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 and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday faced intense questioning from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding whether President Donald Trump disparaged certain countries during a meeting on immigration last week.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen did not deny, however, that Trump used vulgar language while referring to certain countries, as has been reported.

The Washington Post first reported Thursday, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) later confirmed publicly, that Trump called El Salvador, Haiti and unnamed African countries “shithole countries” and said he would prefer accepting immigrants from Norway. Trump has denied saying as much.

During an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked Nielsen, who was at the meeting in question, about the reports.

“You were in the room,” he told Nielsen. “You’re under oath.”

“Did President Trump use this word or a substantially similar word to describe certain countries?” Leahy asked.

“I did not hear that word used, no sir,” Nielsen said.

“That is not the question. Did he use anything similar to that describing certain countries?” Leahy asked. Various reports days after the fact cited unnamed White House officials who claimed Trump may have been using the word “shithouse.”

Nielsen responded: “The conversation was very impassioned. I don’t dispute that the President was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language. The concept, and the context, I believe, in which this came up was the concept that the President would like to move to a merit-based system. He would like to not— no longer look at quotas —”

Leahy interrupted her: “Did he use what would be considered vulgar language referring to certain countries?”

“The President used tough language in general, as did congressmen in the room, yes sir,” she said.

Later, Durbin pressed her on that point: “Did you hear Sen. Graham use profanity?” he asked, referring to the Republican from South Carolina who, according to Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), said the Post’s reporting was “basically accurate” and said publicly Friday that he’d already “said my piece” to the President.

Nielsen replied: “I did hear tough language from Sen. Graham, yes sir.”

“What did he say?” Durbin asked.

“He used tough language,” she said. “He was impassioned. I think he was feeling very strongly about the issue, as was everyone in the room, and to underscore the point, I think he was using some strong language.”

“Do you recall that the strong language he used repeated exactly what the president had said prior to that?” Durbin asked, implying that that was the case.

“I remember specific cuss words being used by a variety of members,” Nielsen dodged again.

Durbin affirmed in response that Graham “spoke up in a way that I respect very much,” and that Graham’s “strong words repeated exactly the words used by the President, which you cannot remember.”

Earlier, Durbin had asked about Norway: “Do you remember the president saying expressly ‘I want more Europeans, why can’t we have more immigrants from Norway?’” he asked.

“I do remember him asking about the concept of underrepresented countries, as a fix,” she replied. “This is in the conversation about removing the diversity lottery and how we could reallocate that. And I do remember him asking, if we do that and we then assign those to countries that are unrepresented, aren’t we just continuing non-merit-based immigration? From that perspective, I think he did ask, ‘Would that cover European countries or by its nature would that mean that we are further establishing immigration to purposefully exclude Europeans?’”

“What did the president say about immigrants from Norway?” Durbin pressed. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper, in an interview clip aired Tuesday, that Trump had said “We need more people from Norway. Norway, they don’t even take refugees in Norway. And I just met with the Norwegian Prime Minister. We need more Europeans!”

“I heard him repeating what he learned in a meeting before, that they are industrious, that they are a hard-working country,” Nielsen replied. “They don’t have much crime there, they don’t have much debt. I think in general, I heard him giving compliments to Norway.”

Leahy had asked about Norway, as well. “Being from Norway is not a skill,” he noted, referring to the White House’s professed preference for high-skilled immigrants. “What does he mean when he says he wants more immigrants from Norway?”

Nielsen said she did not believe Trump used that exact phrase “specifically,” but that “he was using Norway as an example of a country that is — what he was specifically referring to was the prime minister telling him that the people of Norway work very hard. And so what he was referencing is, from a merit-based perspective, we would like to have those with skills who can assimilate and contribute to the United States, moving away from country quotas and to an individual merit-based system.”

This post has been updated.

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After Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Monday that President Donald Trump should release any recordings the White House has of the meeting in which Trump allegedly called some countries “shithole countries,” Trump said Durbin had “misrepresented” what he’d said. 

“I don’t know if there was some other recording device that was being used within the Oval Office,” Durbin told reporters in Illinois. “If there was, I want to just call on the White House right now: Release whatever you have. If they don’t have it, so be it.”

