Mshuham2

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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) retweeted a neo-Nazi on Tuesday morning. He has faced no consequences for the tweet, and the leaders of his party have so far remained silent.

Mark Collett, whom King retweeted, isn’t quiet about his beliefs. According to HuffPost, he’s called himself a Nazi sympathizer, expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and was the subject of the 2002 documentary “Young, Nazi and Proud.”

A year ago, he joined former KKK grand wizard David Duke for an hour-long discussion on, per Duke’s website, “the massive violence that continues to be inflicted on the world by the Jewish dominated left.”

Last month, Duke joined Collett for the 50th episode of a YouTube chat show Collett hosts, “This Week on the Alt Right.” Collett addressed Duke’s critics on the show: “Are they going to sacrifice everything to try and save their race, like David Duke has? Because that is the measure of a great man.” In 2016, according to a Daily Mail report, Collett campaigned for Brexit in the UK alongside his swastika-tattooed girlfriend, Eva Van Housen.

And yet the Republican Party maintained its silence Wednesday: TPM’s requests for comment to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the National Republican Campaign Committee and the Republican National Committee all went unanswered. None have commented publicly on King’s retweet. King’s office did not respond to TPM’s questions.

The amplification of a neo-Nazi is the latest in a years-long stream of similar actions from the Iowa congressman. In December, he tweeted “Diversity is not our strength” and attributed a quote to the right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban: “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.” Following President Donald Trump’s January State of the Union address, King told TPM “the Congressional Black Caucus took a knee nearly all night.”

In March of last year, King was able to garner a rare response from his Republican colleagues when he tweeted “[Anti-muslim Dutch politician Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

“I don’t think that statement reflects what is special about this country,” Speaker Ryan responded the following night in an interview with Fox News’ Brett Baier. He added, though: “I would like to think — and I haven’t spoke to Steve about this — I would like to think he misspoke, and it wasn’t meant the way it sounds, and I hope he’s clarified that.”

Nope: Hours earlier, King had stood by his comments in an interview with CNN.

Three days later, King told The Hill: “My colleagues have generally been coming by and patting me on the back. And a surprising number have said that they pray for me. And, meaning they support me and they agree with me, a surprising number.”

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The Department of Health and Human Services is considering building tent cities to temporarily house migrant children, McClatchy reported Tuesday, at least one of which would have the capacity to house between 1,000 and 5,000 children.

HHS is responsible for taking temporary custody of so-called “unaccompanied alien children,” when either they cross into the United States without their parents, or, in accordance with a new Trump administration policy, they are separated from their parents.

In the coming weeks, unnamed officials told McClatchy, HHS will visit Fort Bliss, an Army base near El Paso, to inspect one possible location for a tent city. Several outlets reported last month that HHS was considering housing migrant children on military bases, as it did in briefly in 2014.

Unnamed HHS officials confirmed to McClatchy, in the publication’s words, “that they’re looking at the Fort Bliss site along with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for potential use as temporary shelters.”

The report noted that HHS’ shelters for undocumented immigrant children are 95 percent full; 10,000 children are currently in HHS custody as they wait to be paired with sponsors with whom they’ll live as their cases proceed.

Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy of criminally prosecuting everyone caught crossing the border illegally. Because children cannot be put into criminal detention facilities, the new policy requires that the government separate children from their parents. 

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to call on the House to investigate the conduct of House Intelligence Committee staffers, CNN and Fox News reported Tuesday.

The second-ranking Justice Department official will “request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers’ conduct,” both outlets reported, both citing an unnamed Department of Justice official.

“The Deputy Attorney General never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation,” the official added, apparently citing what House Intelligence Committee staffers said felt like a “personal attack” from Rosenstein, as reported by Fox News Tuesday, during a meeting earlier this year.

“The Deputy Attorney General was making the point — after being threatened with contempt — that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false,” a DOJ official said in identical statements to CNN and Fox News. “That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so.”

