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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Police on Wednesday said that at least 17 people had died following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The alleged shooter remained at large for more than an hour before his arrest, according to police.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, speaking to reporters at around 6:30 p.m. ET, said that “17 people lost their lives.”

“Twelve people within the building, two people just outside the building, one person on Pine Island Road and two people lost their lives in the hospital,” he said. “There are people that are still undergoing surgery.” 

“There are certainly students and there are certainly adults” among the dead, Israel said later.

He identified the suspect as Nikolas Cruz, 19, and said investigators were looking into Cruz’s online profiles. “Some of the things that have come to mind are very very disturbing,” he said of Cruz’s online presence, noting that Cruz had been expelled from Stoneman Douglas for disciplinary reasons.

“We believe he had one AR-15 rifle, I don’t know if he had a second one,” Israel said, referring to the popular semi-automatic weapon used in numerous mass shootings in the past. He said Cruz had “countless magazines, multiple magazines” of ammunition.

He added separately: “We continually ask you in the media to continually put out the message: If you see something, say something. If anybody has any indicator that someone’s going through a behavioral change, or on their social media that there are disturbing photos, perhaps bombs or firearms or just videos or pictures that are just not right, please make sure law enforcement knows about it.” 

Earlier, just after 5:00 p.m., Israel told reporters that “from what I understand, there was a time where he did attend the school. I don’t know why he left. I don’t know when he left,” Israel said, adding: “He was taken into arrest without incident.”

“I don’t know how many injuries there were, but we know 14 people were transported to area hospitals with varying degrees of wounds,” he said.

“He carried multiple guns,” one student told WFOR in an interview later aired by CNN. “He showed me his guns. I was kicked out of school myself and I saw what guns he had. He showed me personally. A lot of time the kids wouldn’t pick on him because they knew what could go on. They were scared.”

“A lot of people were saying that it was going to be him,” the student added. “Everyone predicted it, that’s crazy.”

The Miami Herald first identified Cruz as the suspect. According to the Herald, Cruz had been identified as a potential threat to other students in the past. Stoneman Douglas math teacher Jim Gard, who said he taught Cruz last year, told the Herald, “We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him.”

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus,” Gard said.

Two people inside the school at the time of the shooting told WSVN on air that they heard the fire alarm and then, as they evacuated, heard shots fired.

White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told pool reporters slightly after 3:00 p.m.: “The President has been made aware of the school shooting in Florida. We are monitoring the situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected.”

Trump expressed his condolences to affected families shortly afterward:

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday finally said that he is opposed to domestic violence, on the heels of the scandal surrounding one former White House staffer’s resignation over allegations of domestic violence.

“I am totally opposed to domestic violence and everybody here knows that,” Trump told reporters during a photo opportunity with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). “I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. Everyone knows that and it almost wouldn’t even have to be said. So now you hear it but you all know it.”

Trump has stayed silent on the scandal so far, except for wishing Porter well and publishing a tweet in which he expressed sympathy with those whose “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”

The White House has said Porter’s background check — which reportedly included interviews that Porter’s ex-wives gave to the FBI in which they accused him of abuse — was incomplete at the time of Porter’s resignation.

But FBI Director Christopher Wray contradicted that claim during testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday. Afterward, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that White House had meant that the White House Personnel Security Office — staffed by “career officials,” she specified — hadn’t finished their own work with Porter’s clearance.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday ignored questions about the White House’s response to former White House senior staffer Rob Porter’s resignation last week after Porter’s two ex-wives publicly discussed domestic violence allegations against him.

“Mr. President, did your staff handle the Porter allegations properly?” a reporter asked Trump during a photo opportunity.

“Is Gen. Kelly’s job safe?” another asked, referring to White House chief of staff John Kelly, as White House staff ushered them out of the room.

Trump did not answer any questions on the subject.

According to multiple reports, White House officials knew about the allegations against Porter before they surfaced publicly last week. Since Porter’s resignation, the White House has offered various justifications for keeping him on staff.

