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Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that having more people armed at schools could prevent future mass shootings.

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he said.

After hearing the devastating stories from parents and young people affected by gun massacres at schools, Trump pointed to the example of Stoneman Douglas football coach Aaron Feis, who was reportedly killed by the alleged gunman last week after Feis threw himself in front of students to protect them from the gunfire.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives I suspect — but if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run, he would have shot and that would have been the end of it,” Trump said.

“Gun-free zone, to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us,” Trump said, wondering aloud about arming “20 percent of your teaching force.”

“You can’t have 100 security guards in Stoneman Douglas, that’s a big school,” he said. “It’s a massive school with a lot of acreage to cover, a lot of floor area, so that would be certainly a situation that is being discussed a lot by a lot of people.”

“You’d have a lot of people that’d be armed, that’d be ready, they are professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, left the Army, left the Air Force, and they are very adept at doing that. You’d have a lot of them and they would be spread evenly through the school.”

The President said he believed “that if these cowards knew that the school was well-guarded from the standpoint of having pretty much professionals with great training, I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with.”

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he said.

“So we’ll be doing the background checks, we’ll be doing a lot of different things, but we’ll certainly be looking at ideas like that.”

Near the end of the listening session, the President said the White House would consider changes to the background check system and the age at which people can buy certain firearms, in addition to mental health measures and considering what institutions can do to intervene with troubled individuals.

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The father of a victim of the gun massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School grew emotional Wednesday as he told President Donald Trump and others at a White House listening session about his late daughter, Meadow Pollack.

“We’re here because my daughter has no voice,” Andrew Pollack said, flanked by his three sons. “She was murdered last week and she was taken from us. Shot nine times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children. This shouldn’t happen. We go to the airport, I can’t get on a plane with a bottle of water, but we leave some animal to walk into a school and shoot our children.”

“I’m very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening,” he added. “9/11 happened once and they fix everything. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me.”

“I’m not going to sleep until it’s fixed. And Mr. President, we’re going to fix it. Because I’m going to fix it. I’m not going to rest.”

He turned to his sons. “And look it, my boys need live with this. I want to see everyone. You guys look at this. Me, I’m a man, but to see your children go through this, bury their sister.”

“That’s why I keep saying this, because I want to sink in, not forget about this,” Pollack said. “We can’t forget about it, all these school shootings. It doesn’t make sense. Fix it. there should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it! And I’m pissed! Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again. She’s not here. She’s in North Lauderdale in whatever it is, King David cemetery. That’s where I go to see my kid.”

Watch below:

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Former Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand swatted away rumors on Wednesday that she’d left the position over concerns about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Anyone who actually knows me knows that had nothing to do with my departure,” she told Fox News in an interview, adding: “I never had any reason to think that the Mueller probe would come to me, and even if it had, it has nothing to do with why I left the department.”

Brand left the Justice Department to take a job as Walmart’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, Fox News noted.

“These kind of jobs come along maybe once in a career, and when they come along it might not be the perfect timing for you, but you have to take the opportunity when it comes,” Brand said, adding: “This was about seizing an opportunity, not about leaving DOJ.”

Brand, whose departure was first reported by the New York Times earlier this month, would have been next in line behind Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee Mueller’s investigation, should Rosenstein have recused himself from the duty — or if Trump fired him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation a year ago, despite President Donald Trump’s reported efforts to keep him on the case.

Brand’s departure led to speculation and reporting, the latter based on unnamed sources, that she had left the DOJ to avoid involvement in the Mueller probe.

Asked by Fox News about the tension between the White House and the Justice Department, Brand said: “I think that the overwhelming majority of the DOJ workforce does a pretty good job of tuning that out.”

On Wednesday, the President kept grinding his ax with the institution.

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The Republican National Committee is paying President Donald Trump’s former bodyguard and director of Oval Office operations, Keith Schiller, $15,000 a month, CNBC reported Wednesday.

Just weeks after leaving the White House, CNBC reported, the RNC hired Schiller’s private security firm, KS Global Group, to provide “security services.”

One unnamed RNC official told CNBC that Schiller is providing consulting services for site selection for the party’s 2020 convention. CNBC noted Schiller’s firm made $10,000 a month during the campaign, starting in July 2016.

Schiller’s “site selection consulting” fees are paid out of the RNC’s convention fund, not its campaign fund, the report noted. The RNC has paid Schiller’s firm $75,000 since October, CNBC reported, citing disclosure reports.

