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

More Russians than previously reported participated in a meetings in the Seychelles days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to a report from New Jersey Advance Media.

One meeting on the Indian Ocean archipelago — between Blackwater founder Erik Prince, de facto United Arab Emirates leader Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Putin-connected Russian sovereign wealth fund director Kirill Dmitriev (pictured above) — has attracted special counsel Robert Mueller’s attention.

Around the same time, according to the Monday afternoon report, “several Russians” participated in meetings in the Seychelles that have also earned Mueller’s scrutiny. The outlet, which publishes several New Jersey newspapers including The Star-Ledger, cited flight logs and several unnamed sources with knowledge of the meetings.

The other meetings “focused generally on Syria, energy and sanctions,” the report said, and included participants from “Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the U.S.,” according to three unnamed sources and flight logs. Citing several unnamed sources, the report states that “several” Russians participated in meetings on lifting U.S. sanctions against the country, a top priority of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s, as well as a large group of sanctioned Russian government officials, oligarchs and others in the country’s elite.

The report specifically examined an aircraft supposedly owned by Russian lawmaker and billionaire Andrei Skoch.

According to the report, on Jan. 10, Skoch’s plane departed from Moscow, stopped in Dubai, landed in the Seychelles and then flew back to Dubai. “Several days later,” it landed again in the Seychelles and then departed with 16 passengers on Jan. 19.

Two unnamed sources “with knowledge of the meetings” said “several” of the individuals on that final flight “participated directly in meetings that focused on international trade and sanctions,” in the report’s words. The outlet previously reported that passengers on the plane stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel where the meetings took place.

Read New Jersey Advance Media’s full report here.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), without mentioning President Donald Trump by name, said Tuesday that “there should be no doubt” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The question came a day after Trump made a different assertion — that he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would’ve interfered, and that he had “confidence” in both Putin and the the American intelligence community’s (clashing) claims about meddling.

At a press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked if Ryan would give Trump’s press conference the same grade he’d once given former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, “catastrophically weak.”

Ryan didn’t answer that specific question, instead saying, “We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russia aggression.”

Putin, he said, doesn’t share American “interests” or “values.”

“We just conducted a year-long investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections,” Ryan continued. “They did interfere in our elections, it’s really clear. There should be no doubt about that. It’s also clear that it didn’t have a material effect on our elections.”

Ryan noted the “tough sanctions” Congress had passed in response to the meddling.

“I understand the desire, and the need, to have good relations,” he said. “That’s perfectly reasonable. But Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests, and it does not share our values.”

The speaker separately mentioned “those GRU officers” who were recently charged in relation to the hacking and theft of Democratic emails during the campaign.

“I’ve already seen the intelligence, they were the people that conducted this cyberattack on our elections.”

He did “not” agree with former CIA Director John Brennan’s assessment that Trump’s press conference was “treasonous,” Ryan said.

“I have not spoken to him,” he said, asked about Trump again.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to defend the theft of Democratic emails somewhat in an interview Monday — while continuing to deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 American election — by saying the emails were real and not fabricated.

“Russia, as a state, has never interfered with the internal affairs of the United States, let alone its elections,” Putin told Fox News’ Chris Wallace through a translator, repeating a consistent claim. He added: “Do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States, and influenced the choice of millions of Americans? This is utterly ridiculous.”

Wallace stopped him. “I’m not asking whether they influenced, I’m asking whether they tried.”

The idea was about hacking an email account of a Democratic candidate,” Putin responded. “Was it some rigging of facts? Was it some forgery of facts? That’s the important point that I am trying to make. Was this any false information planted? No, it wasn’t.”

The Russian leader noted that some of the emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and later published online revealed Democratic Party officials who were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton, despite the party not making an endorsement in the primary.

Wallace interjected: “You’re indicating that they stole real money, not counterfeit money. So are you saying it’s okay because the facts that they took from the DNC, from John Podesta, it was their real emails so it’s okay to hack, and spread this information out and interfere with the election?”

“The information that I am aware of, there’s nothing false about it,” Putin said, not answering Wallace’s question. He moved on, urging special counsel Robert Mueller to formally request Russia’s investigative help in the probe into Russian election meddling.

Watch below:

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday moved to pause Sinclair Broadcast Group’s massive $3.9 billion Tribune Media Co. acquisition, putting a deal to expand the conservative local broadcasting behemoth in danger.

At issue, Pai said on Twitter, is whether Sinclair’s proposed divestitures of some stations are in reality a ploy for the company to maintain control of the stations. Pai said the divestitures could allow Sinclair “to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.”

The proposed deal would transfer Tribune’s 42 stations to Sinclair’s ownership, adding to the company’s existing 173 stations. Tribune’s stations cover huge markets including New York and Chicago.

Sinclair has said it will sell off some stations to avoid becoming too big and breaching an FCC cap. But many of the potential future owners of those stations are closely tied to Sinclair leadership. (Pai has supported eliminating the ownership cap as chairman, leading to an inspector general’s probe into whether he improperly coordinated his support with Sinclair.)

Pai’s move to send the issue to an administrative judge for review, the Wall Street Journal reported, could spell trouble for the entire deal. The decision meant “likely doom” for the acquisition, Politico said.

