Mshuham2

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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week asked all 93 U.S. attorneys to provide up to three prosecutors each from their offices to help review documents needed for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The New York Times reported Wednesday on the emailed request, which carried the subject line “Personal Message to U.S. attorneys from the Deputy AG,” to the U.S. attorneys.

The Times reported that Rosenstein wrote he “expected to need the equivalent of 100 full-time lawyers to work on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing,” in the paper’s words.

The judge’s long paper trail — on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, as an appointee in the George W. Bush White House and as an associate counsel on the Ken Starr probe — promise to make his confirmation process document-filled and cumbersome.

“The scope of the production of executive branch documents we’ve been asked for is many, many times as large” as that of other recent nominees to the Court, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores told the Times.

The paper noted that while Justice Department lawyers have helped with previous Supreme Court nominations, those lawyers usually come from the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, not the law enforcement-focused U.S. attorneys’ offices.

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said Wednesday that CNN was “contacting all 100+ of our former staff and interns asking for dirt on me.” Jordan said the network was “Getting desperate!”

The rightwing congressman has been accused by several former Ohio State University wrestlers of ignoring the late Dr. Richard Strauss’ alleged widespread sexual abuse of students when Jordan was an assistant coach on the team.

Jordan has maintained that he did not know about the abuse, saying earlier Wednesday, “To think that I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, the number of wrestlers accusing Jordan of ignoring the abuse has continued to increase.

CNN did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said Wednesday that it was “ridiculous” to think he wouldn’t have stood up for student wrestlers at Ohio State University if he truly knew a school doctor was sexually abusing them, as some former wrestlers have claimed.

“I’m telling the truth,” Jordan told reporters. “Look, I stood up to the speaker of the house from my home state, I stood up to the IRS and I’ve stood up to the FBI. To think that I would not stand up for my athletes is ridiculous.”

After news first broke last week that former OSU wrestlers had accused Jordan of knowingly ignoring the late Dr. Richard Strauss sexual’s abuse when Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at the school, the rightwing Ohio congressman has continued to deny knowledge of what the wrestlers say was systematic and widely known behavior.

More and more former wrestlers have since claimed Jordan knew what was going on. The congressman in turn hired a conservative PR firm as former coaches and fellow Republican congressman have come to his defense.

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Vice President Mike Pence refused to take a position Tuesday on whether he’d want Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to side against abortion rights, but he maintained the Trump administration “will continue to be a pro-life administration.”

Asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if he still personally want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, Pence said “I do, but I haven’t been nominated to the Supreme Court. Judge Kavanaugh has.”

Pence’s evasions appeared carefully crafted to avoid disrupting Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, which will feature questions aimed at picking apart his stance on abortion rights and whether he might eventually overturn or gut Roe.

“I stand for the sanctity of life,” Pence said separately. “This administration, this President, are pro-life.

“But what the American people ought to know is that, as the President said today, this was not an issue that he discussed with Judge Kavanaugh. I didn’t discuss it with him, either.”

Bash repeatedly pressed Pence on Trump’s campaign-era promises that his administration’s Supreme Court nominees would oppose Roe.

“The President believes that the proper consideration for a nominee to the Court is not about litmus tests,” Pence said in response. “Frankly, we’ve seen enough of litmus tests over the decades.”

“What we don’t want is to have people go to the courts with a specific objective or policy criteria. We want people to go that respect the Constitution, respect the Constitution as written, will not legislate from the bench, and President Trump and I are absolutely convinced that Judge Kavanaugh is exactly the kind of jurist that the American people — in the majority — want to see on the Court.”

“The President did say that he wanted a litmus test,” Bash corrected him before moving on.

In a separate interview with Fox News’ Brett Baier Tuesday, Pence was shown video of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) saying that Trump had nominated “someone who will not protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her life, her healthcare, her reproductive freedom.”

Pence was similarly evasive in response, saying Trump picked Kavanaugh for his “background,” “temperament” and “experience.”

“The President wanted to put someone on the bench who would not legislate from the bench, who would not, as has been too much of the case in the last generation or more, where we’ve had members of our federal judiciary who literally have been making policy and making law from the bench,” he added.

