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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

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver a press briefing at 3:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Watch live below:

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced one of several women who have accused him of sexual assault.

He appeared to be referring to Rachel Crooks, a former receptionist in Trump Tower and now a candidate for the Ohio state legislature. The Washington Post profiled Crooks on Monday.

The Post’s profile included Crooks’ account of her allegation during a recent dinner party:

She reached for her water glass and lifted it up into the air to use as a prop. “He took hold of my hand and held me in place like this,” she said, squeezing the sides of the water glass, shaking it gently from side to side. “He started kissing me on one cheek, then the other cheek. He was talking to me in between kisses, asking where I was from, or if I wanted to be a model. He wouldn’t let go of my hand, and then he went right in and started kissing me on the lips.”

She shook the water glass one final time and set it down. “It felt like a long kiss,” she said. “The whole thing probably lasted two minutes, maybe less.”

Crooks has been consistent in her story since she first came forward to the New York Times in October 2016.

In the same Times report, Trump defiantly denied the allegations: “None of this ever took place,” he told the paper, which noted that he “began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him” and “said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.”

He told the Times reporter: “You are a disgusting human being.”

Crooks told Vox in December, referring to potential Trump Tower surveillance footage of the alleged assault: “Let’s get that out … I’d be more than happy for [Trump] to let that surface.” She repeated the call Tuesday:

Crooks was one of numerous women to accuse Trump of sexual misconduct during the 2016 election. The President and his communications team have maintained that his accusers are all lying.

In December, when White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that multiple “eyewitnesses” had denied the allegations against Trump, TPM followed up and asked for more information.

The White House responded with a list of three people. The two page email, which did not any contain information that wasn’t already public, did not disprove any of the allegations against Trump.

Trump’s second tweet on Tuesday, referring to one of his accusers having her mortgage “paid off,” appeared to be a reference to Jill Harth. Harth has acknowledged that her attorney, Lisa Bloom, established a GoFundMe account for her “that was created to help me out financially,” but asserts that it doesn’t affect “the veracity of my 1997 federal complaint against Donald J. Trump for sexual harassment and assault.” The GoFundMe page has raised $2,317 to date.

This post has been updated.

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Rick Gates, the deputy of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, will plead guilty to “fraud-related charges,” the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

The Times cited interviews with unnamed people familiar with the case. One person with “direct knowledge of the new developments” said Gates’ revised plea would be presented in court “within the next few days”: “Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” the source said.

CBS News later reported later Sunday that, according to unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations, Gates was expected to plead guilty.

The network added, referring to Gates’ attorneys’ move to withdraw from the case: “The fact that three experienced trial attorneys wanted off the case suggested at the time that Gates may be pursuing a plea deal. The attorneys remain under a gag order by the court.”

CNN reported Thursday that Gates was nearing a plea deal with Mueller. Gates and Manafort both pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in October including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and failing to file reports on foreign bank and financial accounts.

CNN reported last week that Mueller’s team was preparing new, tax-related charges against Gates, perhaps to increase the pressure on him to cooperate.

An unnamed person familiar with the talks between Mueller’s team and Tom Green, a defense attorney new to Gates’ team, told the Times that Gates could expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” for cooperating fully with the investigation, adding that Gates “understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates – but it won’t be spelled out.”

Gates’ cooperation would aide Mueller’s team’s case against Manafort. One unnamed person familiar with the “pending guilty plea,” in the Times’ words, told the paper that Gates’ cooperation would be the “cherry on top” of the case against Manafort, should Manafort decide to pursue his not-guilty plea at trial.

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During a tense interview aired Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) again rejected many Floridians’ criticism that certain gun control laws would have prevented Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

He also defended his ties to the National Rifle Association, and blamed congressional inaction regarding such mass shootings on “people just mov[ing] on.”

Rubio hasn’t personally attempted to address mass shootings through legislation, he said, because “we don’t fully understand everything that could’ve been done to prevent this.”

