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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

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was celebrating the passage of a bill to lower the fees required to carry a handgun in the state when he reportedly joked about shooting reporters.

“I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” Abbott joked, according to the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek, as he showed his work on a target sheet riddled with bullet holes.

A spokesman for the governor, John Wittman, told TPM over the phone to email him about the story. He has yet to respond to written questions.

Abbott’s remark came barely a day after then-candidate for Congress Greg Gianforte allegedly body slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs after Jacobs pressed him about Republicans’ health care bill. Gianforte was later charged with misdemeanor assault.

Some on the right have found the alleged assault comedic, even laudable.

In immediate aftermath of the alleged assault, Gianforte’s campaign released a statement at odds with Jacobs’ audio recording of the event, blaming Jacobs for creating “this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.” After he won the election the following night, however, Gianforte issued a vague apology to Jacobs.

Hillary Clinton believes she would have won the 2016 election if not for the “unprecedented attacks” by former FBI Director James Comey and Russian hackers.

The former senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate was blunt in interviews for a lengthy New York Magazine profile published Friday.

Clinton didn’t back away from her heavily criticized analysis of the election in early May — that then-FBI Director James Comey’s last-minute intervention in the election swung a critical mass of undecided voters to Donald Trump’s side. “If the election had been on October 27,” she said at the time, “I’d be your president.”

“I would have won had I not been subjected to the unprecedented attacks by Comey and the Russians, aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” she told New York in the new profile.

Criticism of Wisconsin’s strict voter ID laws has gained steam in recent months after a series of reports on the hundreds of thousands of people in that state who did not have sufficient identification to vote.

Clinton also reflected on the sexism, blatant and not, she faced as by far the most successful female candidate for president in American history.

“Once I moved from serving someone — a man, the president — to seeking that job on my own, I was once again vulnerable to the barrage of innuendo and negativity and attacks that come with the territory of a woman who is striving to go further,” she said, noting that her approval rating had been 69 percent as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

One particularly difficult moment, she recalled, came during the second presidential debate. News outlets noted afterward that Trump had frequently stalked behind Clinton as she walked around a staged town hall floor, answering questions.

“[W]hat he was doing was so … uh …” she began, pausing. “So personally invasive: following me, eyeing me.”

Clinton decided that addressing the situation in the moment — “Get away from me!” — would have delivered Trump a victory.

“I saw him destroy all of his Republican opposition who eventually tried to confront him on a debate stage and he reacted with such contempt. He will gain points, and I will lose points,” she said.

Still, Clinton noted, Trump had won the debate among his most macho fans.

“But I also ended up with him really satisfying a lot of his potential voters. One of these guys, I can’t remember who, said, ‘Oh, he was the alpha male! He was the big gorilla in the …’ — whatever they call gorilla groups!” she said. “I think that for people already committed to him, they loved it.”

New York noted that commentary came from Nigel Farage, the Brexit cheerleader, who compared Trump to a silverback gorilla.

Interestingly, Clinton seemed to confirm former President George W. Bush’s pointed commentary on Trump’s inaugural address, in which the President declared: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Three unnamed sources told New York in January that Bush remarked afterward: “That was some weird shit.”

Did he say that? the magazine asked Clinton.

“Put it in your article,” she said. “They tried to walk back from it, but…”

Did she hear it herself? New York’s Rebecca Traister asked.

She transcribed Clinton’s response: “She raises her eyebrows and grins.”

If it’s Friday, it’s time to analyze another round of the President of the United States’ domineering handshakes.

Trump has spent much of his young presidency’s photo-ops seemingly attempting to literally pull concessions out of his foreign counterparts, stretching elbows and triggering some grimaces along the way.

Thursday brought a new twist in Trump’s handshake hall of fame: the President met his match.

Appearing in a photo-op with the investment-banker-turned-French-President Emmanuel Macron, Trump found himself in a stone faced, white-knuckled stand-off. He attempted to release his hand not once, not twice, but three times. Macron, barely containing a triumphant smile, finally let go.

“They shook hands for an extended period of time,” the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker wrote in a pool report. “Each president gripped the other’s hand with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening.”

The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart took credit for warning France’s ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, about Trump’s gamesmanship.

“‘Did you warn him about Trump’s handshakes?’ my philanthropist friend asked,” Capehart wrote Friday, recalling a party on Monday night. “A look of surprise popped on Araud’s face as he inquired what exactly did that mean. Both of us told him about Trump’s affinity for the alpha male, grab-and-pull power pump that always seemed to reduce the other person to a rag doll. Forewarned, Araud said he would alert Macron.”

Macron later head-faked Trump, choosing instead to greet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and then, crossing back to his right, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, before turning to the American President.

Macron subsequently posted the evidence online:

Trump’s tough guy greeting ritual is by now well known. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch offered an example when, as the President introduced him to the world as his nominee to the high court, Trump vigorously yanked on his arm.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rolled his eyes theatrically in response to a similar treatment.

