groups to convert Jews before the apocalypse and supporting the presidential bids of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and, in turn, Donald Trump.

In October of 2016, she defended Trump after the release of a tape of him bragging about kissing and groping women without their consent. “This is bad boy talk, and of course that’s what [Hillary Clinton] wants everybody to talk about,” she told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, echoing the sentiment on CNN.

Bachmann has also consistently advocated for stepping up deportations of individuals “who are unwilling to bear allegiance to the United States.”

“Too many people who are being afraid of being called racists, bigots, Islamophobes,” she said last July, according to the Pioneer Press. “I’m not afraid of it, because what we’ve got to do is talk about the truth of the problems that are going on in Minnesota.”

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Even for a President known for the frequency and brazenness of his untruths, President Donald Trump sometimes outdoes himself. That was the case on Monday, when Trump claimed four times in a two-minute stretch that Democrats want to raise Americans’ taxes.

“Nancy Pelosi and those in Congress want to raise your taxes, they want to raise your taxes,” he told the crowd at Sheffer Corp. in an address aimed at promoting Republicans’ tax bill, which Trump signed in December and which overwhelmingly helps corporations and the wealthy.

A few seconds later: “They want to raise your taxes.” And then: “Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they want to raise your taxes.”

From what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have said about the policies they favor, that’s simply not true. Both decried the massive cuts the Republican tax bill afforded the wealthy and corporations, but they have not said they want to raise taxes on everyone — especially the audience attending Trump’s speech at Sheffer Corp. in Ohio.

Watch below:

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Breitbart News tweeted something racist Sunday night, implying in a post on the social media platform that Muslims would eventually outlaw football. In a noteworthy move, the outlet announced the following day that they had deleted the missive.

What went a step too far for the far-right wing website that used to have a “Black Crime” tag, has asserted that young Muslims living in the West are a “ticking time bomb,” falsely claimed a 1,000-man Muslim mob had set fire to the oldest church in Germany, and proclaimed two weeks after Dylann Roof committed a massacre in a black church that “the Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage?”

It appeared to be this one, helpfully cached on archive.org:

The website did not offer any further explanation for the deletion, and the tweet announcing the move appeared to be the only time the site had publicized such an editorial decision on the platform.

A few others (well, many others) from months past remained standing:

For what it’s worth, Shahid Khan, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is Muslim. And yes, there are Muslim NFL players.

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A CNN employee found sensitive national security planning documents in the seat-back pocket of a commercial plane, the network reported Monday.

The documents, which concerned the national security response to an exercise simulating a biological attack on the Super Bowl, were found weeks ago.

CNN kept them under wraps until after the game at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, which cited national security concerns. A spokesperson for DHS told CNN that “[t]his exercise was a resounding success and was not conducted in response to any specific, credible threat of a bioterrorism attack.”

The documents contained mixed reviews of the exercise, CNN reported, including that there were “differences of opinion” over how many people had been exposed to the simulated biological attack, “which led to differences of opinion on courses of action.”

Local health agencies, according to the documents, also expressed confusion over the meaning of the alerts about the simulated attack, and how widely the alerts could be shared. That, the documents said “creates a situation where local officials are deciding on courses of action from limited points of view.”

A travel itinerary and boarding pass belonging to Michael V. Walter accompanied the documents, CNN said. Walter is the program manager of BioWatch, which DHS says aims to provide early detection of airborne biological attacks.

Watch CNN’s report about the documents below, or read it here.

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Ram Trucks touched a nerve Sunday with a Super Bowl ad set over the voice of Martin Luther King Jr.

“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant” King was heard saying over a gritty montage of Americans and their Ram Trucks.

The recording is of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, which he delivered 50 years ago on Sunday.

The civil rights leader once notably described himself as “much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic” and spent the last months of life advocating for massive government investment to end poverty in America.

Later in the very same sermon, King warned against succumbing to slick advertisers, “those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion.”

“[T]hey have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying,” King said. “In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. That’s the way the advertisers do it.”

