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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 was combative Monday while accusing members of the press of purposefully reporting false information in order to damage the Trump administration.

But when asked to provide an example of purposefully misleading reporting, she cited an erroneous report from ABC News’ Brian Ross. However, there’s no indication Ross’ reporting was purposefully misleading, and Ross was suspended without pay and barred from reporting on Trump in the future by ABC News as a result of the error.

“When journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them, sometimes, and a lot of times you don’t,” Sanders responded to CNN’s Jim Acosta, who had contended that journalists can make honest mistakes without earning the President’s “fake news” label.

“But there’s a difference– I’m sorry. I’m not finished,” she continued, over a shouted question. “There’s a big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly.”

Sanders continued, contending again that she wasn’t finished: “You cannot say that it’s an honest mistake when you’re purposefully putting out information that you know to be false or when you’re taking information that hasn’t been validated, that hasn’t been offered any credibility and that has been continually denied by a number of people including people with direct knowledge of an instance. This is something that — I’m speaking about the number of reports that have taken place over the last couple of weeks. I’m simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.”

Acosta objected: “Can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?”

“Sure, the ABC report by Brian Ross,” Sanders replied. “I think that was pretty misleading to the American people, and I think that it’s very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting. I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem.”

What had begun with a remark about Trump’s attacks against the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel — for the reporter’s choice of photo representing the crowd size at Trump’s recent political rally in Pensacola, Florida — had turned into a misleading diatribe by Sanders. She had been asked for proof of purposely misleading reporting, and produced an example, Ross’, that was not purposeful.

Ross was suspended after reporting, based on an unnamed source, that Trump had instructed Michael Flynn to reach out to Russia when he was a presidential candidate, rather than as president-elect. The mistake — which would have represented a significant report — made huge waves, and ABC News’ corrections admitting Ross’ error were slow to arrive.

Watch below via CSPAN:

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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday called the special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat “one of the most significant in Alabama’s history.”

Rice, a Birmingham native who served as national security adviser and secretary of state during former President George W. Bush’s tenure, did not name either major candidate in a statement encouraging Alabamians to vote on Dec. 12, which was printed by AL.com.

Still, given racially inflammatory statements by Republican Roy Moore in the past, and allegations that he molested teenagers as an assistant district attorney, Rice’s call to elect a “dignified, decent, and respectful” senator appeared to favor Democrat Doug Jones.

“These critical times require us to come together to reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance,” she wrote.

Read Rice’s statement below as printed by AL.com:

This week’s special election will be one of the most significant in Alabama’s history. As a native daughter, I remain – at heart – an Alabaman who loves our state and its devotion to faith, family, and country.

I encourage you to take a stand for our core principles and for what is right. These critical times require us to come together to reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance.

It is imperative for Americans to remain focused on our priorities and not give way to side shows and antics. I know that Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington. But we must also insist that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear.

Please exercise your right to vote – a privilege won by the sacrifices of our ancestors. Sustain the central ideals and values that make our country a beacon for freedom and justice for the sake of Alabama and for the good of the United States of America. 

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Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore said Sunday that the election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat is “probably a referendum on the direction of our country.”

In video of the event posted online by One America News Network — one of two media organizations invited to attend, alongside Breitbart News, whose executive chairman, Steve Bannon has campaigned extensively for Moore — the candidate also says Tuesday’s results will reflect God’s will.

“It’s God’s will, what happens, and we’re expecting God to do whatever he does, is the right thing to do,” Moore said.

“It’s probably a referendum on the direction of our country in the future, with regard to President Trump’s agenda, with what he wants to do, and I think he feels that,” Moore added later. “I know that Breitbart and Mr. Bannon feels that, and I don’t understand that, but I’ve been told that by people actually running, or intending to run, up in Oklahoma, Missouri, that area.”

