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

A Republican congressman said last week that, were the impacts of climate change to become a “real problem,” God would intervene.

“I believe there’s climate change,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) told constituents at a town hall Friday, as seen in a video of the event posted online. “I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I think there are cycles.”

“Do I think that man has some impact? Yeah, of course,” he continued. “Can man change the entire universe? No. Why do I believe that? As a Christian, I believe that there is a creator, God, who’s much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday that he would announce whether the United States would stay in the Paris climate accord, a landmark agreement reached between nearly every nation on Earth in 2016 to collectively curb emissions.

h/t HuffPost.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Wednesday announced “DeVos Watch,” a hub on her official Senate website to monitor Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as she attempts to make major changes at the department she oversees.

“We’ll raise questions and concerns, and when we get reasonable answers, everybody will benefit from hearing them,” Warren said in a video announcing the effort Wednesday. “And when we don’t, everybody’s going to see that, too.”

Warren, a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), highlighted one such effort: Taylor Hansen, a former lobbyist for a trade group of for-profit colleges, left the Department of Education the same day Warren sent a letter to DeVos asking for information about his hiring and potential conflicts of interest. ProPublica, in its report on Hansen’s resignation about a month after taking the position, noted that he was part of the department’s “beachhead” team, which the publication described as “a group of temporary hires who do not require approval from the U.S. Senate for their appointments.”

Another official mentioned in that letter, Robert Eitel, is still working at the department. On May 22, Warren sent another letter, this time to the department’s designated ethics official, inquiring about Eitel’s adherence to “ethics standards that apply to all federal employees.” Before his hiring, Eitel was a compliance officer at Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit college operator.

Several other letters to the department, beginning in January, appear on DeVos Watch, including one from Democrats in both congressional chambers expressing their concerns over DeVos rescinding Obama-era memos outlining student loan servicing reforms.

DeVos Watch includes an email form for whistleblowers, and an op-ed from Warren published by CNN notes further tools to hold the education secretary accountable, “including Freedom of Information Act requests, public interest litigation by student advocates and state law enforcement officials and investigations by the Department’s nonpartisan Inspector General.”

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Former House Speaker John Boehner walked back his criticism of Donald Trump’s presidency as “a complete disaster” Wednesday morning.

A week ago, Boehner told the KPMG Global Energy Conference that Trump “did what he could” to pass health care legislation.

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

But at another industry conference on Wednesday — this time for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers Employee Leadership Forum — Boehner distanced himself from that criticism, according to Politico.

“Let me address this because some people have gotten carried away in their interpretation of what I said,” he said. “Listen, Donald Trump is my friend. He was my supporter. I play golf with him and frankly I like the President. I voted for him. I want him and frankly I want the country to succeed. But I’ve seen some people write — I think they’ve gotten a little carried away in their interpretation of what I said.”

“I did not say that the President’s policies were a disaster,” he said. “I did not say that the President’s agenda was a disaster. What I was referring to was the execution of the President’s agenda and the President’s policies. And frankly I think there have been a number of missteps, unforced errors that the President has made and I think the White House would agree that they’ve had their share of mistakes as the President learns to be the President.”

That is a largely muted assessment compared to Boehner’s initial take.

“I wake up every day, drink my morning coffee and say hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,” he said at the KPMG conference, referring to his decision to leave Congress when he did.

After leaving Congress in 2015, Boehner became a strategic adviser for the lobbying giant Squire Patton Boggs and a member of Reynolds American Inc.’s board. Squire Patton Boggs represents clients who stand to gain or lose huge sums based on political decisions, from oil companies to defense contractors to health care interest groups.

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The publisher of the New York Times announced Wednesday that the paper was eliminating its public editor position, a role currently held by Liz Spayd.

“The responsibility of the public editor – to serve as the reader’s representative – has outgrown that one office,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr. wrote in a memo to colleagues, which was obtained by TPM. “Our business requires that we must all seek to hold ourselves accountable to our readers. When our audience has questions or concerns, whether about current events or our coverage decisions, we must answer them ourselves.”

