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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 ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that she wanted the deputy attorney general and the acting director of the FBI to testify on the situation surrounding the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Feinstein also reiterated her support for an independent special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into possible ties between President Donald Trump and his affiliates and Russia.

“At a minimum, the decision to fire Comey raises questions about the appropriateness and timing of firing the person in charge of an investigation that could — I won’t say would, but could — implicate the administration,” Feinstein said.

“To have this happen and happen now is beyond surprising,” she continued. “I believe it’s important to have Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Deputy Director McCabe come before the Judiciary Committee and brief members on the reasons and the timing of the firing, as well as what steps are being taken to ensure this action will have no impact on the work of the FBI on the ongoing investigation.”

Rod Rosenstein, now in his third week as deputy attorney general, wrote in a memo that Trump used to support Comey’s firing that the ousted FBI director had bungled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Trump previously praised Comey at times for his actions in the same investigation.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that Comey would no longer testify before the committee on Thursday, as had been planned. McCabe will testify in his place.

President Donald Trump attacked Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Wednesday morning after the senator said a special prosecutor was needed after Trump’s abrupt firing of the FBI director. Blumenthal also said that Trump himself may ultimately be the subject of criminal charges.

Trump dug up an old attack on Blumenthal, from his 2010 campaign for Senate: Blumenthal had claimed that he served in Vietnam, when in fact he had served during the Vietnam War as a Marine reservist in the United States. Blumenthal acknowledged that he had misspoken about his service in 2010. (Trump was granted five deferments during the Vietnam War.)

On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, an hour before Trump’s attack, Blumenthal called for a special prosecutor to investigate the potential ties between Trump and Russia.

“What’s needed is an independent, objective, impartial prosecutor, because only a prosecutor can bring criminal charges and hold accountable the people who may have committed treason, or fraud or lied to the FBI, and obviously the President is a potential target.”

“Indeed, I think one of the very revealing parts of Jim Comey’s testimony at the Judiciary Committee was when he refused to rule out the President as a potential target in response to my question,” he said.

On CNN just minutes before Trump’s attack, Blumenthal said the firing had created “a looming constitutional crisis.”

“What we have now is really a looming constitutional crisis that is deadly serious, because there is an investigation ongoing and, CNN reported, subpoenas issued from the Eastern District of Virginia in to Flynn associates,” he said, referring to CNN’s report late Tuesday that prosecutors had served affiliates of the ousted national security adviser with subpoenas, seeking business records after Flynn’s ouster as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.

“And ultimately there may be subpoenas to the President of the United States just as occurred in 1973 precipitating United States versus Nixon and a similar firing of a special prosecutor,” he continued. “So what’s needed now is, in fact, an independent counsel and special prosecutor.”

In his letter to Comey telling him he was fired Tuesday, Trump claimed that the FBI director had told him he wasn’t under any investigation. Comey has never said that publicly, and, as Blumenthal told MSNBC, has not ruled it out under oath.

Trump has attacked Blumenthal for his claims of service in Vietnam before, after Blumenthal told reporters in February that then-nominee to the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch had expressed concern over Trump’s attacks against judges.

Trump said Blumenthal “now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him,” but Gorsuch later repeated his exact criticism of Trump under oath during his confirmation hearings, responding to a question from Blumenthal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as director of the FBI. McConnell also argued against appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The abrupt firing on Tuesday night rocked the political world, with many Democrats, including Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), saying the move stunk of a cover-up. Comey confirmed under oath on March 20 that he was investigating the Trump campaign for potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

However, in the memo cited by Trump as justification for Comey’s firing, newly minted Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Comey had bungled another investigation: the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

McConnell noted on the Senate floor Wednesday that Democrats had been critical of Comey’s handling of the email investigation.

“Last year the current Democratic leader said it appeared to be an appalling act, one that he said goes against the tradition of prosecutors at every level of government,” he said, referring to Schumer’s criticism of Comey’s actions in the days before the presidential election. “And the prior Democratic leader, when asked if James Comey should resign given his conduct of the investigation, he replied ‘Of course. Yes.’”

McConnell also argued that a new investigation of the potential connections between Trump and his affiliates and Russia — Democrats have called for both a special prosecutor and an independent commission on the matter — would only impede the existing investigations.

“Two investigations are currently ongoing,” he said, naming the Senate Intelligence Committee and FBI investigations. “Today we’ll no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done, but also to let this body and the national security community develop countermeasures and war fighting doctrine to see that it doesn’t occur again.”

“Partisan calls should not delay the considerable work of chairman Burr and vice chairman Warner,” he said, referring to the chair and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively. “Too much is at stake.”

After Comey’s firing, Burr said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.” 

“It is deeply troubling that the president has fired the FBI director during an active counterintelligence investigation into improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Warner said in a statement, which also called the firing “shocking.”