It’s possible Moore was referring to right-wing candidates and potential candidates in those states who plan on challenging incumbent Republican senators; Bannon has made a project of defeating every incumbent Republican in the Senate, except for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Moore defeated establishment Republicans’ choice of Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the Republican primary, upsetting even President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Strange.

Moore also made a perplexing reference to threats he said his supporters had seen on social media, that they would be prosecuted for voting for him. A spokesperson for Moore did not respond to TPM’s request to clarify the remark.

“This is probably the ugliest, dirtiest campaign I have ever seen,” Moore said. “When they get on social media, and tell you you’re going to be prosecuted if you vote for me — that’s how bad it is. The secretary of state has had to become involved. We have been putting out fires thanks to my campaign team.”

It may have been in reference to one ad, by the anti-Moore super PAC Highway 31, which said “your vote is public record, and your community will know whether or not you stopped Roy Moore.” While an individual’s vote is secret, whether or not they voted in the first place is not. Informing potential voters that their neighbors, for example, could find out whether or not they voted has become a frequently used tactic to encourage voter turnout.

Moore concluded his speech by mentioning Trump, who has endorsed him by name and advocated for his election, most recently in a robocall.

“I share President Trump’s feelings about the fake news that’s going out,” Moore said. “And you just wouldn’t believe how many people from out of state I’ve seen, and they come up– They’re watching this election. It’s just bigger than what we can understand. And why it is, I can’t say.”

Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle noted in his report from the Christmas party that other news outlets had not been invited — just as they have been shut out of the Republican’s campaign for weeks — due to “the fact that the vast majority of the rest of the media is fake news.”

The candidate appeared to be wearing an Army jacket and holding a U.S. Military Academy hat. A source close to Moore’s campaign told TPM’s Cameron Joseph on Sunday that Moore had flown to Philadelphia to watch his son play in the Army-Navy football game Saturday. Moore’s campaign has refused to say whether or not he made the trip.

Moore has been accused of initiating sexual contact with a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old while he was an assistant district attorney, among a number of other allegations of misconduct and assault. He’s also known for his extreme comments and views, including that families were more cohesive when slavery existed.

Watch OANN’s video below:

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Former President Barack Obama has recorded a robocall on behalf of Democratic Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones, CNN reported Monday.

“This one’s serious,” Obama tells Alabamians in the recorded phone message, CNN reported. “You can’t sit it out.”

“Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress,” he says. “Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama.”

The special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat will take place Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Last week, Obama said in a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago that “things can fall apart fairly quickly” if Americans don’t “tend to this garden of democracy.” He referenced Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and urged his audience to vote.

President Donald Trump has gotten involved in the Alabama Senate race as well, recording a robocall for Roy Moore in addition to holding a rally Friday in Pensacola, Florida, less than an hour from the Alabama border. Trump has endorsed Moore by name on his widely read Twitter account, as well.

Moore has been accused of initiating sexual contact with a 14-year-old and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old when he was an assistant district attorney, among a number of other charges of sexual impropriety and assault.

He’s also drawn scrutiny for his extremely right-wing views, even for deep red Alabama: He has spoken positively of the coherence of families when slavery existed, and, as reported by CNN Sunday, he said in 2011 that eliminating constitutional amendments after the Bill of Rights would “eliminate many problems.”

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The Washington Post reported on Friday on six women — two of them on-the-record — who alleged inappropriate sexual conduct and comments from Judge Alex Kozinski, a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and, from late 2007 to 2014, the circuit’s chief judge.

Heidi Bond clerked in Kozinski’s office from 2006 to 2007 and, according to the Post, was one of two women to whom the judge showed porn.

The Post reported on two such instances: “One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where ‘some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed.’ Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman.”

Kozinski showed Bond porn several times, the Post reported.

Another Kozinski clerk, Emily Murphy, said the judge once repeatedly steered a conversation with her and a group of clerks to the idea that she ought to work out naked. Murphy had mentioned that the court’s gym was rarely used, the Post reported.

