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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

Carter Page, the former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, met with Russian government officials in 2016, he told the House Intelligence Committee Thursday.

The New York Times first reported the news Friday, citing testimony Page gave to the committee during a lengthy closed-door meeting Thursday. Page confirmed the story to the Times, and also to CNN.

“I had a very brief hello to a couple of people. That was it,” he told the Times. One of those people, Page said, was a “senior person,” but he did not specify further. Page later told CNN that he had met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich during the trip, the network reported.

The former Trump adviser is famously talkative, and has given numerous television and print interviews, frequently characterizing his July 2016 trip to Russia as one in which met with Russian academics and businesspeople.

Page told the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin in September 2016 that he had briefly exchanged pleasantries with Dvorkavich, one of a handful of deputy prime ministers in Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s Cabinet, during the graduation ceremony of the New Economic School in Moscow.

But an email from Page to “at least one” Trump campaign aide, according to the Times’ report, suggests Page’s meetings could have been more substantive than he’s said in the past.

After the trip, the Times reported, citing an unnamed person familiar with the email, “Page sent an email to at least on Trump campaign aide describing insights he had after conversations with government officials, legislators, and business executives during his time in Moscow.”

On Monday, Page told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he had been on email chains with George Papadopoulos, another former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who, according to recently unsealed court records, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts to bring together Russian government officials and Trump campaign officials.

Page told Hayes, asked if any of the email chains with Papadopoulos discussed Russia: “It may have come up from time to time, again there was nothing major.”

Then, on Friday, Page confirmed to CNN’s Jake Tapper that he “one of many people” on the email chain in which Papadopoulos suggested, according to Papadopoulos’ unsealed court record, “a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.”

Trump has attempted to minimize Papadopoulos’ role in the campaign, calling him a “low level volunteer” after his guilty plea was announced. One former campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, called Papadopoulos a “coffee boy.”

The Times reported, citing an unnamed congressional official familiar with the exchange, that Page confirmed he had met with Russian government officials to the House committee in response to questioning by Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Page’s admissions about his trips to Russia and communications with Russian officials and others have complicated matters for Trump affiliates higher up the ladder.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for one, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June that “no,” he was not, in Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) words, “aware of any communications with any Trump officials […] about Russia or Russian interests in the United States before Jan. 20.”

Of course, Sessions later acknowledged meeting twice himself with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before the election. But his further knowledge of Papadopoulos’ suggestions about meeting with Russians — as well as his newly reported knowledge of Carter Page’s July 2016 trip — have led senators to call for him to reappear before the Judiciary Committee once again.

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said Friday that President Donald Trump’s lamentation that “I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI,” and his implied threat to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he did not do Trump’s political bidding, were “totally inappropriate.”

Corker was responding to Trump’s statement that “I don’t know” whether Jeff Sessions would be fired if the attorney general didn’t focus federal law enforcement’s energies on investigating Democrats.

Like me, most Americans hope that our justice system is independent and free of political interference,” Corker said in a statement. “President Trump’s pressuring of the Justice Department and FBI to pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place are totally inappropriate and not only undermine our justice system but erode the American people’s confidence in our institutions.”

Trump has seized on a host of so-called scandals that he says damage Democrats in recent days as the pressure from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has increased.

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The publisher of the New Republic resigned on Friday, four days after he was placed on leave following allegations of misconduct by staffers at the storied liberal magazine.

“I’m writing to inform you that Hamilton Fish has tendered his resignation from TNR effective immediately,” New Republic owner Win McCormack wrote to staff Friday, a spokesperson for the magazine confirmed to TPM.

“This won’t mean an end to the inquiry we’ve commissioned, as we want to understand everyone’s experiences in full, both on their own terms and for the purpose of looking ahead,” he added (read McCormack’s full statement below.)

On Monday, McCormack announced that Fish was taking a leave of absence following employees describing “certain workplace interactions that have created an uncomfortable environment for them,” and “interactions between Ham Fish and a number of women employees.”

Leon Wieseltier, for decades the New Republic’s literary critic, also recently admitted to “offenses” against female colleagues during his time at the magazine. Amid allegations against him, Wieseltier lost an editorship of a planned magazine funded by Laurene Powell Jobs, a businesswoman and the widow of Steve Jobs. Former New Republic staffers had accused him of making inappropriate comments about their appearances and kissing them on the mouth. 

