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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

A federal judge on Tuesday denied a lawsuit’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in order to force more transparency on the White House’s “election integrity” commission.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the lawsuit on July 10, arguing that the commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and vice chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, had violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a transparency statute that Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said “is likely unfamiliar to even seasoned legal practitioners.”

The Lawyers’ Committee argued that the election commission was required to open up its first in-person meeting, on July 19, to in-person public attendance, and that the commission needed to make additional documentation prior to that meeting, including records related to a June 28 phone call, available to the public.

In her opinion Tuesday, Kollar-Kotelly pointed to a notice printed in the Federal Register on July 5 and said it outlined sufficient public accountability measures, at least for now.

The Federal Register notice said that, while the commission’s July 19 meeting will not be open for oral comments from the public, it will be available to view via live stream. Additionally, “[t]he Commission will provide individuals interested in providing oral comments the opportunity to do so at subsequent meetings,” it said.

And the commission already released reams of emails from members of the public responding to the commission (though it’s not clear whether, before the Federal Registry announcement, anyone knew their feedback would be made public alongside sensitive contact information).

“Defendants, in a declaration submitted to the Court under penalty of perjury, have represented that prior to the July 19 meeting, they will make publicly available: (i) the agenda for the meeting; (ii) public comments received by the Commission via its email account within a reasonable time in advance of the meeting; and (iii) “other documents that are prepared for or by the Commission,’” Kollar-Kotelly wrote. “Documents ‘prepared for or by the Commission’ invariably must include documents that will be ‘used and discussed’ at the July 19 meeting.”

She added later: “ Moreover, the public will be permitted to view the meeting, to submit written comments, and to provide oral comments at subsequent meetings. There may be other documents that could, in theory, further facilitate this public debate, but based on the information presently available, it appears that the principal documents have or will be disclosed, and that the public and Plaintiff will have a substantial opportunity to debate and provide input with respect to the work of the Commission.”

The Democratic ranking members of four House committees urged Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday to dismiss Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach from the White House’s shady “election integrity” commission, of which Kobach is vice chair, and rescind the commission’s call for extensive voter information from all 50 states.

“[W]e write to express our grave concerns,” the Democrats wrote, regarding Kobach’s letter to all 50 states requesting sensitive voter information including the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers and potential criminal, military and overseas citizen records. “The request failed to specify to the public how that information would be used, and provided no clear or sufficient safeguards to protect sensitive voter information. These actions openly flout federal privacy and transparency laws.”

“Furthermore, Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the Commission to promote his own campaign for governor of Kansas,” they said.

The Democrats, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), John Conyers (D-MI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Robert Brady (D-PA) are ranking members of the Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, Homeland Security and House Administration committees, respectively.

The letter goes on for 11 pages, documenting Kobach’s past unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud and accusing him of using the election integrity commission as a stepping stone for Kansas’ 2018 gubernatorial race.

It also pins Kobach’s effort to establish his own independent multi-state database to fight voter fraud as an example of a solution in search of a problem. According to a Stanford University analysis of the program, the congressmen said, Kobach’s Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program produced “200 false positives for every actual double registration.”

The commission’s request for data, they wrote, “is unprecedented.”

And though a lawsuit from the privacy advocacy group EPIC has temporarily halted the flow of information from states to the commission, the letter asserted that Pence can’t definitively say data will be transferred and stored safely. SAFE, the military file transfer program Pence and Kobach said they would use to collect data from states, notes on its own website that it’s “only as secure as the email system” used to access it.

“Instead of building a highly insecure nationwide database, the Commission should focus its attention on providing guidance and best practices to secure America’s election infrastructure from foreign influence,” they wrote.

The Democrats also complained that the commission has not lived up to federal laws requiring transparency and proper record-keeping.

“The Commission should explore increasing access to voting, not perpetuating the false and damaging notion that massive voter fraud exists in our nation’s elections,” the letter concludes, before an extensive list of questions to which the congressmen ask for verbal and written responses. “We will fiercely oppose any attempt by this Administration to suppress the vote and undermine the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other important voter protection laws.”