One unnamed extern told the Post that Kozinski once “made a comment about her hair and looked her body up and down ‘in a less-than-professional way,’” in addition to talking about a female judge stripping.

Another unnamed former extern told the Post she’d had at least two conversations with Kozinski “that had sexual overtones directed at me.”

And an unnamed former clerk told the Post that, while she was dining with Kozinski, the judge “kind of picked the tablecloth up so that he could see the bottom half of me, my legs.”

“I wanted to see if you were wearing pants because it’s cold out,” she recalled him saying.

None of the women profiled by the Post reported the incidents, the Post said, and Bond noted Kosinski’s emphasis on judicial confidentiality.

An unnamed former clerk who alleged the judge showed her porn told the paper: “I was afraid.”

“I mean, who would I tell?” she said. “Who do you even tell? Who do you go to?”

In a statement to the Post, Kozinski responded to the reporting without denying any of the allegations.

“I have been a judge for 35 years and during that time have had over 500 employees in my chambers,” he said. “I treat all of my employees as family and work very closely with most of them. I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done.”

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Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) resigned Friday amid reports he suggested aides have intercourse with him and serve as a surrogate for his child.

Franks had said Thursday that he would resign in February. Friday’s announcement was effective immediately.

The congressman also said his wife had been admitted to the hospital “due to an ongoing ailment.”

“Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,” Franks said in a statement. “After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017.”

Politico reported Friday that, prior to Franks announcing that he would resign immediately, it had asked the congressman about allegations of unwanted advances toward female staffers. The outlet reported that Franks had approached staffers about serving as surrogates for his child, as he acknowledged Thursday, but also that “[i]t was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization.”

“Female aides said Franks suggested intercourse to impregnate them,” Politico headlined the article.

The outlet also reported that unnamed sources said a former staffer had alleged Franks had tried to persuade her they were in love “by having her read an article that described how a person knows they’re in love with someone,” and that one woman had believed she had had her access to Franks revoked as retribution for refusing his advances.

Politico reported Franks denied the allegations through a spokesperson.

And an unnamed former aide of Franks told the Associated Press that he had “repeatedly pressed her” to act as a surrogate for his child, including by offering $5 million at one point. The former staffer told the AP Franks had asked her to serve as a surrogate in exchange for money “at least four times,” the outlet reported Friday.

On Thursday, Franks announced he would resign from Congress in January, after he learned that the House Ethics Committee would probe what he said in a statement was “an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable.”

Correction: This post originally misstated Franks’ home state. He is from Arizona, not Texas.

This post has been updated.

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Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell will leave her current role early next year, the White House announced Friday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Powell would serve “until early next year,” and that upon returning to New York, “she will continue to support the President’s agenda and work on Middle East policy.”

Powell joined the National Security Council in March under H.R. McMaster’s leadership, and previously served in the Bush administration and was a partner at Goldman Sachs, Politico reported at the time.

In a statement, McMaster said Powell “is one of the most talented and effective leaders with whom I have ever served.”

He noted, hinting at a possible future role for his outgoing deputy: “All of us look forward to continuing to work with her, as she continues to support this Administration’s efforts on Middle East peace and other issues.”

“Dina has done a great job for the Administration and has been a valued member of the Israeli-Palestinian peace team,” Jared Kushner said of Powell in a statement. “She will continue to play a key role in our peace efforts and we will share more details on that in the future.”

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Reporters on Friday criticized Fox News for saying that Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, “forged” part of a yearbook inscription she’s attributed to Moore.

During an interview with Good Morning America’s Tom Llamas that aired Friday, Nelson re-affirmed that Moore signed her yearbook when she was 15, before the alleged assault, and said that she added “notes” underneath his signature.

“The message was all Roy Moore,” Llamas said in his report.

Reporting on the interview, Fox News said Nelson admitted that she “forged part of the yearbook inscription,” echoing a frequent attack from Moore’s camp against Nelson. The report’s headline was later changed — “Roy Moore accuser admits she wrote part of yearbook inscription attributed to Alabama Senate candidate” — but the the tweet stayed up for a bit longer, though it was later deleted.

