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

President Donald Trump and his administration have repeatedly peddled the lie that, according to government data, foreigners who come to the United States are more likely to be convicted of terrorism and “terrorism-related” offenses than native-born Americans.

A new statement from the Justice Department to Lawfare makes the lie more clear than ever.

[N]o responsive records were located,” the Justice Department said in an otherwise unremarkable statement to Lawfare editor Benhamin Wittes last week. The statement spelled the resolution of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that Lawfare had filed in an effort to find data — any data — the administration was using to support the false claim.

Specifically, Lawfare and the DOJ had agreed that:

The offices of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, legislative affairs, and public affairs would each conduct a search “for records containing data of (i) all individuals convicted of all terrorism-related offenses (domestic and international) between 2001 and the date of the initial search, or (ii) all individuals convicted of all domestic terrorism-related offenses between 2001 and the date of the initial search.”

When the DOJ found “no responsive records,” the implication was clear: Trump lied, many times.

Let’s take a step back: It all started with a lie Trump told both chambers of Congress during his address to lawmakers in February 2017, just days after taking office.

According to data provided by the Department of Justice,” he said, “the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.”

Immediately, reporters took note.

TPM reported that “terrorism-related” could mean nearly anything, including offenses like passport forgery, or, in an illustrative example used by the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh, stealing cereal.

In addition, asked to provide the justification for Trump’s claim, Justice Department spokesperson Peter Carr (who has since become special counsel Robert Mueller’s spokesperson) and assistant White House press secretary Kelly Love (who has since resigned) provided TPM with the same statement, asserting that the Justice Department “maintains information about public international terrorism and terrorism-related convictions” since 9/11.

The statement made no reference to domestic terrorism.

Lawfare noted in a threepart series that the data set the Trump administration had used to present a parallel claim, in the President’s revised March travel ban, similarly only accounted for international terrorism, among many more problems.

The publication found that domestic terrorism convicts — which more than double international terrorism convicts since 1996, it reported — are more likely to be born American citizens (and white).

Also, in his speech to Congress, Trump used the phrase “came here from outside of our country.” As Lawfare revealed, he may well have been referring to people literally brought into the United States to face trial for international terrorism, and who otherwise wouldn’t have entered the country at all. 

The language in the executive order was similarly misleading: “Since 2001,” the White House said, “hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States.”

An earlier set of documents obtained by Lawfare revealed that the Justice Department’s National Security Division had shared data on international terrorism with the White House, but, Lawfare noted, the DOJ had also warned that the data didn’t reflect domestic terrorism convictions.

In January of this year, Trump repeated the lie, saying on Twitter that a “New report from DOJ & DHS shows that nearly 3 in 4 individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges are foreign-born.”

But the report used the same flawed data, counting only international terrorism convictions — including criminal acts committed entirely overseas, before suspects were extradited to the United States — and leaving out domestic terrorism.

“International terrorism” is an internal phrase used by the FBI, former FBI counterterrorism agent Michael German told TPM at the time. “Domestic terrorism just means ‘not affiliated with Muslim groups.’ If you’re a Neo-Nazi terrorist in the United States, even if you’re Canadian or French, you’re a domestic terrorist.”

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White House chief of staff John Kelly announced to staff Monday that he’d agreed to stay in that position through the 2020 election, the Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday.

Citing unnamed White House officials, the Journal said Kelly was responding to Trump’s request that he stay through 2020. The Washington Post and CNN, also citing unnamed officials, confirmed the news.

Kelly began as chief of staff in late July last year, taking over for Reince Priebus. Trump reportedly said at the time that he wanted “a general” as his top aide.

Serving through 2020, the Journal noted, would make Kelly’s tenure one of the longest in U.S. history.

This post has been updated.

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Kellyanne Conway emphasized Tuesday that The Virginia-based trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort “centers on matters that have nothing to do with the campaign.”

“I would note for your audience, Bill, that the judge has very strictly instructed no mention of Paul Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign: Don’t mention Trump, don’t mention Russia, don’t mention collusion,” Conway, who managed Trump’s campaign after Manafort, told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Tuesday morning.

