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

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said earlier this week that it is “opportunistic” and “misplaced” for reporters to tie Hurricane Harvey to climate change.

Harvey is the worst rain event in U.S. history, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, while the rain was still falling over Houston. The Post noted separately that the storm had delivered the Houston area its third “500-year flood” in three years — that is, storms so bad they have a 1 in 500 chance of happening in a given year and local area.

In an interview Monday with Pruitt, Breitbart News’ Alex Marlow asked if he had seen the “left-wing media’”s attempts “to make this seem like it’s climate change, that climate change is responsible, it’s actually America’s fossil fuel consumption that’s caused this tropical storm.”

Pruitt said that he hadn’t, given how “focused” he was on the agency’s response to Harvey. Pruitt is known as a close ally of the fossil fuel industry and a skeptic, to say the least, of climate science. Numerous outlets have reported on a Trump administration effort within the EPA to avoid using the term “climate change.”

Marlow pressed: “What would you say, theoretically, if they challenged you and they said that ‘this is something that has only taken place because of climate change,’ what would be your response?”

“I think at this point to look at things like this and to talk about a cause and effect really isn’t helping the people of Texas right now,” Pruitt responded. “And that’s our response, that should be our response, that we want to work together with Texas to ensure that people have safe drinking water, and power’s back on, and we see the right response by each of the federal agencies.”

He added: “So, I think for opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause and effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced.”

Though climate scientists are wary of tying specific weather events like Harvey to larger phenomena like climate change, the EPA’s own scientists and researchers have acknowledged its affects on extreme weather.

In the words of an EPA press release, “[r]ising global average temperature is associated with widespread changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change.”

The accompanying study, of “Climate Change Indicators” in 2016 data, found that temperatures in the continental United States have risen since 1901, and especially so over the last three decades.

It specified, referring to “Heavy Precipitation” events: “In recent years, a higher percentage of precipitation in the United States has come in the form of intense single-day events. The prevalence of extreme single-day precipitation events remained fairly steady between 1910 and the 1980s but has risen substantially since then. Nationwide, nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have occurred since 1990.”

Several EPA spokespeople did not respond to TPM’s questions on Pruitt’s remarks and the agency’s studies of climate change.

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Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday became the first senator to declare her intention to co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) forthcoming “Medicare-for-All” proposal.

“I intend to co-sponsor the Medicaid-for-All bill,” she told a town hall in Oakland, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“It’s so much better people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage from birth on because the alternative [is] we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts for money for them to get their health care in an emergency room,” she added, according to ThinkProgress. “It’s not only about what’s morally and ethically right, it also just makes sense from a fiscal standpoint or a return on investment for taxpayers.”

Harris told reporters afterward, according to video captured by The Sacramento Bee: “All people should have access to affordable health care.”

Sanders, who campaigned on a Medicare-for-all proposal during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, thanked Harris on Twitter:

Sanders first said he would introduce a single-payer health care bill in “within a couple of weeks” in March, though he has championed similar bills before, Vermont Public Radio noted at the time. The outlet reported Tuesday that Sanders said he would introduce a bill lowering Medicare’s eligibility age to 55, from 65, “shortly.” “That is one way to phase it in,” he said of the incremental step.

Vox noted Wednesday that a number of prominent Democratic senators have expressed their support for single-payer legislation without explicitly endorsing Sanders’ forthcoming proposal. A record number of House Democrats, the publication added, support Rep. John Conyers’ (D-MI) single-payer bill. He has introduced the legislation in Congress every year since 2003.

“Single-payer” refers to a health care payment structure in which the government pays private health care providers for all essential services. Medicare currently operates as a single-payer program

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Eric Trump said Tuesday that the tenor of the media coverage of his father’s family and presidency was enough to make someone kill themselves out of depression.

