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

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did in fact meet with one half of the lobbyist power couple who leased him Washington, D.C. townhouse for $50 per night last year.

The lobbyist, Steven Hart, announced Friday that he would retire as chairman of Williams & Jensen, the well-known lobbying firm, as a result of the townhouse scandal.

Later on Friday, the Hill first reported, the firm filed a disclosure that Hart was a lobbyist for Smithfield Foods, the pork processing giant, earlier this year. The Daily Beast had previously reported on Hart’s firm’s clients with business before the EPA. The firm’s disclosure contradicts Hart and Pruitt’s prior claims that Hart hadn’t lobbied the EPA during Pruitt’s time as administrator.

Then, the New York Times and Politico reported that Hart had personally met with Pruitt and a former executive at Smithfield Foods in 2017. The former executive now serves on the board of Smithfield’s philanthropic organization.

An EPA official acknowledged to Politico that Pruitt had personally met with Hart and the former Smithfield executive, but the official “argued that the meeting didn’t meet the definition of lobbying,” the publication said. The Times reported that Smithfield Foods and Hart disputed that the meeting constituted lobbying, as well.

“I assisted a friend who serves on the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and this is inaccurately being tied to Smithfield Foods,” Hart said in a statement quoted by multiple outlets. “I was not paid for this assistance and any suggestion that I lobbied for Smithfield Foods is inaccurate.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Sunday attacked NBC’s Chuck Todd over Todd’s analysis of the planned summit between Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.

Trump is incorrect on an important point: North Korea has not “agreed to denuclearization.” 

Rather, Kim said Saturday that “under the proven condition of complete nuclear weapons, we no longer need any nuclear tests, mid-range and intercontinental ballistic rocket tests, and that the nuclear test site in northern area has also completed its mission,” according to CNN, which cited North Korea’s state-run news agency.

As the Associated Press reported Sunday, referring to Kim’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities, “[t]he North’s latest announcement stopped well short of suggesting it has any intention of giving [them] up.”

Trump appeared to be referring to Todd’s analysis on the “Today” show Sunday morning.

“He seems to be giving very little but making it seem like he’s giving a lot, and he’s giving off a tone of cooperation,” Todd said, referring to the North Korean leader.

“Look, the tone in itself, obviously, is a positive development,” he continued. “And as a diplomatic overture, the U.S. would look terrible if they didn’t accept that kind of overture and at least continue the conversation.”

“But, I have to tell you,” Todd said, “there is a lot of people asking, there’s not many preconditions the United States is asking for. So far in this potential summit, North Koreans have gotten a lot out of it. What has the United States gotten yet? We don’t have a release of any of those Americans that they’ve held captive. We don’t have a pledge of denuclearization as the ultimate goal. There’s a lot of things they are not promising that is raising some red flags.”

Watch below:

Read More →

Former New York City mayor and close Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani has joined President Donald Trump’s legal team, Giuliani told the Washington Post Thursday.

“I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” Giuliani told the Post.

Trump’s friend had few details to offer the paper.

It’s “too early” to say whether Trump will sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, Giuliani told the Post. He also said he was “not involved” in determining whether or not Trump should fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s probe.

“My advice on Mueller has been this: He should be allowed to do his job, he’s entitled to do his job,” Giuliani said.

The Post said that Giuliani claimed to have been in talks with Trump “for weeks” about joining the team, and that he would take a leave from his firm Greenberg Traurig to advise Trump.

This post has been updated.

Read More →

Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-IL) newborn daughter Maile Pearl Bowlsbey made her Senate debut Thursday, seconds before Duckworth voted against the confirmation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA administrator.

Duckworth on April 9 became the first sitting U.S. senator in history to give birth while in office.

The Senate voted Wednesday to allow the infant (under one year old) children of senators accompany their parents into the Senate chamber.

The Senate ultimately voted 50-49 in favor of Bridenstine’s confirmation Thursday.

Read More →

While advocating for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, President Donald Trump said “human trafficking is worse than it’s ever been in the history of the world,” according to a pool report.