Trump kept Schiller, who coordinated his campaign’s security, around even after he won the 2016 presidential election. Schiller played a high-profile role in the administration, most notably when he hand-delivered former FBI Director James Comey’s termination letter to the Justice Department.

Investigators with the House Intelligence Committee interviewed Schiller in November.

Schiller’s security force often faced criticism for excess force and lack of coordination with the Secret Service and other governmental agencies.

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The survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting massacre met with legislators and spoke to huge crowds in Tallahassee, Florida on Wednesday, advocating in the state’s capitol for gun control legislation to prevent future mass shootings.

One student, Lorenzo Prado, joined other survivors in rejecting the narrative that the massacre was the fault of the alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, alone.

“Many would like to blame this event on the FBI’s lack of action or the Trump administration, but the simple fact is that the laws of our beloved country allowed for the deranged gunman to purchase a gun legally,” Prado said.

He eulogized Nicholas Dworet, a Stoneman Douglas senior at the time of his death who Prado described as an ever-smiling swim team mentor and who, a week before his death, had committed to attending the University of Indianapolis “so he could chase his dream of becoming an Olympian,” Prado said. 

“But that is a dream he can no longer achieve because Nikolas Cruz abhorrently decided to take Nicholas Dworet’s life,” Prado said.

He continued: “But we can’t just blame Nikolas Cruz for this tragedy, because the laws of our country allowed him to purchase a weapon. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle before he was able to drink beer. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle, although he had clear signs of mental illness. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle with clear signs of delinquency from the school. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle with the intention to kill.”

Watch below:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the Trump administration’s relationship with the press Tuesday night, inaccurately telling former Clinton administration press secretary Mike McCurry that “we have not declared war on the press.”

“Yes you did,” McCurry countered at a panel co-sponsored by the White House Correspondents’ Association and the White House Transition Project. Martha Joynt Kumar, the latter group’s director, moderated the event.

“Yes you did,” McCurry continued. “And that’s a big, big difference, and you need to roll that back. You can’t do it, but the President has got to roll that back.”

President Donald Trump and his one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon famously called the press the “enemy of the people,” and little has changed in the President’s view of the Fourth Estate.

Less than 10 minutes after the event ended, Trump taunted cable news channels on his Twitter account.

“You cannot do this job in an environment in which you are belligerent, and saying we are at war with these people every day, in the media,” McCurry said, adding: “Your President has got to change the way he talks about the media. He has to, because it’s critical to how we hold our glue together, and how democracy functions.”

“I think that’s a two-way street that there is a level of respect that could be, I think, certainly brought from the press corps as well,” Sanders responded. “I mean, the idea that you’re going to lay the blame at the feet of the President I find to be a little bit far-fetched.”

She claimed later that “90 percent” of the press coverage of Trump had been negative.

“That’s because 90 percent of what he’s done, people have questions about,” McCurry said.

Sanders said that the country was “actually doing really well” and that “[w]hen you have that much positive news to talk about, and only 10 percent of the time it’s covered, I think that it’s hard to argue that there shouldn’t be a certain level of frustration.”

The pair agreed on one point: that the live broadcast of White House press briefings — McCurry called them “entertainment events” and “theater productions” — had detracted from the informational value of the briefings. McCurry said he wished the White House embargoed video from the briefings until after they ended.

“A lot of times the theatrics of it take away from the news component,” Sanders said, adding: “We have lost the purpose of what the briefing was intended to be.”

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Jon Cordova, the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at the Department of Health and Human Services, has been placed on leave in the wake of revelations about conspiratorial and racist posts he shared on social media, CNN reported Tuesday.

“Mr. Cordova is currently on administrative leave while we look into this issue further,” an unnamed agency spokesperson told CNN.

Cordova was suspended after CNN’s KFile team asked HHS about the posts, the network reported.

Cordova’s bio on the HHS website notes that he joined the administration in February 2017, shortly after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and that his current duties include “providing direct support to the Assistant Secretary for Administration for HHS and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Office of Human Relations, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of Security and Strategic Information, Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance and Operations Office and the Program Support Center.” 

Among the posts flagged by CNN: a story Cordova shared on Facebook in July 2016 falsely alleging that Khizr Khan was a “Muslim Brotherhood agent” and “a Muslim plant working with the Hillary Clinton campaign.” In March of that year, he shared a false story alleging Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), then competing with Donald Trump for the Republican nomination for President, “frequented prostitutes,” in CNN’s words, among other claims. 

