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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

President Donald Trump diverged from his script slightly Tuesday when he exclaimed “Thank heaven” that individual mandate at the center of Obamacare — seemingly pronounced “Opamacare,” this time — had been repealed as part of Republicans’ tax bill.

“We repealed the core of the disastrous Obamacare,” he said during his first State of the Union address. “The individual mandate is now gone. Thank heaven.”

Hillary Clinton responded Tuesday to a report in the New York Times Friday that she declined to fire her faith adviser, Burns Strider, during her 2008 campaign after her campaign manager informed her of a sexual harassment complaint against him.

I very much understand the question I’m being asked as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior,” she wrote in a lengthy post on her Facebook page. “The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.”

Clinton confirmed the Times’ reporting that, presented with her staff’s determination that Strider had “engaged in inappropriate behavior,” she “asked for steps that could be taken short of termination.”

“In the end, I decided to demote him, docking his pay; separate him from the woman; assign her to work directly for my then-deputy-campaign manager; put in place technical barriers to his emailing her; and require that he seek counseling,” she wrote. “He would also be warned that any subsequent harassment of any kind toward anyone would result in immediate termination.”

Clinton continued, explaining her decision: “I did this because I didn’t think firing him was the best solution to the problem. He needed to be punished, change his behavior, and understand why his actions were wrong. The young woman needed to be able to thrive and feel safe. I thought both could happen without him losing his job. I believed the punishment was severe and the message to him unambiguous.”

The Times also reported that Strider was fired from a Clinton-aligned super PAC, Correct the Record, in 2016, for similar reasons. Clinton did not address that in the Facebook post.

Read the full post — published minutes before President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address — below:

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The Justice Department inspector general is probing whether departed FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe sat on knowledge that Anthony Weiner’s laptop held emails that were potentially relevant to the then-closed Clinton email investigation, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement on Oct. 28 that the FBI had learned of “emails that appear to be pertinent to the [Clinton email] investigation” — and his notice on Nov. 6 that the emails hadn’t changed anything — was widely cited as a boon for Donald Trump in the final days of the 2016 election.

McCabe took an early leave from his post at the FBI on Monday after meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and discussing the inspector general’s probe, the Post reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Though Comey said on Oct. 28th that he had learned of the emails the day prior, the Post reported Tuesday that McCabe was “aware of the matter by late September or early October at the latest, according to the people familiar with the matter.”

The Post reported that McCabe’s detractors and defenders have different opinions on his actions regarding the emails on Weiner’s laptop — with some saying he and other officials appropriately took their time to determine whether they were relevant to the Clinton probe, and others saying he let the question sit without explanation.

The Post’s report also says that unnamed people involved at the time differ in their opinions of when Comey and McCabe first learned about the emails: At the same time, or weeks apart.

“A key question of the internal investigation is whether McCabe or anyone else at the FBI wanted to avoid taking action on the laptop findings until after the Nov. 8 election, these people said,” the Post reported. “It is unclear whether the inspector general has reached any conclusions on that point.”

It is Justice Department — and thus, FBI — policy to stay out of politics with the announcement of developments in investigations, especially within days of an election.

Read the Post’s full report here.

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

 

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The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee said Tuesday that casino magnate and former RNC finance chair Steve Wynn deserves “due process” regarding a report of a pattern of sexual harassment before the RNC returns his donations.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday on dozens of allegations of sexual harassment against Wynn, including that he pressured his employees to perform sex acts. He’s denied the allegations.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniels on Tuesday contrasted Wynn’s denial to the responses of Harvey Weinstein and former Sen. Al Franken to sexual harassment allegations. They both denied some of the allegations made against them, but did not deny all of them outright. The RNC pressured the DNC to return cash from Weinstein, a major Democratic donor, when the allegations against him were first reported.

The allegations in the Wall Street Journal were deeply troubling,” McDaniels told Fox News’ Sandra Smith Tuesday. “They were so troubling that within 24 hours Steve was no longer our finance chair.”

“But Steve has denied these allegations, unlike Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken and others, Steve has denied them,” she continued. “There is an investigation that’s going to take place. He should be allowed due process. And if he is found of any wrongdoing we will absolutely return 100 percent of that money. But we’re going to let due process take place.”

Smith tried again: “So fair to say there’s no plans right now to give those donations back?” 

“We’re going to let the investigation take place,” McDaniels said. “We took the allegations seriously enough to remove him as finance chair and now we are moving forward.”