The victims of centuries of chattel slavery would presumably disagree.

The comment came during a visit to the Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida, according to pool reporter Tarini Parti of BuzzFeed News.

“Drugs are flowing into our country,” Trump told reporters, according to Parti. “We need border protection. We need the wall. We have to have the wall. The Democrats don’t want to approve the Wall because they think it’s good politically, but it’s not.”

“If you look at what’s happening in California with sanctuary cities — people are really going the opposite way,” he continued. “They don’t want sanctuary cities. There’s a little bit of a revolution going on in California. Human trafficking is worse than it’s ever been in the history of the world.”

This post has been updated.

Read More →

Former President Barack Obama celebrated the survivors of the February shooting massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in an entry for Time’s “100 Most Influential” issue, writing that they had mobilized a political movement against “mealymouthed politicians[,] mendacious commentators” and the gun industry.

“Seared by memories of seeing their friends murdered at a place they believed to be safe, these young leaders don’t intimidate easily,” the former President wrote. “They see the NRA and its allies—whether mealymouthed politicians or mendacious commentators peddling conspiracy theories—as mere shills for those who make money selling weapons of war to whoever can pay. They’re as comfortable speaking truth to power as they are dismissive of platitudes and punditry. And they live to mobilize their peers.”

“Our kids now show us what we’ve told them America is all about, even if we haven’t always believed it ourselves: that our future isn’t written for us, but by us,” the entry concluded.

Obama, who’s said that the 2012 gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the “toughest day” of his presidency, has long criticized congressional inaction on gun control.

A month after the Stoneman Douglas shooting, he and former first lady Michelle Obama wrote to survivors at the school.

“Throughout our history, young people like you have led the way in making America better,” their letter read. “There may be setbacks; you may sometimes feel like progress is too slow in coming. But we have no doubt you are going to make an enormous difference in the days and years to come, and we will be there for you.”

Read Obama’s full Time entry here.

Read More →

Asked about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe Wednesday, and specifically about whether he would fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, President Donald Trump didn’t answer directly but instead pointed to the fact that they had not yet been dismissed.

“They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months and they’re still here,” Trump said of the two men. 

The comment came during a joint press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Bloomberg News’ Jennifer Jacobs had asked if Trump determined that “it’s not worth the political fallout” to remove either Mueller or Rosenstein.

Trump began his answer by insisting, again, that there had been “no collusion,” and that “we are giving tremendous amounts of paper” to investigators.

He repeated his attack that the entire investigation was based on a Democratic “hoax” to distract from an electoral loss and went down a laundry list of claims about Democrats.

“I have instructed our lawyers, be totally transparent,” Trump said. “I believe we’ve given them 1.4 million pages of documents, if you can believe this, and haven’t used, that I know of, or for the most part, presidential powers or privilege.”

Mueller, aside from public legal filings and statements, has been vigilant about preventing leaks, and the extent to which the White House has asserted executive privilege in those proceedings is unclear. Trump’s former top strategist, Steve Bannon, has urged him to invoke executive privilege “immediately and retroactively.”

But current and former administration officials have repeatedly asserted under oath that presidential privilege prevented them from answering inquiring congressional committees’ questions, or simply refused to answer committee questions without providing an explanation for their silence. 

“We are hopefully coming to the end,” Trump added Wednesday. “It is a bad thing for our country, very very bad thing for our country, but there has been no collusion. They won’t find any collusion. It doesn’t exist.”

Read More →

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he thought there was a “good chance” three Americans held prisoner in North Korea would be released.

“We have been talking about them, we are negotiating now,” Trump told a reporter who asked if the President would insist on the prisoners’ release as a condition of his upcoming meeting with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. The comment came during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

“We are doing our very best. As you know, they have been there a long time and it’s harsh treatment.”

“I think there’s a good chance of doing it,” he added. “We’re having very good dialogue. We will keep you informed. But we are in there and we are working very hard on that.”

In general, he said later, “this should have been taken care of by past administrations, when they were not nearly so far along.”

