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

The San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos suspended a top prosecutor after a report on his racist and sexist social media postings.

“On June 28, 2018, we received information regarding negative comments posted online by one of our prosecutors,” Ramos said in a statement. “At that time, we took immediate steps to initiate a personnel investigation.”

The statement added: “Deputy District Attorney Michael Selyem will be on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the formal investigation which could result in disciplinary action leading up to termination.”

As reported by The San Bernardino Sun, Selyem, who the paper identified as the lead hard-core gang prosecutor in the DA’s office, said in a Facebook comment referring to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA): “Being a loud-mouthed c#nt in the ghetto you would think someone would have shot this bitch by now …”

In another instance, he said of the victim of a police shooting: “That s—bag got exactly what he deserved. … You reap what you sow.”

According to the report, Selyem also posted a photo of former first lady Michelle Obama holding a sign that read: “Trump grabbed my penis.”

The paper reported, citing unnamed sources, that the DA’s office had been made aware of the posts in a June 25 complaint.

Ramos discussed Selyem’s suspension at a press conference Monday. Watch below via The Press-Enterprise:

Read the the Sun’s story here, and the District Attorney’s statement here.

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Former Arizona Sen. John Kyl, who served as Senate minority whip from late 2007 to 2013, will act as “sherpa” for President Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee.

“Former Sen. Jon Kyl has agreed to serve as the Sherpa for the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.

Sherpas — a reference to the guides who lead climbers up Mount Everest — are responsible for accompanying nominees as they visit with senators and face confirmation hearings.

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte acted as sherpa for then-nominee Neil Gorsuch ahead of his 54-45 confirmation vote to the Supreme Court in April of last year.

Shah has paused his other White House duties to lead the yet-unnamed nominee through his or her confirmation. White House counsel Don McGahn’s office is overseeing the effort.

The White House noted Kyl served on the Senate Judiciary Committee “during the confirmations of 4 of the last 5 justices who have joined the Supreme Court.”

Two months after his last Senate term ended in early 2013, Kyl announced that he was joining Covington & Burling, the well-known lobbying firm.

This post has been updated. 

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President Donald Trump said Thursday that he believes Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) denial that he knew anything about the systematic sexual abuse described by former members of the Ohio State University wrestling team, of which Jordan was once an assistant coach. 

“I don’t believe them at all,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to pool reporter Todd J. Gillman of The Dallas Morning News. “I believe him.”

“Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I’ve met since I’ve been in Washington,” Trump continued. “I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He’s an outstanding man.”

Jordan has denied several former wrestlers’ accusation that he knew about, and intentionally ignored, the systematic sexual abuse of students by the late Dr. Richard Strauss.

“It’s not true,” Jordan told Politico Tuesday. “I never knew about any type of abuse. If I did, I would have done something about it. And look, if there are people who are abused, then that’s terrible and we want justice to happen.”

“It’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss,” former OSU wrestler Dunyasha Yetts told NBC News, which the broke the story, after an earlier denial from Jordan.

“I don’t know why he would, unless it’s a cover-up,” Yetts said. “Either you’re in on it, or you’re a liar.”

“Based on testimony from victim athletes from each of the aforementioned varsity sports, we estimate that Strauss sexually assaulted and/or raped a minimum of 1,500/2,000 athletes at OSU from 1978 through 1998,” former wrestler Mike DiSabato wrote in a June 26 email to a law firm that represents Ohio State, as quoted by NBC News.

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Ding dong, Scott Pruitt has resigned. Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist, will continue Pruitt’s aggressive deregulatory efforts, likely without all of the noisy scandals that so bogged down the former Oklahoma attorney general. 

Pruitt’s corruption reached the point that his own ethics chief recently called for increased scrutiny from the Office of Government Ethics. We’re only just beginning to uncover the true extent of his relationship with polluting industries as administrator.

Emails now show Pruitt handed a deregulatory win to oil and gas producers after receiving nearly identical proposals from an industry lobbyist and the governor of Utah. We know that because of a huge cache of documents released to the Sierra Club via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The person in charge of the EPA’s FOIA staff, which has slow-walked and obstructed FOIA requests, is a political ally of Pruitt’s and the former treasurer of his PAC.