The Moore campaign used the report to smear Nelson.

Reporters and commentators across the aisle were critical of the characterization.

The article itself changed after scrutiny, too: While the Fox News originally asserted “Beverly Young Nelson told ABC News she added the date and place in the inscription,” the article now says the “notes” Nelson admitting to adding “appear to be the handwritten date and location.” TPM had reached out to a Fox News spokesperson regarding the factual basis for the first assertion above, but received no response.

The article has no byline, aside from “Fox News.” An update to the story at the bottom reads: “An update to this story reflects that Beverly Young Nelson admits writing what ABC News characterized as ‘notes’ beneath what she says is Roy Moore’s signature, and that the only notes below the signature are the date and location. Furthermore, the headline on story now specifies that Nelson admits to writing part of the inscription herself, rather than forging part of it.”

Nelson and her attorney, Gloria Allred, announced they would hold a news conference on Friday “to present evidence that we think is important on the issue whether Roy Moore signed the yearbook,” ABC News reported, quoting Allred.

This post has been updated.

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Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) said Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller “is not being favorable to the President.”

During an interview, CNN’s Poppy Harlow asked Russell if the House Oversight Committee, of which he is a member, would investigate a whistleblower’s claims that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had texted a business associate on Inauguration Day to tell him that an elaborate plan to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East was “good to go.” The plan, according to the whistleblower’s account, had been hindered by America dropping sanctions against Russia.

“Do you think it should be investigated by your committee?” Harlow asked.

“I think that you have to look at the fact that we already have a special investigator that’s been appointed by the President, one that, you know, quite frankly many people see that he is not being favorable to the President, depending upon what political viewpoint you have,” Russell said.

“I don’t think there’s some issue on the other side of the aisle that, you know, Mr. Mueller is being unfair,” he added. “Those investigations are handled by special investigators.”

Harlow pressed on why Russell’s committee couldn’t handle the probe itself.

“We are already looking at it, it’s already been brought to our attention,” Russell said before hedging.

“We’ve made a determination at this stage that it’s already being handled in other ways with the evidence that we see. If new evidence should come to light or something that would cause us to want to go into a deeper investigation, well then, we’ll have to see that evidence.”

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A months-old remark from Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore is getting renewed attention heading into the home stretch of the campaign.

In September, Moore said he considered America to be “great” when slavery existed.

“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another,” he said at a rally in Florence, Alabama, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sep. 21.

“Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” Moore said.

He added later: “There were problems. We had slavery. We’ve overcome slavery. We had prejudice. We still have prejudice, but we’ve turned the tide on civil rights.”

The Times reported Moore was responding to a question “from one of the only African Americans in the audience.”

The Times published audio of the remark on Twitter Friday:

The quote gained new attention following a tweet about it from former Obama administration official Eric Columbus. AL.com mentioned it in a report on Moore on Dec. 7.

The comment appears to have escaped the scrutiny of major news outlets amid a wave of jarring remarks from the then-Republican primary candidate. The biggest story out of that event was Moore lamenting divisions between “reds and yellows” — that is, Native Americans and Asian Americans.

If it’s shocking to hear Moore’s nostalgia for the times of chattel slavery — which required the violent separation of millions of families — the Senate candidate hasn’t been shy about such positions.

In November, Moore made a point to mention in an interview that Alabamians “stand for their rights […] whether it’s the Civil War conflict, or whether it’s the Civil Rights conflict.”

The same month, Moore complained of the “new rights” created in 1965.

One of the most generous funders of Moore’s political and non-profit efforts is Michael Anthony Peroutka, a Confederate sympathizer. Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law hosted the League of the South’s annual “Secession Day” event in 2009 and 2010, CNN reported.

Editor’s Note: The headline has been changed and this piece has been updated after hearing audio from the Moore event

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