While former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) supported Comey’s resignation in December, Democrats argued Tuesday that the timing of Comey’s firing was suspect: it occurred months after their heavy criticism of Comey’s handling of the email investigation, but before the Justice Department’s inspector general released a report — announced in January — on the FBI and the Justice Department’s actions during the election.

McConnell also noted Democrats’ support of Rosenstein, whose memo supporting Comey’s firing was published at the end of just his second week in office. McConnell said it was “clear that our Democratic colleagues think of the man who evaluated Mr. Comey’s professional conduct and concluded that the bureau needed a change in leadership.”

“The Democratic leader just a few weeks ago praised Mr. Rosenstein for his independence and said he had developed a reputation for integrity,” he said.

Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway said emphatically Tuesday that President Donald Trump firing the FBI Director was “not a cover-up.”

“In fact, the President makes very clear in his letter the fact that Mr. Comey on at least three occasions assured the President that he is not under investigation,” she said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

She was responding to Cooper’s quoting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Trump made that claim in his letter to Comey. The ousted FBI director has never said publicly that Trump isn’t under FBI investigation.

“Yeah, when did he say that? On what occasions did he do that?” Cooper interjected, referring to Trump’s claim in the letter.

“That’s between the President of the United States and Director Comey,” Conway responded.

Earlier, Cooper asked Conway why the White House cited the deputy attorney general’s criticism of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation as justification for his firing, given Trump praised that same investigation when it hurt Clinton politically.

“I think you’re looking at the wrong set of facts here,” she responded. “In other words you’re going back to the campaign. This man is the President of the United States. He acted decisively today.”

In his letter to FBI Director James Comey announcing that he had been fired, President Donald Trump claimed that Comey told him three times that he wasn’t under investigation.

Trump was seemingly referring to the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s and affiliates’ potential collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 election. On Monday, Trump said on Twitter that “[t]he Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax,” and asked, “when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

Here’s what Trump told Comey — and projected to the entire world — in his letter firing him:

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.

On March 20, Comey confirmed under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was “investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”

“That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” he said.

Comey declined to answer whether Trump himself was under investigation. Indeed, that information would be a closely guarded secret — that’s what makes Trump’s clearing of his own name, using the ousted FBI Director’s credibility, so surprising.

In a memo cited by the White House as justification for the firing of FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server “a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.”

However, President Donald Trump at times praised Comey’s work on the investigation.

Trump’s praise was especially pronounced after Comey’s Oct. 28 announcement that he was re-opening the investigation, just 11 days before Election Day.

I respect the fact that Director Comey was able to come back after what he did,” Trump said the day after the now-ousted FBI director’s announcement.

It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution,” he said on Oct. 31. “You know that. It took a lot of guts.”

“I was not his fan,” he added, “but I’ll tell you what: What he did, he brought back his reputation. He brought it back.”

In January, shaking hands with Comey in the White House, Trump said: “He’s become more famous than me.”

In his memo urging Comey’s termination, Rosenstein cited Comey’s justification for his decision to speak out about the continued probe shortly before Election Day rather than keep the development under wraps.

“Concerning his letter to the Congress on October 28, 2016, the Director cast his decision as a choice between whether he would ‘speak’ about the FBI’s decision to investigate the newly-discovered email messages or ‘conceal’ it,” he wrote. “‘Conceal’ is a loaded term that misstates the issue. When federal agents and prosecutors quietly open a criminal investigation, we are not concealing anything; we are simply following the longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information. In that context, silence is not concealment.”

Trump often criticized Comey and the FBI for its handling of the investigation — saying as recently as May 2 on Twitter that “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”

However, Trump praised Comey’s actions on the email investigation days before Election Day the same investigation the White House cited in part as justification to fire the FBI director.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey would not impede that committee’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia.

“I just heard about it walking to the interview with you,” Manchin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“At first blush I will just tell you, it is not going to impede our investigation in finding out where the Intel Committee basically is going to get its information,” he continued. “We still look forward to Mr. Comey coming before us the same as we do Sally Yates coming before us, so that will not change our investigation, and basically we’ve always said this: We will follow the intel and intel will take us with the facts and that will lead us to the truth.”

Blitzer asked Manchin if Comey’s firing recalled a “Saturday Night Massacre,” a reference to the night then-President Richard Nixon fired the special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate Scandal.

“To call it massacre, I don’t think you can do that,” Manchin said. “To say it was unexpected, absolutely. To say it’s shocking, you betcha.”

He added: “We are looking forward to him coming in very shortly to the Senate Intelligence Committee. We are sure looking forward to that. Maybe with more anticipation than before.”

