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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

The Washington Post on Wednesday detailed intimidation tactics used against individuals who have come forward as sources in news articles about U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, and against the news organizations themselves.

The Post and AL.com, among other outlets, have reported on several women who claimed Moore pursued inappropriate relationships with them as teenagers when he was in his 30s. In one case, Leigh Corfman alleged Moore attempted to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14.

Beverly Young Nelson on Monday claimed that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. On Wednesday, the Post reported on Gena Richardson’s allegation that Moore gave her an unwanted kiss when she was a high school student, after a date.

Moore has denied any wrongdoing.

Both the Post and AL.com have received threats of legal action from Moore’s campaign, though Moore hasn’t actually followed through with lawsuits.

The Post reported Wednesday that Blake Usry, a named source for one AL.com story, received “threatening phone calls and Facebook messages, as well as texts informing him that he had been sued for defamation.” (The U.S. attorney referenced in the anonymous texts, Jay Town, called the the anonymous threat “patently absurd.”)

“It could be a religious zealot, some right-wing nut, someone from Roy Moore’s campaign, I don’t know,” Usry said. “It doesn’t intimidate me, but it’s caused me misery all day long.”

The Post also reported Wednesday that the texts to Usry came from an anonymous number created Tuesday through the temporary phone number generating company Bandwidth.com. Bandwidth shut down the number Wednesday after the Post contacted the company.

One Moore adviser, Dean Young, alleged separately that the Post itself might be behind a bogus voicemail from “Bernie Bernstein” a man claiming to be a Post reporter but offering money for unverified smears against Moore.

“Who says you all aren’t paying someone to do that?” he told the Post. “Go pay more people to say stuff. It’s a waste of money because people here know Judge Moore and we know he does believe in a Christian God, so that fake stuff doesn’t work with us.”

“The response to our meticulously reported story about Roy Moore has been a stunning level of deceit, deception and dirty tricks,” the Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, said in a statement published by the paper. “The Moore campaign and others have lied about our motives and lied about our methods. And at least one individual — we’re still not sure who — has also pretended to be a Post journalist so as to falsely portray our journalistic practices.”

Also on Wednesday, Roy Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, accused a Post reporter in a Facebook post of “calling and harassing anyone that has had any contact with me, my husband, and other family members.” She posted the reporter’s cell phone number. One commenter posted a picture of the reporter’s résumé, which included her address.

In an email to TPM Wednesday, a Post spokesperson confirmed that the Post reporter to whom Moore was referring was real, and that she was working on a profile of Kayla Moore, “not unlike other stories we’ve done about spouses of high-profile candidates.”

“As part of that reporting, The Post has reached out to many people by phone, email and through social media,” the spokesperson, Kristine Coratti Kelly, wrote. “As you can see from the reporter’s message, it is a straightforward, respectful request for an interview.”

Shortly after her initial post about the Post’s reporter, Kayla Moore published a link on Facebook: The Moore campaign had added a page to its website for Alabamians to “report inappropriate news organization contact.”

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White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, was quoted Wednesday as saying she believed the women accusing Roy Moore of pursuing relationships, including sexual ones, with them as teenagers.

“There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children,” she told the Associated Press. “I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts.”

The Washington Post reported last Thursday on four women who accused Moore, on the record, of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One woman, Leigh Corfman, said Moore tried to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14.

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson accused Moore of attempting to rape her when she was 16 years old. At a press conference, she showed what appeared to be Moore’s signature in her high school yearbook. “Love, Roy Moore D.A.,” he apparently wrote. Moore later claimed not to know Nelson. Moore has denied the allegations against him.

The AP reported Wednesday that it had traveled with Trump on Monday as she promoted Republicans’ tax cut plan. It’s unclear if Trump’s comment came before or after Nelson’s accusation was made public.

The White House did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment on Wednesday, asked about both Ivanka and President Donald Trump’s positions on Moore.

Though a number of Republican lawmakers have called on Moore to step aside — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chairman of Republican senators’ campaign organization — neither Trump has yet.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday took a brief break during a speech at the White House to re-hydrate.

It recalled Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) response to former President Barack Obama’s 2013 state of the union address, which he, too, paused for a drink.

Trump mocked Rubio for that moment at the time, and on the 2016 campaign trail.

On Wednesday, the senator responded in kind:

This post has been updated.

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At least one Alabama resident received a voicemail Tuesday from a man calling himself “Bernie Bernstein,” a supposed Washington Post reporter offering cash in exchange for unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. 

“Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein,” says a voice calling from an hidden phone number. The caller seems to affect a (terribly performed) Brooklyn accent and a slight non-rhotic speech impediment.

“I’m a reporter for The Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old, willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000,” “Bernstein” continues. “We will not be fully investigating these claims, however we will be making a written report. I can reached by email: AlBernstein@washingtonpost.com. Thank you.” 

The Post said the voicemail bore “no relationship to reality.”

