Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced her bid to lead the House Democratic Caucus Monday, formally launching an effort to fill the leadership position that will soon be left vacant due to the surprise primary loss of Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY).

“When you look at the history of the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership, African-American women … we’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party — we should be in the face of leadership also,’’ Lee told Politico for an article on her announcement. 

According to Politico and the Washington Post, Lee would be the first black woman to hold a leadership position in either major party.

“The strength of our caucus lies in our diversity of experiences and ideas,’’ the congresswoman wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing her bid Monday. “Whether it’s working across the aisle to enact HIV/AIDS laws, or bringing the Sanders and Clinton campaigns together behind a cohesive and progressive Democratic platform, my career has been dedicated to finding common ground and delivering results.”

Crowley’s astonishing primary upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last month unexpectedly stirred up the race to lead the Democratic caucus. With the Queens County Democratic Party leader on his way out, Lee will face off against current caucus vice chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) for the soon-to-be-vacant caucus leader position.

In 2016, Sánchez beat Lee by two votes to become vice chair. Sánchez announced her bid for caucus chair last week.

In late June, soon after Crowley’s surprise upset, Lee told the Post: “If this were not an open seat, I’d be making a different calculation. But things move fast around here, and I didn’t want to wait until November to start looking at this.”

The Democratic caucus chair comes behind the minority leader, the minority whip and the assistant minority leader in the current House Democratic hierarchy. If Democrats win back the House in 2018, the speaker of the House — whoever that may be, though current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she would run again for the role — will add another position atop the list.

Lee, known for being the historic sole vote against the Authorization of Military Force just three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks, comes from a wing of the Democratic Party that isn’t currently represented in House leadership.

Last year, Lee’s amendment to sunset that AUMF unexpectedly received bipartisan support and was voted out of the House Appropriations Committee for a House-wide vote. A few weeks later, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stripped it from the annual defense appropriations bill “in the dead of night,” in Lee’s words.

AshLee Strong, a spokesperson for Ryan, told TPM at the time that the amendment “endangers our national security.”

Lee already has the endorsements of a number of lawmakers, among them Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ro Khanna (D-CA).

“I am proud to support Barbara Lee for conference chair. I will be rallying my colleagues in the progressive caucus for her and also incoming freshman whose campaigns I have helped,” Khanna told The Intercept earlier this month. “I have often said that if John F. Kennedy were writing ‘Profiles of Courage’ today, there would be a chapter on Barbara Lee. Her vote in opposing the blank check to war is one of the most courageous acts of modern time.”

While Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday left open the possibility she will support Pelosi to lead House Democrats in 2018, she wondered aloud to the Washington Post in June, “Is Barbara Lee available?”

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wondered aloud Monday, without offering any evidence, whether former CIA Director John Brennan was using his security clearance to spill state secrets to media outlets.

Paul said he would ask President Donald Trump, frequently the target of Brennan’s criticisms, to revoke his security clearance.

Paul’s office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

Brennan, who served in various positions in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations and is frequently the target of progressives’ criticism, has attacked Trump repeatedly in recent months.

Last week, he said Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,’” adding that it was “nothing short of treasonous.”

Paul unsuccessfully filibustered Brennan’s nomination to lead the CIA in 2013.

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“Fox & Friends First” thought they had an interview lined up Monday morning with Ann Kirkpatrick, a former congresswoman and returning Democratic candidate for Congress who, at a candidates’ forum on Thursday, had raised her hand in support of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and in condemnation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Instead, apparently due to a producer’s mix-up, they booked Massachusetts State Rep. Barbara L’Italien, also a congressional candidate, whose website advertises her support for abolishing ICE. L’Italien wasted no time Monday morning condemning President Donald Trump’s family separations on Fox News.

“Joining us now, that candidate, the only Democrat on stage to support ICE, Ann Kirkpatrick, we appreciate it,” host Jillian Mele began. “Tell us why you do support ICE?”

“Good morning,” L’Italien responded. “I’m actually here to speak directly to Donald Trump. I feel that what’s happening at the border is wrong. I’m a mother of four, and I believe that separating kids from their parents is illegal and inhumane.”