“If they weren’t talking about you, you wouldn’t be doing something right and it’s important to keep it in context, otherwise quite frankly you’d probably end up killing yourself out of depression,” the 33-year-old told WOAI’s Joe Pags. “But he’s doing a great job.”

Trump — who in June said congressional Democrats were “not even people — told Pags that politics is “the nastiest business I’ve ever seen. The evilness and the hatred in that world is unlike anything I could have fathomed before.”

“It’s the media, it’s the mainstream media, who does not want him to succeed,” he added. “It’s government who does not want him to succeed.”

To illustrate his point, Trump highlighted his own fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

“I get killed for raising money for dying children,” he said.

It seemed Trump was referring to Forbes’ investigations in June of his misleading claims that all of the money raised at Eric Trump Foundation golf tournaments actually benefitted St. Jude directly. 

In fact, Forbes found, though the foundation had raised more than $15 million for St. Jude over the years, hundreds of thousands of charitable dollars ended up in the Trump Organization’s coffers, used to pay for expenses at the Trump properties at which the tournaments were held. And hundreds of thousands more were donated to other charities, many of which subsequently hosted charitable events at Trump Organization properties.

“No matter what we do, we’re going to get hit,” Trump said separately on Tuesday, making a general point unrelated to golf.

Listen below:

H/t The Hill, Mediaite.

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A Missouri legislator on Wednesday called for a vandal who defaced a Confederate statue to be lynched.

State Rep. Warren Love (R) was responding on Facebook to a story about an unidentified vandal who threw paint on a Confederate memorial in Springfield National Cemetery, the Riverfront Times reported.

The paper published a screenshot of Love’s Facebook post above the article, which he quickly deleted.

“This is totally against the law,” Love wrote. “I hope they are found & hung from a tall tree with a long rope. National Veterans Cemetery in Springfield, Mo.”

Love later told the paper he didn’t mean for the post to be taken literally. The threat recalled killings that the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups used to enforce strict racial hierarchies.

“That was an exaggerated statement that, you know, a lot of times is used in the Western world when somebody does a crime or commits theft,” he said. “That’s just a Western term and I’m very much a Western man. You know, I wear a coat. You know, I dress Western. And, you know, I’m the cowboy of the Capitol.”

There was another case of ramped-up rhetoric earlier this week.

In Georgia on Monday, a Republican state legislator told his former Democratic colleague of four years that she would “go missing” and encounter “something a lot more definitive” than torches if she continued to advocate for tearing down Confederate monuments in the state.

The Democrat, LaDawn Jones, said she didn’t take the threat personally. But, she told TPM, when she called Rep. Jason Spencer to discuss his remarks, she said he told her: “I was just giving you fair warning.”

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday told Missourians to vote Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) out of office if she refused to support slashing the corporate tax rate.

Trump made the pitch during a speech promoting his administration’s tax agenda, which is still lacking in any significant detail.

He spoke in broad strokes, saying that it was a “monumental thing that happened” when Ronald Reagan signed into law the Tax Reform Act of 1986, lowering the top corporate tax rate to 34 percent. Trump argued that the rest of the world subsequently lowering their tax rates demanded more corporate tax cuts in the United States.

“We must, we have no choice, we must lower our taxes. And your senator, Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you. And if she doesn’t do it for you, you have to vote her out of office,” Trump said to applause. “She’s got to make that commitment. If she doesn’t do it — we just can’t do this anymore with the obstruction and the obstructionists.”

For her part, McCaskill has offered some hope of finding common ground with Trump, including on corporate tax cuts. She is up for reelection in 2018.

“This is an area on which I’m optimistic President Trump and I will find common ground,” she said in a statement to the Washington Post over the weekend. “I’ve talked in a lot of my town halls about my support for simplifying the tax code by cleaning out loopholes and goodies for special interests, and lowering the corporate tax rate — as long as we’re doing it all through the lens of strengthening Missouri’s working families.”

