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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

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) contradicted President Donald Trump Monday, saying that in fact “there’s been a fair amount of chaos and instability in the White House, and dysfunction.”

Earlier Monday, Trump proclaimed “No WH chaos!” in a tweet.

“Well, it’s been pretty obvious to most of us that there’s been a fair amount of chaos and instability in the White House, and dysfunction,” Dent told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, before referring to the recently dismissed White House chief of staff. “And I’m not blaming Reince Priebus for that, I don’t think he ever stood a chance in the job because he was never fully empowered by the President.”

“But with Gen. Kelly, who’s an extraordinarily good person, and well-qualified for this job — I hope that Gen. Kelly is fully empowered to do what must be done to bring the type of focus and discipline and stability to the White House,” Dent continued, referring to Priebus’s successor. “And I hope the President grants him that authority and then respects that authority.”

Later, Dent said that Trump’s bombastic rhetoric in recent speeches and elsewhere — “whether they’re tweets or inappropriate statements coming from the President” — had been a severe distraction for legislators.

“That just completely distracts us, and frankly it’s exhausting, Andrea. At times, we spend a good part of our day talking about those issues, rather than the issues we want to talk about,” he said.

He added later that “most Americans and certainly most Republicans want to see this President and this administration succeed, but there are times where we wish it get out of its own way.

“As I said earlier, too much time and energy has been spent — they’re too focused on all this internecine warfare, this infighting, the factional warfare within the White House. This seems to be all encompassing and has really distracted us from dealing with these very tough issues,” he added. “We need a fully focused, disciplined and engaged President to help advance a legislative agenda that will benefit the American people, particularly on tax reform and infrastructure.”

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was a no-show at a mock “duel of health care facts” at his Corpus Christi office Sunday, where nurses and teachers protested his support of repealing Obamacare.

The “duel” schtick was a reference to Farenthold’s comment on July 21, that he would have dueled the “female senators from the Northeast” holding up the Obamacare repeal effort — “Aaron Burr-style” — if they were men. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John McCain (R-AZ) were ultimately responsible for stopping the most recent effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But several progressive groups, KRISTV reported, took Farenthold at his word, inviting him to duel the facts of single-payer health care.

In a press release Friday, National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United – Texas declared: “ON BEHALF OF TEXAS PATIENTS, WE CHALLENGE REP. FARENTHOLD TO STEP OUTSIDE AND SETTLE THIS HEALTHCARE DEBATE MEDICARE-FOR-ALL STYLE,” SAY NURSES.

The group notably endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and have vocally supported a move toward a single-payer nationwide healthcare system.

Their press release continued: “The ‘duel’ will feature NNU/NNOC member Cynthia Martinez, RN walking 10 paces and then turning around to hit Farenthold (present or not) with the facts.”

The group said the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers, the Progressive Center of Corpus Christi, and others would be represented at the protest.

The former posted pictures of the event Sunday:

Farenthold said Friday he would not be available Sunday due to prior commitments, Roll Call reported.

H/t Roll Call.

President Donald Trump praised his new chief of staff, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, after Kelly’s swearing-in on Monday.

“We have a fantastic leader,” Trump said.

“He will do a spectacular job, I have no doubt, as chief of staff,” Trump said of Kelly, seated next to him in the Oval Office. “What he’s done in terms of homeland security is record-shattering. You look at the border, you look at the tremendous results we’ve had and you look at the spirit. And with a very controversial situation there has been very little controversy, which is pretty amazing by itself.”

“So I want to congratulate you on having done a fantastic job, general, and we look forward to, if it’s possible, an even better job as chief of staff,” he continued, before telling the press, referring to an upcoming Cabinet meeting: “We’ll see you in the boardroom.”

Responding to a reporter’s question, Trump reiterated much of a celebratory Monday morning tweet, hyping stock market highs, low unemployment and, “according to polls,” high “business spirit.” He added that his administration had a “tremendous base” and a “tremendous group of support.”

“We have a fantastic leader, chief of staff, he’s going to do a really great job,” Trump concluded, before saying again: “Thank you very much, we’ll see you in the boardroom.”

President Donald Trump celebrated a bullish stock market on Monday and asserted: “No WH chaos!”

He’s right about the market: The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite all hit record highs in recent days. And unemployment is low, though when similar lows were recorded during the Obama administration then-candidate Trump said the unemployment rate was an inaccurate measure of the economy.

“Border security” is a vague term. But it’s true that federal law enforcement is deporting far more undocumented immigrants, especially those without criminal records, than during the Obama administration.

But there are no such metrics recording White House chaos: The President replaced his White House chief of staff Friday afternoon with the homeland security secretary, leaving another corner of the federal government without his chosen deputy.

And Trump recently raged at Congress for failing to pass an Obamacare repeal bill, and urged Senate Republicans to rid the chamber of legislative filibuster rules that necessitate 60 votes on most legislation — even though their Obamacare repeal effort did not muster even a simple majority.

President Donald Trump’s embattled chief of staff is out.

