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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

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and author of the so-called “Nunes memo,” said Friday that the document was just one phase of his investigation into the probe of Russian election meddling in the 2016 election.

“This completes just the FISA abuse portion of our investigation,” he told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Friday, after his brief and widely-panned memo was declassified by President Donald Trump.

Republicans had claimed the document would show serious wrongdoing and anti-Trump bias within the FBI and Justice Department. The reality was dramatically different.

“We are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation,” Nunes continued, “which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement they had in this.”

“That investigation is ongoing and we continue to work toward finding answers and asking the right questions to try to get to the bottom of what exactly the State Department was up to in terms of this Russian investigation.”

Nunes was defiant in the interview, calling Democrats who had criticized the memo as misleading liars, and asserting at one point that he didn’t think “somebody like” former Trump campaign aide Carter Page — the surveillance warrant for whom was the memo’s primary focus — “should be a target of the FBI.”

“I don’t know what the FBI agent, what they were smoking that [they] would think that Carter Page, who hasn’t had a job for many years, who is obviously a Russian sympathizer, but that somehow the Russians, who actually said he was an idiot in court testimony — this was presented before the court — so Russian agents said that Carter Page was an idiot,” he said before referencing one of the Steele dossier’s claims. “Do you think that the Russians were going to offer him a 19 percent share of the major oil company in Russia? I mean, this is crazy. So when somebody first reads that dossier, I would think you would come away from that and think, this is wild stuff.”

Nunes dismissed specific criticisms made by Democrats and reversed a previous vote he cast to block the release of a Democratic counter-memo that Democrats claim would paint a more complete picture of the FISA warrant to surveil Page.

“Yeah, we will” vote to release Democrats’ memo, he said, “but it has to go through the same process.”

He said it was “hard to say” when that would be, as “we’re going to have to go through and scrub it again.”

Democrats have charged that it was misleading for Nunes to claim in his memo that the Steele dossier “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application,” and specifically objected to the memo’s claim that outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” without the Steele dossier’s information.

Nunes said of that assertion: “Yeah, I mean it’s a summation of a long interview, and that is definitely what he said, not to mention we have other witnesses who said similar things.”

Baier asked why Nunes wouldn’t simply release the transcript of McCabe saying as much.

“Well that would be a whole process that we’d have to go through,” Nunes said. “I wouldn’t mind doing that, but we’d have to go through a whole process to release transcripts.”

“They wouldn’t have received a warrant without the dossier,” he said, adding: “The largest percentage of the entire application has to do with the dossier and then using the news story to corroborate the dossier.”

Baier then played a clip of House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) claiming that it “was disclosed to the FISA court that part of the evidence was from a politically-motivated source.”

“These guys tell so many lies, you can’t keep track of them,” Nunes said of that claim, adding later: “I don’t believe that happened at all.”

Watch the interview below via Fox News:

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Arizona Republican Senate candidate and former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio gave at least five interviews since 2014 to the anti-Semitic outlet American Free Press, the Arizona Republic reported Wednesday evening.

On Jan. 30, AFP published a story on Arpaio’s Senate campaign that featured an interview he gave to reporter Mark Anderson. Arpaio praised Anderson’s work.

“He’s written some good stories, especially on my situation,” Arpaio told the Arizona Republic of an AFP reporter who published a story Wednesday on Arpaio’s Senate campaign. “I think he wrote one a little while back that was very honest. I can’t say that for other publications.”

The reporter, Mark Anderson, has written approvingly of David Duke and promoted conspiracy theories, Media Matters noted.

Arpaio separately told the Arizona Republic that he couldn’t “believe another news outlet is criticizing a newspaper.”

“I talk to all media, so what am I supposed to do? Investigate every media outlet to see what stories they write?” Arpaio said. “I don’t do that. You know that, I talk to all reporters, all publications.”

Willis Carto, the late founder of AFP, was a Holocaust denier who blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on Israel. The Southern Poverty Law Center called him “one of the most active and influential white nationalists of the past century.” AFP has published posts like “Jewish Fingerprints All Over 9-11,” as the Arizona Republic noted, as well as pieces about “Jewish congressional traitors” and the “international Jewish lobby.”

In 2016, Arpaio lost his bid to serve a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County, a role in which he had been criticized for years over cruel conditions in his facilities. He once described an outdoor jail dubbed “Tent City” as a “concentration camp.” In August 2017, he received a presidential pardon a month after he was convicted of defying a court order that he stop profiling Latino motorists.

Arpaio claimed to the Republic that he hadn’t read AFP in print and doesn’t have a computer to read it online.