Slashing corporate rates was one of four broad points Trump made during the address, though he didn’t provide detail for any of them. He also outlined simplifying the tax code by removing special interest deductions, making tax returns fit on a single page; providing “tax relief for middle class families”; and making it less “punitive” for corporations to repatriate “trillions of dollars in wealth that’s parked overseas.”

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A Republican state legislator in Georgia earlier this week threatened that a former colleague would “go missing” and encounter “something a lot more definitive” than torches if she pursued the removal of Confederate monuments.

And though LaDawn Jones told TPM Wednesday that she didn’t take personally the threats from Rep. Jason Spencer, she said “the fact that I didn’t personally feel threatened shouldn’t undermine the seriousness of it.”

On Monday, according to several media accounts, Jones and Spencer got into a debate on Facebook over the state’s Confederate monuments.

After a back-and-forth in which Jones said she would tear down Confederate monuments of which Spencer had posted photos, the Republican legislator said, “Continue your quixotic journey into South Georgia and it will not be pleasant. The truth. Not a warning. Those folks won’t put up with it like they do in Atlanta. It best you move on.”

Jones told him to “put your hoods and your tiki torches away,” a references to torch-wielding white nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia in mid-August, ostensibly to protest the removal of a Confederate monument.

“I can guarantee you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive,” Spencer responded. “People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama.”

He added, responding to another person who said “Some people never get it. Atlanta is NOT Georgia”: “You got that right. They will go missing in Okefenokee. Too many necks that are red around here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ‘em.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted screenshots of the exchange, which has since been deleted. Spencer did not respond to TPM’s request for comment. Jones is an outspoken advocate for taking down Confederate memorial statues. Spencer stands by them just as fervently.

“We are at the two opposite extremes of politics and ideology as any two people could be,” she told TPM.

Asked if Spencer’s threats were representative of Georgians’ attitude toward the prospect of removing Confederate monuments, Jones said she was more familiar with Atlanta, where she lives.

But she pointed out state Rep. Tommy Benton’s comments in January 2016, that the Ku Klux Klan was “a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”

“Before he retired, Rep. Benton was an eighth grade history teacher for 30 years,” Jones noted.

Jones said she had spoken with Spencer since the Facebook debate in which he threatened her.

“What I got instead was an explanation about, ‘I didn’t mean it as a threat against you. I was just giving you fair warning,’” she said, adding: “The warning should not come to me.”

She also expressed her wish that local and national leaders took the “wound” of racism, represented by Confederate monuments, seriously.

“What I would really love to come about from this is an acknowledgment that we have a wound around racism and centered around these monuments that isn’t healed, and not talking about it won’t make it go away,” she said. “The conversation has started. I would love if the leadership in Georgia and the leadership of the United States of America would take charge of this and hold meaningful discussions, outside of our silos, outside of our segregated churches and neighborhoods, and have a real conversation so that we may not be able to solve all the issues with racism, but we could address some of these things that we keep skirting around because we’re afraid of being offended.”

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The Department of Homeland Security warned state and local law enforcement ahead of the Aug. 12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that it was likely to be one of the most violent clashes to date between white supremacists and anti-fascist and anarchist groups, Politico reported Tuesday.

The rally, ostensibly to protest the removal of a Confederate monument from a park, was extremely violent: A counter-protester was killed when a man who had earlier been photographed with white nationalists allegedly rammed his car into a crowd.

Three additional arrests were made in recent days: Two Unite The Right attendees were arrested and charged with malicious wounding in connection with the brutal beating of Deandre Harris, 20, in a parking garage. And Richard Preston, an imperial wizard of the Confederate Knights, a KKK affiliate, was arrested for firing his weapon nearby a school during the rally. Video from the ACLU of Virginia showed Preston firing his gun at a crowd of protesters.

That video also showed Virginia State Police, feet away from Preston when he fired the shot, not responding at all to the incident. The city and law enforcement have come under criticism for not more actively intervening to keep the peace.