But other world leaders have held their own, perhaps most notably Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Former House Speaker John Boehner engaged in some schadenfreude Wednesday at the setbacks experienced by the Trump administration.

Boehner resigned the speakership in 2015 and promptly joined the board of Reynolds American Inc., the tobacco company, and lobbying giant Squire Patton Boggs as a strategic adviser.

In an interview at the KPMG Global Energy Conference reported by industry publication Rigzone, Boehner expressed a familiar relief at trading government for corporate work.

“I wake up every day, drink my morning coffee and say hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,” he said.

“Everything else he’s done [in office] has been a complete disaster,” Boehner said, referring to President Donald Trump. “He’s still learning how to be president.”

Boehner added, referring to Trump entering the presidency, that he “just never envisioned him in that role.” He suggested the President not be allowed to tweet overnight, the publication said.

Rigzone failed to note that Squire Patton Boggs represents oodles of health care interests. But it included Boehner’s response to Republicans’ tumultuous attempts to repeal Obamacare: Trump “did what he could” with health care, Boehner said, but he should have focused on repairing Obamacare, rather than repealing and replacing it.

The publication quoted many of Boehner’s response verbatim.  You can read them here.

Text messages show that Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke ordered his deputies to question a man for not keeping his “mouth shut” with him as he boarded a plane on Jan. 15.

“Just a field interview, no arrest unless he becomes an asshole with you guys,” one text message from Clarke to a deputy reads. “Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut? Follow him to baggage and out the door”

The messages, provided by the attorney representing the man Clarke had ordered detained, Dan Black, were published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday.

Black alleged in a February lawsuit against Clarke and his deputies that, as he boarded a plane to Milwaukee, he ran into a seated Clarke decked out in Dallas Cowboys gear but without his signature cowboy hat. Black asked if Clarke was the Milwaukee sheriff. Clarke affirmed that he was, to which Black, a Bernie Sanders supporter, shook his head. Clarke asked Black if he had a problem. Black shook his head no.

Clarke’s attorneys’ account of the exchange roughly matches Black’s.

After the flight landed at Mitchell International Airport, two sheriff’s deputies confronted Black. They questioned him about the exchange and, eventually, escorted him directly out of the airport.

But the incident didn’t end there. On its Facebook page, three days after the incident, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office posted a link to Black’s account and responded to it:

Sheriff Clarke commented on complaint sent to the media:Next time he or anyone else pulls this stunt on a plane they…

Posted by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The next day, the same page posted a meme featuring Black:

Sheriff Clarke regrets that he cannot attend this juvenile, leftist, anti-cop tantrum. He is pleased that he has their…

Posted by Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, January 19, 2017

Federal prosecutors decided in early May not to press charges. A county audit of the incident — which began in January, and with which Clarke has been predictably uncooperative — is on hold, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Clarke, a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump, claimed on May 17 that he had been offered a position in the Department of Homeland Security. But no one in the federal government has confirmed that to TPM, despite repeated requests for comment, nor to other outlets.

Wisconsin’s budget committee on Thursday approved Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) proposal to make it the first state in the nation to require a drug test for Medicaid recipients, among other regulations.

The Joint Finance Committee approved the measure, and several others, to be included in the state’s budget this summer.

The committee also approved of Walker’s proposals to require drug tests for adults without dependents who receive food stamps and are applying for coverage with the state’s BadgerCare program, which aims to insure people ineligible for Medicaid, and his proposal to expand the state’s food stamp work requirement to include parents — but only to certain regions of the state at first, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The paper noted that all of the proposals, including monthly premiums for childless adults enrolled in the state’s BadgerCare program, require federal approval.

Critics of drug testing for public programs say it does little to catch or deter drug use, nor to save tax dollars.

In 2012, an attempt to drug test welfare in Florida was found to have cost more than it saved in denied welfare funds to drug users — and that was before the costly lawsuits that followed.

A 2015 analysis from ThinkProgress found that tested welfare recipients used drugs at lower rates than the general population.

President Donald Trump briefly congratulated Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte during his trip abroad Friday.

“Great win in Montana,” he told news photographers, according to a pool report.

Vice President Mike Pence added his congratulations on Twitter

Gianforte won the special election to the fill the seat of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Thursday night, just a day after allegedly body slamming Guardian reported Ben Jacobs for asking questions about the GOP’s health bill.

Gianforte’s campaign originally contradicted the reporter’s account of the assault, blaming “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist” for creating “this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

At his victory party, however, Gianforte issued a vague apology.

“Last night I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can’t take back,” he said. “And I’m not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did, and for that I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have treated that reporter that way, and for that, I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.”

This post has been updated.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke expressed uncertainty over whether he would end up serving in the Trump administration in two recent interviews, citing CNN’s reporting on plagiarism in his master’s degree thesis paper as an attempt to intimidate him personally and undermine the administration’s confidence in him.

CNN reported Saturday that Clarke had quoted sources directly without using quotation marks 47 times in his 2013 thesis.

