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

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio expressed some optimism Wednesday that President Donald Trump would pardon him following a July conviction of criminal contempt of court.

“I have a great deal of respect for him,” Arpaio told Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto in an interview. “I always will have, pardon or no pardon. I’m with him to the end. As long as he’s the President, I will support him.”

Arpaio said he took Trump’s shout-out at a Phoenix rally on Tuesday as a good sign, given the White House had said earlier in the day that Trump would not pardon the former sheriff at the event.

“They put a press thing out that there would be no mention of this at the rally,” Arpaio said. “But knowing the President, he has guts and courage, and my gut told me he was going to do it. Of course, everybody said no, but I know the man.”

In a separate interview with the popular conspiracy theorist Alex Jones Wednesday, Arpaio said he planned to eventually speak out further about what he viewed as the federal government’s overreach in his case.

“You started this by saying an abuse of the system — abuse of the political system, I can go on and on — and I’ll be talking about that, about this whole situation, in the near future, Alex,” Arpaio said.

Apraio, who lost a re-election bid in November after 24 years as Maricopa County sheriff, was found guilty in July of disobeying a court order to cease his practice of racially profiling suspected undocumented immigrants.

Arpaio was an early and prominent supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential election, and Trump dropped his strongest hint yet on Tuesday that he was leaning toward pardoning the former sheriff. “I think he’s going to be just fine, okay?” he said at a campaign rally in Phoenix. “But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good.”

Arpaio thanked Jones multiple times for bringing his story to Trump’s attention. On Aug. 2, Jones’ channel published a video titled “Pres. Trump, Pardon Sheriff Joe: ‘Guilty’ Of Defying Sanctuary Judge.” On Aug. 7, Arpaio said in an interview with Jones’ website “Where is President Trump on this case?”

“I want to thank you, Alex, and your staff, Jerry Corsi, Roger Stone, for bringing this story out and reaching the President,” he said at one point Wednesday.

“I want to thank you, again,” he added later. “I don’t blame the President, he’s got a lot on his plate, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t know about this.”

“No, no. I’ve talked to folks that talked to him,” Jones replied. “He did not know, and didn’t believe it when he was told a month ago.”

Arpaio said he had found out about the potential of a presidential pardon by watching Jones, and that he had not been in touch with Trump or his staff.

“He’ll know more as time goes on what the real story is on this situation,” Arpaio said. “I’m not going to keep quiet.”

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Four prominent Jewish groups announced Wednesday that they would not take part in what has become a yearly call between the President and hundreds of rabbis across the country ahead of the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in September.

The groups specifically cited President Donald Trump’s statements following a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, saying in a statement that his remarks were “so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year.”

The statement’s four signatories — the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism — collectively represent three major movements within American Jewish life: Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist. All except the latter group played central roles in organizing the call during the Obama administration.

“The President’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia,” their statement continued. “Responsibility for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, including the death of Heather Heyer, does not lie with many sides but with one side: the Nazis, alt-right and white supremacists who brought their hate to a peaceful community. They must be roundly condemned at all levels.”

After a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, Trump blamed “many sides” for the weekend’s violence and later said there were “many fine people” on both sides of the rally. One counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed when a man who had earlier been photographed with a white nationalist group allegedly rammed his car into a crowd.

An Orthodox Jewish group that has also helped organize the call in the past, the Rabbinical Council of America, did not sign on to the statement, and did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

The RCA’s executive vice president, Rabbi Mark Dratch, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Wednesday: “We respect the office of the presidency and believe it is more effective to address questions and concerns directly with the White House.”

Read the groups’ full statement below:

The High Holy Days are an opportunity for reflection and introspection. As the leaders of major denominations in American Jewish life, we have been deeply engaged in both, considering the events of the Jewish year that is ending and preparing spiritually for the year to come.

In so doing, we have thoughtfully and prayerfully considered whether to continue the practice in recent years of playing key roles in organizing a conference call for the President of the United States to bring High Holiday greetings to American rabbis. We have concluded that President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year.

The President’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. Responsibility for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, including the death of Heather Heyer, does not lie with many sides but with one side: the Nazi, alt-right and white supremacists who brought their hate to a peaceful community. They must be roundly condemned at all levels.

The High Holy Days are a season of t’shuva for us all, an opportunity for each of us to examine our own words and deeds through the lens of America’s ongoing struggle with racism. Our tradition teaches us that humanity is fallible yet also capable of change. We pray that President Trump will recognize and remedy the grave error he has made in abetting the voices of hatred. We pray that those who traffic in anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia will see that there is no place for such pernicious philosophies in a civilized society. And we pray that 5778 will be a year of peace for all.

Central Conference of American Rabbis
The Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

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President Donald Trump gave a sleepy speech to the American Legion’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada on Wednesday, listing legislative accomplishments and avoiding fiery campaign-style rhetoric.

The anodyne address stood in stark contrast to his off-the-rails rally a night earlier, when he went after the media and fellow Republicans, among other targets.