Many papers over the years have phased out public editors, ombudsman and other positions meant to hold publications accountable on readers’ behalf.

Sulzberger outlined a mélange of new and existing measures to fill the void, including “dramatically expanding our commenting platform” to more articles (only 10 percent of articles are currently open to commenting, the memo said); engaging with readers on social media; publishing “behind-the-scenes dispatches describing the reporting process;” and the creation of a “Reader Center,” which Sulzberger described as “the central hub from which we engage readers about our journalism” in which “the work will be shared by all of us.”

Spayd has faced harsh criticism during her short stint in the role, including from the Times’ own executive editor, Dean Baquet.

Margaret Sullivan, who held the position before Spayd, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that she wasn’t surprised at the Sulzberger’s decision.

Read Sulzberger’s full memo announcing the change below:

Dear Colleagues,

Every one of us at The Times wakes up every day determined to help our audience better understand the world. In return, our subscribers provide much of the funding we need to support our deeply reported, on-the-ground journalism.

There is nothing more important to our mission, or our business, than strengthening our connection with our readers. A relationship that fundamental cannot be outsourced to a single intermediary.

The responsibility of the public editor – to serve as the reader’s representative – has outgrown that one office. Our business requires that we must all seek to hold ourselves accountable to our readers. When our audience has questions or concerns, whether about current events or our coverage decisions, we must answer them ourselves.

To that end, we have decided to eliminate the position of the public editor, while introducing several new reader-focused efforts. We are grateful to Liz Spayd, who has served in the role since last summer, for her tough, passionate work and for raising issues of critical importance to our newsroom. Liz will leave The Times on Friday as our last public editor.

The public editor position, created in the aftermath of a grave journalistic scandal, played a crucial part in rebuilding our readers’ trusts by acting as our in-house watchdog. We welcomed that criticism, even when it stung. But today, our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be. Our responsibility is to empower all of those watchdogs, and to listen to them, rather than to channel their voice through a single office.

We are dramatically expanding our commenting platform. Currently, we open only 10 percent of our articles to reader comments. Soon, we will open up most of our articles to reader comments. This expansion, made possible by a collaboration with Google, marks a sea change in our ability to serve our readers, to hear from them, and to respond to them.

We will work hard to curate and respond to the thousands of daily comments, but comments will form just one bridge between The Times and our audience. We also, of course, engage with readers around the globe on social media, where we have tens of millions of followers. We publish behind-the-scenes dispatches describing the reporting process and demystifying why we made certain journalistic decisions. We hold our journalism to the highest standards, and we have dedicated significant resources to ensure that remains the case.

Phil Corbett, a masthead editor, is responsible for making sure that our report lives up to our standards of fairness, accuracy and journalistic excellence. His team listens and responds to reader concerns and investigates requests for corrections. Phil anchors a reader-focused operation intent on providing accountability that is already larger than any of our peers. And we are expanding this investment still further.

As the newsroom announced yesterday, we have created a Reader Center led by Hanna Ingber, a senior editor, who will work with Phil and many others to make our report ever more transparent and our journalists more responsive. The Reader Center is the central hub from which we engage readers about our journalism, but the work will be shared by all of us.

It’s also worth noting that we welcome thoughtful criticism from our peers at other news outlets. Fortunately, there is no shortage of those independent critiques.

We are profoundly grateful to our six public editors — Daniel Okrent, Byron Calame, Clark Hoyt, Arthur Brisbane, Margaret Sullivan and Liz Spayd. These remarkable advocates tirelessly fielded questions from readers all over the world and have held The Times to the highest standards of journalism.

Changes like these offer the strongest paths towards meaningfully engaging with our growing audience of loyal readers, which rightfully demands more of us than ever before. We are up to the challenge.

Arthur

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Police arrested a man early Wednesday at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. after discovering an assault rifle and ammunition in his car.

