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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

A spokesperson for Vice President Mike Pence told TPM on Thursday that Pence did not have any meetings with individuals associated with the Russian government before assuming his current office.

“The Vice President had no meetings with any individual associated with the Russian government during the campaign or transition,” Marc Lotter told TPM in an email.

The statement came after a striking interview with Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on Wednesday, in which Lotter appeared to dodge the same question three times.

“Did the vice president ever meet with representatives from Russia?” Hemmer asked Lotter on Wednesday.

“The vice president is not focused on the areas where — on this campaign — especially things that happened even before he was even on the ticket,” Lotter replied. “As he has said, when he joined the campaign, his entire focus was on talking to the American people.”

Hemmer let Lotter finish and tried again: “Fully aware of the statement there. Just come back to this question. If it wasn’t a private citizen from Russia, did he ever meet with representatives from the Russian government during the campaign?”

“That’s stuff that the special prosecutors and the counsels are all looking at,” Lotter said again. “I can tell you that in all my time with the vice president I knew that he was focused entirely on talking to the American people.”

“Just to nail that down so we’re clear, is that a yes or a no?” Hemmer asked. “Did he or did he not, and was it relevant in fact?”

“I’m not aware of anything that I have seen,” Lotter said. “All of the focus that I saw with vice president Pence during the campaign and since then has been focused on working the agenda that the people sent him to Washington to accomplish.”

The dodges on Wednesday came after two assertions made by Pence on Jan. 15 — that no one in the Trump campaign met with Russians who were trying to meddle in the election, and that then-National Security Adviser designate Michael Flynn did not discuss sanctions with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak — were proven to be incorrect.

On Tuesday, Lotter told TPM in an email that “[t]he Vice President was not aware of the meeting,” between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016.

As revealed in emails published by Trump Jr. shortly before a New York Times report on them, the meeting came after an associate of the Trump family, Rob Goldstone, promised Trump Jr. a meeting with a Russian lawyer with dirt on Hillary Clinton provided as part of the Russian government’s effort to aide Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

H/t HuffPost.

This post has been updated.

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President Donald Trump expressed frustration on Wednesday at Senate Republicans’ failure, so far, to repeal and replace Obamacare and make deep cuts to Medicaid.

“I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand, waiting for our senators to give it to me,” Trump told Pat Robertson, the conservative Christian founder of Christian Broadcasting Network. “For years, they’ve been talking about repeal-replace, repeal-replace.”

Mediaite noted it was Trump’s first interview with an outlet that wasn’t Fox News in more than two months.

Trump said congressional Republicans’ votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act during the Obama administration “didn’t mean anything,” undercutting Republicans’ frequent boasts that the symbolic repeal votes showed their resolve to get rid of the legislation.

“Now we have a President that’s waiting to sign it,” Trump said, referring to the Obamacare repeal bill. “I have pen in hand, so now it means something. You know, those other times, those many, many times, that they passed it, it didn’t mean anything.”

Senate Republicans have been hesitant to line up behind the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the conference’s bill to repeal Obamacare and make deep cuts to Medicaid. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delayed the Senate’s scheduled August recess for two weeks on Tuesday in an effort to allow more time to wrangle Republican votes for the bill.

“We have 52 senators,” the President added. “It’s very hard to get… We need almost all of them. You need almost all of them and that’s the hold up. And states are somewhat different. But with all of that being said, it has to get passed. They have to do it. They have to get together and get it done.”

“What will happen if they don’t?” Robertson asked.

“Well, I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad,” Trump said. “I will be very angry about it, and a lot of people will be very upset. But I’m sitting, waiting for that bill to come to my desk. I hope that they do it. They’ve been promising it for years. They’ve been promising it ever since Obamacare, which is failed. It’s a failed experiment. It is totally gone. It’s out of business and we have to get this done. Repeal and replace.”

“He’s got to pull it off. Mitch has to pull it off,” he added, referring to McConnell. “He’s working very hard. He’s got to pull it off.”

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Two Democratic congressmen introduced an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, marking the first formal effort to oust the President for high crimes and misdemeanors.

[T]he Constitution does not provide for the removal of a President for impulsive, ignorant incompetence,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said in a statement on his website Wednesday. “It does provide for the removal of a President for High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The effort is extremely unlikely to make it very far in the Republican-controlled Congress.

The article, co-sponsored by Rep. Al Green (D-TX), accuses Trump of seeking “to use his authority to hinder and cause the termination” of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, “including through threatening, and then terminating, James Comey.”

Sherman cites Trump’s admission on national television that he fired the FBI director over the Russia investigation, and Trump’s reported comment to a Russian delegation at the White House the day following the firing that he felt relieved.