“One year ago, at this gathering, and I remember so many of you so well, I promised you that I would make it my priority to fix the broken [Department of Veterans Affairs] and deliver our veterans the care they so richly deserve,” Trump told the convention’s attendees Wednesday.

“Now you have a true reformer in Secretary David Shulkin,” he said, referring to the one Obama-era holdover in his Cabinet. “He has done an incredible job.”

Trump spent much of the speech trumpeting his military-related accomplishments: Signing legislation to enhance accountability at the VA, for example, and securing additional defense spending in a short-term congressional funding package.

He also trumpeted his outline Monday of a continued military confrontation against the Taliban in Afghanistan, though he advocated precisely against such involvement as a private citizen.

“We will pursue an honorable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan, worthy of the tremendous sacrifice our troops have already made,” he said. “We will give our men and women in uniform the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

He added later: “No longer are we using our military to build democracies. Instead, we’re forming a coalition of nations that share the aim of stamping out extremism, defeating terrorism and pursuing stability, prosperity and peace.”

Though Trump occasionally veered into more political territory — he commended the American Legion for its emphasis on “the need to preserve the nation’s cultural, moral, and patriotic values” and “the need to enforce our laws, including our immigration laws” — it was nothing compared to Tuesday’s barnburner in Phoenix.

There, Trump blamed the news media for giving white supremacists a platform and defended his response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12. He repeated some of statements he made following the events in Charlottesville, but left out the parts where he blamed “many sides” for the violence surrounding the white nationalist rally, and where he said both sides contained “very fine people.”

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After unsuccessfully pleading with President Donald Trump not to hold a rally Tuesday night in his city, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said that the event had continued “to divide this country.”

Stanton said Wednesday that his fears about Trump’s rally had been confirmed.

“It’s very unfortunate what occurred last night in Phoenix with regard to the President’s speech,” he told MSNBC’s Willie Geist. “I had strongly stated that it wasn’t the right time for a campaign rally here in Phoenix so shortly after the tragedy in Charlottesville. Obviously a young woman was murdered in that tragedy in Charlottesville. The President failed to show real moral leadership after that incident. His words tended to divide the country, not unite the country.”

The Charlottesville rally ended with one counter-protester dead after a man who had been photographed with a white nationalist group allegedly rammed his car into a crowd. In remarks after that attack, Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence, and said days later that there were “very fine people” on both sides.

However, in Phoenix, he left out those details and blamed the media for distorting his response and giving a platform to white supremacists.

Stanton had urged Trump in a Washington Post op-ed on Aug. 22 not to hold his campaign rally in Phoenix.

“America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline,” he wrote. “With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.”

On Wednesday, Stanton also lamented Trump’s apparent assurances that he would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“He openly talked about pardoning Sheriff Joe,” Stanton said, noting “all that Sheriff Joe had done to terrorize Latino residents here locally.” Trump has hinted at pardoning Arpaio in the past, though never as explicitly as he did Tuesday, when he said Arpaio was “going to be just fine” and that “I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy.” CNN reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed administration official, that the White House was prepared to finalize the pardon

“You put it all together, it just wasn’t the right time for a speech like that,” Stanton said. “And unfortunately, last night the President gave a speech that did continue to divide this country. He did nothing to unite this country and did indicate he will be pardoning Sheriff Joe. He decided not to do it at the event last night but made it clear he was planning on doing it and that’s a real tragedy for the people here in Phoenix.”

The mayor added later: “The President really blew it after Charlottesville. He blew it for himself and for the people of Charlottesville, the victims of the violence there, the young woman who was murdered there. He really blew it.”

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Four defendants accused of multiple charges related to the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff were found not guilty on nearly all counts against them on Tuesday. And federal prosecutors did not discuss their intention to continue to pursue charges against two defendants for whom jurors deadlocked on multiple charges.

The Arizona Republic first reported the news Tuesday.

In 2014, Cliven Bundy and scores of militia members from around the country staged an armed protest against the government seizure of Bundy’s cattle. Bundy had for years refused to pay required fees for his use of public land for cattle grazing. Federal agents elected to return Bundy’s cattle at the time, though he was eventually arrested in 2016 after traveling to Oregon in response to his sons Ammon and Ryan Bundys’ armed occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Bundy and 18 others were charged in relation to the Nevada standoff. The four individuals largely found not guilty on Tuesday — Richard Lovelien, Steven Stewart, Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler — were not the most prominent participants in the standoff. Trials for the standoff participants, though they face the same charges, were broken into tiers based on “their alleged levels of culpability in the standoff,” the Arizona Republic reported.

Lovelien and Stewart were acquitted on all counts, the paper reported. Parker and Drexler were acquitted on conspiracy and extortion charges, the report added, but jurors deadlocked on charges of weapons and assault charges. The Los Angeles Times reported that the jury deadlocked on four charges against Parker and two against Drexler.

“At this time, the government has not announced its decision regarding the retrial of Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler,” a spokesperson for the Las Vegas U.S. Attorney’s Office said, according to the Arizona Republic.