Reince Priebus stepped down on Friday after weeks of turmoil in the West Wing. Trump tapped Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to fill the role.

Before being confirmed Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, Kelly was a general in the U.S. Marine Corps. Starting in 2012, he led the U.S. Southern Command.

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura spotted Priebus on the tarmac in Suffolk, New York, earlier in the day. Trump gave an aggressive anti-gang speech at Suffolk Community College Friday, congratulating Kelly right after praising Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan, who Trump recalled someone on television had said “looks very nasty, he looks very mean.”

“I said, that’s what I’m looking for,” Trump said. “That’s exactly what I was looking for.”

“And for that, I want to congratulate John Kelly, who has done an incredible job of Secretary of Homeland Security,” Trump continued. “One of our real stars.  Truly, one of our stars.  John Kelly is one of our great stars.”

The New York Times reported Friday, prior to Trump’s announcement, that the President had “openly told people” he wanted “a general” in the chief of staff job.

“Reince is a good man,” Trump told reporters after Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews following the speech. “Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by everybody. He’s a great great American. Reince is a good man.”

Priebus’ replacement comes after support for him within the Trump administration gradually eroded over months of Trump-fueled chaos. In recent days, Priebus’ standing deteriorated more rapidly.

The appointment of Trump booster Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director — and subsequent resignation of Sean Spicer in protest — indicated that Priebus’ days were numbered.

Scaramucci repeatedly insinuated to reporters that Priebus was a major source of White House leaks. In a profanity-laced interview Wednesday with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, Scaramucci warned: “Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.”

At a press briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say Priebus had Trump’s confidence.

“[I]f the President doesn’t, then he’ll make that decision,” Sanders said. “We all serve at the pleasure of the President, and if he gets to a place where that isn’t the case, he’ll let you know.”

Sanders praised Kelly in a statement to pool reporters Friday. “The entire Administration loves him and no one is comparable,” she said, noting that he would begin in his new position on Monday.

In a statement released shortly after Priebus’ dismissal, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Priebus, the Republican-National-Committee-chairman-turned-chief-of-staff, “has left it all out on the field, for our party and our country.”

“Here is a guy from Kenosha, Wisconsin who revitalized the Republican National Committee and became White House chief of staff,” Ryan continued. “He has served the president and the American people capably and passionately. He has achieved so much, and he has done it all with class. I could not be more proud to call Reince a dear friend.”

“I congratulate Secretary Kelly on his appointment, and look forward to working with him to advance our agenda,” he concluded.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who was on Air Force One immediately before Priebus’ ouster was made public, praised Priebus’ “poker face,” to pool reporters.

“We didn’t even know it,” King said, according to a pool report. “We were sitting right across from him and he kept a poker face.”

According to the pool report, “King said the president told the congressmen as they were about to get off that he as going to announce Kelly as chief of staff.”

This post has been updated.

In a speech Friday to law enforcement officers, President Donald Trump urged them to not be “too nice” to suspected criminals and gang members, and appeared to endorse certain types of abuse by police and immigration agents.

The address, in Brentwood, New York, was ostensibly meant to address the violence propagated by the MS13 gang. But, amid repeated raucous cheering and “thank yous” from the officers in attendance, Trump veered into several extended monologues on the value of being “tough.”

Toward the end of his remarks, the President gave a chilling example of what he meant.

“When you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough,” he said, referring to the arrest of alleged gang members. “I said, please don’t be too nice.”

“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over,” he mimicked an officer putting a handcuffed person in the back of a squad car, the officer’s hand over the suspect’s head. “Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head?”

“I said, you can take the hand away, OK?” he concluded, to laughter, and then loud applause.

That sentiment characterized much of the red meat speech, in which Trump contrasted himself frequently to his predecessor.

“We have your backs 100 percent,” Trump said near the beginning of his remarks. “Not like the old days.” 

Trump mentioned an executive order from former President Barack Obama — signed after police clashed with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri — meant to control the flow of military weaponry to local police forces.

“When you want to take over used military equipment, they were saying you couldn’t do it,” Trump said. “You know what I said? That was my first day: You can do it. In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast, we have none left. You guys know — you really knew how to get that.”

And the President praised acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan for being “a tough guy” — “I said, that’s what I’m looking for. That’s exactly what I was looking for” — and applied the same praise to ICE agents: “Rough guys. They’re rough,” he said.

Trump’s description of the gang members on ICE’s radar was practically apocalyptic.

“One by one, we are liberating our American towns,” he said, referring to the deportation of gang members. “Can you believe that I’m saying that? I’m talking about liberating our towns. Like you’d see in a movie. They’re liberating the town. Like in the old wild west, right? We’re liberating our towns. I never thought I’d be standing up here talking about liberating the towns on Long Island where I grew up. But that’s what you’re doing.”

Worse than the gang activity in Long Island, he said, was Chicago. He employed his audience to make the point.

