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

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina lawmaker who’s running for Congress is having more surgery for injuries suffered in a highway accident.

Spokesman Michael Mule says state Rep. Katie Arrington was in surgery late Sunday afternoon. He said in a text message that he would have an update on her condition later.

The 47-year-old Arrington repeatedly highlighted U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford’s criticism of President Donald Trump as she defeated Sanford in a GOP primary earlier this month.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has said Arrington and a friend were traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 17 on Friday evening when a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction hit their vehicle.

The driver of the other vehicle died at the scene. The driver of Arrington’s vehicle also sustained serious injuries.

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Parents in immigration detention who’ve been separated from their children are being told their families can be reunited if they sign voluntary deportation orders, the Texas Tribune reported Sunday.

The paper cited an unnamed Honduran man who told the paper that he and the majority of the roughly 20 to 25 others he was with in the IAH Polk County Secure Adult Detention Center, outside Houston, had been given the same offer.

“Desperate” to see his 6-year-old daughter, in the paper’s words, the man “said two federal officials suggested he’d be reunited with his daughter at the airport if he agreed to sign the order, which could lead to him being repatriated to his violence-torn home country in less than two weeks.”

The man is now trying to revoke that paperwork, which he signed, and appeal his rejected claim of “credible fear” — the first step of applying for asylum protections — to an immigration judge.

The man said he was told that in signing the order he would not be deported without his daughter, but there have already been numerous cases of just that happening to other separated families. And, given that parents and children separated by the Trump administration policy can sometimes be states away from each other, reunification is logistically tricky, to say the least.

“I doubt they would put his child on a plane to get her to where he would get deported out from, especially if she’s in Arizona,” Cynthia Milian, a private attorney working with the Tahirih Justice Center who had spoken to the paper’s source, told the Tribune. “I just don’t see that happening.”

Tahirih’s Houston director, Anne Chandler, told the Tribune she’d heard a nearly identical account of such an offer from another migrant at the facility.

A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Carl Rusnok, told the Tribune that ICE “cannot research vague allegations.” The paper did not give ICE the man’s identifying details.

President Donald Trump last week, under immense political pressure, signed an executive order that he said was meant to keep families together in indefinite detention as their cases proceed through the immigration system. However, the Flores Settlement still bars child detention for more than 20 days, making the executive order untenable in a couple weeks. The Justice Department has asked a federal court to modify that settlement.

Read the Tribune’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Sunday proposed violating U.S. and international law by deporting “people [who] invade our Country,” presumably referring to undocumented immigrants and asylum-seekers, without affording them their Due Process rights.

“The right to Due Process of law is enshrined in the Constitution and extends to every person in the United States, irrespective of immigration status,” Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney and secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told TPM in an email responding to Trump’s tweet.

“The Supreme Court, for well over a century has expressly recognized a person cannot be deported without Due Process.  Due Process at its core means notice and a full and fair opportunity to be heard.”

“I hate that we (as attorneys and media) have to spend any time on this stupidity,” he added.

Trump has attacked immigrants’ legal rights before: In a speech earlier this month, he called some immigration lawyers “bad people” because they advise their clients with asylum claims on what to say in court.

And he attacked lawmakers who’ve called for more immigration judges to help lighten the burdened system’s caseload, lying by saying the government was “hiring thousands and thousands” of new immigration judges. (It’s not.) 

“We don’t want judges, we want security on the border,” he said in the same speech. “We don’t want people coming in, we want them to come in through a legal process like everybody else who’s waiting to come into our country.”

Some undocumented people are in fact eligible to be deported without having their case heard by an immigration judge, due to what’s known as “expedited removal,” a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act the use of which has dramatically expanded in recent decades.

However — even aside from many immigrant advocates’ claims that the process has been vastly overused, and that many immigrants are not made fully aware of their full legal rights during expedited removal proceedings — the law still requires immigration judges hear out the claims of asylum-seekers and those who fear persecution if they are ejected from the country.

“If, during the expedited removal process before a DHS officer, an individual indicates either an intention to apply for asylum or any fear of return to his or her home country, the officer must refer the individual for an interview with an asylum officer,” read a 2017 practice advisory from the American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

If an asylum officer rejects an asylum-seekers claim of “credible fear,” the asylum-seeker can appeal to an immigration judge.

