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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

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke out Monday on President Donald Trump’s decision to install White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“This is about whose side President Trump is on — big banks, or working families,” Warren told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. “So far in his administration, he has chosen the big banks time after time. Is he going to stand up for the working families who helped elect him?”

The CFPB is in the midst of a crisis of leadership, reflected in a lawsuit Sunday night by newly elevated deputy director Leandra English, who had previously served as chief of staff to former CFPB Director Richard Cordray. Under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which authorized the agency in the first place, the deputy director becomes the acting director in the case of a vacancy. But the White House, in naming Mulvaney the acting director, cited the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Currently, the agency effectively has two acting directors.

Mulvaney, who has said he is opposed to the agency’s very existence, has reportedly told CFPB staff to report communications from English to the agency’s legal department.

Warren has sided firmly with English, saying Dodd-Frank clearly states that she ought to be acting director. Warren was the driving force behind the agency’s creation as an adviser to the Obama administration. Reuters reported the senator would meet with English Monday.

“The agency deserves a leader who has a demonstrated track record of protecting consumers and standing up to Wall Street,” Warren told the Post. Keeping English in charge, she said, would give Americans “a chance to look at this agency one more time and see how hard it fights on behalf of consumers.”

Under Mulvaney, or someone like him confirmed on a permanent basis, Warren said, “The agency will be headed by someone who fundamentally doesn’t believe in its mission.”

“This would change every calculation that every giant bank makes in the executive suite when deciding just how close to breaking the law they want to come,” she continued. “If the cop is pulled off the beat, then the profits from cheating people look far more attractive to the banking executives.”

“It will be up to Senate Republicans to decide whether they want to put someone in the job who is firmly on the side of big banks,” she added.

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The New York Times on Sunday defended its reporting on a co-founder of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party. The profile, by Richard Fausset, was widely criticized as being sympathetic to its fascist subject.

The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think,” wrote Marc Lacey, the Times’ national editor, in a response to reader criticism. (The paper’s public editor position was eliminated after Liz Spayd’s departure over the summer.)

Specifically at issue for many readers was Fausset’s lack of pushback against, or context for, the beliefs of Tony Hovater, a white nationalist from Ohio. “[I]n person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone’s mother,” Fausset wrote of Hovater.

Yet, for all the attention the Times paid to Hovater’s inconsequential day-to-day tasks — visits to Applebee’s and Panera Bread featured prominently — it spent very little on his and his party’s belief system, and its philosophical origins. Faussert included only one quote from an expert on extremism and none from civil rights activists, and the piece was notably lacking in the historically bloody examples of white nationalist political action. 

“Where was his Rosebud?” Fausset asked himself of Hovater, in a supplementary essay describing his reporting process. “I went back to Mr. Hovater in search of answers. I still don’t think I really found them.”

He added: “Mr. Hovater was exceedingly candid with me — often shockingly so — but it seems as though his worldview was largely formed by the same recombinant stuff that influences our mainstream politics.”

Also missing: Hovater’s goals. Though the piece dutifully mentions his desire for a white ethno-state, it doesn’t mention how he aims to attain that society, nor that it’s only one part of the Traditionalist Worker Party agenda. The party also advocates authoritarian limits on freedom of speech and the press, an end to divorce except for “proven spousal abuse or infidelity” and the eradication of homosexuality and other “antisocial behaviors.” 

Instead, the Times reported that the neo-Nazi’s political “evolution” was “largely fueled by the kinds of frustrations that would not seem exotic to most American conservatives. He believes the federal government is too big, the news media is biased, and that affirmative action programs for minorities are fundamentally unfair.”

“We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers,” Lacey said in conclusion. “We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.”

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President Donald Trump on Saturday expressed his sympathies for financial institutions a day after naming his budget director acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Trump said the agency, authorized by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act as a watchdog for consumers in their interactions with large financial institutions, had “devastated” those institutions and made them “unable to properly serve the public.”

“We will bring it back to life!” he said, presumably referring to himself and Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director who Trump said Friday would take over as the CFPB’s acting director. Mulvaney in 2014 said agency was a “sick, sad joke.”