At least one of those explanations has been contradicted by another official account. Though the White House claimed that Porter’s background check — which included interviews with both of his ex-wives — was “ongoing,” FBI Director Christopher Wray testified on Tuesday that the bureau sent the results of a completed background check to the White House in July 2017.

Kelly in particular offered a strong defense of Porter after the allegations became public. According to several reports, Kelly initially urged Porter to stay in his job, but has since told staff members to communicate — against their disbelief — that he acted immediately to terminate Porter.

Trump has neither personally addressed the scandal nor expressed sympathies to Porter’s ex-wives, though he wished Porter well last week and tweeted sympathetically about people whose lives are “shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.”

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The Washington Post on Tuesday reported on the ongoing turmoil within the White House over a senior staffer’s ouster following accusations of domestic violence.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, whose handling of the scandal has come under intense scrutiny, is a “big fat liar,” one unnamed White House official told the Post, which cited “a dozen top White House officials and outside advisers and confidants,” mostly anonymously, for the report.

“To put it in terms the general would understand, his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty,” the source added.

Various reports have asserted that the White House knew about the multiple allegations of domestic violence made against former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter before the allegations became public in media reports last week. And FBI Director Christopher Wray testified Tuesday that the bureau’s background investigation had concluded before Porter’s resignation, despite the White House’s recent excuse that the check was ongoing.

One unnamed White House aide told the Post that Wray’s testimony was “a killer” and, asked if Kelly could have been more truthful about the scandal, said: “In this White House, it’s simply not in our DNA. Truthful and transparent is great, but we don’t even have a coherent strategy to obfuscate.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday pinned responsibility on a middleman: The White House Personnel Security Office, “staffed by career officials,” she said, had not completed their own process at the time of Porter’s resignation.

President Donald Trump, the Post said, has expressed frustration in private with the fallout from the scandal, and he has mused in recent days about a replacement for Kelly, two unnamed people with knowledge of the conversation told the Post. The paper noted, though, that Trump often muses about personnel changes he ultimately does not make.

Unnamed aides told the Post that Kelly’s response to the breaking Porter story included instructing staff to communicate what many believed to be a false version of events last Friday.

White House counsel Don McGahn and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin also face scrutiny over the scandal, the Post said.

Unnamed officials told the Post that, rather than being forthcoming about their mistakes in vetting Porter, Kelly and McGahn sought to avoid blame. Kelly told at least one unnamed confidant, the Post said, that the White House communications office ought to take some responsibility for the fallout. He said separately that the media overplayed the story, the Post reported.

At a press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked Sanders if she was “telling us that no senior staff — not Don McGahn, not Joe Hagin, not John Kelly — nobody in the senior staff in the West Wing was involved in that decision to tell [the FBI] to go back and see if they could get more information” on Porter, after the bureau completed its initial background check.

“Again, not that I’m aware of,” Sanders replied. “I can’t say with 100 percent certainty, but not that I’m aware of, of any conversations between those individuals.”

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EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday that the first class and military flights he takes at taxpayer expense come as a result of the “level of threat” he faces on planes.

“Unfortunately, … we’ve had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview Tuesday, during a visit to the state.

“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” he continued, adding: “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”

The paper said Pruitt confirmed he’d flown first class from Washington, D.C. to Boston for the trip. CBS News’ Julianna Goldman ‏reported later Tuesday that the outlet had learned Pruitt took an expensive Emirates business class flight — the ticket was at least $7,000, Goldman said — from Milan to Washington last June, part of $43,000 spent on travel for the trip.

That dispatch adds to one from the Washington Post, which reported Sunday that Pruitt had taken at least $90,000 worth of flights in part of June of last year, including $1,641.43 for a single first class seat to New York, from Washington D.C.

Pruitt told the Union Leader he wasn’t “involved in any of those decisions,” and that “[t]hose are all made by the (security) detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff.”

The Post and CBS News had already reported on Pruitt’s expensive travel habits in September of last year.

And he’s not alone among senior Trump administration officials: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price have received similar scrutiny for luxury, taxpayer-funded travel. Price lost his job as a result, the rest remain in their positions.