In a statement, the paper’s executive editor told WKRG, which aired a recording of the call: “The Post has just learned that at least one person in Alabama has received a call from someone falsely claiming to be from The Washington Post. The call’s description of our reporting methods bears no relationship to reality. We are shocked and appalled that anyone would stoop to this level to discredit real journalism.”

The call even made its way onto cable TV Wednesday, when a lawyer representing Roy Moore, Trenton Garmon, told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle: “Robocalls are now even being made asking for people to come forward against Roy, which I think is kind of an indication of the political climate that we’re in. And we plan on even probably getting into some depositions related to that.”

Ruhle objected: “Are you sure that robocall you’re speaking of is a fact and is true?”

“I don’t know who they were put in place by,” Garmon admitted. They moved on.

The Washington Post first reported last week on four women who alleged Roy Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers, including one woman who claimed Moore, 32 at the time, initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14. 

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. At a press conference, she showed a copy of her high school yearbook, which Moore apparently signed with “Love, Roy Moore D.A.” Moore has denied knowing the woman, in addition to denying all wrongdoing. 

Still, his campaign has appeared desperate at times to discredit the accusers and shore up support among his base.

Moore’s wife, Kayla, incorrectly alleged that the restaurant at which Nelson said Moore was her customer did not exist in 1977. (It did, reporters later showed.) 

She also circulated a letter purportedly signed by 52 pastors expressing their support of Moore despite the allegations. However, several of the listed signatories have since claimed that they were not asked permission to be included on the letter, and have requested their names be removed.

Moore himself has threatened to sue the Post — he hasn’t yet — and on Tuesday said he was in a “spiritual battle” as his campaign rounded its last corner. He initially called the Post’s report “completely false” and “a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post.”

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Fox News’ Shepard Smith took six minutes out of his show Tuesday to debunk what has become Republicans’ attack du jour against Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration: “Uranium One.”

The narrative — on which the White House, Republican elected officials and conservative media have leaned in recent weeks to deflect from increasing scrutiny on Russian meddling in the 2016 election — is based on the faulty charge that Clinton sold influence, via donations to the Clinton Foundation, to Russian energy interests carrying out a deal that required her approval.

Smith began debunking the attack by showing a clip of Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

“Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium holdings to Russia while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation,” then-candidate Trump read from a teleprompter.

Smith responded: “That statement is inaccurate in a number of ways. First, the Clinton State Department had no power to veto or approve that transaction. It could do neither.”

Smith picked apart the statement: The deal was evaluated by the nine-member Committee on Foreign Investment, for one, and it seems Clinton herself wasn’t personally involved in that evaluation. And besides, the committee had no power to veto the deal, only former President Obama could.

Smith went on, dismantling point-by-point an attack that originated in the Government Accountability Institute — which was co-founded by Steve Bannon and funded by the Mercer family and the Koch brothers — before making its way into mainstream media outlets, including the New York Times.

“The accusation is predicated on the charge that Secretary Clinton approved the sale,” Smith concluded. “She did not. A committee of nine evaluated the sale. The President approved the sale. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and others had to offer permits, and none of the uranium was exported for use by the U.S. to Russia. That is Uranium One.”

It was an unusual, if refreshing, oasis of level-headed explanation amid a network line-up full of conspiracy. Just six hours later, Sean Hannity had a decidedly different take on the story, flow chart and all:

H/t Washington Post

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Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) produced a chart for the ages at an oversight hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, in an attempt to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Justice Department ought to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the so-called “Uranium One” scandal.

“We’ve got a chart here that shows just how integral the relationship is with Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. Mueller, into this whole Uranium One thing,” Gohmert told Sessions, waving a piece of paper with the chart printed on it while his staff held up a larger version on poster board behind him.

The White House and Republicans have pushed the Uranium One narrative in response to increased scrutiny on President Trump and 2016 election meddling.

“It sure stinks to high heaven, and it doesn’t appear to me they ought to be involved in investigating,” Gohmert said.

Watch below via Gohmert’s office:

H/t Chris Geidner.

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Influential industry groups representing doctors, hospitals and insurance companies wrote to Congress on Tuesday to express their opposition to repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate.

In a letter, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Federation of American Hospitals said that eliminating the mandate “likely will result in a significant increase in premiums, which would in turn substantially increase the number of uninsured Americans.”

Republican leadership in the Senate on Tuesday signaled the possibility of including a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate — which applies a penalty to individuals who meet certain criteria who do not purchase health insurance — in their bill to slash corporate taxes and the estate tax, among other things.

The President has long called for repealing the individual mandate as part of Republicans’ tax plan, most recently on Monday:

“Experts agree that in order to have a health insurance system in which anyone can obtain coverage regardless of their health status, there must be incentives for everyone to enroll in and maintain coverage throughout the year,” the groups wrote in their statement.