She continued, revealing herself: “I’m actually Barbara L’Italien. I’m a state senator representing a large immigrant community. I’m running for Congress in Massachusetts. I keep thinking about what we’re putting parents through, imagining how terrifying that must be for those families, imagining how it would feel not knowing if I’d ever see my kids again. We have to stop abducting children and ripping them from their parents’ arms, and stop putting kids in cages, and stop making 3-year-olds defend themselves in court.”

“That practice has stopped at this point, Ms. Kirkpatrick, right?” host Rob Schmitt interjected.

“Kids have been reunited with their families,” Mele attempted.

L’Italien continued: “Again, my name is Barbara L’Italien, and I refuse to believe that our only options are open borders or traumatizing—“

The Massachusetts candidate’s video feed cut off.

“Okay,” Smidt said. “Who is this?”

Watch below:

In an emailed statement, “Fox & Friends First” Executive Producer Desiree Dunne said:

“This morning we invited Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick to appear on Fox & Friends First through her press contact on file Joe Katz, who accepted the invitation on Kirkpatrick’s behalf. Katz followed with an email confirming the segment, which also included background information and a campaign logo for Ann Kirkpatrick. During the actual segment, Barbara L’Italien, appeared on camera instead of Kirkpatrick. Despite speaking to producers prior to the interview, L’Italien did not identify herself as anything other than Kirkpatrick until she was live on air, at which point we ended the interview.”

Katz, or another Joe Katz, is apparently a spokesperson for L’Italien’s campaign.

Later in the show on Monday, Mele told viewers: “We want to apologize for that last segment just a few minutes ago. We were told Ann Kirkpatrick was going to be a guest on a show. As you saw, somebody else stepped in front of that camera. We are working to figure out exactly how that happened.”

“By the way, kind of a weak move to do this on live TV,” Mele said on Twitter afterward. “Desperate for attention,” Schmidt wrote. “@teambarbara pretended to be someone else to multiple people within Fox News and get on tv.” 

L’Italien’s campaign told ThinkProgress’ Aaron Rupar that “lack of due diligence” led to the accidental booking. “This would not have happened to an actual news station,” the campaign added.

L’Italien soaked in the unintended publicity, reading her statement in full off-air and posting it to Twitter.

This post has been updated.

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The alleged Russian foreign agent Mariia Butina and her alleged handler, Russian Central Bank official Alexander Torshin, met in 2015 with officials from the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, Reuters reported Sunday.

Separately, the Washington Post reported that the billionaire Russian businessman Konstantin Nikolaev had funded Butina’s Russian gun rights group.

Reuters reported that Torshin and Butina, who worked as Torshin’s interpreter during an April 2015 trip they took to Washington, met separately Stanley Fischer, then the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Nathan Sheets, then the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for international affairs.

Reuters said it learned of the meetings from people familiar with them and from a report by the Center for the National Interest, a think tank that supports engagement with Russia and that arranged the meetings. The report outlined the Center’s “Russia-related activities from 2013 to 2015,” in Reuters’ words.

If that group sounds familiar, it’s because CNI worked with Jared Kushner during the 2016 campaign to organize Donald Trump’s first major foreign policy address at the Mayflower Hotel. At the same speech, on the sidelines, Trump, Kushner and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) met with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.

The report, Reuters said, described the 2015 meetings as bringing together “leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia.”

Fischer confirmed meeting with Torshin and his interpreter for a conversation which included “the state of the Russian economy and Torshin’s then-new role as deputy governor of Russia’s central bank,” he told Reuters in an email. An unnamed person familiar with the meeting told Reuters it occurred on April 7, and that Butina was there. Sheets declined to comment to Reuters.

Also in 2015, according to Reuters, Torshin and Butina took part in an off-the-record discussion on the “Russian financial situation and its impact on Russian politics” at CNI.

Separately, the Washington Post cited one unnamed person familiar with April testimony Butina gave to Senate investigators to identify the Russian billionaire the paper said had provided funds for the alleged foreign agent.

The businessman Konstantin Nikolaev’s spokesperson confirmed to the Post that he had been in touch with Butina between 2012 and 2014 but did not confirm whether he had funded her gun rights group.

The Post reported Nikolaev matched the profile of an unnamed “funder” of Butina’s activities described in a court filing as a “known Russian businessman with deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration.”

Nikolaev’s son Andrey, the Post noted, was a volunteer on the Trump campaign. And Nikolaev, according to two unnamed people “aware of his presence,” was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day in January of last year.