Pruitt also maintained incomplete official calendars to hide his more objectionable meetings, like one with accused sexual assaulter Cardinal George Pell.

Meanwhile, Mick Mulvaney’s successor at the CFPB is raising eyebrows, with even the National Review suggesting the nominee to lead the top consumer advocate, White House Budget Office staffer Kathy Kraninger, isn’t qualified. “Law students currently doing summer clerkships at the CFPB will have more experience with consumer-credit regulation than the nominee to lead the bureau,” law professor J. W. Verret wrote for the magazine Monday.

Chuck Rettig, the Beverly Hills tax attorney nominated to lead the IRS, revealed last month that he owns Trump properties, an extremely relevant fact that he initially failed to disclose. “The nominee did disclose these properties, but not their location,” a newly-reported memo from Senate Finance Committee staff read.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, it turns out, shorted more than just one company’s stock after beginning in that office. And he earned seven figures by failing to sell some stocks until long after the 90-day deadline following his Senate confirmation. Some Democrats want an investigation for insider trading. 

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow blatantly lied this week, stating that the deficit “is coming down rapidly.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar admitted Thursday that the number of children separated from their parents as a result of Trump administration policy is much larger than previously reported, because the Trump administration was separating families long before the policy was made public.

ICE officers — now under new acting leadership — are reportedly telling asylum-seeking parents separated from their children to choose between deportation with their children or without them, without offering the option to stay in the country to pursue their claims. And parents are being forced to pay for thousands in airfare to be reunited with their children.

The companies operating the detention centers used to house the detained children are huge donors to both parties. The Homeland Security inspector general’s office, meanwhile, found that the company ICE contracts with to conduct inspections has utterly failed at holding facilities accountable to ICE’s own standards. 

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President Donald Trump on Thursday wished the newly resigned EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt well, saying the avalanche of personal scandals Pruitt faced as administrator did not play a role in accepting his resignation.

“Scott Pruitt did an outstanding job inside of the EPA,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to a pool report. “We’ve gotten rid of record breaking regulations and it’s been really good. You know, obviously the controversies with Scott, but within the agency we were extremely happy.”

“His deputy has been with me actually a long time,” Trump continued, referring to new EPA acting chief Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist. “He was very much an early Trump supporter. He was with us on the campaign. He is a very environmental person. He’s a big believer, and he’s going to do a fantastic job.”

Asked if there was any “final straw” for Pruitt in his eyes, Trump said there wasn’t, and that the choice to resign had been Pruitt’s, saying “it was very much up to him.”

“No final straw,” he said. “I think Scott saw that he was, he was, uh – look, Scott is a terrific guy. And he came to me and he said I have such great confidence in the administration. I don’t want to be a distraction. And I think Scott felt that he was a distraction.”

Trump added: “He’ll go on to great things and he’s going to have a wonderful life, I hope. But he felt that he did not want to be a distraction for an administration that he has a lot of faith in.”

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President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he had accepted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation.

Pruitt faced a wave of scandals during his tenure, both over his excessive and improper personal expenses and his aggressive, industry-aligned deregulatory agenda. On Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told CNN that the President thought Pruitt “has done a really good job with deregulating the government.”

“We’ve gotten rid of record breaking regulations and it’s been really good,” Trump told reporters Thursday while wishing Pruitt well. “You know, obviously the controversies with Scott, but within the agency we were extremely happy.”

Pruitt’s various bizarre expenditures as administrator — from a $43,000 privacy booth he had installed in his office to the unnecessary, multi-million dollar 24/7 security force that accompanied his every step as a Trump Cabinet official — all added to the mythology of the former Oklahoma attorney general as a sort of pioneer in public corruption and misbehavior.

Pruitt staffers have admitted to doing personal work for the administrator on taxpayer time, including looking for apartments for Pruitt and job-hunting on his wife’s behalf. They’ve also admitted to maintaining multiple schedules in order to hide unsavory meetings from the public eye.

Pruitt’s deputy and now the acting EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist approved by the Senate in a 53-45 vote for the deputy job in April. After his confirmation, Wheeler began serving as a comfort for deregulartorily-minded Republicans eager for a quieter option to take over that agenda. 