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A career Department of Justice attorney resigned the morning after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ would refuse to defend Obamacare against a 20-state lawsuit, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Joel McElvain, the Post reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, submitted his resignation Friday. An unnamed DOJ spokesperson told the paper the resignation would take affect in early July. 

After Republicans in Congress repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate, 20 GOP-controlled states sued over the law, saying it was unconstitutional as a result of the mandate’s repeal. 

Just before 6 p.m. Thursday — shortly before Sessions’ announcement — McElvain and two other career DOJ attorneys withdrew from the lawsuit. A DOJ spokesperson told TPM the attorney shake-up was due to “personnel issues.”

McElvain submitted his resignation the next morning, the Post said.

In deciding not to uphold the law, the Trump administration had determined its “dislike for the Affordable Care Act outweighed its respect for the rule of law,” University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley told USA Today last week.

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Following his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un Tuesday, President Donald Trump told reporters that he had shown Kim a bizarre fake movie trailer promoting the restoration of normal diplomatic relations between North Korea and the rest of the world.

Seven billion people inhabit planet Earth,” began the trailer, which the White House played for reporters before Trump answered their questions. “Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact. And only the very few will make decisions or take actions that renew their homeland and change the course of history.” (Watch and read a transcript of the trailer below.)

Trump said he’d shown Kim “that tape” in an effort to convince him that opening up North Korea to international investment would be worth it. 

“They have great beaches,” the President said. “You see that whenever they are exploding the cannons in the ocean.”

“I said, boy, look at that view. That would make a great condo. I explained it.”

At one point, the trailer even shouts out a production company: “Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity: A new story, a new beginning, one of peace.”

But the man behind a real Hollywood production company that shares the same name, Mark Castaldo, told TPM he had nothing to do with it: “We had no involvement in the video,” he said in an email. He separately told The Blast: “It’s not something I would have done or wanted to have been a part of.”

According to his biography on destinypictures.biz, Castaldo “began a professional career in the casino business working 10 years as a croupier in Atlantic City and Las Vegas” before relocating to Los Angeles, “where he currently resides to pursue his passion of telling stories.”

TPM has reached out to the White House for comment.

“[Kim] looked at that tape, he looked at that iPad, and I’m telling you they really enjoyed it, I believe,” Trump said. “Okay?

The trailer’s narration contains no less than 17 open-ended questions, including buzz about a “sequel” to the Korean War. 

“What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?” the narrator reads. “Their story is well known, but what will be their sequel?” 

Watch (via the Guardian) and read a transcript of the trailer below:

Seven billion people inhabit planet Earth. Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact, and only the very few will make decisions or take actions that renew their homeland and change the course of history.

History may appear to repeat itself for generations—cycles that never seem to end. There have been times of relative peace and times of great tension. While this cycle repeats, the light of prosperity and innovation has burned bright for most of the world. History is always evolving, and there comes a time when only a few are called upon to make a difference. But the question is, what difference will the few make? The past doesn’t have to be the future. Out of the darkness can come the light. And the light of hope can burn bright.

What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future? Their story is well known, but what will be their sequel?

Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity: A new story, a new beginning, one of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny. A story about a special moment in time, when a man is presented with one chance which may never be repeated. What will he choose? To show vision and leadership? Or not?

There can only be two results. One of moving back, or one of moving forward. A new world can begin today, one of friendship, respect, and goodwill. Be part of that world, where the doors of opportunity are ready to be opened—investment from around the world, where you can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology, and new discoveries.

What if? Can history be changed? Will the world embrace this change? And when could this moment in history begin? It comes down to a choice. On this day. In this time. At this moment. The world will be watching, listening, anticipating, hoping. Will this leader choose to advance his country and be part of a new world? Be the hero of his people? Will he shake the hand of peace and enjoy prosperity like he has never seen? A great life or more isolation? Which path will be chosen?

Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history. To shine in the sun. One moment, one choice, what if? The future remains to be written.

