Mattshuhambiopic_zprsqx

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

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Friday placed the news of Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in the context of what he called “an alarming pattern” of presidential actions designed to interfere with investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

His counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), said  Flynn’s admitted “lies to the FBI” were “especially significant”

Flynn’s plea, Warner said, “comes on the heels of a new report about the President’s efforts to silence the independent, bipartisan Senate investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia.” (Read his full statement below)

He appeared to be referring to a New York Times report Thursday that Trump has frequently pressured senators to end the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation.

“It is part of an alarming pattern in which the President has already fired the FBI Director; pressured the Attorney General and top U.S. intelligence officials to interfere with an ongoing investigation; and contemplated issuing pardons for his associates or firing the special counsel, according to numerous press reports,” Warner continued. “Members of Congress from both parties must make clear that those actions would be fundamentally unacceptable and incompatible with the rule of law.”

Schiff, for his part, said that the “significance” of Flynn’s plea deal “cannot be overstated.”

The Statement of the Offense included important new details, including that Flynn was directed by a senior transition official to contact Russian officials in an effort to influence Russia’s response to the Obama Administration’s imposition of sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution vote on Israeli settlements, and, crucially, that he reported back to transition officials,” he said.

Read Schiff’s full statement below, followed by Warner’s full statement.

The significance of today’s plea deal by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in which he pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the Special Counsel, cannot be overstated. The Statement of the Offense included important new details, including that Flynn was directed by a senior transition official to contact Russian officials in an effort to influence Russia’s response to the Obama Administration’s imposition of sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution vote on Israeli settlements, and, crucially, that he reported back to transition officials.

Flynn’s lies to the FBI are especially significant because they were made at a time when he was serving as President Trump’s National Security Advisor, a position of incredible importance and responsibility, and one integral to the safety of the nation.  Flynn’s decision to admit to these lies and cooperate with the Special Counsel occurred, if press reports are to be believed, with the backdrop of broad legal exposure by Flynn, in addition to his son.

The action today by the Special Counsel is another indication of the thoroughness and professionalism of Robert Mueller and his team, who have been methodically working towards identifying and prosecuting potential criminal acts. We hope that the cooperation of General Flynn that Special Counsel has secured as a part of this plea agreement extends to Flynn’s cooperation with our committee, as his testimony could greatly advance our efforts. Our investigation in Congress is not only looking at the actions of individuals affiliated with the Trump campaign, but is also examining the broader issues of how the Russians worked to undermine our election and what steps we as a nation can take to harden our electoral process in future. 

The plea secured by Mueller may prompt the White House and its allies to seek to curtail congressional investigations, as President Trump has attempted to do already, or end the Special Counsel’s work prematurely. Congress must make it clear that this would not be acceptable, that we will continue doing a diligent and thoughtful investigation, and do everything in our power to ensure the independence of the Special Counsel.

Read Warner’s full statement below:

The Special Counsel’s probe has found illegal behavior stretching into the senior most levels of the White House. Mike Flynn has pled guilty to criminal conduct, while he was serving as National Security Adviser to the President of the United States, involving his contact with Russian officials. This follows the guilty plea of a Trump campaign aide; charges against a Trump campaign manager; and charges against a key aide to the Trump campaign and transition.

This guilty plea also comes on the heels of a new report about the President’s efforts to silence the independent, bipartisan Senate investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russia. It is part of an alarming pattern in which the President has already fired the FBI Director; pressured the Attorney General and top U.S. intelligence officials to interfere with an ongoing investigation; and contemplated issuing pardons for his associates or firing the special counsel, according to numerous press reports. Members of Congress from both parties must make clear that those actions would be fundamentally unacceptable and incompatible with the rule of law.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence takes seriously our responsibility to continue a thorough, bipartisan probe that follows the facts wherever they may lead.

Read More →

President Donald Trump had been scheduled invite reporters into the Oval Office on Friday for a photo-op with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

That changed after news broke that Michael Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

According to the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, reporting as part of the White House press pool:

The pool gathered and walked on to the colonnade at 12:01 for the scheduled pool spray with the Libyan prime minister where we held, waiting to be let into the Oval Office.

At 12:04, we were taken back to the briefing room.

At 12:08, WH spokesperson Lindsey Walters said “There is no pool spray.”

Read More →

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn released a statement Friday after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Flynn acknowledged that he had made an agreement to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Read the full statement below:

After over 33 years of military service to our country, including nearly five years in combat away from my family, and then my decision to continue to serve the United States, it has been an extraordinarily painful to endure these many months of false accusations of “treason” and other outrageous acts. Such false accusations are contrary to everything I have ever done and stood for. But I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s Office reflect the decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.

Read More →

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday called reports of the Trump administration’s desire to replace him “laughable.” 