But Mulvaney’s ascension, even temporarily, to the head of the consumer agency is contested: After former CFPB Director Richard Cordray announced his resignation Friday, he elevated his chief of staff, Leandra English, to be the agency’s deputy director. Cordray argued that, according to Dodd-Frank, English would become acting director — rather than Mulvaney — upon his resignation, which was effective at midnight.

Though the Washington Post reported Saturday that though the White House had not yet been in touch with the agency, both sides have staked their legal claims.

“We think the clear legal authority is that the president does have this authority. We’ll find out based on how Ms. English decides to act at the appropriate time,” one unnamed official told the Post.

Unnamed senior administration officials said the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel supports the White House’s position that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act gives Trump the power to install Mulvaney until a permanent director is approved by the Senate, a process that could take months and leave Mulvaney plenty of time to enact a deregulatory agenda.

Cordray himself told the Post: “The law authorized me to appoint a deputy director, and I did so. My understanding of the law is that the deputy director serves as the acting director upon my resignation.”

“If there are disagreements about these issues, the appropriate place to settle them would be in the courts,” he added.

Dodd-Frank’s co-author, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told the Post “it’s obvious” that the Cordray’s interpretation was correct.

“If you look at the CFPB language it is very specific and it was designed to protect an agency that we knew would be under a lot of pressure,” he told the Post. “This is an agency that enforces the rules against some of the most powerful financial interests in the country. Everything was structured for its independence.”

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President Donald Trump fumed at his daughter Ivanka Trump’s criticism of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, the New York Times reported Saturday, citing three unnamed staff members who heard his reaction. Ivanka Trump had said in an interview, when asked about Moore, that “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

“Do you believe this?” Trump told several aides “in the hours after” Ivanka Trump’s comments, the Times reported. The comments were later included in an ad by Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

Moore has been accused by several women of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was a grown man. One woman, Leigh Corfman, told the Washington Post in a Nov. 9 article that Moore attempted to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14. Beverly Young Nelson alleged in a press conference days later that Moore attempted to rape her when she was 16. Moore has denied all wrongdoing.

The White House’s message on the race has changed day-to-day. Initially following the Post’s reporting, the White House said in a statement that Moore should step aside from the race if Corfman’s allegations were true. In subsequent days, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to engage with further questions about Moore, saying Alabama voters should choose their next senator, and Trump did not answer shouted questions about the race.

On Tuesday, Trump said “We don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat,” indicating he stood by an endorsement of Moore made before the revelations about him pursuing teenagers.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said a day prior that a vote for Jones would mean a vote against Trump’s promised tax cuts — an implicit endorsement that is now the subject of a Hatch Act investigation. The law forbids officials from using their government positions to boost candidates for office.

The Times also reported Saturday, without citing a specific source for the claim, that Trump had suggested to a senator earlier this year — and to an adviser more recently — that the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape “was not authentic.” 

In the tape, Trump is heard bragging that he can kiss and grab women without their permission because he is famous. The Times noted that Trump verified the accuracy of the tape and apologized for his recorded comments when they were first unearthed in October 2016.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Michael Flynn’s work on an unfinished film about the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (pictured above), the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

Flynn had been the subject of a federal probe regarding unregistered lobbying work prior to Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, a probe which Mueller incorporated into his broader investigation once assuming his current position.

Specifically at question, in addition to Flynn’s contacts with Russia during the 2016 election, is Flynn’s company’s $530,000 contract with a Turkish businessman with ties to the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flynn and business partner Bijan Kian worked for the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, on anti-Gulen material including a documentary while Flynn also worked for Trump’s presidential campaign.

Flynn published an op-ed on Election Day echoing the Turkish president’s position on Gulen. Following the election, Kian joined Flynn on Trump’s national security transition team.

The Journal reported Friday, citing unnamed people familiar with Mueller’s investigation, that the FBI is “preparing to interview consultants” hired by Flynn to work on the Gulen documentary.

The report noted that, in May, one freelance journalist hired by Flynn to film interviews for the documentary claimed to have been told by Flynn to keep his company’s involvement secret.

“He said: ‘We don’t want anyone to know the Flynn Intel Group has anything to do with this,” the journalist, Dave Enders, said.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the Journal reported that the FBI has contacted Enders and another journalist hired for the project, Rudi Bakhtiar, “to ask them about their roles in the venture.”

