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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

President Donald Trump’s defunct voter fraud commission requested that the state of Texas identify voters with Hispanic surnames when providing voter data to the commission.

The news was revealed in a Dec. 19 letter and accompanying records from the General Services Administration (GSA) to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), published by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which McCaskill is ranking member. The commission operated under the purview of the GSA.

The request was first reported Monday by the Washington Post.

The news will add to concerns among voting rights advocates that the short-lived commission was aimed at making it more difficult for certain groups, including racial minorities, to vote.

Among the documents: an invoice from the Texas Secretary of State to Ronald Williams II, then a staffer on the commission. In October, Williams left the commission after being charged with multiple counts of possessing and distributing child pornography. 

“Hispanic surname flagged,” the invoice notes.

The Post reported that Texas maintains a list of voters with Hispanic surnames — based on Census Bureau data — in order to determine if bilingual election notices are necessary, as required by law.

The data request was never fulfilled, the Post noted, due to a lawsuit from voting rights advocates in the state that temporarily stopped the transfer. The paper also noted, based on data published by the Texas Monthly, that one in eight Texas voter data requests from January 2015 and July 2017 included flags for Hispanic surnames.

Source: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

The defunct election integrity commission’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, professed ignorance to the Post of any such request.

“It’s a complete surprise to me,” Kobach said, adding: “Mr. Williams did not ask any member of the commission whether he should check that box or not, so it certainly wasn’t a committee decision.”

Kobach said the “information does not, did not advance the commission’s inquiry in any way, and this is the first I’ve heard the Texas files included that.”

He said he didn’t know “what sort of data analysis you would do even remotely relevant to it” and that only requesting such data for one state would render it “useless.”

But a White House official who appeared to have knowledge of the request told the Post, in the publication’s words, “that given the option in Texas, the commission asked to identify Hispanic surnames to resolve data discrepancies or confusion caused by the traditional Spanish naming convention that uses the surnames of both parents.”

The unnamed official added: “There was never a request made to flag people based on their ethnicity. […] That was never asked for, nor is that what this [Texas] response is saying, though I can see why some could read it that way.”

J. Christian Adams, a conservative former commission member who’s spent a career attempting to purge voter roles of suspected fraudulent voters, called the story “a tempest in a teapot,” according to the Post.

But Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the commission when it folded and now a plaintiff in a lawsuit aimed at forcing it to disclose its records, told the Post the request was “shocking.”

“I find it shocking that they would flag voter names by ethnicity or race, to discover what, we don’t know,” he said, adding: “Right now on its face in my view it looks bad, and it looks bad to a lot of people.”

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The watchdog group Common Cause on Monday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department alleging that a payment made to an adult film star to ensure her silence about a sexual encounter with Donald Trump violated campaign finance law.

The actress, Stephanie Clifford, known Stormy Daniels in the industry, reportedly accepted $130,000 in hush money from an LLC established by Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in October 2016. The Wall Street Journal, in two reports, based its reporting on unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Cohen — and Clifford, according to a statement from her provided to the Journal by Cohen — denied that the sexual encounter had taken place. But In Touch magazine, following the Journal’s first report, published a lengthy 2011 interview with Clifford in which she describes the encounter at length.

In a letter accompanying the complaint Monday, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation, Paul S. Ryan, asserted that the reported hush money “was an unreported in-kind contribution to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and an unreported expenditure by the committee — because the funds were paid for the purpose of influencing the 2016 president general election — in violation of the campaign finance reporting requirements” required by law.

Read Common Cause’s complain below:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Republicans who don’t know what kind of funding bill President Donald Trump would be willing to sign simply aren’t paying attention.

“The President has been very clear, George, on exactly what he wants,” Sanders told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Stephanopoulos had asked if Trump would support a guaranteed vote on DACA — the Obama era protection offered to qualified young undocumented people that Trump ended on Sept. 5 — in exchange for a government funding bill.

Sanders didn’t answer the question directly, saying only that “[f]irst and foremost, we have to reopen our government,” and “[a]s soon as that is done, we’re more than happy to negotiate on responsible immigration reform.”

She added: “He wants to make a deal on DACA, so the fact that Democrats are trying to pretend as if that’s something that we haven’t already put on the table is just disingenuous, and frankly it’s a little bit ridiculous of Chuck Schumer.”