“If I turned down everybody that writes stories I didn’t agree with, I probably wouldn’t be talking to anybody,” Arpaio told the publication. “I can’t believe this, how one journalist’s organization would criticize another one when we have free speech in this country.”

Arpaio claimed Thursday that he was “unaware” of AFP’s viewpoint, but in 2014 the Phoenix New Times asked the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office about the publication after Arpaio gave AFP an interview.

“The Sheriff does hundreds of interviews with different people and doesn’t do background checks on them before he does them,” a spokesperson for MCSO told the New Times. “The topic of this interview was immigration, I’m sure you have it.”

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President Donald Trump on Thursday took inflated credit for economic milestones that have occurred during his first term and complained that Democrats have not sufficiently celebrated his (overstated) achievements.

“Perhaps they would rather see us not do well than see our country do great,” Trump said of Democrats, speaking to an annual retreat of Republican lawmakers at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

Trump claimed that Democrats “sat there, stone cold, no smile, no applause” on Tuesday during his first State of the Union address when he announced that African American and Hispanic unemployment rates are at record lows.

However, he was incorrect to suggest that the low rates are wholly his administration’s doing. Unemployment numbers for African Americans and Hispanics peaked in 2010 and have fallen steadily since, and — as NPR noted of Trump’s boast — “their declines don’t appear to have picked up speed” since he took office.

Trump’s boast on Thursday that “since the election, we have created 2.4 million jobs” — a number he claimed was “unthinkable” — was similarly exaggerated.

As NBC News noted, only 2.1 million jobs have been added to the economy during Trump’s presidency. The rest were created between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration and are therefore jobs for which Trump can claim little credit, even before accounting for the thin connection between presidents and job growth. And compared to job growth under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Trump’s first year numbers actually constitute the slowest such increase in six years, according to the same NBC News fact check. 

Later in his remarks, Trump highlighted the impact of the Republican tax bill he signed into law in December. Republicans announced at the time that the bill would increase Americans’ yearly incomes. Trump repeated that claim on Thursday.

“The changes to our business tax alone are expected to raise average household income by $4,000,” he said.

While Trump has cited worker bonuses as proof that the legislation is fulfilling Republican lawmakers’ pledges, few companies have granted workers the permanent pay raises that Trump and congressional Republicans promised, and it is difficult to verify whether those benefits can be credited to Trump or the tightening labor market that dates back to Obama’s first term.

Walmart, one of a few companies that announced it will raise its minimum wage in 2018, did the same in 2015 — and has also closed dozens of its Sam’s Club locations and laid off thousands of employees nationwide.

Trump on Thursday targeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for calling the trade-off in the tax legislation — massive corporate tax cuts in exchange for one-time bonuses — “crumbs.”

That could be like ‘deplorable,’ does that make sense? ‘Deplorable’ and ‘crumbs?’” he said, referring to a remark Hillary Clinton made during the 2016 election. “Those two words seem to have a resemblance. I hope it has the same meaning. But she called it crumbs, when people are getting $2,000 and $3,000 and $1,000. That’s not crumbs. That’s a lot of money.”

He also trotted out now-familiar boasts about corporate investment, saying Apple had promised to invest $350 billion in the United States and create 20,000 new American jobs, and citing ExxonMobil’s similar announcement of a $50 billion investment.

Trump claimed that Apple’s decision was “because of our tax cuts,” and added later: “And this would have never happened without us and the work you’ve done.”

Neither company, however, cited the Republican tax bill as the primary motivation behind their decisions.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the company’s announcement: “There are large parts of this that are results of the tax reform, and there are large parts of this that we would have done in any situation.”

While Apple said in a press release that it is making a “direct contribution to the US economy” of 350 billion, the company did not specify whether it made that decision due to the tax cut. The wording used in Apple’s press release to describe the $350 billion — “direct contribution” rather than “investment” — is also very unclear.

Meanwhile, according to a press release, ExxonMobil’s announced $50 billion investment was only “enhanced” by the tax bill. According to the Wall Street Journal, that figure also includes $15 billion in previously announced projects.

Characteristic exaggerations aside, some of Trump’s remarks on Thursday skipped right out of left field and into the bleachers, such as when he claimed that his visit to the World Economic forum in January would net the United States “hundreds of billions of dollars.”

“A lot of you folks, you saw Davos the other day,” he said. “They’re coming back. I believe I brought hundreds of billions of dollars with me back from Europe, back from Switzerland when I went there the other day to make a speech.”

Strong as the President’s personality may be, such a claim defies fact-checking.

