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

President Donald Trump on Monday scolded an Associated Press reporter who asked about the progress of Senate Republicans’ plan to repeal Obamacare.

According to a pool report, reporters were “unexpectedly summoned” into the East Room of the White House to observe a photo-op with Trump and White House interns.

A reporter, who Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein identified as the Associated Press’ Catherine Lucey, asked Trump if he thought Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign. Trump didn’t answer, but video of the exchange shows him rolling his eyes, to laughter from the interns.

Lucey then asked Trump if he had anything to say about Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal effort.

“Quiet,” he said, to more laughter from the interns. “You see, they’re not supposed to do that,” he added, turning to the interns behind him. “But they do it. But they’re not supposed to.”

Watch the exchange below via NBC News:

Lucey retweeted a statement from her colleague, Julie Pace, who said the reporter “is not going to keep quiet.”

It’s not the first time Trump has scolded a member of the press. He’s done the same to NBC’s Katy Tur, CNN’s Jim Acosta and Ami Magazine’s Jake Turx, among many others.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly plans to hold a “motion to proceed” vote on an Obamacare repeal bill on Tuesday — though it’s still unclear which version the Senate will vote on considering. So far, McConnell doesn’t have the votes to advance any bill to the Senate floor for a vote, including a “repeal-and-delay” bill that does not include measures to replace the massive 2010 health care law.

As for the attorney general — he’s clearly not on Trump’s good side. Last week, Trump told the New York Times that he would not have hired Sessions if he had know he would recuse himself from matters related to the 2016 campaign and Russian meddling in the election.

On Monday, Trump called Sessions “beleaguered” and questioned why he wasn’t investigating Hillary Clinton.

This post has been updated.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Sunday contradicted President Donald Trump’s assertion Sunday that Republicans were shirking their duty to “protect” him from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, which he again called a “witch hunt.”

“Why aren’t you, why aren’t Republicans in general, defending Donald Trump more against what is becoming an obvious witch hunt here with Robert Mueller?” Wisconsin radio host Jay Weber asked Ryan Monday morning (listen at 84:28).

Weber pointed to special counsel Robert Mueller’s friendship with ousted FBI Director James Comey, and lawyers on Mueller’s investigative team’s past donations to Hillary Clinton. Both lines have been used by the White House, and Trump himself, in the past in an attempt to discredit the special counsel investigation.

“Remember, Bob Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by a Republican who served in a Republican administration and stayed on until his term ended,” Ryan responded. “But I don’t think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He’s really sort of anything but.”

“The point is, we have an investigation in the House, an investigation in the Senate, and a special counsel, which sort of depoliticizes this stuff, and gets it out of the political theater,” Ryan continued. “That is, I think, better, to get this off to the side. I think the facts will vindicate themselves. And then, let’s just go do our jobs.”

“So what we’re not focused on doing is spending all of our time on Russia, spending all of our time on this intrigue,” Ryan concluded. “We want to spend our time focusing on solving people’s problems.”

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White House aide Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that President Donald Trump doesn’t think he’s lying when he makes incorrect, baseless claims about issues like voter fraud and state surveillance.

In a conversation with Conway on his media analysis show “Reliable Sources,” CNN’s Brian Stelter argued that the President’s rhetoric “makes it harder for us to communicate as a country” and said there were “big scandals going on” that journalists had a responsibility to cover.

“The scandals are about the President’s lies,” he added later. “About voter fraud, about wiretapping, his repeated lies about those issues. That’s the scandal.”

“He doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues, and you know it,” Conway said.

“A lot of husbands don’t think they’re lying when they cheat on their spouse and then say they’re not,” Stelter replied. “Doesn’t mean they’re not lying.”

Stelter’s mentioning Trump’s lies about voter fraud and wiretapping was a reference to two of the President’s largest falsehoods in his six months in the White House.

