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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

The chairmen of the House committees on government reform and the judiciary wrote to the Department of Justice on Tuesday demanding that three FBI officials be made available for interviews.

Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Chief of Staff Jim Rybicki and counsel Lisa Page should be available for interviews starting Thursday, the letter said.

Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) (pictured above) and Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the leaders of the Judiciary and Government Reform committees, respectively, wrote: “Among other things, the Committees are investigating the circumstances surrounding the FBI’s decision to publicly announce the investigation into former Secretary Clinton’s handling of classified information, but not to publicly announce the investigation into campaign associates of then-candidate Donald Trump; the FBI’s decision to notify Congress by letter of the status of the investigation both in October and November of 2016; the FBI’s decision to appropriate from DOJ the decision-making authority with respect to charging or not charging former Secretary Clinton; and the FBI’s timeline with respect to charging decisions.” (Read the full letter below.)

Politico, which wrote about the letter Tuesday, reported that some unnamed Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have said that Goodlatte promised to subpoena the officials if they refuse to voluntarily testify.

Republicans recently obtained hundreds of text messages between Page and a now-former member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, Peter Strzok, some of which were critical of Trump (and others of Democratic politicians). Democrats have separately called for an investigation into the release of the text messages.

McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, testified before the House Intelligence Committee for at least seven hours Tuesday, CNN reported. Some Republicans have charged that he has shown bias in that position because his wife, Jill McCabe, ran for Virginia state senate in 2015 and received financial support from a political action committee associated with then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), a Clinton ally.

Read the letter below:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dodged questions about how Republicans’ tax bill would benefit the richest Americans, including President Donald Trump himself.

Trump stands to gain from a variety of provisions in the bill, including its lowered top tax rate, doubled estate tax exemption and rate cut for pass through businesses.

The carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to earn fees at a much lower tax rate than normal income, is something “the President promised again and again and again to close,” Fox News’ John Roberts said during a press briefing Tuesday. “Why did the President not insist on getting rid of that?” he asked.

“Look, the President was focused and he laid out what his four biggest principles were, that he wanted to make sure we are part of any piece of legislation,” Sanders responded. “We feel that the piece of legislation, where it is now, certainly answered and addressed that. That has been our focus all along, and what we’ve continued to talk about consistently here and every time we’ve talked about taxes.”

“The President has said that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune, it’s actually not the case,” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega said. “How does he figure this is going to cost him a lot of money?”

“Look, we expect that it likely will, certainly on the personal side, could cost the President a lot of money,” Sanders said, making a claim for which the White House has offered no evidence, including releasing the President’s tax returns.

“Again, the President’s focus hasn’t necessarily been at all on himself,” she added.

Vega pressed: “But he stands to benefit from pass through deductions, top rate tax deduction, estate tax exemption has doubled, he’s going to make money on that?”

“Again, this is a tax plan that we hope benefits all Americans,” Sanders said. “Priority number one is middle class Americans. That has been this administration’s focus. We feel like that is certainly addressed.”

Later, a reporter returned to Roberts’ question: “How is keeping the carried interest loophole, or at least a portion of it, good for the middle class?”  

Sanders didn’t answer.

“Look, the big priorities we had, I’ll go back, were ‘make it easy,’ ‘make it fair,’ ‘win again,’ and ‘bring it home.’ We feel like this tax legislation certainly does that.”

When a reporter pressed later on Vega’s line of question — that Sanders didn’t “disagree” that Trump will benefit — the press secretary let slip some acknowledgement that he would.

“I said that in some ways, particularly on the personal side, the President will likely take a big hit,” she said. “But on the business hit he could benefit, but the biggest focus for this White House has been to make sure all Americans are better off today after this tax package passes than they were beforehand.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta tried once more as the briefing ended.

“The President did say that this tax cut bill would cost him a fortune. That was false, right?”

“No, because on the personal side this actually could impact the President in a large way,” Sanders replied.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Watch below:

The Office of Compliance, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for its role in overseeing secret sexual harassment disputes in the legislative branch, refused to release simple data on settlements resulting from those disputes to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

In a letter to Kaine shared on Tuesday with TPM, the office’s director, Susan Tsui Grundmann, wrote that she had already provided the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration with a “statistical breakdown of settlement amounts involving Senate employing offices from 1997-2017.”

“That information represents the full extent of what we can provide with regard to settlements under the [Congressional Accountability Act] involving the Senate,” she wrote. (Read the full letter below.) 

Kaine had asked in a Dec. 6 letter for the number of claims filed against senators or their personal or committee staffs, any resolutions thereof, and the amount of any settlements reached.