This post has been updated.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday congratulated President Donald Trump on the “major step” he took in meeting with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un in Singapore. But, speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell hedged any optimism about the summit.

“Resolving this 65-year-old international challenge will take a great deal of hard work,” the Senate leader said.

“I support the goals contained in the joint statement, and I remain supportive of the administration’s stated position,” he added, of “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Should North Korea “not prove willing to follow through,” he said, “we and our allies must be prepared to restore the policy of maximum pressure.”

“Today I congratulate the President on this major step, and share his hope that it will begin a process that leads to an historic peace.”

Earlier Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tweeted an article detailing Kim’s human rights abuses, as “a reminder of who we are dealing with.”

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White House trade adviser Peter Navarro apologized Tuesday for saying that there was a “special place in hell” for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message,” Navarro said in an interview at the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network. “I own that, that was my mistake, those were my words.”

Asked if he was offering Trudeau an apology, Navarro said “yes, absolutely.”

But the White House adviser did not say what precisely it was that Trudeau said at a press conference following the G-7 summit over the weekend that warranted the White House’s aggressive response.

Trudeau had simply reiterated Canada’s stated plan of imposing retaliatory dollar-for-dollar tariffs in response to the new American tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. He also said Canada “will not be pushed around.”

In response, Navarro said in an interview Sunday that “there’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”

“And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference,” he added Sunday, noting his comments came “right from Air Force One.” 

Navarro took a decidedly more conciliatory tone Tuesday, but still asserted that Trudeau had committed a “breach of protocol” that the Trump administration considered “inappropriate.” He also called Trump’s meeting with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un Tuesday “far more important” than the G-7.

“I want to correct a mistake I made last Sunday,” he said. “The day before, on Saturday, at the end of what was a successful and friendly G-7 summit, shortly after Air Force One and the President left Canadian air space, the Prime Minister of Canada held a press conference that this administration viewed as a breach of protocol and inappropriate.”

“The next morning, on Fox News, my job — my mission — was to send a very strong signal of strength. And this was particularly important on the eve of a far more important summit in Korea.” (The summit was actually in Singapore.)

“I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message,” he said. “I own that, that was my mistake, those were my words.”

Watch below via the Wall Street Journal:

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At 5:27 a.m. local time, President Donald Trump began the day of his historic Singapore summit with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-in with, what else, a tweet:

Trump has said he doesn’t need to prepare “much” for the summit. He and Kim will begin the day with a one-on-one meeting, in which only translators will be present, not advisers.

On Monday, the White House announced Trump would be cutting his time in Singapore short: He will be departing for the United States on Tuesday night, not Wednesday morning.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled Monday that immigration judges should not grant asylum claims on the basis of applicants being the victims of domestic violence or gang violence.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the ruling. Immigration courts are housed in the Justice Department, not the Judicial Branch, and Sessions as a result can set precedent for immigration judges dealing with asylum claims.

Sessions used that immense power to review the case of an El Salvadorian woman, known legally as A.B., who had been brutally abused her husband before she fled to the United States seeking asylum. A.B. told NPR last month that her husband had raped and beaten her. She said she was also beaten while she was pregnant.

On Monday, one of A.B.’s attorneys, Eunice Lee of UC Hastings’ Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, told TPM over the phone that Sessions’ ruling showed “a misapplication of law to the facts.”

“The ways in which he’s applying the legal standard seem to reflect basic misunderstandings of asylum law,” she said.

At issue is whether the victims of domestic violence and gang violence can be considered, respectively, members of a “particular social group,” a term used in both international and U.S. law.

An historic 2014 immigration appeals board decision broadened the definition of the term to include, in that particular case, “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.” A year later, Slate noted, the same appeals board broadened the definition to include victims of violence within a “domestic relationship.”

On Monday, Sessions declared that the 2014 decision “is overruled.”