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A former spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s legal team plans to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that White House communications director and Trump confidant Hope Hicks made a remark last year that left him concerned about obstruction of justice, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The New York Times reported, citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of Mueller’s interview request, that former Trump spokesperson Mark Corallo will tell Mueller that Hicks assured the President that emails from Trump Jr. to his acquaintance Rob Goldstone about a Russian lawyer nearly a year earlier “will never get out.”

According to the report, Corallo will tell Mueller that Hicks made the remark in a July 2017 on a conference call with Trump, amid the response to a New York Times report on the meeting and conflicting statements about its purpose.

Corallo told colleagues, according to the New York Times, that he was concerned that Hicks was suggesting hiding the emails from investigators, and that, regardless of her intent, she made the remark in front of Trump without a lawyer and the associated protection of attorney-client privilege. Shortly after the call, he left his position as spokesperson for Trump’s legal team after only two months on the job.

Hicks, who does not usually make public comments, responded to the Times through her lawyer Robert P. Trout.

“As most reporters know, it’s not my practice to comment in response to questions from the media. But this warrants a response,” Trout told the Times. “She never said that. And the idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that emails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false.”

Read the latest editor’s brief (Prime access) on this story »

 

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The author of the White House tell-all “Fire and Fury” denied on Thursday that he implied the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is having affair with President Donald Trump, leading to a confrontation on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that ended in an abrupt commercial break.

Wolff’s implications about an affair began in an interview with Bill Maher on HBO. Wolff told Maher that viewers could “read between the lines” of his book and discover a tidbit of information about an alleged affair the President is currently having. “I didn’t have the blue dress,” he lamented, referring to former President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. The book itself suggested that Haley is having an affair with Trump, which she has denied outright.

Wolff told theSkimm in an interview published Wednesday that “she seems to have embraced it,” referring to Haley’s denial of the rumor, and “all she does is hammer on this fact.” 

Wolff attempted to argue Thursday morning that he’d made no such implication about Haley, ultimately leading host Mika Brzezinski to tell Wolff “we’re done” and cut to commercial.

“You made news this weekend talking about things you didn’t know firsthand saying you believed it was true but you had no proof that the President had an affair with someone in his administration,” panelist Susan Del Percio asked Wolff.

“Yes,” Wolff replied.

“After a lot of rumors came out, there was speculation that you meant Nikki Haley, and you said she’s embraced it,” Del Percio continued, asking if Wolff didn’t find that implication “absolutely irresponsible at this point in time, where we are as a society, when you’re talking about a woman who’s a high-profile woman in the Trump administration, to go after her without any evidence, without any facts?”

“It just seems that it is so irresponsible,” she said.

“First thing, I didn’t go after her, and secondly, certainly what I meant was I found it puzzling that she would deny something she was not accused of,” Wolff replied.

Brzezinski stepped in: “Do you regret inferring anything about Nikki Haley?”

“I didn’t infer anything about Nikki Haley,” Wolff said. “What I inferred was that the President— is that many of the people around the President believe he is still involved with various women.”

“No, but you said she spent a lot of time, and private time, with him,” Del Percio said.

“Totally, I mean, that’s exactly what people report,” Wolff said. “And specifically, that was about her bid to become the secretary of state. So everywhere in the White House, they were suddenly in quite a panic that this actually happening, which is why they pushed Pompeo out.”

“Michael, you said she has embraced it,” Brzezinski said. “I’m going to go as far as to say you might be having a fun time playing a little game dancing around this but you’re slurring a woman, it’s disgraceful.”

“Mika, again, she has been accused of nothing,” Wolff said. “She has decided to deny what she has not been accused of. Certainly I didn’t accuse her of this.”

“Wait, are you suggesting that the language is not ambiguous in any way in the things that you’ve said and the way you’ve stated it?” the editor of the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, asked.

“Come on, are you kidding?” Brzezinski added. “You’re on the set of ‘Morning Joe,’ we don’t BS here.”

“Well, what’s — read me the language,” Wolff protested.

“Are you kidding me? I’m not reading you anything,” Brzezinski said, adding: “If you don’t get it, if you don’t get what we’re talking about, I’m sorry, this is awkward, you’re here on the set with us, but we’re done. Michael Wolff, thank you. We’re going to go to break now. Bye, everyone. We’ll be right back.”

Wolff responded on Twitter afterward:

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect a correction on a report from Foreign Policy, on which it was originally based, and additional reporting by TPM.

