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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

Newly minted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci apologized “for the 50th time” Friday for calling his new boss, President Donald Trump, “another hack politician.” 

“I know you’ve been one of the President’s strongest supporters for a while now,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl said at the first on-camera White House press briefing since June 29. “But does he know what you said about him back in 2015 when you said he was a hack politician?”

“He brings it up every 15 seconds, OK?” Scaramucci said, responding to Karl. “One of the biggest mistakes that I made because I was an unexperienced person in the world of politics. I was supporting another candidate.”

“I should have never said that about him, so, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that,” he continued. “But here’s the wonderful thing about the news media. That was three minutes of my life. He’s never forgotten it, and you’ve never forgotten it. But I hope one day, Mr. President, you’ll forget it.”

Scaramucci had called Trump the name in response a comment from the then-candidate that, compared to builders, “these hedge fund guys, they move around papers.”

Watch below via NBC News:

President Donald Trump thanked Sean Spicer for his service as press secretary and welcomed new communications director Anthony Scaramucci to the administration in two statements read aloud by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press briefing Friday, the first on-camera briefing since June 29.

Hours earlier, Sean Spicer resigned from the press secretary job, reportedly as a response to Scaramucci’s appointment.

On Spicer:

I am grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people. I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings. Sean will continue to serve the administration through August, and the President has also appointed Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.

On Scaramucci:

Anthony is a person I have great respect for, and he will be an important addition to this administration. He’s been a great supporter and will now help implement key aspects of our agenda while leading the communications team. We have accomplished so much and we are being given credit for so little. The good news is the people get it, even if the media doesn’t.

The investor and Trump fundraiser Anthony Scaramucci has been hired to lead the White House’s communications department, according to multiple reports.

The unconventional move sparked the resignation of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. It also trigged outrage from chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to NBC News.

So who is Anthony Scaramucci, and why was he appointed to a job for which it appears he has no qualifications in the traditional sense?

Scaramucci founded the investment firm SkyBridge Capital in 2005, to relative success. His SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, or SALT, brought together major hedge fund managers and investors every year in Las Vegas.

He’s a frequent sparring partner on cable news shows. Back in December, he compared climate change science to flat Earth theory, even though Scaramucci is to the left of most of the Trump administration on climate change. More recently, Scaramucci complained that journalists are “nosy” and “throw eggs.”

He has branched out into other ventures as well, like opening a gaudy restaurant that appeared almost genetically engineered for lavish New York Post coverage.

In May 2016, Scaramucci took a risk on Trump, joining his national finance committee and stepping away from a tight pack of Republican uber-fundraisers who, up to that point, had largely steered clear of the Trump campaign.

“I am on board and will support and raise money for him,” he said, the Washington Post reported. “I will do whatever I can to support our Republican nominee.”

Scaramucci hadn’t always been on the Trump team: a year earlier, he called Trump a “hack” for trashing hedge fund managers, in a monologue dripping with Wall Street testosterone.

Among the visitors to Trump Tower in the weeks after the shocking November election results, Scaramucci sold SkyBridge capital in January, fueling rumors he was being considered for a position — though none was specified at the time — in the Trump administration.

And the rumors came: For job after job, unnamed sources prodded news outlets with assurances that, this time, “the Mooch” had found his way into the Trump administration.

In February, he was going to be the White House’s liaison to the business community, until he wasn’t. In April, he said: “Fingers crossed, hopefully my deal is going to close shortly.”

In June, reporters asserted with more certainty that he would join the leadership team at the Export-Import Bank.

Earlier this summer, Scaramucci was also briefly embroiled in the cyclone of talk about “fake news” after CNN published, and then retracted, a story about him meeting with the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

As communications director, Scaramucci will take his cable-news-guest chops to the most important public relations job in government, and it’s not clear he has what it takes.

The office’s Obama-era occupant, Dan Pfieffer, did not return TPM’s requests for comment on Scaramucci’s appointment. But he made his doubts well known on Twitter:

Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary Friday morning, the New York Times first reported. Spicer told President Donald Trump he disagreed with New York investor Anthony Scaramucci’s appointment as White House communications director, according to the report.

The resignation, the Times reported, came very shortly after Trump offered Scaramucci the job.

Spicer said it had been “an honor & a privilege” to serve in the position in a statement on Twitter:

Spicer’s debut at the Brady Briefing Room podium was a tumultuous one: In his first appearance before the American people, he berated the press for their coverage of the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and angrily — and incorrectly — said that “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

As of late, Spicer has been largely sidelined at briefings by deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And briefings have increasingly gone off-camera, with transcripts of exchanges and audio being published only after the briefings end.

The Times reported that Trump asked Spicer to say in the administration, but that “Mr. Spicer told Mr. Trump that he believed the appointment was a major mistake, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange.”