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White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied on Tuesday that the Trump administration’s account of the background check for a former staffer accused of domestic violence differed from the FBI’s account.

The White House has claimed — in the face of reports that it knew about the domestic violence allegations against former staff secretary Rob Porter long before his ouster — that Rob Porter’s background check was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday told the Senate Intelligence Committee something different: that the FBI had concluded its background investigation before Porter’s resignation.

At a press briefing Tuesday, reading from prepared remarks that she said were based on information from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn, Sanders blamed a middleman: the White House Personnel Security Office.

“The White House Personnel Security Office, staffed by career officials, received information last year on what they considered to be the final background investigation report in November,” Sanders said. “But they had not made a final recommendation for adjudication to the White House because the process was still ongoing when Rob Porter resigned.”

“In the view of Personnel Security Office, the FBI’s July report required significant additional investigatory field work before Personnel Security Office could begin to evaluate the information for adjudication,” she continued. “As Director Wray said, information was still coming to the White House Personnel Security Office in February.”

Wray said Tuesday that “the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” and “soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November.” He added: “And then we administratively closed the file in January. And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

A reporter asked Sanders about the White House’s previous claim that it had not received any paperwork marking the end of Porter’s background check — a claim that Wray appeared to contradict.

“That would come through the White House Personnel Security Office, which had not completed their investigation and not passed that information to the White House,” Sanders said, adding: “I think you need to be very clear that there’s multiple groups here. The White House Personnel Security Office, which is staffed by career officials, would have — may have received information, but they had not completed their process and made a recommendation to the White House for adjudication.”

Asked if the White House was “still maintaining that John Kelly really had no idea about these allegations of domestic abuse until this story broke,” Sanders said only that she was providing “the best information I have and that’s my understanding.”

“Did anyone in the White House Personnel Security Office have any communication with anyone in the West Wing about Rob Porter’s clearance between when the FBI started submitting its interim reports?” another reporter asked.

“I’m not aware of any communication,” Sanders said. “I can’t say definitively. But I’m not aware of any communication.”

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Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday removed an article from his radio show’s website that claimed the official portrait of former President Barack Obama contained secret images of sperm.

“Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley’s wildly non-traditional portrait of the Commander-in-Chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling,” the article, written by “Hannity staff,” asserted, “with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique -concealing images of sperm within his paintings.”

An archived version of the post can be read here.

The article included an excerpt from a 2008 New York Times profile, which claimed of Wiley: “His portraits initially depicted African-American men against rich textile or wallpaper backgrounds whose patterns he has likened to abstractions of sperm.”

Hours after the article’s deletion, Hannity said in a statement provided to TPM by a Fox News representative: “Earlier today my web staff posted content that was not reviewed by me before publication. It does not reflect my voice and message and, therefore, I had it taken down.”

Hannity’s post also included a close-up crop of the portrait, presumably showing the suspected sperm.

Dan Lavoie, a staffer for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, flagged that the baseless conspiracy had earlier appeared on the message board website 4Chan — by now a well-known hub for alt-right and white nationalist chatter.

Hannity also reportedly deleted a tweet promoting the post:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday. Watch live below:

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FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday appeared to contradict the Trump administration’s claims about the background investigation into a former White House staffer who left the administration last week amid allegations of domestic violence.

Various outlets have reported that the FBI alerted the White House to the allegations of domestic violence made against former staff secretary Rob Porter by two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend before those allegations were made public last week. The administration has said in its defense that Porter’s background check was incomplete at the time of his ouster, and that they wanted to allow the FBI to finish its investigation before passing judgement on Porter.

But Wray’s account of the FBI’s communications with the Trump administration, told to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, seemed to differ from the White House’s.

“What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said, noting that the FBI “followed the established protocol” with Porter.

“Soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And then we administratively closed the file in January,” he continued. “And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

White House spokesperson Raj Shah told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, describing the White House’s position, that Porter’s background check “had not been completed yet. It was still in the investigative process and had yet to be adjudicated. So prior to an adjudication, the White House is not going to step into the middle of a process and short circuit it.”

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