Both Wieseltier and Fish were on an anonymously sourced list of “shitty media men,” which described inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment and rape allegations against men in the media industry. The list emerged following revelations that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had engaged in a decades-long practice of sexually harassing and assaulting women.

Read Win McCormack’s full letter to New Republic staff

Dear all,

I’m writing to inform you that Hamilton Fish has tendered his resignation from TNR effective immediately.

This won’t mean an end to the inquiry we’ve commissioned, as we want to understand everyone’s experiences in full, both on their own terms and for the purpose of looking ahead. If you happen not yet to have received the investigator’s contact details, with our invitation to connect with her, you should expect to today.

I’d like to express my deep appreciation to everyone who has contributed or will. Thank you all, as well, for all the help you can offer in strengthening our institution through the months and years to come, and for every aspect of your support to each other and TNR as a whole during this difficult week.

[New Republic editor J.J. Gould] is working with me now on next steps for our organization. If you have any questions, as I know many of you will, please do reach out to him or to me directly.

Yours truly,

Win

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Former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon on Friday pledged to Republicans that he would not focus his political efforts on defeating establishment House Republicans, Politico reported.

Citing two unnamed people familiar with a meeting at the so-called “Breitbart Embassy,” a town house in Washington, D.C., Politico reported that Bannon pledged to the chairman and executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee that he would not “focus” on defeating House incumbents. Bannon has declared political war on incumbent Senate Republicans — with the exception of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who he calls part of the “globalist” establishment in Washington.

That effort has drawn a rebuke from even President Donald Trump, who said in mid-October, referring to Bannon’s work: “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that because frankly, they’re great people.”

Bannon’s wing of the Republican Party — funded generously in various capacities by billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah — celebrated announcements from Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in recent months that they would not seek re-election.

Bannon did not pledge to hold off completely from attacking House Republicans, Politico noted: At one point in the 40-minute discussion, per the publication, “discussion turned to North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose primary opponent, Mark Harris, is running with Bannon’s support.”

Bannon has also thrown his weight behind the comeback campaign of Michael Grimm, the former congressman who once threatened to physically assault a reporter for a question he asked. A year later, Grimm pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

Politico also reported that the NRCC officials also told Bannon they would not “impede his efforts” to elect conservative Republicans in open, reliably Republican seats. So far, more than a dozen House Republicans have said they will not seek re-election, most recently the powerful Republican Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).

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Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was recently offered a job by the President, but Lewandowski turned it down in part due to his ego, four unnamed “knowledgeable sources” told the Daily Beast Thursday.

Trump called Lewandowski last month, the Daily Beast’s sources said, and offered him a position housed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a short walk away from the White House itself. Lewandowski “strongly” consider it, two unnamed people who spoke to him told the Daily Beast, but determined the position was “beneath him.”

“Those close to Lewandowski” told the publication he claimed to have been offered a senior post in the Office of Public Liaison.

Lewandowsi, Trump’s first campaign manager, briefly created his own lobbying firm after being passed over for a White House job, but eventually ditched the operation after allegations that he may have engaged unregistered lobbying through an affiliated group.

He’s since sought opportunities in various corners of the political world: as an analyst for One America News Network; principal “adviser” at Lewandowski Strategic Advisors; pitchman for pro-Trump dark money group America First Policies; upcoming visiting fellow at Harvard University (thousands of students have signed an open letter in protest); and, Politico reported in September, perhaps a lobbyist once more.

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Former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg said Thursday night that, even if President Donald Trump could be proven innocent of all collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, the President should not cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Nunberg briefly served as an adviser to Trump’s campaign until Business Insider reported in July 2015 on racist social media posts he had made in the past. He’s an associate of Trump confidante Roger Stone.

“I think he needs to fire Cobb,” Nunberg told MSNBC’s Ari Melber, asked about what advice he would give to the President. Ty Cobb is the White House lawyer coordinating Trump’s response to Mueller’s probe.

Nunberg continued: “I think Cobb has told him — Cobb has said this publicly — that the Mueller investigation will exonerate Trump by the end of the year. It will not, Ari. It will not.”

