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

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recently resigned personnel chief has been accused in a preliminary report of fostering a culture of sexual harassment for years, the Washington Post reported Monday, “in which women were hired as possible sexual partners for male employees.”

The Post reported the news based on an executive summary of a preliminary months-long internal investigation and interviews with FEMA officials, including an on-the-record exchange with FEMA administrator Brock Long.

Corey Coleman, whose official title was Chief Component Human Capital Officer, according to an archived FEMA webpage, resigned on June 18 before a scheduled interview as part of the probe, the Post noted. He’d led the personnel office since 2011.

“What we uncovered was a systemic problem going back years,” Long told the paper, noting, in the Post’s words, that “some of the behavior could rise to the level of criminal activity.” The misconduct reportedly went back at least as far as 2015.

“The biggest problem I may solve here may be the eradication of this cancer,” he added. “How many complaints were not heard? I’ve got to make sure we have a safe working environment for our employees.”

The probe is “not going to stop with [Coleman],” Long said.

Long further told the Post that Coleman had hired “dozens” of college friends and fraternity brothers, and women he’d met on dating sites and at bars, subsequently promoting them without following procedure.

An unnamed FEMA official told the Post that Coleman transferred women around different departments and locations “so his friends could try to have sexual relationships with them,” in the paper’s words.

Coleman himself had at least two sexual relationships with subordinates, the Post said, in 2015 and 2017. One woman was denied a promotion and threatened with termination after she ended the relationship; and Coleman created a new position for the other woman, for which she told investigators she was unqualified.

Unnamed FEMA officials told the Post that the department’s inspector general had received complaints about Coleman prior to the start of Long’s tenure in 2017, referring them back to the agency. And Long told the Post that he had personally received a complaint about Coleman, which he said he forwarded to the FEMA general counsel.

Read the Post’s full report here.

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Monday re-emphasized his willingness to shut down the government over his immigration, national security and border wall demands. But he was noncommittal when pressed on what specific issues would trigger him shutting down the government.

“As far as the border is concerned, if we don’t get border security, after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. That echoed a tweet he sent Sunday: 

He added later, referring to a slew of policy priorities: “I would certainly be willing to close it down to get it done.”

But, pressed for specifics on his demands, he failed to offer any.

It began with a question from the Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti: “To follow up on what you were saying about the shutdown,” Enjeti said, “are you saying that you would be willing to shut the government down in September if it does not fully fund $25 billion worth of your border wall, and also deliver all of the immigration priorities that you listed in your tweet? Or are you leaving some room for negotiation there?”

“I’ll always leave room for negotiation,” Trump answered. Later, asked if Congress approving $25 billion for a border wall was a “red line,” Trump said he had no such red line.

Instead, he simply listed his standard set of preferred policies — including ending what he calls “chain migration,” the policies that can ease migration for the family members of individuals lawfully present in the United States; ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program; ending “these horrible catch and release principles,” otherwise known as releasing immigrants and asylum-seekers from detention as they await court dates; and funding a border wall. 

He also repeated his attacks on immigration law itself, incorrectly asserting that “they want us to hire thousands of judges.”

No one in Congress or his administration is calling for such a large number of immigration judges to be added to the system, though politicians and advocates of many different political stripes have said that adding some immigration judges will ease the the lengthy backlog of current cases.

Read More →

What a mess.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani called into Fox News Monday afternoon to clean up interviews he did earlier in the day.

On Monday morning, Giuliani said that collusion isn’t a crime — implying that was something it would be useful to clarify, despite months of presidential denials of collusion with Russia. He also said he couldn’t be sure that Trump didn’t know ahead of time about the now-infamous meeting in which, a British publicist had told Donald Trump Jr., Russians promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.

On Fox News, Giuliani began by walking back those claims, before taking any questions.

Describing it as a “very, very familiar lawyers’ argument,” Giuliani said of collusion: “My client didn’t do it, and even if he did it, it’s not a crime.”

Next, Giuliani referred to the President’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who now appears ready to cooperate with prosecutors.

“I said, ‘Why would we attack Cohen? He can do terrible things.’ He cannot do terrible things,” Giuliani asserted. “We are fully confident that he has no information that would implicate the President of the United States.”

Giuliani also attempted to “pre-but” reporting on yet another 2016 campaign meeting, information about which he said had already been given to two news outlets who hadn’t published it yet.