Much of the mourning following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, which left 17 dead and more injured, transformed with surprising speed into passionate political advocacy. And, perhaps aside from President Donald Trump, more of that passion has been directed at Rubio, a large beneficiary of the gun lobby’s support, than anyone else.

“I see this reported, it’s unfair, I’ve never said we can’t do anything,” Rubio said, repeating a point he made on the Senate floor Thursday. He added: “What I have said is that the proposals out there would not have prevented it, and that’s a fact.”

WFOR’s Jim DeFede asked Rubio about his vote against legislation to ban magazines that hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition.

Rubio said there wasn’t any evidence the ban would prevent mass shootings, and added that “there are legitimate reasons why people want those–”

“What is a legitimate reason for an AR-15 to be able to have 30 or 50 rounds in a clip,” DeFede interjected.

“Well, first of all, they don’t have 50. The second reason is people that are in– whether it’s sport shooting, or, for example they are used in hunting, I heard somebody say yesterday that they’re not.”

“And so the rationale is that they use those, and if you have to reload every time, it would affect either the sport shooting aspect or the hunting aspect,” he continued. “Now, the details of that bill had other things in it that were beyond the magazine capacity.”

The senator pointed, as he did several times, to a 2015 Washington Post fact check that concluded: “It is possible that some gun-control proposals, such as a ban on large-capacity magazines, would reduce the number of dead in a future shooting, though the evidence for that is heavily disputed. But Rubio was speaking in the past, about specific incidents. He earns a rare Geppetto Checkmark.”

Asked about a ban on guns like the AR-15, the semi-automatic assault rifle alleged to have been used in Parkland, Rubio said: “Number one, the law would not prevent these mass shootings. Number two, there are millions of them in the street already. They’re here to stay. The genie’s out of the bottle.”

He added: “That said, do I believe it should be harder to get one? Do I believe it should be impossible for someone to get one if they are under the condition that the shooter was in Parkland? Absolutely. And one of the problems we have there is we don’t have the complete mental health picture in the background check system.”

Rubio brought up that same point later in the interview: “I don’t think people like this guy or people like him should have any gun. Not an AR-15, any gun. We need to create a system that keeps them from getting it. We don’t have one now that does that. That’s what I’m in favor of.”

“So who’s going to take the lead on that?” DeFede pressed. “Are you?

“I’m prepared to take the lead, and others are–” Rubio began.

DeFede tried again: “Am I going to see a Rubio bill about this?”

“You should,” Rubio said. “You should.”

“But will I?”

“What I’m trying to tell you is that I don’t have that bill yet. Because we don’t fully understand everything that could’ve been done to prevent this,” he said, adding that it was “not a simple thing like there’s one idea and if you do this one thing, this’ll never happen again.”

“We need to take the time — and not forever — but we need to take time to understand what that is,” he said.

Rubio said later that Congress needed to “come up with ideas — not just one, but many, that solve this,” noting that the Senate had tried to address gun control in 2013 and failed.

“Okay, that’s five years ago, and how many mass shootings have we had since then?” DeFede asked.

“Several,” Rubio said. “And why hasn’t it? I don’t know the answer. Part of it, I think, is people just move on. The news moves on, society moves on, and politicians move on.”

Multiple times in the interview, DeFede Brought up the NRA, at one point saying Rubio’s constituents believed he wouldn’t make progress on gun legislation “in part because you don’t want to anger the NRA.”

“First of all, they support my agenda, I don’t support theirs,” he replied. “These are the things I stand for and I always have. So it is logical in American politics that if you believe in a certain set of ideas, the people who support the ideas will advocate on your behalf, and by the way, the people that are against it would advocate against you.”

There is one gun control measure Rubio told DeFede he supports, one he wouldn’t have to vote on it either way: a state level proposal to allow police, with a judge’s order, to remove guns from the homes of individuals suspected of being mentally unfit to handle them.

“That is an example of a state law, that in this case, if it has been used could have prevented this,” the senator said.

Watch the televised portions of the interview here.