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting. 

A federal judge told the Trump administration on Tuesday to lay off using some of its most stringent vetting procedures before reuniting families separated at the border.

At a status conference, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw told the government that it did not need to fingerprint everyone in a given parent’s household in order to reunite that parent with their child.

Earlier this year, the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services — the agencies responsible for detaining families at the border and housing children who have been separated from their families, respectively — announced a new partnership in which potential sponsors to take children out of HHS custody would be fingerprinted, as would everyone in the sponsor’s household. The fingerprints would be provided to DHS, which houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to conduct a background check.

Given that many households for potential sponsors include undocumented immigrants wary of being in contact with ICE, the fingerprint requirement may have led to an increase in the amount of time children spend in government custody.

Sabraw said Tuesday that “full background checks of other adults in the household are not necessary under these unique circumstances.”

“I would adopt a more streamlined approach here,” he said, adding: “The parents are not applying for custody. They don’t have to prove they will be a good sponsor. The government has to prove they are unfit or a danger.”

He similarly said the government should limit its use of DNA tests to reunite parents and children, following the ACLU’s argument that the government was using the tests to delay family reunifications. (In response to the ACLU’s suit against the government over family separations, Sabraw ordered last month that the families must be reunited.)

“The purpose of the [Trafficking Victims Protection Act ] is to promote the best interests of the child and to reunite families,” the ACLU had argued. “Delayed reunification, especially for babies and toddlers, is not in the best interests of the child.”

“I would permit DNA testing when necessary, when there is a legitimate good faith concern about parentage or legitimate concern the government will not meet the reunification deadline,” Sabraw said.

Sabraw had set Tuesday as the deadline for the government to reunite parents with children under 5 years old from whom they’d been separated at the border. The Trump administration fell far short of that requirement, saying that only a third of the families would be reunited by the end of the day.

Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian said at one point in the conference that one of the separated children was not eligible for release because, in the course of a previous fingerprint background check, someone in the child’s parent’s household was found to have a history of sexual abuse.

Sabraw granted that in this one case the reunification would not go forward absent a new placement, in a household where the sex offender was not present.

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The government is preparing for a potential surge in children separated from their parents at the border, according to documents obtained by Slate.

According to Slate, which reported Tuesday on a budget exercise it obtained from within the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, the documents project the cost of the office needing as many as 25,400 beds for children in ORR’s care. ORR is responsible for taking custody of unaccompanied minors — including children who have been separated from their families — after they’re detained at the border.

Currently, ORR has nearly 12,000 children in its custody, of which up to 3,000 were separated from their families at the border as a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

Slate reported the documents stress that budgeting for 25,400 beds is considered the maximum expenditure potentially required by HHS, and that ORR officials don’t specifically say they have knowledge of an impending spike in family separations.

But, barring any unforeseen surge in truly unaccompanied minors detained at the border, the potential expenditure increase imagined by the budget exercise would necessarily be made up of children separated from their families at the border.

To pay for the budget shortfall that would be created by the potential increase in beds, Slate reported based on the documents it obtained, HHS would ask Congress for more money. But, the report said, the increased expense would also be covered by diverting funds from an HIV/AIDS program, and from elsewhere in ORR’s budget.

While the exercise doesn’t mention a recent court order that separated families be reunited, it does refer to President Donald Trump’s June 20 order which purported to end his family separation policy by instead ordering families to be detained together indefinitely, according to Slate.

A federal judge ruled Monday night that the Trump administration could not change the rules of the Flores Settlement, which prohibits children from remaining in detention centers, even with their families, for longer than 20 days.

Tuesday marks the 20-day mark after Trump’s order. According to the documents Slate obtained, HHS officials may have anticipated the judge’s Monday ruling, accounting for a spike in children referred to its custody for four weeks beginning Tuesday.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” prosecution initiative is still in effect — meaning that everyone referred to the Justice Department who was obtained at the border will be prosecuted for illegal entry, including parents — Customs and Border Protection has acknowledged that it is no longer referring parents with children to the Justice Department of prosecution.

If CBP returns to referring parents for prosecution, however, the spike in beds envisioned by the HHS documents could become a reality.