She’s largely correct: Manafort is alleged to have carried out massive bank and tax fraud, among other things. And both Mueller and Manafort’s lawyers have said his campaign work should stay out of the courtroom. Another trial, set in Washington, D.C., will begin in September.

Still, Manafort was charged in the course of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters. And the charges against Manafort were viewed by many as an attempt to get him to cooperate with prosecutors in their cases against other Trump campaign affiliates.

Conway’s description of Manafort’s activity in the 2016 election — “his brief tenure at the Trump campaign several years ago” — also fits a pattern of the Trump camp trying to minimize their connections to Manafort.

Conway granted that “I believe there’s one witness — there may be one matter of somebody whom he had gotten a loan from in exchange for a job on the campaign. That’s just what I read.”

According to prosecutors, Federal Savings Bank CEO Steve Calk — identifiable based on corroborating details in court documents — knew that his bank had extended millions of dollars in loans to Manafort in late 2016 and early 2017 based at least in part on false statements from Manafort.

Conway assured Fox News viewers that “I will not be brought up on federal criminal charges of any type.”

“I certainly wasn’t making money in Ukraine or talking to anyone in Moscow,” she said. “That’s very clear. This has nothing to do with collusion, Russia, nothing to do with the Trump campaign.”

Watch below:

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The Republican nominee for Congress in Virginia’s Fifth District elaborated on his beliefs surrounding the possible existence of a Bigfoot in a interview published Monday, after he was accused of peddling Bigfoot erotica by his opponent in the race.

Denver Riggleman, the nominated Republican to fill outgoing Rep. Tom Garrett’s (R-VA) seat, told the right-wing outlet CRTV’s Matt Kibbe that, though he’s “skeptical” Bigfoot exists, “we just think it would be cool if he was alive, because I’d love to just chat with him.”

Riggleman said he was fascinated by the different communities of Bigfoot believers, from the “Biological Entity Believers” to those who believe “Bigfoot can attack you with infrasound, like an elephant — I just want to let you know — or psychic terror vibes, to make you run through the woods and crash into a tree so they can drag you into the woods and create baby Bigfoots.”

“I came up with this myself,” he said of the classification system for Bigfoot believers.

It was unclear if Riggleman’s interview with CRTV, published Monday, took place before or after another with the Daily Beast, in which he said the title of his upcoming book, Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him, would stay the same despite the new scrutiny from his Democratic challenger.

The Democratic candidate for Congress in that district, Leslie Cockburn, has accused Riggleman of being “a devotee of Bigfoot erotica.” That claim came after the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman uncovered Riggleman’s niche interest in an article last week.

The Republican has maintained that his fascination is partly in jest:

“I just found it incredible that they actually believe this,” Riggleman told CRTV, referring to Bigfoot believers. “I love the fact that I fought for that freedom that you can believe in any type of Bigfoot that you want. What is the true Bigfoot?”

Asked about the religious worship of Bigfoot, Riggleman said it was “a thing!”

“And I think these are good people,” he added. “They’re smart, they’re intelligent, and they want Bigfoot to be with them.”

He said later: “When you do anthropological studies, I think you’re misunderstood.”

Watch below:

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recently resigned personnel chief has been accused in a preliminary report of fostering a culture of sexual harassment for years, the Washington Post reported Monday, “in which women were hired as possible sexual partners for male employees.”

The Post reported the news based on an executive summary of a preliminary months-long internal investigation and interviews with FEMA officials, including an on-the-record exchange with FEMA administrator Brock Long.

Corey Coleman, whose official title was Chief Component Human Capital Officer, according to an archived FEMA webpage, resigned on June 18 before a scheduled interview as part of the probe, the Post noted. He’d led the personnel office since 2011.

“What we uncovered was a systemic problem going back years,” Long told the paper, noting, in the Post’s words, that “some of the behavior could rise to the level of criminal activity.” The misconduct reportedly went back at least as far as 2015.