Read the full letter below:

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Tuesday that Americans “deserve an explanation” from the Trump administration with regard to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and any other meetings Trump campaign officials may have had with representatives of the Russian government. He added that “there has been a reluctance” on the administration’s part to “get all the information out there.”

In an interview with Thune, CNN’s John Berman read from a Wall Street Journal editorial advocating for “radical transparency” as a defense against future Russia-related revelations.

“‘Release everything to the public ahead of the inevitable leaks,’” Berman read from the editorial. “‘That means every meeting with any Russian or any American with Russian business ties. Every phone call or email. And every Trump business relationship with Russians going back years. This should include every relevant part of Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which the President will resist but Mr. Mueller is sure to seek anyway.’”

Thune seemed to agree with the Journal’s editorial board.

“I think that the American people do deserve a full explanation of what happened in all these various meetings,” he said in reply. “I think that the Intelligence Committee here in the Senate is looking into that. The Mueller special counsel is looking into that. I think we’re going to get those answers in due time, but I think that more is better. To me, the administration is served by getting everything out there and being as transparent as they possibly can. Because, this issue, in order for it to go away, I think that is the best way to just cleanse it, and get it out there, and let the American people decide.”

“More transparency is good,” he added.

“More transparent than they are now?” Berman asked.

“I think there has been a reluctance for whatever reason, I think, by the administration, in some cases, to get all the information out there, and I think they’re well served to do that, frankly,” Thune replied. “My guess is that they’ll probably find — and the intelligence committees and the others that have looked at this have not found any evidence of collusion to this point, and I think that the administration would be able to turn that page and move forward and focus on other things if they would get this issue behind them. And I think that that sort of transparency would enable that to happen.”

Informal adviser to the President and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized Republicans for failing to repeal Obamacare on Monday.

Gingrich said “it’s time to perform” and “Congress has to pick doable things.”

Two additional Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), announced Monday night that they would not support a vote on Senate Republicans’ revised bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, leaving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defeated, for now. McConnell announced after Lee and Moran withdrew support that he would attempt to simply repeal Obamacare, without any replacement.

“You have been urging me to be patient,” an exasperated Sean Hannity told Gingrich in an interview. “I’ve run out of patience with these Republicans. They asked for this opportunity.”

“I agree. I agree. I surrender,” Gingrich responded. “We’ve had six months of patience. It’s time to perform. And I agree with you.”

Despite Senate leadership drafting their version of an Obamacare repeal bill in secret, with minimal input even from Republican senators, let alone Democrats, Gingrich urged McConnell to work “faster, more simply” next time.

“You’ve had six months to look at what happened, what worked, what didn’t. It’s like a football team at halftime. It’s like a military operation in the middle of — you’ve got to take steps, you have to learn lessons. I think they’ve got to figure out how to do things faster, more simply.”

“If you can’t pass the gigantic bill, tell me what you can pass,” he added. “But get something done that starts to move us away from Obamacare.”

The former House speaker contrasted the Obamacare repeal effort with what he characterized as the Trump administration’s successes so far: Efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, nominating conservative judges and deregulation.

“I see things moving in the right direction,” he concluded. “But the Congress has got to pick doable things that they can actually get done and not just beat their head against a wall without getting anything done. So I’m on your side.”

“I hope they just heard what you said,” Hannity replied, referring to Republican senators. “If they don’t get it done, they put their own power in jeopardy.”

President Donald Trump said Monday that he doesn’t like “Pinocchios,” referring to the Washington Post’s metric for pointing out politicians’ lies in fact-checking columns. Minutes later, he delivered a whopper of an untruth.

“We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any President ever,” Trump said at an event the White House called the “Made in America product showcase.” “For a while Harry Truman had us, and now I think we have everybody, Mike. I better say ‘think,’ otherwise they’ll give me a Pinocchio, and I don’t like Pinocchios.”

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker columnist, implied there was an easy fix for Trump’s aversion to fact-checkers (tell the truth).