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A group survivors of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida appeared on several nationally-broadcast talk shows Sunday with a message for lawmakers: “You’re either with us or against us.”

Those were the words of Cameron Kasky, a junior at Stoneman Douglas who told CNN’s Dana Bash (and several other anchors) that students nationwide would participant in a “March For Our Lives” on March 24th, with a goal of preventing mass shootings and placing a “badge of shame” on lawmakers who accept money from the National Rifle Association.

We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around,” Kasky said, adding: “On March 24th, you are going to be seeing students in every single major city marching, and we have our lives on the line here. And at the end of the day that is going to be what’s bringing us to victory, and to making some sort of right out of this tragedy.”

“This is about us begging for our lives,” he continued. “This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.”

“This is a student-led grassroots movement,” Stoneman Douglas senior David Hogg told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “This is not a debate, this is a discussion between Americans, because we’ve had too many debates before and we’ve gotten nowhere. We need a discussion where we hear both sides.”

“From the Republicans, they can talk about mental healthcare,” he continued. “And from the Democrats, they can talk about gun control.”

“But what we need to do here is come together not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans, and work together to solve this issue through love and compassion, because this event occurred on Valentine’s Day, sadly, and sadly 17 people had to take a bullet to the heart and so did our community. This is a time for change and we can’t let this ever happen again.”

Asked why this school shooting would lead to a different result than others have in recent years — namely, an unchanged status quo — Hogg responded in part: “I think this time is different because immediately — the same day as the shooting — I immediately went on Fox News, in fact, and talked about how this needed to be different, how this could not be just another mass shooting.”  

CBS’ Nancy Cordes asked him to respond to a tweet from President Donald Trump blaming Democrats — inaccurately — for failing to pass legislation to prevent gun massacres.

“President Trump, you control the House of Representatives, you control the Senate, and you control the executive,” Hogg said. “You haven’t taken a single bill for mental health care or gun control and passed it, and that’s pathetic. We’ve seen a government shut down. We’ve seen tax reform. But nothing to save our children’s lives. Are you kidding me? You think now is the time to focus on the past and not the future to prevent the deaths of thousands of other children? You sicken me.”

A website for the march reads in part: “March For Our Lives is created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.”

“This is a case of simple– Please stop!” Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Stoneman who delivered a powerful speech on the politics of gun legislation Saturday, said. “Please stop allowing us to be gunned down in our hallways.”

“People are telling us that we should run for president. We want an education. At this point we are trying so desperately hard to communicate what we are feeling and so many people are listening to us.”

She told ABC’s Martha Raddatz: “The people who are out there, the kids who need to take part in this, are everyday kids just like us. They are students who need to understand that this can very quickly happen to them, and we’re doing everything within our power to prevent it from happening to them, but they need to join us and they need to help us get our message across.”

“We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this,” she said of politicians currently accepting donations from the National Rifle Association, including President Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The students brought their advocacy to online outlets like NowThis, as well:

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On Twitter Saturday night and Sunday morning, President Donald Trump flooded the zone with his takes on a variety of topics, all seemingly sharing one message: It’s not my fault.

The past week was a taxing one for the President, politically: A mass shooting in Florida increased the pressure on Congress to enact gun control legislation. Robert Mueller indicted 14 people, Russian and American, and additional entities on various charges in the course of his special counsel investigation — one that the administration has maintained is a “witch hunt” based on a “hoax.” And the New Yorker magazine detailed another extramarital affair the President reportedly paid to keep quiet.

Trump’s tweets deflected responsibility in bursts.

Despite congressional Republicans constituting the only obstacle to new gun control legislation, the President blamed Democrats for just that.

He said the FBI’s focus on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — one in which his administration has repeatedly attempted to interfere — distracted the bureau from the threat posed by the gunman who ultimately committed a shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday.

The bureau admitted that a lapse in protocol occurred when a tip about the gunman was not flagged to the relevant local authorities. The bureau did not say it had been distracted by the Russia probe. Trump’s tweet echoed a widespread sentiment among the far-right

Trump nitpicked with his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Robert Mueller’s recent indictments provided “incontrovertible” evidence of Russian meddling in the election — but did not say that that such meddling didn’t affect the election. In announcing the indictment against 13 people for various charges Friday Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said only that there was no allegation “in the indictment” of any effect on the outcome of the election.