“Do you see what’s happening there? Do we agree? Is there something —” he began, waiting for applause in agreement

He told the story of a “really respected officer, police officer” in Chicago who volunteered as a motorcycle escort for his campaign.

“It’s a problem that can be straightened out,” Trump recalled the officer telling him, presumably a reference to violent crime in the city. “If you gave me the authority, a couple days […] We know all the bad ones.”

White House aide Sebastian Gorka said Thursday that President Donald Trump had announced his intention to ban all transgender individuals from the U.S. military because the military is “not there to reflect America” or “be socially engineered.”

And, despite the fact that the U.S. military is an all-volunteer force, Gorka said Trump’s decision — made “out of the warmth of his consideration of this population” — was a response to what he characterized as an attempt “to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed.”

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 Today, Gorka was asked, in reference to Trump: “How can it be the case that he is speaking for the whole military if he is speaking out against one section of the military?”

“The military is not a microcosm of civilian society,” Gorka responded. “They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up, they are not there to be social engineered.”

“We want people who are transgender to live happy lives,” he continued. “But we want unit cohesion and we want combat effectiveness. There are leading studies from the medical establishment, for example, that state that the transgender community has a 40 percent suicide attempt rate. That is a tragedy. We need to help those people, we don’t need to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed, and that is why the President is doing this — out of the warmth of his consideration of this population.

“It probably doesn’t feel like warmth from the transgender perspective,” a BBC presenter asked.

“Well, we’re not here to represent one part of America,” Gorka said. “We are here to represent all of America and protect Americans.” (Listen at 6:32 here.)

Gorka elaborated on Twitter, calling the acknowledgement of transgender servicemembers “Obama-era social engineering.”

Gorka’s reasoning adds to multiple justifications provided by the White House for Trump’s abrupt announcement of the ban — for which the Pentagon was apparently not at all prepared to comment, and which earned the bipartisan criticism from Congress.

In announcing the ban on Twitter Wednesday, Trump said that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Later that day, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing that the ban was “about military readiness, this was about unit cohesion, this was about resources within the military.”

Gorka’s comments drew criticism from, among many others, Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. and CNN analyst John Kirby. In a series of tweets, he said Gorka, who served at one point in the British army reserves, had mischaracterized the U.S. military.

President Donald Trump has instructed aides to find a rationale for declaring Iran in violation of the Obama-era nuclear deal, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Citing several unnamed foreign officials, the Times reported that the United States has raised the possibility of international inspectors demanding access to various military sites in Iran in search of nuclear activity — a suggestion that would be met with Iranian opposition.

Trump has reluctantly signed off on Iran’s compliance with the deal twice since taking office. Such affirmations are required every 90 days. Before his July 17 signature, a slew of top diplomatic and national security adviser urged Trump to stay in the deal, according to the Times, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been sidelined from many major decisions in recent months.

It seems Trump’s patience is running thin.

On July 21, Foreign Policy reported that Trump had entrusted a group of White House staffers to make the case for withdrawing from the deal. As it’s not a formal treaty but rather an executive agreement initiated during the Obama administration, Trump’s latitude to re-impose sanctions on Iran is broad.

“This is the President telling the White House that he wants to be in a place to decertify 90 days from now and it’s their job to put him there,” an unnamed source close to the White House told the magazine.

The White House’s Iran group, according to three unnamed sources cited by Foreign Policy, is chock full of foreign policy novices and Iran hawks, among them chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, the controversial self-proclaimed counterterrorism export Sebastian Gorka and Michael Anton, whose infamous and anonymously written “The Flight 93 Election” compared the Washington, D.C. political establishment to the 9/11 hijackers.

Trump voters, Anton argued in the piece, needed to storm the metaphorical cockpit to guard against, among other things, “Iran sycophancy.”

According to Foreign Policy, the White House group also included Michael Flynn ally Derek Harvey, who has since been fired.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Friday morning that he was “disappointed and frustrated” at the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare after the House passed its own version of a repeal in May.

“We were sent to Washington to fulfill the pledges we made to our constituents,” Ryan said in a statement. “While the House delivered a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, unfortunately the Senate was unable to reach a consensus.”

“I am disappointed and frustrated, but we should not give up,” he continued. “I encourage the Senate to continue working toward a real solution that keeps our promise. We have so much work still to do, and the House will continue to focus on issues that are important to the American people. At the top of that list is cutting taxes for middle class families and fixing our broken tax code. I’m glad that members will now take time to hear directly from those they represent and make the case for historic tax reform that we intend to pursue in the fall.”

Senate Republicans attempted on Thursday night to gather enough votes to pass a measure that they themselves did not want to become law. Rather, they planned on using the bill as a vehicle to get to a conference with the House, where the real legislation would be penned.

Ryan, however, made no guarantee to Senate Republicans that House Republicans wouldn’t simply pass the Senate’s bill as-is.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whose “no” vote doomed the Senate’s bill, had earlier on Thursday appeared at a press conference with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), in which he said he would withhold his support for the bill unless Ryan assured him the House would send it to a conference.

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