That fact wasn’t lost on social media users, one of whom marked the irony with a new ad:

King’s estate approved the ad, multiple outlets reported. Eric Tidwell, managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, which licenses the estate, told the New York Times: “Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances. We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.”

Ram said in a statement to AdAge and other outlets that it was “was honored to have the privilege of working with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. to celebrate those words during the largest TV viewing event annually.”

Highdive, the boutique Chicago-based agency which AdAge reported had created the spot, did not immediately reply to TPM’s requests for comment.

A spokesperson for FCA US — the American subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler, Ram’s parent company — told TPM in an email that the ad “supports a core belief of the Ram Truck brand, and Ram truck owners, that true greatness is achieved by helping others.”

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump used the Super Bowl to once again assert that Americans ought to stand during the national anthem, the latest in a reoccurring attack on athletes and others who have knelt during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial discrimination.

“Though many of our Nation’s service members are unable to be home with family and friends to enjoy this evening’s American tradition, they are always in our thoughts and prayers,” Trump said in a statement marking the NFL championship game. “We owe these heroes the greatest respect for defending our liberty and our American way of life. Their sacrifice is stitched into each star and every stripe of our Star-Spangled Banner.”

“We hold them in our hearts and thank them for our freedom as we proudly stand for the National Anthem.”

Trump’s campaign committee, as quoted by the Washington Examiner, used similar language Sunday, saying of Democrats: “They won’t stand for the National Anthem.”

“They won’t stand for record-low unemployment, a booming American economy, or a call for American unity at the President’s first State of the Union,” Trump’s campaign wrote in the email. “So we’re not sure what the Democrats will stand for. But our President stands for AMERICA, the FLAG, and our HEROIC veterans.”

The messages mark the latest in a series of digs by the President at those who kneel during the anthem to protest discrimination and police brutality.

At his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump recognized 12-year-old Preston Sharp for planting American flags on veterans’ graves and immediately pivoted to attack Americans who kneel during the anthem.

“Preston’s reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us of why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance and why we proudly stand for the national anthem,” the President said.

Trump’s grudge against athletes who kneel during the anthem reached a peak in September when he suggest NFL owners get that son of a bitch off the field,” referring to players who kneel during the anthem.

A month later, Vice President Mike Pence made political theater out some NFL players kneeling at a football game he attended. Pence left the stadium right then and there — just as Trump had instructed him to do.

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Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page claimed in 2013 “to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin,” Time Magazine reported Saturday evening.

The magazine, citing an unnamed editor who worked with Page, said the former Trump adviser had mentioned the credential in a letter to an unnamed academic press “during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication.” The letter was dated Aug. 25, 2013, Time reported. 

“Over the past half year,” Page wrote, “I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda.”

Page, a recurring character in the ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, was the subject of the surveillance warrant application at the center of the so-called “Nunes memo.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Community, alleged in the memo that the FBI and Justice Department had improperly used a document paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC — through a law firm that hired a research firm — to support their warrant application.

The actual memo, distilled to four pages from a much longer application and multiple warrant renewals, did not support Republicans’ claims of impropriety.

Page celebrated committee Republicans’ “brave and assiduous oversight” following the memo’s release and told Time that, for the first nine months of 2013 he “sat in on and contributed to a few roundtable discussion with people from around the world.”

He told the magazine that the meetings started with a Russian representative who was in New York for the United Nations. Page also shared an April 15, 2013 briefing paper on Russia’s G-20 priorities authored by Ksenia Yudaeva, who would shortly become the first deputy governor and director of Russia’s central bank.

Page said he requested additional meetings, calling them “really plain-vanilla stuff” and adding: “Does that make me an evil villain, as some of your sources would like to have you think?”

The publication noted a previously reported warrant for surveillance of Page issued by a FISA court in 2013.

“He wanted to make the argument that we needed to look more positively at Russia’s economic reforms and Russia’s relationship with Central Asia,” the unnamed editor who corresponded with Page told Time, saying he came to know Page as a “kook.”

“I didn’t think it was so weird,” the editor added, “it was just contradictory to most mainstream Russian specialist’s views.”

This post has been updated.

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