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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 White House’s second pick to become secretary of the Army withdrew his nomination for that post on Friday.

“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Mark Green said in a statement.

CNN first reported on Tuesday that Green, a Tennessee state senator and former Army physician and West Point graduate, was unlikely to move forward because, according to one unnamed source, “there are questions whether he has enough support from either side of the aisle.”

Green ran into fierce opposition for his open slurs against Muslims and LGBT people.

Trump’s previous nominee to lead the Army, businessman and investor Vincent Viola, withdrew his name from consideration for the post on Feb. 4 following his difficulty separating himself from his businesses. Trump’s previous nominee for Navy secretary, Philip Bilden, also withdrew his name over financial conflicts weeks later, despite White House assertions that he would not.

On Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) told USA Today, “Some of the comments that have been attributed to him obviously are very concerning” and “I think there are some issues that clearly need to be cleared up.”

Trump nominated Green on April 7, to an immediate backlash. A military LGBT group told the New York Times that Green “cannot be trusted to ensure all those who serve have the support they need and deserve,” given his record as a state legislator.

Addressing a Tea Party group last year, the Times noted, Green said that a poll of psychiatrists would reveal “transgender is a disease,” and “we are back to where the country was at its beginning, and it’s the armed citizen who will defend this nation.”

Muslim advocacy groups also came out against Green’s past statements against Islam, including that it shouldn’t be included in public school curricula, except when portrayed as an invading military force. In his book, “A Night with Saddam,” which detailed his role in the operation that resulted in the capture of Saddam Hussein, Green wrote that Hussein “was not filthy,” unlike other high-value targets, who “had an odor of what I thought was curry mixed with sweat.”

On Monday, CNN surfaced a lecture Green gave in 2015, in which he said the theory of evolution violated the second law of thermodynamics and compared billions of years of evolution to leaving a lawnmower outdoors.

“If you put a lawn mower out in your yard and a hundred years come back, it’s rusted and falling apart,” he said. “You can’t put parts out there and a hundred years later it’s gonna come back together. That is a violation of a law of thermodynamics. A physical law that exists in the universe.”

On April 25, Green posted a statement on his Facebook page defending himself, writing that “liberal left has cut and spliced my words about terrorism and ISIS blatantly falsifying what I’ve said,” and linking to an article from ChristianFighterPilot.com that described one critic of Green’s as a “self-described man-turned-woman.”

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dodged questions Friday on why President Donald Trump was spending the weekend at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club if he wanted to save taxpayer dollars.

Trump tweeted Friday morning that he was saving taxpayers money by spending the weekend in Bedminster rather than New York City. The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip asked Sanders during the White House’s daily press briefing why the President didn’t just stay in Washington, D.C. to do his work.

“Well look, this is the President’s first time to be back in the New York metro area, and he’s staying in his private residence in New Jersey versus staying in Manhattan,” Sanders responded. “Had he stayed in Manhattan, the disruption would have been far greater than being in New Jersey. The bottom line is the President is the President no matter where he goes, and he doesn’t get to control the level of costs and security that may come along with that.”

“He does control where he works,” Phillip said. “Why doesn’t he work more from the White House? He’s spent the last maybe 14 weekends—”

“You guys complain we work too much around here and that you’re too tired and now we don’t work enough?” Sanders interjected jokingly.

“For the purposes of cost and savings to American taxpayers, which he raised this morning,” Phillip replied.

Sanders again sidestepped the costs of Trump’s near-constant weekend trips to his members-only clubs.

“Again, this was the President’s first time to go back home to the New York metro area, and I think he’s trying to save the taxpayers money the best way he can by taking his team and — focused on being in New Jersey instead of in New York where it would have caused a much greater disruption and much greater cost to taxpayers,” she said.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that President Donald Trump was just being “complimentary” to the Australian prime minister when he said that country’s universal health care system was superior to the United States’ system.

“I think he was simply being complimentary of the prime minister and I don’t think it was much more than that,” Sanders said during the daily press briefing of Trump’s remark.

Shortly after the White House briefing wrapped up, Trump himself seemed to contradict Sanders in a tweet, saying that anything is better than Obamacare.