At 7:02 a.m. he attacked former President Barack Obama for a cash payment to Iran that Obama administration officials have consistently defended. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who’s facing his own troubles at home — attacked Iran and the Iran deal at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

And he seized on a comment made by the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who told NBC News on Friday that the Obama administration should have provided a “more forceful deterrent” to foreign cyber attacks following the 2014 Sony hack.

Trump is incorrect in saying “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election.” At times he has specified that his campaign did not collude with Russia. But he has also frequently tossed nuance aside and called the entire Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” or declared that “Russia is fake news.”

According to the White House press secretary’s schedule, the President had no public events Sunday. But on Twitter, as the day began, he had more to say.

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Former Donald Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is nearing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, CNN reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the case.

Gates is set to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, CNN said, noting the plea deal negotiations had taken place for roughly a month. Gates was the longtime deputy to Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.

Manafort, like Gates, pled not guilty in October to all charges filed against him, including conspiracy to launder money and failing to report on foreign bank and financial accounts. CNN reported that Gates’ cooperation with the investigation would pressure Manafort to do the same.

An unnamed White House official downplayed the news, saying that “[i]f Gates cooperates against Manafort that’s nothing to us” and “They have a hard case to make against Manafort. That’s why Gates might get favorable treatment.”

CNN said Gates had participated in what’s called a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which he would have answered any questions Mueller’s team had about his case “and other potential criminal activity he witnessed,” CNN noted. In such interviews, CNN said, participants are “typically” unlikely to face additional criminal consequences for admissions, as long as they don’t lie.

The outlet also reported that Mueller’s team is preparing to file new, tax-related charges against Gates, according to unnamed people familiar with the probe, which could be used to pressure Gates to cooperate.

Two others indicted on charges in Mueller’s investigation — former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — are already cooperating with Mueller’s probe.

Read CNN’s full report here.

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Steve Bannon, the Trump administration’s former chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News reported Thursday, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the proceedings.

Bannon served as the Trump campaign’s chief executive from August 2016 through the end of the campaign, and was in Trump’s ear until he left his White House post in August 2017, making him a valuable interview for Mueller’s investigators.

NBC News reported that Bannon spent “some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller.”

Bannon returned to his job leading the far-right outlet Breitbart News after leaving the White House, only to leave that role early this year after losing favor in Trump’s circles for criticizing the President’s son in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

NBC News also noted that Bannon had appeared before the House Intelligence Committee again on Thursday to answer Russia-related questions. Members of both parties in that committee have openly considered sanctioning Bannon for refusing to answer their questions. CNN reported Thursday that Bannon claimed to have been instructed by the White House to invoke executive privilege in response to a broad range of questions. 

“The only questions he would answer were questions that had been scripted, literally scripted for him by the White House,” NBC News quoted the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as saying Thursday. “Whenever we sought to probe anything beyond the four corners of the specific wording of the question, he refused to answer. That’s not how executive privilege works.”

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Editor’s Note: Numerous news outlets, including TPM, reported Thursday on claims made by Jordan Jereb, the leader of a Florida white supremacist group, that Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter in the Parkland school shooting, was a member of Jereb’s group. Within hours, several experts and observers had cast doubt on those claims. And on Thursday afternoon, Jereb appeared to walk back the claims in social media posts. As a result, we’ve substantially updated our original story on Jereb’s claims to reflect the new information.

 

Jordan Jereb, the leader of a Florida white nationalist group, initially claimed on Thursday that Nikolas Cruz, who is alleged to have killed 17 people in a school shooting on Wednesday, was a member of his organization.

But within hours, it appeared that Jereb had walked back that claim. Jereb says he leads the group Republic of Florida (ROF), a white supremacist organization seeking the “creation of a white ethnostate.”

