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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

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore on Wednesday blamed the allegations of sexual misconduct against him on LGBT people and liberals, while denying that he pursued sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s.

“When I say they who are ‘they?'” Moore asked, referring to individuals behind a “conspiracy” to derail his campaign with “false and malicious” claims, according to BuzzFeed.

“They’re liberals. They don’t hold conservative values. They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture. They’re socialists who want to change our way of life, putting man above God and then government is our God.”

“They’re the Washington establishment that simply wants to keep their jobs, do the same thing and do everything the same, so they don’t lose their position, their power, their prestige.”

Moore has been accused by multiple women of pursuing sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers. Beverly Young Nelson claimed Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old. Leigh Corfman, in a Nov. 9 Washington Post article, said Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32.

In an open letter Tuesday, Corfman addressed Moore’s frequent claim of a conspiracy head-on.

“I am not getting paid for speaking up. I am not getting rewarded from your political opponents. What I am getting is stronger by refusing to blame myself and speaking the truth out loud,” she wrote.

Moore has a long history of anti-LGBT beliefs, and was suspended from his role as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2016 for ordering Alabama judges not to issue marriage licenses same-sex couples.

He’s campaigned following the allegations by appealing to the virtue extolled in Alabama’s state motto, “Audemus jura nostra defendere,” or “We dare defend our rights.”

“Whether it’s the civil war conflict or whether it’s the civil rights conflict or the Ten Commandments, people stand in Alabama and they always have,” Moore said in a Nov. 21 interview, after quoting the English translation.

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NBC News received “at least” two more complaints related to former “Today” host Matt Lauer following his ouster Wednesday, the New York Times reported, citing an unnamed person “briefed on the network’s handling of the matter.”

Lauer was fired for what NBC News chairman Andy Lack said in a statement was “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

Lack added: “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over twenty years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

According to the Times, one complaint following Lauer’s firing Wednesday was related to him summoning a woman to his office in 2001 and having sex with her. The woman did not report the incident, she told the Times, because she felt ashamed. She did tell her husband about the encounter at the time, and told a friend five years ago, the Times reported.

The accuser’s husband and friend confirmed being told about the incident, the Times reported.

The Times did not detail the second complaint it reported on.

Also on Wednesday, Variety reported on a series of allegations against Lauer, including that he gave a sex toy to a female colleague along with “an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her,” and that he summoned an employee to his office and dropped his pants, and then reprimanded the employee when she did not engage with him sexually. 

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Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has no intention of resigning despite multiple sexual harassment allegations made against him, an attorney for the congressman said Wednesday.

“He’s not going to be forced out of office, and no one has told him he has to leave,” Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, told the Detroit News Wednesday. “He has not indicated he’s going to resign at this point.” The Associated Press reported later that Conyers’ lawyer said the congressman has no plans to resign.

BuzzFeed News first reported last week on a former Conyers staffer who reached a $27,000 settlement deal with her former boss in 2015 after she was allegedly fired for refusing his advances.

Conyers has acknowledged the settlement but denies wrongdoing. He claimed he settled in order to avoid “the rigors of protracted litigation.” He’s since been accused of harassment by other staffers, independent of each other, including unwanted touching, requests for sexual favors and verbal abuse.

Only four Democratic members of Congress — Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) — have called for Conyers’ resignation. He is the longest currently serving member of the House of Representatives.

Rice, frustrated at what she characterized as her caucus’ failure to take harassment seriously, left a meeting of House Democrats early Wednesday morning, according the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel. “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real,” she said.

Conyers has temporarily stepped aside from his role as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and is subject to a probe by the House Ethics Committee.

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