Mshuham2

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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Someone in an SUV carrying Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani opened a door into a pedicab Thursday, the NYPD confirmed to TPM.

Det. Martin Brown said that at around 2:20 p.m. ET, the door of a black SUV carrying Giuliani and two staffers opened into an oncoming pedicab in Midtown Manhattan.

“A door to the vehicle opened and made contact with a pedicab that was unoccupied,” Brown told TPM. “There were no injuries and no property damage.”

Brown said he didn’t know which door had opened to cause the accident, nor whether the SUV was parked at the time.

WCBS’s Alex Silverman first reported the news.

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President Donald Trump on Thursday tried to revise his statement the previous day that the United States was committed to deporting undocumented immigrant “animals.”

I’m referring, and you know I’m referring, to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in,” Trump told an inquiring reporter while he sat next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

“If you look a little bit further on in the tape you will see that, so I’m actually surprised you’re asking this question, because most people got it right,” he claimed, adding later: “When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country I refer to them as animals. And guess what, I always will.” 

Trump did not specify Wednesday — when he said that “these aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before” — that he was speaking specifically about violent gang members.

He made the comment during what the White House called a “California Sanctuary State Roundtable,” speaking with officials from the state who disagreed with California’s sanctuary state law.

And while Trump’s remark came in response to a California sheriff who said “there could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it,” Trump himself did not specify he was only calling gang members “animals.”

His answer to the Sheriff is reprinted below in full, copied from the White House transcript of the event:

SHERIFF MIMS:  Thank you.  There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

THE PRESIDENT:  We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country.  You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are.  These aren’t people.  These are animals.  And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.  And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out.  It’s crazy.

The dumbest laws — as I said before, the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.  So we’re going to take care of it, Margaret.  We’ll get it done.  We’re going to ask that man right there, because that man can do it.  (Laughter.)  Right now he’s the most important man in the room.  [House Majority Leader] Kevin [McCarthy] can do it.

Kevin?  Please.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Donald Trump still “strongly” believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is a “witch hunt,” despite the assertions of his own hand-picked FBI director.

At a press briefing Thursday, a reporter asked about FBI Director Christopher Wray’s affirmation to the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday that the Mueller probe is not a witch hunt.

“The President knows that there was no collusion in the campaign, and he has been quite clear about this,” Sanders responded. “It’s gone on for over a year. They found no evidence of collusion, and still strongly believe that it’s a witch hunt.”

Trump called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt” twice on his Twitter account Thursday.

Later in the briefing, a reporter made reference to another tweet of Trump’s on Thursday, asking Sanders if Trump believed “that the FBI had a spy at one point inside of his campaign?”

“I haven’t spoken with him directly about that, but I’ve certainly seen the reports and if there is any truth to that it should certainly be looked into,” Sanders said.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that, during the 2016 campaign, “at least one government informant met several times with [Carter] Page and [George] Papadopoulos, current and former officials said.”

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Thursday that while Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be “free to do his job,” he would like to see the probe reach its conclusion.

In a press briefing Thursday, a reporter asked Ryan about Vice President Mike Pence’s comment last week, referring to Mueller’s probe, that “it’s time to wrap it up.”

“I think he should be free to do his job, but I would like to see it get wrapped up, of course,” Ryan responded. “I mean, we want to see this thing come to its conclusion, but again, I’ve always said he should be free to finish his job.”

“It’s been a year, my guess is he’s probably coming to a conclusion,” Ryan added in a response to another question. “I can’t speak for that.”

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Thursday that if there had been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, “it would have been leaked a long time ago.”

Rubio is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which this week announced that it concurred with a 2017 assessment by various intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

“Russia has meddled in other elections, and propaganda isn’t new,” Rubio told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer in an interview. “They went to a new level last year, primarily to sow instability and chaos in our society, but ultimately they may have grown into a preference for the President.”

“What do you think? Do you think there was collusion during this election or not?” Hemmer asked.

“We’ve seen no evidence of that to this point,” Rubio said, repeating a Republican talking point with regard to the various probes of Trump’s campaign. He argued that “the best thing that can happen here for the President is for all the facts to come out.”

“Even it takes another year or even two years?” Hemmer asked. “Is that what you’re saying?”

“Let me tell you this,” Rubio responded, “if there was anything about collusion, it would have been leaked a long time ago and everybody would have been talking about it.”

“But, you know, we’re still doing our work. Mueller’s still doing his work. We’ll see. But let me just reiterate what I said, and read into it what you might. Let the truth come out. I think that’s the best thing for the country and the President, believe me.”

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When it was revealed earlier this month that Trump fixer Michael Cohen had accepted six-figure payments (and morefrom various corporations in the wake of the 2017 election, attention turned to the mysterious source of that information.

Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, was the first to publish detailed allegations, in an unsourced document, that Cohen had used the same shell company from which Daniels received a hush money payment in 2016 to accept the corporate cash.

On Wednesday, the New Yorker revealed that Cohen’s leaked banking data came from a so-called “suspicious activity report,” which are used in the financial industry to flag suspicious activity to Treasury Department regulators. A TPM reader surmised as much earlier this month.

The unnamed law enforcement official who came forward to the New Yorker also said that the report he leaked referenced two other SARs, both of which are missing. The two missing SARs “documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen’s account,” the New Yorker reported: more than $3 million in total.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in March that First Republic Bank had filed an SAR covering Cohen’s payment to Daniels via Essential Consultants, LLC, a shell company he’d recently set up.