Speaking to Gabriel Sherman for a piece in Vanity Fair Wednesday, Nunberg referenced the President’s polling numbers: “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.” Nunberg also pinned the White House’s response to the Russia investigation on Jared Kushner, whose finances Nunberg said he suspected Mueller was also investigating.

“Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg told Vanity Fair.

Nunberg told Melber that, even if cooperating with Mueller would prove Trump’s innocence — the strategy Ty Cobb advocates — doing so would hurt the President.

“You do not release executive privilege,” Nunberg said. “You just do not give up executive privilege.”

The former campaign aide noted separately that he had spoken to an ally of Trump’s, lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

“Alan Dershowitz has said it may not be a crime, even to have colluded with Russia.”

Watch below via MSNBC:

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The powerful Republican Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced Thursday that he would not seek another term in Congress, spelling an end to the conservative’s three decade career in the House of Representatives.

“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else,” Smith said in a statement shared with TPM (read the full statement below). He added: “With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold and hundreds of votes to cast.”

Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, joins a growing list of Republican incumbents opting not to seek re-election in 2018, in both chambers: more than a dozen representatives, in addition to Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Long a skeptic of the science demonstrating human-caused climate change, Smith in July acknowledged a “changing climate,” but only to suggest it might have “positive effects” for life on Earth.

“The use of fossil fuels and the byproducts of carbon enrichment play a large role in advancing the quality of human life by increasing food production to feed our growing population, stimulating the economy, and alleviating poverty,” he wrote.

In January, expressing frustration with the “national liberal media,” Smith said from the House floor: “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

Read Rep. Smith’s full statement announcing his retirement below:

Dear Friend,

I am grateful for the trust voters have placed in me, the friendship constituents have shown me, and the opportunities that serving in Congress have given me.

Representing the 21st District and its more than 700,000 residents is an honor almost beyond description. To enact legislation that will benefit millions of Americans and to help constituents in their dealings with the federal government has been an immense privilege.  

Having chaired the Ethics, Judiciary, and Science Committees, and also served as a member of the Homeland Security and Budget Committees, I’ve been able to shape policy involving ethics, immigration, crime, intellectual property, space, energy, the environment, the budget and high tech. 

And, through the years, it’s been gratifying to have been named one of the 100 most influential people in D.C., one of the most effective members of Congress, and Legislator of the Year.

It is humbling living in a small apartment in Washington four nights a week. And I seldom leave the office before late at night.  But traveling back to Texas almost every weekend recharges the batteries.

For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else. At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!!  And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics.

With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold, and hundreds of votes to cast.

Our nation faces many challenges but we will always prevail if we put the interests of American citizens and taxpayers first. A successful democracy requires an honest media, true patriots, and respect for the rule of law. All of us can do our part to help promote these ideals. 

Heartfelt thanks and much appreciation goes to family, friends, constituents, colleagues, and staff members for a productive three decades. I will always value their dedication and support.

Let’s stay in touch and let me know when I can be of help.

Lamar

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are scheduled to hold an on camera press briefing at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday. Watch live below:

Conservative billionaire and mega-fundraiser Robert Mercer is stepping down as co-CEO of the hedge fund giant Renaissance Technologies.

Mercer will also resign from the fund’s board, the New York Times and several other outlets reported Thursday, citing a memo Mercer sent to investors and pension advisers. He will remain a member of the company’s technical and research staff.

In the memo — published by BuzzFeed and available below — Mercer also distanced himself from the conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopolis and said he would sell his stake in Breitbart News to his daughters.

Mercer is known for his bankrolling of the Trump-allied wing of the Republican Party, and specifically of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The Mercer family — Robert’s daughter, Rebekah, is a hugely influential political player — holds a major stake in the far-right website Breitbart News. But the Mercers have funded a number of other projects with which Bannon has ties: Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining firm hired by the Trump campaign during the 2016 election; the Government Accountability Institute, which first dug up the so-called Uranium One scandal; and others.

The Mercers reportedly had a substantial role in shaping Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, including urging Trump to bring on Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to lead the campaign. Conway, like Bannon, had long been a political adviser to the family. Mercer also bankrolled a super PAC, Make America Number 1, that generously supported Trump.

Trump attended a costume party at Mercer’s estate in December last year.