Read More →

The publisher of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., agreed on Wednesday to let former Playboy model Karen McDougal out of a contract requiring her to stay silent about an alleged affair with President Donald Trump, the New York Times reported.

As part of a settlement reached between McDougal and AMI, McDougal’s lawyer Peter Stris told the Times, McDougal will keep the $150,000 she received as part of the original hush agreement and AMI has the right to $75,000 of future profits obtained from McDougal telling her story.

Stris called the agreement “a total win.”

“It’s one step at a time for me,” McDougal told the paper. “Today, I’m doing my victory dance.”

“AMI is pleased that we reached an amicable resolution with Karen today that provides both sides what they wanted as a result,” an unnamed spokesperson for the Enquirer told the Hollywood Reporter.

McDougal had signed what’s known in the tabloid industry as a “catch and kill” agreement: AMI, whose chief executive David Packer is a close friend of Trump’s, bought the rights to her story and then did not publish it. McDougal claimed in her lawsuit that she didn’t know that would happen, and also that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had been secretly invovled in the negotiations surrounding the non-disclosure agreement she signed.

“The purpose of our lawsuit is not to get out of a hush agreement,” Stris told CNN in March. “The purpose of our lawsuit is to get out of an agreement that has been used to silence Karen, and that transfers her life rights, the rights to her story, to a company that has absolutely no business profiting from or controlling that information.”

Earlier this month, AMI seemed ready to carry out a legal battle against McDougal, asking a judge to dismiss her suit. The documents related to the agreement and others like were reportedly part of federal investigators’ raids on Cohen’s home, office and hotel a week later.

McDougal was represented at the time she signed the agreement with AMI by the same attorney — Keith Davidson — as Stephanie Clifford when Clifford signed her non-disclosure agreement covering a separate alleged affair with Trump. Davidson also represented an unnamed woman who negotiated a settlement in late 2017 with the Trump fundraiser Eliot Broidy, himself represented by Cohen.

Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, sued Trump and Cohen for defamation after they implied she was lying about the affair. She’s also sued to be released from her contract, arguing that it’s invalid because Trump did not sign it.

This post has been updated.

Read More →

New York’s attorney general on Wednesday urged lawmakers to change the state’s double jeopardy law to include specific language addressing presidential pardons.

Without doing so, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote, “a defendant pardoned by the President for a serious federal crime could be freed from all accountability under federal and state criminal law, even though the President has no authority under the U.S. Constitution to pardon state crimes.”

It was a noticeable shot across President Donald Trump’s bow: Trump in August pardoned a political ally, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and earlier this month he pardoned former Bush administration official Scott Libby.

Libby was convicted of lying to the FBI, among other charges. Many Trump allies have pleaded guilty to, or been charged with, the same.

“[R]ecent reports indicate that the President may be considering issuing pardons that may impede criminal investigations,” Schneiderman told lawmakers Wednesday. “This is disturbing news, not only because it would undermine public confidence in the rule of law, but also because—due to a little-known feature of New York law that appears to be unique in its reach—a strategically-timed pardon could prevent individuals who may have violated our State’s laws from standing trial in our courts as well.”

We must ensure that if the President, or any president, issues such pardons, we can use the full force of New York’s laws to bring such individuals to justice,” the attorney general said in a statement accompanying the letter.

He laid out the specific aspects of the state’s law — which already includes several exceptions — he’d like to see changed:

The problem arises under Article 40 of the Criminal Procedure Law. Under that law, jeopardy attaches when a defendant pleads guilty, or, if the defendant proceeds to a jury trial, the moment the jury is sworn. If any of those steps occur in a federal prosecution, then a subsequent prosecution for state crimes “based upon the same act or criminal transaction” cannot proceed, unless an exception applies. New York’s law provides exceptions when a court nullifies a prior criminal proceeding (such as when an appeals court vacates a conviction), or even when a federal court overturns a federal conviction because the prosecution failed to establish an element of the crime that is not an element of the New York crime. But there is no parallel exception for when the President effectively nullifies a federal criminal prosecution via pardon.

Read Schneiderman’s full letter below:

Read More →