“The jury for this case is the American public,” he said at one point, adding that “maybe one of the reasons we reemphasize the point about the legitimacy of the investigation is we want to show that maybe [Trump] shouldn’t be testifying at an investigation that has no legitimacy.” 

Before hanging up, he drove the point home: “I also understand the confusion. Believe me, it’s going to get more confusing when these other tapes start coming out. But eventually, when you put them all together, it’s going to mean the President did nothing wrong.”

Giuliani discussed three meetings on Fox News on Monday — though he contends that two of them never actually happened. Here’s what he said about each meeting.

The Russian “dirt” meeting

This meeting has been confirmed by the Trump campaign, most notably Donald Trump Jr.: Senior members of the Trump campaign met with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, after Trump Jr. received an email promising such dirt from the British publicist Rob Goldstone. Goldstone said in an email that the promised dirt, which never materialized, was part of the Russian government’s effort to help Trump.

Cohen is now reportedly willing to tell prosecutors that Trump knew about, and approved, the meeting ahead of time.

Giuliani acknowledged all of this in the Fox News interview Monday. But he curiously insisted on making clear that, despite no-one asking him this, President Trump was not at the meeting.

“Why are you saying that the President wasn’t at the meeting?” Fox News commentator Melissa Francis asked. “Who asked if he was there? No one asked if he was there.”

Giuliani was blunt: “Cohen is alleging that the meeting took place. We are making it clear that the President was not at that meeting. Cohen doesn’t even allege that. To cut it off.”

The meeting where Donald Trump Jr. reportedly gave his dad a heads-up about the dirt meeting

On the same day of the dirt meeting, Giuliani said Monday, Cohen (or someone speaking to reporters on his behalf) has claimed “that he was in President Trump’s office, Donald Trump Jr. walked in and told him about the Russian meeting.”

“That is categorically untrue,” Giuliani said. “Did not happen. Two witnesses demonstrate that. He has talked about this endlessly on those 183 unique recordings and he never mentions it at all.”

The two witnesses, he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Monday morning, are the President and his son.

Cohen’s claim that Trump knew about the meeting ahead of time broke last week. Trump and his lawyers have strongly denied that Trump had any foreknowledge of that meeting — until Monday morning, when Giuliani claimed he could no longer be certain. He reversed that comment on Fox News.

Giuliani added on Fox News: “So the public record contains a leak by Cohen that he was present at a meeting in which Donald Jr. came in and informed the President. We deny that happened. We say it didn’t happen and if it had happened, it would’ve been mentioned a long time ago on the various hours of tapes that we have.”

“Another meeting that has been leaked but hasn’t been published yet”

Giuliani told Fox News that he and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had heard from reporters who’d been told about another meeting “in which they [Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and ‘possibly others’], out of the presence of the President, discussed the meeting with the Russians.”

He categorically denied that the un-reported meeting he’d just brought up had ever happened.

“We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, for four of the six,” Giuliani said. “That meeting never ever took place, it didn’t happen. It’s a figment of his imagination, or he’s lying.”

Giuliani mentioned a similar-sounding meeting on CNN earlier Monday, except he said it happened two days before the Russian dirt meeting, not three days before. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, “and one more person” were in attendance, he said: “That’s a real meeting on another provable subject in which he was not participating.”

Giuliani told Fox News that at least one of those senior advisers did meet three days before the dirt meeting, but on something unrelated to Russia. Instead, he said, “the only meeting they find for that day that included any of these people is a meeting about the Hispanic judge that the President had criticized back around that time.” That is, Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

He added separately, “The second meeting was brought to my attention through Jay Sekulow. Both of us dealt with it with two different reporters, essentially the same information, about this meeting that took place three days earlier [that is, three days before the dirt meeting] with a whole group of people.”

He continued: “Everyone of those people says it didn’t happen. And why do I mention it? Because first of all, I thought it was going to come out, and second, my experience is that when you have something like this floating around, it comes out. And I don’t want it to come out and be un-rebutted when it originally comes out.”

“When I thought that it was going to be published,” Giuliani said, “I wanted to get out in front of it.”

This post has been updated.