“They’re saying certain words and phrases I should have put quotation marks around. OK, alright, fine,” Clarke acknowledged in an appearance on “The Sid and Bernie Show” Tuesday morning, CNN noted. He called the network’s reporting “a political smear.”

“This is designed to intimidate me,” he said. “It’s designed to try to weaken the confidence that President Trump has in me, that Secretary Kelly has in me.”

In a separate interview flagged by CNN, with Joe Pags, Clarke said, “I’m in a political environment, sometimes political decisions are made.”

“President Donald Trump has to do what’s in the best interest of his administration,” continued. “And they’ve cut people loose before, I don’t know why. So time will tell.”

Clarke would be an alarming choice to work in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Partnerships and Engagement, which coordinates federal outreach with local stakeholders.

Clarke claimed on May 17 that he had been offered a job at DHS, but the department posted on its Twitter account the same day that “Sr. positions are announced when made official by the Sec. No such announcement w/ regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.”

DHS officials have not responded on multiple occasions to TPM’s questions about any possible job offers extended to Clarke.

Four people in Clarke’s custody died in a over a period of six months in 2016, including the infant daughter of Shadé Swayzer, who was arrested when she was more than eight months pregnant, and Terrill Thomas, who died of dehydration seven days after jailers shut off water to his cell.

On May 1, a jury recommended charges be brought against seven Milwaukee County Jail officials in relation to Thomas’ death.

Clarke also has a bit of an authoritarian streak.

On his radio show in 2015, the sheriff offered a simple response to individuals who post material deemed sympathetic to terrorism on social media: “[S]coop them up, charge them with treason and, under habeas corpus, detain them indefinitely at Gitmo.”

“We have no idea how many people out there have pledged allegiance or are supporting ISIS, giving aid and comfort, but I would suggest hundreds of thousands, I would suggest maybe a million,” he added.

To track down terrorism suspects, he suggested separately, America needs “a wholly independent structure entity, which reports directly to the White House.”

In October, he wrote on Twitter that it was “Pitchforks and torches time,” after commenting, “our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt.”

He included an image of a violent mob:

Melania Trump is, for now, a viral sensation.

The supermodel-turned-first-lady is making waves online this week for what appear to be two snubs of her husband in as many days.

Evaluate the evidence for yourself.

Social media users, ever eager for any hint of trouble in the executive residence, came to their own conclusions.

Holding hands.

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday that he hoped fewer people received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a result of President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, suggesting that some SSDI recipients were not “really disabled.”

He said the proposal was the “definition of compassionate: a compassion that is balanced between the people who get the benefits and the people who pay them.”

Trump’s budget proposal, though widely disregarded by congressional appropriators, would cut $31.4 billion from SSDI over 10 years, according to the Washington Post.

“I recognize that he’s going to be saving Social Security Retirement, but he’s not saving Social Security Disability Insurance, which benefits more than 10 million Americans,” NBC’s Peter Alexander told Mulvaney in a press briefing Tuesday, pointing to Trump’s repeated campaign promises not to cut Social Security. “So is the President keeping his promise on that program?”

Mulvaney argued that SSDI “is not what most people would consider to be Social Security.”

“So will any of those individuals who presently receive SSDI receive less as a result of this budget?” Alexander asked.

“I hope so,” Mulvaney said. “If there are people who are getting SSDI who should not be getting it— “

“Those people who should be getting it — will they receive less?” Alexander interjected.

“Oh no,” Mulvaney said. “If people are really disabled, and there are folks who need this program— ”

Alexander asked how the federal government would determine who shouldn’t be getting SSDI.

Mulvaney said the question was “in the weeds,” but floated a change to “how we pick the administrative law judges,” who render decisions on disability claims.

Applying for SSDI is a multi-step process that can take months or years, after which a majority of applicants are rejected.

“There is fraud, no doubt,” the New York Times‘ Teresa Tritch argued in 2015. “But there is no evidence it is rampant.” Tritch pointed to a telling statistic: “If people on disability were faking it, they wouldn’t have such high death rates.”

“We are not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it,” Mulvaney said. “We have plenty of money in this country to take care of the people who need help. And we will do that. We don’t have enough money to take care of people — everybody who doesn’t need help. So what we try and do is look at these programs, again through the perspective of the people paying for it.”

He compared the proposed SSDI cuts to the enormous proposed cuts to the food stamp program — $193.3 billion over 10 years, or a 28.8 percent reduction, according to the Washington Post.

“If you’re paying for it, isn’t it reasonable for you to at least ask the question: Are there people on that program who shouldn’t be on there?” he asked. “And shouldn’t it be up to the government to make sure we can look folks who are paying the taxes in the eye and say, ‘You know what, we did everything we could to make sure that everybody on SSDI is really disabled’?”

“We don’t think that’s unreasonable,” Mulvaney continued. “In fact, we think that is the definition of compassionate: a compassion that is balanced between the people who get the benefits and the people who pay them.”

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