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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

Eric Trump on Tuesday argued that an ABC News reporter didn’t have any right calling the President’s use of “Pocahontas” as an attack offensive.

President Donald Trump on Monday called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Pocahontas, an attack he uses often, during a White House event celebrating Navajo Code Talkers.

Eric Trump, 33, appeared to be referring in his tweet to ABC News White House correspondent Johnathan Karl, who asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Monday about Trump’s attack line: “Why did he feel the need to say something that is offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo Code Talkers, these genuine American heroes?”

“I think what most people find offensive is Sen. Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders responded, before saying that the assertions of many Native Americans that Trump’s use of the term was “racist” were “ridiculous.”

As a Senate candidate in 2012, Warren was attacked by then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) for claiming to have Native American heritage without any evidence to prove as much.

Trump took up the attack, and began referring to Warren by the name of the Native American woman who lived at the turn of the 17th century, when Warren began campaigning for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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President Donald Trump assured the public on Tuesday that first lady Melania Trump supported his decision to run for President.

He also retweeted the first lady’s account:

The dispatches followed a lengthy Vanity Fair profile of Melania Trump, which painted her as a reluctant public figure who urged her husband, in the words of Trump ally and political operative Roger Stone: “Either run or don’t run […] Your friends are tired of this striptease.”

Stone added: “He always wanted to run. She is the one who pushed him to run just by saying run or do not run. I don’t think she was ever too crazy about it.”

“She said, ‘It’s not my thing. It’s Donald’s thing,’” Stone said, referring to Melania. “And I think she understood he was going to be unhappy if he didn’t run.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday defended President Donald Trump’s use of the word “Pocahontas” to attack Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at an event honoring Navajo Code Talkers.

“I think what most people find offensive is Sen. Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders said, referring to Warren’s claim — first brought up in 2012 by then-political opponent Scott Brown — that according to unproven family stories, she had Native American heritage.

“She said it was a racial slur,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl pressed. “What is your response to that?”

“I think that’s a ridiculous response.”

“Why is it appropriate for the President to use a racial slur in any context?” NBC’s Kristen Welker asked.

“I don’t believe that it is appropriate for him to make a racial slur,” Sanders said, “Or anybody else.”

“A lot of people feel as though this is a racial slur,” Welker said.

“Like I said, I don’t think that it is, and I don’t think that was — certainly not the President’s intent,” Sanders said.

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At an event honoring Native American Code Talkers who used the Navajo language as a form of coded message during World War II, President Donald Trump repeated a frequent attack against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said, “although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas.’”

“But you know what, I like you,” Trump continued to the Native American veterans standing beside him.

The attack is based on Warren’s former claim that, according to “family stories,” she had Native American heritage. She had no proof for the claim, which then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) used to attack Warren when she ran against him in 2012. Trump revived the attack in 2016, when Warren campaigned for Hillary Clinton.

Warren responded in an interview with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi shortly afterward.

“This was supposed to be an event to honor heroes, people who put it all on the line for our country, and people who, because of their incredible, work saved the lives of countless Americans and our allies,” she said. “It is deeply unfortunate that the President of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur.”

“Look, Donald Trump does this over and over, thinking somehow he’s going to shut me up with it,” Warren concluded. “It hasn’t worked in the past. It is not going to work in the future.”

This post has been updated.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke out Monday on President Donald Trump’s decision to install White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“This is about whose side President Trump is on — big banks, or working families,” Warren told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. “So far in his administration, he has chosen the big banks time after time. Is he going to stand up for the working families who helped elect him?”

The CFPB is in the midst of a crisis of leadership, reflected in a lawsuit Sunday night by newly elevated deputy director Leandra English, who had previously served as chief of staff to former CFPB Director Richard Cordray. Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which authorized the agency in the first place, the deputy director becomes the acting director in the case of a vacancy. But the White House, in naming Mulvaney the acting director, cited the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Currently, the agency effectively has two acting directors.

Mulvaney, who has said he is opposed to the agency’s very existence, has reportedly told CFPB staff to report communications from English to the agency’s legal department.