“There’s a guy behind him, Andrew Wheeler, who’s really qualified, too, so you know we could, that might be a good swap,” the Senate’s dean of climate science denial, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said last month. (Wheeler served as Inhofe’s chief of staff for years.)

Pruitt’s deregulatory footprint has been immense.

Among the lengthy list: Pruitt blocked the Waters of the U.S. rule, which governed run-off pollution across the country; moved to repeal the Clean Power Plan, one of the Obama administration’s signature environmental achievements; pushed Trump to leave the Paris agreement on climate change; rolled back an Obama-era rule for the monitoring of methane emissions by oil and gas producers; began the process of repealing higher fuel standards for vehicles; and radically re-imagined air quality standards with polluters in mind.

He also degraded the EPA’s capabilities from the inside, reflected in the huge EPA staff exodus during his tenure. He moved to ban the EPA from relying on studies that use private data — which so happens to be the basis of many extremely influential environmental studies; banned scientists who receive EPA funding from serving on EPA advisory boards, replacing them with industry representatives; and politicized the agency’s grant process by putting a Trump loyalist in charge

The list goes on and on. Many of these actions were challenged in court; Wheeler will likely continue to pursue all of them, and then some. 

Read Pruitt’s resignation letter below:

Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends. 

That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.

                          Your Faithful Friend,

                           Scott Pruitt

This post has been updated. 

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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones declared on July 1 that Democrats were planning to launch a second Civil War on Independence Day, a claim no more ridiculous than many he’s spewed, but one which, thankfully, spurred the #SecondCivilWarLetters hashtag.

Twitter users mocked Jones’ prediction with some alternative history of their own, including dispatches from Fort Red Pill, the 42nd Bisexual Brigade and elsewhere along the potential battlefield.

Here are the best of the “letters”:

There were also a few flops.

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Parents who’ve been separated from their children are being offered a jarring choice by the Trump administration, according to an NBC News report Tuesday: Leave the United States with them, or leave without them.

NBC News published a copy of the form it reported Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are presenting parents separated from their children as a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

The form contains two options: “I am requesting to reunite with my child(ren) for the purpose of repatriation to my country of citizenship,” or “I am affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily requesting to return to my country of citizenship without my minor child(ren) who I understand will remain in the United States to pursue available claims of relief.”

The form says it should be presented to parents “with administratively final orders of removal” who are covered by the ACLU’s lawsuit against ICE over the family separation policy, but, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told NBC News, “We are seeing cases where people who have passed credible fear interviews and have pending asylum claims are being given this form.”

CNN’s Nick Valencia similarly reported Monday, citing an attorney from the Southern Poverty Law Center, that “many are being pressured to sign this before they’ve even seen a judge, and despite not having a final order of removal.”

If that is in fact the case — if individuals with asylum claims are being presented with the “choice” of leaving the country with or without their children — it is “not only contrary to asylum law, but also to our international obligations,” immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney told TPM over the phone Tuesday.

“It’s not appropriate at all” if asylum-seekers are given this form, McKinney added. “It’s incredibly misleading, and again, it moves that narrative forward that this agency is not allowing asylum-seekers to have their day in court.”

In a statement to TPM, ICE spokesperson Jennifer D. Elzea said that “An individual who has received a final order of removal has already been given the opportunity to make a claim of fear about returning to his or her country of citizenship.” She said the form was consistent with the agency’s detained parents directive.

“[T]his form only applies to parents with a final order and who are part of a specific class action suit,” she added, referring to the ACLU’s lawsuit over family separation. “This form has absolutely nothing to do with those who have pending asylum claims.”

Pressed specifically about Gelernt’s claim that people with pending asylum claims were being presented with the form, an ICE official told TPM: “We have heard about such claims; however, to date no one has been able to provide us the specific case info for any of these alleged incidents so that we may look into it and determine if anything was done out of order.”

“Immigration cases are complicated and there can be many things pending at once, so we’d really need to look into the cases specifically to determine what happened,” the ICE official told TPM.

Immigration attorneys often keep such details private to protect clients from retaliation. The Texas Tribune reported last month on an unnamed Honduran man who, “desperate” to see his six-year-old daughter from whom he’d been separated, agreed to abandon an asylum claim and sign a deportation order after immigration agents suggested he’d be able to see his daughter if he did so. He’s since tried to revoke that paperwork, according to the report.

