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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 mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) drank a glass of chocolate milk Wednesday in order to demonstrate the value of diversity at various levels of corporate leadership.

“This chocolate syrup represents diversity,” Hyatt Hotels’ vice president for diversity and inclusion, Tyronne Stoudemire, said as he squeezed it into a glass of milk held by Rauner. “When you look at most organizations, diversity sits at the bottom of the organization. You don’t get inclusion until you actually stir it up.”

Rauner played along, as shown in a video captured by WBBM:

“It’s really, really good. Diversity!” Rauner, who’s up for re-election in November, announced.

A spokesperson for the governor told the Chicago Tribune: “This was the event moderator’s example of diversity that an audience of all ages could see and understand. It was one of two demonstrations at the event, both of which received ovations from the crowd.”

Stoudemire confirmed to the paper that the governor “didn’t know what he was getting into,” and noted he usually picks the most powerful person in the room to help with the milk.

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White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said at a press briefing Thursday that “a lot of teachers” would be willing to undergo firearm training in order to carry concealed weapons at school to deter gunmen.

Shah declined, however, to offer the administration’s support for specific gun control measures, such as closing the gun show loophole or banning semi-automatic rifles.

Instead, Shah cited less comprehensive measures that the White House has said it’s considering, like beefing up the current background check system — though that system can be circumvented in most states at secondary markets such as gun shows — and arming school faculty members.

“I think there a lot of people who– a lot of teachers who, if they aren’t currently trained, would be willing to get trained,” he said.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that arming school faculty “could very well solve” the “problem” of school shootings.

Shah on Thursday would not commit Trump to a position on universal background checks on every gun sale.

I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he said, adding that making existing background checks more comprehensive is the “immediate thing under consideration.”

“One solution that the students and family members have called for is a ban on semi-automatic rifles,” Bloomberg News’ Shannon Pettypiece said. “Is that something that is on the table that the President is considering?”

“What we’re looking for are solutions that don’t ban a class of firearms for all individuals but ban all weapons for certain individuals who are identified as threats to public safety,” Shah said.

Trump on Thursday endorsed raising the age of purchase for semi-automatic rifles and predicted that the National Rifle Association would also back that change (it did not).

Asked whether Trump would be willing to push back against the NRA in support of that proposal, Shah said only that Trump is “willing to do what’s right to ensure we have safe schools.”

Separately during the briefing, a reporter asked about Trump’s repeal of an Obama-era rule that allowed the Social Security Administration to share information about individuals with certain mental health issues with the background check system. The regulation would have affected, among other groups, individuals deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs.

“We don’t think that taking away Second Amendment rights from people who essentially have trouble with their checkbooks is the right solution,” Shah said.

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A former U.S. diplomat was indicted Wednesday in federal court on fourteen counts related to alleged frequent threats against employees of an Arab-American organization.

Nearly a decade ago, the former diplomat, Patrick Syring of Arlington, Viriginia, pleaded guilty to almost identical charges, and served jail time. 

TPM reported in 2007 that Syring — who served for decades in the State Department and at one point worked out of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon — left a voicemail for James Zogby, the director of the the Arab American Institute (AAI), with the message: “The only good Lebanese is a dead Lebanese. The only good Arab is a dead Arab.”

Syring followed up with an email to Zogby praising Israel for “bombing Lebanon back to the Stone Age where it belongs.”

AAI is a well-regarded Washington-based organization that promotes Arab-Americans’ involvement in civic life, and Zogby has been a prominent spokesman for Arab-American causes.

According to the Justice Department at the time, Syring “admitted that he sent a series of threatening email and voicemail communications to six employees of AAI in July 2006, that he intended to interfere with his victims’ employment, and that he sought to intimidate the victims because of their race as Arab- Americans and their national origin as Lebanese-Americans.”

According to the charges filed against Syring Wednesday, shortly after his prison time and supervised release had ended following his previous guilty plea, he began threatening AAI employees again.

Syring allegedly sent AAI employees “over 350 e-mails from March 2012 to January 2018,” according to a Justice Department press release.

“Several of the e-mails Syring sent to AAI employees during this time period contained true threats using language similar to that which formed the basis of his prior conviction,” the Justice Department said.