In March, Sinclair made headlines — literally — when it required that newscasters at its stations read a so-called “must run” script warning of the dangers of “biased and false news” and “fake stories.”

“Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think,’” the must-run script, written by Sinclair higher-ups, read. “This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.”

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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said Monday that it was “fair” for President Donald Trump “to cast doubt” on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election while Trump stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference Monday.

Referencing FBI agent Peter Strzok’s recent congressional testimony, and the “downgrading of Hillary Clinton’s criminal activity,” Issa said “for the President to cast doubt is not unreasonable.”

At the same time, he said, “we take those charges seriously, and so I personally would neither rule in nor rule out the validity of a very interesting and odd-timed indictment of people who can never be brought to justice, and for whom there’s even a question of, how do we know? Did we use spy technique in order to find out? Did we hack them in order to find out who they were?”

Issa called Putin “evil” and Russia an “adverse entity to the United States.”

“We don’t extradite our spies,” Issa said, asked if he was upset Trump didn’t ask Putin to hand over the 12 Russian intelligence officers recently charged in the course of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. “And vice versa,” he added.

“At the same time,” he said, “I want to see the information in those indictments go forward.”

“Let’s flesh this out and see if it’s real,” he added.

Watch below via CNN:

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Joe Walsh, the former Illinois Republican congressman who endorsed arming toddlers recently, said Monday that he’d never support President Donald Trump after seeing Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He called Trump a “traitor.”

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President Donald Trump evaded and went on unrelated tangents Monday when asked if he believed American intelligence agencies’ assessments that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

“Who do you believe?” the Associated Press’ Jonathan Lemire asked, after referring to Putin and the intelligence community’s clashing assertions.

Trump responded in part by saying “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia],” adding that he had “confidence in both parties” — that is, the intelligence community and Putin.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said later.

In between, he dipped and dodged by citing a number of unrelated stories, including the emails Hillary Clinton erased from her personal email server, and a debunked connection to a House Democratic staffer, who Trump referred to as “the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC,” and who federal prosecutors determined had no connection to the stolen Democratic emails.

Watch below:

Correction: This post initially misidentified the Associated Press journalist who asked Trump a question. He is Jonathan Lemire, not Lanier. TPM regrets the error.

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President Donald Trump said in a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election “is a disaster for our country.”

“I think it’s kept us apart,” Trump continued. “It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”

He’d been asked about a tweet of his from earlier in the day that the Mueller probe was to blame for the strained tensions between the United States and Russia — notably leaving out Russia’s alleged election meddling.

“Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?” Reuters’ Jeff Mason had asked.

Trump added: “People are being brought out to the fore. So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.”

Trump said he’d run a “clean campaign.”

“We won that race,” he said. “It’s a shame that there could even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it.”

He said the “main thing” — “we discussed this also,” he noted, referring to Putin — “is zero collusion.”

“It has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world,” he concluded. “We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”

Watch below:

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Writer and activist Sam Husseini was forcibly removed Monday from the venue of the joint press conference between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, shortly before the press conference began.

Norman Solomon, the founder and director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where Husseini has served as communications director for two decades, confirmed the news to TPM in an email.

“About your question on why he was removed from the room,” Solomon added, “You’d need to address that one to the people who caused him to be removed. As a journalist, I believe that journalists should endeavor to ask questions.”

The Nation confirmed to TPM earlier Monday that Husseini had received press credentials for the event from the magazine.

“Sam Husseini, communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, received press accreditation from The Nation to cover the summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki,” the Nation’s Caitlin Graf told TPM in an email.

“At a time when this administration consistently denigrates the media, we’re troubled by reports that he was forcibly removed from the press conference before the two leaders began to take questions. This is a developing situation that we will be following closely,” Graf added.

Husseini was holding a sign that read “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty” at the time of his removal. “I want to ask a question about this issue” Husseini is heard saying in a recording of the incident.

Husseini said in a tweet hours after he was dragged out of the venue that he “just got out of detention.”

“I was held for a time by Finnish authorities at Presidential Palace and then manhandled and cuffed on hands and legs to detention facility,” he wrote. “They wouldn’t call my family to tell them I was unharmed.”

This post has been updated. 

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President Donald Trump on Saturday called the European Union a “foe” of the United States.

In the interview with Trump, parts of which were aired on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, CBS’ Jeff Glor asked, “Who’s your biggest competitor? Your biggest foe, globally, right now?”

“Well, I think we have a lot of foes,” Trump said. “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.”

He continued: “Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe, economically certainly they’re a foe. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they’re competitors. They want to do well, and we want to do well.”

Asked about people “surprised” to hear the EU come before Russia and China, Trump responded that “the EU is very difficult.”

The President also lied about his parents, saying that both “were born in EU sectors.” His mother was born in Scotland, he said accurately, and “my father was Germany.”

In fact, Trump’s father was born in New York City. His father’s parents were both born in Bavaria.

Trump also repeated his attack, premiered at the recent NATO summit, against the planned gas pipeline between Germany and Russia.

“What are they, waving a white flag?” he said of Germany.

Elsewhere in the interview, Trump said he had low expectations of his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that he “hadn’t thought” to ask Putin to extradite the 12 Russians indicted Friday on charges related to the campaign-era hacking and theft of Democratic emails.

The President on Sunday also repeated his attack that journalists are the “enemy of the people.”

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