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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

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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At least 2,400 immigrant family separations have occurred at the border since late 2016, Reuters reported Friday, and that number spiked with the Trump administration’s new policy of prosecuting every adult caught illegally crossing the border.

An unnamed senior government official told Reuters that nearly 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the border between October 2016 and February 2018. (The report later states there were “1,768 cases of families separated by border agents between October 2016 and February [2018].”)

The same source “acknowledged,” in Reuters’ words, “the number of separations had risen sharply in recent weeks, largely because of new administration policies.”

In early May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossers  including those who claim asylum  and separating adults facing criminal penalties from their children, who cannot be held in criminal detention.

Reuters also cited the May 23 congressional testimony (see 1:19:55) of Richard Hudson, deputy chief of operational programs for Customs and Border Protection: “If you’re talking about the zero-tolerance prosecution initiative, from May 6 when this started, until May 19, our records show that 658 children with 638 adults have been in the prosecution process,” Hudson told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

That, Reuters noted, brings the total separations to more than 2,400, with likely more than that; the number does not include separations between March 1 and May 6, nor those since May 19.

Reuters’ source could not say, the outlet reported, whether or not there had in fact been any family separations in the last three months of the Obama administration.

In most cases of separation between October 2016 and February 2018, the outlet said, “children were removed from parents for medical reasons or because of security concerns, the official said, citing examples such as parents needing hospitalization or officials discovering the parent had a criminal record either in the United States or in their home country.”

And the source said 237 recorded separations were due to border agents’ suspicions that “adults were falsely posing as the parents of minors in their charge.”

The source said the families separated between October 2016 and February 2018 represented two percent of all families arrested along the border in that time.

Given Sessions’ stated wish to prosecute “100 percent” of illegal border crossers — which would involve separating children from their parents — that percentage will only grow as a result of the Trump administration’s new policy.

“That would be a possible assumption that this [could] continue at that level,” Hudson told Feinstein in May, referring to the rate of family separation following the Trump administration’s new policy.

The New York Times reported on April 20 of this year, citing Department of Health and Human Services data, that “more than 700” children had been taken from their parents between then and October 2017.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Sunday called on his fellow Republicans to reject the comments of White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who’d said earlier in the day that there was a “special place in hell” for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“[T]his is not who we,” Flake told Republicans. “This cannot be our party.”

In tweets, President Donald Trump cited a press conference Trudeau held at the end of this weekend’s G7 summit as the reason he refused to sign an agreed-upon joint communiqué authored by the summit’s attendees.

Two White House advisers, Peter Navarro and Larry Kudlow, followed Trump’s actions with explosive Sunday show appearances.

In reality, though, Canada said days before Trudeau’s G7 summit press conference that it would retaliate with its own tariffs in response to new American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports.

“These are things that the prime minister has said before, basically,” Kudlow acknowledged to CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan Sunday. “But he didn’t say them before after a successful G7 communiqué where President Trump and the others all worked in good faith to put a statement together.”

“Is that necessary?” Kudlow added later in the interview. “Where’s the good faith? Where’s the optimism?”

H/t The Hill.

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Fellow G7 members responded harshly to President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign a previously agreed-upon joint statement authored by all seven nations at a summit this weekend, with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Sunday pointedly condemning Trump and his advisers’ “ad hominem attacks.”

“We spent two days to obtain a text and commitments. We will stand by them and anyone who would depart from them, once their back was turned, shows their incoherence and inconsistency,” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement as translated by Politico.

“International cooperation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks,” the statement added, according to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “Let’s be serious and worthy of our people. We make commitments and keep them.”

“France and Europe maintain their support for this statement.”

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas was quoted in the same DW article as saying Trump’s late refusal to sign the painstakingly-crafted document was “actually not a real surprise.”

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

“In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 twitter characters,” Maas remarked, a reference to Trump’s tweet rejecting the joint communiqué.

The six other G7 member nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom — are all subject to new U.S. tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, a source of public frustration and anger even before Trump tweeted Saturday that he wouldn’t be signing the jointly-authored G7 communiqué.

Trump cited a press conference held by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the reason for his about face, and senior advisers to the President matched Trump’s rhetoric in Sunday show appearances, calling Trudeau’s typically mild-mannered remarks a “betrayal,” and saying there was a “special place in hell” for leaders like him.

Without naming Trump, Trudeau tweeted Sunday in support of “[t]he historic and important agreement we all reached” at the summit.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s response to Trump and his advisers, in comments Sunday flagged by the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale, was a bit more frank.