As first reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by Durbin, Trump asked in a meeting Thursday, referring to El Salvador, Haiti and unspecified African countries: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

“Why do we need more Haitians?” he reportedly said. “Take them out.”

Initially, the White House did not deny the Post’s reporting, with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins even reporting that unnamed White House staffers thought it would resonate with the President’s core supporters. Trump has since denied both quotes attributed to him by the Post. On Monday, he attacked Durbin specifically.

“I am stunned that this is their defense,” Durbin said earlier Monday, referring to a claim from one unnamed White House official to the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey that Trump could have said “shithouse.”

Without citing a source Sunday, the National Review’s Rich Lowry said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump “used a different — my understanding from the meeting, he used a different, but very closely related vulgarity. He said s-house, and not s-hole.”

“I don’t know that changing the word from ‘hole’ to ‘house’ changes the impact,” Durbin said. He said twice that he stood by his earlier assertion and that Trump did not say “shithouse.”

Durbin was the only Democrat at the meeting Thursday. Two conservative Republicans who also attended — Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) — initially said they “do not recall” whether Trump said what the Post reported, though they both claimed Sunday that he did not.

H/t USA Today.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son, Martin Luther King III, criticized President President Donald Trump on Monday for what King said was Trump’s insistence that “our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway.”

“When a President insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is,” King said in Washington, according to the Associated Press, adding: “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”

The AP reported that King referred to the segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace, saying “George Wallace was a staunch racist and we worked on his heart and ultimately George Wallace transformed.”

King was discussing Trump’s comments, first reported by the Washington Post, that the United States should reject migrants from “shithole countries” — including, according to the Post, Haiti, El Salvador and unnamed African nations — in favor of migrants from places like Norway.

Trump golfed on Monday, skipping the traditional volunteer activities with which other presidents have engaged on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, CNN reported. Neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence had any scheduled events for Monday, according to White House press guidance emails. Pence on Monday posted a video of him laying a wreath at the memorial to King in Washington, D.C. the previous day, and the White House released a pre-recorded statement from Trump honoring the federal holiday. 

CNN noted that, while marking the holiday on Friday, Trump urged Americans “to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King’s extraordinary life — and it was extraordinary indeed — and his great legacy.”

Martin Luther King III told the New York Daily News on Friday, referring to Trump’s remarks earlier in the day: “Today he’s doing what the script told him to do. Yesterday caused him to lose any level of credibility. You can talk about Martin Luther King. But the hope is you would hear and embrace what he had to say.”

King visited Trump Tower days before the President’s inauguration last year, saying at the time that “we will continue to evaluate” whether Trump would live up to his pledge to be a President for all Americans.

He told Rev. Al Sharpton Sunday, on Sharpton’s show on MSNBC, “It’s not evident that [what I said to him] got through. It does not seem like it. Yes, I’m disappointed, but, you know, we have to win battles every day.”

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A new tax filing shows that Eric Trump’s charity golf tournaments did in fact pay tens of thousands of dollars to Trump properties, despite Eric Trump’s earlier assertions that much of the group’s expenses were written off by his father’s businesses, the Daily Beast and Forbes reported late last week.

Eric Trump’s former foundation — from which he resigned as a board member last year, when it also changed its name from the Eric Trump Foundation to Curetivity — donated slightly more than $3 million to charitable causes in 2016, according to its filing.

The filing also shows that the foundation paid tens of thousands of dollars to Trump Organization properties for goods and services provided during charity golf tournaments and dinner events, including $98,730 to the Trump National Golf Course in Westchester, New York for the foundation’s annual golf fundraiser. The filing consistently claims the payments were for well less than the value of the goods and services provided. In sum, the two publications counted, Eric Trump’s foundation paid his father’s private businesses roughly $145,000 in 2016.

Trump seemed to respond to the reporting Monday:

In June of last year, Forbes reported on a series of conflicts of interest facing Eric Trump’s foundation, including board members who were reliant on the Trump Organization for much or all of their livelihoods, that the foundation re-donated money to other charities who in turn hosted fundraisers at Trump properties, and that the overhead expenses for charity events hosted by the organization spiked well into the hundreds of thousands annually beginning in 2011, reportedly at Donald Trump’s command.