“It’s laughable,” he said during a photo op with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, before repeating the statement, according to Politico.

The New York Times and a number of other outlets reported Thursday, citing unnamed Trump administration officials, that the White House had prepared a plan to replace Tillerson as secretary of state with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and in turn to replace Pompeo with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK).

Neither White House nor State Department spokespeople confirmed the accuracy of the reporting. President Trump, asked Thursday if he would continue to employee Tillerson, said simply, “Rex is here.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said he spoke to Tillerson Thursday, told CNN he did not believe the secretary of state was on his way out, at least in the near future.

“It’s been evident to me that for some time, somebody is seeking to undermine his presence here,” he told the network. “I don’t know who that is. I know he’s taken on some issues like the reform of the State Department. I know it hasn’t gone in a spectacular way.”

“Again, there’s something underway,” he added, per CNN. “Again, I don’t know who’s doing it, but to discredit what he’s doing at the State Department.”

CNN’s Michelle Kosinski later reported, citing an unnamed source close to the White House, that the Trump administration had leaked stories about replacing Tillerson “to express its extreme displeasure with him.”

Kosinski reported Friday of the photo op in which Tillerson called the stories “laughable”: “This was one of the most uncomfortable photo sprays I’ve ever experienced. Tillerson seemed exasperated, angry.”

Read More →

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said Thursday that while the allegations against Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) are “serious,” he would still insist on seating Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore if he wins his election, despite Moore also being accused of sexual misconduct.

“Roy Moore is now leading in the polls again in Alabama,” Fox News’ Neil Cavuto told Cruz in an interview. “He could win that race. Mitch McConnell has said he would not be welcome in the United States Senate.  Do you think he should be thrown out if he is?”

“Of course not,” Cruz replied. “And I think we’ve got to respect the will of the voters. I think the reaction would be — I think it’d be completely unacceptable. If the voters of Alabama choose to elect him, for some Washington politicians to say, ‘We don’t care what the voters say,’ I think that would be a mistake. This is an issue that the voters have in front of them, and they’ll make a decision. I think we need to respect the will of the voters.”

Several top Republicans, including the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), have said Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins his election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in November that Moore “would immediately be in a process before the Senate Ethics Committee,” if he were sworn in.

Several women have accused Moore of pursuing romantic and sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers, and he was a grown man. Beverly Young Nelson has accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. Leigh Corfman has said Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14.

“What about Al Franken?” Cavuto went on. The senator has been accused by several women of unwanted groping, and by two women of kissing them without their consent. “He’s apologized, says he’s not leaving. What do you think of that?” Cavuto said.

“You know what? These allegations are serious and they keep coming up, every day more and more and more allegations,” Cruz said. “And I will say, there’s a rich irony watching all of the Democrats backpedalling and trying to justify, now, their colleague, who you’ve got — I think the count is five women who allege groping. That’s a serious, serious problem and I think it’s something that we’re going to see debated quite a bit more.”

Read More →

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday defended President Donald Trump’s retweeting of anti-Muslim propaganda from a British ultranationalist hate group, saying that Trump reposted the videos to “elevate the conversation” about terrorism and “extreme violence.”

Asked if the President felt an obligation to ensure that videos he shared on Twitter were accurate — one of the ultranationalist videos purporting to show a “Muslim migrant” beating a Dutch boy was incorrect in that assertion — Sanders didn’t answer directly.

“I think the President feels that bringing up important issues of our time like extreme violence and terrorism [is] important to do,” she said. “That was what he was doing in that process, and I think he’s going to continue to do that in a number of venues whether it’s through speeches, whether it’s through Twitter or other social media platforms.”

Trump has said nothing of the sort with regard to the tweets. He simply reposted the snuff material, actions which have been widely denounced.

“Does he understand, though, that sharing those videos might incite violence against Muslims and does he understand that he has elevated a British political group that many people outside of Britain didn’t even know about until he tweeted it?” the reporter asked, pressing Sanders.

“Look, I think what he’s done is elevate the conversation to talk about a real issue and a real threat, and that’s extreme violence and extreme terrorism,” Sanders replied, “something that we know to be very real and something the President feels strongly about talking about and bringing up, making sure it’s an issue every single day, that we’re looking at the best ways to protect Americans.”

The press secretary later said that she did not believe Trump knew who Jayda Fransen was. Fransen, who posted the videos Trump retweeted, is deputy leader of Britain First, the ultranationalist hate group. She was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment in early November in a British court for verbally abusing a Muslim woman on the street in front of her children. Fransen called the ruling “Islamic appeasement.”

“But, again, I think he knew what the issues are, and that is that we have a real threat of extreme violence and terrorism, not just in this country but across the globe, particularly in Europe,” Sanders said.