“The biggest problem I may solve here may be the eradication of this cancer,” he added. “How many complaints were not heard? I’ve got to make sure we have a safe working environment for our employees.”

The probe is “not going to stop with [Coleman],” Long said.

Long further told the Post that Coleman had hired “dozens” of college friends and fraternity brothers, and women he’d met on dating sites and at bars, subsequently promoting them without following procedure.

An unnamed FEMA official told the Post that Coleman transferred women around different departments and locations “so his friends could try to have sexual relationships with them,” in the paper’s words.

Coleman himself had at least two sexual relationships with subordinates, the Post said, in 2015 and 2017. One woman was denied a promotion and threatened with termination after she ended the relationship; and Coleman created a new position for the other woman, for which she told investigators she was unqualified.

Unnamed FEMA officials told the Post that the department’s inspector general had received complaints about Coleman prior to the start of Long’s tenure in 2017, referring them back to the agency. And Long told the Post that he had personally received a complaint about Coleman, which he said he forwarded to the FEMA general counsel.

Read the Post’s full report here.

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President Donald Trump on Monday re-emphasized his willingness to shut down the government over his immigration, national security and border wall demands. But he was noncommittal when pressed on what specific issues would trigger him shutting down the government.

“As far as the border is concerned, if we don’t get border security, after many, many years of talk within the United States, I would have no problem doing a shutdown,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. That echoed a tweet he sent Sunday: 

He added later, referring to a slew of policy priorities: “I would certainly be willing to close it down to get it done.”

But, pressed for specifics on his demands, he failed to offer any.

It began with a question from the Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti: “To follow up on what you were saying about the shutdown,” Enjeti said, “are you saying that you would be willing to shut the government down in September if it does not fully fund $25 billion worth of your border wall, and also deliver all of the immigration priorities that you listed in your tweet? Or are you leaving some room for negotiation there?”

“I’ll always leave room for negotiation,” Trump answered. Later, asked if Congress approving $25 billion for a border wall was a “red line,” Trump said he had no such red line.

Instead, he simply listed his standard set of preferred policies — including ending what he calls “chain migration,” the policies that can ease migration for the family members of individuals lawfully present in the United States; ending the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program; ending “these horrible catch and release principles,” otherwise known as releasing immigrants and asylum-seekers from detention as they await court dates; and funding a border wall. 

He also repeated his attacks on immigration law itself, incorrectly asserting that “they want us to hire thousands of judges.”

No one in Congress or his administration is calling for such a large number of immigration judges to be added to the system, though politicians and advocates of many different political stripes have said that adding some immigration judges will ease the the lengthy backlog of current cases.

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What a mess.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani called into Fox News Monday afternoon to clean up interviews he did earlier in the day.

On Monday morning, Giuliani said that collusion isn’t a crime — implying that was something it would be useful to clarify, despite months of presidential denials of collusion with Russia. He also said he couldn’t be sure that Trump didn’t know ahead of time about the now-infamous meeting in which, a British publicist had told Donald Trump Jr., Russians promised to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.

On Fox News, Giuliani began by walking back those claims, before taking any questions.

Describing it as a “very, very familiar lawyers’ argument,” Giuliani said of collusion: “My client didn’t do it, and even if he did it, it’s not a crime.”

Next, Giuliani referred to the President’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, who now appears ready to cooperate with prosecutors.

“I said, ‘Why would we attack Cohen? He can do terrible things.’ He cannot do terrible things,” Giuliani asserted. “We are fully confident that he has no information that would implicate the President of the United States.”

Giuliani also attempted to “pre-but” reporting on yet another 2016 campaign meeting, information about which he said had already been given to two news outlets who hadn’t published it yet.

“The jury for this case is the American public,” he said at one point, adding that “maybe one of the reasons we reemphasize the point about the legitimacy of the investigation is we want to show that maybe [Trump] shouldn’t be testifying at an investigation that has no legitimacy.” 