Wynn Resorts’ board of directors has formed a special committee to investigate the allegations. And the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said it’s reviewing the allegations in light of a Wynn Resorts casino project currently under construction in Everett.

The RNC did not respond to TPM’s inquiries Tuesday regarding what would lead to the party to return Wynn’s donations.

This post has been updated.

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A Treasury Department spokesperson has admitted that its congressionally mandated list of Russian oligarchs was taken from a Forbes list of Russian billionaires, according to BuzzFeed News.

BuzzFeed News’ John Hudson reported Tuesday: “When asked if there is ‘any truth to the criticisms that the Treasury list was inspired or derived in some way from the Forbes list,’ a Treasury spokesperson said ‘yes.’”

The outlet quoted the unnamed spokesperson as saying that “[t]he names of and net worth of oligarchs in the unclassified version of the report were selected based on objective criteria drawn from publicly available sources.”

CNBC’s Natasha Turak reported Tuesday that the Treasury Department’s list was “strikingly similar” to the Forbes list.

While some of the report is classified, its public portion — the part that pulls from Forbes list of 200 richest Russian businessmen, as BuzzFeed News reported — is likely to anger legislators who wanted for more scrutiny, and consequences for election meddling, for Russia’s ruling class.

The oligarch list was mandated as part of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAASTA), passed with veto-proof congressional support, much to Trump’s frustration, to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election. It also levied sanctions on North Korea and Iran.

The Trump administration clarified upon publishing the list that it was not announcing new sanctions on the names listed therein. And Monday’s deadline to implement new sanctions on Russia, in accordance with the same law, came and went without any new sanctions.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of Parliament said the list was “copied out the Kremlin phonebook,” per CNN’s translation.

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“Of course” Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC in an interview aired Monday.

I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that,” Pompeo said. “But I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election, that we’ll push back in a way that is sufficiently robust, that the impact that they will have on our election won’t be great.”

Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas and a Trump ally, said in June that Russia had been attempting to undermine America’s democratic processes for decades and that “this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is frankly not particularly original” and “in some ways, there’s no news.”

He echoed that sentiment to the BBC, saying “the Russians have a long history of these information campaigns. That part of it’s not new.”

But, he continued, “the technology that enables it is now cheap and plentiful and the capability of transferring information around the world is much simpler than it was in World War II or decades ago. This threat is not going to go away.”

“The Russians have been at this a long time and I fully expect they’ll continue to be at it,” Pompeo said.

“I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” he said separately, quoted by the BBC.

Asked if he had to walk a “fine line” given the President’s dismissal of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election as “fake news,” Pompeo said “I don’t do fine lines. I do the truth.”

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A federal judge on Monday compared the behavior of immigration agents to “treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust” and issued an order for the release of a well-known immigration activist who was suddenly arrested on Jan. 11 during a check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“There is, and ought to be in this great country, the freedom to say goodbye,” Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York wrote in a court order.

“That is, the freedom to hug one’s spouse and children, the freedom to organize the myriad of human affairs that collect over time,” the order continued. “It ought not to be—and it has never before been—that those who have lived without incident in this country for years are subjected to treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust, regimes where those who have lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, home, and work. And sent away.”

“We are not that country; and woe be the day that we become that country under a fiction that laws allow it,” Forrest added.

Ragbir came to the United States decades ago and became a legal permanent resident. He was convicted of wire fraud in 2001 and, following time behind bars and a deportation order, maintained a clean record and regularly checked in with immigration officials. He is the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, an immigrant advocacy group.

Ragbir’s sudden arrest — and deportation proceedings, which Forrest did not stop with her order Monday — was cited by immigration activists as one of the most prominent instances of activist leaders being targeted for arrest and deportation. Other recently arrested activist leaders include Jean Montrevil, who was deported to Haiti after living in the United States for decades; and Eliseo Jurad, who was detained by ICE in Colorado and whose wife has notably sought sanctuary in the Boulder Unitarian Universalist Church.

Political figures in New York City protested Ragbir’s arrest. Two city councilors were among those arrested at a rally in support of Ragbir on the day of his arrest.

Forrest acknowledged in her order Monday that Ragbir still faces deportation, noting that “[t]he process that was due here is not the process that will allow him to stay indefinitely—those processes have been had,” but, she wrote, it violated Ragbir’s rights to begin the path to deportation without allowing him time to “organize his affairs, and [to] do so by a date certain.”

Read Forrest’s order below:

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Todd Starnes, who hosts the “Fox News & Commentary” radio show, argued Sunday that the President should direct immigration enforcement agents to arrest any undocumented guests at his State of the Union address Tuesday.

