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

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in an angry speech from the Senate floor Thursday that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had gone back on their past commitments to respect states’ individual marijuana laws, and that he would be tying up DoJ nominations until Sessions “lives up to the commitment that he made to me.”

“I will be putting today a hold on every single nomination from the Department of Justice until Attorney General Jeff Sessions lives up to the commitment that he made to me in my pre-confirmation meeting with him, the conversation we had, that was specifically about this issue of states’ rights in Colorado,” the senator said.

Gardner’s efforts to hold up nominations would continue until an Obama-era policy, the Cole Memorandum, is reinstated, he said. The Cole Memorandum stated that federal prosecutors would practice a hands-off approach when it came to state marijuana laws, accommodating a wave of pro-marijuana legislation at the state and local level.

Sessions nixed the Cole Memorandum Thursday, saying that future marijuana-related prosecutorial decisions, even in states where it is legal at various levels, would be left to individual U.S. attorneys, Politico reported.

“Up until about 8:58 this morning, we believed in Colorado that states’ rights would be protected,” Gardner said at the top of his floor speech.

He said Sessions had promised him, prior to Sessions’ winning confirmation as Trump’s attorney general, that “there were no plans to reverse the Cole Memorandum.”

“Then-Sen. Sessions told me that marijuana simply wasn’t going to be on President Trump’s agenda, that it was something that they weren’t going to deal with, something that President Trump simply wasn’t going to focus on,” Gardner said.

“That was back in the spring of 2016, and up until 8:58 this morning, that was the policy,” Gardner continued. Thursday’s announcement, the senator said, marked “a complete reversal of what many of us on the hill were told before the confirmation, what we had continued to believe the last year, and — without any notification, conversation or dialogue with Congress — completely reversed.”

In addition to the private commitments Gardner said Sessions had made, Sessions said publicly, early in his tenure, that he would likely not pursue a change in the Cole Memorandum.

The Cole Memorandum set up some policies under President Obama’s Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states, and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid,” he told reporters in March, according to a transcript provided to TPM at the time by DoJ spokesperson Peter Carr.

“I may have some different ideas myself in addition to that, but essentially, we’re not able to go into a state and pick up the work that police and sheriffs have been doing for decades,” Sessions added in March.

On Twitter, Gardner referred to a quote from Trump during the campaign that “it’s up to the states, absolutely,” referring to state marijuana laws.

“We were told that states’ rights would be protected,” by Sessions and then-candidate Donald Trump, Gardner emphasized in his speech today.

“What has changed President Trump’s mind that the Cole Memorandum would be reversed and rescinded?” Gardner asked. “I think the people of Colorado deserve to have that answer.”

Correction: This article initially misstated Sen. Cory Gardner’s party affiliation. He is a Republican.

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President Donald Trump said Thursday that he doesn’t talk to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and that Bannon had “changed his tune pretty quick” after the fallout from certain comments of his in a forthcoming book.

Trump was responding to reporters’ questions about Bannon during a press pool spray Thursday. As quoted in Michael Wolff’s forthcoming book “Fire and Fury,” Bannon reportedly called Donald Trump Jr. and others’ campaign-era meeting with Kremlin-linked Russians “treasonous.” Trump’s response to the quotes was immediate and angry.

“Did Steve Bannon betray you, Mr. President?” one reporter was heard asking in television footage of the spray.

“I don’t know, he called me a great man last night, so he obviously changed his tune pretty quick,” Trump responded.

Trump was referring to Bannon’s comments on his “Breitbart News Tonight” radio show Wednesday night.

“The President of the United States is a great man. You know I support him day in and day out, whether going through the country giving the Trump Miracle speech, or on the show, or on the website, so I don’t think you have to worry about that,” Bannon told a caller who asked about his and Trump’s public rift.

Trump continued, responding to reporters: “I don’t talk to him. I don’t talk to him. I don’t talk to him. That’s just a misnomer.”

That contradicts what Sanders said Wednesday when asked about Bannon: that he and Trump had last spoken, she believed, in the “first part of December.”

Watch below:

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At least two members of President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission said they and other members found out about the panel’s abrupt dissolution through media reports.

“There was no warning. They didn’t give us a heads up that the President’s considering shutting it down or anything like that,” Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the commission when it ended, told Politico.

The outlet reported that Dunlap said he’d learned of the news “the same way reporters did: via a news release.”

Another member of the commission, Jefferson County, Alabama Presiding Probate Judge Alan King, told Wednesday night that “this came out of the blue.”

