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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

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.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), joined by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), introduced a bill Thursday that would incentivize states to replace the use of money bail as a condition of pretrial release in criminal cases.

The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act would seek to incentivize states to replace cash bail — that is, defendants putting up money for their release from jail before trial — with “individualized, pretrial assessments” that would allow accused individuals who do not pose a risk of flight or criminal conduct to be released from custody.

In a joint op-ed in the New York Times coordinated with the bill’s release Thursday, Harris and Paul noted that “[a]ny state receiving support must report on its progress and make sure that reforms like risk assessments are not discriminatory through analyses of trends and data.” Current cash bail policies in many states, they wrote, disproportionately affect low-income people of color and are “discriminatory and wasteful.”

The op-ed opened with the story of Kalief Browder, the 16-year-old New Yorker charged with stealing a backback who committed suicide after years awaiting trial in New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail, because his family could not afford his bail.

The law would allow the Justice Department to make grants — a maximum of $6,500,000 to state and tribal courts and $3,500,000 to other entities per year — “to perform more effective pretrial practices that include system analysis, training and technical assistance, meeting facilitation, research and performance evaluation, information technology reprogramming.”

The issue of cash bail has received a swell of attention in recent months, most recently in a Mother’s Day drive coordinated by several community bail and criminal justice groups, dubbed “National Mama’s Bail Out Day.”

Harris and Paul’s bill lays out a series of benchmarks for state and tribal court systems accepting federal grants, including: “[d]efendants return to court rates are not less than 95 percent,” “[n]ot more than 10 percent of defendants are rearrested pending trial” and “[o]verall release rates of defendants pending trial are not less than 85 percent.”

“Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally,” Harris said in a statement Thursday. “Yet more than 450,000 Americans sit in jail today awaiting trial and many of them cannot afford ‘money bail.'”

Paul added: “Americans should be able to expect fair and equal treatment under the law regardless of how much money is in their pockets or how many connections they have.”

Read The Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act legislative text below:

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said Thursday that it wasn’t important for President Donald Trump to know the “policy intricacies” of the Republican bill to repeal Obamacare.

In an interview with Cassidy, MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson asked the senator about Trump’s bizarre comment to the New York Times — perhaps meant to illustrate that health care costs rise with age, or maybe to explain a savings account for lifelong health spending — that when “you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan.”

The President has never discussed the specifics of congressional Republicans’ multiple attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, and make deep cuts to Medicaid.

“In your conversations with him, do you think the President understands the political, the policy intricacies of this bill?” Jackson asked.

“I don’t think it’s important for him to understand the policy intricacies of this bill,” Cassidy replied. “What’s important for him is to understand the principle — his principle is that there should be a replace associated with repeal. And during the campaign he consistently said he wanted to continue coverage for those who had, cover preexisting conditions, eliminate mandates and lower premiums, those are very good principles by which to go.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of him in an interview with the New York Times.

Trump told the Times on Wednesday that he was upset Sessions had recused himself from matters involving Russia or the 2016 presidential campaign, after it was revealed Sessions incorrectly said he had not met with Russians during the campaign (he met multiple times with Russia’s ambassador to the United States).

Trump told the Times the recusal was “very unfair to the President” and that he wouldn’t have hired Sessions if he’d known he would recuse himself.

“Given what he said,” one reporter asked sessions at a press conference Thursday, referring to Trump, “what is your reaction to those remarks? And how seriously are you considering possibly resigning?”

“We, in this Department of Justice, will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest and we whole heartedly join in the priorities of President Trump,” Sessions responded. “He gave us several directives. One is to dismantle transnational criminal organizations. That’s what we are announcing today. The dismantling of the largest, dark website in the world by far. I congratulate our people for that.”

The press conference had been called to announce a law enforcement action against AlphaBay, a large marketplace on the “dark web,” where users and merchants use encryption technology to make anonymous transactions, including illicit ones.

“I have the honor of serving as attorney general,” Sessions continued. “It’s something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate. 

We are serving right now, the work we are doing today is the kind of work that we intend to continue,” he added in response to another question, before listing the department’s recent achievements.

Sessions said he is “totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an effective way.”

A reporter asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about Trump’s comment, referring to him, that “there are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.”

Rosenstein mostly ignored the question, saying he would answer questions about the AlphaBay case if any reporter had them.

No one did. The law enforcement officials began to walk off the podium.

A reporter asked Sessions a stinging question as they left, which would hang in the air unanswered: “Are you concerned you’ll be seen as a zombie attorney general?”

A Republican congressman gave a surprisingly candid assessment of President Donald Trump and his young administration Thursday: They’re a distraction, and they never learn.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) vented to the Politico after another disappointing failure to gather the votes to repeal Obamacare in the Senate — with Trump himself frequently changing positions on the effort, and failing to throw his political heft behind Republicans senators.

“I don’t even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don’t care. They’re a distraction. The family is a distraction, the President is a distraction,” Simpson said. “At first, it was, ‘Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He’ll learn, he’ll learn.’ And you just don’t see that happening.”

Simpson’s comments echoed the frustration expressed to TPM by many members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, who were able to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare only to see the effort fail in the Senate.

New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Kim Guadagno’s (R) campaign fundraising has suffered in part because of her criticism of President Donald Trump, an unnamed source told NJ.com for a story published Wednesday.

Guadagno, currently the state’s lieutenant governor, is lagging far behind her Democratic challenger, Phil Murphy, in recent polling. Current New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s rock bottom approval numbers probably aren’t helping her case.

But an unnamed “insider within the RNC’s top leadership” told NJ.com that Guadagno may be suffering financially due to her criticism of Trump following revelations that he had bragged during a 2005 taping of NBC’s “Access Hollywood” that he could kiss and grope women without their permission because he was famous.

“[The President] is unhappy with anyone who neglected him in his hour of need,” the unnamed source said, adding: “Christie was not as stalwart as some people in the party, but at least he didn’t go against him the way she did.”

After the “Access Hollywood” tapes were published, Guadagno wrote: “No apology can excuse away Mr. Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women.”

And though plenty of Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), criticized Trump over the tapes, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Whitman (R) seemed to agree with the unnamed RNC insider’s take.

“She went down there, and the [Republican National] Committee was reluctant to back the campaign in the way one would have expected. The implication was, ‘Well you were not a Trump supporter in the primary, and so don’t expect much money,'” Whitman told NJ.com.

Representatives for the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association, which was also mentioned in the NJ.com story, did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.

The vice chair of the White House’s bogus “election integrity” commission said Wednesday that “we may never know” whether millions of illegal votes cost President Donald Trump the popular vote in the 2016 election — despite the lack of any evidence to support Trump’s frequent claim that millions of ballots were cast illegally.

“Do you believe Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes because of voter fraud?” MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked Kobach in an interview after the commission’s first meeting. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

“We will probably never know the answer to that question, because even if you could prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, for example, you wouldn’t know how they voted,” he said.

Kobach said the commission was not created to substantiate Trump’s claims.

Tur asked again later: “You think that maybe Hillary Clinton did not win the popular vote?”

“We may never know the answer to that question,” Kobach said.

No secretary of state or board of elections in the country has reported massive voter fraud of illegal voting.

Tur tried a different question later: “So are the votes for Donald Trump that lead him to win the election in doubt as well?”

“Absolutely,” Kobach said. “If there are ineligible voters in an election — people who are non-citizens, people who are felons who shouldn’t be voting according to the laws of that state — you don’t know.”

Watch below:

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