Bakhtiar told the Journal in May that Flynn misled her about the project.

“He never said ‘We’re going to make a documentary that’s going to crush Gulen,'” she told the Journal. “I never would have done it.”

The Friday report added: “Others who have already spoken to the FBI have said that investigators have been asking detailed questions about Kian, former vice chair of the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group.”

Edorgan’s demand that Gulen be extradited to Turkey — the cleric stands accused of inciting an attempted coup, an accusation he denies — has so far been rejected by the United States.

The New York Times first reported Thursday that Flynn’s lawyers had ceased communicating with President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Mueller’s expansive investigation, hinting at the possibility that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller.

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When Richard Cordray, now the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced his resignation Friday, he also named a temporary acting successor.

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today announced that Leandra English has been officially named deputy director of the agency,” read a press release.

Under Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law which authorized CFPB, the agency’s deputy director will “serve as acting Director in the absence or unavailability of the Director.” English had previously served as Cordray’s chief of staff.

In a letter to agency staff announcing English’s status as acting director, quoted by the Washington Post Friday night, Cordray wrote that he had “come to recognize that appointing the current chief of staff to the deputy director position would minimize operational disruption and provide for a smooth transition given her operational expertise.”

President Donald Trump had a different idea.

“Today, the President announced that he is designating Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney as Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB),” a paragraph-long press release read. “The President looks forward to seeing Director Mulvaney take a common sense approach to leading the CFPB’s dedicated staff, an approach that will empower consumers to make their own financial decisions and facilitate investment in our communities.”

Mulvaney, memorably, said in 2014 that the CFPB was a “sick, sad joke” and that “some of us would like to get rid of it.” It’s safe to assume that, even as acting director, the current White House budget chief has a different vision for the CFPB than the former chief of staff to the Obama administration’s pick to lead the agency.

A White House source with knowledge of the administration’s position told TPM Saturday that “the President is using his long-established authority under the [Federal Vacancies Reform Act] to designate Director Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB. The President believes this appointment will ensure an orderly transition and proper management of the CFPB until a permanent director is confirmed.”

The Associated Press cited unnamed administration officials who called Mulvaney’s appointment “routine.” One unnamed official, in AP’s words, “described Cordray’s move on Friday as designed to provoke a legal battle.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), perhaps the strongest champion of the agency in the Senate and a driving force behind its creation, disputed the White House’s legal logic on Friday.

The Dodd-Frank Act is clear: if there is a CFPB Director vacancy, the Deputy Director becomes Acting Director,” she wrote. “President Trump can’t override that. He can nominate the next CFPB Director – but until that nominee is confirmed by the Senate, Leandra English is the Acting Director under the Dodd-Frank Act.”

Press representatives for the agency did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. The White House source did not say whether the White House has been in touch with the agency.

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Time magazine responded on Friday to President Donald Trump’s claim that he had turned down the publication’s offer to be “Person of the Year” — “PROBABLY.” 

Trump tweeted Friday that the magazine had called to inform him he would “PROBABLY” be named “Man (Person) of the Year” — the title changed to “Person of the Year” in 1999 — but that he had turned down the offer because, he said, it would require an interview and a photo shoot, and because “probably is no good.”

The magazine, while not denying it had been in touch with Trump, said it “does not comment on our choice until publication.” 

And the former managing editor of Time, Richard Stengel, tweeted that “PROBABLY means you’re NOT Person of the Year.”

CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out that Trump’s aversion to interviews with news outlets as President may not have disqualified him from the top spot. Just two years ago, Stelter noted, German Chancellor Angela Merkel won the cover spot without sitting for a portrait nor an interview.

Trump was among the finalists for the top spot that year, according to Time. His fellow runners-up: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the Black Lives Matter movement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Uber founder Travis Kalanick and Olympic athlete and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner, who that year had come out as a trans woman.

The then-candidate raged at his being overlooked, bringing it up at a campaign rally — “I’m never going to get it because I’m not establishment,” he saidand venting in a tweet.

The next year, Trump won his coveted prize, shortly after his shocking election.

The President’s obsession with Time is well-known. He said of his 2016 award: “It means a lot, especially me growing up reading Time magazine. And it’s a very important magazine.”