“That’s not a loophole,” McKinney told TPM. “That’s Due Process and consistent not only with federal law but our international obligations to protect refugees and asylees.”

Trump’s tweet made no such distinctions.

What President Trump suggested here is both illegal and unconstitutional,” the ACLU responded in a tweet. “Any official who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws should disavow it unequivocally.”

First immigrants don’t get due process,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) wrote in response to Trump’s tweet. “Then it will be criminals. Then the poor. Then anyone that disagrees with Trump.”

U.S. and international law prohibit the United States from turning away or otherwise penalizing asylum-seekers, the former of which many advocates allege is evident in the now-frequent line to asylum-seekers at ports of entry that they are “at capacity.”

“We are not absolutely saying that they cannot (make an asylum claim), we are just saying that we cannot process them at this time,” a border official protested to one advocate who’d accompanied asylum-seekers to a port of entry, as recorded by the Texas Monthly. The same report described border agents standing directly on the U.S.-Mexico border line, so as to prevent asylum-seekers from completing the necessary step of being on American soil before declaring asylum.

The American Immigration Council, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Latham and Watkins, LLP, have a pending lawsuit against CBP over what they’ve described as systematic unlawful behavior, the outlet noted.

A separate lawsuit filed recently by three asylum seekers alleges Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy violated the law by punishing them, via detaining them and separating their families, despite their asylum-seeking status.

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said Sunday that he thought himself “and a number of senators” would be willing to block President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees in the Senate Judiciary Committee with the intent of forcing congressional action on Trump’s tariffs.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Flake said “we’re in the nascent stages of a full-scale trade war, and the President simply seems to want to escalate, and it all stems to the steel and aluminum tariffs.”

“Congress ought to stand up and say ‘No, we’re not going to do that. You can’t use Section 232 to claim that Canada is a national security threat,’” he said. “That’s not who we are.”

For two weeks, Flake has withheld his support from a nominee of the President’s for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Britt Grant. But Senate offices on both sides of the aisle, including a spokesperson for committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, told TPM this week they were unsure of Flake’s motivations for doing so.

He told Stephanopoulos Sunday, asked if he had considered withholding support from judicial nominees “unless there’s action on issues like tariffs,” that he was considering such an action.

“I do think that unless we can actually exercise something other than just approving the President’s executive calendar, his nominees, judges, that we have no reason to be there,” Flake said. “So I think myself and a number of senators, at least a few of us, will stand up and say ‘Let’s not move any more judges until we get a vote, for example, on tariffs.’”

An unnamed source told CNN Wednesday that Flake wanted “to spur discussions on travel restrictions to Cuba as well as issues related to tariffs,” in the publication’s words.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who, like Flake, has announced he’s not seeking re-election this year, tried and failed to lead a congressional effort to rein in the President’s justification of tariffs on national security grounds. He directed his anger, with some passion, at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other Republicans in the chamber who he said were wary of “pok[ing] the bear.”

Corker’s bill, which had bipartisan support, would have required congressional approval for the President to institute tariffs on national security grounds, as he has done with Canada, the European Union and other allies.

McConnell has called appointing lifetime conservatives to federal courts his “top priority.”

“There are over 1,200 executive branch appointments that come to us for confirmation, and among the most important — in fact, I would argue, the most important — confirmations we have are lifetime appointments to the judiciary,” he told NPR last month. “Obviously, this is my top priority.”

Watch below:

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Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski accompanied the President on a trip to the Nevada GOP convention Saturday just days after Lewandowski mocked a girl with Down syndrome on national television.

A pool report from Joint Base Andrews Saturday morning, where the President and several others would board Air Force One for the trip to Nevada, read: “Corey Lewandowski is also along for the trip. He dropped by to say hello to the pool.”

A pool report later in the day added: “Corey Lewandowski circulated in the crowd as POTUS was in the supporter roundtable, receiving a celebrity welcome, with dozens of GOP convention attendees taking photos/selfies with him.”