“If Congress truly wants to fix a broken system, we need to understand the scope of the problem,” Kaine told TPM in a statement following the rejection. “I’m disappointed the OOC didn’t release any information to help us do that. I’m going to keep pushing for public release of this data and working on reforms that help prevent harassment and assault.”

He didn’t go as far in that request as the House Administration Committee, which had asked that the Office of Compliance name names regarding claims against members of the House or their staffs. (That request was rejected.)

That committee, however, did release what data the office has provided it so far — namely, amounts of individual claims from fiscal year 2013 to the present, with no other identifying information attached.

Based on that disclosure, the Washington Post reported on Dec. 1 that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) had used $150,000 in taxpayer dollars in late 2016 to settle a claim with a former staffer on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Bradley Podliska, who’d alleged his supervisors had retaliated against him for taking leave to fulfill his service as an Air Force reservist.

The Post also confirmed that Rep. Blake Farenthold had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment suit with a former aide in 2014. Farenthold announced on Dec. 14 that he would not seek re-election.

On Tuesday, the House Administration Committee published newly-released data from 2008 to 2012.

Politico reported that the Senate Rules Committee has not released its “statistical breakdown of settlement amounts” that the office had provided.

In addition, the office has also released a year-by-year breakdown of the total amount in settlements paid. In 2016, across 16 settlements that the office noted “could resolve multiple claims across fiscal years,” taxpayers covered $573,929 in resolved disputes.

BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner noted in November, in a report on the office’s sometimes inexplicable secrecy, that it “already publishes more information than it is required to by law in its annual report, and a spokesperson would not explain why they argue that same law prevents them from providing additional transparency that the OOC currently lacks.”

Read Office of Compliance Director Susan Tsui Grundmann’s letter to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) below: 

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump on Monday used a multi-casualty train crash to plug his promise to invest in the nation’s infrastructure.

Multiple people were killed after an Amtrak train crashed during its first trip on a new route outside Tacoma, Washington, a spokesperson for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department confirmed Monday.

The President further addressed the incident during a speech later in the day.

Trump campaigned on the promise of a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure projects nationwide.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean his administration supports spending that much in tax dollars. Rather, Trump administration officials have promoted a plan of funding so-called public-private partnerships — in other words, publicly financing a fraction of that total sum in exchange for private companies further investing in, and profiting from, infrastructure projects.

Unnamed White House officials told CNBC earlier this month that details of a plan could emerge in January ahead of Trump’s first State of the Union address.

This post has been updated.

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday didn’t exactly deny a new Washington Post report that said agency employees had been banned from using certain words in budget documents, including “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” But she did repeat the agency’s previous statement that the story was a “complete mischaracterization.”

“I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC,” Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald began in a series of tweets Sunday, without directly addressing the Post’s reporting that a senior leader in the CDC’s Office of Financial Services had told analysts in a meeting “that ‘certain words’ in the CDC’s budget drafts were being sent back to the agency for correction.”

“Three words that had been flagged in these drafts were ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement’ and ‘diversity.’ [Alison] Kelly told the group the ban on the other words had been conveyed verbally,” the Post reported Friday.

Stat News reported Sunday that Fitzgerald’s Twitter statement had been previously sent in an all-hands email to CDC staff.

The outlet cited an unnamed Health and Human Services (the CDC’s parent agency) official who said the story had not been reported accurately.

“The meeting did take place, there was guidance provided — suggestions if you will,” the unnamed official told Stat News. “There are different ways to say things without necessarily compromising or changing the true essence of what’s being said.”

They added: “This was all about providing guidance to those who would be writing those budget proposals. And it was very much ‘you may wish to do this or say this’. But there was nothing in the way of ‘forbidden words.’”

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Former Trump campaign staffer Michael Caputo said Monday that Republicans’ attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller — which have risen in some cases to calling for a “cleansing” of opponents of the President from the FBI — was just part of the political game.

In an interview on CNN, “New Day”s Chris Cuomo asked Caputo if he wasn’t “a little concerned that this heavy-handed offensive against the FBI and Mueller could come back to bite you guys.”

“Are you worried about playing politics in a situation that could be problematic?” he asked, noting “we are apparently nowhere in figuring out” how to prevent future election interference by foreign powers.

“I don’t see any difference between today and what happened during the Ken Starr investigation during the Clinton administration,” Caputo said. “This is pretty normal politics as usual. We all are up in arms on a daily basis now in life, television, [the] 24/7 news cycle, but this is the way it goes in special investigations.”

“I thought you guys were going to be better,” Cuomo interrupted.

“We’re in the game. It’s baseball. We’ve got to play baseball, we can’t go in there and start playing chess,” Caputo replied.