On Monday, the Justice Department warned that parents detained with children at the border could soon face a choice: “remaining in family custody with their children pending immigration proceedings or requesting separation from their children so the child may be placed with a sponsor.”

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Much has been made of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s argument, years ago, that Congress ought to pass a law protecting presidents from criminal investigations and prosecutions, as well as civil suits, during their time in office.

But, years before he made that argument, Kavanaugh played a key role in one of the most consequential investigations of a president in the 20th century: The judge has been identified as “a lead author” and “one of the primary authors” of independent counsel Ken Starr’s report to Congress on impeachable offenses committed by then-President Bill Clinton.

Whatever Kavanaugh’s thoughts on presidential probes today — they will surely be examined in his confirmation hearings — the Starr report, of which he was a co-author, argued that there was a large number of offenses for which a president could be impeached.

Here they are, as summarized from the report itself:

“Lying under oath”

Of the 11 impeachable offenses the Starr report said Clinton had committed, half consisted of assertions that Clinton lied under oath, including as a defendant in the Jones v. Clinton case, during a civil deposition, and to a grand jury in the course Starr’s probe. All of these assertions concerned Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

“Endeavor[ing] to obstruct justice”

The second half of the report’s grounds for impeachment included, essentially, a list of steps Clinton and others were alleged to have taken to hide evidence of the affair — steps that, the report argued, were attempts to obstruct justice. At one point, for example, Betty Currie, the President’s personal secretary, took a box of gifts Clinton had given Lewinsky from Lewinsky, and placed them under her own bed.

“The central factual question is whether the President orchestrated or approved the concealment of the gifts,” the report read. “The reasonable inference from the evidence is that he did.”

Later, the report asserted that Clinton engaged in obstruction by failing to correct his attorney Robert Bennet when, during a deposition, Bennet said “there is absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form.” That line later led to Clinton’s famous remark that “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” — that is, whether Bennett was speaking in the present tense.

The report said: “[W]hen a witness is knowingly responsible for a misstatement of fact to a federal judge that misleads the Court and attempts to prevent questioning on a relevant subject, that conduct rises to the level of an obstruction of justice.”

Perhaps more relevant to the present day, the report argued that Clinton’s misleading statements to his own aides who would later testify before a grand jury constituted obstruction.

“The President’s grand jury testimony followed seven months of investigation in which he had refused six invitations to testify before the grand jury,” the report read. “During this period, there was no indication that the President would admit any sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. To the contrary, the President vehemently denied the allegations.”

“Rather than lie to the grand jury himself, the President lied about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky to senior aides, and those aides then conveyed the President’s false story to the grand jury,” it added.

“[T]here is substantial and credible information that the President improperly tampered with witnesses during the grand jury investigation,” the section concluded, referring to Clinton’s misleading statements to aides.

Failing to “faithfully execute the laws”

The last of the 11 impeachable offenses in the Starr report dealt with the President’s public statements and actions. Specifically, the report said, Clinton “made false statements to the American people” about his relationship with Lewinsky, and regarding whether he’d lied under oath.

The report also alleged Clinton had abused his executive privilege in order to slow and the probe.

“The President’s conduct delayed the grand jury investigation (and thereby delayed any potential congressional proceedings),” it read. “He asserted, appealed, withdrew, and reasserted Executive Privilege (and asserted other governmental privileges never before applied in federal criminal proceedings against the government). The President asserted these privileges concerning the investigation of factual questions about which the President already knew the answers. The President refused six invitations to testify voluntarily before the grand jury. At the same time, the President’s aides and surrogates argued publicly that the entire matter was frivolous and that any investigation of it should cease.”

The report added later: By publicly and emphatically stating in January 1998 that ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’ and these ‘allegations are false,’ the President also effectively delayed a possible congressional inquiry, and then he further delayed it by asserting Executive Privilege and refusing to testify for six months during the Independent Counsel investigation.”

“This represents substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for an impeachment,” the report asserted.

A change of heart

Years later, Kavanaugh would argue in the Minnesota Law Review that his earlier belief “that the President should be required to shoulder the same obligations that we all carry […] seems a mistake” in retrospect.