A lawyer for Butina would not confirm that it was Nikolaev who funded her gun group. A spokesperson for Nikolaev said that, contrary to prosecutors’ assertions, his ties to the Russian government “cannot be characterized as deep.”

In addition to his Russian businesses, Nikolaev is a “major investor,” the Post noted, in American Ethanol. The company was featured at an event attended by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in November. At the event, American Ethanol signed a $26 billion deal to deliver liquid ethane to China, the Post reported.

Read Reuters’ report here. Read the Post’s report here.

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s top advisers should consider resigning if he doesn’t follow their advice on Russia.

“The evidence is overwhelming, it can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden, that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “So the President either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to re-evaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration.”

“But the disconnect cannot continue. The evidence is overwhelming and the President needs to say that and act like it.”

Baier had asked Gowdy, who announced his retirement earlier this year, if he agreed with fellow House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-TX) op-ed in the New York Times Thursday asserting that Trump had “actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial [of election interference] and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.”

Gowdy didn’t answer directly, but said Trump had access to more evidence than anyone and specifically mentioned Trump’s access to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, all of whom Trump nominated for those roles.

“There is no way you can listen to the evidence and not conclude not that the Democrats were the victims, but the United States of America were the victims,” he said separately, adding: “There was this equivocation during the press conference that I’m glad he corrected it but when you’re the leader of the free world, every syllable matters, and you really shouldn’t be having to correct it when you’re the leader of the free world.”

Following Trump’s private meeting and subsequent disastrous press conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman on Saturday defended his decision not to resign.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Sunday disputed President Donald Trump’s claims earlier Sunday morning that the newly-released 2016 application to surveil former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page showed misconduct by the FBI or Justice Department.

“I have a different view on it,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Carter Page, I’m not claiming that he’s James Bond. He’s not 007. But he’s a guy that even before the campaign so this is not Trump-related even before the campaign, is a guy that went around the world, bragging about his connections in Russia.”

Rubio continued: “So they knew who he was before the campaign. Then you see the guy kind of gravitating around a leading campaign, and then other things came up on their screen and they said ‘We’ve got to look at this guy.’ And that’s what the FISA application sort of lays out.”

Rubio says he didn’t believe that the surveillance of Page, who has maintained that he was never a Russian agent, meant that the FBI was “spying on the campaign.”

“I don’t think it’s part of any broader plot,” he added later. “The only plot here is the plot to interfere in the our election by the Russians.”

“I don’t think they did anything wrong,” Rubio responded when pressed by Tapper to say whether the surveillance was justified. “I think they went to the court, they got the judges to approve it, they laid out all of the information, and there was a lot of reasons unrelated to the dossier for why they wanted to look at Carter Page.”

The senator made a similar point to “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan.

“I have a different view on this issue than the President and the White House,” he said. “They did not spy on the campaign from anything and everything that I have seen.”

Watch below:

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President Donald Trump on Sunday baselessly asserted that the newly-released, highly-redacted FBI application to surveil a former campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, “confirm[s] with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts.”

The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” the application says.

It adds: “[T]here is probable cause that such activities involve or are about to involve violations of the criminal statutes of the United States.”

Page, meanwhile, claimed on CNN that some of the claims made in the application were untrue, calling it “ridiculous” and “misleading.” 

However, the warrant to surveil Page was successfully renewed three times after its initial approval, which itself was signed by four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges all appointed by Republican presidents. The surveillance was also approved by law enforcement officials from both the Obama and Trump administrations.

And the documents, which were released in response to lawsuits from various news organizations, fly in the face of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) claim in a memo earlier this year that the FBI had misled the FISC.

Among other things, Nunes asserted that the application had not properly informed the court of the political nature of former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele’s work in compiling a dossier on Trump, information from which was included in the application for a warrant to surveil Page.

Steele was hired by a research firm, Fusion GPS, which in turned had been hired by a lawyer, Marc Elias, who was representing both the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. 

Contrary to Nunes, as Lawfare’s David Kris noted, “the footnote disclosing Steele’s possible bias takes up more than a full page in the applications, so there is literally no way the FISA Court could have missed it.”

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday, Page disputed certain assertions found in the application, echoing his past denials of being a Russian agent. No charges have been brought against the former campaign aide.