King, a Democrat, compared the commission’s work to a “wild goose chase” and said “I think it’s an urban legend that there’s widespread voter fraud in the U.S.”

“Throughout my career I have been involved in civic groups, church groups, high school groups, that were run better than this commission. And to say that is a disappointment would be an understatement,” he added.

And WMUR reported that New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, a Democrat, had told the station Wednesday, before the commission was dissolved, that “he had not heard from the commission staff or other members in several months, but he said that as far as he knew, it was still intact.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led the commission and is known for his zeal for voter suppression techniques, said the decision to the end the panel came in “the middle of the day.”

“Think of it as an option play; a decision was made in the middle of the day to pass the ball,” he told the New York Times. “The Department of Homeland Security is going to be able to move faster and more efficiently than a presidential advisory commission.”

At 6:45 p.m. ET, TPM received a press release from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announcing the commission’s closure, and that the Department of Homeland Security would “review [the commission’s] initial findings and determine next courses of action.”

At 7:16 p.m., TPM received the executive order referenced in Sanders’ statement formally revoking the commission’s founding order.

Asked whether members of the commission were given advance warning of its imminent closure, DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton told TPM, “This is a question for the White House.” White House spokespeople did not immediately return requests for comment.

The White House, Dunlap and Kobach all said the commission’s legal troubles — including a lawsuit from Dunlap himself, which he referenced — had spelled trouble for the body.

“When we got that court ruling, I thought maybe they’ll just throw the commission in the of corner and take this on through some other tack,” Dunlap told Politico, referring to his own lawsuit.

“It got to the point where the staff of the commission was spending more time responding to litigation than doing an investigation,” Kobach told the Times. He had told the Topeka Capital-Journal, for an article published Dec. 30, that the commission should meet again in January.

The White House in its statement blamed “many states” who had refused to provide it “with basic information relevant to its inquiry.”

“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission,”  the statement added.

The President himself weighed in as well, Thursday morning.

This post has been updated.

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Steve Bannon’s comments about Donald Trump Jr. in an upcoming book are “absolutely outrageous and unprecedented,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Wednesday’s press briefing. 

Bannon, in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” said that a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Kremlin-connected Russians was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

“They’re going to crack Don. Jr. like an egg on national TV,” Bannon told Wolff.

At a press briefing Wednesday, the Daily Mail’s Francesca Chambers asked what had led to the “dramatic falling out” between Trump and Bannon.

“Is this a direct response to Steve Bannon calling the President’s son unpatriotic and saying that he committed treason?”

“I think there are a number of factors that played in,” Sanders responded. “I would certainly think that going after the President’s son in an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented way is probably not the best way to curry favor with anybody.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the widening rift between President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon would not change the level of support Trump received from his base of supporters.

Bannon told author Michael Wolff that a meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials with a Kremlin-tied lawyer was “treasonous,” among other things, in a book Wollf is set to publish next week.

Trump responded in part: “When [Bannon] was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

“What does this do to the base that these two power houses are fighting for the Republican Party?” Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan asked Sanders at a press briefing Wednesday, referring to the spat. “What does this do to the President’s base?”

“I don’t think it does anything to the President’s base,” Sanders responded. “The base, and the people that supported this President supported the President and supported his agenda. Those things haven’t changed.”

“The President is still exactly who he was yesterday as he was two years ago when he started out on the campaign trail,” she continued. “His agenda hasn’t changed and he’s continuing to fight for and push for that agenda and I think the base is extremely excited and happy with the job that this President has done in his first year in office. Look at all he’s accomplished. I think they’re pretty happy with where he is.” 

She added later: “The President’s base is very solid. It hasn’t changed, because the President hasn’t changed and his agenda hasn’t changed. We’re continuing to accomplish a lot of the things that were on the President’s agenda as we did last year, and we’re going to do a lot more this year as we move into the beginning of 2018.”

Sanders said earlier in the briefing that she believed the last time Trump had spoken to Bannon was in the first part of December.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who will retire from the Senate when his current term ends in 2018, said Wednesday that he would support Mitt Romney to take his place should Romney decide to run.

“I did call him a while back and explored with him what he had on his mind,” Hatch said on Utah Morning News, CNN reported. He added: “I’m hopeful he’ll run, because he would be just fine, and he would certainly be somebody who I think could succeed me and do a good job.”

“We haven’t spoken in the last few days, but if Mitt decides to run, he knows he’ll have my support, but that will be his announcement to make, not mine,” Hatch said.

Hatch, 83, is the longest-serving Republican senator in history. Romney, despite serving as Massachusetts’ governor for four years, has hinted that he might be interested in the Utah Senate seat.