“Canada does not believe that ad hominem attacks are a particularly appropriate or useful way to conduct our relations with other countries,” Freeland told reporters.

“One thing that I give thanks for is that I am not responsible for explaining the reasoning behind any comments made by the officials of any foreign government, and that is a good thing.”

“We used fact-based arguments. We believe that trade is win-win, and we believe that our economic relationship with the United States is mutually beneficial and reciprocal,” she said separately, adding: “We are aware, however, the U.S.— This current administration has a different paradigm.”

This post has been updated.

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White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday that there is a “special place in hell” for leaders like Canadian Primer Minister Justin Trudeau who, Navarro said, had engaged in “bad diplomacy.”

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,” Navarro told “Fox News Sunday”’s Chris Wallace. “And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”

“That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One.”

It was a stunning statement, and it echoed the aggression employed by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow in a separate interview Sunday following this weekend’s G7 summit.

“A special place in hell” for one of America’s closest allies? Trudeau was “weak” and “dishonest” for denouncing American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, and announcing, as Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had a week prior to the G7 summit, that Canada would retaliate with its own tariffs on American goods?

“Those are my words,” Navarro said later. “But they’re the sentiment that was on Air Force One after that Look, Chris, this is just wrong what Trudeau is doing.”

Navarro said that Trudeau’s press conference following Trump’s early departure from the G7 summit on Saturday was “one of the worst political miscalculations of a Canadian leader in modern Canadian history.”

He said Trump had done Trudeau the “courtesy” of traveling to the summit when “he had other things, bigger things on his plate,” referring to Trump’s June 12 summit with North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un.

“He was even willing to sign that socialist communique,” Navarro said, referring to the joint statement of G7 nations that Trump ultimately refused to sign, and which was reportedly the result of hard-line American demands.

He called Canada’s planned retaliatory tariffs “nothing short of an attack on our political system.”

“The Canadians are totally bungling our trade relationships, and it’s due to their leadership,” he added, saying Canada was “not playing fair. Dishonest, weak.”

Wallace pressed him on the results of Trump’s aggressive trade stance: Weren’t other countries’ newly announced tariffs on American goods the opposite of what the White House wanted?

Navarro did not budge, pointing to the existing difference in import duties on automobiles in the United States and the European Union. 

“On the issue of [tariffs and trade deficits] alone, we have allies strategically, but when it comes to trade disputes, these allies are basically robbing us blind,” he said. “The President is not going to put up with that.”

Watch below:

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White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back,” gone “rogue” and “pour[ed] collateral damage on this whole Korean trip” with comments during a Saturday news conference following the G7 summit in Canada this weekend.

Kudlow blamed Trudeau he once incorrectly called the Canadian leader by his father’s name, Pierre for President Donald Trump’s alliance-rattling decision to reject a previously agreed-upon communiqué written by all attendees of the summit.

“Don’t blame Trump,” Kudlow said, jabbing his finger into the table as he spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper. “It was Trudeau who started blasting Trump after he left, after the deals were made.”

He was referring to a press conference Trudeau held after Trump’s early exit from the summit; the President left hours early on Saturday, skipping an event on climate change and clean energy, among others.

In the press conference, Trudeau reiterated that Canada planned retaliatory tariffs in response to the new American tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Canadians are polite and reasonable, Trudeau said, “but we also will not be pushed around.”

“These are things that the prime minister has said before, basically,” Kudlow acknowledged in a separate interview with CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan. “But he didn’t say them before after a successful G7 communiqué where President Trump and the others all worked in good faith to put a statement together.”

He added later, referring to Trudeau’s press conference: “You want to say that right after a successful G7 meeting? Is that necessary? Where’s the good faith? Where’s the optimism?”

Kudlow called Trudeau’s comments a “betrayal,” and asserted that “POTUS is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around on the eve” of the June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“So this was about North Korea?” Tapper asked.

“Of course it was, in large part,” Kudlow said, adding: “One thing leads to another, Jake, they are all related.”

“Kim must not see American weakness.”

Kudlow added later: “[Trudeau] can’t put Trump in a position of being weak going into the North Korean talks with Kim. He can’t do that. And by the way, President Trump is not weak. He will be very strong as he always is.”

If not surprising, it was a forceful defense of an administration guilty of all of the transgressions for which it had punished its neighbor and close ally: Canada was responding to Trump’s tariffs on longtime American allies, and Trudeau’s condemnatory language was nothing compared to Trump’s daily tweets.

To that point, Kudlow delivered the administration’s canned response: “How many times has President Trump said, ‘If you hit me, I’m going to hit you back’?”

Watch below via CNN:

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