In an appearance on Fox News Tuesday, Lewandowski replied with a sarcastic “Womp womp!” after another guest, Democratic operative Zac Petkanas, told the story of a 10-year-old Mexican girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her mother after they were apprehended while crossing the border.

Lewandowski has refused to apologize. “I never meant to insult anybody with Down syndrome. And who I was talking to was Zac. And I understand what the perception is here and what the media wants to talk about,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

In May, Lewandowski accepted a job with Vice President Mike Pence’s political action committee, Great America PAC. The same month, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Lewandowski was advising T-Mobile. Neither has commented on his recent Fox News appearance.

The speakers bureau Leading Authorities, Inc., however, did drop Lewandowski.

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The day before he signed an executive order regarding his administration’s migrant family separation policy, President Donald Trump told advisers “my people love it,” the New York Times reported Friday.

The Times cited an “unnamed person close to the President” in reporting the news. The White House did not respond to TPM’s request for comment about the report Saturday.

Trump signed an executive order Wednesday with the stated intent of keeping families together in detention centers while they await immigration proceedings. But it’s not clear what exactly will occur in practice: For one thing, the so-called Flores Settlement still limits time children and families can be held in migrant detention centers. (The Justice Department asked a federal court to modify the settlement on Thursday.)

A handful of reports from the border indicate that, contrary to Trump and the Justice Department’s claims, prosecutors may have ended their systematic pursuit of criminal charges against all parents apprehended with children at the border. But it’s unclear if those changes will become permanent or system-wide.

Those systematic criminal prosecutions were what made Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ April “zero tolerance” letter to prosecutors a de facto family separation policy: Because children cannot be held in criminal detention, they were placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and classified as “unaccompanied alien children” as their parents’ cases proceeded through criminal court.

According to the Times’ sources, Customs and Border Protection officials argued to Trump on Thursday that the Justice Department “and other law enforcement agencies” did not have the resources to criminally prosecute every family apprehended at the border.

USA Today reported Friday that in May, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego warned that focusing prosecutors’ energy on parents apprehended with children would divert resources away from pursuing more serious crimes like drug smuggling. 

And on Friday, the Times reported, CBP commissioner Kevin McAleenan “question[ed] how his agency was supposed to detain parents and children together when the law requires that children not be held indefinitely in jail.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that she was told to leave a Lexington, Virginia restaurant the previous night due to her role in the Trump administration.

The tweet, former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub and others pointed out, came from Sanders’ government account.

In a play-by-play to the Washington Post Saturday afternoon, the co-owner of The Red Hen, Stephanie Wilkinson, said she drove down to her restaurant Friday night after hearing from a chef that Sanders had just arrived. Asked what they thought, Wilkinson recounted, the restaurant’s staff said they wanted Sanders gone.

“This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals,” she told the Post.

Wilkinson said she asked Sanders to step outside to the restaurant’s patio and then asked her to leave. “That’s fine. I’ll go,” Sanders said, according to Wilkinson.

The story first broke in a tweet early Saturday morning from Brennan Gilmore, executive director of the progressive political action committee Clean Virginia.

Gilmore posted pictures of what appeared to be a note with the instruction to “86” Sanders, and of a Facebook post from a server at the restaurant.

“I just served Sarah huckabee sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members…” the post read.

Asked for comment, Sanders referred TPM to her tweet Saturday.

The incident fits a recent pattern: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled with shouts of “Shame!” for several minutes at a Washington, D.C. Mexican restaurant on Tuesday.

Two nights earlier, White House adviser Stephen Miller was called a “fascist” at another District Mexican restaurant, the New York Post subsequently reported citing an unnamed source who saw it happen.

All three administration officials — Sanders, Nielsen and Miller — played leading roles in implementing or defending the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

Sanders’ father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, chimed in Saturday with his own folksy condemnation. It’s unclear if he was in attendance Friday night.

He’d earlier posted a tweet with a decidedly different tone, saying House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) campaign committee was made up of Salvadoran gang members.

This post has been updated. 

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed Thursday that the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” prosecution policy for undocumented people apprehended at the border — a family separation policy, in practice — was “never really intended” to separate families, despite multiple warnings he’d issued to migrant families that they would be separated if arrested at the border.