Warren has sided firmly with English, saying Dodd-Frank clearly states that she ought to be acting director. Warren was the driving force behind the agency’s creation as an adviser to the Obama administration. Reuters reported the senator would meet with English Monday.

“The agency deserves a leader who has a demonstrated track record of protecting consumers and standing up to Wall Street,” Warren told the Post. Keeping English in charge, she said, would give Americans “a chance to look at this agency one more time and see how hard it fights on behalf of consumers.”

Under Mulvaney, or someone like him confirmed on a permanent basis, Warren said, “The agency will be headed by someone who fundamentally doesn’t believe in its mission.”

“This would change every calculation that every giant bank makes in the executive suite when deciding just how close to breaking the law they want to come,” she continued. “If the cop is pulled off the beat, then the profits from cheating people look far more attractive to the banking executives.”

“It will be up to Senate Republicans to decide whether they want to put someone in the job who is firmly on the side of big banks,” she added.

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The New York Times on Sunday defended its reporting on a co-founder of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party. The profile, by Richard Fausset, was widely criticized as being sympathetic to its fascist subject.

The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think,” wrote Marc Lacey, the Times’ national editor, in a response to reader criticism. (The paper’s public editor position was eliminated after Liz Spayd’s departure over the summer.)

Specifically at issue for many readers was Fausset’s lack of pushback against, or context for, the beliefs of Tony Hovater, a white nationalist from Ohio. “[I]n person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother,” Fausset wrote of Hovater.

Yet, for all the attention the Times paid to Hovater’s inconsequential day-to-day tasks — visits to Applebee’s and Panera Bread featured prominently — it spent very little on his and his party’s belief system, and its philosophical origins. Faussert included only one quote from an expert on extremism and none from civil rights activists, and the piece was notably lacking in the historically bloody examples of white nationalist political action. 

“Where was his Rosebud?” Fausset asked himself of Hovater, in a supplementary essay describing his reporting process. “I went back to Mr. Hovater in search of answers. I still don’t think I really found them.”

He added: “Mr. Hovater was exceedingly candid with me — often shockingly so — but it seems as though his worldview was largely formed by the same recombinant stuff that influences our mainstream politics.”

Also missing: Hovater’s goals. Though the piece dutifully mentions his desire for a white ethno-state, it doesn’t mention how he aims to attain that society, nor that it’s only one part of the Traditionalist Worker Party agenda. The party also advocates authoritarian limits on freedom of speech and the press, an end to divorce except for “proven spousal abuse or infidelity” and the eradication of homosexuality and other “antisocial behaviors.” 

Instead, the Times reported that the neo-Nazi’s political “evolution” was “largely fueled by the kinds of frustrations that would not seem exotic to most American conservatives. He believes the federal government is too big, the news media is biased, and that affirmative action programs for minorities are fundamentally unfair.”

“We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,” Lacey said in conclusion. “We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.”

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President Donald Trump on Saturday expressed his sympathies for financial institutions a day after naming his budget director acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Trump said the agency, authorized by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act as a watchdog for consumers in their interactions with large financial institutions, had “devastated” those institutions and made them “unable to properly serve the public.”

“We will bring it back to life!” he said, presumably referring to himself and Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director who Trump said Friday would take over as the CFPB’s acting director. Mulvaney in 2014 said agency was a “sick, sad joke.”

But Mulvaney’s ascension, even temporarily, to the head of the consumer agency is contested: After former CFPB Director Richard Cordray announced his resignation Friday, he elevated his chief of staff, Leandra English, to be the agency’s deputy director. Cordray argued that, according to Dodd-Frank, English would become acting director — rather than Mulvaney — upon his resignation, which was effective at midnight.

Though the Washington Post reported Saturday that though the White House had not yet been in touch with the agency, both sides have staked their legal claims.

“We think the clear legal authority is that the president does have this authority. We’ll find out based on how Ms. English decides to act at the appropriate time,” one unnamed official told the Post.

Unnamed senior administration officials said the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel supports the White House’s position that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act gives Trump the power to install Mulvaney until a permanent director is approved by the Senate, a process that could take months and leave Mulvaney plenty of time to enact a deregulatory agenda.