The Daily Beast reported in September, based on tax records and financial disclosures, that between 2007 and 2014, the foundation “spent $881,779 on its annual Golf Invitational at Trump-owned clubs, a portion of which—$100,000 in 2013 and $88,000 in 2014—was reported as paid directly ‘to a company of a family member of the Board of Directors.’ In other words, Donald Trump himself.”

“We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” Eric Trump incorrectly told Forbes last year, the outlet noted Friday.

One former employee each of the Eric Trump Foundation and Trump National Westchester told Forbes in June that Trump had insisted on his son’s foundation paying for the events.

“Mr. Trump had a cow,” Ian Gillule, Trump National Westchester’s former membership and marketing director, told Forbes, describing the elder Trump’s reaction to the written off expenses.

“He flipped,” Gillule continued. “He was like, ‘We’re donating all of this stuff, and there’s no paper trail? No credit?’ And he went nuts. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s my son or not–everybody gets billed.'”

The report spurred New York’s attorney general, Eric Schniederman, to announce a probe into the foundation, one his office told the Daily Beast was “ongoing.”

Also revealed in the new filing: Curetivity’s new board members, who include White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino and Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who the Wall Street Journal recently reported paid hush money to an adult film actor a month before the 2016 election over her reported sexual encounter with the elder Trump.

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President Donald Trump denied Sunday that he is a racist after multiple named and unnamed people said that he called Haiti, El Salvador and other African nations “shithole countries” during a meeting Thursday.

The President’s defense came in response to a press pool reporter’s question at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. After Trump made a remark about the ongoing immigration negotiations, the reporter asked, “Do you think your comments the other day made it harder?”

“Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments?” the President responded. “They weren’t made.”

The reporter asked Trump about those who think he’s a racist.

“No, no, I’m not a racist,” the President replied. “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”

Watch below:

Trump has repeatedly made racist remarks, from claiming that Mexican immigrants were rapists who brought drugs and crime with them to America, to saying that there “were very fine people on both sides” of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. Writing in the New York Times opinion section Monday, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick documented what they called “Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List.”

The Washington Post first reported Thursday that Trump called certain countries “shithole countries” during a meeting on immigration Thursday, citing multiple unnamed people in the room, and that he asked “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) later said the Post’s reporting was accurate, as did Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), according to his colleague Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who spoke to the Charleston Post & Courier.

After releasing a joint statement Friday announcing that they “do not recall” whether Trump said what the Post reported he did, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) — both immigration hardliners — claimed Sunday that Durbin had misrepresented the President.

The Trump administration has announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status — a protection from deportation for undocumented people facing armed conflict or environmental disaster in their home countries — for roughly 200,000 Salvadorans, 60,000 Haitians and 2,500 Nicaraguans.

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Hillary Clinton called President Donald Trump’s comment about “shithole countries” racist on Friday.

In a tweet commemorating the eight year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, Clinton added: “[W]e‘re subjected to Trump’s ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesn’t look like him.”

Trump reportedly asked lawmakers at a meeting Thursday, referring to Haiti and other countries: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was in attendance, said Trump repeatedly used that language. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), also in attendance, told Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) that the Post’s reporting was “basically accurate,” Scott said.

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Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) said in a statement Friday that they “do not recall” whether President Donald Trump called certain countries “shitholes” during a meeting with lawmakers Thursday.

“In regards to Senator Durbin’s accusation, we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest,” they said in a joint statement.

Cotton and Perdue, both staunch conservatives on immigration, are co-sponsors of the RAISE Act, which aims to dramatically reshuffle how America’s visa application process works in favor of migrants with certain marketable skills. The proposal would disadvantage those with family connections in the United States, relative to the status quo, eliminate the so-called diversity visa lottery and, overall, severely cut the number of immigrants entering the United States legally.

They promoted the legislative effort with President Trump at the White House last August (pictured above).

The Washington Post first reported Thursday that, in reference to Haiti, El Salvador and unnamed African countries, Trump said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

The White House initially did not deny the report in a statement. Trump, the next day, said that “this was not the language used,” without specifying further what he meant.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, who was in attendance at the meeting, told reporters Friday that Trump called certain countries shitholes “repeatedly.”

And Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said Friday that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who was in attendance, told him that Trump’s reported comments were “basically accurate.”

