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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

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday downplayed the importance of an upcoming Congressional Budget Office report on House Republicans’ health bill, despite his delay in sending the bill over to the Senate for now nearly three weeks as he waits for the report.

Ryan has delayed formally sending the American Health Care Act to the Senate after his chamber’s May 4 vote, Bloomberg reported last week, in order to receive a confirmation from the CBO that the bill cuts the deficit enough to qualify for reconciliation in the Senate — that is, the Senate’s ability to pass the bill on a simple majority vote, foregoing the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

“We just want to have an abundance of caution to make sure,” Ryan said at his weekly press briefing Tuesday, explaining why he had rushed a House vote and then delayed sending the bill to the Senate. “CBO scores have been unpredictable in cases in the past. We don’t think that’s going to be the case, but again, we just want to make sure that we dot our ‘I’s and cross our ‘T’s exactly the right way, so that when we send the bill over to the Senate, it is not, as we say, fatal.”

The CBO found in March that Republicans’ original, failed health bill would have resulted in 24 million more uninsured people by 2026. However, the office hasn’t yet scored the amended version of that bill, which would allow states to opt out of many of Obamacare’s pricing protections and other regulatory measures, and authorized $8 billion over five years to fund high risk insurance pools. The CBO report on the amended bill is expected to come out this week.

House Democrats criticized Ryan for pushing a vote without a CBO score. In the days before and immediately after the bill passed the House, he scolded them for placing too much importance on the analysis.

“A three-page amendment is not going to dramatically alter that bill,” Ryan said on May 7. “It does a narrow change to the bill.”

But Ryan acknowledged Tuesday that the same amendment — and the same missing CBO score — were responsible for holding up Republicans’ health care effort.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Monday compared opponents of school choice to “flat-earthers.”

DeVos  a prominent fundraiser and advocate for school choice, charter schools and religious schools prior to her nomination to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet  was addressing the American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit.

“In order to succeed, education must commit to excellence and innovation to better meet the needs of individual students,” DeVos said. “Defenders of our current system have regularly been resistant to any meaningful change. In resisting, these ‘flat-earthers’ have chilled creativity and stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.”

DeVos’ address was thin on details. But she mentioned multiple times that reform would occur at the state level. “We won’t accomplish our goals by creating a new federal bureaucracy or by bribing states with their own taxpayers’ money,” she said.

The education secretary added later: “All parents instinctively know that their child should not follow the money – the money should follow their child.”

“If you hear nothing else I say tonight, please hear this,” DeVos said early in the speech, “education should not be a partisan issue.”

Her own history of policy advocacy, though, heavily favored the Republican Party. And she was not subtle about her expectations.

“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in Roll Call in 1997, the New Yorker and others noted last year. “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions specified Monday that President Donald Trump’s executive order threatening so-called “sanctuary cities” with the loss of federal funds would apply to a narrowly defined group of localities that violate existing federal law.

In late April, a California judge issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of part of the executive order, citing its ill-defined scope and applicability.

“The Order’s uncertainty interferes with the Counties’ ability to budget, plan for the future, and properly serve their residents,” Judge William Orrick III wrote on April 25. “Without clarification regarding the Order’s scope or legality, the Counties will be obligated to take steps to mitigate the risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding, which will include placing funds in reserve and making cuts to services.”

Orrick noted that the the federal government had argued that the order was “merely an exercise of the President’s ‘bully pulpit’ to highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement.”

In his memo to Justice Department employees Monday, Sessions specified, “I have determined that, for purposes of enforcing the Executive Order, the term ‘sanctuary jurisdiction’ will refer only to jurisdictions that ‘willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.’”

That law does not state that localities must proactively comply with federal agents’ requests to detain arrestees past when they would have otherwise been released.

Instead, it states that government officials “may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”

Sessions also said the order would only affect “federal grants administered by the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security, and not to other sources of federal funding,” and specifically to any existing grant “that expressly contains this certification condition” to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373, and “to future grants for which the Department is statutorily authorized to impose such a condition.”

Sessions’ specifications limit the potential scope of the executive order.

In his April preliminary injunction, Orrick noted that only three DOJ or DHS grants were eligible to be withheld from localities under the government’s argued definition of the order.

“This interpretation renders the Order toothless;” he wrote, referring to a situation in which affected grants and sanctuary cities were defined by existing law. “[T]he Government can already enforce these three grants by the terms of those grants and can enforce 8 U.S.C. 1373 to the extent legally possible under the terms of existing law.”