And, as Stengel mentioned, the Washington Post reported in June of this year that a fake Time cover featuring Trump had hung in at least four of his golf clubs.

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The Justice Department said Friday that the Trump Organization’s deal to walk away from its Trump SoHo contract “undermines” a lawsuit’s claim that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

The suit claims in part that Trump’s continued ownership of his business as President illegally disadvantages his competitors in New York City and Washington, D.C.

“On November 22, 2017, the owner of the Hotel announced an agreement to buy out the remainder of its management and license agreement with the Trump Organization, with the transition expected to take place by year-end,” Justice Department lawyers wrote to Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York.

They added: “This development undermines the hospitality Plaintiffs’ reliance on alleged competition with the Trump SoHo to demonstrate standing and is further reason that this Court should dismiss the Second Amended Complaint.”

The complaint against Trump was first filed in January by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, and amended in April and again in May to include several hotels and restaurants and a Washington, D.C. event planner. It alleges that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause by maintaining his ownership of the Trump Organization while serving as President.

As with many of the Trump Organization’s ventures, Trump does not own the hotel. Rather, the Trump Organization has a management and licensing deal with the property’s owners.

Recently, the development was the subject of a joint investigation from ProPublica, WNYC and the New York Times detailing what had been a potential criminal case against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. for misleading prospective buyers of units in the building, which operated as a “condo-hotel,” as zoning laws prevented residents from using the building as a full-time apartment.

That case drew additional scrutiny due to one of Donald Trump’s personal attorneys’, Marc Kasowitz, fundraising for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who dropped fraud case against the Trumps.

Read the Justice Department’s filing below:

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President Donald Trump on Friday condemned what he called the “[h]orrible and cowardly terrorist attack” in the Sinai Peninsula earlier in the day. He later said the attack was justification for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the attack, a combination of explosions and gunfire, had resulted in at least 200 deaths.

Hours later on Friday, Trump said the attack proved the necessity for “the WALL” and “the BAN!”

This post has been updated.

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Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) on Friday continued her call for Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to resign from Congress following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

“Conyers says it didn’t happen,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Rice Friday morning. “You say he should resign. Why?”

“Because enough is enough,” Rice replied. “At this point what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America: Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?”

“And the list is endless,” she continued. “Compare what happened to Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin — all appropriate consequences. And yet once we start getting into the realm of politicians, well, let’s get the ethics commission into it, and let’s investigate this, you know, and take forever to come up with a conclusion.”

BuzzFeed News reported earlier this week on several former staffers of Conyers’ who said he inappropriately touched them and asked for sexual favors. Conyers has denied wrongdoing, but admitted to reaching a settlement with a former staffer — “in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation,” he said — who claimed she was fired for refusing his advances. The House Ethics Committee announced it would investigate the allegations.

Rice first called on Conyers to resign on Wednesday.

Cuomo asked Rice to address the criticism that Conyers had the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Rice, a federal prosecutor and Nassau County District Attorney before she was elected to Congress, said Conyers was dealing with the “court of public opinion.”

“We are not talking about a court of law here,” she said. “I have spent my entire career, before coming to Washington, as a prosecutor. This is not beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t have any legal standard here. We are talking about the court of public opinion. We are talking about holding men accountable for their actions.”

Many victims of sexual harassment, she said, will never have “their day in court.”

“Right now, what we are talking about is, is there going to be any level of accountability?” she said. “And saying that we’re going to have these allegations against politicians go before an ethics committee, that can sometimes take a couple of years — no offense to my colleagues who are on the ethics committee, but that’s not real. That’s not real. And that’s not accountability.”

Congressional ethics committees, Rice said, ask “colleagues to judge their colleagues.”

Rice mentioned that “I’ve been there” and said she had had “an incident” in her first workplace, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, almost 30 years ago. Cuomo asked her about it.

“It was brutal,” she said. “And ultimately you don’t make things like that public because, as a woman in the workplace, if you say this is happening to me, you become a professional pariah. You don’t have any choice but to accept it. The workplace is not going to address the issue.”

“There’s no benefit to these women coming forward and saying this happened to me,” she added. “And we see woman after woman making these allegations saying there was a professional cost to me for coming forward.”

“And yet there isn’t for any of these men who are being accused. That has to change.”

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