In an interview with Fox News, Manchin said “the only thing I am hopeful for right now is whoever the President recommends for confirmation, advise and consent from the Senate, it’s someone that we can all gather around, it’s someone that we have confidence in and it can be overwhelmingly bipartisan.”

“I am hoping the 51 vote nuclear option is nowhere even needed because there is somebody so well-respected and well-qualified to take that position,” he said.

Two top figures in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for president criticized President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to fire FBI Director James Comey.

In an abrupt announcement of Comey’s termination Tuesday, the White House said Trump was acting on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. In a memo Tuesday, Rosenstein accused Comey of bungling the investigation of Clinton’s private email server.

Brian Fallon, the press secretary for Clinton’s campaign, told CNN after news of Comey’s firing broke that “all these months later, it still stands out that Director Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation was a travesty.”

However, Fallon said, “the timing and nature of this firing that the Trump administration is announcing now belies any possible explanation that this has anything to do with the Clinton investigation.”

It is clearly an act by a president who is feeling the heat from the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation,” he said.

Fallon called for a special counsel to be appointed inside the Justice Department to investigate Trump, and for Congress to establish an independent select commission with subpoena power “to get to the bottom of this.”

Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, wrote on Twitter that the firing terrified him:

A group of Democratic senators on Tuesday urged federal regulators to investigate whether Donald Trump adviser Carl Icahn had engaged in insider trading and other violations.

A letter from the senators to regulators focused on Icahn’s petroleum refining company, CVR Energy, and its treatment of renewable fuel credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs. It raises the possibility that Icahn may have taken advantage of his connections to the White House in order to save his company hundreds of millions of dollars in credits.

In December 2016, Trump named Icahn a “special adviser to the president” on regulatory matters, but noted that Icahn was serving “in his individual capacity and will not be serving as a federal employee or a Special Government Employee and will not have any specific duties.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

The RIN market is designed to benefit companies that add biofuels like ethanol to their fuel products, and require companies like Icahn’s, which doesn’t, to pay for credits.

“Over the course of 2016, including the months immediately prior to and following President Trump’s election, CVR Energy delayed purchases of necessary renewable fuel credits and instead sold millions of them,” the senators wrote.

The letter cited an April 12 Reuters article, which describes CVR’s actions as “a bet that it could buy the credits it would need later at lower prices.”

Reuters described several events that drove down the cost of RINs, in turn potentially benefitting Icahn: the nomination of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator — about whom Icahn said Trump had consulted him — Icahn’s own naming as an adviser to Trump on regulation in December 2016 and news in February that Trump would consider a proposal by Icahn on biofuels regulation.

Reuters reported in February, citing unnamed people familiar with the plan, that the President “intends to revamp the national biofuel program to ease regulations on oil refiners.”

The senators noted that, after the February news broke, RIN prices dropped to a 17-month low, a 70 percent decline from November 2016.

In February, a similar group of senators, minus Carper and Klobuchar and plus Al Franken (D-MN), raised concerns about Icahn in a letter to the EPA and White House Counsel Don McGahn.

With a sprawling business empire and potentially unlimited portfolio in the Administration to address ‘strangling regulations,’ Mr. Icahn’s role presents an unacceptable risk of further real or potential conflicts of interest absent immediate and thorough steps to address them,” they wrote.

Tuesday’s letter acknowledges that Icahn’s conflicts of interest could extend to any potential investigation of Icahn. It is addressed to Pruitt, as well as the acting chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Jay Clayton, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Mr. Icahn was reported to be heavily involved in interviewing candidates to for [sic] SEC Chairman,” they wrote, “and SEC Chairman Clayton has acknowledged that he met with Mr. Icahn after he was nominated as SEC Chair.”

Read the letter below:

President Donald Trump “values” the counsel of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the White House said Tuesday, despite an article that cited two unnamed sources quoting Trump saying the opposite.

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported Monday that Trump had said that McMaster, who took the place of the ousted Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn in his position, was “the general undermining my policy.” Lake reported that McMaster’s star was beginning to dim in Trump World.

Did the President say that?” one reported asked Spicer, referring to the quote in Lake’s piece, which was sourced to “two White House officials.”

“I don’t believe he has,” Spicer said. “I mean, I think when you look at the President’s schedule this week, as I just noted to Sara a little while ago, there’s probably no one aside from family members that are spending more time with the President this week than Gen. McMaster.”

“He values his counsel,” he continued. “He continues to be extremely pleased with his pick and his performance as national security adviser. He has the utmost confidence in him.”

Earlier, the press secretary said Trump had an “excellent” relationship with McMaster.

However, the Trump administration has a poor track record when it comes to publicly forecasting the careers of White House officials. Lake noted in his article Monday that top White House aide Kellyanne Conway said that Flynn had Trump’s full confidence only hours before he was forced to resign.

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