The preliminary injunction U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issued in the ACLU suit last week, in addition to ordering the Trump administration to end the family separation policy, specifically stated that separated parents could not be deported without their child unless the parent “affirmatively, knowingly, and voluntarily declines to be reunited with the child” prior to deportation.

Advocates take issue with ICE’s assertion that parents are even able to voluntarily sign the form when reunification with their children hangs in the balance.

“When they add the conditional part of it — that is, ‘If you sign this form then you will get your child back’ — we question the legality of that, because then at that point, it’s not voluntary if it’s conditional,” Zenén Jaimes Pérez, communications director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, told TPM in a phone call Tuesday.

Pérez said he would call it a “lie” that ICE has any real process for reuniting parents with their children before the parents are deported.

“If they do have a process, it would be great to hear from them what that looks like,” he said. “And that’s a question for the federal government, because we definitely have already had five clients who’ve been deported without their children, and the process for getting them back is still very much unclear.”

TPM asked ICE about reports that parents who’d asked to be reunited with their children before being deported were instead being deported without them.

“I’ve not heard of any such instances until you’ve raised it now,” the ICE official said. “I would ask for case info so that we can look into it and confirm what took place in that specific alleged incident.”

On the question of whether individuals with asylum claims are being presented with the deportation form, Pérez told TPM, noting that he wanted to protect attorney-client privilege, “Many of those who were deported could have had a really good chance or opportunity to pass a credible fear interview, and start taking asylum.”

But they hadn’t even had the interview yet? TPM asked. “Right,” Pérez said.

“It’s pretty chilling,” he said later. “The voluntary departure form should just be that: Stay, or be removed voluntarily. When you add conditions, especially conditions that are as huge as whether I’m going to see my child or not, that automatically, for us, makes it invalid.”

He added: “We hope the administration will not pursue basically holding kids ransom.”

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A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to provide more internal documents detailing its move to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, according to reports from the courtroom.

New York and several other states sued the Commerce Department and Secretary Wilbur Ross in April over the addition of a citizenship question to the census. Critics have argued that, despite Ross’ justification that the question is necessary to more fully enforce the Voting Rights Act, it will have the effect of dramatically depressing immigrants’ census response rate — including the response rate of households that contain both American citizens and undocumented immigrants.

That, in turn, would have a range of implications, including reducing the political representation and federal funding that goes to the largely Democratic-leaning areas where immigrants live.

Judge Jesse Furman’s order Tuesday came in response to a motion from the states to expand discovery in the suit — that is, to make public more internal documents surrounding the decision by the Commerce Department to add the citizenship question.

“Today marked a major win in our lawsuit to protect the Census, with a federal judge ordering the Trump administration to provide vital information on how the decision to demand citizenship status was made, and what it may mean for New Yorkers and Americans across the country,” New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement Tuesday.

According to NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang, who was in attendance Tuesday, Furman said it was “inconceivable” that more documents shouldn’t be added to the record. Per Wang, Furman also said the Trump administration had “deviated from standard operating procedure” by adding the citizenship question without considering its potential effects.

Ross in March said the Justice Department “initiated the request” to add the citizenship question.

But documents released last month as part of the states’ suit showed there was much more to the story: In 2017, emails showed, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach urged Ross to add the question. He also contradicted Ross’ public justification by saying that the census lacking a citizenship question “leads to the problem that aliens who do not actually ‘reside’ in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes.”

“It now appears those statements were potentially untrue,” Furman said Tuesday of Ross’ public justifications, according to Courthouse News Service’s Adam Klasfeld.

Furman said, per Klasfeld, that the states had made a “strong showing of a claim of bad faith.”

Kobach also said in the previously released emails that he was contacting Ross “at the direction of Steve Bannon,” indicating the White House’s direct involvement in the citizenship question.

In addition to the additional documents to be released, Furman specifically ordered, according to the courthouse reports, that the Trump administration provide a log of documents over which it was claiming privilege, and that the states be allowed to conduct 10 shared fact depositions. The documents are due July 23.

Furman also considered, but did not rule on, a motion from the Trump administration to dismiss the suit. The judge called that “unlikely,” according to reports.

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