“[House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] has decided to turn the U.S. Capitol into a sanctuary — a safe haven — for people who are living in our nation illegally,” Starnes wrote in an opinion piece on Fox News’ website, after citing ABC News’ reporting that several undocumented immigrants will attend the address as Democrats’ guests.

“In response, President Trump should fill the remainder of the House gallery with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Imagine the message he could send to the world if he directed ICE agents to arrest every illegal alien in the House chamber — live on national television.”

Elsewhere in the op-ed, Starnes characterizes young undocumented immigrants, including those advocating for themselves on Capitol Hill by occupying lawmakers’ offices, as “foreign invaders,” “an angry horde of illegals” and “a rampaging mob of profane illegals.”

He also suggests that lawmakers who host undocumented people at the State of the Union should be investigated for “harboring illegal aliens.”

Democrats and pro-immigrant activists are attempting to pressure President Trump and congressional Republicans to provide legal protections for young undocumented immigrants formerly protected by DACA — the Obama-era executive action shielding qualified undocumented young people from deportation that Trump ended on Sept. 5 of last year.

Lawmakers say they’re aiming to come up with a deal for these so-called “Dreamers” by March 5. In return for these protections, the White House has demanded billions of dollars in border security funds, eliminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and all but eliminating immigration based on the reunification of families — or “chain migration,” as Republicans have labeled the policy.

In reality, DACA recipients with work permits expiring before March 5 were given little notice to renew those permits by the newly-announced Oct. 5 deadline last year, and roughly 120 former DACA recipients lose the policy’s protections every day. Those with permits expiring after March 5 were not allowed to renew them.

H/t The Hill

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The former chair of the Colorado Republican Party was sentenced to four years of probation and 300 hours of community service on Friday for committing voter fraud and forging his ex-wife’s signature on her 2016 ballot.

Steve Curtis, who chaired the state’s Republican Party from 1997 to 1999, has said in his defense that he filled out the ballot — and certified it with his ex-wife’s forged signature — during a diabetic blackout.

He added at his sentencing hearing Friday, as quoted by the Greeley Tribune, that “[i]t was a normal and customary thing in my house with my prior wife and with Kelly (Curtis), to fill out their ballots. … I didn’t know that was illegal.”

He was first charged in March of last year and was found guilty of both forgery and voter fraud — a felony and misdemeanor, respectively — in December.

In 2016, before charges were filed against him, Curtis notably argued on a talk radio show he hosted that “virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats.”

He also got in the face of a local journalist, KDVR’s Rob Low, who asked about the charges shortly after they were filed in March of last year.

“We’re not going to talk about this,” he said.

H/t The Week

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Casino magnate and Republican National Committee Finance Chair Steve Wynn has been accused of what the Wall Street Journal called a “decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct,” including allegedly forcing his employees to engage in sex acts with him.

Citing “dozens” of accounts from employees of the Wynn Resorts company and others, the Journal reported on allegations that ranged from Wynn pressuring a manicurist he employed to have sex with him to repeatedly requesting that massage therapists engage in sex acts with him.

The manicurist was later paid a $7.5 million settlement, the Journal reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Wynn said in a statement to the Journal that “[t]he idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”

He added: “We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations, regardless of the truth, and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multi-year lawsuits. It is deplorable for anyone to find themselves in this situation.”

Wynn said his ex-wife “instigated” the accusations, charges Elaine Wynn’s attorney said weren’t true. Wynn Resorts pointed to its sexual harassment training and anonymous hotline, which, the company said, had not received a single complaint about Wynn.

The Journal cited an early ‘90s deposition from the late Dennis Gomes, who said he “routinely received complaints from various department heads regarding Wynn’s chronic sexual harassment of female employees,” when he was an executive at a casino Wynn ran, according to a court summary. Gomes described a “disgraceful pattern of personal and professional conduct” including instructions from Wynn to get cocktail waitresses’ home phone numbers. Wynn denied the allegations at the time, the Journal noted.

The allegations continued, according to the report: Wynn would wear short shorts that exposed his genitals, several former employees said, and repeatedly propositioned his employees for sex, among other things.

After stories broke last year on the extensive allegations of sexual harassment against media mogul Harvey Weinstein, the Republican National Committee pressured Democrats to return Weinstein’s political contributions.

Now, faced with similar allegations against the billionaire Trump ally in their ranks, the RNC has not indicated it will follow its own lead. A request for comment to the organization went unanswered.

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