First, Trump charged, without evidence, that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. An “election integrity” commission chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is currently exploring potential changes to voting processes, though they claim the commission was not created to substantiate the President’s claim.

Second, the President charged, without evidence, that the administration of former President Barack Obama wiretapped him. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that the so-called “unmasking” scandal, referring to the unmasking of names in intelligence reports, “was all created by Devin Nunes [R-CA],” the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a White House ally.

Watch below via CNN:

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New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci refused on Friday to distance himself from the Trump administration’s baseless claim that 3 million illegal votes cast for Hillary Clinton lost Donald Trump the popular vote, quickly extinguishing hopes the investment-banker-turned-Trump-insider would usher in an era of truth-telling at the White House.

The claim of massive voter fraud has not been supported by any evidence, and it was one of the most explosive fact-free statements in a young administration full of them.

Yet, Scaramucci said he was not “up to speed” on the question, and that it was unfair to have been asked to comment on it.

“Do you stand by some of the factual claims that have been contested, that have been made by this administration?” a reported asked. “Three million illegal votes cast for the President’s opponent? Do you now — do you endorse all of those statements?”

“So, it’s a little bit of an unfair question because I’m not up to speed on all of that,” Scaramucci said. “I’m just candidly telling you that.”

“The President said 3 million people voted illegally, and there’s no evidence. Do you stand by that or not?” the reporter asked.

“OK,” Scaramucci said. “So if the President says it, let me do more research on it. My guess is that there’s probably some level of truth to that.”

“I think what we have found sometimes — the President says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it’s not true, and it turns out it’s closer to the truth than people think, so let me do more homework on that and I’ll get back to you,” he concluded.

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Newly minted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci apologized “for the 50th time” Friday for calling his new boss, President Donald Trump, “another hack politician.” 

“I know you’ve been one of the President’s strongest supporters for a while now,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl said at the first on-camera White House press briefing since June 29. “But does he know what you said about him back in 2015 when you said he was a hack politician?”

“He brings it up every 15 seconds, OK?” Scaramucci said, responding to Karl. “One of the biggest mistakes that I made because I was an unexperienced person in the world of politics. I was supporting another candidate.”

“I should have never said that about him, so, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that,” he continued. “But here’s the wonderful thing about the news media. That was three minutes of my life. He’s never forgotten it, and you’ve never forgotten it. But I hope one day, Mr. President, you’ll forget it.”

Scaramucci had called Trump the name in response a comment from the then-candidate that, compared to builders, “these hedge fund guys, they move around papers.”

Watch below via NBC News:

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President Donald Trump thanked Sean Spicer for his service as press secretary and welcomed new communications director Anthony Scaramucci to the administration in two statements read aloud by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press briefing Friday, the first on-camera briefing since June 29.

Hours earlier, Sean Spicer resigned from the press secretary job, reportedly as a response to Scaramucci’s appointment.

On Spicer:

I am grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people. I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings. Sean will continue to serve the administration through August, and the President has also appointed Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.

On Scaramucci:

Anthony is a person I have great respect for, and he will be an important addition to this administration. He’s been a great supporter and will now help implement key aspects of our agenda while leading the communications team. We have accomplished so much and we are being given credit for so little. The good news is the people get it, even if the media doesn’t.

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The investor and Trump fundraiser Anthony Scaramucci has been hired to lead the White House’s communications department, according to multiple reports.

The unconventional move sparked the resignation of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. It also trigged outrage from chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to NBC News.

So who is Anthony Scaramucci, and why was he appointed to a job for which it appears he has no qualifications in the traditional sense?

Scaramucci founded the investment firm SkyBridge Capital in 2005, to relative success. His SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, or SALT, brought together major hedge fund managers and investors every year in Las Vegas.

He’s a frequent sparring partner on cable news shows. Back in December, he compared climate change science to flat Earth theory, even though Scaramucci is to the left of most of the Trump administration on climate change. More recently, Scaramucci complained that journalists are “nosy” and “throw eggs.”