“No, I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “I may have, back in the [2013] G20 when they were getting ready to do that in St. Petersburg, I might have participated in a few meetings that a lot of people including people from the Obama administration were sitting on, and Geneva, Paris, et cetera, but I’ve never been anywhere near what’s being described here.”

“I sat in on some meetings,” he said separately. “To call me an adviser is way over the top.”

The New York Times and Washington Post both noted that they hadn’t found another example of a FISC warrant application that had been released publicly since the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act four decades ago.

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats apologized Saturday for his “awkward” response — in front of an audience in Aspen, Colorado — to the news that President Donald Trump would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, D.C.

“Some press coverage has mischaracterized my intentions in responding to breaking news presented to me during a live interview,” Coats said in a statement quoted by multiple outlets. “My admittedly awkward response was in no way meant to be disrespectful or criticize the actions of the President.”

“I and the entire intel community are committed to providing the best possible intelligence to inform and support President Trump’s ongoing efforts to prevent Russian meddling in our upcoming elections, to build strong relationships internationally in order to maintain peace, denuclearize dangerous regimes and protect our nation and our allies,” he added.

“That’s going to be special,” Coats said to laughter when NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell informed him, during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum, that Trump would invite Putin to Washington. Trump was apparently not happy with Coats’ response.

Trump has contradicted Coats multiple times in recent days, making several statements that hewed closer to Russian denials of 2016 election meddling that the intelligence community’s assertions otherwise.

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So-called “dark money” groups which can accept unlimited donations, do not have to publicly disclose their donors and are allowed to spend infinite amounts of money influencing elections now no longer even have to report their donors privately to the IRS.

The same day that decision was announced, a Russian woman was charged with being an unregistered foreign agent for her efforts to infiltrate the NRA, which itself is a dark money, or “social welfare,” 501(c)4.

Ben Cassidy, the NRA lobbyist who joined the Interior Department, continues to be a walking ethics violation. And the department’s inspector general has opened a probe into a fishy land deal between a foundation Zinke started and the chairman of Halliburton.

The Office of Government ethics formally reprimanded Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for his stock situation. Ross said in response that he would sell all of his equity holdings and put the money in Treasury securities. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) asked the Commerce Department’s inspector general to investigate further.

Scott Pruitt’s former chief of staff admitted there was an EPA office set up to process “politically charged” Freedom of Information Act requests. To which Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said, essentially, tell me more.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler could stay in that role for years, due to the Trump administration’s expanded use of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The former coal lobbyist signed his first major rule this week, making it a lot easier to dispose of coal ash… wherever.

A federal court, meanwhile, has paused the huge gift Pruitt gave to manufacturers of “super polluting” glider trucks those with new bodies but old engines on his last day as EPA administrator. Pruitt had said the manufacturers needn’t heed an Obama-era cap on glider truck sales. 

New York’s attorney general and 16 others told the Department of Education to quit delaying a rule requiring colleges to present prospective students with crucial information like average debt load. A few days earlier, 20 attorneys general flagged another example of Devos’ stonewalling — this time her failing to provide student loan data to law enforcement agencies.

Judges are fed up with the government’s family separations of otherwise non-criminal immigrant and asylum-seeking families. Several members of the Homeland Security Advisory Committee have resigned over what they called the Trump administration’s “morally repugnant” immigration policy.

In an odd turn, the Sinclair-friendly FCC Chairman Ajit Pai paused Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune over “serious concerns” that the company wouldn’t properly divest enough stations to comply with laws meant to prevent media monopolies.

The Veterans Administration has engaged in a politically motivated purge. Vice President Mike Pence’s family’s gas stations left a holy mess behind. Tom Price really did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on deluxe flights when he was Health and Human Services secretary. A Dow Chemical executive could be the USDA’s next chief scientist, if (/when) he’s confirmed. And the religious freedom ambassador privately threatened the British ambassador to lay off an Islamophobe (Steve Bannon supports the man as well).

Finally: Don’t worry about that missing plutonium!

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats had an interesting reaction Thursday when NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell told him, live on stage at the Aspen Security Forum, that President Donald Trump had insisted Russian President Vladimir Putin be invited to Washington, D.C. for a meeting.

“Say that again?” Coats responded, to laughter from the crowd.

“Okay, that’s going to be special.”

Elsewhere in the wide-ranging discussion Thursday, Coats said he wished Trump had said something else while standing next to Putin at a press conference in Helsinki Monday.

Watch below:

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