They added: “Repealing the individual mandate without a workable alternative will reduce enrollment, further destabilizing an already fragile individual and small group health insurance market on which more than 10 million Americans rely.”

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured people by 13 million by 2027, versus the status quo. 

Senate Democratic leadership posted the letter on their Twitter account. Read it below:

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Alabama’s secretary of state said Tuesday that he didn’t know whether the women who have accused U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct when they were teenagers were “making it up,” but he repeated his contention that it was “possible.”

“I don’t know whether or not they’re making it up or not, because I don’t know their intention, and I don’t know whether or not there are other things that have happened to them that have caused them to come forward at this time,” Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.

Earlier in the interview, Merrill objected to Camerota questioning him about his assertion that the claims of Moore sexually assaulting teenagers could have been made up.

“I didn’t say that it was possible that they were making it up,” he said. “I never said that. What I said was I thought it was very unusual. I thought it was very odd and, quite interesting that these claims had come to light at this particular time, especially during the U.S. Senate campaign.”

Camerota simply read Merrill’s previous statement on the allegations, made to ThinkProgress on Nov. 9: “People make things up all the time. Do I think it’s possible they made this up? I do.”

“Well of course it’s possible, anything is possible,” Merrill responded on Tuesday, unfazed.

He acknowledged that, “if the allegations are proven to be true, I don’t think that there’s any way that I or any other Alabamian would continue to support Judge Moore.” But when asked, he did not specify anything that could be done to further convince him of the allegations. Instead, he changed the topic.

“Given that they’re so many decades old, how would they ever, before Election Day, be proven true to your mind?” Camerota asked.

“One of the things that I would ask you is, if they are true, then why would someone have waited this long to have this brought this information out at this particular time? To introduce it 30 days before [the election]?” Merrill asked in response.

The secretary of state acknowledged that, as in cases of sexual abuse in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and elsewhere, “people are reluctant to come forth at this particular time.”

But Merrill said that Moore still had his vote.

“As of today, with the information that’s been introduced to me and if these charges are not proven to be true, then I would continue to support and vote for judge Moore.”

Watch below via CNN:

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said Monday that he would still vote for Roy Moore to become Alabama’s next senator, despite a wave of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct made against Moore by women who were teenagers at the time of the alleged incidents.

“America faces huge challenges that are vastly more important than contested sexual allegations from four decades ago,” Brooks said in a text message to AL.com.

“Who will vote in America’s best interests on Supreme Court justices, deficit and debt, economic growth, border security, national defense, and the like?” Brooks continued, according to the paper. “Socialist Democrat Doug Jones will vote wrong. Roy Moore will vote right. Hence, I will vote for Roy Moore.”

The Washington Post first reported last week on four women who alleged that Moore pursued relationships with them when they were teenagers. One, Leigh Corfman, alleged that Moore had attempted to initiate sexual contact with her — “She says that he guided her hand to his underwear and that she yanked her hand back,” the Post reported — when she was 14.

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old. In a press conference, she showed members of the media her high school yearbook, which included a note from Moore, who had signed it with “love.” Moore would have been 32 at the time, though he denied knowing Nelson, in addition to consistently denying the other allegations against him. 

Brooks said he believed “there are millions of people in America who would lie in a heartbeat if it meant adding another Democrat to the Senate.” Brooks brought up his alma mater, Duke University, as an example of dishonest sexual assault allegations.

“As a Duke grad, I vividly remember the false accusations against and defamation of the Duke lacrosse team. The players were horribly treated by the news media until the truth finally came out and totally exonerated them,” Brooks said. “As an attorney, I know accusations are easy. Proving them to the satisfaction of a judge, a jury, or here, voters,  is another thing. I do not know enough of the evidence to know with confidence what the true facts are.”

Powerful Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO), have called for Moore to step aside from the race.

Brooks, along with current interim Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), were Moore’s opponents in the Republican Senate primary. But the congressman seemed to dismiss the idea of running as a write-in candidate to Roll Call, AL.com noted.

“As long as Roy Moore is our nominee, a Republican cannot wage a write-in campaign, under Alabama Republican Party rules, and be on the ballot as a Republican in the future,” he said.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Monday joined a growing list of Republican senators calling for Roy Moore to step aside from his campaign for U.S. Senate, saying Moore “would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service” by doing so.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for as much Monday morning, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) followed suit.

McConnell did not rule out a write-in campaign featuring Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed to fill Attorney Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat on an interim basis, and who Sessions supported against Moore in the Alabama Republican Senate primary.

Of the handful of senators who explicitly endorsed Moore, only two listed on Moore’s website have not withdrawn those endorsements: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) withdrew his endorsement Monday but stopped short of calling for Moore to withdraw his candidacy, leaving it to Alabama voters to decide the Senate hopeful’s fate.

On Monday, Beverly Young Nelson alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16. And the Washington Post reported last week that Leigh Corfman claimed Moore made sexual advances on her when she was 14.

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