On Tuesday, for example, Romney changed the location of his Twitter profile to Holladay, Utah — where he built a mansion after his 2012 loss to Barack Obama — from Massachusetts. CNN noted he was already registered to vote in the state.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver an on camera press briefing at 3:00 p.m. ET Wednesday. Watch live below:

Michelle Bachmann, the former Republican congresswoman from Minnesota with strong ties to the Evangelical Christian and Tea Party wings of the GOP, said last week that she was considering running for resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) Senate seat.

Bachmann resigned from Congress amid an ethics investigation and tough re-election chances. So what’s she been up to since then?

Well, a lot, as it turns out. After leaving her government job in January 2015, Bachmann has stayed active on the conservative speaking circuit, taking on a decidedly more apocalyptic tone until President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016.

Here are a few highlights.

Obama Purposefully Destroyed America With The Iran Deal

In a Facebook post in March 2015, Bachmann compared President Barack Obama’s deal with Iran to Andreas Lubitz, a pilot who had recently deliberately flown a passenger flight into the French Alps.

With his Iran deal, Barack Obama is for the 300 million souls of the United States what Andreas Lubitz was for the 150 souls on the German Wings flight – a deranged pilot flying his entire nation into the rocks,” she wrote. “After the fact, among the smoldering remains of American cities, the shocked survivors will ask, why did he do it?”

The Apocalypse Is Coming, So Convert As Many Jews As You Can

In a November 2015 interview with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, Bachmann reflected on a recent trip they had taken together to Israel.

“Events are speeding up so quickly right now, and we see how relevant the Bible is, and we’re reading our newspaper at the same time we’re learning about these biblical events, and it’s literally day by day by day, we’re seeing the fulfillment of scripture right in front of our eyes, even while we’re on the ground.”

“We recognize the shortness of the hour,” she added, “and that’s why we as a remnant want to be faithful in these days and do what it is that the Holy Spirit is speaking to each one of us, to be faithful in the Kingdom and to help bring in as many as we can — even among the Jews — share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, He’s coming soon.”

Trump Surrogate To Evangelical Christians

Bachmann initially supported Ted Cruz’s bid to become the Republicans’ presidential nominee. But she eventually threw her support behind Trump, serving on an Evangelical advisory board the campaign put together and, according to her, advising Trump on foreign policy.

Trump, Bachmann said, understood that Americans feared “unmitigated immigration” and “radical Islam.”

And she rallied Evangelical Christians to the cause: “Believers in Jesus Christ, the believing community across the United States, statistically, will be the voting block that chooses who the next president of the United States is,” Bachmann said at the Values Voter Summit in September 2016.

“It will either be Donald Trump or it will be Hillary Clinton, one of the two,” she said. “And just like the book of Deuteronomy teaches us, ‘I have set before you life and death.’ Which will you choose?’”

Trump’s Bragging Of Assaulting Women Was ‘Bad Boy Talk’

Perhaps Bachmann’s most public moment as a Trump surrogate came in October 2016. She defended him in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” revelations, in which Trump was seen to have bragged during a television taping that he could kiss and grope women without their consent.

“This is bad boy talk, and of course that’s what [Hillary Clinton] wants everybody to talk about,” Bachmann told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, joining a chorus of committed Trump defenders dismissing the tape as “opposition research,” despite the Washington Post having published it.

She repeated the phrase elsewhere. “The Clinton campaign had to change the conversation because she had a lot of really bad news this week,” Bachmann said on CNN. “And so this 11-year-old bad boy locker room talk, this is how she wanted to do it.”

‘I Believe This Is The Last Election’

Advocating for Trump seemed to focus Bachmann’s apocalyptic flair. In September 2016, Meet the Press highlighted some alarming remarks she’d made during an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network.

“I don’t want to be melodramatic, but I do want to be truthful,” Bachmann said. “I believe without a shadow of a doubt, this is the last election. This is it.”

“This is the last election when we even have a chance to vote for somebody who will stand up for godly, moral principles,” she added separately.

Hillary Clinton, Bachmann said, would “change the demographics of the United States so no Republican will ever win again.”

Pressing For Deportations, ‘Allegiance’ From Immigrant Communities

Bachmann spent 2017 pressing the Trump administration to support the right wing policies she’d come to expect after his nationalist candidacy, often by targeting Muslims and immigrants directly.

She told the Pioneer Press in July that Trump should deport individuals “who are unwilling to bear allegiance to the United States.”