The new charges against Syring include multiple counts each of threatening AAI employees because of their race and national origin, threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab civic engagement, and transmitting threats against AAI employees in interstate commerce.

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that having more people armed at schools could prevent future mass shootings.

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he said.

After hearing the devastating stories from parents and young people affected by gun massacres at schools, Trump pointed to the example of Stoneman Douglas football coach Aaron Feis, who was reportedly killed by the alleged gunman last week after Feis threw himself in front of students to protect them from the gunfire.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives I suspect — but if he had a firearm, he wouldn’t have had to run, he would have shot and that would have been the end of it,” Trump said.

“Gun-free zone, to a maniac — because they’re all cowards — a gun-free zone is ‘Let’s go in and let’s attack, because bullets aren’t coming back at us,” Trump said, wondering aloud about arming “20 percent of your teaching force.”

“You can’t have 100 security guards in Stoneman Douglas, that’s a big school,” he said. “It’s a massive school with a lot of acreage to cover, a lot of floor area, so that would be certainly a situation that is being discussed a lot by a lot of people.”

“You’d have a lot of people that’d be armed, that’d be ready, they are professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, left the Army, left the Air Force, and they are very adept at doing that. You’d have a lot of them and they would be spread evenly through the school.”

The President said he believed “that if these cowards knew that the school was well-guarded from the standpoint of having pretty much professionals with great training, I think they wouldn’t go into the school to start off with.”

“I think it could very well solve your problem,” he said.

“So we’ll be doing the background checks, we’ll be doing a lot of different things, but we’ll certainly be looking at ideas like that.”

Near the end of the listening session, the President said the White House would consider changes to the background check system and the age at which people can buy certain firearms, in addition to mental health measures and considering what institutions can do to intervene with troubled individuals.

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The father of a victim of the gun massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School grew emotional Wednesday as he told President Donald Trump and others at a White House listening session about his late daughter, Meadow Pollack.

“We’re here because my daughter has no voice,” Andrew Pollack said, flanked by his three sons. “She was murdered last week and she was taken from us. Shot nine times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children. This shouldn’t happen. We go to the airport, I can’t get on a plane with a bottle of water, but we leave some animal to walk into a school and shoot our children.”

“I’m very angry that this happened, because it keeps happening,” he added. “9/11 happened once and they fix everything. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here with this administration and me.”

“I’m not going to sleep until it’s fixed. And Mr. President, we’re going to fix it. Because I’m going to fix it. I’m not going to rest.”

He turned to his sons. “And look it, my boys need live with this. I want to see everyone. You guys look at this. Me, I’m a man, but to see your children go through this, bury their sister.”

“That’s why I keep saying this, because I want to sink in, not forget about this,” Pollack said. “We can’t forget about it, all these school shootings. It doesn’t make sense. Fix it. there should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it! And I’m pissed! Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again. She’s not here. She’s in North Lauderdale in whatever it is, King David cemetery. That’s where I go to see my kid.”

Watch below:

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Former Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand swatted away rumors on Wednesday that she’d left the position over concerns about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Anyone who actually knows me knows that had nothing to do with my departure,” she told Fox News in an interview, adding: “I never had any reason to think that the Mueller probe would come to me, and even if it had, it has nothing to do with why I left the department.”

Brand left the Justice Department to take a job as Walmart’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, Fox News noted.

“These kind of jobs come along maybe once in a career, and when they come along it might not be the perfect timing for you, but you have to take the opportunity when it comes,” Brand said, adding: “This was about seizing an opportunity, not about leaving DOJ.”

Brand, whose departure was first reported by the New York Times earlier this month, would have been next in line behind Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee Mueller’s investigation, should Rosenstein have recused himself from the duty — or if Trump fired him.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation a year ago, despite President Donald Trump’s reported efforts to keep him on the case.

Brand’s departure led to speculation and reporting, the latter based on unnamed sources, that she had left the DOJ to avoid involvement in the Mueller probe.

Asked by Fox News about the tension between the White House and the Justice Department, Brand said: “I think that the overwhelming majority of the DOJ workforce does a pretty good job of tuning that out.”

On Wednesday, the President kept grinding his ax with the institution.