The man, 43-year-old Bryan Moles, is a native of Edinboro, Pennsvlvania, according to several reports.

According to a police report obtained by TPM, one of Moles’ firearms, a Bushmaster Carbon 15 assault rifle, was sitting “in plain view” in his car. He had valeted the vehicle, the Washington Post reported. Police also found a handgun in Moles’ glove compartment and dozens of rounds of ammunition for both guns.

Dustin Sternbeck, the communications director for the Metropolitan Police Department, confirmed to TPM in an email that police would discus the arrest in a press conference at 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Moles was charged with carrying a pistol without a license outside a home or business, according to the police report. He was arrested in his room at the hotel.

Police had received a tip regarding Moles, according to the report, and acted on it at 1:51 a.m. on Wednesday.

The Secret Service released a statement on the incident later Wednesday morning:

Read the Metropolitan Police Department report below:

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday tried to play off what appeared to have been his accidentally tweeting gibberish, quoting the gibberish in question and asking readers to interpret its meaning.

The website Politwoops, ProPublica’s tool for tracking politicians’ deleted tweets, archived the original message, posted just after midnight.

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” Trump wrote. He deleted the tweet hours later.

Perhaps the President meant to write “coverage,” before falling asleep, as many speculated in the dark of night.

As of Wednesday morning, Trump’s correction tweet had garnered more “likes” and “retweets” than many seemingly more consequential issues of the day, also the subjects of Wednesday morning Presidential tweets: One-time foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s cooperation in the congressional investigations into Russian election interference; the United States’ participation in the Paris climate accord; Senate Republicans’ effort to pass a health care bill; and the comedian Kathy Griffin’s use of the President’s bloodied head as a prop in a photo shoot.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed President Donald Trump’s argument against the investigation into his country’s possible collusion with Trump’s campaign and associates, calling it Democrats’ excuse for losing the presidential election.

In an exemplary tweet Tuesday morning, Trump wrote that the federal and congressional Russia investigations were “a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election.”

Hours later, the French newspaper Le Figaro published an interview with Putin, which had taken place Monday, in which the Russian leader called allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election “fiction,” driven by “desire of those who lost the U.S. elections to improve their standing by accusing Russia of interfering.”

“[P]eople who lost the vote hate to acknowledge that they indeed lost because the person who won was closer to the people and had a better understanding of what people wanted,” he added.

Also on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times published a recording of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) using similar language at an April 7 fundraiser.  Nunes had by then claimed to have recused himself from the House Intelligence Committee’s own investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

“The Democrats don’t want an investigation on Russia. They want an independent commission,” Nunes said. “Why do they want an independent commission? Because they want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends, and that’s the reason that he won, because Hillary Clinton could have never lost on her own; it had to be someone else’s fault.”

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied on Tuesday that the resignation of White House communications director Mike Dubke signaled a larger reorganization of the White House communications staff of strategy.

At his daily press briefing Tuesday, his first on camera in two weeks, Spicer was asked whether “the departure of Michael Dubke signal(s) some kind of broader reorganization in the West Wing.” A reporter also mentioned rumblings, reported by Politico and others, that campaign personalities Corey Lewandowksi and David Bossie were under consideration to help Trump get back on track amid the investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign members and Russian officials.

Dubke, who had been the White House’s communications director for three months, submitted his resignation on May 18, though Axios was the first to report it on Tuesday.

“I don’t think so,” Spicer responded. “I think the President is very pleased with his team and he has a robust agenda, as I’ve just outlined, that he looks forward to working with Congress to get done to achieve the results for the American people.”

The reporter followed up, asking if the White House would follow through on ideas Trump floated after he abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey to change the daily briefing, “be it him communicating directly more, or more faces at the podium.”

“I don’t think that there is anything that we haven’t said before about how we’ve got — the President has an unbelievably qualified cabinet and we’ve utilized them a ton in the past. If we can continue to do that on key issues we’re going to do that,” Spicer said. “Ultimately the best messenger is the President himself.”