Too many people who are being afraid of being called racists, bigots, Islamophobes,” she added. “I’m not afraid of it, because what we’ve got to do is talk about the truth of the problems that are going on in Minnesota.”

“This is a failed multicultural experiment that is killing people and destroying the future of the West,” she told the far-right website World Net Daily the same month, referring to Minnesota’s large Somali population.

She asked, referring to a Somali-American police officer, Mohamed Noor, who had fatally shot 40-year-old Justine Damond, whether Noor was “acting like the Muslim religious police, maintaining strict adherence to keeping women’s bodies covered when he shot Justine? Was he acting from a cultural instinct?”

She added to WND:  “[I]t’s prudent to ask whether police officer Noor shot Justine due to a Somali/Shariah mindset.”

“Deport the 40 percent of illegal aliens who are here on visa overstays,” she argued separately in an October interview with Breitbart, adding that she would “pause” America’s refugee resettlement program, too.

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The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday advocated for the arrest of local and state government officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents.

“This is a victimization of the American community,” Thomas Homan told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. “This isn’t the America I grew up in. We’ve got to take these sanctuary cities on. We’ve got to take them to court, and we’ve got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes.”

While there’s no strict legal definition a “sanctuary” city or state, Homan, who President Donald Trump has nominated to serve as ICE’s formal director, was responding to California’s SB54, which went into effect on Jan. 1.

The law, like many on the local level nationwide, limits police officers’ ability to detain suspected undocumented immigrants on federal agents’ behalf. The bill’s author, Senate Leader Kevin de Leon, said it would put “a large kink in Trump’s perverse and inhuman deportation machine.”

On Tuesday, Homan said that transnational drug cartels “are using this sanctuary state law as a selling point.”

“We’re going to vastly increase our enforcement footprint in the state of California,” he said. “We’re going to be all over the place, and we’re going to enforce the law without apology.”

He continued: “What I’m also doing is working with the Department of Justice. For these sanctuary cities that knowingly shield and harbor an illegal alien in their jail and don’t allow us access, that is, in my opinion, a violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324, that’s an alien smuggling statue. I’ve asked the Department of Justice to look at this. Are these sanctuary cities — Can we hold them accountable, are they violating federal law?”

“What if they do just that, what do you do?” Cavuto asked.

“I think we charge some of these sanctuary cities with violating federal law,” Homan said. “I think if they knowingly harbor and shield a known illegal alien, a public safety threat, in a jail and won’t give us access.”

He added later in the interview that the Department of Justice should withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions. But the federal government’s ability to act on that threat has been tied up by various courts in recent months. In November, a District Court judge in California became the latest to block enforcement of an executive order by President Donald Trump that would prevent certain federal funds from reaching sanctuary cities.

And Texas’ SB4 — which, among other things, threatened that public officials could face arrest or financial penalty for refusing to cooperate with federal immigration agents — has only partially gone into effect as a lawsuit from several Texas cities proceeds in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Homan said President Trump “absolutely” shared his position.

Watch the interview below:

H/t The Hill

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured reporters Tuesday that it was not the White House’s official position that the Justice Department was part of a “deep state” plotting to sabotage the Trump administration — at least, not the “entire” Justice Department.

Sanders also said the President had called for longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s arrest, despite the lack of any charges against her, because he “wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law.”

At a press briefing Tuesday, a reporter asked about Trump’s tweet earlier in the day, in which he personally targeted Abedin and ousted FBI Director James Comey for arrest:

What did the President mean when he said the ‘Deep State Justice Department?’” ABC News’ Cecilia Vega asked. “And does this administration believe that the deep state is a real thing? That there is this shadow government out there actively plotting to sabotage him?”

“Look, the President finds some of those actions very disturbing,” Sanders said, without specifying further. “And he thinks that we need to make sure, if there is an issue that it is looked at, but if there was anything beyond that I would refer you to the Department of Justice.”

Vega pressed: “Does he believe the entire Justice Department and its more than 100,000 employees are part of this deep state?”

“Obviously, he doesn’t believe the entire Justice Department is part of that,” Sanders replied. “One of the things that the President has done is appoint Christopher Wray at the FBI because he wants to change the culture of that agency and he thinks he’s right to do that.”

“Is the President requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Huma Abedin?” Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum asked later. “How did he reach the conclusion that she should be in jail given she hasn’t been indicted or convicted of any crime?”

“Look, obviously, the facts of the case are very disturbing and I think the President wants to make clear that he doesn’t feel that anyone should be above the law,” Sanders said. “In terms of any investigation, that would be something the Department of Justice would need to decide. 

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