He has branched out into other ventures as well, like opening a gaudy restaurant that appeared almost genetically engineered for lavish New York Post coverage.

In May 2016, Scaramucci took a risk on Trump, joining his national finance committee and stepping away from a tight pack of Republican uber-fundraisers who, up to that point, had largely steered clear of the Trump campaign.

“I am on board and will support and raise money for him,” he said, the Washington Post reported. “I will do whatever I can to support our Republican nominee.”

Scaramucci hadn’t always been on the Trump team: a year earlier, he called Trump a “hack” for trashing hedge fund managers, in a monologue dripping with Wall Street testosterone.

Among the visitors to Trump Tower in the weeks after the shocking November election results, Scaramucci sold SkyBridge capital in January, fueling rumors he was being considered for a position — though none was specified at the time — in the Trump administration.

And the rumors came: For job after job, unnamed sources prodded news outlets with assurances that, this time, “the Mooch” had found his way into the Trump administration.

In February, he was going to be the White House’s liaison to the business community, until he wasn’t. In April, he said: “Fingers crossed, hopefully my deal is going to close shortly.”

In June, reporters asserted with more certainty that he would join the leadership team at the Export-Import Bank.

Earlier this summer, Scaramucci was also briefly embroiled in the cyclone of talk about “fake news” after CNN published, and then retracted, a story about him meeting with the chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

As communications director, Scaramucci will take his cable-news-guest chops to the most important public relations job in government, and it’s not clear he has what it takes.

The office’s Obama-era occupant, Dan Pfieffer, did not return TPM’s requests for comment on Scaramucci’s appointment. But he made his doubts well known on Twitter:

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Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary Friday morning, the New York Times first reported. Spicer told President Donald Trump he disagreed with New York investor Anthony Scaramucci’s appointment as White House communications director, according to the report.

The resignation, the Times reported, came very shortly after Trump offered Scaramucci the job.

Spicer said it had been “an honor & a privilege” to serve in the position in a statement on Twitter:

Spicer’s debut at the Brady Briefing Room podium was a tumultuous one: In his first appearance before the American people, he berated the press for their coverage of the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and angrily — and incorrectly — said that “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

As of late, Spicer has been largely sidelined at briefings by deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And briefings have increasingly gone off-camera, with transcripts of exchanges and audio being published only after the briefings end.

The Times reported that Trump asked Spicer to say in the administration, but that “Mr. Spicer told Mr. Trump that he believed the appointment was a major mistake, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange.”

The former White House communications director, Mike Dubke, resigned from the post in May, though he did not specify why to reporters.

Scaramucci has been under consideration for a variety of roles in the Trump White House, most recently as senior vice president and chief strategy officer of the Export-Import Bank.

In an earlier episode, when White House chief of staff Reince Priebus reportedly encouraged Scaramucci to withdraw his name as a potential director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, Spicer was curt with reporters asking about the mix-up.

“It wasn’t announced,” he told Politico, referring to the reported job offer for Scaramucci. “I never said that he had a job.”

Scaramucci was a loyal fundraiser for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Spicer was communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, and came to the White House with chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC president.

The Times’ Maggie Haberman reported Priebus was “furious” at the turn of events.

Axios reported early Friday morning that Scaramucci’s impending appointment “came as a surprise” to Priebus.

This post has been updated.

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Every former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office wrote to congressional leadership Friday with a simple message: step off.

The office, a frequent punching bag for Republicans amid their repeated failed efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, came under additional scrutiny after a series of failures in the Senate to collect enough votes even to hold a vote on the repeal effort, at least for now.

“The undersigned represent every former Director of the Congressional Budget Office,” the former officials wrote. “We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency’s role in the legislative process.”

Congressional Republicans have sent draft bill after draft bill to the CBO in recent weeks, though the resulting analyses have never shown Republicans’ desired results of expanded care and lower prices.

