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

Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist and new acting EPA chief, introduced himself to agency rank-and-file by borrowing a line from former administrator Scott Pruitt about listening to their concerns. (We’ll see.) The term “coal lobbyist,” Wheeler added, “has been used by some people in a derogatory manner, but I am actually proud of the work I did.” Some of Pruitt’s anti-transparency steps appear to be on their way out, as are some of his loyal aides.

“Now it’s time to focus on helping Republicans in November,” said one of them, spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. He once told Atlantic reporter Elaina Plott: “You’re a piece of trash.”

Multiple investigations into Pruitt’s behavior continue.

Wilbur Ross continues to admit to new failures to divest from the certain stocks after claiming last year that he’d done just that.

An NRA lobbyist turned Interior Department official may have violated the Trump administration’s barely enforced ethics rules by participating in meetings on issues that he’d advocated for as a lobbyist just months earlier. Also, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s socks probably violated the Hatch Act; the Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file.

The Trump administration reportedly threatened Ecuador and other nations over a World Health Organization breastfeeding resolution.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai continues to ignore questions, and deadlines for answering those questions, from senators over whether his agency lied about a supposedly malicious a cyber attack against its public comment portal during the net neutrality debate.

The Border Patrol agent who, for some reason, grilled a New York Times reporter about her travel habits and relationship with a Senate staffer, is now himself reportedly the subject of a DHS inspector general probe.

Speaking of inspectors general: The acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs — that most contested position — faced bipartisan condemnation after telling the department’s IG, “I am your immediate supervisor. You are directed to act accordingly.”

With an executive order, and following a Supreme Court ruling, President Trump changed the procedure for naming nearly 2,000 administrative law judges: They’ll now be appointed by individual agencies — and thus subject to ideological and corporate influences — rather than drawn from a central pool of applicants assessed by the Office of Personnel Management.

The government claimed Thursday that it had complied with a court order by reuniting 57 children under five years old with their parents, from whom they’d been separated at the border as a result of Trump administration policy. Except 103 children under five were initially covered by the ACLU’s lawsuit against the government over family separation.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, seen more as a bureaucratic agency than a law-enforcement one, will now issue vastly more “notices to appear [in immigration court]” having essentially been deputized to do what’s traditionally been Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s job. Expect more students and guest workers to be placed into deportation proceedings.

Finally, border agents have begun implementing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ ruling that domestic and gang violence are not valid grounds to seek asylum.

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A federal court on Thursday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s request to be let out of jail while he appeals the trial judge’s decision to jail him until his trial.

“The court declines to exercise its authority under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 9(a)(3) because appellant has not shown that immediate relief before resolution of his expedited appeal is warranted,” the one-page order read (see the order below).

Manafort was transferred to an Alexandria, Virginia jail Thursday, and shortly afterward his mugshot was released.

Manafort’s lawyers had argued late last month that their client, then housed in Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, was too far away from Washington, D.C. to allow them to sufficiently prepare for trial.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis moved Manafort to the Alexandria jail as a result, ignoring his attorneys’ protestations that “issues of distance and inconvenience must yield to concerns about his safety and, more importantly, the challenges he will face in adjusting to a new place of confinement and the changing circumstances of detention two weeks before trial.”

Read the court order below:

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Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page will appear before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees for a transcribed interview on Friday “which will continue on Monday,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said Thursday.

“Lisa Page has finally agreed to appear before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees for a transcribed interview tomorrow,” Goodlatte said in a statement.

“This decision is long overdue. As part of the Committees’ joint investigation into decisions made by the Justice Department in 2016, we have sought her testimony for seven months, ultimately resulting in a subpoena demanding her presence. Lisa Page is a key witness in our investigation and we need to hear from her about her role related to certain decisions made by the Department and Bureau.”

Page’s 2016 anti-Trump text messages with FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom she was having an affair, have fueled a bitter congressional inquiry looking into the potential bias on display therein, among other things. Strzok appeared before the joint committees in a public hearing Thursday.

Page defied a subpoena, issued days ago, to appear Wednesday for a closed-door deposition. Goodlatte threatened later Wednesday to hold her in contempt of Congress if she did not appear beside Strzok on Thursday, or to give a deposition on Friday.

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The Trump administration claimed victory on Thursday after reuniting only 57 out of the 103 children under 5 years old who were separated from their parents at the border as a result of Trump administration policy.

The families are covered by an ACLU lawsuit, Ms. L vs. ICE, in which U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered the government to reunite families that had been separated by Trump administration policy. Children under age 5 were ordered to be reunited with their parents by Tuesday; older children were ordered to be reunited by July 26. An adult had elected late to be added to the suit, raising the number of young children separated from their parents to 103 from 102, the Trump administration said.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION COMPLETES REUNIFICATION FOR ELIGIBLE CHILDREN UNDER 5,” read the headline of a joint Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services statement Thursday morning. 

On a phone call with reporters Thursday morning, Chris Meekins, chief of staff of HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, was blunt about what would happen to the children whose parents were deemed “ineligible” for reunification.