Cordray himself told the Post: “The law authorized me to appoint a deputy director, and I did so. My understanding of the law is that the deputy director serves as the acting director upon my resignation.”

“If there are disagreements about these issues, the appropriate place to settle them would be in the courts,” he added.

Dodd-Frank’s co-author, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told the Post “it’s obvious” that the Cordray’s interpretation was correct.

“If you look at the CFPB language it is very specific and it was designed to protect an agency that we knew would be under a lot of pressure,” he told the Post. “This is an agency that enforces the rules against some of the most powerful financial interests in the country. Everything was structured for its independence.”

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President Donald Trump fumed at his daughter Ivanka Trump’s criticism of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, the New York Times reported Saturday, citing three unnamed staff members who heard his reaction. Ivanka Trump had said in an interview, when asked about Moore, that “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

“Do you believe this?” Trump told several aides “in the hours after” Ivanka Trump’s comments, the Times reported. The comments were later included in an ad by Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

Moore has been accused by several women of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was a grown man. One woman, Leigh Corfman, told the Washington Post in a Nov. 9 article that Moore attempted to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14. Beverly Young Nelson alleged in a press conference days later that Moore attempted to rape her when she was 16. Moore has denied all wrongdoing.

The White House’s message on the race has changed day-to-day. Initially following the Post’s reporting, the White House said in a statement that Moore should step aside from the race if Corfman’s allegations were true. In subsequent days, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to engage with further questions about Moore, saying Alabama voters should choose their next senator, and Trump did not answer shouted questions about the race.

On Tuesday, Trump said “We don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat,” indicating he stood by an endorsement of Moore made before the revelations about him pursuing teenagers.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said a day prior that a vote for Jones would mean a vote against Trump’s promised tax cuts — an implicit endorsement that is now the subject of a Hatch Act investigation. The law forbids officials from using their government positions to boost candidates for office.

The Times also reported Saturday, without citing a specific source for the claim, that Trump had suggested to a senator earlier this year — and to an adviser more recently — that the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape “was not authentic.” 

In the tape, Trump is heard bragging that he can kiss and grab women without their permission because he is famous. The Times noted that Trump verified the accuracy of the tape and apologized for his recorded comments when they were first unearthed in October 2016.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Michael Flynn’s work on an unfinished film about the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (pictured above), the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Flynn had been the subject of a federal probe regarding unregistered lobbying work prior to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, a probe which Mueller incorporated into his broader investigation once assuming his current position.

Specifically at question, in addition to Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the 2016 election, is Flynn’s company’s $530,000 contract with a Turkish businessman with ties to the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flynn and business partner Bijan Kian worked for the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, on anti-Gulen material including a documentary while Flynn also worked for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Flynn published an op-ed on Election Day echoing the Turkish president’s position on Gulen. Following the election, Kian joined Flynn on Trump’s national security transition team.

The Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with Mueller’s investigation, that the FBI is “preparing to interview consultants” hired by Flynn to work on the Gulen documentary.

The report noted that, in May, one freelance journalist hired by Flynn to film interviews for the documentary claimed to have been told by Flynn to keep his company’s involvement secret.

“He said: ‘We don’t want anyone to know the Flynn Intel Group has anything to do with this,” the journalist, Dave Enders, said.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the Journal reported that the FBI has contacted Enders and another journalist hired for the project, Rudi Bakhtiar, “to ask them about their roles in the venture.”

Bakhtiar told the Journal in May that Flynn misled her about the project.

“He never said ‘We’re going to make a documentary that’s going to crush Gulen,'” she told the Journal. “I never would have done it.”

The Friday report added: “Others who have already spoken to the FBI have said that investigators have been asking detailed questions about Kian, former vice chair of the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group.”

Edorgan’s demand that Gulen be extradited to Turkey — the cleric stands accused of inciting an attempted coup, an accusation he denies — has so far been rejected by the United States.

The New York Times first reported Thursday that Flynn’s lawyers had ceased communicating with President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Mueller’s expansive investigation, hinting at the possibility that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller.

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