During a joint appearance Thursday night in New York City, Trump told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that “right now Obamacare is failing.”

“We have a failing health care,” Trump told Turnbull. “I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do.”

Australia has government-funded universal health coverage via a program called Medicare, which allows its citizens to visit doctors and public hospitals for free. By contrast, House Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, whose passage Trump celebrated earlier Thursday at the White House, would cut back Medicaid funding in part by repealing a tax on wealthy Americans’ investments.

Pressed later in the briefing on Trump’s comments, Sanders maintained that the President was simply being nice to a fellow head of state.

“I’m saying that the President was complimenting a foreign leader on the operations of their health care system and that it didn’t mean anything more than that,” she told one reporter.

“Again, that’s one of the biggest things that is wrong with Obamacare,” she elaborated. “It’s tried to be a one-size-fits-all, and that’s the opposite of what the plan is that we are putting in place right now, it allows for state flexibility. What works in Australia may not work in the United States. So I think again, he was complimenting the prime minister, and we’re are focused on putting a health care plan in place that works here.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote Friday that he had sought records to determine whether he or other members of Congress had been surveilled by the Obama administration or by the intelligence community.

The announcement came after a series of tweets on surveillance:

Paul’s press office did not respond to TPM’s questions about what prompted the tweet, but the news website Circa reported a couple hours later that Paul had written to the White House on April 10 claiming that “an anonymous source recently alleged to me that my name, as well as the names of other Members of Congress, were unmasked, queried or both, in intelligence reports of intercepts during the prior administration.” In a press release obtained by TPM, Paul cited Circa’s reporting and attached his letter to Trump.

Two of Paul’s tweets link to a call from Circa for the Trump administration to release “records showing how often government officials have searched National Security Agency intercepts for intelligence on U.S. presidential candidates, members of Congress, journalists, clergy, lawyers, federal judges and doctors and how often such Americans had their identities unmasked by the intelligence community after Barack Obama made it easier to do so in 2011.”

The publication doesn’t make clear what changes occurred in 2011, but another report from the publication linked in the same article describes “a series of orders that began in 2011, moves that were approved by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].”

Circa reported, based on unnamed intelligence officials and classified documents, it said, an increase in 2016 in U.S. names searched for and unmasked in intercepted communications, among other things. Among names unmasked in 2016 and early 2017, it reported, “were campaign or transition associates of President Trump as well as members of Congress and their staffers, according to sources with direct knowledge.”

In the final days of his administration, Obama announced new rules broadening the NSA’s authority to share large amounts of collected data with other agencies.

The senator, a proponent of privacy protections against government surveillance, has played sympathetic to President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim in February that Trump Tower had been wiretapped on former President Obama’s order.

Trump has since dramatically expanded his accusation to include “unmasking” by the Obama administration of his or his associates’ names in communications, which would include their names being unveiled as part of separate conversations.

In April, Paul said, referring to the former national security adviser, “I believe Susan Rice abused the system and she did it for political purposes. She needs to be brought in and questioned under oath.” He added: “This was a witch hunt that began with the Obama administration, sour grapes on the way out the door. They were going to use the intelligence apparatus to attack Trump, and I think they did.”

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) said in March that he had seen proof of that unmasking after secretly meeting with a source he called a “whistleblower” a the White House. The ranking member on that committee, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, said the documents showed no evidence of improper surveillance.

Nunes subsequently stepped aside from the committee’s probe of possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Read Paul’s Apr. 10 letter to Trump below:

The first female White House chief usher left that position sometime before Friday morning, a rare turnover in a post marked by long tenures.

A White House official confirmed to TPM that Angella Reid “is no longer employed by the White House. We are very grateful for her service and wish her the very best.” They did not answer questions on the reasons for Reid’s departure. 

The Washington Post, which first reported the story, said that the White House fired Reid. The Post noted that Reid was just the ninth chief usher since 1885, appointed by then-President Barack Obama in 2011.

The chief usher is responsible for managing all White House staff and grounds, from cooks to plumbers, acting as a general manager of sorts for the 132-room residence.

The secretary of Health and Human Services dismissed concerns about older, sicker people paying much more for health insurance under Republicans’ plan on Friday, saying “somebody’s going to pay for health coverage for the American people, and the question is how do you do that.”