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The Republican National Committee is paying President Donald Trump’s former bodyguard and director of Oval Office operations, Keith Schiller, $15,000 a month, CNBC reported Wednesday.

Just weeks after leaving the White House, CNBC reported, the RNC hired Schiller’s private security firm, KS Global Group, to provide “security services.”

One unnamed RNC official told CNBC that Schiller is providing consulting services for site selection for the party’s 2020 convention. CNBC noted Schiller’s firm made $10,000 a month during the campaign, starting in July 2016.

Schiller’s “site selection consulting” fees are paid out of the RNC’s convention fund, not its campaign fund, the report noted. The RNC has paid Schiller’s firm $75,000 since October, CNBC reported, citing disclosure reports.

Trump kept Schiller, who coordinated his campaign’s security, around even after he won the 2016 presidential election. Schiller played a high-profile role in the administration, most notably when he hand-delivered former FBI Director James Comey’s termination letter to the Justice Department.

Investigators with the House Intelligence Committee interviewed Schiller in November.

Schiller’s security force often faced criticism for excess force and lack of coordination with the Secret Service and other governmental agencies.

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The survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting massacre met with legislators and spoke to huge crowds in Tallahassee, Florida on Wednesday, advocating in the state’s capitol for gun control legislation to prevent future mass shootings.

One student, Lorenzo Prado, joined other survivors in rejecting the narrative that the massacre was the fault of the alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, alone.

“Many would like to blame this event on the FBI’s lack of action or the Trump administration, but the simple fact is that the laws of our beloved country allowed for the deranged gunman to purchase a gun legally,” Prado said.

He eulogized Nicholas Dworet, a Stoneman Douglas senior at the time of his death who Prado described as an ever-smiling swim team mentor and who, a week before his death, had committed to attending the University of Indianapolis “so he could chase his dream of becoming an Olympian,” Prado said. 

“But that is a dream he can no longer achieve because Nikolas Cruz abhorrently decided to take Nicholas Dworet’s life,” Prado said.

He continued: “But we can’t just blame Nikolas Cruz for this tragedy, because the laws of our country allowed him to purchase a weapon. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle before he was able to drink beer. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle, although he had clear signs of mental illness. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle with clear signs of delinquency from the school. Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an assault rifle with the intention to kill.”

Watch below:

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the Trump administration’s relationship with the press Tuesday night, inaccurately telling former Clinton administration press secretary Mike McCurry that “we have not declared war on the press.”

“Yes you did,” McCurry countered at a panel co-sponsored by the White House Correspondents’ Association and the White House Transition Project. Martha Joynt Kumar, the latter group’s director, moderated the event.

“Yes you did,” McCurry continued. “And that’s a big, big difference, and you need to roll that back. You can’t do it, but the President has got to roll that back.”

President Donald Trump and his one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon famously called the press the “enemy of the people,” and little has changed in the President’s view of the Fourth Estate.

Less than 10 minutes after the event ended, Trump taunted cable news channels on his Twitter account.

“You cannot do this job in an environment in which you are belligerent, and saying we are at war with these people every day, in the media,” McCurry said, adding: “Your President has got to change the way he talks about the media. He has to, because it’s critical to how we hold our glue together, and how democracy functions.”

“I think that’s a two-way street that there is a level of respect that could be, I think, certainly brought from the press corps as well,” Sanders responded. “I mean, the idea that you’re going to lay the blame at the feet of the President I find to be a little bit far-fetched.”

She claimed later that “90 percent” of the press coverage of Trump had been negative.

“That’s because 90 percent of what he’s done, people have questions about,” McCurry said.

Sanders said that the country was “actually doing really well” and that “[w]hen you have that much positive news to talk about, and only 10 percent of the time it’s covered, I think that it’s hard to argue that there shouldn’t be a certain level of frustration.”

The pair agreed on one point: that the live broadcast of White House press briefings — McCurry called them “entertainment events” and “theater productions” — had detracted from the informational value of the briefings. McCurry said he wished the White House embargoed video from the briefings until after they ended.

“A lot of times the theatrics of it take away from the news component,” Sanders said, adding: “We have lost the purpose of what the briefing was intended to be.”

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