“I’m not sure every single video the President has viewed,” Sanders added later, asked if it was normal for Trump to view Britain First’s videos.

On Wednesday, Sanders said Trump had posted the videos because “the threat is real,” and to discuss “the need for national security, the need for military spending.”

The White House did not respond to TPM’s requests to clarify who Sanders was referring to as a threat.

The videos tweeted by Trump purported to show a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy — though the Dutch embassy said the perpetrator was not a migrant — a Muslim man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and an “Islamist mob” pushing a teenage boy off of a roof and beating him to death, though the latter videos have not been verified as such.

Trump’s actions were widely denounced, to the point that some speculated his Twitter account had been hacked. It had not, according to the White House, which has stood behind Trump’s actions.

Read More →

Amid reports that President Donald Trump could replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said he did not believe Tillerson to be on his way out.

The New York Times and other outlets reported Thursday, citing unnamed administration officials, that the White House was considering a plan to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and to then replace Pompeo with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK).

Corker told reporters he had spoken to Tillerson Thursday, CNN reported.

“Maybe it’s happening, but I don’t think the secretary of state job is going to be open in two weeks. That’s all I’m saying,” he told reporters Thursday, according to CNN. “We as a nation and the rest of the world need someone like Rex Tillerson in that position.”

“It’s been evident to me that for some time, somebody is seeking to undermine his presence here. I don’t know who that is. I know he’s taken on some issues like the reform of the State Department. I know it hasn’t gone in a spectacular way,” the senator said.

“Again, there’s something underway,” he added, per CNN. “Again, I don’t know who’s doing it, but to discredit what he’s doing at the State Department.”

Corker is well-known as a critic of the President — though he endorsed him for the presidency in 2016, something he said later he will not do again — and as an ally of Tillerson.

The secretary of state, Corker said in October, was one of “those people that help separate our country from chaos,” alongside Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

The senator announced in September that he would not seek re-election after his current term, which expires at the end of 2018.

Responding to questions about Tillerson earlier Thursday, the President said simply: “Rex is here.”

Read More →

Rep. Joe Baron (R-TX) announced Thursday that he would retire at the end of his current term following a second revelation about his online habits, this time that he sent messages that were sexual in nature to a constituent.

“I am very proud of my public record and the many accomplishments of my office,” Barton said in a statement Thursday. “It has been a tremendous honor to represent the 6th District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice.”

The congressman’s statement did not mention the turmoil he’s faced over the past week.

Last week, Barton apologized after a photo of his genitalia that he had shared with a “mature adult” woman other than his wife at the time, he said, had leaked on the internet.

At that point, Barton said he was “deciding how to respond, quite frankly.” Earlier this month, Barton had announced he would seek re-election.

On Wednesday, Tea Party organizer and Barton constituent Kelly Canon revealed that Barton sometimes sent her messages that were sexual in nature over the course of otherwise political conversations online since 2011.

“We would chat about 97 percent politics, and one percent A&M. The other percent he would ask what I was wearing. I thought that was inappropriate, so I would shut it down,” Canon said.

“This is an effort not only to get him not to run again, but to get other people — but to get other women — to come forward, too,” she said, as quoted by KXAS.

Read More →

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday set the date for President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address: Jan. 30, ten days after the anniversary of his inauguration.

“I’m formally inviting President Trump to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, January 30th, in order to report on the state of the union,” Ryan said in a press conference Thursday.

“This will be a good opportunity for the country to hear directly from the President on the progress that we’ve made and on the work that needs to be done on our shared agenda and look forward to him accepting our invitation,” he added.

The invitation is in accordance with Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which states, referring to the President: “He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Trump delivered an address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017.

Read More →

The New York Times on Thursday further detailed a sexual misconduct complaint made against former “Today” show host Matt Lauer following his ouster from NBC.

The paper reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source “briefed on the network’s handling of the matter,” that NBC had received two additional complaints against Lauer on that day alone.

In its initial reporting, the Times reported that one woman had claimed that Lauer “had summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her.”

When the article was updated later, the Times detailed the complaint, noting that the former employee had accused Lauer of sexual assault.

“One complaint came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001, locked the door and sexually assaulted her. She provided her account to The New York Times but declined to let her name be used,” the Times reported. “She told The Times that she passed out and had to be taken to a nurse. She said that she felt helpless because she didn’t want to lose her job, and that she didn’t report the encounter at the time because she felt ashamed.”

Separately, Variety reported Wednesday that allegations against Lauer had included him dropping his pants in front of a female employee in his office, and then reprimanding her when she did not engage with him sexually. Lauer also reportedly gave a colleague a sex toy, which came with an “explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her,” according to the report.

Lauer said in a statement following his firing that “some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”

Read More →

LiveWire