“For any kid that has a adult that’s been deemed ineligible, we continue to go through the normal sponsorship process,” Meekins said, meaning that children could be taken out of foster care by other family members in the United States, if those adults are deemed suitable sponsors. “We go through the normal process we go through for the 12,000 kids that we currently have in our care.”

Later in the statement, the administration explained away the parents who remained separated from their 46 children: 12 have already been deported “and are being contacted.” (The Trump administration had previously argued they shouldn’t be required to reunite children with deported parents. Sabraw disagreed.)

“If those parents want their children to go return with them — which, again, they had that opportunity once — we are working with the consular officials in the foreign governments to provide information that would help facilitate that, but we don’t have the legal authority to bring those individuals back into the country for reunification purposes,” Matthew Albence, executive associate director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division, said on the call.

Eleven adults were either in the custody of the U.S. Marshals “for other offenses” (9) or in the the custody of state jails (2). Eleven adults had what the Trump administration called a “serious criminal history.” Seven adults were “determined not to be the parent.” And one adult each had a “falsified birth certificate,” was “alleged to have abused the child” and was “being treated for a communicable disease.”

One adult’s location “has been unknown for over a year,” the Trump administration said. (They may be an American citizen.) And one adult was ineligible for reunification because another adult in the same household had been found to have previously been charged with sexually abusing a child, when the government ran newly required background checks on everyone in the household.

Sabraw on Tuesday told the government to stop fingerprinting and vetting every adult sharing a household with parents who’d been separated from their children, a new procedure that immigration advocates argue creates a disincentive for reunification — undocumented people are understandably wary of handing their fingerprints over to DHS, which houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The parents are not applying for custody,” Sabraw said. “They don’t have to prove they will be a good sponsor. The government has to prove they are unfit or a danger.”

On the call Thursday, the government refused to detail the specific reasons that all 11 adults with a “serious criminal history” had been deemed ineligible for being reunited with their children. In its press release, and earlier on the call, the Trump administration had listed only a handful of examples.

“Are they all convictions?” a Washington Post reporter asked. “What kind of charges are we talking about? Can they at some point get their children back?”

Albence did as he’d done before, listing just a few examples to represent the 11 adults with “serious criminal” histories.

“We have an adult who was charged with smuggling,” he said, “an adult convicted of child cruelty and narcotics, an adult with domestic violence charges, an adult wanted for murder in their home country. There are others that we can go through as well, but these are pretty serious things—”

The reporter interjected: Would the government list all of the reasons the 11 adults were deemed ineligible?

“I just went through those examples,” Albence said, sounding annoyed. “I’m not going to go through every one of the 11, but those are representative of each and every case that we have.”

This post has been updated. 

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The chairs of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees on Tuesday threatened to hold former FBI lawyer Lisa Page in contempt of Congress if she does not testify before the committees this week.

Page, whose 2016 anti-Trump text messages with FBI agent Peter Strzok have become the stuff of conspiratorial Republican hysteria, defied a Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify in a closed-door setting before the committees on Wednesday. Her attorney said Page hadn’t been given enough information about the committees’ intended line of questioning.

As an additional, and final, accommodation, the [Judiciary] Committee will stay the contempt proceedings provided Lisa Page voluntarily appears on July 12, 2018, at 10:00 a.m., at a previously scheduled public hearing regarding relevant issues under investigation,” Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) wrote.

“While your client would still be deposed at some point, appearance at the hearing scheduled for Thursday July 12, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. would negate the need for immediate contempt proceedings,” they added. “Alternatively, your client, Lisa Page, could present herself for a deposition on Friday, July 13, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. This option would stay contempt proceedings and resolve the Committees’ need to depose your client.” 

“The Committees would be asking Lisa about materials that she has not yet been shown,” Page’s attorney Amy Jeffress said on Tuesday, explaining Page’s refusal to show up for Wednesday’s deposition. “In fact, Lisa and I went to the FBI today today to review the materials that were previously produced to Congress related to her proposed interview, but after waiting more than three hours, we were not provided with any documents.”

Read Gowdy and Goodlatte’s letter to Page below:

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week asked all 93 U.S. attorneys to provide up to three prosecutors each from their offices to help review documents needed for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The New York Times reported Wednesday on the emailed request, which carried the subject line “Personal Message to U.S. attorneys from the Deputy AG,” to the U.S. attorneys.

The Times reported that Rosenstein wrote he “expected to need the equivalent of 100 full-time lawyers to work on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing,” in the paper’s words.

The judge’s long paper trail — on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, as an appointee in the George W. Bush White House and as an associate counsel on the Ken Starr probe — promise to make his confirmation process document-filled and cumbersome.

“The scope of the production of executive branch documents we’ve been asked for is many, many times as large” as that of other recent nominees to the Court, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told the Times.

The paper noted that while Justice Department lawyers have helped with previous Supreme Court nominations, those lawyers usually come from the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, not the law enforcement-focused U.S. attorneys’ offices.

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said Wednesday that CNN was “contacting all 100+ of our former staff and interns asking for dirt on me.” Jordan said the network was “Getting desperate!”