The former White House communications director, Mike Dubke, resigned from the post in May, though he did not specify why to reporters.

Scaramucci has been under consideration for a variety of roles in the Trump White House, most recently as senior vice president and chief strategy officer of the Export-Import Bank.

In an earlier episode, when White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reportedly encouraged Scaramucci to withdraw his name as a potential director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, Spicer was curt with reporters asking about the mix-up.

“It wasn’t announced,” he told Politico, referring to the reported job offer for Scaramucci. “I never said that he had a job.”

Scaramucci was a loyal fundraiser for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Spicer was communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, and came to the White House with chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC president.

The Times’ Maggie Haberman reported Priebus was “furious” at the turn of events.

Axios reported early Friday morning that Scaramucci’s impending appointment “came as a surprise” to Priebus.

This post has been updated.

Every former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office wrote to congressional leadership Friday with a simple message: step off.

The office, a frequent punching bag for Republicans amid their repeated failed efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, came under additional scrutiny after a series of failures in the Senate to collect enough votes even to hold a vote on the repeal effort, at least for now.

“The undersigned represent every former Director of the Congressional Budget Office,” the former officials wrote. “We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency’s role in the legislative process.”

Congressional Republicans have sent draft bill after draft bill to the CBO in recent weeks, though the resulting analyses have never shown Republicans’ desired results of expanded care and lower prices.

The office’s most recent estimate found that a slightly revised Senate repeal effort — even without an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to allow the sale of deregulated insurance plans — would result in 22 million people without health coverage in 10 years.  On Wednesday, a CBO analysis found that a simple “repeal-and-delay” bill would result in 32 million fewer people without coverage over the next decade.

Republicans have, consistent with a months-long pattern, attempted to discredit the analyses.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the 22 million number “bogus” on Thursday, asserting that many people would choose not to buy insurance without an Obamacare mandate incentivizing the purchase. However, the CBO estimated most coverage losses would come from cuts to Medicaid.

And Senate leadership turned to the Department of Health and Human Services — reportedly with the help of the consulting firm McKinsey — to score Cruz’s amendment. The analysis has been widely criticized.

Perhaps most notably, the official White House Twitter account reposted a video critical of the CBO, hammering home the theme “faulty numbers = faulty results.”

The former CBO directors seemed to indirectly reference the video in their letter, writing that the office works “for the Congress, and only the Congress.”

“CBO began serving the Congress in 1975,” they wrote. “Over the past 42 years CBO has been firmly committed to providing nonpartisan and high-quality analysis — and that commitment remains as strong and effective today as it has been in the past. Because CBO works for the Congress, and only the Congress, the agency’s analysis addresses the unique needs of legislators.”

Read the former CBO directors’ full letter here, or below:

Dear Mr. Speaker, Madam Leader, Mr. Majority Leader, and Mr. Minority Leader:

The undersigned represent every former Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency’s role in the legislative process.

CBO began serving the Congress in 1975. Over the past 42 years CBO has been firmly committed to providing nonpartisan and high-quality analysis — and that commitment remains as strong and effective today as it has been in the past. Because CBO works for the Congress, and only the Congress, the agency’s analysis addresses the unique needs of legislators.

To meet the standard of nonpartisan objectivity, CBO makes no recommendations about policy, regularly consults with researchers and practitioners with a wide range of views (as can be seen in the agency’s panels of advisers and reviewers for major studies), and enhances its transparency by releasing extensive descriptions of its analytic techniques and forecast record. To produce estimates of high quality, CBO uses its detailed understanding of federal programs and economic conditions, ongoing interactions with government officials and private-sector experts, the best academic research, and the latest available data consistent with the timing of the Congressional budget process.

CBO’s approach produces consistent comparisons of competing legislative proposals and unbiased projections of the impact of policy changes. Unfortunately, even nonpartisan and high-quality analysis cannot always generate accurate estimates. Policy changes are often complex, the economy is dynamic and defies precise prediction, and many policies are modified over time. However, such analysis does generate estimates that are more accurate, on average, than estimates or guesses by people who are not objective and not as well informed as CBO’s analysts.

In sum, relying on CBO’s estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress — and the American people — very well during the past four decades. As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress’s decades-long reliance on CBO’s estimates in developing and scoring bills.

