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

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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The House Ethics Committee confirmed Monday that it was extending a probe into possible ethics violations by Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) surrounding an Australian biotech company on whose board he serves.

Collins bought discounted stock from the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, while legislation that would affect its clinical testing made its way through Congress. Collins wrote an amendment for the legislation that, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) told the Buffalo News, “benefited him personally.”

Slaughter was one in a group of parties, including the advocacy organization Public Citizen, that complained about Collins’ relationship with the company to the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that makes recommendations to the committee.

Collins brought others into the deal: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. for example, admitted during his confirmation hearing that Collins told him about the company before Price purchased stock in it, ultimately profiting from the purchase.

The Ethics Committee, which is required to announce within 45 days if it intends to extend a probe, said it was doing just that on Monday:

Pursuant to House Rule XI, clause 3(b)(8)(A), and Committee Rules 17A(b)(1)(A) and 17A(c)(1), the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics (Committee) have jointly decided to extend the matter regarding Representative Chris Collins, which was transmitted to the Committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on July 14, 2017.

The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.

The Committee will announce its course of action in this matter on or before Thursday, October 12, 2017.

A spokesperson for Collins, Sarah Minkel, told multiple outlets in a statement that the probe came after “false accusations brought about by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and her allies in a partisan witch hunt against Congressman Collins.”

“Today’s announcement was expected and is nothing more than a pro forma delay because Congress is currently in its August recess,” she added. “Congressman Collins has followed all ethical and legal guidelines when it comes to his personal investments and he looks forward to their review.”

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Michael Cohen, a confidant of President Donald Trump and a Trump Organization attorney, claimed Monday that Trump was not involved with his efforts to solicit the Kremlin’s help regarding a business deal the Trump Organization was pursuing during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Cohen reached out directly to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary in January 2016 to ask for the Kremlin’s help in a deal to erect a building in Moscow, emails published by the Washington Post and New York Times showed.

Cohen told the Wall Street Journal Monday that he didn’t inform Trump about the emailed appeal for help. According to Cohen, he told Trump that he was working on a licensing deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015 and received Trump’s signature on a letter of intent for the project in October of that year. He also informed Trump when the project fell through in January, Cohen claimed.

He also told the Journal he didn’t remember hearing a response to his request from Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.

A longtime business partner of Trump’s, Felix Sater, claimed some credit for pursuing the deal.

“During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization,” Sater said in a statement to the Journal. “Ultimately, in January 2016 Michael informed me that the Trump Organization decided not to move forward with the project.”

Cohen told the Journal he had only emailed Peskov “since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued,” and that Sater “constantly asked me to travel to Moscow.” He said he told Sater Trump would not go to Russia without a “definitive agreement” in place.

And though emails between Cohen and Sater published by the New York Times show Sater arguing the political benefits of Putin’s help — “Our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it,” he wrote — Cohen said his decisions related to the deal were “unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign.”

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Asked to explain his pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Monday, President Donald Trump said that it was good politics, and compared the pardon favorably to similar actions by Presidents Clinton and Obama.

Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt of court for flouting a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos on the suspicion they were undocumented immigrants. He had an extensive history of abusing inmates in his care, including by maintaining an open air “Tent City” detention facility that frequently topped 110° Fahrenheit. Arpaio, who endorsed Trump in January 2016, once called it a concentration camp.

During a White House press conference with the president of Finland Monday, Trump said Arpaio “was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won.” Obama’s Justice Department prosecuted the case against Arpaio, and the former sheriff has said he believed the case against him was politically motivated.

Trump said separately: “I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started, as you know, and he lost in a fairly close election. He would have won the election, but they just hammered him just before the election. I thought that was a very, very unfair thing to do.” Arpaio lost his reelection bid by double digits.

Trump also said that he brought up Arpaio’s name to wild applause at a campaign rally days before the pardon.

“When I mentioned him the other night, you saw the massive crowd we had,” he said. “The people went crazy when I said, ‘What do you think of Sheriff Joe?’ or something to that effect. The place went absolutely crazy.”

He also seemed to address the criticism that he pardoned Arpaio as Hurricane Harvey landed in Texas in order to avoid scrutiny. The White House announced the pardon in a statement around 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

“Actually, in the middle of the hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” he said. “The hurricane was just starting, and I put it out that I had pardoned, as we say, Sheriff Joe.”

In his defense of the decision to pardon Arpaio, Trump spent a most of his time reading from prepared notes, detailing pardons and commutations that Presidents Clinton and Obama made.

Trump specifically mentioned Marc Rich — an extremely controversial pardon on Clinton’s last day in office — Susan Rosenberg of the Weather Underground; cocaine trafficker Carlos Vignali; Chelsea Manning, who leaked information to Wikileaks; and Oscar Lopez Rivera, once a leader in a violent Puerto Rican ultranationalist group.

But Trump made clear: the Arpaio pardon was about politics.

Sheriff Joe is a patriot,” he concluded. “Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won. And he was elected many times. So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe and I think the people of Arizona who know him best would agree with me.”

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Amid devastating flooding in Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday defended his vote against disaster aid after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast in 2012, calling that aid package “filled with unrelated pork.”

On Friday as Hurricane Harvey crashed into his home state, Cruz signed a letter calling on President Trump to declare the situation a “major disaster.”

In an interview Monday, MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked Cruz about the difference.

“There is time for political sniping later,” Cruz said, before Tur interrupted him. 

“It’s not really political sniping, senator,” she said. “These are people who needed money and who needed funding right after that storm, I covered those people. Many of them, just like those in Houston, lost absolutely everything they owned.”

Cruz claimed that “I and a number of others enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief for Sandy,” but he said that the bill that was ultimately signed into law had too much extraneous spending.

“Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital central role for a long, long time and it should continue,” Cruz said. “The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork.”

“Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy,” he continued. “And what I said then and still believe now is that it’s not right for politicians to exploit a disaster and people who are hurting to pay for their own political wish list. Disaster relief needs to be focused on the victims of disaster relief, and I supported that for Sandy, disaster relief there, and I would support that anywhere there’s a major disaster without getting distracted by political, unnecessary pork spending.”

Cruz didn’t identify any pork spending in the Hurricane Sandy relief package, though a statement on his website from January 2013 sheds light on the claim.

At the time, Cruz asserted the bill funded “projects such as Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.”

“Two-thirds of this spending is not remotely ’emergency’; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021,” the 2013 statement adds.

A few months after the Sandy relief package was signed into law despite Cruz’s vote, the senator asked for federal aid following an explosion at a Texas fertilizer factory, and again in 2015 following deadly flooding in Houston.

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