In an interview with Sessions, CBN News’ David Brody said that the “media narrative” surrounding the Trump administration’s family separation policy was that “optics have not been good for the administration.”

“Well, it hasn’t been good,” Sessions agreed, “and the American people don’t like the idea that we’re separating families.”

“We never really intended to do that,” he continued. “What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they’ve committed, instead of giving that special group of adults immunity of prosecution, which is what, in effect, we were doing.”

Sessions announced in April that he was ordering U.S. attorneys to pursue a “zero tolerance” prosecution policy along the border, meaning that criminal illegal entry charges would systematically be brought against parents apprehended with children, even though that was not the case in past administrations.

Because children cannot be held in criminal detention, the policy necessarily led to the separation of thousands of children from the adults with whom they were apprehended.

Sessions was explicit about this point.

“We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally and attempt to enter into this country improperly,” he said in May. “The parents are subject to prosecution while children may not be. So, if we do our duty and prosecute those cases, then children inevitably for a period of time might be in different conditions.”

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This is about more than the thousands of families who have already been separated at the border as a result of Trump administration policy, horrific as that is: It’s about the gears of state turning in unison to grind a vulnerable population deep into the Texas dust.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided earlier this month that victims of domestic and gang violence generally do not qualify for asylum protections. The government has also illegally refused asylum-seekers at designated ports of entry. For months, asylum-seekers have been wrongfully subject to criminal prosecution even before they have a “credible fear” asylum interview.

Those in criminal proceedings are guaranteed a (now severely overworked) public defender, but those in civil immigration courts are not. In April, days after Sessions announced his “zero-tolerance” policy, the Justice Department paused a program that offered legal advice to immigrants. Trump also eliminated an extremely successful detention alternative program for undocumented people.

Sponsors who wish to claim migrant children out of government-run and -contracted foster care will now, according to a recent change, be required to submit fingerprints for a DHS-run background check — that includes undocumented family members potentially subject to arrest and deportation by the same agency.

Rachel Maddow reports Army JAGs have been requested at the border to prosecute misdemeanor illegal entry, and that she couldn’t find a precedent for JAGs in civilian criminal court.

The administration’s lack of planning before this monumental “zero-tolerance” policy change — the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” as Steve Bannon might say — may have even more dire consequences yet: “Reunification is at best a remote possibility,” the Texas Tribune reported, especially for families “with children too small to remember their parents’ full names.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the administration, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shorted a Kremlin-linked shipping company after being contacted by a reporter working on a negative story about his investment in it. Scott Pruitt’s EPA has spent more than $4.6 million on security, including for “tactical pants.” And the Office of Government Ethics is waiting to hear from the EPA inspector general in order to determine if OGE should make formal contact with the White House regarding Pruitt’s behavior.

The EPA summit from which reporters and congressional staffers were improperly barred last month focused on public policy surrounding “PFAS,” a category of common yet dangerous contaminants. A long-delayed CDC study on PFAS is out now, and it’s as bad as expected.

The EPA’s Criminal Investigations Division had 157 special agents in late 2016. Now it’s down to 140.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey face new rules: Submit presentation titles and other information to the Interior Department for review, and tell the department’s communications office before you talk to reporters. Secretary Ryan Zinke is linked to a downright stinky development deal with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faces a lawsuit for systematically dismissing civil-rights complaints. We now know how many: At least 1,200.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach unsuccessfully sought a pardon — while he vice chaired the Trump administration’s bogus and now-defunct “voter fraud” panel — for a political donor who once, allegedly, put a gun to a cab driver’s head.

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First lady Melania Trump on Thursday visited unaccompanied migrant children in a shelter in McAllen, Texas, a sign of goodwill and compassion even as her husband refuses to address the thousands of families already separated as a result of his “zero tolerance” prosecution policy.

Yet, the jacket Melania Trump wore on her way to McAllen quickly caused a stir. 

Bitch Media identified the coat the first lady was wearing as she climbed the stairs to her plane: “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” it reads.

Reached for comment Thursday, Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, told TPM: “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.”

“(Much like her high heels last year)” Grisham added.

Asked if the message on the coat was insensitive, Grisham replied, “Thank you for your opinion.”

The President weighed in later on Thursday:

So did Grisham, again:

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