“Looking back to the late 1990s, for example, the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots,” he wrote.

But the fact remains that the Starr report covers a broad array of grounds for impeachment, many of which could apply tenfold to the President who nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

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The powerful and deep-pocketed conservative group Judicial Crisis Network pledged on Monday to spend $1.4 million in television advertisements supporting Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Kavanaugh is a home run,” Carrie Severino, JCN’s chief counsel and policy director, said in a statement announcing the seven-figure ad buy. “Like Gorsuch, Judge Kavanaugh is brilliant, fair and independent, committed to following the law and honoring the Constitution. I look forward to the confirmation of another great justice.”

The group had already signaled it was willing to spend big to support Trump’s nominee, no matter who the President chose. Shortly after Kennedy announced his retirement, JCN went up with a $1 million ad buy, and it began telling reporters about the $1.4 million ad buy hours before Trump had announced his selection.

The Kavanaugh ad will air nationally on cable news, in addition to airing in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia, according to the press release. Those Trump-voting states are all home to Democratic senators who will face intense pressure to support the President’s nominee.

The press release noted that the group had previously “announced that they would spend up to $7 million stopping Merrick Garland and later they announced they would spend up to $10 million supporting now-Justice Gorsuch.”

Watch the new ad for Kavanaugh below:

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Democratic senators seen as potential swing votes in favor of President Donald Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, said Monday following his nomination that they would examine his record closely.

In contrast with many Democratic senators who’d already made the case that Trump should wait until after the 2018 midterm election in order to nominate a judge to fill retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat — just as Senate Republicans obstructed Obama nominee Merrick Garland for months ahead of the 2016 election — Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) made no mention of delaying consideration for Kavanaugh.

“Following the president’s announcement, I will carefully review and consider the record and qualifications of Judge Brett Kavanaugh,” Donnelly said.

“Now I’ll get to work to thoroughly review and vet his record to provide advice and consent for filling this vacancy, which is part of my constitutional duty,” Heitkamp echoed.

“Just as I did when Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch were nominated,” Manchin noted, “I will evaluate Judge Kavanaugh’s record, legal qualifications, judicial philosophy and particularly, his views on healthcare.”

Conservatives will look to Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin as potential Democratic votes in favor of Kavanaugh, since the three senators face tough re-election races in the fall in red states won by Trump in 2016.

Other Democratic senators from Trump-voting states, including Bill Nelson (D-FL), also said they’d hear Kavanaugh out.

It was a much different message than those issued by many Senate Democrats representing blue states, typified in Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) response to the nomination.

Arguing that Kavanaugh’s “own writings make clear that he would rule against reproductive rights and freedoms, and that he would welcome challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act,” Schumer said in a statement that he would “oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have, and I hope a bipartisan majority will do the same.”

Heitkamp appeared ready to counter that argument from Democratic leadership.

“I have no doubt that many members of Congress and outside groups will announce how they stand on the nominee before doing their due diligence and instead just take a partisan stancebut that isn’t how I work,” her statement read. “An exhaustive and fair process took place for Justice Gorsuch, who I supported, and it should and must take place again now.”

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) heaped praise Monday night on Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

“Judge Kavanaugh has sterling academic credentials,” a statement from McConnell read. “He is widely admired for his intellect, experience, and exemplary judicial temperament. He has won the respect of his peers and is highly regarded throughout the legal community. And his judicial record demonstrates a firm understanding of the role of a judge in our Republic: Setting aside personal views and political preferences in order to interpret our laws as they are written.”

Grassley called Kavanaugh “one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees to come before the Senate.”

“His credentials are well known, and he’s served with distinction as a judge on the esteemed D.C. Circuit for more than a decade. He is a superb mainstream candidate worthy of the Senate’s consideration,” he said in a statement.

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Grassley will oversee Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. McConnell, who reportedly warned Trump that Kavanaugh’s long trail of decisions would complicate his confirmation, will oversee the chamber’s vote.

McConnell and Grassley were similarly instrumental in preventing President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, Judge Merrick Garland, from receiving any consideration for that role. More than a year later, Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed in his place.

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