He added: “The biggest problem the FBI — not the FBI, but the special counsel — has is the public perception of what’s going on inside there right now.”

He was referring to special counsel Robert Mueller’s removal of Peter Strzok, a former member of the special counsel’s team, who was revealed to have sent text messages critical of Trump (and of other, Democratic politicians) to an FBI lawyer, Lisa Page.

Caputo called the texts “declarations of membership in the resistance.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host and informal adviser to Trump, said in a representative monologue on Dec. 9: “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and our Department of Justice.”

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday offered a meek defense of the FBI, which has faced harsh criticism from President Donald Trump in recent days.

“I got to tell you, sometimes, things that might appear to be bad in the press have more innocent explanations,” Sessions said cryptically during a press conference Friday. “And so fairness and justice should also be provided to our personnel.”

He was more explicit when a reporter asked if he shared Trump’s view that the FBI’s reputation and status is “in tatters.”

“I don’t share the view that the FBI is not functioning at a high level all over the country,” Sessions said.

“In my view, the FBI has huge national security requirements. It is also fulfilling a fabulously important role of working to fight against violent crime.”

Sessions noted that Trump had spoken to the FBI National Academy’s graduating class — the first time a president had done so in 47 years, he said — and assured them that “we are going to be a law enforcement administration that helps law enforcement be successful.”

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Rupert Murdoch, the co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said Thursday that the multiple sexual harassment scandals that rocked Fox News were “all nonsense,” aside from that of the network’s late chairman Roger Ailes.

“How harmful has the whole raft of allegations about sexual harassment at Fox News been for the business?” Sky News’ Ian King asked Murdoch, during a discussion of his multibillion dollar deal with Disney. Murdoch is in the middle of a years-long effort to purchase Sky, the British satellite broadcasting company in which he already has a partial stake.

“Oh, that’s all nonsense,” Murdoch said. “There was a problem with our chief executive, sort of over the years, but isolated instances. As soon as we investigated it, he was out of the place within hours.”

“Well, three or four days,” Murdoch hedged.

That vastly downplays the scope of the allegations against Ailes, which included more than two dozen women and went back decades. Ailes hired private investigators to trail his accusers and the journalists covering them and pursued those who spoke out, as journalist Gabriel Sherman so thoroughly documented. The company paid tens of millions of dollars to keep Ailes’ and others’ accusers quiet.

Murdoch continued: “And there’s been nothing else since then. But that was largely political, because we’re conservative. Of course, all the liberals are going down the drain: NBC is in deep trouble, CBS, their stars. You know, I think it’s a very interesting subject we could go into at length, but there are really bad cases that people should be moved aside, and there are other things which probably amount to a bit of flirting.”

The media mogul’s references to his competitors are likely nods to NBC and CBS severing their relationships with star anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, respectively, each accused with habitual sexual harassment of their coworkers, including sexual assault in Lauer’s case.

But Murdoch’s claim that there was “nothing else” aside from the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes is false.

Prominent Fox News personalities Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling left the network amid such allegations, and co-president Bill Shine left amid revelations he helped cover them up.

Charles Payne was briefly suspended during an investigation of claims made by Scottie Nell Hughes, who accused Payne of raping her and Fox News of punishing her for the accusation. And tape recently resurfaced of Bette Milder accusing Geraldo Rivera and a producer of sexually assaulting her decades ago. Rivera issued a non-apology. Payne maintains his innocence.

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President Donald Trump on Friday continued the White House’s stonewalling on when exactly he knew former national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“When did you find out Michael Flynn lied to the FBI? When did you find out?” an inquiring reporter asked, as Trump answered questions before boarding Marine One on his way to deliver a speech at the FBI National Academy graduation.

“What else is there?” he asked, sounding exasperated.

“You know the answer,” he said. “How many times has that question been asked?”

But journalists don’t know the answer; the White House has repeatedly refused to answer the question.

Flynn was fired, the White House said at the time, for lying to the vice president about his discussions of sanctions with Kislyak before the current administration took office. But after he pleaded guilty this month as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe to lying to the FBI about those conversations, Trump said in a tweet that he’d known that Flynn lied to the FBI — a new claim which further opened the President up to accusations of obstructing justice. Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, later claimed to have written the tweet:

Reporters have repeatedly asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about when Trump first knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. She’s directed those questions to Trump’s personal lawyers, who haven’t offered any answers, except when Dowd told Axios: “the tweet did not admit obstruction,” and that the President “cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice.”

Trump also told reporters Friday that “it’s a shame what’s happened to the FBI, but we’re going to rebuild the FBI.”

“There is absolutely no collusion, that has been proven,” he said, criticizing the cost of the investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “I didn’t make a phone call to Russia, I have nothing to do with Russia.”

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