Yet, several minutes later, Trump cited a number close to one that was repeatedly knocked down by multiple fact checks, including from the Washington Post.

“In Pennsylvania, two weeks ago, they opened a mine, the first mine that was opened in decades,” he said. “Opened a mine. And you know all the people that were saying the mining jobs? Well we picked up 45,000 mining jobs in a very short period of time, and everybody was saying, well, you won’t get any mining jobs. We picked up 45,000 mining jobs.”

The White House did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on the source for Trump’s claim. But it closely resembled a similar claim by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in three separate interviews on June 4: Some variation of, “[s]ince the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we’ve added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs.”

In reality, depending somewhat on how you count it, the coal industry added around 1,000 jobs during the Trump administration, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Kessler linked to the Post’s knockdown of Pruitt’s claim (it received Four Pinocchios, the worst assessment): 

The Post’s analysis noted that, even judging by the most generous interpretation of Pruitt’s remarks, only 33,000 mining and logging jobs — not just coal mining — have been added since January. Accounting for increases in June, according to preliminary BLS data, there have been 42,000 jobs added across the mining and logging sectors. From January through preliminary data for May, 21,000 mining and logging jobs added were “support activities for oil and gas operations.”

This post has been updated.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that the White House stood behind Marc Kasowitz — the lead attorney on the team defending Trump in matters related to the various probes of Russian election interference — after he threatened a private citizen who criticized him.

“Can I ask about counsel — about Marc Kasowitz?” a reporter asked at an off-camera press briefing Monday. “He was reportedly, he exchanged emails with a private citizen with a number of threats and profanity-laced comments. Does the White House and the President still have confidence in Mr. Kasowitz to speak for the administration on this Russian matter?”

“Yes, he does, and I know Mr. Kasowitz has issued an apology in that matter,” Spicer said before moving on.

ProPublica published screenshots of emails Kasowitz sent on Wednesday to a private citizen who had criticized the attorney over email.

“F*ck you,” Kasowitz wrote in one. “I’m on you now,” he said in another. “You are fucking with me now. Let’s see who you are. Watch your back, bitch.”

A spokesman for Kasowitz relayed a statement to ProPublica from the attorney after the story was published: “The person sending that email is entitled to his opinion and I should not have responded in that inappropriate manner,” Kasowitz said. “I intend to send him an email stating just that. This is one of those times where one wishes he could reverse the clock, but of course I can’t.”

Informal Trump adviser and CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow criticized Republicans’ latest Obamacare repeal bill draft as being too liberal in keeping Obamacare’s taxes on some investment income.

“They’re all wusses,” Kudlow told the Wall Street Journal in an article published Monday. “How is it possible after all these years of studying the capital-gains tax? How is it possible that they don’t know that [cutting] it promotes growth?”

Kudlow appeared to be referring to the 3.8 percent tax on some investment income for high-income earners that is among the most disliked aspects of Obamacare for conservatives. Senate Republicans’ revised Obamacare repeal bill also keeps a 0.9 percent payroll tax on high-income earners.

Republican leadership included the taxes, and eliminated a tax break for insurance executives, in a revised version of their Obamacare repeal bill released July 13.

Shortly after Trump’s election, Kudlow was floated as a possible chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. In April, Trump nominated Kevin Hassett for the role, though he has yet to be confirmed.

President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged a meeting between his son and a Russian lawyer who a family acquaintance promised in June 2016 would provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aide Trump’s campaign. Trump said “most politicians” would have accepted such a meeting.

The endorsement of the meeting comes after months of Trump saying the entire story of Russian interference in the election, including possible coordination with his campaign, was a “hoax.” Multiple members of the Trump campaign, including Trump himself, frequently denied that anyone from the campaign met with any representatives of the Russian government, a claim that has since been proven false not only by Trump Jr.’s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, but also from multiple campaign officials’ meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law and campaign aide Jared Kushner also attended the meeting with Veselnitskaya. Multiple outlets reported Friday that former Russian counterintelligence officer Rinat Akhmetsin was also in the room. And CNN reported Friday that a representative of the powerful Russian family that asked publicist Rob Goldstone to arrange the meeting was also present, as well as a Russian translator, bringing the total attendance to eight.