Stephanopoulos interjected. It’s not just Democrats saying they don’t know what Trump wants, he said: so have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), among others.

“Then I think maybe sometimes they’re not paying attention,” Sanders replied. “Look, the President has laid out what his priorities are and what his principles are.”

She pointed to the partially televised, bipartisan, bicameral meeting in which Trump said “I’ll take the heat” and sign whatever legislation the lawmakers were able to agree on.

After that meeting, the White House listed four areas for negotiation: a deal on DACA, funding for border security including Trump’s promised border wall, an end to family-based migration (the White House has calls it “chain migration”), and an end to the diversity immigrant visa program.

Sanders took another jab: “I don’t know what’s confusing about that,” she said. “I know that sometimes members like Sen. Schumer need a little help and guidance getting through big policy negotiations like that. But the President has laid out what he wants, and if they need help understand it, we’d be happy to send some people over there to explain it to them.”

“Do you really want to be questioning Sen. Schumer’s knowledge of this legislation?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Look, if he’s unclear about what the President has laid out, then possibly,” Sanders replied. “I think frankly, and sadly, that Sen. Schumer is playing games.”

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President Donald Trump on Friday said he had an “[e]xcellent preliminary meeting” with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to discuss the impending government shutdown. He also voiced his preference for four-week continuing resolution to fund the government, though members of both parties, especially Democrats, have resisted that time frame.

Trump’s assessment of the discussion came two-and-a-half hours after Schumer’s. The Senate minority leader told reporters after leaving the meeting that “We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements.”

Schumer added: “The discussions will continue.”

Democrats — and some Republicans — have mostly held their ground in demanding that a spending bill provide legal protections for young undocumented immigrants.

Trump abruptly ended the DACA program, which protects qualified undocumented immigrants from deportation, on Sept. 5.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday found that far more respondents would blame Trump and congressional Republicans for a government shutdown than Democrats. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday reflected similar sentiments.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Friday after a meeting with President Donald Trump that “[w]e made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements.”

“We had a long and detailed meeting,” Schumer told reporters outside the Oval Office. “We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.”

Trump had called Schumer to the White House Friday to discuss the impending government shutdown, which will occur if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill by midnight Friday.

Democrats and some Republicans have refused to vote for a funding bill that does not include legal protections for undocumented young people. Trump ended DACA, a protection from deportation for qualified undocumented young people, on Sept. 5 last year.

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The White House confirmed on Friday that President Donald Trump will meet with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to discuss the looming government shutdown.

If Congress doesn’t fund the government on Friday, the government will shut down.

MSNBC reported that Schumer was at the White House as of 1:00 p.m. ET Friday.

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Nearly half of Americans would blame President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans in the event of a government shutdown, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday, as the hours ticked until such a shutdown would occur.

Forty-eight percent of respondents to the Washington Post-ABC News poll said Trump and congressional Republicans are mainly responsible for a possible government shutdown, compared to 28 percent who mainly blamed Democrats and 18 percent who said both parties are responsible.

If Congress doesn’t pass a spending measure — even one that funds the government for only a handful of days — on Friday, the government will shut down, leaving federal employees without paychecks until the problem is resolved, in addition to a slew of other ramifications.

Democrats, and some Republicans, have refused to vote for a funding bill that doesn’t include legal protections for young undocumented immigrants.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll shows similar results as one from Quinnipiac University released Thursday, in which 34 percent of respondents said they would blame Democrats for a shutdown, compared to 32 percent who would blame Republicans in Congress and 21 percent who would blame Trump (53 percent would blame Republicans, in other words).

The cell phone and landline ABC-WaPo poll of 1,005 adults was conducted by Abt Associates from Jan. 15-18 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, according to the Washington Post.

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Conservative commentator Mark Steyn told Fox News host Tucker Carlson Thursday that the immigration of Hispanic people into the United States would lead to a “cultural transformation,” and that media figures and Democratic politicians were trying to “[import] a class of citizen that they prefer.”

Carlson began the interview by saying Democrats should be held responsible for a potential government shutdown, due to their insistence that language be included in a funding bill to protect young undocumented people. He cut to tape of CNN’s Chris Cuomo chastising White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah for villainizing undocumented immigrants. Cuomo, Steyn noted, went on to say white supremacists were a bigger threat than immigrants who commit terrorism.