Read More →

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told a journalist on Friday that “there’s not a person in this town” who wouldn’t accept a meeting like the one members of the Trump campaign took with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

David Corn, Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief, reported Monday morning that he’d run into Rohrabacher on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Corn said he asked the California Republican what he thought of the recent news that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, is reportedly willing to tell prosecutors that President Donald Trump knew of, and approved, members of his campaign meeting with Russians promising dirt on Clinton.

“Zero,” Rohrabacher said. “It’s a big zero.”

Corn pressed: If Cohen’s reported claims are correct, did Trump knowingly collude with a Russian operation?

“There’s not a person in this town who would not take a meeting to get material like that,” Rohrabacher said. In Corn’s words, the congressman “suggested he would.”

Pressed further, Rohrabacher said the Trump campaign hadn’t known they were meeting with what Corn called a “mobster.” “But did they know that?” Rohrabacher said, referring to the Russians’ connections to Vladimir Putin.

Corn noted that they would have known that: It was stated right an email from British publicist Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump, Jr. that the information potentially available to the Trump campaign was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Rohrabacher was similarly dismissive, Corn says, of the revelation that in 2017 he’d attended a dinner with Mariia Butina, who is now accused of conspiring to carry out an influence operation by infiltrating the NRA and conservative political circles.

“She was at the other end of table of 30 people and now they say I ‘dined’ with her,’” Rohrabacher said.

And what of the news that Butina had set up a meeting in 2015 between Rohrabacher and her alleged handler, Russian central banker Alexander Torshin? 

Rohrabacher, Corn said, acknowledged that Butina was at his meeting with Torshin, but that he’d never met her.

“This is fake news,” he said of the case against Butina. “The charges are B.S. She was just a gofer.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump capped a day of rambling tweets — about the New York Times, “consequences” for people who cross the border illegally and his bizarre and false claim that he has the “highest Poll Numbers in the history of the Republican Party” — with a string of provable falsehoods and unspecified accusations about special counsel Robert Mueller.

A number of Trump’s claims are false: Mueller is a registered Republican, for one thing, and it’s not true that the 17 lawyers who the Justice Department has said are part of his office are all Democrats. Besides, as the Washington Post reported last year, “Federal regulations prohibit the Justice Department from considering the political affiliation or political contributions of career appointees, including those appointed to the Special Counsel’s Office.”

Also, as has been thoroughly reported, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ own actions set off an FBI counterintelligence investigation months before the bureau sought a warrant to surveil Carter Page, the application for which partially cited the Steele dossier.

For all his color commentary on Twitter, the President has only called the Mueller probe an “illegal Scam!” on the website once before, last week. He hasn’t provided any evidence that backs up that characterization.

The White House didn’t respond to TPM’s inquiry about what, precisely, Trump meant when he referred to Mueller’s “conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship.”

However, the New York Times reported in January that Trump had previously argued that Mueller was ineligible to oversee the Russian interference probe because for three reasons:

First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.

Read More →

President Donald Trump last week bragged about popularizing the term “fake news” and mentioned how other countries had begun to ban content judged to be fake, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times was reporting on its own publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who, along with Times editorial page editor James Bennet, met with Trump on July 20.

While the conversation was initially agreed to be off the record, the Times said Trump had put broken that agreement by tweeting about the meeting on Sunday. Subsequently, Sulzberger released a statement in which he recalled warning Trump that using terms like “enemy of the people” to describe journalists would inspire violence against them.

Based on a phone call with Sulzberger, the Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported an additional topic from last week’s meeting:

At another point, Mr. Trump expressed pride in popularizing the phrase “fake news,” and said other countries had begun banning it. Mr. Sulzberger responded that those countries were dictatorships and that they were not banning “fake news” but rather independent scrutiny of their actions.

In April, Malaysia made it a criminal act to share information deemed to be fake news — “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas” per Poynter — becoming the first country to do so, according to the Times.

Since then, other countries have pursued laws to restrict news considered to be fake.

Later on Sunday, Trump appeared to respond to Sulzberger’s statement with more tweets.

Read More →

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Sunday that he didn’t think President Donald Trump’s threatened shutdown of the government over his immigration and border wall priorities “would be helpful” for Republicans facing elections in November. 

In an interview with Johnson Sunday, CBS “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan asked about President Donald Trump’s tweet earlier in the day threatening a government shutdown if Congress didn’t approve more funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, among other demands.