According to the Politico, the report said that a number of recent clashes between the two sides promised that Charlottesville would be “among the most violent to date” between white supremacists and anti-fascists.

The assessment specifically warned that “Anarchist extremists and white supremacist extremists online are calling on supporters to be prepared for or to instigate violence at the 12 August rally.”

One website, Unicorn Riot, has posted extensive conversations from white nationalist message boards showing members preparing for violence on Aug. 12.

The DHS assessment obtained by Politico shows the same, as well as the potential for violence by so-called “antifa,” or anti-fascist groups.

The report listed examples of clashes between the two sides, Politico reported, including at a May 13 white nationalist rally and a May 13 KKK gathering. At a June 2016 Traditionalist Workers Party rally in Sacramento, California, the report said, “Anarchist extremists followed through on these threats by attacking the white supremacists.”

An unnamed DHS official told Politico that local law enforcement had access to the information.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) criticized Sen. Ted Cruz  (R-TX) this week for calling the aid package Congress passed in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2013 filled with unrelated pork.”

Christie said Tuesday evening that New Jersey’s congressional delegation would vote for aid for Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and that “it would be wrong” for congressional leaders or the White House to ask for cuts to offset the cost of the aid package.

Cruz, whose home state has been battered by Hurricane Harvey, repeated his original criticism of the Sandy relief package on Monday, saying “it’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster and people who are hurting to pay for their own political wish list.”

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes played a clip of Cruz’s criticism for Christie Tuesday night.

“What was wrong was for Ted Cruz to exploit the disaster for political gain, and that’s what he was doing,” the governor responded.

He called it an “absolute falsehood” that, in Cruz’s words Monday, “two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.”

“Let’s remember what Sen. Cruz was trying to do at the time,” the governor continued. “He was trying to be the most conservative, the most fiscally conservative person in the world. And what I said at the time, as you might recall, is ‘Someday it’s going to come to Texas.’ It just does. If you have a coastal area, whether it’s the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic, the Pacific coast, a disaster is going to come to you, and when it does, I’m going to promise him that New Jersey congresspeople will stand up and do the right thing.”

Cruz responded on CNN Wednesday, saying “You know, I think it’s really sad that there are some politicians that are desperate to get their name in the news and are tossing around all sorts of political insults, with people whose lives are in danger.”

Christie elaborated to CNN’s Chris Cuomo earlier Wednesday: “I see Sen. Cruz, and it’s disgusting to me that he stands in a recovery center with victims standing behind him as a backdrop and he’s still repeating the same reprehensible lies about what happened in Sandy, and it’s unacceptable to me. Absolutely unacceptable. I’m not going to let him get away from it. A lot of the reason why I came on this show is to remind people the past is prologue.”

Christie on Tuesday also criticized Vice President Mike Pence’s stance in 2005, that an aid package for Hurricane Katrina ought to include cuts to other programs, to offset the cost.

“I hope he doesn’t” do that with Harvey aid, Christie said of Pence, who as a congressman during Katrina. “It would be wrong to do that.”

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement has sought approval from the National Archives and Records Administration to destroy records on deaths and sexual assaults of individuals in its custody after a period of 20 years.

ICE needs NARA’s approval before changing its treatment of detainee records. And NARA officials preliminarily approved the move, Splinter reported Tuesday. The outlet noted that public comments on the change will be accepted through Sept. 7.

The Federal Register published a summary of the request on July 14. The pro-transparency platform The Memory Hole 2 published documents related to the request last week. Splinter and the ACLU flagged it in reports this week.

A NARA appraisal found the proposal to destroy records related to detainee deaths after 20 years “[a]dequate from the standpoint of legal rights and accountability.”

“The period ensures that individuals and organizations who may wish to obtain the review files have many years to request them from the Agency,” it added.