Graham has not commented on the reported remark himself. Nor have other attendees at the meeting. According to Politico’s count, that includes House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

Diaz-Balart came close, though. “I’m not going to be diverted from all possible efforts to continue to negotiate to reach a deal. So statements at the eleventh hour are not going to distract me,” he said, Politico reported.

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President Trump is said to have referred Thursday to Haiti and other countries as “shithole countries.” But Mar-a-Lago, the President’s club and frequent retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, reportedly hires a large number of Haitian guest workers.

CNBC flagged Mar-a-Lago’s hiring practices Friday, citing a New Yorker report from March of last year.

The magazine’s Sheelah Kolhatkar reported that the 64 foreign workers expected to be brought in to help staff the club “tend to come from two countries, Haiti and Romania, according to someone who works at Mar-a-Lago as an employee of an outside contractor.”

In a closed-door immigration negotiation Thursday with several lawmakers, Trump asked: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump was referring to migrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and unnamed African countries, the Washington Post first reported.

The White House did not initially deny the report. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who was in attendance, confirmed Friday that Trump called certain nations shitholes “repeatedly.”

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos donated $33 million to a scholarship fund for undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children, the group announced Friday.

TheDream.US said in a statement that the Bezos’ donation would pay for 1,000 scholarships for so-called “Dreamers” to attend college, and that it was the largest donation in the group’s history.

My dad came to the U.S. when he was 16 as part of Operation Pedro Pan,” Jeff Bezos said in a statement accompanying the news, referring to his Cuban-American father, Mike Bezos. “He landed in this country alone and unable to speak English. With a lot of grit and determination – and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware – my dad became an outstanding citizen, and he continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways.”

“MacKenzie and I are honored to be able to help today’s Dreamers by funding these scholarships,” he added.

The donation came within a day of the Washington Post’s reporting that President Donald Trump, during a meeting with legislators Thursday, called Haiti, El Salvador and unnamed African countries “shitholes” from which the United States should not accept immigrants. 

Trump said Friday that he’d used “tough” language during the meeting, and that the United States should reject “large numbers” of immigrants from “high crime” countries.

In September, Trump ended DACA, an Obama-era program protecting young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children from deportation. He’s charged legislators with coming up with a replacement for the program, but has also at times appeared to cheer for that legislative process’s failure, as he did Friday:

One of the co-founders of TheDream.US is the former publisher of the Washington Post, Donald E. Graham. In 2013, Bezos’ personal investment firm, Nash Holdings, purchased the paper.

Bezos, the world’s wealthiest man, has faced criticism in the past for not engaging in philanthropy at the same level as fellow multi-billionaires like Bill Gates. In June of last year, he posted a “request for ideas,” asking his Twitter followers for “short term” philanthropy proposals. 

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President Donald Trump said Thursday that text messages critical of him shared by FBI employees amounted to treason, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Journal reporters interviewed Trump for 45 minutes, the paper reported, in a conversation that touched on everything from North Korea to Steve Bannon.

“A man is tweeting to his lover that if [Democrat Hillary Clinton] loses, we’ll essentially do the insurance policy,” Trump said. “We’ll go to phase two and we’ll get this guy out of office.”

“This is the FBI we’re talking about—that is treason,” he added. “That is a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”

Trump was referring to text messages between Agent Peter Strzok — once a member of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who worked briefly on Mueller’s team as well.

The paper referred to its earlier reporting that Strzok’s “insurance policy” comment was made in reference to the need for aggressiveness in the bureau’s probe of potential ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

The Journal reported in December that the texts, uncovered as part of an internal Justice Department investigation, were critical of a number of political figures from both parties. 

Journal reporter Del Quentin Weber reported Strzok and Page’s responses, via statements from their lawyers:

Trump also told the Journal, referring to ousted FBI Director James Comey, that “everybody wanted Comey fired.”

“I should be given credit for having great insight,” he added.

The Journal broke the interview up between several articles, focusing respectively on Trump’s treason comment, North Korea (“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.”), Steve Bannon (“Steve had nothing to do with my win, or certainly very little.”), and the congressional effort to reach a compromise to protect DACA recipients after Trump ended the program in September.

“They’ve been here a long time, they’re longer children…nevertheless I think we should do something,” he said of the latter effort.

This post has been updated.

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