You’re the chair of homeland security committee, should we expect a September shutdown?” Brennan asked.

“Let’s hope not,” Johnson said. “I think hopefully most of the appropriation bills will actually be passed, a little better prioritization of spending. I certainly don’t like playing shutdown politics.”

Brennan asked “how damaging” a shutdown would be for Republican candidates ahead of the November elections.

“I don’t think it’d be helpful,” Johnson said. “So let’s try and avoid it.”

Watch below:

Read More →

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said Sunday that he’d told President Donald Trump in a meeting that Trump’s rhetoric about journalists being “the enemy of the people” was “dangerous and harmful to our country.”

The statement came after Trump tweeted about the meeting Sunday morning.

According to the Times, the conversation between Trump, Sulzberger and Times editorial page editor James Bennet took place more than a week ago, on July 20. The meeting was originally off-the-record, until Trump’s tweet on Sunday. 

After a gunman shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland in late June, the newsroom wrote in an editorial: “We won’t forget being called an enemy of the people.”

Read the Times’ and Sulzberger’s statement in full:

Statement of A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times, in Response to President Trump’s Tweet About Their Meeting

Earlier this month, A.G. received a request from the White House to meet with President Trump. This was not unusual; there has been a long tradition of New York Times publishers holding such meetings with presidents and other public figures who have concerns about coverage.

On July 20th, A.G. went to the White House, accompanied by James Bennet, who oversees the editorial page of The Times. Mr. Trump’s aides requested that the meeting be off the record, which has also been the practice for such meetings in the past.

But with Mr. Trump’s tweet this morning, he has put the meeting on the record, so A.G. has decided to respond to the president’s characterization of their conversation, based on detailed notes A.G. and James took.

Statement of A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times:

My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.

I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world. I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.

Correction: The photo initially accompanying this post showed Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., the Times’ former publisher. His son, A.G. Sulzberger, is the current publisher. TPM regrets the error.

Read More →

As hundreds of families continue to remain apart due to the Trump administration’s family separation policy, the President was unapologetic Sunday, saying “there are consequences” for people who cross the border illegally, “whether they have children or not.”

The government has failed to reunite hundreds of asylum-seeking and migrant families who were separated at the border as a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, with Justice Department lawyers arguing in court that many are ineligible to ever be reunited with their children on U.S. soil.

Seeking asylum, even while crossing the border illegally between ports of entry, is not illegal. And border officers, advocates say, have often refused asylum-seekers at ports of entry. 

Hundreds of parents have been deported without their children, many seemingly without fully understanding what was happening.

“The government is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process and that’s where we go next,” U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said this week.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee separately appointed an independent monitor to force the Trump administration to comply with safety standards for children held in detention.

Trump added Sunday that he would be willing to shut down the government if Democrats in Congress didn’t offer “votes for Border Security,” which he defined as more funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border (for which the White House has long stopped asserting the Mexican government will pay), the elimination of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, and other items.


Read More →

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday pledged up to $12 billion in farm aide, in a “one-time” action, for farmers affected by President Donald Trump’s trade war.

“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. An accompanying press release said the USDA would take “several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.” (Read the full release here.) The Washington Post first reported the $12 billion plan Tuesday. 

Perdue added: “Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs. USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations.”

Except it was the trade war Trump — not other world leaders — started that led to the retaliatory tariffs.

“Tariffs are the greatest!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

“We’re opening up markets. You watch what’s going to happen. Just be a little patient,” he said at a rally Tuesday around the time news of the USDA package broke.

On a conference call with reporters earlier Tuesday, Trump administration officials said the $12 billion was “one time” action.

As Jonathan Allen noted in an NBC News analysis, “Read another way, that means $12 billion for farmers in an election year — and nothing once they’ve voted.”

Agricultural industry publication IEG Policy noted Tuesday that “Officials on the call with reporters were not asked if the push to get the plan out now would make sure that benefits under the effort would start going out to farmers and ranchers ahead of the November elections, but this certainly looks like that was the effort.”

The USDA is utilizing the Commodity Credit Corporation, created in 1933, to do three things: Make direct payments to “producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs”; “purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs”; and “assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.” 

But farm state politicians stress the money is little more than a Band-Aid and that, once overseas markets for American good are lost to producers in other countries, some may be lost for good.

Read More →