A spokesperson for NARA was more straightforward with Splinter. The appraiser, spokesperson Laura Sheehan said, recommended approving the request because “these files do not meet our appraisal criteria for permanently valuable records.”

“The legal rights of individuals documented by these records do not continue indefinitely, and the records do not document significant actions of Federal officials that are not captured elsewhere,” she said. Splinter noted there have been 10 confirmed deaths in ICE custody this fiscal year.

Files on sexual assault and abuse, the appraiser wrote, do “not document actions of Federal officials,” a key condition of records worth preserving, from NARA’s standpoint.

“This information is highly sensitive,” the appraisal continued, “and does not warrant permanent retention in the National Archives. ICE creates annual reports on incidents or allegations of sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody.”

However, Splinter noted that the “reports” mentioned in the appraisal “are often summaries written by ICE officials and may not include thorough details of every reported case of sexual assault.”

The report noted that a watchdog group, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, found that only 24 complaints of sexual abuse out of 1,016 were investigated, of those filed between May 2014 and July 2016.

“Even 20 years is far too short for keeping the record of a death or sexual assault of an individual in government custody,” Senior ACLU Staff Attorney Victoria Lopez wrote Monday.

She added: “If the Trump administration has its way, the number of immigrants in detention will increase, detention conditions will deteriorate further and more people will be subjected to life-threatening circumstances and denied their most basic rights. ICE shouldn’t be allowed to purge important records and keep its operations out of the public eye.”

The federal summary of proposed changes noted that ICE had additionally requested changing the schedule for destroying records related to escapes, “telephone rates charged to detainees, alternatives to detention, logs and reports on status of detainees and detention facilities, and location and segregation of detainees.”

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What began as an opportunity for Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to defend President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio ended with King recommending undocumented young people report their parents to immigration agents.

King also defended his prior racist remarks in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Monday.

In defending Arpaio, whom a judge convicted of criminal contempt of court in July, King said that while explicit racial profiling was immoral, “I don’t agree that profiling is wrong.”

“In fact, if you would take profiling away from the tools of law enforcement, you couldn’t describe a criminal in any way whatsoever,” he added.

However, the court order Arpaio was convicted of violating said explicitly that he could not detain Latinos based solely on the suspicion they were violating immigration law. As the Arizona Republic reported, referring to the original lawsuit that eventually led to the criminal contempt of court conviction: “The judge trying that case not only found that Arpaio’s policies constituted racial profiling, he also found Arpaio to be in civil contempt of court and referred him to another judge for the criminal contempt.”

Occasionally, King would simply point to the fact that Arpaio’s conviction came from a judge, not a jury. “It’s judge-made law,” he said.

He also admitted that his view of effective enforcement of immigration law included local law enforcement arresting American citizens on the suspicion they were undocumented immigrants, though that would violate the law.

“You said he rounded up brown people,” King told Cuomo, referring to a point about Arpaio the host made earlier in the discussion.

That is what he did,” Cuomo said. “I’m not saying it. It’s what the Justice Department said and you’re well aware of these facts. Whether or not you agree with his practices is something else.”

“How do you avoid doing that if you’re going to enforce immigration law?” King responded. “And eventually, every once in a while, you get somebody that is a citizen by accident.”

Cuomo said the arrests were by design, not by accident.

Later, King said his assertion that DACA, or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” recipients were disproportionately involved in the drug trade was “completely and demonstrably true.”

In 2013, he asserted: “for every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there that they weight 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

On Monday, he also appealed to young DACA recipients to turn their parents in to law enforcement.

“If it was against their will then it had to be their parents that are responsible,” he said, referring to DACA recipients brought to the United States illegally by their parents. “And I’m still waiting for the first DACA recipient to say so and sign an affidavit that says ‘I didn’t really do this of my own accord. My parents brought me in. They should have the law enforced against them. Give me amnesty.’ I’m not hearing that from the DACA people.”

Watch some of the discussion below via CNN:

H/t The Hill. 

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