Sincerely,

Dan L. Crippen
Former Executive Director, National Governors Association (CBO Director, 1999–2003)

Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School (CBO Director, 2009–2015)

Douglas Holtz-Eakin
President, American Action Forum (CBO Director, 2003–2005)

June E. O’Neill
Wollman Distinguished Professor Of Economics, The City University of New York (CBO Director, 1995–1999)

Peter R. Orszag
Vice Chairman of Investment Banking and Managing Director, Lazard (CBO Director, 2007–2008)

Rudolph G. Penner
Institute Fellow, Urban Institute (CBO Director, 1983–1987)

Robert D. Reischauer
Distinguished Institute Fellow and President Emeritus, Urban Institute (CBO Director, 1989–1995)

Alice M. Rivlin
Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution (CBO Director, 1975–1983)

Ousted U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara speculated Thursday night about the fallout of President Donald Trump’s potential decision to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Washington Post and New York Times reported Thursday that Trump aides are digging up dirt on Mueller, perhaps to build a case for firing him.

In an interview with the Times Wednesday, Trump said it would cross a line if Mueller began investigating his family’s business dealings unrelated to the Russia probe. The special counsel is reportedly doing just that.

Bharara, who himself was fired by the President even though Trump promised the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York that he would keep his job, expressed concern that the rule of law itself would be under siege were Mueller to be fired.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised the possibility that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met more than three times at the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

In an interview with Lavrov that aired Friday, NBC News’ Keir Simmons went over the three known meetings between the leaders: a quick photo-op, a two-hour closed-door conversation accompanied by both countries’ foreign ministers and translators, and a third meeting, only recently reported, between Trump, Putin and a Russian translator during a dinner of world leaders.

The Washington Post and other outlets reported Trump and Putin spoke for an hour at the dinner. The White House minimized the importance of the meeting and Trump told the New York Times Wednesday that “[i]t was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things.”

“Maybe they went to the toilet together, that was a fourth time,” Lavrov joked to Simmons, interrupting him as he listed the meetings.

“That’s my question,” Simmons responded. “Did they meet other times? In the hallways? Were there other occasions when they met?”

“When you are brought by your parents to kindergarten, do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to start going to a classroom?” Lavrov asked.

“It’s the G20, though, not a kindergarten,” Simmons said.

“There is also a room where they get together before an event starts,” Lavrov responded. “They cannot arrive all at the same time on the bus.”

Watch below via NBC News:

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions still has the confidence of President Donald Trump, as far as she knows. But she said that the President is “disappointed” in Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from issues related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In an interview with the New York Times Thursday, Trump said it was “very unfair” for Sessions to have recused himself in March following revelations that he had indeed met with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the campaign, after telling the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings that he had not met with any Russian nationals.

“As the President said yesterday, he was disappointed in the Attorney General Session’s decision to recuse himself,” Sanders said in an off-camera press briefing, according to a transcript provided by the White House.

She added: “But clearly he has confidence in him, or he would not be the attorney general.”

Sanders said later she didn’t know whether Trump and Sessions had spoken during the past 24 hours. In March, asked if he thought Sessions should have recused himself, Trump said: “I don’t think so at all.

Sessions said earlier Thursday that he would continue to serve in the position as long as it was “appropriate.”

“Sarah, can I follow up on that one?” a reporter asked. “You said the President has confidence in the attorney general. Does the President believe that the attorney general serves the President or the Constitution?”

“I believe that the President — I think that’s kind of a both,” Sanders said. “Obviously, the attorney general’s job is to follow and uphold the Constitution. But also, every member of the Cabinet and the administration serves at the pleasure of the President.”

One reporter asked about Trump’s comment to the Times, that if Sessions had told him ahead of time that he would have to recuse himself from matters related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election — even though Sessions announced his recusal in March — Trump would not have offered him the job in the first place.

“So does he regret now in retrospect appointing Jeff Sessions?” the reporter asked.

“I haven’t asked him specifically,” Sanders replied.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Thursday that the latest Congressional Budget Office analysis of Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace Obamacare “makes clear (once again): no amount of tweaks, modifications or giveaways Senate Republicans make or add to their health care bill can change the fact that the bill is rotten at its core and would leave millions of Americans worse off.”

Schumer was responding to a Thursday CBO estimate that 22 million fewer people would have health coverage under the proposed repeal versus current law in 10 years.

The CBO score did not reflect Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) proposed amendment to allow insurers to sell unregulated plans, but it did reflect the bill’s deep, longterm cuts to Medicaid.

The most recent Republican effort, which so far does not have the votes necessary to be debated in the Senate, does include slightly more funding for opioid programs and state-based efforts to insure low-income people, at least relative to previous Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Read Schumer’s full statement below:

“The latest CBO report makes clear (once again): no amount of tweaks, modifications or giveaways Senate Republicans make or add to their health care bill can change the fact that the bill is rotten at its core and would leave millions of Americans worse off. The Republican plan would jack up out-of-pocket costs for middle-class families under the guise of lower premiums and deficit reduction – a slippery way to cut off millions of Americans’ access to health care, including Medicaid and destroy the marketplaces. Democrats in the Senate remain eager to work with Republicans to pass real solutions to lower premiums, stabilize the market and improve coverage for millions of Americans.

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