The defense did not make closing arguments before the jury’s decision Tuesday, the paper noted, in protest of what they viewed as onerous restrictions by Judge Gloria Navarro of what they could discuss on the stand. Those restrictions included arguments on First and Second Amendment grounds and complaints about federal overreach. The issue at hand, prosecutors reportedly said, was the protesters’ threatening of federal officers.

Two defendants were found guilty of multiple counts related to the standoff in April, the Arizona Republic reported at the time. Navarro declared a mistrial at the time following a jury deadlocked over the fates of Lovelien, Stewart, Parker and Drexler.

The next trial will include three Bundys — Cliven and his two sons, Ammon and Ryan — in addition to others.

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James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence during the Obama administration, called President Donald Trump’s Phoenix campaign rally Tuesday night “downright scary and disturbing.”

Clapper, speaking on CNN after the rally, said “I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a President that I’ve found more disturbing.”

“Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a President if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing,” he said, adding that he questioned Trump’s “fitness to be in this office.”

“And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it,” Clapper said. “Maybe he is looking for a way out.”

Clapper specifically called out Trump’s “behavior, and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the President of the United States exhibits.”

“How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?” he asked.

The campaign rally was largely typical of much of Trump’s off-the-cuff rhetoric in the past: He blamed the media for “giving a platform” to white nationalists for their coverage of the rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 and took aim at Arizona’s two Republican senators.

However, Trump largely re-wrote the history of his response to the events in Charlottesville. Though he partially re-read his statements in the days following the racist rally in Phoenix, he left out his blame of “both sides” for violence — that is, both the white nationalists and anti-racist counter-protesters — and his assertion a few days later that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the rally.

He also threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress did not appropriate funds for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, and continued his advocacy for eliminating the legislative filibuster — even though Republicans’ failed effort to repeal Obamacare did not reach even a simple majority of support in the Senate.

Clapper, long a critique of Trump’s impulsiveness, brought up a concern raised by other retired military and intelligence officials: that he has access to the nuclear codes.

“I worry about, frankly, the access to nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, if he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said.

Watch below via CNN:

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Actor Kal Penn had a simple message for President Donald Trump Friday afternoon: “You can’t break up with us after we broke up with you.”

By “us,” Penn meant members of the Presidential Committee on the Arts, which resigned en masse Friday, protesting Trump’s response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

“Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville,” members of the committee wrote in a mass resignation letter. “The false equivalencies you push cannot stand.”

One resigned member of the committee, lawyer Andrew Weinstein, credited Penn with the idea to make the first letter in each paragraph of the resignation letter spell “RESIST.” Penn once served in Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement.

Hours after that letter was made public, According to the New York Times’ Sopan Deb, an unnamed White House spokesperson claimed that Trump had planned to not renew the executive order authorizing the committee “[e]arlier this month.”

“[I]n its current form it simply is not a responsible way to spend American tax dollars,” the anonymous White House spokesperson said.

It seemed like an attempt to help Trump save face after a slew of similar resignations following his disastrous response to the white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville. 

The anonymous White House response to the disbanded arts committee had another gaping hole in its logic. It argued against the committee by saying it “merely redirects funding from” other federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Services. “These cultural agencies do tremendous work and they will continue to engage in these important projects.”

However, Trump’s own proposed budget blueprint would have eliminated all of those agencies.

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CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Friday took a novel approach to recounting the month’s coverage of President Donald Trump and his administration. She simply listed everything he’d done.

Trump had a busy month. Anthony Scaramucci was hired and promptly fired. Trump thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the staff cuts he required from America’s diplomatic mission in Moscow. He also threatened North Korea with nuclear war. And the President bungled his reaction to violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, comparing the protesters to anti-racists demonstrating against them.

And that’s not all.

Take a look via CNN:

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After declaring “WAR” following news of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s ouster, Breitbart News’ senior editor-at-large wrote that President Donald Trump risked becoming “Schwarzenegger 2.0.”

News of Bannon’s ouster broke Friday, to anger from many conservatives in the Breitbart school who saw the former Breitbart News executive as their line to the White House.

Like Trump, Breitbart’s Joel Pollak wrote, Schwarzenegger ran for California’s governorship “as a celebrity outsider, promising to reform a corrupt, wasteful and lethargic political system, reaching across party lines.”

Seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump has already replaced his chief of staff, chief strategist, communications director (more than once) and national security adviser.

“But after struggling with intense media criticism, and after losing a key referendum on reforms to state government, Schwarzenegger gave up on his agenda, and abandoned the political base that had brought him into office,” he added. “He re-invented himself as a liberal, embracing policies such as California’s controversial cap-and-trade program, which had zero effect on climate change but has chased businesses, jobs, and middle-class families out of the state.”

Pollak’s message was clear: Trump, in dismissing Bannon, had made a serious mistake.

“Bannon was not just Trump’s master strategist, the man who turned a failing campaign around in August 2016 and led one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in political history,” Pollak wrote. “He was also the conservative spine of the administration.”

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