“As the investigations move forward, additional evidence supporting additional Articles of Impeachment may emerge,” Sherman continued in his statement. “However, as to Obstruction of Justice, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b)(3), the evidence we have is sufficient to move forward now.  And the national interest requires that we do so.”

18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b)(3) concerns efforts to use “intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to […] hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense or a violation of conditions of probation supervised release, parole, or release pending judicial proceedings.”

The Hill reported in June that Sherman’s draft article of impeachment had riled his fellow House Democrats, some of whom said in a caucus-wide meeting that it had come too early to be fully supported by the facts.

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The State Department spent more than $15,000 at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Vancouver in February when the hotel staged a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by members of the Trump family, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The Post obtained the payment information via a Freedom of Information Act request, and reported that it was the first evidence of State Department payments to a Trump-branded property during the current administration. The Trump Organization does not own the hotel, but rather has a management and licensing deal with its owner.

In a financial disclosure released in June, Trump said he received “over $5,000,000” (pp. 30) in royalties from the project.

The Post noted that Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who are running the President’s real estate business while President Trump is in office, attended the hotel’s ribbon-cutting on Feb. 28, as did Tiffany Trump.

The Post noted that the elder Trump brothers have traveled the globe in their roles leading the Trump Organization, flanked constantly Secret Service protection. The agency has spent tens of thousands of dollars on accommodations, the paper reported.

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Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) dodged questions about Republicans’ health care bill on Tuesday, according to video of a tumultuous press conference published by a progressive group.

Poliquin had visited Nason Park Manor, an assisted living facility in Bangor, Maine, to promote his proposal to sell off federally owned buildings in order to fund a one-year cost of living increase for Social Security recipients.

A photo on Poliquin’s website shows him chatting with Nason Park Manor residents.

But video clips from the event posted by the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive group, show Poliquin dodging questions about his support for the American Health Care Act, House Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill that would carry with it deep cuts to Medicaid.

“If you’re not a resident, I think that this is just for residents, isn’t that correct?” Poliquin said after being confronted by Valerie Walker, who attended the event to ask the congressman about his support of the AHCA.

“I’ve called your office, and I’d like an answer to my question,” Walker asks the congressman, to no avail.

Poliquin’s office did not respond to TPM’s request for comment about the press conference.

“Representative, my son is not going to have a wonderful summer with a cut in Medicaid,” Walker is heard saying at the end of the event, as Poliquin scurries toward the door.

“Congressman, you promised to take a question from this constituent, would you keep your promise for once?” another voice is heard saying, as the congressman disappears to his car.

Walker told TPM by phone that Poliquin has a habit of ducking tough questions from Mainers.

“He does nothing open to the public,” she said. “We did have a town hall, and he didn’t show up.”

Slate’s Jim Newell described a similar response in May, after asking Poliquin for his thoughts on an earlier version of the AHCA: “He said nothing and made a beeline to the restroom,” Newell wrote. “Unfortunately it was the door to the women’s restroom that he had first run to, so he corrected himself and went into the men’s room. When he emerged several minutes later, he was wearing his earbuds and scurried away.”

The Maine Beacon, the Maine People’s Alliance’s newsletter, noted in its report on Tuesday’s press conference that the room in which it was held, which is managed by the Bangor Housing Authority, is “considered a public space.”

At least one resident of Nason Park, Kathy Record, told the Beacon that she was disappointed in Poliquin’s non-answers to questions.

“He was just being condescending and acting like he was supportive and was trying to say what people wanted to hear even though it was not true, and that’s the message most of the residents in there got,” she added. “We were talking about it before he showed up and we knew that when Poliquin said that he was coming to make an announcement that it was going to be bullshit.”

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The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Republican operatives close to the White House have begun extensively researching journalists covering Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, aiming to amplify perceived bias and past mistakes.

Through an intermediary, that lawyer, according to emails published by Trump Jr. before a New York Times exposé on the same correspondence, promised the younger Trump dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

In April, Politico cited several unnamed reporters, in addition to a conservative activist who claimed to have spoken to a White House communications staffer, who said unnamed White House sources frequently told reporters untruths.

From the Post’s report Wednesday:

A handful of Republican operatives close to the White House are scrambling to Trump Jr.’s defense and have begun what could be an extensive campaign to try to discredit some of the journalists who have been reporting on the matter.

Their plan, as one member of the team described it, is to research the reporters’ previous work, in some cases going back years, and to exploit any mistakes or perceived biases. They intend to demand corrections, trumpet errors on social media and feed them to conservative outlets, such as Fox News.