The ranking member of the Senate committee responsible for regulating pensions on Monday urged the Office of Government Ethics to investigate whether President Donald Trump was violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, after a report that public pension funds in several states had paid millions to an investment fund that owns a Trump hotel.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, wrote to the Office of Government Ethics on Monday that, based on recent reporting, “President Trump may be profiting from the retirement plans of millions of our nation’s public servants,” in violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on “domestic emoluments.”

She urged the office, which itself is a vocal critic of Trump’s business and ethics arrangements, to investigate the report.

Murray’s letter cites a Reuters report from April 26 that found the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in New York City was owned by one of the Los Angeles-based CIM Group’s real estate funds. State- and city-run pension funds in at least seven states, Reuters reported, had paid millions of dollars quarterly to that fund, which in turn paid out millions of dollars to Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which operates and manages the hotel and is controlled by Trump’s business trust.

Reuters said it was the first reported instance of public pension fund investment in Trump-affiliated businesses.

“It therefore appears that public pension funds from several cities and states are paying millions of dollars to an investment fund, which in turn pays millions of dollars to Trump International Hotels Management LLC, from which President Trump profits,” Murray wrote, after summarizing Reuters’ reporting.

“This looks like exactly the type of monetary flow prohibited by the Constitution.”

Read Murray’s letter below:

During a photo-op with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, President Donald Trump denied that he ever specifically mentioned Israel to top Russian officials during a meeting in which he reportedly gave the officials highly classified information.

That information was reportedly first shared with the United States by Israel, who had not given Trump permission to share it with the Russians.

The Washington Post reported last week that Trump had shared highly classified information on an Islamic State threat with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States during a closed-press meeting on May 10. On Tuesday, the New York Times and several other outlets — citing unnamed officials from America, Israel or both — reported that Israel had provided the United States with the intelligence Trump had shared without its authorization.

Netanyahu, seemingly responding to shouted questions from reporters during the photo-op Monday, said: “The intelligence cooperation is terrific.”

Trump, also seemingly noticing the questions, held out his hands to quiet the journalists and Israeli media wranglers in the room.

“And folks! And folks! Folks!” he yelled, waiting for silence.

“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” he said. “Never mentioned it, during that conversation.”

“They were all saying I did,” he continued, motioning to reporters. “So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”

“Intelligence cooperation is terrific, and it’s never been better,” Netanyahu added, though it was difficult to hear over the renewed shouting from reporters and media wranglers.

The Post did not claim in its initial report on Trump sharing the highly classified information that he shared the source of the information.

But the Post reported, citing unnamed officials, “Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat,” and “identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the U.S. ally or intelligence capability involved.”

“Russia could identify our sources or techniques,” an unnamed senior U.S. official told the Post.

On Tuesday of last week, defending the President, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said: “I should just make maybe the statement here that the President wasn’t even aware where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.”

Watch below via MSNBC:

The United States’ ambassador to the United Nations said the country “absolutely needed” the investigation into possible coordination between President Donald Trump’s associates and Russia during the 2016 campaign.

“We need the investigation?” NBC’s Craig Melvin asked Ambassador Nikki Haley during an interview aired Monday.

“I think we absolutely need the investigation,” she replied.

Haley also broke with Trump’s criticism of the appointment of a special counsel to the FBI’s probe of his campaign and related matters.

Introducing the interview, Melvin noted that Haley was the first Trump Cabinet official to publicly endorse Robert Mueller’s appointment by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“Trump has said the appointment of Robert Mueller divides this country,” Melvin said. “You disagree with that assessment? You think it’s a good idea?”

“I think that all these questions need to be answered, so that the administration can get back to work,” she said.

The secretary of commerce expressed surprise — and approval — at the lack of visible protests during President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, despite the ruling monarchy’s repression of demonstrations.

“I think the other thing that was fascinating to me — there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard,” Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC in an interview Monday.

“But Secretary Ross,” CNBC’s Becky Quick interjected. “That may be but not necessarily because they don’t have those feelings there but because they control people and don’t allow them to come and express their feelings quite the same as we do here.”

“In theory that could be true,” he replied. “But boy there was certainly no sign of it, there was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood.”

Protesters have been arrested, beaten and killed by the Saudi government simply for expressing their dissent.

Protests in the country likely wouldn’t have caught Ross’s attention — they are often more subdued than marching in the street, and have included Saudi women walking alone, without an accompanying male guardian, in public.

In an address to Arab and Muslim leaders in the country Sunday, Trump said “We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.”