“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions wrote in his ruling. “While I do not decide that violence inflicted by non-governmental actors may never serve as the basis for an asylum or withholding application based on membership in a particular social group, in practice such claims are unlikely to satisfy the statutory grounds for proving group persecution that the government is unable or unwilling to address.”

“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes—such as domestic violence or gang violence—or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” he added.

Legal advocates told TPM the ruling displayed a decades-old view of women’s rights.

In one footnote of his ruling, for example, Sessions cited a 1975 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals — the court housed in the Justice Department that reviews asylum-seekers’ appeals — to support his assertion that domestic violence can be considered a “personal matter” without a nexus to the asylum-seeker’s membership in a “particular social group,” a group that meets a list of criteria for asylum rights.

“Even if mistreatment is suffered at the hands of a government official, there is no nexus between the purported persecution and one of the grounds for asylum if the dispute is a ‘purely personal matter,’” Sessions wrote in the footnote before citing the so-called “Matter of Pierre,” a 1975 BIA ruling that a Haitian woman did not qualify for asylum protection even though her husband was an abusive high-ranking government official unlikely to be restrained by the Haitian legal system. “[T]he motivation behind her husband’s alleged actions,” the decades-old BIA ruling read, “appears to be strictly personal.”

“The Board has recognized this principle for decades, including in cases involving threats of domestic violence,” Sessions wrote.

“You know, our understanding of gender-based violence has developed in the interim 43 years, but there’s no recognition of this from the attorney general,” Deborah Anker, founder and director of the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, told TPM in a phone call Monday.

“It’s extraordinary,” she added later. “He’s putting us back 43 years, not just in how we view refugee protection, but how we view women and how we view violence against women. I think that’s very concerning.”

In addition to the immediate impact on asylum-seekers’ rights, Sessions’ ruling itself revealed sloppy legal work that may show he pre-judged the case, Lee said.

“One of the things he did not do is cite to over 500 pages of voluminous record evidence that we submitted around the facts of Ms. A.B.’s claim to him directly, including additional expert affidavits, including additional testimony by Ms. A.B. herself, none of that is cited, not even once in his decision,” she told TPM.

“It appears to us that the [attorney general] pre-judged Ms. A.B.’s case,” she said.

Anker echoed that sentiment.

“The attorney general harped on what he considered scant evidence of society’s view of women as distinct,” she said. “But there is substantial evidence that women are targeted and deliberately unprotected in these countries — evidence that he just doesn’t address.”

Read Sessions’ ruling below:

This post has been updated.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel called President Donald Trump’s “withdrawal via Twitter” from the agreed-upon joint G-7 communiqué, which was co-authored by every member of the Group of Seven, “of course sobering and a little depressing” in an interview following the summit.

Several outlets, including German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Politico, translated parts of Merkel’s remarks, which she made in a Sunday interview with German broadcaster ARD.

“The situation isn’t very nice,” Merkel said. “I don’t think that ratcheting up the rhetoric is going to improve things.”

Trump announced in tweets following his early departure from the summit that he would refuse to sign the communiqué as a result of press conference comments by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But Trudeau had simply reiterated points he’d made before: that Canada planned dollar-for-dollar retaliatory tariffs in response to Trump’s new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Trump advisers Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro nonetheless toed the presidential line, savaging Trudeau in Sunday show appearances over what Kudlow acknowledged were “things that the prime minister has said before, basically.”

“There are still good reasons to fight for the trans-Atlantic partnership,” Merkel said Sunday, hedging that the European Union shouldn’t “imprudently” follow the United States.

“We won’t let ourselves be ripped off again and again,” she said, referring to the new American tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. “Instead, we act then too.”

Merkel described the joint communiqué Trump refused to sign, despite America’s co-authorship, as “arduously negotiated.”

Citing Trump’s withdrawals from the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas said Sunday that Trump’s withdrawal from the summit communiqué was “actually not a real surprise.”

“We have seen this with the climate agreement or the Iran deal,” he said.

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