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According to the Washington Post’s unnamed sources, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus may be on his way out.

According to on-the-record statements given to the Washington Post, the opposite is true.

Citing two unnamed senior White House officials and one unnamed ally close to the White House, the Post reported Wednesday that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and first lady Melania Trump “have been privately pressing the President to shake up his team — most specifically by replacing Reince Priebus as the White House chief of staff.”

But deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters was straightforward to the paper: “These sources have been consistently wrong about Reince, and they’re still wrong today,” she said.

And Josh Raffel, the former Hollywood PR executive hired by Jared Kushner in April as a spokesperson, told the Post that “Jared and Ivanka are focused on working with Reince and the team to advance the President’s agenda and not on pushing for staff changes.”

Stephanie Grisham, communications director for the first lady, said simply that “while she does offer advice and perspectives on many things, Mrs. Trump does not weigh in on West Wing staff.”

The Post’s story came on the heels of a series of damaging New York Times reports, which eventually resulted in Donald Trump Jr. releasing a series of emails Tuesday showing him responding enthusiastically to the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton provided as part of a Russian government effort to aide his father’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Though Trump Jr. published the emails before the New York Times did, the Post painted a vivid picture of a White House renewing the bitter search for leakers within its ranks.

Read the Post’s full report here.

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One-time Republican congressman and frequent presidential cable news foil Joe Scarborough announced Tuesday night that he would leave the GOP.

In an appearance on CBS’ “Late Show” with Stephen Colbert, Scarborough pointed to several of Donald Trump’s actions — his campaign-era Muslim ban proposal, his feigned ignorance of white supremacist David Duke, his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel due to Curiel’s heritage — that he said the party had failed to confront.

“Time and time and time again, they turn the other way. And they’re doing the same thing now,” he said.

“I am a Republican but I’m not going to be a Republican anymore,” Scarborough said. “I’ve got to become an independent.”

Scarborough and his “Morning Joe” co-host, Mika Brzezinski, have seen ratings spike amid frequent spats — and Twitter flame wars — with the President.

Most recently, the pair appeared to accuse members of Trump’s administration of blackmail after they allegedly urged Scarborough to apologize to Trump for covering him harshly in exchange for Trump asking the National Enquirer to kill a story about the television personalities.

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Several Twitter users blocked by President Donald Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account on the website filed suit against him and two top White House aides on Tuesday, arguing that they had been shut out of an essential space for public debate.

President Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the President,” the suit, filed against Trump, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House social media director Dan Scavino, read.

“In an effort to suppress dissent in this forum, Defendants have excluded—‘blocked’—Twitter users who have criticized the President or his policies. This practice is unconstitutional, and this suit seeks to end it.”

The Knight Institute for the First Amendment at Columbia University and seven Twitter users whose accounts Trump has blocked filed the lawsuit. (Their accounts are: @rpbp, @familyunequal, @AynRandPaulRyan, @eugenegu, @BrandonTXNeely, @joepabike and @Pappiness.)

Accounts blocked by @realDonaldTrump cannot read the President’s tweets if they are logged onto the platform.

Nor can they comment on Trump’s tweets while logged on, missing out on a chance to compete for what has quickly become prized real estate for political messaging, whether to mock the President or present a counter-narrative to his public dispatches.

White House officials have repeatedly said that Trump’s tweets represent official statements from the President. Though Trump also has access to an official account — @POTUS, which was created during the Obama administration — he frequently publishes from his @realDonaldTrump account, and the dispatches posted there often appear to be more authentically his own work.

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The ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Tuesday that emails published earlier in the day by Donald Trump Jr. appeared to show “direct coordination between the Trump campaign and possibly the Russian government itself.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also urged the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to bring Donald Trump Jr. before the committee to answer questions about the emails.

Trump Jr.’s emails showed him responding enthusiastically in June 2016 to a family acquaintance who asked him to meet with a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aide Donald Trump’s campaign.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee also thought Trump Jr. should answer questions following his publishing of the emails Tuesday.

“I know Donald Trump Jr. is new to politics, I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Tuesday morning. And Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of both the Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, later told reporters that Trump Jr. “will” testify in front of the latter committee.

A spokesperson for Cornyn later told TPM in an email that the senator meant Trump Jr. “should” testify, not necessarily that he will.

Read Feinstein’s full statement below:

What we know so far about these emails is deeply disturbing. They appear to show direct coordination between the Trump campaign and possibly the Russian government itself.

There are still many questions that must be answered. That’s why I’ve urged Chairman Grassley to move quickly—this issue is squarely within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee and I believe we need to have Donald Trump, Jr., and other individuals come before the committee, in open session, as soon as possible.”

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