Before hanging up, he drove the point home: “I also understand the confusion. Believe me, it’s going to get more confusing when these other tapes start coming out. But eventually, when you put them all together, it’s going to mean the President did nothing wrong.”

Giuliani discussed three meetings on Fox News on Monday — though he contends that two of them never actually happened. Here’s what he said about each meeting.

The Russian “dirt” meeting

This meeting has been confirmed by the Trump campaign, most notably Donald Trump Jr.: Senior members of the Trump campaign met with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, after Trump Jr. received an email promising such dirt from the British publicist Rob Goldstone. Goldstone said in an email that the promised dirt, which never materialized, was part of the Russian government’s effort to help Trump.

Cohen is now reportedly willing to tell prosecutors that Trump knew about, and approved, the meeting ahead of time.

Giuliani acknowledged all of this in the Fox News interview Monday. But he curiously insisted on making clear that, despite no-one asking him this, President Trump was not at the meeting.

“Why are you saying that the President wasn’t at the meeting?” Fox News commentator Melissa Francis asked. “Who asked if he was there? No one asked if he was there.”

Giuliani was blunt: “Cohen is alleging that the meeting took place. We are making it clear that the President was not at that meeting. Cohen doesn’t even allege that. To cut it off.”

The meeting where Donald Trump Jr. reportedly gave his dad a heads-up about the dirt meeting

On the same day of the dirt meeting, Giuliani said Monday, Cohen (or someone speaking to reporters on his behalf) has claimed “that he was in President Trump’s office, Donald Trump Jr. walked in and told him about the Russian meeting.”

“That is categorically untrue,” Giuliani said. “Did not happen. Two witnesses demonstrate that. He has talked about this endlessly on those 183 unique recordings and he never mentions it at all.”

The two witnesses, he told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Monday morning, are the President and his son.

Cohen’s claim that Trump knew about the meeting ahead of time broke last week. Trump and his lawyers have strongly denied that Trump had any foreknowledge of that meeting — until Monday morning, when Giuliani claimed he could no longer be certain. He reversed that comment on Fox News.

Giuliani added on Fox News: “So the public record contains a leak by Cohen that he was present at a meeting in which Donald Jr. came in and informed the President. We deny that happened. We say it didn’t happen and if it had happened, it would’ve been mentioned a long time ago on the various hours of tapes that we have.”

“Another meeting that has been leaked but hasn’t been published yet”

Giuliani told Fox News that he and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had heard from reporters who’d been told about another meeting “in which they [Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and ‘possibly others’], out of the presence of the President, discussed the meeting with the Russians.”

He categorically denied that the un-reported meeting he’d just brought up had ever happened.

“We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, for four of the six,” Giuliani said. “That meeting never ever took place, it didn’t happen. It’s a figment of his imagination, or he’s lying.”

Giuliani mentioned a similar-sounding meeting on CNN earlier Monday, except he said it happened two days before the Russian dirt meeting, not three days before. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, “and one more person” were in attendance, he said: “That’s a real meeting on another provable subject in which he was not participating.”

Giuliani told Fox News that at least one of those senior advisers did meet three days before the dirt meeting, but on something unrelated to Russia. Instead, he said, “the only meeting they find for that day that included any of these people is a meeting about the Hispanic judge that the President had criticized back around that time.” That is, Judge Gonzalo Curiel.

He added separately, “The second meeting was brought to my attention through Jay Sekulow. Both of us dealt with it with two different reporters, essentially the same information, about this meeting that took place three days earlier [that is, three days before the dirt meeting] with a whole group of people.”

He continued: “Everyone of those people says it didn’t happen. And why do I mention it? Because first of all, I thought it was going to come out, and second, my experience is that when you have something like this floating around, it comes out. And I don’t want it to come out and be un-rebutted when it originally comes out.”

“When I thought that it was going to be published,” Giuliani said, “I wanted to get out in front of it.”

This post has been updated.