In August 2015, Cordova shared a photograph of an African American man holding a photoshopped protest sign that read “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he robs a store,” the report said. In a two-year-old tweet, according to a CNN screenshot, he shared a meme comparing MoveOn.org and Black Lives Matter protesters to Nazi Brown Shirts.

Read CNN’s full report here.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dodged questions about specific legislation President Donald Trump would support in order to prevent future mass shootings, like the one that left 17 people dead last week in Parkland, Florida.

“The President in 2000 did support an assault weapons ban. What’s his position now? Is he open to reinstating the ban?” NPR’s Mara Liasson asked Sanders during her daily press briefing.

“I don’t have any specific announcements, but we haven’t closed the door on any front,” Sanders replied. “Again, that’s what the next several days and weeks will be, to have conversations and to see what this process looks like, and to see what areas we can help make changes to and in what places that we can do better.”

She said that President Donald Trump “specifically” supports making background checks “more efficient and looking at better ways to improve that process.”

“We’re going to continue to look at a number of other factors as well,” Sanders said.

“Does the President believe there should be an age limit for those who buy an AR-15?” CNN’s Pamela Brown asked later, referring to the kind of rifle the alleged Florida gunman used. “As you know, the shooter in Florida was a teenager when he first bought an AR-15.”

“I know there are currently laws in place in certain states that restrict that. In terms of whether or not we make that federal policy, that hasn’t yet been determined,” Sanders replied. “But I think that’s certainly something that’s on the table for us to discuss and that we expect to come up over the next couple of weeks.”

Trump on Tuesday afternoon announced that he had instructed the Justice Department to move to ban bump stocks, which a gunman allegedly used during the Oct. 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, and other devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire like automatic rifles.

“Just a few moments ago, I signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,” he said.

Trump said he expected the regulations to be finalized “very soon.”

The NRA endorsed such a move following the Las Vegas massacre, saying in a statement last year that it “believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

Survivors of last week’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said on Sunday that lawmakers who take money from the National Rifle Association deserve a “badge of shame” for using students “as collateral.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictments of several Americans and Russian individuals and institutions made it “absolutely” clear that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

“Absolutely,” she told a reporter who asked Tuesday, during a press briefing, whether “the President now acknowledges what the special counsel indictments made clear, which is that Russians not only tried to meddle but interfere and influence the 2016 election?”

Sanders continued: “And the President has acknowledged that multiple times before. He acknowledged it during the transition. He acknowledged it during a press conference in Poland and he acknowledged it for a third time at a press event in Poland.”

“He has stated several times — I think one of the places where you guys seem to get very confused and it seems to happen regularly — the President hasn’t said that Russia didn’t meddle,” she said.

Despite Sanders’ claim, Trump in December 2016 explicitly questioned whether Russia interfered in the election. In an interview with Time magazine, Trump said, “I don’t believe they interfered.”

“It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey,” Trump said at the time. “I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals.”

Sanders on Tuesday said Trump was actually saying that Russian interference “didn’t have an impact and it certainly wasn’t with help from the Trump campaign.”

“It’s very clear that Russia meddled in the election,” she claimed. “It’s also very clear that it didn’t have an impact on the election and it’s also very clear that the Trump campaign didn’t collude with the Russians in any way for this process to take place.”

Pressed several times on why the President hasn’t instituted congressionally -mandated sanctions on Russia, then, Sanders was evasive. At one point, she said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had met with relevant stakeholders to discuss “this process and going through and looking every single day at the best ways forward.”

Separately, she said “we have spent a lot of time working on cyber security, working on protecting the fairness on [sic] our elections,” and “This has been a topic of conversation with multiple foreign heads of state.”

“He criticized Obama, he criticized the FBI and didn’t even criticize Vladimir Putin,” one reporter objected.

“He has been tougher on Russia in the first year than Obama was in eight years combined,” Sanders said. “He has imposed sanctions, he’s taken away properties, he’s rebuilt our military. He has done a number of things to put pressure on Russia and to be tough on Russia.”

“Just last week there was an incident that will be reported in the coming days, and another way that the President has been tough on Russia,” she added, without further explanation.

This post has been updated.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to deliver a press briefing at 3:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Watch live below:

This post has been updated.

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