Watch below via CNBC:

The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee on Friday urged Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to demand documents from the White House that show the President expressing relief to top Russian diplomats over his firing of the FBI director.

“This new report that President Trump openly admitted to the Russians that he ‘faced great pressure’ from the FBI’s criminal investigation that was ‘taken off’ when he fired Director Comey is astonishing—and extremely troubling,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in a statement. “If these White House documents in fact exist memorializing the President’s statements to the Russians, the Oversight Committee needs to obtain copies immediately.”

Cummings’ statement came on the heels of a New York Times report that Trump told the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States that he was relieved he’d gotten rid of former FBI Director James Comey.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting that was read out to the newspaper by an anonymous American official.  “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

In his statement, Cummings invoked Chaffetz’s “subpoena pen,” a reference to the Oversight Committee chairman’s request that the FBI hand over memos that Comey reportedly wrote to document his interactions with Trump.

“Chairman Chaffetz should request these White House documents today and have his subpoena pen ready—just as he did earlier this week with the memos written by Director Comey,” Cummings said.

Cummings similarly urged Chaffetz to use his subpoena pen on Thursday, when the Times reported that Flynn had told Trump’s transition team that he was under federal investigation in early January, weeks earlier than the Trump team has acknowledged.

The FBI warned a Republican congressman sometimes referred to as “Putin’s favorite” that Russian spies were trying to recruit him as an “agent of influence” in 2012, the New York Times reported Friday.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told the Times that the warning had focused on his meeting with a member of the Russian Foreign Ministry during a trip to Moscow in 2012.

“They were telling me he had something to do with some kind of Russian intelligence,” he said, referring to what an FBI agent had told him. Rohrabacher said he was told Russia “looked at me as someone who could be influenced.”

The California Republican told the Times he hadn’t needed the warning.

“Any time you meet a Russian member of their Foreign Ministry or the Russian government, you assume those people have something to do with Russian intelligence,” he told the paper.

Rohrabacher is well-known in Congress for his pro-Russia views. He recalled in a 2013 interview with KPCC that in the early 1990s, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was then the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, beat him in a drunken armwrestling match.

Last year he was floated as a potential candidate to serve as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state. In that capacity, Rohrabacher got into a heated argument with Yahoo News’ Bianna Golodryga, who pressed him on Russia’s human rights abuses.

He also figured in a Wednesday Washington Post report on a private conversation from June 2016 between House Republican leaders. According to audio accessed by the newspaper, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told his colleagues “There’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

McCarthy defended that comment as “a bad attempt of a joke.”

Rohrabacher said in a Friday interview with The Hill that McCarthy had apologized to him.

“He came up and said, ‘Dana, I’m really sorry, I told this joke and now people are trying to make it look like I was serious,'” Rohrabacher said. “I said, ‘Don’t worry about it.'”

For the record, an unnamed official told the Times there was no evidence that Rohrabacher had been paid by Russia.

Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines on Friday shared a video of himself almost violently hugging his boss, showing how Clinton’s campaign had prepared the then-presidential candidate for Donald Trump’s notoriously forceful handshakes.

Reines, who stood in for Trump in the Clinton campaign’s debate prep sessions, seemingly shared the video of prep for what he dubbed “the unwanted Trump hug” in response to a story from Benjamin Wittes, the editor of the blog Lawfare and a self-described “friend” of ousted FBI Director James Comey.

In a post on the blog Thursday night, Wittes wrote about what Comey had told him were his mostly unsuccessful attempts to “train” the White House not to get involved in the bureau’s investigations, or to make it appear as if the President were trying to earn or force Comey’s allegiance. Wittes related two instances he said Comey described to him when Trump attempted “personally to compromise him or implicate him with either shows of closeness or actual chumminess with the President.”

One of those incidents was when Trump beckoned to Comey from across the room during a January meeting of law enforcement officials at the White House, calling him over while saying “Oh, and there’s Jim. He’s become more famous than me!”

Comey, who Wittes said “stood in the back, right in front of the drapes, hoping Trump wouldn’t notice him camouflaged against the wall,” went to shake Trump’s hand. Trump then tried to pull him in for a hug.

It’s one of Trump’s well-known maneuvers, seemingly meant to turn a handshake into a judo-inspired show of dominance.

“Comey was disgusted,” Wittes wrote. “He regarded the episode as a physical attempt to show closeness and warmth in a fashion calculated to compromise him before Democrats who already mistrusted him.”

Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9.

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