The office’s most recent estimate found that a slightly revised Senate repeal effort — even without an amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to allow the sale of deregulated insurance plans — would result in 22 million more people without health coverage in 10 years, versus the status quo.  On Wednesday, a CBO analysis found that a simple “repeal-and-delay” bill would result in 32 million more people without coverage over the next decade.

Republicans have, consistent with a months-long pattern, attempted to discredit the analyses.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the 22 million number “bogus” on Thursday, asserting that many people would choose not to buy insurance without an Obamacare mandate incentivizing the purchase. However, the CBO estimated most coverage losses would come from cuts to Medicaid.

And Senate leadership turned to the Department of Health and Human Services — reportedly with the help of the consulting firm McKinsey — to score Cruz’s amendment. The analysis has been widely criticized.

Perhaps most notably, the official White House Twitter account reposted a video critical of the CBO, hammering home the theme “faulty numbers = faulty results.”

The former CBO directors seemed to indirectly reference the video in their letter, writing that the office works “for the Congress, and only the Congress.”

“CBO began serving the Congress in 1975,” they wrote. “Over the past 42 years CBO has been firmly committed to providing nonpartisan and high-quality analysis — and that commitment remains as strong and effective today as it has been in the past. Because CBO works for the Congress, and only the Congress, the agency’s analysis addresses the unique needs of legislators.”

Read the former CBO directors’ full letter here, or below:

Dear Mr. Speaker, Madam Leader, Mr. Majority Leader, and Mr. Minority Leader:

The undersigned represent every former Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency’s role in the legislative process.

CBO began serving the Congress in 1975. Over the past 42 years CBO has been firmly committed to providing nonpartisan and high-quality analysis — and that commitment remains as strong and effective today as it has been in the past. Because CBO works for the Congress, and only the Congress, the agency’s analysis addresses the unique needs of legislators.

To meet the standard of nonpartisan objectivity, CBO makes no recommendations about policy, regularly consults with researchers and practitioners with a wide range of views (as can be seen in the agency’s panels of advisers and reviewers for major studies), and enhances its transparency by releasing extensive descriptions of its analytic techniques and forecast record. To produce estimates of high quality, CBO uses its detailed understanding of federal programs and economic conditions, ongoing interactions with government officials and private-sector experts, the best academic research, and the latest available data consistent with the timing of the Congressional budget process.

CBO’s approach produces consistent comparisons of competing legislative proposals and unbiased projections of the impact of policy changes. Unfortunately, even nonpartisan and high-quality analysis cannot always generate accurate estimates. Policy changes are often complex, the economy is dynamic and defies precise prediction, and many policies are modified over time. However, such analysis does generate estimates that are more accurate, on average, than estimates or guesses by people who are not objective and not as well informed as CBO’s analysts.

In sum, relying on CBO’s estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress — and the American people — very well during the past four decades. As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress’s decades-long reliance on CBO’s estimates in developing and scoring bills.

Sincerely,

Dan L. Crippen
Former Executive Director, National Governors Association (CBO Director, 1999–2003)

Douglas W. Elmendorf
Dean and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School (CBO Director, 2009–2015)

Douglas Holtz-Eakin
President, American Action Forum (CBO Director, 2003–2005)

June E. O’Neill
Wollman Distinguished Professor Of Economics, The City University of New York (CBO Director, 1995–1999)

Peter R. Orszag
Vice Chairman of Investment Banking and Managing Director, Lazard (CBO Director, 2007–2008)

Rudolph G. Penner
Institute Fellow, Urban Institute (CBO Director, 1983–1987)

Robert D. Reischauer
Distinguished Institute Fellow and President Emeritus, Urban Institute (CBO Director, 1989–1995)

Alice M. Rivlin
Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution (CBO Director, 1975–1983)

Correction: An earlier version of this post said one CBO estimate found Republicans’ repeal bill would result in “32 million fewer people without coverage” in 10 years. The opposite is true. 

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