He added, asked if Trump was happy with the administration’s messaging strategy: “I think that he is frustrated like I am and so many others to see stories come out that are patently false, to see narratives that are wrong, to see, quote-unquote, fake news. When you see stories get perpetrated that are absolutely false, that are not based in fact, that is troubling. And he’s rightly concerned.”

CNN’s Jim Sciutto asked for an example of “fake news.”

Yeah, absolutely, I’ll give you an example,” Spicer said, pointing to a viral tweet from a BBC reporter on Friday who claimed Trump was not listening to an earpiece translation of the Italian Prime Minister’s remarks at the G7 summit. In fact, he was, but the camera didn’t catch it

And that’s the kind of thing that the BBC and ultimately a reporter who’s now joining the New York Times push out and perpetuate with no apology,” Spicer said, referring to a reporter who retweeted the video. He addressed the Times’ Peter Baker, who would later argue that Trump’s foreign trip had dominated the paper’s front page.

“You’re shaking your head, Peter, I mean, It’s true. You did it,” Spicer said.

Spicer’s ultimate complaint, though, continued to be with news organizations’ use of unnamed sources — despite the President’s own retweeting of articles citing an unnamed source, and White House officials’ frequent insistence on being quoted on background.

“There is a lot of this stuff that has gotten pushed out based on unnamed, unaccountable sources, that is very troubling,” Spicer said. “I think when you see the same thing happen over and over again, it is concerning.”

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday refused to answer questions about Jared Kushner’s reported efforts to establish a secret communications channel with the Kremlin using Russian facilities.

He never denied the Washington Post’s reporting from Friday, which was based on unnamed U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. The Post reported the claim originated in intercepted Russian communications.

The Post’s Philip Rucker kicked off Spicer’s daily press briefing Tuesday, his first on-camera in two weeks, by asking if President Donald Trump “knew at the time that Jared Kushner was seeking to establish back channel communications at the Russian embassy to the Russian government, and if he didn’t know at the time, when did he find out?”

“I think that assumes a lot, and I would just say that Mr. Kushner’s attorney has said that Mr. Kushner’s volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings, and he will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” Spicer responded.

“Did the President discuss it, though?”

“I’m not going to get into what the President did or did not discuss,” Spicer said. “What your question assumes a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out.”

Rucker kept asking, and Spicer kept stonewalling, except to say that “[Homeland Security] Sec. Kelly and [National Security Adviser] Gen. McMaster have both discussed that in general terms, back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.”

That echoed the justification given by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway Tuesday morning.

However, using Russian facilities for such back channels is not normal.

The Daily Mail’s Francesca Chambers challenged Spicer’s criticism of anonymous sources in news reports: Trump himself retweeted on Tuesday an unbylined Fox News report, which cited one unnamed source, claiming that Russia had instigated the discussion of a secret backchannel with Kushner, not the other way around, as the Post had reported.

“Was the President not confirming that — that there was an effort, and the facts that I just said?” she asked, after describing Fox News’ reporting.

“I think what I said just speaks for itself,” Spicer said, referring to his responses to Rucker.

“But you say that, first of all, that the article was based on anonymous sources,” she interjected, pointing to Trump’s own seeming double standard on citing anonymous sources.

“Which it is,” Spicer said, referring to the Post’s anonymous sources.

“But the Fox article that the President retweeted was also based on anonymous sources,” she pressed. “Why is the source that they used more credible than the Washington Post article?”

Spicer dodged, eventually moving on without commenting directly on any report: “Again, I’m not going to get into confirming stuff. There is an ongoing investigation.”

Asked again later how it could have been appropriate for Kushner, as a private citizen, to attempt to establish a channel to the Kremlin through Russian facilities, Spicer referred to Kelly and McMaster again.

“I think that both of those individuals who are steeped in national security and foreign policy have said that that can be an effective tool, generally speaking, in diplomacy,” he said.

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