The report detailed by the New Yorker’s source showed payments to Cohen from the American affiliate of a Russian investment firm, AT&T, the drugmaker Novartis and others months later.

It was also filed by First Republic Bank, but it examined transactions, the publication said, from September 2017 to January 2018. The two missing reports reportedly covered earlier periods.

“I have never seen something pulled off the system,” the New Yorker’s source said, referring to the potential removal of the SARs from the Treasury Department’s searchable database. “That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.”

The New Yorker reported that several other institutions filed SARs about accounts of Cohen’s, in addition to First Republic. Those were also covered in Avenatti’s document

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney flagged two accounts of Cohen’s for possible “bribery or gratuity” and “suspicious use of third-party transactors (straw-man).” 

And City National Bank flagged payments by Elliott Broidy that appeared to show that the former RNC deputy finance chair paid both his own attorney, Cohen, and Keith Davidson, the attorney representing Shera Bechard, a Playboy model Broidy had impregnated.

“Mr. Broidy is not going to detail his payments for legal services to Mr. Cohen,” a representative told the New Yorker, asserting that the description of the payments was “not correct.”

Read the New Yorker’s full report here.

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Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team had acknowledged that his probe will not conclude with Trump’s indictment, but rather with a report to Congress on Trump’s potential crimes.

“All they get to do is write a report,” Giuliani told CNN. “They can’t indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us.”

That echoed comments, noted by CNN, from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein earlier this month.

“The Department of Justice has in the past, when the issue arose, has opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted,” Rosenstein said, noting he was speaking generally. “There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about this, I just don’t have anything more to say about it.”

“The Justice Department memos going back to before Nixon say that you cannot indict a sitting president, you have to impeach him,” Giuliani added to CNN. “Now there was a little time in which there was some dispute about that, but they acknowledged to us orally that they understand that they can’t violate the Justice Department rules.”

Giuliani said that while Trump’s team believed the indictment of a President to be unconstitutional, “I don’t think you’re ever going to confront that because nobody’s ever going to indict a sitting president.”

“So, what does that leave them with? That leaves them with writing a report,” he told CNN.

Faced with a potential report on Trump’s crimes, Giuliani appeared to say, the House of Representatives would then vote on whether or not to impeach the President.

This post has been updated. 

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Special counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas late last week to a social media consultant for Trump confidante Roger Stone, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Stone hired the consultant, Jason Sullivan, “to work for an independent political action committee [Stone] set up to support Trump,” Reuters reported, citing Sullivan’s lawyer.

Sullivan told Reuters that he “worked on the Trump campaign serving as chief strategist directly to Roger J. Stone Jr.”

The two subpoenas, Reuters reported, request Sullivan’s appearance before a grand jury on May 18 and order him to bring documents and other information, respectively.

The subpoenas, Reuters reported, imply Mueller is focused on whether Stone had advanced knowledge of hacked Democratic emails that were eventually published by Wikileaks.

Stone has denied having advanced knowledge of the Wikileaks publications, despite documented Twitter communications during the campaign between him and Wikileaks, and with the hacker persona Guccifer 2.0Stone also claimed during the campaign that he’d communicated with Assange.

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Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s recently released financial disclosure report shows he could have committed a crime.

If DOJ investigates and determines that President Trump knew of his debt to Cohen when he filed last year’s report, there will be reason to suspect that his omission of the debt from last year’s report was ‘knowing and willful,’ which would be a crime,” Shaub, now the senior director for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, told TPM in a statement Wednesday.

Shaub was referring to OGE’s letter to the Department of Justice Wednesday citing Trump’s financial disclosure.

Trump’s payment of between $100,000 and $250,000 to his personal attorney Michael Cohen last year, the OGE’s acting director wrote, is “required to be reported as a liability.”

In a tweet Wednesday, Shaub wrote that the letter was “tantamount to a criminal referral.”

Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani has said the President “didn’t know the details” of the payment to Daniels. Shaub said in an interview with CNN Wednesday that it was “implausible” Trump didn’t know the details of the payment.

In his letter to the DOJ, Apol referenced a complaint from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington over Trump’s non-disclosure of the debt he owed Cohen.

On Wednesday, that group filed another complaint

“The president has an obligation to be transparent and truthful about his financial interests, and knowingly failing to do so can be a serious criminal offense,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Read Shaub’s full statement below:

“The release of President Trump’s financial disclosure report today confirms that his debt to Michael Cohen should have been disclosed in last year’s report. President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, claims the president didn’t know about the payment when he filed that report last year, but this explanation seems implausible. For one thing, Giuliani admits that the president started repaying his debt to Cohen months before he filed his financial disclosure report.

In this context, we at the Campaign Legal Center were heartened to see that the acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics, David Apol, referred the matter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It remains to be seen whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) will step up and do its job. If DOJ investigates and determines that president Trump knew of his debt to Cohen when he filed last year’s report, there will be reason to suspect that his omission of the debt from last year’s report was ‘knowing and willful,’ which would be a crime. I note that no one from the Trump camp asked OGE last year whether the debt was reportable and that, instead, President Trump’s attorney asked OGE to allow him to be the first filer in history to be excused from the obligation to certify that his report was true.”

This post has been updated.

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