Ambassadors from African nations left a diplomatic event earlier this week disappointed that White House adviser Kellyanne Conway did not address reported comments from President Donald Trump that those nations, Haiti and El Salvador were “shitholes,” Foreign Policy reported Wednesday, based on unnamed sources who attended the event.

However, the outlet’s original report indicated the event had been held in order to contain the fallout from those reported remarks. When Conway spoke about Trump’s achievements in office rather than his comments about African countries, the original report said, the participants were “confused and bewildered.”

The event was not an effort to contain the fallout from Trump’s remarks about African nations, a State Department official told TPM Wednesday, but rather a preview of his State of the Union address.

A correction on Foreign Policy’s report reads: “The original version of this article said that the purpose of the meeting was to address diplomatic concerns of African ambassadors, and described it as a botched effort; it was not. FP regrets the errors.”

The State Department initially referred TPM to the White House for comment on the story Wednesday. The White House initially did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Sean Lawler, the State Department’s chief of protocol and the organizer of the event, told TPM by phone Wednesday that he’d received 120 RSVPs for the event, and that representatives of 100 countries ultimately attended. The purpose of the event was to preview the State of the Union address, he said.

Attendees were asked to submit questions for Conway, who had been invited to attend, and Conway picked five to answer, Lawler said. There were no questions about “alleged comments by the President,” he told TPM, and Conway left after answering the five questions she’d picked.

The Foreign Policy report also included a letter from Trump to the African Union on the occasion of its 30th summit last week.

“The United States profoundly respects the partnerships and values we share with the African Union, member states, and citizens across the continent,” Trump wrote in the letter. “I want to underscore that the United States deeply respects the people of Africa, and my commitment to strong and respectful relationships with African states as sovereign nations is firm.”

The Washington Post first reported on Jan. 12 that, in a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy, Trump questioned why the United States should welcome immigrants from “shithole countries” including unnamed African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.

Foreign Policy noted the Post report caused a “diplomatic firestorm” that included several African nations summoning top American diplomats to answer for the remark.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray told the White House that he opposes the release of a memo crafted by Republican House Intelligence Committee staffers that purports to show anti-Trump bias in the FBI and Justice Department because it contains inaccuracies, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

According to an unnamed person familiar with the matter, Wray told the White House that the memo “contains inaccurate information and paints a false narrative,” according to Bloomberg.

Politico reported Monday that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), had shown Wray the memo the previous day.

The memo, now a talisman for conspiracy-minded congressional Republicans hoping to impede the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, is reportedly based the process to obtain a FISA warrant to gather intelligence on Trump officials.

House Intel Democrats compiled a counter-memo they said would correct the record. The committee voted on party lines to allow the release of the Republican memo, and to suppress the Democratic one.

The Washington Post and the New York Times reported Tuesday that Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appealed to the White House to block the release of the memo.

President Trump said after his State of the Union address Tuesday night that he’d release it. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, hedged on that commitment Wednesday morning.

Rosenstein, according to the Post, “said the Department of Justice was not convinced the memo accurately describes its investigative practices.”

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Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) waited for “hours” according to one reporter, in order to shake President Donald Trump’s hand and ask him, on camera, to “release the memo.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Trump replied. “A hundred percent. Can you imagine that? He’d be too angry.”

CSPAN published the clip after Trump completed his first State of the Union address Tuesday:

NBC News’ Frank Thorp noted that Duncan “waited HOURS to save that seat to ask President Trump to release the Nunes memo.”

The memo Duncan referenced to the President is one written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that supposedly shows an anti-Trump bias in the Obama-era Justice Department and FBI. Democrats have said the memo pulls selectively from a much longer application for a FISA warrant.

The committee voted on party lines to release the memo Monday. Trump has said he supports its release, though the Justice Department has said the move would risk national security.

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Political consultant Frank Luntz declared Tuesday that “only one word” could describe President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address: “Wow.”

Last year, pundits across the political spectrum celebrated Trump’s from-the-prompter address as “presidential.” “He became President of the United States in that moment, period,” Van Jones said on CNN in 2017, describing the moment Trump honored the widow of a Navy SEAL during his first address to a joint session of Congress.

Afterward, the nearly unconditional praise was seen as short-sighted.

On Tuesday, Luntz applied the same kind of rigorous analysis:

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President Donald Trump borrowed language from immigration activists during his first State of the Union address, saying that Americans, too, were “dreamers.”

“My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream,” Trump said before referencing immigration policy. “Because Americans are dreamers too.”

Democrats have used the term to refer to young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States when they were children. Trump rescinded DACA, an Obama-era protection from deportation for dreamers, on Sept. 5 last year.

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