The rightwing congressman has been accused by several former Ohio State University wrestlers of ignoring the late Dr. Richard Strauss’ alleged widespread sexual abuse of students when Jordan was an assistant coach on the team.

Jordan has maintained that he did not know about the abuse, saying earlier Wednesday, “To think that I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, the number of wrestlers accusing Jordan of ignoring the abuse has continued to increase.

CNN did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said Wednesday that it was “ridiculous” to think he wouldn’t have stood up for student wrestlers at Ohio State University if he truly knew a school doctor was sexually abusing them, as some former wrestlers have claimed.

“I’m telling the truth,” Jordan told reporters. “Look, I stood up to the speaker of the house from my home state, I stood up to the IRS and I’ve stood up to the FBI. To think that I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous.”

After news first broke last week that former OSU wrestlers had accused Jordan of knowingly ignoring the late Dr. Richard Strauss sexual’s abuse when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at the school, the rightwing Ohio congressman has continued to deny knowledge of what the wrestlers say was systematic and widely known behavior.

More and more former wrestlers have since claimed Jordan knew what was going on. The congressman in turn hired a conservative PR firm as former coaches and fellow Republican congressman have come to his defense.

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Vice President Mike Pence refused to take a position Tuesday on whether he’d want Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to side against abortion rights, but he maintained the Trump administration “will continue to be a pro-life administration.”

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if he still personally want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, Pence said “I do, but I haven’t been nominated to the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh has.”

Pence’s evasions appeared carefully crafted to avoid disrupting Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, which will feature questions aimed at picking apart his stance on abortion rights and whether he might eventually overturn or gut Roe.

“I stand for the sanctity of life,” Pence said separately. “This administration, this President, are pro-life.

“But what the American people ought to know is that, as the President said today, this was not an issue that he discussed with Judge Kavanaugh. I didn’t discuss it with him, either.”

Bash repeatedly pressed Pence on Trump’s campaign-era promises that his administration’s Supreme Court nominees would oppose Roe.

“The President believes that the proper consideration for a nominee to the Court is not about litmus tests,” Pence said in response. “Frankly, we’ve seen enough of litmus tests over the decades.”

“What we don’t want is to have people go to the courts with a specific objective or policy criteria. We want people to go that respect the Constitution, respect the Constitution as written, will not legislate from the bench, and President Trump and I are absolutely convinced that Judge Kavanaugh is exactly the kind of jurist that the American people — in the majority — want to see on the Court.”

“The President did say that he wanted a litmus test,” Bash corrected him before moving on.

In a separate interview with Fox News’ Brett Baier Tuesday, Pence was shown video of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) saying that Trump had nominated “someone who will not protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her life, her healthcare, her reproductive freedom.”

Pence was similarly evasive in response, saying Trump picked Kavanaugh for his “background,” “temperament” and “experience.”

“The President wanted to put someone on the bench who would not legislate from the bench, who would not, as has been too much of the case in the last generation or more, where we’ve had members of our federal judiciary who literally have been making policy and making law from the bench,” he added.

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting. 

A federal judge told the Trump administration on Tuesday to lay off using some of its most stringent vetting procedures before reuniting families separated at the border.

At a status conference, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw told the government that it did not need to fingerprint everyone in a given parent’s household in order to reunite that parent with their child.

Earlier this year, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services — the agencies responsible for detaining families at the border and housing children who have been separated from their families, respectively — announced a new partnership in which potential sponsors to take children out of HHS custody would be fingerprinted, as would everyone in the sponsor’s household. The fingerprints would be provided to DHS, which houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to conduct a background check.

Given that many households for potential sponsors include undocumented immigrants wary of being in contact with ICE, the fingerprint requirement may have led to an increase in the amount of time children spend in government custody.

Sabraw said Tuesday that “full background checks of other adults in the household are not necessary under these unique circumstances.”

“I would adopt a more streamlined approach here,” he said, adding: “The parents are not applying for custody. They don’t have to prove they will be a good sponsor. The government has to prove they are unfit or a danger.”

He similarly said the government should limit its use of DNA tests to reunite parents and children, following the ACLU’s argument that the government was using the tests to delay family reunifications. (In response to the ACLU’s suit against the government over family separations, Sabraw ordered last month that the families must be reunited.)

“The purpose of the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act ] is to promote the best interests of the child and to reunite families,” the ACLU had argued. “Delayed reunification, especially for babies and toddlers, is not in the best interests of the child.”

“I would permit DNA testing when necessary, when there is a legitimate good faith concern about parentage or legitimate concern the government will not meet the reunification deadline,” Sabraw said.

Sabraw had set Tuesday as the deadline for the government to reunite parents with children under 5 years old from whom they’d been separated at the border. The Trump administration fell far short of that requirement, saying that only a third of the families would be reunited by the end of the day.

Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said at one point in the conference that one of the separated children was not eligible for release because, in the course of a previous fingerprint background check, someone in the child’s parent’s household was found to have a history of sexual abuse.

Sabraw granted that in this one case the reunification would not go forward absent a new placement, in a household where the sex offender was not present.

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