When Trump Jr. released “the entire email chain” leading up to the meeting on Tuesday, and in a subsequent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, he acknowledged only five attendees — himself, the two campaign aides, Goldstone and Veselnitskaya.

The President’s claims have shifted in recent days regarding what he knew about the meeting, and when. His support of his son, however, has remained constant despite growing evidence that Trump Jr. was not fully forthcoming about the meeting, which he originally said only addressed adoption issues and not dirt on Clinton.

After the Hannity interview, the President called his son’s performance “open, transparent and innocent.”

He’s since taken his frustration out on Democrats and the media, who he’s said are pushing a “Russian hoax story.”

A member of the President’s legal team, Jay Sekulow, even wondered aloud on Sunday why, if the meeting was so “nefarious,” the Secret Service would allow the Russian visitors in to Trump Tower to attend it — though that fundamentally misrepresents the agency’s role.

To some, Trump’s statement Monday read as an acknowledgement that his son agreed to a meeting in which he intended to collude with a foreign power to influence the election.

Asked about the meeting, Trump’s nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray, said in a confirmation hearing Wednesday that “any threat or effort to interfere with our election from any nation state or any nonstate actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.”

This post has been updated.

The Department of Homeland Security will release Mar-a-Lago visitor records as part of an ongoing lawsuit from three watchdog groups.

In a statement on its website, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said it would make the records public “upon receiving them by September 8th.”

On April 10, CREW, the National Security Archive and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued the Department of Homeland Security for visitor records to the White House, Trump Tower and President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club, which frequently hosts official business including diplomatic visits by foreign leaders.

The suit, filed in the Southern District of New York, cited multiple Freedom of Information Act requests that it alleged had been ignored by the Secret Service.

According to CREW, the DHS has said that it has no visitor records for Trump Tower, Trump’s New York City home base that was vaulted into the news yet again last week when Donald Trump Jr. revealed he met with a Russian lawyer and others there after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aide his father’s campaign.

The lawsuit for the White House’s visitor records, the group said, was ongoing.

“The public deserves to know who is coming to meet with the president and his staff,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in the statement on the group’s website Monday. “We are glad that as a result of this case, this information will become public for meetings at his his personal residences—but it needs to be public for meetings at the White House as well.”

“It’s a promising first step that the Department of Homeland Security has agreed to release information on Mar-a-Lago’s visitors, but what might be in these disclosures is a mystery,” Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, said in a statement. “The government does not appear to keep regular records of presidential visitors to Mar-a-Lago or Trump Tower, and it continues to argue that it need not disclose more formal records of visitors to the White House. In our view, the Freedom of Information Act requires the government to make this information – which relates to who exerts influence over the president — available to the public, and we intend to fight for its release.”

CREW sued the Obama White House for the same records, resulting in the administration releasing that information on an ongoing basis beginning in 2009.

The Trump administration announced in April that it would stop releasing White House visitor data.

Read the latest court order below:

This post has been updated.

A threatening note was “discovered near the door” of Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) Las Vegas office on Sunday.

In a statement to TPM, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said an alarm company representative called the police just past 9 a.m. on Sunday, reporting a potential burglary. Though police did not find evidence of a burglary of Heller’s office, nor the building in which it is located, the statement said: “[A] threatening note addressed to Senator Heller was discovered near the door to his office.”

“Officers took a report for Threatening or Obscene Letters or Writing (NRS 207.180),” the statement continued. “The LVMPD has an on-going investigation into this incident.”

Citing the investigation’s open status, LVMPD did not disclose the note’s content.

The Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston, citing an unnamed law enforcement source, reported that the note “was from someone asserting that he would lose his health care if the key senator voted for the repeal bill and that he would die if that happened and would take Heller with him.”

Widely seen as a potential dissenting voice on Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, Heller has faced constituent pressure in recent weeks to block the bill from receiving a vote in the Senate.

H/t KLAS.

This post has been updated.

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