“It’s irrelevant,” Steyn, who was born in Canada, said. “The white supremacists are American citizens. The illegal immigrants are people who shouldn’t be here. And the organizing principle of nation states is that they’re organized on behalf of their citizens, whether their citizens are cheerleaders or white supremacists or whatever. You’re stuck with them.”

“This preference that Nancy Pelosi and Chris Cuomo and increasing people have for actually importing a class of citizen that they prefer to the ones they’re stuck with is actually very revealing,” he said.

“But how can you lead a country whose population you despise?” Carlson replied. It was unclear if he was also referring to white supremacists. “I mean, would you be a good parent if you hated your kids? Would you be an effective officer if you didn’t care about the safety of your men?”

“The Democrats are getting very close to saying foreigners are God’s apology for Americans,” Steyn said.

He added: “Whatever the economic benefits, which are minimal and are not evenly distributed, the cultural transformation, which is what’s happening in Sweden, other parts of Europe, and is what’s happening in Arizona, too, that’s forever.”

“In Arizona, a majority of the grade school children now are Hispanic. That means Arizona’s future is as an Hispanic society. That means, in effect, the border has moved north. And the cultural transformation outweighs any economic benefits that that lady was talking about.”

Carlson seemed to agree. “It’s at the very least bewildering for people who grew up here, and that’s real,” he said. “I don’t think you have to be animated by hate or anything to say, ‘Maybe I should have some say in how my country evolves.’”

The interview marked a banner week for Fox News’ long rising star. Also on Thursday night, Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) claimed that ISIS combatants had crossed the southern border and carried out the Las Vegas shooting massacre. In reality, law enforcement officials hold that Stephen Paddock acted alone on Oct. 1, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.

Last Friday, Carlson took up a favorite white nationalist talking point, musing based Sen. Lindsay Graham’s (R-SC) contention that America is a set of ideals rather than a group of people: “According to Lindsay Graham, you can take our entire population and swap it out for 320 million, I don’t know, Chinese or Indians or Africans or Canadians or people from New Zealand, and the place would be no different, so long as the idea was still there.” 

And on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Fox News host and his millions of viewers: “What good does it do to bring in somebody who is illiterate in their own country, has no skills and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful?”

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Adult film star Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, once claimed that Donald Trump had her spank him with copy of Forbes magazine, Mother Jones reported Thursday. The Forbes magazine in question had Trump on the cover, according to Mother Jones’ source.

The magazine sourced its claim to a conversation between two political consultants — Democrat Andrea Dubé and an unnamed second consultant. The unnamed consultant claimed, in a 2009 email shared with Mother Jones: “She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘shark week.’ Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.”

The story adds to a tabloid-ready narrative that began in the Wall Street Journal and saw its most significant development in a seven-year-old interview with In Touch — published this week in full — in which she said she’d had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Jan. 12 that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had arranged a $130,000 payment to Clifford to stay quiet about the encounter. The paper cited unnamed people familiar with the matter. The Journal reported Thursday, again citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, that Cohen had established an LLC in 2016 called “Essential Consultants” to make the payment.

Cohen denied that the encounter had ever taken place, and gave the Journal a statement from Clifford saying the same.

Read Mother Jones’ report here.

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For a little less than four hours Thursday, President Donald Trump asserted that funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, should not be included in a Republican continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown before Friday.

His position threw a wrench into congressional Republicans’ plans to use CHIP as leverage to gain Democratic votes without including legal protections for young undocumented people in the funding bill, as Democrats have demanded.

Then, at least according to the White House, Trump changed his mind.

“The President supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement to TPM.

“Congress needs to do its job and provide full funding of our troops and military with a two-year budget caps deal. However, as the deal is negotiated, the President wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats,” Shah said.

The Associated Press first reported the change of course.

Trump had initially tweeted that CHIP should not be part of a “short term” extension, leading some to believe he didn’t understand what was in the continuing resolution: while the rest of the resolution funds the government in the short term, CHIP funding would be restored for six years as part of Republicans’ proposal.

The program ran out of funds months ago, and a short-term patch passed in December is already drying up months earlier than projected in some states. 

It seems by midday Thursday, the White House got on board with congressional Republicans’ plan to pressure Democrats by using sick kids as a bargaining lever against undocumented young people.

Neither Shah nor other White House spokespeople answered TPM’s questions about Trump’s sudden change in position.

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