Mercer’s political activities reportedly generated tension within Renaissance Technologies: Bloomberg noted Thursday that co-CEO Peter Brown — who will be the firm’s sole CEO after Mercer steps down on Jan. 1, 2018 — was one of Hillary Clinton’s top financial backers in the 2016 race. One former Renaissance employee, David Magerman, has sued the firm for what he says was wrongful termination after he criticized Mercer’s political activities.

BuzzFeed reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources familiar with Renaissance, that there was “significant anger within the company” after an explosive report the outlet published revealing the connections between Milo Yiannopolis, a former Breitbart staffer and conservative provocateur, and white nationalists. BuzzFeed confirmed in July that the Mercers funded Yiannopolis’ speaking tour, and seemed to be a major funder of an upcoming projects, as well.

Mercer’s memo mentions his support of Yiannopolis, whom Mercer now says he disavows, and expands upon his political beliefs and well-heeled activism. Read it below:

Dear Colleagues,

During the past year, I have been the object of a great deal of scrutiny from the press. I have declined to comment on what has been written about me, imagining that with time the attention would dissipate. Because that has yet to happen, I have decided to correct some of the misinformation that has been published about me. It is not my intention to impose the views I describe below on anyone else.

My goal is simply to explain my thinking, the very essence of which is that all of us should think for ourselves.
I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions, assume responsibility for their own actions, and spend the fruits of their own labor as they see fit. I believe that a collection of individuals making their own decisions within the confines of a clear and concise set of laws that they have determined for themselves will advance society much more effectively than will a collection of experts who are confident in their knowledge of what is best for everyone else. This is why I support conservatives, who favor a smaller, less powerful government.

A society founded on the basis of the individual freedom that flourishes under a limited federal government has no place for discrimination. Of the many mischaracterizations made of me by the press, the most repugnant to me have been the intimations that I am a white supremacist or a member of some other noxious group.

Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, creed, or anything of that sort is abhorrent to me. But more than that, it is ignorant.

The press has also intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s. I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically. Those decisions do not always align with Mr. Bannon’s.

Without individuals thinking for themselves, society as a whole will struggle to distinguish the signal of truth from the correlated noise of conformity. I supported Milo Yiannopoulos in the hope and expectation that his expression of views contrary to the social mainstream and his spotlighting of the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness would promote the type of open debate and freedom of thought that is being throttled on many American college campuses today. But in my opinion, actions of and statements by Mr. Yiannopoulos have caused pain and divisiveness undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate. I was mistaken to have supported him, and for several weeks have been in the process of severing all ties with him.

For personal reasons, I have also decided to sell my stake in Breitbart News to my daughters.

I would also like to inform you of a decision I have reached with respect to my role at Renaissance, an organization I adore with colleagues whom I deeply respect and admire. I am 71 years old, the same age that Jim Simons was when he retired. I do not plan to retire, but I do plan to relinquish my management responsibilities.

Peter Brown and I have been Co-CEOs for the past eight years. On January 1, 2018, I will step down from my position as Co-CEO and resign from the board of directors. I will continue with the firm as a member of its technical staff, focusing on the research work that I find most fulfilling. Peter will continue on as CEO, and I will provide him with my counsel whenever he feels that I can be helpful to him and to the company where I have spent so many wonderful years.

RLM

This post has been updated.

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Former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele’s company was paid $168,000 for its work creating a dossier on Donald Trump, Reuters reported Thursday.

Citing a statement from the research firm that paid Steele’s company, Fusion GPS, Reuters reported that the money paid to Steele was part of $1.02 million in fees Fusion GPS had received from Perkins Coie, a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Prior to Democrats hiring Fusion GPS for research, conservatives funded the firm’s work: Editors of the conservative news site Washington Free Beacon admitted Saturday that the outlet first contracted Fusion GPS to research Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary. “We do not apologize for our methods,” they wrote. “The First Amendment guarantees our right to engage in news-gathering as we see fit.”

Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, however, have focused on Democrats’ work funding the research firm. On Sunday, Trump baselessly claimed the dossier cost $12 million.

The dossier, though still largely unverified, alleged that Russians had compromising information on Trump. Republicans have raged at the possibility that the dossier influenced, and perhaps initiated, congressional and federal investigations of Trump and his associates.

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