In an interview with “Fox & Friends,” HHS Secretary Tom Price was asked about part of Republicans’ bill that widens the possible ratio of premium prices between young and old people from 3:1 to 5:1, allowing insurers to charge older people more.

“That’s going in the wrong direction,” Steve Doocy said.

“Well, it’s pricing for what individuals’ health status is, and that’s important to appreciate,” Price said. “Somebody’s going to pay for health coverage for the American people, and the question is how do you do that. And right now, what we’re seeing is that the current plan doesn’t work, because you’ve got 20 million individuals out there who’ve said, ‘Nonsense, I’m not even going to participate in this process.’”

Price was referring to individuals who opted not to buy insurance under Obamacare, either paying a fee or claiming a “hardship exemption.”

Pressed on whether the government would provide assistance for “people who are going to end up paying five times more,” Price said individuals would “absolutely” receive help, “depending on where you are in the economic spectrum.”

However, the Congressional Budget Office found in March (pp. 34) that Republicans’ proposed tax credits for individuals in the nongroup health insurance market were much less generous than Obamacare’s subsidies.

Earlier in the interview, Price acknowledged that House Republicans chose not to wait for a new CBO analysis of amendments offered by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Fred Upton (R-MI).

“The score has been made by CBO,” he said. “And everybody understands that the Congressional Budget Office is just looking at a narrow sliver of this entire plan.”

He was referring to the planned “phases” of Republicans’ health care effort, separate from the American Health Care Act — a massive deregulatory effort undertaken by HHS, and the potential passage of several other measures that are unlikely to receive many Democratic votes, if at all.

President Donald Trump touted the cost savings of avoiding New York City Friday morning.

Citing the possibility of a “big disruption” in the Big Apple, the dispatch came in a presidential tweet:

However, it’s unclear if Trump ever planned to spend the full weekend in New York City. The Palm Beach Post, veteran trackers of the President’s flight schedule, reported Monday that the Federal Aviation Administration had posted two notices that morning indicating Trump would spend the weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he owns a private golf club.

And the Apr. 25 press release announcing his schedule in New York on Thursday night didn’t mention any other events in the city scheduled for the weekend.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to TPM’s questions about cost savings.

According to pool reports, Trump arrived at Bedminster late Friday night, after having celebrated House Republicans’ passage of their health bill, and after telling Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Australia — with its universal government-funded health care — had “better health care than we do.”

Trump’s first visit back to his hometown was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. ET and last six hours, the New York Times noted Thursday. His celebration with House Republicans turned it into a brief stopover at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Democrats have criticized the price of Trump’s near constant weekend trips to his name-branded resorts, and their secrecy. Some in Congress have advocated passage of the “Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness” (MAR-A-LAGO) Act, which would require the White House to release visitor logs for any location the President or Vice President Mike Pence regularly conduct official business.

Trump interviewed now-prominent members of his administration at Bedminster ahead of his inauguration. In one leaked tape recorded in November, he is heard bragging to the club’s deep-pocketed members: “We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” and, “It’s going to be an unbelievable day. So you might want to come along.”

The American Medical Association on Thursday maintained its criticism of Republicans’ effort to repeal Obamacare after House Republicans passed a bill to do so.

The AMA, the country’s largest advocacy group for doctors, was a vocal opponent of Republicans first, failed effort to repeal Obamacare, and they announced their opposition to the amended effort before the House voted on it Thursday.

In a statement after Thursday’s vote, posted online by MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin, the organization emphasized that the bill would result in millions of people losing access to “quality, affordable health insurance” and would allow insurers to hike prices on individuals with pre-existing conditions under some circumstances.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) marked House Republicans’ health bill Thursday by inviting former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to the House floor to vote on it with him.

King and Bachman introduced an Obamacare repeal bill together in 2011, just months after then-President Barack Obama signed the measure.

Though the House bill as it stands has little chance of surviving the Senate — indeed, the Washington Examiner reported Thursday the Senate will write its own, new bill — King thought the moment worthy of celebration.

Before the repeal, the Washington Post’s Paul Kane reported spotting the former congresswoman on the House floor. Bachmann bid her farewell to the chamber in 2014.

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