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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) told a journalist on Friday that “there’s not a person in this town” who wouldn’t accept a meeting like the one members of the Trump campaign took with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

David Corn, Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief, reported Monday morning that he’d run into Rohrabacher on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Corn said he asked the California Republican what he thought of the recent news that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and lawyer, is reportedly willing to tell prosecutors that President Donald Trump knew of, and approved, members of his campaign meeting with Russians promising dirt on Clinton.

“Zero,” Rohrabacher said. “It’s a big zero.”

Corn pressed: If Cohen’s reported claims are correct, did Trump knowingly collude with a Russian operation?

“There’s not a person in this town who would not take a meeting to get material like that,” Rohrabacher said. In Corn’s words, the congressman “suggested he would.”

Pressed further, Rohrabacher said the Trump campaign hadn’t known they were meeting with what Corn called a “mobster.” “But did they know that?” Rohrabacher said, referring to the Russians’ connections to Vladimir Putin.

Corn noted that they would have known that: It was stated right an email from British publicist Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump, Jr. that the information potentially available to the Trump campaign was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Rohrabacher was similarly dismissive, Corn says, of the revelation that in 2017 he’d attended a dinner with Mariia Butina, who is now accused of conspiring to carry out an influence operation by infiltrating the NRA and conservative political circles.

“She was at the other end of table of 30 people and now they say I ‘dined’ with her,’” Rohrabacher said.

And what of the news that Butina had set up a meeting in 2015 between Rohrabacher and her alleged handler, Russian central banker Alexander Torshin? 

Rohrabacher, Corn said, acknowledged that Butina was at his meeting with Torshin, but that he’d never met her.

“This is fake news,” he said of the case against Butina. “The charges are B.S. She was just a gofer.”

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President Donald Trump capped a day of rambling tweets — about the New York Times, “consequences” for people who cross the border illegally and his bizarre and false claim that he has the “highest Poll Numbers in the history of the Republican Party” — with a string of provable falsehoods and unspecified accusations about special counsel Robert Mueller.

A number of Trump’s claims are false: Mueller is a registered Republican, for one thing, and it’s not true that the 17 lawyers who the Justice Department has said are part of his office are all Democrats. Besides, as the Washington Post reported last year, “Federal regulations prohibit the Justice Department from considering the political affiliation or political contributions of career appointees, including those appointed to the Special Counsel’s Office.”

Also, as has been thoroughly reported, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ own actions set off an FBI counterintelligence investigation months before the bureau sought a warrant to surveil Carter Page, the application for which partially cited the Steele dossier.

For all his color commentary on Twitter, the President has only called the Mueller probe an “illegal Scam!” on the website once before, last week. He hasn’t provided any evidence that backs up that characterization.

The White House didn’t respond to TPM’s inquiry about what, precisely, Trump meant when he referred to Mueller’s “conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship.”

However, the New York Times reported in January that Trump had previously argued that Mueller was ineligible to oversee the Russian interference probe because for three reasons:

First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.

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President Donald Trump last week bragged about popularizing the term “fake news” and mentioned how other countries had begun to ban content judged to be fake, the New York Times reported Sunday.

The Times was reporting on its own publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who, along with Times editorial page editor James Bennet, met with Trump on July 20.

While the conversation was initially agreed to be off the record, the Times said Trump had put broken that agreement by tweeting about the meeting on Sunday. Subsequently, Sulzberger released a statement in which he recalled warning Trump that using terms like “enemy of the people” to describe journalists would inspire violence against them.

Based on a phone call with Sulzberger, the Times White House correspondent Mark Landler reported an additional topic from last week’s meeting:

At another point, Mr. Trump expressed pride in popularizing the phrase “fake news,” and said other countries had begun banning it. Mr. Sulzberger responded that those countries were dictatorships and that they were not banning “fake news” but rather independent scrutiny of their actions.

In April, Malaysia made it a criminal act to share information deemed to be fake news — “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas” per Poynter — becoming the first country to do so, according to the Times.

Since then, other countries have pursued laws to restrict news considered to be fake.

Later on Sunday, Trump appeared to respond to Sulzberger’s statement with more tweets.

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