Someone posting under the name “Jordan Jereb” on Gab, a social media website frequently used by white nationalists, suggested he had been mistaken in claiming Cruz was a member of the group.

The Anti-Defamation League first relayed Jereb’s claims that Cruz was a member of ROF.

Jereb repeated the claim to the Daily Beast, the Associated Press and the Tallahassee Democrat.

And ABC News reported that three former schoolmates of Cruz’s, who were unnamed in the report, had said he was a member of the group, too. The report said the schoolmates claimed Cruz “marched with the group frequently,” and that they’d seen Cruz and Jereb “often” together.

However, soon after these reports emerged, Lt. Grady Jordan of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office told the Tallahassee Democrat that the office hadn’t found a connection between Cruz and the group.

Experts and reporters who follow the white nationalist movement expressed doubt over Jereb’s claims, and commenters on servers known for movement chatter have claimed the stories of Cruz’s affiliation with the group are a hoax.

Asked about the reports later Thursday afternoon, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who is investigating the school shooting, said “it’s not confirmed at this time. There’s so much– we’ve heard that. We’re looking into that. And we’ll just keep following on with that.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, in a blog post on its website, said of Jereb: “It may seem odd that Jereb would bring attention to his group by claiming a connection to Cruz, but Jereb has always been somewhat of a publicity seeker. In 2014, in fact, he wrote us to complain that we had not already listed ROF as a hate group. In April 2017, Michael Tubbs, the leader of the Florida chapter of the League of the South, a well-known hate group, wrote that Jereb ‘never misses a photo op’ and called him ‘a nut job who should be avoided.’”

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Thursday fell short of calling for any kind of additional restriction on the purchase of high-powered semi-automatic rifles, like the one allegedly used to murder 17 people on Wednesday.

Though he didn’t entirely rule out such efforts in a speech on the Senate floor — “I‘m not saying don’t focus on the gun part,” he said at one point — Rubio repeatedly emphasized that new gun laws were unlikely to prevent shooting massacres like Wednesday’s. 

The senator, an ally of the gun manufacturers’ lobby, was criticized Wednesday for again failing to offer legislative answers to America’s frequent gun massacres.

“I do think that in some circles, it isn’t fair or right to create this impression that somehow this attack happened yesterday because there is some law out there that we could have passed to prevent it,” Rubio said toward the end of a lengthy speech in which he wavered between dismissing gun control efforts and advising against saying “there is nothing we can do.”

“If there was such a law that could have prevented yesterday, I think a lot of people would have supported it,” he said.

“You read in the newspaper that they used a certain kind of gun and therefore let’s make it harder to get those kinds of guns,” Rubio said earlier in his remarks, referring to the AR-15 that police said Nikolas Cruz used Wednesday, and which is responsible for many of the deadliest shooting incidents in modern American history.

“I don’t have some sort of de facto religious objection to that, or some ideological commitment to that per se,” Rubio said. “There’s all kinds of guns that are outlawed and weaponry that’s outlawed and/or special category.”

“The problem is we did that once, and it didn’t work for a lot of reasons,” he continued. “One of them is there is already millions of these on the street. And those things, they last 100 years. And so you could pass a law that makes it hard to get this kind of gun in a new condition, but you’re going to struggle to keep it out of the hands of someone who’s decided that’s what they want to use, because there are so many of them out there already that would be grandfathered in.”

Rubio listed the ways gun restrictions would fail.

“You can do a background check,” he said. “The truth is in almost all these cases I cited, the individual either erroneously passed a background check or would have passed it or did.”

“Even if they couldn’t pass the background check, then they could buy them the way MS-13 does, and other gangs and other street elements do, from the black market.” 

“Again, not because we shouldn’t have a background check. I’m just trying to be clear and honest here,” he said. “If someone has decided I’m going to commit this crime, they will find a way to get the gun to do it.”

“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a law that makes it harder. It just means understand, to be honest, it isn’t going to stop this from happening. You could still pass the law, per se, but you’re still going to have these horrible attacks.”

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